FLORENCE — Clemson University’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences (CAFLS) honored some of its best and brightest products at the South Carolina AgriBiz and Farm Expo last month at the Florence Civic Center.

Award winners with plaques

Clemson University’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences held its annual alumni awards program at the South Carolina AgriBiz and Farm Expo last month at the Florence Civic Center. Pictured, from left, are Buddy Watkins, president of the CAFLS Agriculture Alumni Board of Directors, Ernie Wiggers, Gene Kodama, Tim Keown and Wayne Beam. Award recipient Sarah White was unable to attend.

The CAFLS Alumni Awards Program, managed by the CAFLS Agriculture Alumni Board of Directors, began three years ago as a way to recognize the college’s outstanding alumni.

“Each of these recipients is very deserving of this recognition,” said Sennah Honea, CAFLS Alumni Board executive director. “I have had the opportunity to witness first hand their loyalty and dedication to their professions and Clemson University, and it is an honor to be able to recognize them in this manner for their accomplishments.”


The CAFLS Young Alumni award is presented each year to alumni who have graduated in the past 10 years for their ever-loyal dedication to Clemson and CAFLS and their impacts in business, leadership, community, educational and/or philanthropic endeavors.

Sarah White completed her undergraduate degree in 2000, her Ph.D. in 2007 and began her professional career at Clemson in 2008. A tenured associate professor of horticulture, White has become a nationally recognized research and extension scholar.

Over the years, White’s research has been supported by $4.5 million in state and national research grants. She has established a national reputation in water quality research for landscape nurseries and is coordinating a $3 million grant with eight other universities to develop effective water remediation methods for nurseries.

“Dr. White is an outstanding representative of an alumnus and faculty member for Clemson University, and exhibits the quality of that ‘determined spirit’ so connected with our image as an institution,” board president Buddy Watkins said. “She is highly respected for her integrity and work ethic, and she is a staunch and loyal supporter of the college and university.”

Tim Keown is a 2004 graduate of Clemson and earned his master’s degree in Agricultural Education in 2009. He began his career as an agricultural educator at Creek Bridge High School in Marion County and, while completing his master’s work at Clemson, became the agricultural education instructor and FFA/Young Farmer advisor at Crescent High School in Anderson.

The recipient of many accolades through the years including Outstanding Young Agricultural Educator in South Carolina, Outstanding Young Farmer Advisor and one of the top 20 under 40 young leaders in the Upstate, Keown was named associate state director of agricultural education at Clemson University in 2014.

“(Keown’s) strong instructional and youth organization work has resulted in many of his former students being recognized as state FFA officers, FFA star recipients for strong Supervised Agricultural Experiences and numerous other awards,” Watkins said. “He is always willing to assist beginning teachers with the many components of agricultural education and young farmers programming and is a shining example of a leader in the agricultural education community.”


The CAFLS Professional Achievement Award is presented to alumni annually for outstanding service and dedication in their professional responsibilities and accomplishments along with their service to Clemson and CAFLS.

Gene Kodama received his degree in Forest Management in 1975 and his master’s in 1977. He most recently served as the South Carolina State Forester from 2008 to his retirement at the end of last year.

After finishing his degrees, Kodama entered the private sector as an assistant district forester with Mead-Westvaco and rose through the ranks throughout his 29-year career with the company. He became the State Forester in 2008.

“In this position of public trust and authority, he used his experience in the corporate world and his excellent reputation as a results-oriented man of action to boost the profile, influence and reach of forestry and the South Carolina Forestry Commission in many ways,” Watkins said. “He has logged thousands of miles traveling the state and country to make presentations and meet with landowners, professional foresters, legislators, industry representatives and employees for all manner of hearings, conventions, hunts for veterans and the disadvantaged, and innumerable other forestry and natural resources conclaves. Mr. Kodama is a person of faith and action whose service reflects his passion and whose words match his deeds.”

Wayne Beam graduated from Clemson in 1969 and, after receiving his graduate degrees from Auburn and North Carolina State University, began his professional career working with the South Carolina Land Resources Commission first as an environmental scientist and then becoming the Deputy Executive Director.

From 1977-94, Beam served as the executive director of the South Carolina Coastal Council where he led that agency to receive the National Excellence in Coastal Management Award presented by the United States Department of Commerce. Upon his retirement from state government, he was nationally recognized for his professional leadership in land resource conservation and coastal zone management. He also served as advisor to the United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrator on Strategic Planning.

“Throughout his professional career, Dr. Beam also was a contributor to the educational system,” Watkins said. “He has served as adjunct professor and lectured at several universities and also taught a coastal zone management class at the University of South Carolina for 16 years. Currently, he serves as President of Beam and Associates, a consulting group which specializes in government relations and environmental permitting. He is also retired from the US Army National Guard as a Brigadier General.”


The highest honor bestowed upon a former student by the college, the CAFLS Distinguished Service Award is awarded annually for outstanding service to Clemson University, success in professional or personal callings, and commitment to the community.

Ernie Wiggers received his bachelor’s degree in 1975 and a master’s degree in wildlife biology in 1979 from Clemson. He went on to Texas Tech to earn his Ph.D. in 1983. Wiggers was a faculty member in wildlife ecology and management department at the University of Missouri from 1983-98 before returning to South Carolina to serve as the CEO and President of Nemours Wildlife Foundation established by the DuPont family.

As president of the Nemours Wildlife Foundation, Wiggers oversees a 10,000-acre property that has become available as an outdoor classroom to undergraduate students and an incredible research field station for not only CAFLS students but other graduate students and faculty throughout the university.

“Dr. Wiggers’ contributions to CAFLS students, faculty and programs in combination with his leadership, service and contributions to conservation in South Carolina make him second to none,” Watkins said. “He is a dedicated professional who is endeared for his contributions to science, conservation and the next generation of scientists and natural resource stewards, and his dedication to the betterment of CAFLS students as well as students and faculty throughout Clemson University is outstanding.”