Signature Recognition: Clemson University Fort Hill Legacy Society

Fort Hill is cherished as the site where Thomas Clemson signed his will, donating the land that would become Clemson University. Building on that tradition, donors making planned gifts sign the Fort Hill Legacy Society register. If a gift matures at $1,000,000 or more, the donors are permanently recognized with a bronze leaf beneath the historic Second Century Oak.

Design of this project engaged the campus landscape architect and historian, and recent academic research confirmed that Anna Calhoun Clemson should be listed alongside her husband. In keeping with this level of historical accuracy, leaves from the historic oak were scanned, the donor signature and copy were added to the electronic model, and the digitally sculpted forms were cast using the traditional lost wax method. Each leaf was then hand-finished and permanently installed on campus. The files for perpetuation of the project are digitally stored in the campus archives.

At the annual dedication ceremony, families of the donors, faculty, students and staff sing the alma mater. Moving presentations are made by individuals standing behind each bronze leaf, each beginning, “I am Clemson,” and telling the story of the donor and how his or her contribution has enhanced the speaker’s experience at Clemson. This level of complex storytelling, long-range planning, and historic accuracy is appropriate to the level of importance that Clemson places on the donors who provide this type of enduring philanthropic support.

This project was conceived and initial implementation occurred during Heurista president, Anne Manner-McLarty’s tenure with Robin E. Williams Incorporated. Growth in the program is managed through direct relationship with Portfolio Metal in Asheville, NC.


Written By Anne Manner-McLarty

Anne Manner-McLarty is the managing editor of the Journal of Donor Relations and Stewardship. She founded Heurista in 2011, a leading resource for consulting specific to donor relations and stewardship, with particular expertise in the donor recognition program design and implementation.