New Clemson University President James P. Clements says school ‘exactly what we were looking for’

  • Posted: Monday, November 11, 2013 4:17 p.m., Updated: Monday, November 11, 2013 6:36 p.m.

CLEMSON — After his opening speech upon being welcomed as Clemson University’s new president, James P. Clements retook his seat in the front row of the Madren Center main ballroom. Seated behind Clements, his youngest daughter, Grace, threw her arms around her father’s back, a 13-year-old girl offering her congratulations.

James P. Clements

Age: 49

Salary: $775,000

Previous posts: President, West Virginia University (2009-13); Provost, Towson University (2007-09)

Education: Master of Science (computer science), Johns Hopkins; Bachelor of Science (computer science) and Master of Science and Ph.D. (operations analysis), Maryland-Baltimore County

Family: Wife Beth, son Tyler, 21, twin daughters Maggie and Hannah, 18, and daughter Grace, 13

Clemson connection: Two brothers-in-law graduated from Clemson.

The Clements clan is big on family. And that’s what drew them back to upstate South Carolina.

POLL: Did Clemson make the right choice for its new president? Find this story at postandcourier.com to vote.

Approved by unanimous vote and announced Monday as Clemson’s 15th president, Clements, 49, spoke glowingly on the day he reached his dream job after nearly five years in the same position at West Virginia University.

He spent the first six minutes of his news conference introducing individual family members, occupying nearly half his 14-minute discourse to a room of 150 Clemson officials.

Clements’ wife, Beth, has two brothers who graduated from Clemson, and Beth’s parents are the namesake of the Champions Award room in the university’s golf clubhouse.

“Beth and I, 20 years ago, we talked about a path to Clemson, really as just a dream,” Clements later told reporters. “So when this opportunity came, as much as I loved the institution at WVU, this was the one I couldn’t pass up. This is exactly what we were looking for. Exactly.”

Clements has a rich background in computer science and in energy policies. He noted that both West Virginia and Clemson are land-grant universities.

“So we have a very special mission,” Clements said. “That mission is about education, it’s about research, it’s about outreach to make the state a better place in terms of economic development, health initiatives and other things.

“Ultimately, it’s about having an impact. That’s why we’re here, right?”

Clements will succeed James Barker in January. Barker announced in April that he was stepping down after 14 years leading the university. He will remain in office until Clements arrives and become a faculty member in the school of architecture.

“This transition’s taking place at a time when we’re as strong as we’ve ever been in athletics in some time, and strong as we’ve ever been as a university,” Barker said. Clements has “shown great experience as a president. There’s nothing that can duplicate what it’s like to be in that chair. He understands the importance of athletics and academics working well together. I think he’s authentic.”

Clements’ Clemson salary of $775,000 matches what he made at West Virginia. That’s a nearly 65 percent increase from Barker’s $471,213 annual earnings. The payment breakdown for Clements’ salary between state assets and Clemson Foundation funds is yet to be determined.

University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides’ salary is $681,200, with 42 percent coming from taxpayers, according to USC.

A search firm helped the Clemson board of trustees sort through 83 applicants. Names of interviewed finalists were kept private Monday.

“He was one of the real superstars we looked at, that I thought would be in the final group,” board Chairman David Wilkins said. “Jim Clements has the qualities we’re looking for. A real leader, somebody with unquestionable integrity, passion of high education, and a lot of energy. It doesn’t take you long being around Jim Clements to realize he possesses those qualities.”

James and Beth Clements are parents to four children: Tyler, 21, and twin sisters Hannah and Maggie, 18, are students at West Virginia. Grace is in seventh grade.

“He’s the biggest family guy that I know,” said Tyler, a fourth-year student at WVU studying business leadership and political science.

“He’s always with us; even though he’s a very busy guy, he really spends so much time with the family that you wouldn’t know that he’s that busy because he balances his time so well. He’s an amazing guy.”

On Monday morning, Clements was leafing through a school-published magazine, and smiled when he saw an advertisement with a student wearing a shirt reading “Family” next to the Tiger Paw.

“This is family for us,” Clements said. “That’s something that attracted us so much to this place. This just fits us perfectly.”

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