CLEMSON — Dabo and Kathleen Swinney recently pledged $1 million to IPTAY in support of Clemson football to provide future funding for programmatic and building initiatives that will continue to propel the program forward.

Kathleen and Dabo Swinney

Kathleen and Dabo Swinney
Image Credit: Mark Crammer

It is not the first time that the Swinneys have chosen to support programs at Clemson. In addition to past gifts of more than $340,000 from the All In Foundation in support of Call Me MISTER, ClemsonLIFE, Clemson’s bioengineering department (for breast cancer research), Clemson Community Engagement Department (breast cancer program), Clemson’s education department (Reading Recovery and Early Literacy), Clemson’s Outdoor Lab (new dock project) the Swinneys have personally donated more than $265,000 of their private funds to need-based scholarships, Golf Paws, the Clemson chapel project, IPTAY’s annual fund and the completion of the WestZone.

“I love Clemson, and I believe in our program, and I feel like Clemson has been pulling for me since that first game in 2008,” Swinney said. “But no matter how much we win on the field, my passion is building and empowering successful young men through the game of football. Kathleen and I are blessed. And we have always known we need to use those blessings to do good for others. It’s so important to us that we give back to this program that has been so good to us.”

Over the years, the Swinneys have left no doubt about their dedication to helping others. One of their largest and most visible avenues is through the All In Foundation. Founded in January 2009, the foundation has four major focuses: breast cancer research, the Family Effect, Call Me MISTER and the ClemsonLIFE Program. Their efforts through the foundation alone have resulted in gifts of more than $2 million to these causes.

Two focus areas, ClemsonLIFE and Call Me MISTER, offer young people the opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of others through the power of education. Involvement with special-needs young people began as a tribute to the touching life of John Mark Stallings, the special-needs son of Gene Stallings, the coach who deeply impacted the Swinneys during their time at the University of Alabama. The ClemsonLIFE program has helped hundreds of young people learn to live independently as self-sufficient adults.

Call Me MISTER, a program begun at Clemson and now spread to 20 colleges and universities, is an initiative that increases the pool of available teachers from a broader more diverse background, particularly among the state’s lowest-performing elementary schools. The program has created a group of educational leaders who serve as mentors and role models to the communities they serve.

“It is hard to find programs that are closer to my heart than ClemsonLIFE and Call Me MISTER,” Clemson President James P. Clements said. “The Swinneys generously gave to an endowment established in the name of my own daughter, Grace, that offers needy students grants to allow them to be a part of ClemsonLIFE. It’s great to have a head football coach who continuously shows his commitment to Clemson University and our entire community.”

Changing lives is the overarching theme of Swinney philanthropy and much of that vision stems from their own personal experiences. The Family Effect works to reduce alcohol and drug addiction as a leading cause of family collapse and harm to children. The Swinney family has felt the impact, understands the risk and knows the need for intervening healing in these homes.

“There’s no doubt that times were tough for my family when I was younger. But what I try to do with those experiences is turn them into empathy. I do understand. I do know how these people feel. And as long as we have the financial resources to try to make a difference, we will,” Swinney said.

The Swinneys have also experienced first-hand the toll that breast cancer can take on an entire family. Kathleen’s older sister died of breast cancer, and Kathleen discovered that she and her younger sister carry the BRCA gene mutation, making the risk of the disease very close to her. That passion has led to support of early detection as well as the breakthrough research being done on the Clemson campus by Brian Booth of the Institute for Biological Interfaces of Engineering.

As Kathleen says, “I really dream of a day when no one suffers from this disease. That’s why I am so passionate about the work of the foundation. I want to help find the cure and meanwhile make things just a little easier for the families who are in the battle with this disease.”

While Kathleen and Dabo Swinney have a long history of generosity, they would never call their missions accomplished. Dabo sounds like the passionate coach he is when he talks about getting behind these Clemson programs: “You know; Clemson is a great school. But we can’t rest on that. We’ve got so much more to do. We have to always strive to get better and that’s why we’ve got a new strategic plan at the university called ClemsonForward. That says it all. Just like playing offense in football: It’s all about the forward progress. No progress. No win. We can’t stop now.”

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