In a story I’ve recounted literally thousands of times over the years, I grew up in a small town in Central Massachusetts. With a desire to spend my college years living away from home, I applied to Clemson on the recommendation of my high school guidance counselor. However, unlike my younger brother (who seven years later would set off in the car with my father on a college tour through the Carolinas), the first time I set foot on campus at Clemson was when my parents dropped me off as a freshman 40 years ago this month.
As a 17 year-old living away from home for the first time, the euphoria at my newfound independence as a Clemson student (and all that it entailed) soon gave way to feelings of homesickness, and where I began to think that perhaps I’d erred in not electing to attend a school closer to home. After giving the subject much thought, I expressed these feelings to my father when I made my first trip home from school at Thanksgiving.
After listening intently, he paused for a moment, then proceeded to express his empathy for my situation in four words: “You’re not going anywhere”. Having visited several months earlier when he dropped me off at school, he felt strongly that Clemson was the best place for me, and said that I simply needed to “stick it out”. By the end of that first year, having steadily amassed a large group of friends and an even larger body of experiences, I could not have imagined being anyplace else. To this this day, those simple words from my father stand as some of the best advice I’ve ever received.
I don’t get back to Clemson as often as I like, but when I do there’s a certain timelessness about it that takes me back to Tillman Field on that hot August day in 1977, watching my siblings wave goodbye to me from the back window of our car as my parents slowly drove away. While my friends and fraternity brothers from those years have long since married, become parents, and now grandparents, when I see them again it’s as if we’re all transported back in time to our college years, despite what our crow’s feet, hairlines, and waistlines might reveal to the contrary.
While I readily admit to having been one of those who never let the books get in the way of his education (!), I’ll be forever grateful to my father – and to my high school guidance counselor – that my education took place at Clemson University. There’s simply no place like it on earth.
P. Scott Wenning
Class of 1981