Former First Lady of Clemson, Celeste Prince, Dies at 80

December 22, 2008

CLEMSON, SC – December 22, 2008 – Celeste Orr Prince, 80, former first lady of Clemson University, died Saturday, Dec. 20, at Cottingham Hospice House in Seneca.
She was the wife of Clemson President Emeritus Philip H. Prince, who served as Clemson’s president from 1994 to 1995. Devoted to her husband’s alma mater, she was a tireless advocate for Clemson, particularly after he was selected as a university life trustee in 1989 and as acting president in 1994. Prince’s presidency lasted only 11 months — between the resignation of Max Lennon and the appointment of Deno Curris — but it was a period of enormous change for Clemson. Prince led the restructuring of the university from nine colleges to what eventually became the five colleges Clemson has today.

“Celeste Prince’s life as a Clemson first lady, mother, grandmother, wife and head cheerleader for all things Clemson serves as an inspiration to all of us in the Clemson Family,” said President James F. Barker, who was dean of the College of Architecture during Philip Prince’s presidency. “Marcia and I appreciate the friendship and kindness she has shown us over the years. We will miss her greatly.”

In 1999, the Clemson University Alumni Association created the Prince Scholars, an unrestricted scholarship program, to honor the service of the 12th president and his first lady.

A native of Wilmington, N.C., who moved to Rock Hill at age 2, she graduated from the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now UNC-Greensboro) in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree in recreation. In addition to her husband, she is survived by two sons, Kevin and his wife, Mary Severson Prince, and James and his wife Novella Myers Prince; and two grandsons, Philip Hunter Prince II and Walker Myers Prince.

Mrs. Prince will be buried in a private family gathering in Woodland Cemetery, known as “Cemetery Hill,” on the university campus. A celebration of her life will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 23, at Fort Hill Presbyterian Church in Clemson. The family will receive friends following the funeral service in Tartan Hall at the church.

Celeste Orr Prince

Born July 31, 1928, to James P. Orr and Lucille Glasscock Orr in Wilmington, N.C., Mrs. Prince moved to Rock Hill, S.C., at age 2 and grew up near her mother’s homeplace of Rowells in York County. She graduated from Rock Hill High School in 1945, where she participated in band, piano and other school activities. She graduated from the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now UNC-Greensboro) in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree in recreation.

During her senior year in college, Mrs. Prince was introduced to her future husband by mutual friends, Prince’s teammates on the Clemson Tigers football team. Known for his bold moves on the gridiron, Prince proposed marriage on their first date — a walk on the beach at Ponte Vedra, Fla., following Clemson’s 24-23 Gator Bowl victory over the University of Missouri in 1949. It was love at first sight; she accepted. Prince made the engagement official with a ring when she graduated from college. They were married March 11, 1950.

The Princes welcomed two sons, Kevin in 1951 and James in 1953, and later their wives, Mary Severson of Little Falls, Minn., and Novella Myers of Florence, S.C., whom Mrs. Prince called her daughters-in-love. On June 27, 1990, Jim and Novella gave birth to Prince’s namesake, Philip Hunter Prince II. A second grandson, Walker Myers Prince, was born Oct. 13, 1993.

After growing up as an only child with deep roots in York County, Mrs. Prince adjusted to marriage, family and her husband’s budding textile career that required multiple moves. Their return to Clemson in March 2005 was their 25th since their wedding in 1950.

She handled each transition smoothly and maintained strong ties with family and friends. She was noted for remembering birthdays, anniversaries and other special events with cards, notes, letters and phone calls. She knitted dozens of afghans, robes and baby blankets for brides, friends, senior citizens and expectant mothers.
Clemson was her adopted school, and the university, in turn, adopted her. She was a longtime IPTAY member, and was justifiably proud to be the first female non-graduate to be awarded an honorary Clemson athletic letter. She was named an “honorary alumnus” of Clemson University at Reunion 1995, a year after her husband became Clemson’s 12th president.

She was a member of Fort Hill Presbyterian Church in Clemson, where she was involved in programs for young people. She also was a member of the Clemson Garden Club and the Clemson University Woman’s Club
In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory can be made to the Philip H. and Celeste O. Prince Scholarship Fund, Clemson University Foundation, P.O. Box 1889, Clemson, SC  29633-1889

Condolences may be expressed online at: or in person at the Duckett-Robinson Funeral Home, Central-Clemson Commons.

Condolences may also be sent to the family home at 600 Downs Loop, Clemson, S.C. 29631.