Dear CAFLS Class of 2020:

When you came to Clemson as freshmen in the year 2016, many historic events were going on around you.

The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Muhammad Ali, who had fought not only for world championships but also for Civil Rights, died. At the Summer Olympics in Rio, American swimmer Michael Phelps won the 13th individual gold medal of his Olympic career, breaking an Olympic record that had stood for 2,168 years. The horrific shooting at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando took the lives of 49 innocent people. And – oh, yes – our Clemson Tigers beat Alabama for their first College Football National Championship since 1981 on a last-moment pass from DeShaun Watson to Hunter Renfrow.

One more thing was happening that year: A mosquito-borne virus called Zika first detected in Brazil was causing thousands of babies to be born with birth defects and turning up in U.S. cities such as Houston, Miami, New Orleans and Charleston, setting our country on edge.

Twenty-sixteen was also the year that the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences promised that it would prepare you to achieve your professional and future educational goals and provide you with a CAFLS family to support you during your journey. We hoped along the way that you might be inspired to help find innovative ways to sustainably and securely feed a growing global population and conserve our precious natural resources.

You didn’t disappoint. You worked hard, overcame challenges, doubts, and stress, loved and supported one another, believed in yourselves as much as we believed in you, and expressed the best of what it means to be a member of the Clemson family.

During your time in CAFLS, you proved your excellence and showed your mettle by winning regional agribusiness competitions, national leadership awards, national research poster and presentation awards, national packaging science awards, and soil judging competitions. You spent your summers on amazing internships. You took cross-country bicycle trips to raise money for affordable housing, started a foundation to match shelter dogs with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and cultivated and harvested deer corn that you sold to raise money for wounded soldiers.

Now it is 2020 and having persevered and accomplished so much, you are graduating under the most difficult circumstances into a country that is once again frozen on edge by a virus. And just as you did when you were students, we know that you will overcome the challenges that inspire and await you – supported forever by your CAFLS family.

Congratulations CAFLS graduating class of 2020. You make us proud.

Go Tigers!

Keith Belli, Dean
College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences