Giving up would have been easier. Our state wasn't sure it wanted us. And when we did open our doors, a fire almost destroyed us, a war took away our student body and a river almost swallowed us. We tackled those challenges just like we've handled so many others: we don't give up. We keep trying, keep advancing, keep succeeding. We're determined like that. We teach. We build. We investigate. We serve. We give. We find new ways to do things. We discover new things to do. Clemson University gets things done. We handle setbacks with determination and resolve. We support each other. We value family, tradition, loyalty. We value ethics. Our pride, we admit, can be excessive. We like to win. There's a reason we love orange – the loudest color in the spectrum. There's a reason we're Tigers — one of nature's fiercest creatures. We can be brash, scrappy. But someone has to step up there. Someone has to lead. We do it with Determined Spirit.
Determined Spirit is the will to lead, the can-do attitude, the infectious pride and optimism that is embodied in so many members of the Clemson Family. Determined Spirit is an attitude that manifests itself in results. Determined Spirit perseveres.
We see it in a fist pump in the end zone, in the handshake at graduation, in the passion of professors and in the lights burning after hours in staff office windows. Determined Spirit says, "We will succeed." And in spite of budget cuts and barriers, naysayers and critics, we do succeed. We have Determined Spirit.
"Determined spirit" is a marker in Clemson's DNA.
Determined spirit wasn't here from the start: It was here before the start. It was inspired by the state's economic wretchedness in the aftermath of civil war. It was made possible because of Thomas Green Clemson's heartbreaking loss of his wife and children. As the sole surviving member of his family, Mr. Clemson inherited a sizeable plantation that he bequeathed to serve the people of South Carolina. In despair, Mr. Clemson found inspiration, and he chose to share his dream with the rest of the state.
But at first, the state was underwhelmed. Some questioned whether the state needed another college — this "high seminary of learning" described in Mr. Clemson's last will and testament. It took a last-minute, tiebreaker vote to ratify the Act of Acceptance that created Clemson College — an all-male, military, A&M college. It took determined spirit.
It took determined spirit to rebuild after a major fire took out the cornerstone facility on the young campus — the now-iconic and historic Tillman Hall. It took determined spirit to stand up to the federal government when it wanted to flood fertile research fields and Memorial Stadium to build Hartwell Lake. Water battles continued for years, but at each football game, we see who won the war.
It took determined spirit to keep the university going when most of its students left to serve our country. When the U.S. declared war on Germany in World War I, the entire senior class of 1917 enlisted. During World War II, Clemson supplied more Army officers than any other institutions except West Point and Texas A&M. No students have shown more determined spirit than those who left for war, and then, if possible, returned to earn their degrees.
Some institutions would have thrown in the towel at any one of these setbacks. But not Clemson. Clemson says, "Is that all you've got?" Clemson possesses a determined spirit that has yet to meet its match. A spirit of winning, and a spirit to continue to strive for excellence despite chances involving snowballs and extremely warm places.
Margaret Marie Snider Coker showed determined spirit when she hitchhiked with her brother from Anderson to Clemson every day to become the school's first woman graduate, earning a degree in chemistry.
Harvey Gantt showed determined spirit when he challenged the institution of segregation and took his fight to enroll at Clemson all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — and campus leaders showed the same determined spirit when they worked to avoid the violence that had marked desegregation elsewhere.
President R.C. Edwards showed determined spirit when he went toe to toe with the Army Corps of Engineers to keep Hartwell Lake from swallowing much of the campus whole.
Current President Jim Barker and the Board of Trustees showed determined spirit when they declared in 2000 that Clemson would be one of the nation's top 20 public universities — a goal that seemed impossibly high at the time. The experts all said so. You're too small. You don't have enough money. You're in a small, poor state. There's no school that looks like you in the top 20 (to which President Emeritus Phil Prince replied, "Then we'll be the first.").
Students bring their dreams to campus along with an infectious optimism that dares you to say they can't be achieved. Ranked among the nation's happiest, most engaged and most satisfied, they keep determined spirit young.
Faculty bring wisdom, passion and a commitment to student success that is rare among research universities. Staff take pride in their jobs, their departments and their colleagues. Both groups are known for their commitment to the university, the students and each other. They keep determined spirit in the family.
Alumni never leave the university behind. Their blood runneth orange for the rest of their lives. They mentor, they recruit, they volunteer, they advocate, they give. Their determined spirit lasts a lifetime.
Determined spirit is why — despite the stalled economy, staggering recession and unprecedented budget cuts of the past few years — Clemson is back on offense. It will fulfill its promise to give students an individual Clemson experience, drive innovation and serve the public good regardless of what may come. And as it does, Clemson people will show new examples of determined spirit — from the classroom to the lab to the playing field to hometown communities to foreign lands. It is, after all, hereditary.