Search Shop

Gene Willimon Dies At Age 88

Aug. 8, 2000

Clemson, S.C. – Gene Willimon, Clemson’s executive secretary of IPTAY from 1950-77, died Monday night at Oconnee Memorial Hospital in Seneca. He was 88. He had been in a coma in the facility for four days.

Willimon is credited with the district organization in IPTAY that is still used today. He is most known for having conceived the idea of bringing Howard’s Rock to Death Valley. In 1965, legendary Head Coach Frank Howard was cleaning out his office. He found a rock that had been given to him by a Clemson alumnus that he had brought to Howard from Death Valley, CA.

Howard told Willimon to throw the rock away, but Willimon had other ideas. He mounted the rock on a pedestal at the top of the hill in the East endzone of Clemson Memorial Stadium. It is now part of one of the great traditions of college football.

Willimon left the insurance business in 1950 to return to his alma mater as executive secretary of IPTAY, a position he retained until 1977. Over those 27 years IPTAY raised more than $7.7 million to fund athletic scholarships. During his career IPTAY membership grew from 4,315 to 8,977, while donations grew from $40,000 to $950,000.

He was honored by his selection to the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame in 1986, was named an outstanding alumnus of the University and received the Thomas Green Clemson Associate Award. In 1992, he was honored by the South Carolina Hall of Fame with its Distinguished Service to Sports Award.

Willimon was a starting running back on the Clemson football team in 1932 and 1933. He was the team’s leading scorer in 1932.