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Clemson University endowment surpasses $1B as officials set sights on matching ACC peers

'Greetings from Clemson' mural

The "Greetings from Clemson" mural on Aug. 21, 2021. Clemson University’s endowment surpassed $1 billion, a milestone university officials are celebrating, but with some reservation. File/Stephanie Mirah/Staff

CLEMSON — Clemson University’s endowment surpassed $1 billion, a milestone university officials are celebrating with some reservation.

Of the 15 schools that make up the Atlantic Coast Conference, Clemson has the second smallest endowment ahead of only Florida State University, which manages a $574 million endowment as of December.

While most of Clemson's ACC peers hover in the $2 billion to $5 billion endowment range, institutions with endowments in the double-digit billions include University of Virginia ($14.5 billion), University of Notre Dame ($13.3 billion) and Duke University ($12.7 billion).

“We hit the milestone of reaching a billion dollars, which is tremendous for our university,” Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Brian O’Rouke told The Post and Courier. “As we look to our peers, we still know we have a long way to go to build the endowment.”

“The power of the endowment is truly critical for the wealth of the whole institution,” O’Rouke said. “So, great milestone, but I'm focused now on $1.5 and $2 billion.”

Most endowments for universities and colleges are made up of money and other financial assets primarily given through donations. Some endowments are used for specific purposes, such as to fund scholarships or professor positions.

The Clemson University Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization that oversees the endowment. The foundation “invests the managed endowment so as to maximize long-term returns, while simultaneously mitigating risks,” according to the annual endowment report released at the end of the university’s 2020-21 fiscal year.

For the most recent fiscal year, uses for the endowment were divided into four categories, with the most financial support — 34 percent — going to student aid. Another 31 percent was allocated to department and program enhancement, 29 percent for faculty support and 6 percent in unrestricted funds.

During the 2021 fiscal year, the university created 115 new scholarships and fellowships and 85 new endowments. More than 20 principal gifts of $1 million or more and $3.6 million in unrestricted donations were given. Combined, the total cash endowment was nearly $24 million. 

The university received its largest ever one-time gift — $60 million — from Wilbur and Ann Powers for the business school. 

Over the summer, the university's College of Science received its largest gift after alumna Emily Peek Wallace donated $1.25 million to establish an endowed directorship for the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences

More than 34,000 donors contributed 92,000 gifts to comprise the $202 million in fundraising for the 2021 fiscal year.

"Our fundraising here at Clemson has really been one of the key things, and frankly President (Jim) Clements is a big piece of that puzzle. He raises a lot of money for us," Board of Trustees chair Kim Wilkerson said.

Since Clements started at the university in 2013, he has helped raise more than $1.2 billion in private funds. On Oct. 1, the university Board of Trustees approved the extension of Clements' contract and a pay raise from $901,330 to $987,530

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Follow Stephanie Mirah on Twitter @stephaniemirah

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