CLEMSON Clemson University students will benefit from scholarships, additional experienced faculty and new state-of the-art classroom space thanks to the continuing investment of alumnus Joe Erwin and his wife, Gretchen.

The co-founders of Greenville-based advertising and marketing firm Erwin Penland gave two new gifts totaling $1.08 million to benefit the university’s Erwin Center for the Study of Advertising and Communication. They donated $800,000 to further the center’s programming  and $208,000 for need-based scholarships.

“Joe and Gretchen Erwin are two of the most creative, forward-thinking people I know,” said Clemson University President James P. Clements. “They recognize that today’s students are the future of their industry, and Clemson appreciates their tremendous support for our efforts to educate and inspire these students.”

Construction of a state-of-the-art classroom in Daniel Hall will begin this month.

The new classroom space will have the latest technology, including Apple TVs and video-conferencing capability so students can communicate with industry professionals.

The new classroom space will have the latest technology, including video-conferencing capability so students can communicate with industry professionals.

“The new classroom space will include current technology, completely modular desks and furniture and, of course, plenty of whiteboard,” said Ty Thornhill, Erwin Penland senior vice president and group account director, who is the firm’s liaison for the facilities project. “Additionally, the space will contain video-conferencing technology to allow the classes to communicate each week with industry professionals at communications firms across the country, including Erwin Penland’s offices in Greenville and New York.”

The scholarship endowment is named for Eugene and Valerie Getchell, both of Lexington, Ky. The Getchells are the parents of Gretchen Erwin, who in 1986 co-founded Erwin Penland with her husband, Joe, a 1979 Clemson graduate. The endowment allows Clemson to offer two need-based scholarships each year to students studying in the Erwin Center, beginning this year.

“Our other plan for putting this money to work is to add an executive director and an endowed professorship to the Erwin Center,” said Richard E. Goodstein, dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. “These are key faculty and staff positions that will help the center realize its full potential.”

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

The Erwin Center was created in December 2012 when the Erwins gave a lead gift of $1.05 million. The mission of the center is to prepare future generations of communications professionals by exposing students to real-world situations in communications and advertising. In the new center, professors build on their industry experience and apply communications theories to actual client challenges.

“It’s sort of a ‘teaching hospital’ mentality around here where we want students to learn by doing and being immersed in the ad industry,” said Erwin Center instructor Andy Mendelsohn, former chief creative officer for Erwin Penland. “The only way to be successful in our field is to be well versed on what’s going on right now, today, and this program aims to be fresh and relevant to future advertising professionals.”

The Erwin Center’s first year has been highly successful as it has quickly ramped up to include classes in branding, digital and social technology in advertising, and media planning. In 2013, more than 150 students took classes in the Erwin Center, all taught by experienced leaders who hold senior-level positions in the advertising industry.


The Erwin Center
The Erwin Center for the Study of Advertising and Communication is a partnership between Clemson University and the founders of Erwin Penland, one of the largest full-service advertising agencies based in the South. With offices in Greenville, S.C., and New York, Erwin Penland offers integrated advertising, strategic planning, media, digital, experiential, direct marketing, design and public relations services to a wide range of world-class clients. For more information about the center, visit For more information about the advertising agency, visit

Clemson University
Ranked No. 21 among national public universities, Clemson University is a major, land-grant, science- and engineering-oriented research university that maintains a strong commitment to teaching and student success. Clemson is an inclusive, student-centered community characterized by high academic standards, a culture of collaboration, school spirit, and a competitive drive to excel.