Ken and Mary Cadden are both proud Virginia Tech alumni, but on their frequent visits to Clemson University, they look and feel right at home. The Caddens have adopted Clemson as a big part of their lives because it was the place where their son Sam came to visit as a high school senior, fell in love with this campus and its people, and decided to become a Clemson Tiger. Sam’s time at Clemson was filled with happy experiences that he regularly shared with his parents, confirming for them that Sam had made the perfect choice and was right where he belonged. Sam lived his young life to the fullest, making wonderful friends and planning for a future filled with promise and possibilities.

When Sam lost his life in a car accident the summer after his sophomore year, the Caddens decided to turn their family tragedy into something meaningful and purposeful, knowing that would best represent Sam. While going through his personal belongings, they discovered a list of goals that Sam had written — things he wanted to accomplish in life. One item on the list stated that Sam wanted to have a building on this campus named after him someday. Also on the list was Sam’s desire to express his personal faith in a way that would make a difference for others.

As the Caddens thought of how they could honor their beloved son, a Clemson chapel in Sam’s memory seemed like the perfect answer. The Caddens made a significant gift to provide the impetus for the Samuel J. Cadden Chapel at Clemson University. It is their way of saying thank you to the people of Clemson. Ken Cadden explains, “We love Clemson because Clemson loved our son.”

An exterior view of the future Samuel J. Cadden Chapel.

Architect’s rendering of the Samuel J. Cadden Chapel.
Image Credit: Provided

The idea to build a chapel on campus is not a new one. For more than 20 years, groups have been gathering and discussing possible plans, raising small funds, and hoping for a major gift that could turn their dreams into a reality. The Caddens have worked closely with the existing chapel committee and the department of Student Affairs to ensure that the project reflects those years of planning, while at the same time honoring Sam’s memory. The result will be a warm and inviting space for all people to feel welcome and accepted.

Because of the unique nature of the project, the remaining $4.5 million budget must be raised privately. The Caddens have made it their mission to see this project to completion, including additional fundraising efforts for the chapel. This gift to the people of Clemson will be a wonderful addition to our University, providing a quiet sanctuary in the heart of campus for introspection, reflection and celebration.

Mary Cadden puts it this way, “The chapel is not just for Sam. It’s for everyone.” Any student who has lost their life while attending the University will be recognized on the chapel grounds so that their families, like the Caddens, will always have a presence here. Through their gift, the Caddens have chosen to celebrate Sam’s life in a way that will surely touch the hearts and lift the spirits of generations of future Clemson students and the entire Clemson community. Sam’s legacy will live on at Clemson today, tomorrow and forever.


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