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Florence philanthropist’s $60M transformational gift elevates business at Clemson
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Florence philanthropist’s $60M transformational gift elevates business at Clemson

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Billy and Ann Powers

Billy Powers poses with his wife, Ann.

CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson University has received a $60 million donation, the largest gift in its history, from Billy Powers, a Florence philanthropist, and his wife, Ann.

The university has announced that a new building that opened this semester has been named the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business.

“This building and this gift are game changers for Clemson and the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business,” Clemson President Jim Clements said. “Billy and Ann are longtime supporters of the university, and, once again, they have stepped up for Clemson. We are so grateful for their generosity and vision.

“This is an incredible milestone for Clemson, not only because it is the largest gift in our history but also because it will truly transform the way we teach business at Clemson. This gift will enable the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business to reach new heights, growing to become one of the country’s best institutions for educating the next generation of global business leaders.

“Since the original gift that created the university, there has never been a more transformational gift in the history of Clemson than this.”

Powers attended Clemson University from 1953 to 1956 but didn’t graduate, because he had to leave school to help on his family’s farm in the Timmonsville area when his father became ill. Clemson honored him with an honorary doctor of humanities degree in 2004.

“The generous support from the Powers family enables critical faculty research, professorships and fellowships; provides needed student scholarships; and enhances the prestige of our business degrees for years to come,” said Dean Wendy York. “The sun is rising on a new era of business education at Clemson University.”

The gift will allow the college to attract leading faculty through endowed professorships, as well as provide significant merit and need-based financial aid to students in order to grow future generations of South Carolina business leaders.

In addition, the gift also will propel many of the college’s signature programs, including business analytics, sales innovation, value chain and advanced manufacturing, entrepreneurship, brand marketing and graphics, leadership, economics and MBA.

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“The building and our academic direction are becoming a launch pad for students to become revolutionary change agents who will make positive contributions to business and industry in South Carolina, across our nation and beyond,” York said.

Billy Powers is the chief executive officer of Powers Properties and Construction. He has served on numerous boards and foundations. When serving and giving funds to individuals and causes, he is known to do so quietly and behind-the-scenes.

In 2018, Powers received a Marion Medallion from Francis Marion University and the Morning News. The medallions celebrate the good works of the people of the region.

Powers was born on a family farm where his family owned a country store and a grits mill in the small town of Timmonsville. There, he learned discipline and how to pattern his life in a way that would be successful.

Powers did not have running water in his home until he was in the third grade and had no electricity until the sixth grade. He graduated from Timmonsville High School in 1953.

After working as a land surveyor for the South Carolina Department of Transportation, Powers began Powers Construction, a large-scale commercial construction firm known for building schools, government buildings, churches and apartments across the Carolinas, in 1965.

During his career, Powers has been in the land surveying business, residential and commercial construction, the swimming pool business, aviation, auto parts manufacturing, apartment rental, property management and land development.

Powers explains that a single piece of advice is relevant to anyone pursuing college and a dream:

“Apply yourself the best you can with the means you have,” he said. “You can’t start on top. It’s a learning process. Then you’ve got to have initiative and discipline to reach your goals.”

But the key to success, Powers said, is hard work.

“You always want to do the very best you are able to do, and if you plan well, you can accomplish more. This gift is about helping Clemson students grow and be the best they can be.”

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