Clay Thomas (far right) tailgates with Kappa Sigma brother, Andy Craig, and former Clemson coach, Danny Ford.

Clay Thomas (far right) tailgates with Kappa Sigma brother, Andy Craig, and former Clemson coach, Danny Ford.
Image Credit: Photo provided by the Clay Thomas Family.

When Clay Thomas ’87 finished his undergraduate work in mechanical engineering, he went to work for Tencarva Machinery Company, a provider of pumps and associated equipment.  With locations in nine states below the Mason-Dixon line, Clay could have wound up almost anywhere in the southeast.  As luck would have it, he was posted to Tencarva’s Columbia, S.C., office — a Tiger prowling the Gamecocks’ backyard.

“Clay had great fun with all of our USC customers and Tencarva friends,” observes vice president, Harrell Crawford. “He never for one moment let them forget where his loyalties were.”

Clay started out as one of the Tencarva sales force, which is primarily made up of mechanical, civil, and environmental engineers. They’re a special team with a unique skill set.

“Our business philosophy goes beyond providing equipment,” explains Greenville branch manager, Don Jackson, who trained under Clay’s supervision. “We use our engineering skills to assess a client’s unique set of circumstances before recommending a mechanical solution. Clay was one of the best, but he never made me feel like a rookie. From the get-go we were partners, colleagues, if you will.”

Eventually, Clay became the branch manager of Tencarva’s Columbia office. For nearly a quarter-century he shared his professional skills and insights, along with his love for Clemson, with everyone in the operation. His unexpected passing in 2012 left large shoes to be filled.

“Clay really was a force of nature,” states Crawford.  “Hardly a day goes by that we don’t see a piece of correspondence or a file note that has his initials on it. He is still a presence here.”

Clay’s Tencarva family wanted to honor his contributions and his memory, so the company established the Clay Bryan Thomas Memorial Scholarship Endowment. The endowment will provide scholarships for students enrolled or enrolling into the College of Engineering and Science.

“Clay was more than a savvy businessman,” continues Jackson. “He was a wonderful example of living every day to the fullest, with an unwavering commitment to his family, church and community.  He was also a very humble guy, who would probably be surprised that so many have joined together to support the scholarship fund.”

“Those of us at Tencarva who were blessed to have known him, wanted to find a way to share Clay’s legacy with current and future students,” says Crawford. “The Clay Bryan Thomas Endowment gives us that opportunity.”