On Friday, Jan. 31, the Student Guide Association’s Mattie Lee was named Miss Clemson University after competing with 15 contestants from other on-campus organizations.

After taking the crown, Lee, a communication major from Charlotte, talked about the importance of this annual competition.

Mattie Lee, a communication major from Charlotte, is crowned Miss Clemson University.

Mattie Lee, a communication major from Charlotte, is crowned Miss Clemson University.

“Even though it’s titled a pageant, it is a philanthropy event at the end of the day,” she said. “It’s an experience I’d love to see more students get involved in future years with the pageant’s scholarship opportunity and philanthropy aspect through Mortar Board continuing to grow.”

Mortar board, an American national honor society, puts on the pageant to raise funds for a local charity.

This year, it raised more than $10,000 for the Clemson Child Development Center. The center’s mission is to provide a 12-month comprehensive child development program to its ethnically and socio-economically diverse student body. Housed in the historic Calhoun School building, the center has 70 children this year.

Clemson’s Order of Athena Chapter of Mortar Board was organized and chartered by Clemson University’s Blue Key in 1968. It was originally intended to be a women’s honor society and now has 47 active members, including men.

Mortar Board member Sallie McLeod directed the pageant, the group’s biggest event of the year.

“While it can be daunting that all of the responsibilities fall on you, you can turn the process into something great and rise to the challenge,” said McLeod, a senior from Cheraw.

“I’ve never been the person to want to be in the pageant but I’ve always wanted to get involved in other aspects,” she said. “Being on Mortar Board gave me this leadership opportunity. At the end of the night when getting to watch everything come together, I was so proud of myself and all the contestants for putting in all the effort.”

The contestants performed in a talent competition and an interview portion, which counted for 40 percent of their scores from the judges.

As the stage lights shone on Mattie Lee when she was announced the winner of the Miss Clemson University pageant, “It was really exhilarating,” she said. “There were about 60 people from my hometown there, a two-and-a-half hour drive away. My support group showing up and being there meant the world to me.”

Other winning contestants included:

  • Darby Billing, representing Pi Beta Phi Sorority, won the Philanthropy Award for collecting most donated items for the Child Development Center. In all, contestants collected 700 donated items.
  • Tatum Sass won the People’s Choice award for most donations collected in money jars during the pageant.
  • Caitlyn Moyd was named Miss Congeniality and energized the crowd with her art of speed painting.
  • Fourth runner-up – Carolina Effinger, Alpha Chi Omega Representative
  • Third runner-up – Mallory Worly, Kappa Delta Representative
  • Second runner-up – Tatum Sass, Alpha Delta Pi Representative
  • First runner-up – Delaney Crenshaw, Rally Cat Representative

Pageant-winner Lee knows that comes with being Miss Clemson University.

“The title is what you make it,” she said. “I am hoping more to promote the Childhood Development Center because that is the reason that pageant is put on to begin with.”

The winning contestants of the Miss Clemson University pageant, which raised more than $10,000 for the Clemson Child Development Center.

The winning contestants of the Miss Clemson University pageant, which raised more than $10,000 for the Clemson Child Development Center.

Many children in the tri-county area are at risk of under-achievement and lower developmental outcomes. In South Carolina and across the United States, children from lower socio-economic backgrounds enter school with poorer skills in the major areas of development and learning. Average achievement scores for kindergarten children in the highest socio-economic group are 60 percent higher than those in the lowest group, according to the S.C. Department of Social Services.

“Understanding the need we have in our community is important,” Lee said. “As students, we often go about our days here never stopping to realize what actually is happening in Clemson, South Carolina, outside of us being a student.

“We are often too wrapped up in everything that we individually do. I think there is so much more of a need in our community than we realize and so many more opportunities for students to make an impact in Clemson outside of our student world,” she said.

“I’ve known Mattie since my sophomore year of college,” McLeod said. “She is the type of person that will step into this role with grace and be able to represent the university well because she loves it so much and is genuine.”