Clemson ice cream has been a tradition since the 1920s and, thanks to a generous gift from the class of 1955, has continued to be a valued part of the Clemson Experience. Their gift has enabled operations to be completely student-run and student-focused, allowing students to develop skills in food processing, packaging, and retail. The Class of 1955 has enabled Clemson ice cream to remain a valued tradition for the Clemson Family's next generation of Tigers!
Clemson Ice Cream started sometime in the 1920’s. Articles were often written in The Tiger, Anderson Daily Mail, and the Greenville News about our innovative enterprise.
The first Clemson Creamery was located in the basement of the Dairy Building that was behind Sikes Hall next to the amphitheater. The Dairy Building was a two story building with the Dairy Science Department on the first floor and the Animal Husbandry Department on the second floor. The Agricultural Sales Room was a very small room about the size of a large closet on the first floor. The Agricultural Sales Room housed a sales attendant that sat behind a bar and sold the following products: single and double scooped ice cream in cake cones or paper Dixie cups (5 and 10 cents respectively), 16 ounce milk shakes, milk in glass bottles, 1 pound blocks of butter, buttermilk and chocolate milk by the glass. The basic ice cream flavors were peach, vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, and lemon custard. The Dairy Building was a brick building of the architectural style of Long Hall. It was torn down with the construction of Newman Hall and Martin Halls in the mid to late 1950’s. The production of Clemson's Creamery moved to Newman Hall in 1956.
Professor B. E. Goodale was the faculty member in charge of the creamery and dairy manufacturing courses and had a major influence on all of the dairy students. One time a student by the name of Charlie Cousins forgot to fasten the door on the butter churn and when Professor B. E. Goodale turned on the churn the gate came flying open and covered Professor B. E. Goodale in fresh cream.
A student by the name of Bob Row from Brooklyn, New York once put peach coloring into a vat of what he thought was ice cream mix. It was not ice cream mix but buttermilk so Professor B. E. Goodale decided to sell the pink colored buttermilk and market it to people as a study to see if people liked the idea of colored buttermilk. The student Bob Row, became known as Pink Buttermilk Bob Row for the rest of his days at Clemson.
Just like today, there were many places where students would create a dirt path by taking short cuts across the grassy areas instead of taking the sidewalks. They would spread cow manure as fertilizer on the dirt paths to try and get students to use the sidewalks.
The most famous Clemson Ice Cream story was a hoax that was played every year on the freshman “Rats”. They would come on the PA system at lunch and make an announcement that the freezers had broken down at the creamery and that free ice cream was available. The freshman would take the stainless milk pitchers from the tables in the dining hall and rush over to get ice cream. The upperclassman would tell them they needed something bigger and to go get milk cans or trashcans so they could bring them some ice cream back as well. There would be some 300 to 400 freshman lined up outside the sales room, some of which were cutting classes to stay in line, only to find out that it was a hoax when they entered the sales room. This story and scene is depicted at the Cadet Life Garden located within the Botanical Gardens on Perimeter Road.
In January of 1991 operations of the Clemson University Dairy Processing Plant were transferred from the Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Science Department to Clemson’s Business Services. Business services continued operations of the full facility with retail sales being delivered through the Agriculture Sales Center in Newman Hall. With this change in 1991 there was a significant decrease in any academic work or student involvement with the production of Clemson Ice Cream.
In April of 1995 operations of the dairy processing facility were transferred to the university’s food service provider under the direction of Campus Services. It was during this period that the full dairy manufacturing facility was closed and turned into a packaging science teaching laboratory. Clemson’s food service provider continued to manufacture Clemson Blue Cheese with the purchase of milk from a commercial supplier but the manufacture of Clemson ice cream was subcontracted to an outside vendor, first located in Tennessee and then in Wisconsin. Retail sales continued through the Newman Hall location that was renamed Uniquely Clemson.
In 2000 the Agriculture Sales Center in Newman Hall was closed and ice cream sales were moved to the East Side Food Court located in the newly built Hendrix Student Center. The operation was renamed Tiger Treats and was part of a frozen dairy retail operation including a commercial brand frozen yogurt. During the period of 1995 to 2000 there were many complaints about the quality of Clemson Ice Cream. This was primarily a result of poor handling practices during distribution of the product from Wisconsin to Clemson. When ice cream is allowed to thaw and refreeze it takes on a very icy texture. This was the major defect that generated the most complaints of: “Clemson Ice Cream just isn’t the same. They don’t even make it anymore.”
In 2001 the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, now the Department of Food, Nutrition, and Packaging Sciences, created the Clemson MicroCreamery and assumed operations for making Clemson Ice Cream, while Blue Cheese operations remained with the central campus office. This marked a major shift in the production of our ice cream, since the new ice cream freezing operations were now completely operated by students bringing back a strong academic focus to the production of this unique product that had been lacking since the 1960’s. Students carried out this operation by purchasing a commercially available ice cream mix that they manufactured into frozen ice cream by a small freezing operation that was set up in the old Agriculture Sales Room of Newman Hall. The students designed this space with glass windows so the freezing operations could be seen by visitors in Newman Hall. The students of the MicroCreamery sold the ice cream wholesale to the campus food service provider who in turn resold the product through Tiger Treats in the Hendrix Student Center. It was during this time that the students started their signature ice cream flavor program that allows a student employee of the MicroCreamery to design their own unique ice cream flavor that carries their name such as: Brad’s Caramel Cookie Dough, Ashley’s Hot Apple Pie, Heather’s Goober Goo, and many more.
In June of 2006 the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, now the Department of Food, Nutrition, and Packaging Sciences, assumed the complete operations for the manufacture and retail sale of Clemson Ice Cream. At this time the source of the ice cream mix was changed from a standard commercially available product back to Clemson’s original formula. This mix is now custom manufactured by a commercial provider, which is then delivered to Newman Hall where the students freeze and package it into Clemson ice cream. The students also collaborated with Clemson’s Class of 1955 Golden Anniversary Committee to secure funds for the renovation of an old hair salon into a new ice cream retail shop and Student Entrepreneurial Center. The store is located at the east end of the Hendrix Student Center and named the ’55 Exchange in honor of the Class of 1955’s Golden Anniversary reunion. The operations are run entirely by Clemson students and faculty with revenues going to support the students of the ’55 Exchange and their professional development and academic programs. The retail center is a blending of tradition and forward thinking concepts which is captured by the Student Entrepreneurial Center’s motto: “Where Tradition Flavors the Future”.
One exciting feature of the ’55 Exchange is the Tiger Slab, where customers can customize their own unique ice cream flavor using Clemson Ice Cream and an assortment of special mix-ins. The center is open seven days a week except during academic holidays. If you are interested in helping preserve this unique Clemson tradition and supporting the students of the ’55 Exchange you can do so through direct gifts to the University’s ’55 Exchange Endowment. We have a unique donor recognition program that enables individuals or groups to honor a special loved one or event by naming a Tiger Slab Ice Cream Recipe or Signature Ice Cream Flavor that is displayed and sold through the ’55 Exchange.