CLEMSON — Clemson University formally installed its new president and sent more than 3,200 graduates out into world at Friday’s commencement ceremonies.
Littlejohn Coliseum was near its 10,000 seating capacity for the morning session. The university eschewed the traditional graduation speaker in favor of formal installation ceremonies for President Jim Clements, who assumed Clemson’s top job in January after President Emeritus Jim Barker returned to the architecture faculty.
The installation was to be spread out over the morning, afternoon and evening session Friday. Board of Trustees chairman David Wilkins, his colleagues and faculty members began the morning ceremony by bestowing the official gown and chain upon Clements, signifying his roles as both an administrator and faculty member.
Wilkins ended that ceremony by telling the new president, “You look good in purple.”
Clements said Barker was not able to attend the morning session, but he wanted to express his appreciation for the help he said Barker has given him during his transition.
“I think it is entirely appropriate that you give him a very, very loud round of applause in thanks,” Clements told the audience.
Noting that Sunday is Mother’s Day, Clements credited his mother, who did not attend college, with inspiring him and his two siblings to earn 11 different college degrees between them. He said she emphasized the value of listening, rather than interrupting others or simply waiting for them to finish speaking.
“'Jim, you have two ears and only one mouth for a reason,'” he recalled.
The crowd kicked into gear after Clements’ remarks, with friends, family and well-wishers admiring the 1,491 undergraduate and graduate students receiving degrees from the colleges of Engineering and Science and Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences. Fist pumps, selfies and garishly decorated mortar boards bearing various messages and images:
“Thanks, Mom + Dad”;
“Forever a Clemson Tiger”;
“To infinity and beyond” accompanied by a picture of Buzz Lightyear;
A Batman logo;
“To God be the Glory”;
And lots and lots of Tigers paws rendered in different colors and varying amounts of glitter.
Clements’ installation will continue over the 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. ceremonies at Littlejohn, during which the remaining 1,800-plus candidates from the business, liberal arts, health and education programs will receive their degrees.