Oct. 15, 2009
As our Tigers run down the Hill today prior to taking on Wake Forest, it is fitting that on IPTAY Day we take a few moments to remember the one constant at Clemson since 1934…the support from thousands of donors to the IPTAY Scholarship Fund.
By now we should all know the story of how IPTAY was formed. In 1931, Clemson had just lost 6-0 to The Citadel in Florence, SC and four coaches sat in a car outside the stadium. They decided that in order to be successful, Clemson athletics would need an additional $10,000 every year. The first attempt was to form an organization that would ask for donations of $50 per year, but with the economic conditions of the state, region, and country, this was simply too much to ask. Dr. Rupert Fike organized a group in Atlanta, GA and decided that $10 per year was more reasonable to expect from Clemson supporters at that time. IPTAY was formed and the rest, as they say, is history.
What started out as a secret society that resembled those of Ivy League schools quickly became an organization of the masses. The 1940s saw membership swell to 4,314 members with contributions exceeding $48,000. The 1950s was a decade of re-organization and continued growth, as Gene Willimon incorporated sound business practices, delineated responsibilities to officers in certain regions of the state, and appointed certain members as IPTAY representatives who were responsible for soliciting new members and encouraging current members to remain active.
During his time at IPTAY, the “T” in IPTAY also changed from $10 to $20 in 1969 and from $20 to $30 in 1976. Unprecedented growth was recorded during the 1960s, 1970s, and into the 1980s, as IPTAY became the first athletic fundraising organization to top the $5-million mark in contributions. More importantly, IPTAY saw its membership grow to over 19,000 members. The grassroots nature of IPTAY is what has made it the largest group of athletic donors in the ACC and the envy of many institutions across the country.
As IPTAY entered into the 21st century, changes were necessary to meet the financial demands of our student-athletes. As these changes were made, there was one thing Clemson could continue to count on…the support from Clemson people. Despite a 40-percent increase in membership donation levels, IPTAY’s membership and contributions grew. In 2005, the Heisman level was created and 100 women and men stepped forward as charter members to provide $1 million in contributions from this level alone.
As the executive director of IPTAY, Bert Henderson set a goal of 100 Heisman donors. It seemed a bit lofty, but as is the case time and time before, Tiger supporters stepped forward with this group by exceeding 300 members in 2008 and contributing $3 million in annual donations. The introduction of the Seat Equity Plan in 2009 brought about further improvements, as a system was applied across the board to bring equity to the seating assignments of Memorial Stadium. Again, IPTAY members joined in record numbers and provided over $21 million in scholarship support.
IPTAY entered into its 76th year in July. Even after all these years, improvements are being made and challenges are being met as Clemson continues to do what is necessary to be successful. So far this year, we have entered into a new era of communication with Orange: The Experience magazine and the MyOrangeUpdate email newsletter. Donors that make IPTAY successful deserve a high quality communication piece, and with those, that has been accomplished.
This summer saw the completion of Phase II of the WestZone Project, which now houses the football staff in a facility that is second-to-none. This project, along with the Chapman Grandstand (baseball) addition, tennis facility improvements, soccer stadium renovations, and planned construction of a golf clubhouse, are all examples of donors going beyond their annual gift and taking a leadership role with Tiger athletics through their major gift support for various projects.
IPTAY has a long and proud history. Even though names and faces have changed, donors have continued to exceed expectations by making available the funds necessary for our student-athletes’ success. Through it all, the one constant is support from you, the loyal donor, to IPTAY and Tiger athletics. You have chosen to make a difference in the lives of the young men and women that selected Clemson as the school for them to earn their degree and participate at the highest levels of athletic competition.
In success and in failure, these student-athletes will leave Clemson with life lessons that you have made possible through your gifts. Each of us has a responsibility, not only to these student-athletes, but to the donors to IPTAY before us to continue on the great tradition of athletic support for Clemson University.
IPTAY asks each of us to not only give, but to also pass down that spirit of giving…”to assist in every way possible to regain for Clemson the high athletic standing which rightfully belongs to her.”
If history is any indication, there is no doubt that Clemson people will continue to answer the call and provide the support necessary for IPTAY to thrive.
Jason Wilson is an IPTAY Assistant Director and is in his fifth year at Clemson.
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