All 2020 graduates from Clemson University’s student veteran population were honored Thursday evening in a special “Hail and Farewell” ceremony at Palmetto Ridge Events in Seneca, South Carolina. Students were presented red, white and blue cords to place over their graduation gear. Another The graduates also received a letter from President Jim Clements and a special challenge coin featuring the insignia of the military branches.

Kenedey Ward and Brennan Beck at the 2020 Hail and Farewell student veterans graduation celebration

Kenedey Ward, who graduated in August 2020, is pictured with Director of Military and Veteran Engagement Brennan Beck. Several student veterans and military-connected students took part in a special “Hail and Farewell” ceremony Thursday, November 12.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Peyton Bade, graduate assistant for Military and Veteran Engagement, served as emcee for the two-hour ceremony. The graduates were joined by their families and representatives from Clemson Corps, Student Affairs, Undergraduate Studies and the Graduate School. The event featured a keynote address from Ret. Col. Tom von Kaenel.

“As veterans, we stand apart from the majority,” said Brennan Beck, director of Military and Veteran Engagement. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you for serving. I ask you to continue to serve in your homes and in your communities. Our nation needs leaders like you now more than ever. On behalf of Military and Veteran Engagement, congratulations for this monumental accomplishment.”

Beck announced several award winners following the keynote.

Terri Johnson was the recipient of the Spring 2019 Clemson Veterans Impact Award. Johnson — an emeritus faculty member — has provided weekly tutoring to student veterans since Spring 2019.

Eric Suttles and Tia Jones during the 2020 Hail and Farewell student veterans celebration on November 12

Eric Suttles was named Most Outstanding Student Veteran for 2020. Suttles earned a master’s degree in recreational therapy after serving 12 years in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Tom von Kaenel was the recipient of the Fall 2019 Clemson Veterans Impact Award. He coordinated multiple organizations to support Clemson student veterans through scholarships and fellowships. He helped spearhead the alliance fellowship, raising more than $6,000 for graduate veterans. He also has taken an active role in the Mile of Honor and served as a mentor for Clemson’s student veteran population. 

Kenedey Ward was the recipient of the Spring 2020 Clemson Veterans Impact Award. Ward voluntarily benchmarked dozens of different university programs throughout her final semester and delivered a presentation to Clemson administrators while offering recommendations for improvement in terms of student veteran support.

Eric Suttles was the recipient of the Spring 2020 Outstanding Student Veteran Award. In his five years at Clemson, he earned two degrees and founded the Team River Runner student organization — a watersports-based program for undergraduates that often serves as recreational therapy for student veterans. Suttles also worked as an assistant in the Student Veteran Center.

DOCTORAL GRADUATES 

Dawn Montgomery

  • Environmental engineering and earth sciences major
  • Native of Asheville, North Carolina who served 4 ½ years in the United States Navy
  • Served as president of Clemson student branch of the Health Physics Society

MASTER’S GRADUATES

Jamilah Abdi

  • Business administration major
  • Native of Huntsville, Alabama who served six years in the Army National Guard
  • Served as vice president for Veterans Affairs within the MBA Student Association

Sherwin Anderson

  • Athletic leadership major
  • Native of Chauncey, Georgia who served 11 years in the Army National Guard as a helicopter crew chief
  • Achieved the rank of sergeant and served on deployments to the Republic of Georgia and Kosovo

John Burnette

  • Youth development leadership major
  • Served 23 years in the United States Army as a combat engineer and telecommunication operations chief
  • Achieved the rank of master sergeant

Joshua Caldwell

  • Wildlife and fisheries biology major
  • Native of Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania who served four years in the United States Air Force

Yesenia Castro-Vazquez

  • Business administration major
  • Native of New York City and the Dominican Republic who served 17 1/2 years in the Air Force Reserves as a wing education and training manager

Tracey Cooper-Harris

  • Public administration major
  • Native of East Orange, New Jersey who served 12 years in the United States Army, Army Reserves and South Carolina Army National Guard

Jason Cronin

  • Business administration major
  • Native of Manchester, New Hampshire who served nearly eight years of active duty in the United States Air Force
  • Achieved the rank of staff sergeant and deployed to the United Arab Emirates
  • Earned bachelor’s degree in health services administration from Clemson in May 2019
  • Recipient of Clemson’s Outstanding Student Veteran award for 2019; served as president of the Military Council and vice president of the Student Veterans of America chapter

Cameron Foster

  • Architecture major
  • Native of Richland, Washington who served four years in the United States Marine Corps as a radio operator
  • Served deployments in Afghanistan and Japan
  • Teaching assistant at Clemson who was honored for architecture design

Joshua Griffith

  • Biology major
  • Native of Georgia who served 11 years in the Air Force Reserves as an education and training manager
  • Achieved the rank of technical sergeant

Jonathan Kim

  • City and regional planning major
  • Native of Gainesville, Virginia who served 11 years in the United States Navy as a Civil Engineer Corps officer
  • Achieved the rank of lieutenant commander and served deployments to Guam, Japan, Spain and Thailand

Bryan Lagasse

  • Chemistry major
  • Native of Roswell, Georgia who served 10 years in the United States Army as an infantryman
  • Achieved the rank of major
  • Recipient of the Department of Chemistry Graduate Student Faculty Award

Chris Neeley

  • Public administration major
  • Native of Columbia, South Carolina who served 18 years in the United States Navy and Carolina Army National Guard
  • Member of Phi Kappa Phi

Donnell Smith

  • Construction science and management major
  • Native of Moncure, North Carolina who served 15 years in the United States Army as an engineer
  • Achieved the rank of captain and served on deployments twice to Afghanistan

