Tiger Tales: Kelly Durham
While many people associate Clemson with the university, it is far more than just a college town. Clemson is a dynamic place full of community members that contribute in different ways through their jobs, organizational affiliations and interests. According to The Princeton Review, Clemson has the best town-gown relations among every school in the nation, proving that the community has a positive relationship with students because of what they contribute.
Kelly Durham is a long-time resident of Clemson, SC, Durham grew up in Clemson after his family returned to the city in 1966. He enjoyed the idyllic nature of the town while attending Daniel High School and then the university, graduating from Clemson University in 1980. During his collegiate career, Durham was a part of the ROTC program, inspired by his own father’s involvement in ROTC at Auburn University. After graduation, he was commissioned to spend four years in the US Army and later returned to South Carolina to pursue graduate school.
Durham’s father was not the only inspiration for becoming involved with ROTC. He wanted to give back to the community that raised him. Durham said, “If you want to live in a society, you should contribute to that society.” His experience in the military was very eye-opening, leading him to recognize how lucky he felt to be in Clemson. However, it also made him realize how much opportunity for success in his career existed outside of Clemson, too.
After returning from the military, Durham became involved with the private business sector because his friend owned a Wendy’s franchise and needed to hire someone for their marketing endeavors. Durham jumped on the opportunity and they later became business partners. Durham continued his work in private business until 2015 when he sold his shares and retired in Clemson. These unexpected opportunities shaped Durham’s life.
When Durham turned 50, he continued with these unexpected opportunities and decided to pursue his love of reading and write a book. After facing struggles with publishing, Durham wrote his second novel, “Berlin Calling,” a fiction novel that takes place in Germany before and during World War II. A publishing company decided to publish this novel under their banner and since then, Durham has written eight books and co-authored four others. His passion for reading and writing has occupied him since retiring from private business.
Outside of his involvement with various boards, such as the Board of Visitors and the Board of the Community Foundation of Greater Clemson, Durham says that he is most proud of the work that he has done for Clemson’s Scroll of Honor, the memorial dedicated to Clemson alumni who died during their military service. Durham writes profiles on the individuals that detail their histories and contributions. He takes a lot of pride in this work because these people “sacrificed their futures for our todays” and now he gets to help tell their stories.
As a Clemson graduate, Durham had great advice for undergraduate students. He said, “Participate as fully as you can, not only in your classes or interacting with professors and faculty members…get involved in activities and service organizations, play intramural sports if you’re into sports, whatever you’re into, jump in with both feet. Like Coach Swinney says, be ‘All In’ because this is a great opportunity for you to try a myriad of different things. Find out what you like. Find out what you don’t like.”
It is evident that Durham took advantage of the opportunities that Clemson created for him while in school and what the community creates for him today. His involvement and experiences are truly inspiring and evident of how Clemson can impact your life.