CLEMSON, SC October 31, 2008 – Clemson University is honoring two of its most prominent alumni — Leon J. “Bill” Hendrix Jr. of Kiawah Island and George Bennett of Clemson — with the university’s highest public award: the Clemson Medallion.
“These two outstanding individuals have each played a significant role in shaping Clemson University,” said Clemson University President James F. Barker. “Without their leadership, Clemson would not be what it is today. I am honored to be able to present them with this award.”
Hendrix is chairman of Clemson’s board of trustees, a position he has held since 2003. He was elected a life member of the board in 1995.
“I can’t imagine ever receiving an award that would be more meaningful for me,” Hendrix said. “I’ve had a lifelong connection to Clemson and I’ve known about the Medallion for a long time, but never thought I would receive it.”
Hendrix graduated with honors from Clemson in 1963, having served as student body president his senior year. He received a master’s degree from Clemson in 1968. He had a 20-year career with Reliance Electric Co., where he held a series of executive-level positions, most recently as chief operating officer and a member of the board of directors.
From 1993 to 2000, Hendrix was a partner with Clayton, Dubilier and Rice Inc., a private investment firm specializing in leveraged buyouts. And from 1997 to 2007, he worked for Remington Arms Co., serving as chief executive officer for two years and then as chairman. Hendrix serves on several corporate boards, including those of Cambrex Corp., Keithley Instruments and Integrated Power Services.
Over the years, he has held many volunteer leadership positions for the university, serving on the Alumni National Council, as an IPTAY representative, on the Clemson University Foundation board of directors and on the Board of Visitors.
Clemson recognized Hendrix in 1995 with the Alumni Distinguished Service Award and in 2001 with the Institutional Advancement Award. The Hendrix Student Center on campus is named in his honor.
Hendrix said the news of the honor left him speechless.
“I didn’t know how to express what it meant to me,” he said. “When the president told me I was receiving it, I had a hard time answering him.”
George Bennett, who graduated from Clemson in 1955, served as executive secretary of IPTAY, Clemson’s athletic scholarship organization. His career at Clemson spanned 22 years. As an undergraduate, he was head cheerleader, president of Blue Key Honor Society and a member of Tiger Brotherhood. He instituted the firing of the cannon at football games after touchdowns, a tradition that still is carried out today.
“It never even entered my mind at that time that I would spend most of my career at Clemson,” Bennett said. “I thought I would be governor some day. I was interested in politics.”
His professional career at Clemson began in 1967 as an alumni field director. He later became assistant athletic director for business and then executive director of IPTAY. He left Clemson in 1979 to pursue career opportunities at Vanderbilt University, Furman University and Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tenn., but returned in 1993 to serve once again as IPTAY’s executive director, a position he held until his retirement in 2004.
Under his leadership, IPTAY doubled its contributions and saw a marked increase in membership.
Bennett was named National Athletics Fundraiser of the Year in 1984, and in 2001 he was honored with the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian award. In 2004, he was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Association of Athletics Directors, and earlier this year, he received the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame Distinguished Service Award.
Bennett has been honored by Clemson in the past with the Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 1986 and induction into the Clemson Athletics Hall of Fame.
“I was shocked when I learned Clemson was giving me the Medallion,” he said. “When you are placed in the same category as these other people — Strom Thurmond, R.C. Edwards, Walter Cox — it is such an honor.”
The Clemson Medallion recognizes an individual who has had a long and sustained commitment and significant service to Clemson University. Based on open nominations and committee recommendations to the university president, the award is not presented annually, but only when deemed appropriate.