Clemson has secured a major donation — a university record of $60 million — to name the new business school at the center of campus.
The donor is a Pee Dee businessman who was raised on a farm and made his fortune through his Florence-based construction and property management businesses. W.O. “Billy Powers, now in his 80s, attended Clemson in the 1950s before returning home to work on the family farm.
The gift, made along with his wife of 38 years, Ann Powers, marks the largest one-time donation to a business school in the state. Darla Moore has donated a combined $70 million to the business school named after her at the University of South Carolina.
“We have our first named college and our students are going to benefit … for decades to come,” Clemson President Jim Clements said after the announcement.
Powers himself did not make a statement on Friday, though in a pre-taped video shown to about 40 people gathered at the college for the announcement he spoke about the virtues of perseverance and working from the bottom up.
“Billy loves this place,” Clements said. “He believes Clemson changed his life.”
The lion’s share of the Powers’ money will be placed in an endowment, Business Dean Wendy York said after the announcement. It will fund programs and student scholarships for “a hundred years.” Details on how the money would be spent were not released, but York said some of the money would go toward the new business college’s construction as well.
Clemson’s College of Business has more than 5,000 students, and business is the fastest growing major on campus.
The college will now be known as the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business. Built at a cost of $87.5 million, the twin-tower business college just off Walter T. Cox Boulevard provides 176,000 square feet of teaching and common space for undergraduate business students. Located at the heart of the Clemson campus just across from Sikes Hall, it opened for classes this fall.
The South Tower of the Business college will be named after their grandson, Chandler Burns, who graduated in 2015 but died of a sudden illness in 2016.
Ann Powers said in a taped statement that her husband is accustomed to donating anonymously but broke with habit because of the opportunity to spotlight their grandson. Billy Powers said he had always expected Chandler to take over his business.
“It just destroyed us,” Billy Powers said in his taped statement.
The Powers’ daughter, Penny, said Billy Powers recognized how hard