CLEMSON, South Carolina — Atlanta resident Thomas F. Chapman and his wife, Karen, have brightened the future of Clemson University students and every person their post-graduation work will impact with a $4 million gift that will establish an endowment for the Thomas F. Chapman Leadership Scholars Program and create the Thomas F. Chapman ’65 Distinguished Professorship in Leadership. Cumulatively, the Chapmans have given $6.3 million to Clemson to further the university’s mission and vision.
With their gift, Tom and Karen Chapman are the first Cornerstone Partner for Academics at Clemson University. To date, there have been nine Cornerstone Partners for Clemson Athletics. The Cornerstone Program is made up of visionary individuals who commit transformational funding to help set the course for Clemson’s future success as one of the nation’s top-ranked public universities.
“Through their love for Clemson and their enormous generosity, Tom and Karen Chapman already have made a lasting positive impact on this university with the creation of the Thomas F. Chapman Leadership Scholars program in 2009,” said Clemson University President James P. Clements. “It is fitting that the Chapmans’ extraordinary passion for leadership education has motivated them to again take the lead in supporting Clemson, this time by providing our first Academic Cornerstone gift and we are incredibly honored and thankful they have chosen to once again support our outstanding students and faculty in this way.”
The Thomas F. Chapman Leadership Scholars Program is a three-year program that identifies and competitively selects freshmen who demonstrate leadership potential and nurtures those qualities throughout their Clemson careers. It is based, in part, upon a leadership theme developed by Tom Chapman that uses the analogy of “The Wizard of Oz” characters the Scarecrow (for intellect), the Lion (for courage) and the Tin Man (for heart):
- In the first year, Leadership Scholars receive $1,000 and focus on developing intellect and defining leadership capabilities.
- In the second year, Leadership Scholars receive $2,000 and learn about courage, ethics, behavior and style of leaders.
- In the third year, Leadership Scholars receive $3,000 and focus on the heart by leading efforts to serve others in their communities.
“We know that out of the 85 scholars that we have touched so far in this program, the world is going to be enhanced with their leadership. The world needs more effective leaders, and it will take compassionate and dedicated individuals to help us move this country forward — that’s why courage, intellect and heart drive the program,” Chapman told the current group of scholars at a luncheon in their honor.
“Karen and I are honored to be a part of this program. My Clemson education provided me a springboard into a life of many blessings. We made a commitment to give back to the programs and causes that are making a difference. The return on investment is for you to make the world a better place.”
With a $1 million gift from the Chapmans, the program began in 2009 with an inaugural class of 10 Scholars from the then-College of Business and Behavioral Science. It quickly became the premiere leadership program for students at Clemson.
With the new permanent endowment, the program will branch out from the College of Business so that students in all seven of Clemson’s colleges will have the opportunity to participate. The program will expand university-wide from 10 to 14 Leadership Scholars (eight scholars from the College of Business and one scholar each from the other colleges) selected each year for a total of 42 Scholars in the third year after implementation.
“Tom and Karen Chapman’s personal sacrifice, generosity and leadership in creating a better learning experience for our students are unmatched,” said Bobby McCormick, dean of the College of Business. “Their most recent commitment will enrich even more of our young minds by helping them reach their leadership potential. We are indebted to their many acts of kindness, especially their personal commitment of time and energy, and all the rest that they do to advance scholarship at Clemson University.”
Interested freshmen compete to be selected as a Thomas F. Chapman Leadership Scholar through an online application, panel review and interview. The top 14 students selected receive an academic scholarship at the end of each semester provided that they complete all of their Leadership Scholars assignments.
The Chapmans’ gift will also create the Thomas F. Chapman ’65 Distinguished Professorship in Leadership in the College of Business. As one of the highest academic honors bestowed on a faculty member, endowed professorships build academic recognition, inspire lifelong learning and excellence and create opportunities for collaboration, mentoring, touching lives and advancing scholarship. The Thomas F. Chapman ’65 Distinguished Professorship in Leadership will enhance the academic reputation of the Thomas F. Chapman Leadership Scholars Program, the College of Business and Clemson University while advancing leadership education and helping develop future leaders who will have an impact on their communities and make a difference in the world.
“Clemson owes a debt of gratitude to Tom and Karen for their tremendous generosity and visionary thinking. Just as they did with the university’s first ONE Clemson gift for both Athletics and Academics in 2008, they are again setting the pace for others to follow. With their inaugural Cornerstone Partner gift for Academics, the Chapmans will help shape the lives of countless Clemson students and prepare our university for future success,” said Brian O’Rourke, vice president for development and alumni relations.
Chapman funded the construction of the Thomas F. Chapman Grandstands at Clemson’s baseball stadium, and he credits his success to lessons in leadership that he learned both in the classroom and on the baseball field. He was a two-time all-ACC pitcher for Clemson’s baseball team and was Clemson’s first professional baseball draftee. He pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies’ organization until April 1968, when his Army Reserve unit was activated and deployed to Vietnam, where he served with distinction. He went on to earn a degree in advanced management from Harvard in 1978.
Chapman served as chairman and chief executive officer of Equifax Inc. from May 1999 until his retirement in December 2005. For more than 40 years, Chapman built an outstanding career in banking, information technology and marketing. Before joining Equifax in 1990, he spent 20 years with First Atlanta Corp. (acquired by Wachovia Corp. in 1985). He then founded and became chief executive officer of Financial Environments Inc., a financial services consulting company.
In 2010, Chapman received the Clemson Alumni Distinguished Service award, the Clemson Alumni Association’s highest honor, for his dedication to enhancing the value of the university for future generations, service to community and personal accomplishments that serve as a model for present and future Clemson students.
Chapman has given back to his alma mater in a number of capacities, including serving two terms on the board of directors of the Clemson University Foundation, being inducted as a member of the distinguished Thomas Green Clemson Society and joining the Athletics Advisory Committee. He now serves on The President’s Advisory Board. The Chapmans are also members of The President’s Leadership Circle, Founding Partners of the Barker Scholars Endowment and they support IPTAY and the ClemsonLIFE program.
In 2016, Chapman received the Clemson University Distinguished Athletes Award, established by Margaret Bond and her late husband, former Clemson golfer Steve Bond. This award honors Tiger athletes who have shown great character and have become outstanding citizens in their lives after Clemson.
Beyond Clemson, the Chapmans are active in numerous philanthropic causes, including cancer prevention, detection and care initiatives at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. They established the Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness centers across the Piedmont system in Georgia. Chapman is also involved with Georgia CORE (Center for Oncology Research and Education). The couple is dedicated to helping children with autism through their involvement with the Marcus Autism Center, for which they created the Tom and Karen Chapman Care Coordination Center.
Chapman received the 2014 Georgia Philanthropist of the Year Award and remains active in civic and community affairs. He is widely recognized as a dynamic writer and lecturer on leadership, strategy and values in business.
The Chapmans live in Atlanta. Chapman’s first wife, Jane, lost her battle with cancer in 2003. He has two daughters, Dawn and Traci, and five grandchildren: Whitney, Jonathan, Andrew, Chandler and Emilie.