CLEMSON — Clemson University alumnus Ron Taylor (’65) of Midland, Michigan, has pledged $100,000 to the school’s Emerging Scholars program to establish the Captain Byron Wiley Emerging Scholars Memorial Endowment, along with annual support for the program.

The Emerging Scholars program identifies and offers high school students from counties with limited socio-economic resources opportunities to become familiar with and experience college life so they may attain post-secondary education.

Ron Taylor, a 1965 Clemson engineering graduate, has donated $100,000 to university’s Emerging Scholars Program, a college outreach initiative for high school students in economically impoverished areas of the state. (Photo by Michael Randolph)

Ron Taylor, a 1965 Clemson engineering graduate, has donated $100,000 to university’s Emerging Scholars Program, a college outreach initiative for high school students in economically impoverished areas of the state. (Photo by Michael Randolph)

“When I first heard about the Emerging Scholars program, my heart screamed, ‘Yes!'” said Taylor. “It very simply changes lives — not just the student participant, but their family and friends who hear of the opportunity. It is one of many wonderful programs at the university that are slowly retrieving our public schools from the brink of irrelevance. Emerging Scholars is about hope, respect, obligation and humanity. The Clemson employees and local school districts involved in these programs deserve our praise and support.”

Amber Lange, director of the Emerging Scholars program, said the gift will have a monumental impact.

“This is our largest gift by an individual donor,” she said. “Ron Taylor has a track record of giving to support students and faculty at Clemson, and now has turned his attention to helping students get to college, especially students from areas in the state that lack the resources they need.”

Byron Wiley, a former director of Clemson’s Office of Access and Equity, founded the program in 2002. He was a tireless advocate of helping students from impoverished areas of the state reach their goals of higher education. He saw a great need in the lower area of the state and created the program as a college outreach effort to break the cycles of high poverty levels and even higher dropout rates.

Currently, the program operates in Allendale, Bamberg and Hampton counties.

Program staff work with high school guidance counselors to identify freshmen who might be in the first generation in their families to attend college, and whom they believe will need extra motivation to get there. These students come to Clemson each summer for one- to three-week residential sessions and take classes in English, math, science, African-American history, public speaking and computer science. Students also attend academic workshops and visit at least 14 colleges while in the program.

The results are impressive: 100 percent of the Emerging Scholars students (more than 500) have graduated from high school, with 90 percent going on to attend college or join the military the next year.

Taylor’s gift will provide immediate funding to reach more students and also establish an endowment to ensure the program’s long-term sustainability and potential expansion.

This gift is part of Clemson University’s The Will to Lead capital campaign to raise $1 billion to support Clemson students and faculty with scholarships, professorships, facilities, technology and enhanced opportunities for learning and research.

Taylor’s lifetime giving to Clemson exceeds $500,000 and he will be inducted into the John C. Calhoun Society in 2015. He also has made provisions in his will to increase the three endowments he has established.

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