Clemson University Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Robert H. Jones opens the end-year general faculty and staff meeting on the stage of the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts, May 7, 2015. (Photo by Ken Scar)

Clemson University Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Robert H. Jones opens the end-year general faculty and staff meeting. Image credit: Ken Scar

CLEMSON — Clemson University employees wrapped up another academic year with applause, awards and farewells at the year-end general faculty meeting.

President James P. Clements said the past year had been one of impressive achievements for the school and thanked all faculty and staff for raising the university’s national prominence to new heights.

“We reached our highest national ranking ever as one of the nation’s top 20 public universities. That is a tribute to you and the great work that all of you do to help our students achieve their goals,” he told the audience.

The university’s status has attracted a flood of interest from high school seniors.

“This year we also set a record for the number of undergraduate applications. We had almost 22,500 applications for 3,200 slots in the fall freshman class and the academic profile of all those applicants is at an all-time high” said Clements.

He also noted that Clemson is on track for a record year in private fundraising, surpassing the $900 million mark toward its $1 billion goal in The Will to Lead capital campaign.

“I want you to know it’s not about a number,” he said. “The number 1 billion doesn’t mean anything, honestly. It’s all about making a difference. It’s all about the impact those gifts have on this campus.”

Clemson is experiencing a construction boom that might be record-setting too, he said.

“You are witnessing the largest campus development initiative in at least half a century, probably in the entire history of this great university,” he said. “Our facilities plan will help to prepare us for the next 50 years, just as a surge of construction in the mid-1960s positioned Clemson to become who we are today.”

Having multiple large construction projects going at once on campus will be worth it in the long run, he said.

“This campus development plan won’t always be pretty. It will be noisy, it will be messy and I know it will have many temporary inconveniences. I appreciate your patience through these projects. However, we need to focus on the long-term benefits, such as better classrooms and academic space, improved housing and support services for our wonderful students, enhanced capacity to grow our research profile and a tree and landscape stewardship plan that will preserve the beauty of this campus for future generations.”

Outstanding faculty and staff members were recognized at the meeting:

  • Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Robert H. Jones awarded the Centennial Professorship Award — bestowed by university faculty upon an outstanding colleague — to Richard S. Figliola, an endowed scholar and professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering.
  • Vice President for Student Affairs Almeda Jacks presented the Norris Medal — given each year to the graduating senior judged to be the best all-around student by the university scholarships and awards committee — to Brittany Anne Avin of Greenville, North Carolina, who is graduating with a double major in genetics and biochemistry.
  • Jacks also presented the Frank A. Burtner Award for Excellence in Advising to Graciela Tissera, director of language and international health in the department of languages in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.
  • George Askew, vice president for Public Service and Agriculture and dean, College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Life Sciences, presented the Godley-Snell Award – given to an outstanding faculty member in agricultural research – to Guido Schnabel, professor and plant pathologist in the department of agricultural and environmental sciences.
  • Bill Lasser, director of the Calhoun Honors College, presented the Class of 1940 Bradbury Award — for faculty members who make outstanding contributions to the Honors College — to Meredith McCarroll, writing fellows coordinator of the Pearce Center for Professional Communications.
  • The Alumni Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research went to Joseph Kolis, professor of inorganic chemistry, from Wil Brasington, director of alumni relations.
  • Jones presented the Bradley Award for Mentoring in Creative Inquiry to Michael J. Childress, associate professor in the department of biological sciences.
Brittany Ann Avin (in pink) poses with her parents and Clemson University President James Clements on the stage of the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts after receiving the Norris Medal - given by the alumni association to to the graduating senior judeged to be the best all-around student - at the year-end faculty and staff meeting, May 7, 2015. (Photo by Ken Scar)

Brittany Ann Avin (in pink) poses with her parents and Clements after receiving the Norris Medal. Image credit: Ken Scar

“I knew that you were a great group but, wow, some of the things you have done are simply amazing. You make us all proud to be at Clemson,” Clements said to the awardees.

Clements and Jones teamed up to recognize 21 retiring professors and bestow emeritus/emerita certificates to the eight who were present.

“I want to personally thank you for your service to Clemson, to our students and to our state,” Clements said.

He concluded by reading a message he had received from a student the night before:

“‘The academic year is almost over, and it has been one of the best years of my life. I love it here. I love the people, I love my classes, and I love my professors.’

“Now that message is very short and very sweet,” said Clements. “But it is a very powerful message about the importance of the work you do and the impact that you have. Thank you again for your dedication to Clemson and our students.”