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She wears the South Carolina coat of arms on one side and the US shield on the other. She carries the Clemson “C” and the South Carolina palmetto tree on her face. She is more than just a piece of metal. She is the Clemson ring, and she is a part of who Clemson students are and what they have experienced. “The hard work, late nights with friends, and all the milestones of college are all represented by that ring,” Hana Bernik, a 2021 Clemson Alumna, says. The tradition of the Clemson ring goes back to legacy, according to Grant Wilkins, the Clemson ring director. While other universities often change their graduation ring from year to year so that each class has a distinct nuance, at Clemson, the historic Clemson ring has seen no change in appearance since 1939. The ring is widely worn and celebrated by undergraduates, graduate students and alums, says Bubba Britton, Clemson’s Senior Director of Alumni Engagement. Out of the thousands of colleges and universities nationwide, Clemson University has the second-highest ring purchase rate, falling second only to Texas A&M, which has more than triple the number of students. As Bernik describes her Clemson ring, she looks down at the symbol of the last four years of her life, brushes its surface and twists it just enough so the sunlight perfectly reflects off the gold finish and illuminates her sandy brown eyes. Her cheeks turn a pale pink color, and her eyes begin to water as she explains what the ring means to her. “To me, the ring symbolizes my four years at Clemson and everything that came with it.” The Clemson ring requires 90 credits or approximately three years, and countless hours of hard work, which is accompanied by innumerable “memories that will last a lifetime,” Bernik says. Britton equates the ring to a living embodiment of Joe Sherman’s 1943 essay, “Something In These Hills.” Just like Sherman’s piece, the Clemson ring ties everything together. “[It] connects everyone that studied at Clemson back to Clemson; it truly is something special. The ring is an emblem of equality, excellence and family,” Britton said. The Clemson ring symbolizes more than just academic achievement. The ring embodies a “lifelong commitment to Clemson,” Wilkins says. For Brooke Enloe, a senior communications major, the Clemson ring symbolizes the time she’s spent at Clemson and all the memories she’s had here so far. It also represents the Clemson family. To Veronica Negrete, a senior psychology major, her ring links her to “the best university in South Carolina.”  The ring connects students tightly to each other and Clemson in its entirety; it becomes a part of their representative identity; students who get their ring wear it every day, even after graduation; they claim they “feel naked without it.” The physical ring is just the beginning of the historic tradition unique to Clemson and receiving the ring is now part of that tradition. It happens at the Clemson Ring Ceremony. Although the ring has been around since the 1800s, the ceremony is relatively new. It began in the Spring of 2000. Attendance at the first Ring Ceremony totaled approximately 30 students. Twenty-two years later, that number has increased by more than 700%, as 2,200 Clemson students will receive their ring this fall on Oct. 30, according to Britton. As students gather in Littlejohn Coliseum to receive their ring, they are “overwhelmed with nostalgia, happiness and excitement,” a feeling of “bittersweet anticipation” because they know their time at Clemson is nearing its end,” Bernik says. Receiving your ring is a “wholesome feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself.” Clemson holds two Ring Ceremonies every year, one in the fall semester and another in the spring. Clemson students who have completed 90 credit hours at the end of the fall 2022 semester will receive their rings this upcoming spring on April 2, 2023. When students receive their ring, they wear it so that their graduation year faces them. Once the student graduates from the university, the ring’s orientation is flipped. The ring is taken off and turned around so that it faces the rest of the world ahead just like the Clemson student now does. Clemson students are not to flip the ring themselves. The individual who flips the ring is meant to be someone who has significantly impacted their time at Clemson, like a friend, family member or even a professor who truly made a difference in the student’s experience. Even the box the ring comes in is unique and special to Clemson. Each one is handmade from trees that once shaded Clemson’s campus. Britton states that these trees have usually either fallen with age or have been removed due to new campus developments. Artistic Wood LLC produces the ring boxes. According to the company’s website, Artistic Wood LLC was founded by Ken Dunlap SR. in 2013 to assist Clemson University in recycling the trees from its campus into “long lasting and beautifully crafted mementos for students and alumni.” According to Wilkins, the ring and all of the Clemson traditions that come with it are “a milestone in the transitional phase: ‘I am going to Clemson, I go to Clemson and I went to Clemson. It is a soon-to-be alums way of representing their education and Clemson pride to the world.” Bernik is confident the Ring Ceremony will become a “core memory that will last a lifetime.” She proudly wears her ring every day, stating, “it brings me pride to show people I graduated from Clemson.”

Tiger Briefs: Aug. 23

Blake Mauro, Editor-in-Chief August 23, 2023

Clemson makes stark changes to attendance policies  Clemson University released significant changes to its attendance policy this fall. The changes include new federal participation requirements and...

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