Kevin Gemas was an early adopter of the entrepreneurial mindset.

Kevin Gemas, shadowing, Spiro

Right to left, Ashley Tam, Jason Shaffer and Kevin Gemas with members of the Titan Spine team.

The 1985 Clemson graduate, and member of the ’81 national championship football team, received a business degree in administrative management. Then, after a football coaching stint, he pursued an entrepreneurial career path ahead of its time.

“I owe a lot to my education at Clemson, but the school’s focus on entrepreneurism today is much different than it was when I was in school,” said Gemas who co-founded and is president of a medical technology company in suburban Milwaukee, Wis. “I have great respect and admiration for what’s being done for entrepreneurial learning at Clemson today.”

Gemas has maintained close ties to his alma mater as an advisory board member of the Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership. In that role, he recently flew two Clemson students to Milwaukee as part of the institute’s job shadowing program, which was launched this summer.

Jason Shaffer and Ashley Tam were accorded cheesehead status on their shadowing trip to Wisconsin.

Jason Shaffer and Ashley Tam were accorded cheesehead status on their shadowing trip to Wisconsin.

Microbiology student Ashley Tam and Jason Shaffer, who studies bioengineering, spent two days at Titan Spine, a company that manufactures and markets worldwide a spinal fusion process using pioneering surface technology that promotes bone growth.

“I think the shadowing provided Ashley and Jason with a good overview of Titan Spine’s business operations and manufacturing processes through a variety of interactions with our business associates,” said Gemas, who has launched three successful businesses since his days at Clemson.

He was born in Southern California, but moved to eastern Wisconsin as an adolescent where his father, also an entrepreneur, started a business. It was in the Milwaukee area where Gemas and longtime friend, Dr. Peter Ullrich, Titan Spine CEO, launched their company from a small apartment. Today, the company employs more than 80 in the U.S. and has offices in Germany and Spain.

“Spiro’s shadow program works on many fronts, not the least of which is students can see where all the hard work they’re going through might take them,” Gemas said. “A visit like this gives them a sense for the exciting things they might be involved in, and a glimpse of what their future could be.”

That was the case for Ashley, who hails from Aiken, S.C.

“The two days we spent with Kevin and his associates at Titan Spine inspired me,” she said. “The experience makes me want to work harder and set higher goals in order to someday be a part of a business like Titan Spine. It also made me realize that no dream is too far out there. Kevin’s is a very successful business that was launched from a small start-up.”

Gemas gave the Clemson undergrads access to Titan Spine’s employees. It was his hope the two would get a better sense for how they might fit into a workforce.

“Some of our scientists and engineers aren’t much older than Ashley and Jason, so I think there was a good connection and realization that in the not too distant future, they could be in one of those positions.”

Jason of Columbia said seeing what the 12 biomedical engineers did day in and day out, made him think more about what direction he might want to take his engineering career.

“The experience raised some good questions in my mind as to what direction I want to go. I could see myself in a business management engineering role,” Jason said. “I’m giving some thought to possibly getting an MBA so that I could go into business decision making rather than a design role.”

John Hannon, who heads Spiro’s shadowing program, said Gemas and his advisory board peers are great examples of the kind of success that can be achieved through an entrepreneurial career track.

“Kevin’s generosity and a willingness to give back to the next generation of entrepreneurs is a testament to the kind of leaders Clemson has produced. And the shadowing experience they provide is another example of the holistic business education students receive here.”

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