Clemson’s Barker praised, thanked as 1,100 graduate

Brianna Rollins, left, shakes Clemson president Jim Barker’s hand as she receives her diploma during Thursday’s graduation ceremonies. Rollins, a former Tiger track star who was awarded the top award in collegiate Track and Field — The Bowerman — last week and is an Olympic hopeful, was the final Clemson graduate to shake Barker’s hand in his final graduation ceremony as president.

CLEMSON — At his final graduation ceremonies prior to stepping down as president, James F. Barker was praised and thanked Thursday for leading Clemson University the past 14 years.

Before the first group of the 1,100 students crossed the stage to receive their degrees, David H. Wilkins, chairman of the board of trustees, said, “Since this is the last Clemson University graduation Jim Barker will preside over as president, and since this is the most wonderful time of year, a time when we all give our many blessings, I am reminded of this perfect quote: ‘feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

“So to you, President Barker, and to you, Marcia, on behalf of the Clemson board of trustees, faculty, the staff, the students, the entire Clemson family, please accept this most heartfelt gift that we can give you… our deepest and our most sincere thanks. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your love, your commitment and your service to Clemson University for the past 14 years.”

Barker, who will step down on Dec. 31, making way for James P. Clements, graciously took in the 30-second standing ovation from the students, faculty, staff and crowd of about 6,000 at Littlejohn Coliseum.

“I especially want to recognize the parents, spouses, relatives, friends and members of the Class of 2013,” Barker said during his remarks. “You honor the graduates by your presence. We owe each of you a special thanks for the important part that you play in helping our students achieve this milestone.

“Others are not able to be here today,” he said. “They are unable to do so. In some special cases, these family members have been called to serve our country. This high calling causes them to miss this important day in your life. We are grateful for their service and their sacrifice.”

James E. Rogers Jr., chairman of the board of Duke Energy, received an honorary doctorate of humanities from Barker.

“So how will you succeed as you begin your next chapter?” Rogers asked the graduating class. “Simply working harder, in my judgment, won’t cut it any more. In reality, hard work is only the price of admission in today’s world. As I’ve said, you must re-imagine and reinvent the future. You must think differently and you may have to do it many times in the course of your life.”

“We don’t know exactly what life will be like as we begin the next chapter,” he said. “But we know what we must do. We must think differently to solve the world’s problems, as well as the everyday challenges that we’ll encounter along the way. And we must strive to be brief, be brilliant and be gone — and be gone on to new challenges and new opportunities.”

Two awards were presented at the graduation ceremonies:

John Ballato, professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering, received the Class of ’39 Award for Excellence for 2013. It is presented to a faculty member whose contributions over the immediately preceding five-year period are judged by his or her peers to represent the highest achievement of service to the university and student body.

Twelve students were also awarded with the Faculty Scholarship Award. Established in 1959, this award is made annually to the member of the graduating class who has the highest scholastic achievement. This year’s recipients are Dustin Christopher Batchler of Gaffney; Ronald Mac Fields of Spartanburg; Kameron Rebekah Horton of Rock Hill; Maximilian Nathan Hughes of Clemson; Jessica Lindsey Johnson of Columbia; William Gregory Jolly of Anderson; Samuel Lloyd Karns of Gaffney; Renee Elizabeth Kulik of Greenville; Rachel Bunting McCain of Salisbury, Md.; David Ryan Reynolds of Anderson; Zane Thomas Rice of Barnwell; and Katherine P. Vendley of Davidson, N.C.