Eric Suttles

  • Recreational therapy major
  • Native of Greenville, South Carolina who served 12 years in the United States Army and Army National Guard
  • Served as president of Clemson’s Student Veterans of America chapter and assistant director of the Oconee County VA
  • Recipient of Clemson’s Rising Star Award in 2017 and Outstanding Student Veteran for 2020

Icerine Wyngarde

  • Human resource development major
  • Native of Beaumont, Texas who has served nine years in the United States Navy
  • Earned the rank of petty officer first class

BACHELOR’S GRADUATES

Damion Anderson

  • Computer science major
  • Native of Biloxi, Mississippi who served five years in the United States Marine Corps as an intelligence analyst
  • Achieved the rank of sergeant
  • Worked as a teaching assistant for the School of Computing

Chase Austin

  • Management major
  • Native of Hickory, North Carolina who served in the Army Reserves as a specialist
  • Served overseas in Africa
  • Served as event coordinator with the Student Veterans Association

Wes Bailey

  • Computer science major
  • Native of Orlando, Florida who served three years in the United States Army
  • Achieved the rank of private first class and served overseas in Germany

Jeffery Bishop

  • Financial management major
  • Native of Westminster, South Carolina who served four years in the United States Army as a combat engineer
  • Achieved the rank of specialist and served a deployment to Afghanistan

Shelton Carter

  • Forest resource management major
  • Served six years in the United States Army as a military police officer
  • Achieved the rank of sergeant and served overseas in Germany

Victoria Cronin

  • Accounting major
  • Native of Puckett, Mississippi who served six years in the United States Navy as a communications electrician
  • Served as president and treasurer of the Student Veterans Association and vice president of the Military Council

Michael Franks

  • Horticulture major
  • Native of Laurens, South Carolina who served four years in the United States Army
  • Achieved the rank of sergeant and deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq

Fabian Gomez

  • Accounting major
  • Native of Colombia who served four years in the United States Marine Corps as a water technician
  • Achieved the rank of sergeant and served on deployments to Africa, Burundi, Italy, Japan and Korea
  • Served as treasurer for the Student Veterans Association

John Greene

  • Management major
  • Native of Greenville, South Carolina who served five years in the United States Navy as a navigation electronics technician
  • Achieved the rank of petty officer second class

Clint Hankins

  • Mechanical engineering major
  • Native of Anderson, South Carolina who served four years in the United States Marine Corps with field artillery fire control

Pat Harrison

  • Parks, recreation and tourism management major
  • Native of Indianapolis, Indiana who served six years in the United States Navy as a rescue swimmer
  • Achieved the rank of petty officer second class
  • Member of the Student Veterans Association

Cory Haynes

  • Accounting major
  • Native of Greer, South Carolina who served three years in the Army National Guard in logistics
  • Achieved the rank of specialist

Jason Henderson

  • Nursing major
  • Native of Johnston, South Carolina who served six years in the United States Navy
  • Served as secretary of the Student Veterans Association and also captained the men’s rugby team

Christopher Hicks

  • Management major
  • Native of Greenville, South Carolina who served six years in the Army Reserves as a satellite communications manager
  • Achieved the rank of specialist
  • Twice earned the Department of Management Academic Excellence Award

Cody Jones

  • Construction science and management major
  • Native of Westminster, South Carolina who served four years in the United States Navy as a sonar technician
  • Achieved the rank of petty officer second class
  • Member of multiple organizations, including Clemson Undergraduate Student Government and the Student Veterans Association

Hup Lee

  • Computer science major
  • Originally from South Korea, served three years in the United States Army
  • Achieved the rank of specialist

Brian Lefevre

  • Biology major
  • Native of West Virginia who served five years in the United States Army as a medical laboratory tech
  • Achieved the rank of specialist

Matt Mullenniex

  • Criminal justice major
  • Native of North Platte, Nebraska who served six years in the United States Coast Guard as a police officer

Ryan Nielson

  • Packaging science major
  • Native of Wilmington, North Carolina who served 10 years in the United States Air Force as a crew chief
  • Achieved the rank of staff sergeant and served two overseas deployments
  • Member of the Student Veterans Association

Jacob Peterman

  • Criminal justice major
  • Native of Greenville, South Carolina currently serves in the Air National Guard
  • Achieved the rank of airman first class

Ty Robinson

  • Psychology major
  • Native of Columbia, South Carolina who served four years in the United States Air Force
  • Achieved the rank of senior airman
  • Served as president and vice president of the Student Veterans Association and as a senator for Clemson Undergraduate Student Government

Chad Sommers

  • Criminal justice major
  • Native of Williamston, South Carolina who served 13 years in the United States Marine Corps
  • Achieved the rank of staff sergeant
  • Served as president and vice president of the Student Veterans Association

Marcus Spinelli

  • History major
  • Native of New Jersey who served seven years in the United States Army
  • Achieved the rank of sergeant and served deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq
  • Awarded the Purple Heart for his service

Ethan Urey

  • Marketing major
  • Native of York, Pennsylvania who served five years in the United States Marine Corps
  • Achieved the rank of sergeant

Jonathan Walters

  • Construction science and management major
  • Native of Fort Walton Beach, Florida who served seven years in the United States Navy as a fire controlman
  • Achieved the rank of petty officer second class and served overseas in Spain

Kenedey Ward

  • Communication major
  • Native of Richmond, Virginia who interned with the Student Veterans of America national headquarters
  • Served as social media coordinator for the Student Veterans Association and as an assistant for Military and Veteran Engagement

Matt Willard

  • History major
  • Native of Williamsburg, Michigan who served six years in the United States Air Force as a surgical tech
  • Achieved the rank of senior airman and served on deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq