CLEMSON — Clemson University honored an accomplished alumnus Friday for his posthumous gift to the university, dedicating a bronze leaf in his memory and inducting him into the Fort Hill Legacy Society for donors who leave $1 million or more to Clemson.

Clemson President James P. Clements presents a framed leaf to Becky and Courts Cooledge, daughter and son-in-law of Jerry and Harriett Dempsey, at the Legacy Day Bronze Leaf ceremony.

Clemson President James P. Clements presents a framed leaf to Becky and Courts Cooledge, daughter and son-in-law of Jerry and Harriett Dempsey, at the Legacy Day Bronze Leaf ceremony.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

During the annual Legacy Day observance, the leaf for Jerry Dempsey was placed under the Second Century Oak, which stands at Fort Hill on the historic site of the university’s first board of trustees meeting.

Legacy Day was started in 2009 in recognition of the act of philanthropy by Anna and Thomas Green Clemson that led to the founding of Clemson University.

Dempsey left a gift that was split between the Harriet and Jerry Dempsey CU/GHS Bioengineering Professorship and the Harriet and Jerry Dempsey CU/GHS Industrial Engineering Professorship.

A 1954 mechanical engineering graduate from Greenville, Dempsey started building his corporate career over 28 years with Borg-Warner Corp., where he advanced from salesman to president and COO. He later left Borg-Warner and worked in the executive ranks of WMX Technologies (now Waste Management, Inc.).  Dempsey went on to serve as CEO for PPG Industries, where he retired in 1997.

Dempsey also chaired the Greenville Health System board of trustees and used his connections to expand the growing collaboration between Clemson University and Prisma Health–Upstate, as GHS is now known.

One result of that is the Harriet and Jerry Dempsey Research Conference, named for Dempsey and his late wife. In February, he attended the third annual research conference, which drew more than 150 engineers, medical doctors, faculty members and students to hear talks by some of the nation’s top health care researchers.

Dempsey also provided an endowment that supports scholarships for Clemson students.