Three local heroes receive Clemson’s MLK Award for Excellence in Service
A selfless staff member who has been with Clemson University for more than three decades, an extraordinary student with a heart for service and a mother who channeled her grief from losing a young son to cancer into a nonprofit that has saved lives received this year’s prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Awards for Excellence in Service during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative service at the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts Jan. 21.
The awards are presented each year by the President’s Office and Division of Inclusion and Equity to recognize an employee, a student and a community member who have shown excellence in their service to Clemson and the surrounding community. The award celebrates their advocacy for social or environmental justice and their service above and beyond their direct employment.
This year’s staff member to receive the award, Deon Legette, is a district director with Clemson Cooperative Extension who has served in various roles in Clemson’s Extension Service for more than 30 years.
As a county agent, Legette spent years educating countless youth through Clemson’s 4-H program on life and leadership skills, nutrition, healthy lifestyles, food resources and safety. She currently serves as mentor, supervisor and counselor to 45 Clemson employees spread across nine counties.
In 2018, Legette completed the President’s leadership Institute (PLI), a highly regarded nine-month leadership development program designed to support and develop professional and personal leadership within a diverse and inclusive community of Clemson faculty and staff. Upon completion of the program, Legette felt a calling to mentor beyond her current job assignment.
To that end, Legette developed a staff leadership program to develop the next generation of Extension leaders called the Extension Emerging Leadership Initiative (EELI). 19 county agents have completed the program since EELI began two years ago.
“Deon did all this outside of her assignments as a district director,” wrote her nominator, Julie Northcutt, an Extension program leader and professor in the Food, Nutrition and Packaging Sciences Department. “She had so many hurdles put in front of her while she was developing the EELI; it was amazing to watch her navigate all of the hurdles to see her vision become reality. She could have chosen to simply sit back and wait for retirement, but that is not in her character. Deon has a strong desire to make Clemson, South Carolina and Cooperative Extension Service (which is the face of Clemson in the community) better, and she has accomplished that several times over.”
Kinsey Meggett, a senior studying medicine in the College of Science, was chosen as this year’s student recipient. Meggett is a long-time volunteer for the ClemsonLIFE program, which provides a college experience for students with developmental disabilities. Meggett found a passion for the program, which made her look at aspects of her own life from a different perspective and inspired her to become a mentor. She now is president of ClemsonLIFE’s Executive board.
A biochemistry major who wants a career in medicine, Meggett somehow found free time to dedicate to a multitude of other community service-oriented organizations: as a mentor in the COSMIC Science Peer Support Program, a secretary for the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students, a board member of the RISE living-learning community, and as a student ambassador for the College of Science.
“Kinsey is a first-generation college student who excels academically; seeks opportunities for growth; and provides opportunities for others to grow personally, academically and professionally,” said her nominator Sharetta Bufford, assistant director of recruitment and inclusive excellence for the College of Science. “She has a heart for service to others, whether that is at Clemson, in the community or in church.”
The 2020 community award was earned by Seneca resident Mary Tannery. In 2014, she and her husband, Jason (’98,’07), had twin boys, Lachlan and Calhoun. In the summer of that year, they learned that Lachlan had a very rare form of leukemia called Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia (JMML). Tannery said Lachlan was a Tiger through-and-through and loved Clemson football. He was energetic, curious and full of life. The couple dedicated their lives to finding a cure, and for more than a year their little Tiger fought the disease with the unflinching bravery only a child can have. But in May 2015, when he was just 2 years old, little Lachlan died.
Mary Tannery resolved not to let her grief cripple her and channeled it into creating The Lachlan McIntosh Tannery Foundation, or “Lachlan’s Hope,” a 501(c)(3) non-profit that offers hope and support to children and their families navigating journeys through cancer, from diagnosis to remission. To date, Lachlan’s Hope has raised more than $385,000 through grassroots drives and events in the Upstate – money that goes to projects like welcome packages for newly diagnosed patients, funding for medical supplies, and travel cards for gas, food and other necessities during the families’ hospital stays.
Lachlan’s Hope also strives to grow the National Marrow Donor Registry and to make the community aware of the importance of becoming donors. Mary can often be found standing behind a table on campus with a group of student volunteers, imploring passers-by to take the simple cheek swab that can put them on the bone marrow registry for Be the Match. (College-aged adults are at the prime age to donate bone marrow.)
So far, Lachlan’s Hope has registered 987 donors, out of which there have been 42 confirmed matches and two life-saving transplants – one from a Clemson student and one from a Clemson staff member.