Rupert H. Fike, 1887-1956
Anyone familiar with the last 60 years of Clemson
history will likely recognize the bedrock significance of names like Walter
T. Cox, R.C. Edwards, Frank Howard and R.R. „Redš Ritchie. Imagine then,
the influence and respect that one man must have wielded for that quartet
of Clemson legends to serve as the pallbearers at his funeral. Such a
man was Rupert Howard Fike.
Fike, known to most as „Rube,š was born in Spartanburg County in 1887.
He first fell in love with Clemson while peering through a knothole in
a fence to see the Tiger football team rout Wofford during the Tigers‚
undefeated season of 1900. Fike promptly returned home to tell his parents
that instead of following their plans for him to attend Wofford, he was
„going to go to that Clemson school.š
That he did; and in 1908, he graduated from Clemson with a degree in
civil engineering. But Fike knew that his true calling was in a different
profession, and he soon set out for the University of Tennessee where
he began working his way through medical school.
After graduating with his M.D. and returning to South Carolina to open
a general practice in Chesnee, Fike became interested in X-ray work and
decided to pursue postgraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University. His
thirst for medical knowledge grew, and he studied at the Massachusetts
General Hospital, the Harvard University Medical School, the Mayo Clinic
and the Curie Institute in Paris. While in Europe, he also observed cancer
clinics in England, Italy, Belgium and Germany.
Back to the States, Fike became physician-in-charge of Atlanta‚s famous
cancer hospital, the Steiner Clinic. He stayed in that post until the
clinic closed its doors in 1945. He went on to serve as a radiologist
and adviser for other hospitals in the Atlanta area, and he taught at
the Emory University Medical School and the Atlanta Southern Dental College.
Fike held the distinguished honor of being the first Southerner appointed
director of the American Society for the Control of Cancer, a position
he held for nine years.
Even while Fike pursued his life‚s work in medicine, he never took his
attention away from Clemson. He was considered a principal adviser to
the College, both in athletics and in general affairs. Although he worked
in Georgia, he served as a member-at-large of the Clemson College Athletic
Council and as president of IPTAY for 20 years. His association with IPTAY
was integral from the start. During what Coach Jess Neely called the „seven
lean years,š Clemson football was struggling to produce winning seasons.
After losing to The Citadel in 1931, Neely said, „If I could get $10,000
a year to build the football program, I could give Clemson fans a winning
With other Clemson alumni, Fike developed a plan to make the large-scale
fund-raising effort possible. On Aug. 21, 1934, Fike wrote to Coach Neely:
„Last night we had a little meeting out at my house and organized the
IPTAY Club.š With the goal of enlisting dedicated Clemson men and women
who would commit to the idea of „I Pay Ten A Year,š Fike slowly and steadily
built IPTAY into a resounding success, proven by the Tigers‚ first bowl
appearance and victory in the 1940 Cotton Bowl. Through his continued
leadership as president and „No. 1š cardholder, IPTAY grew to become the
nationwide model for athletic fund raising.
Fike‚s contributions to Clemson never ceased. Before his death in 1956,
the Alumni Association elected him athletic councilman in perpetuity.
In 1941, he became an honorary member of Blue Key National Honor Fraternity,
and in 1952, he was awarded a Clemson honorary degree in science.
In the early 1950s, Fike began a book about football history at Clemson
entitled Fifty Some Odd Years of Football at Clemson. In the introduction,
Fike had written: „I thought if the Nile River would inspire Emil Ludwig
to write a biography, certainly Clemson football would be a suitable subject
Its sole purpose, other than discussing Fike‚s favorite subject of football,
was to be used as a fund-raiser for IPTAY. Unfortunately the book wasn‚t
completed when Fike passed away in 1956, but his place in Clemson history
was clearly written.
Fike Field House, built in 1930, is fittingly named for Rube Fike. He
was not only an outstanding physician, but also a devoted alumnus who
understood the importance of collegiate athletics. His place on Cemetery
Hill is richly deserved.
Joseph Godsey, who contributed this profile, is a Clemson National
Scholar and Dixon Fellow majoring in computer engineering and political
science. He‚s also a student senator and president of Calhoun Society.