Clemson President James P. Clements thanks Gretchen and Joe Erwin for their academic cornerstone gift at Thursday’s announcement. Image credit: Clemson University Relations

Greenville residents Joe and Gretchen Erwin have given $2.5 million to Clemson University. $1 million of the gift will go toward the new College of Business building, and $1.5 million will be allocated for a student scholarship and programming support for communication students and adjunct faculty.

Over the years, the Erwins have given more than $5 million to Clemson University.

Joe Erwin graduated from Clemson in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Over the years, he has served as a member of the Rutland Institute for Ethics Advisory Board and the President’s Advisory Board.

Gretchen Erwin is a 1977 graduate of the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and was named to the centennial class of Grady Fellows in 2015.

The Erwins become the second Cornerstone Partner for Academics at Clemson University with this gift. The Cornerstone program consists of visionary individuals who commit funding to Clemson University of $2.5 million or more.

The Erwins’ Cornerstone Academic gift will establish an endowment for need-based scholarships for students pursuing a minor in brand communications; a faculty fund to encourage collaboration between faculty of the College of Business and the Erwin Center for Brand Communications; an unrestricted fund for the Erwin Center for Brand Communications to support the center and its impact on Clemson University, including research, supplies, and travel; an annual scholarship to provide funding for students pursuing a minor in brand communications; and the aforementioned $1 million for the new College of Business building fund.

In 2012, the Erwins established the Erwin Center for Advertising and Communication (now the Erwin Center for Brand Communications). Its goal is to help students enter the workforce with the tools necessary to succeed in marketing- and communications-related fields.

The couple founded Erwin Penland Advertising agency in 1986. Over the next 29 years, under the leadership of both Joe and Gretchen, the company became a nationally known marketing and advertising firm. It grew to over 400 employees in Greenville and New York and has served a prestigious client list.

Following his departure from Erwin Penland, Joe Erwin established Erwin Creates, a company that continues his support of the growth of Greenville’s creative marketing community. Some of his efforts include the Erwin Center for Brand Communications at Clemson, helping to bring professional soccer to the Upstate, and his leadership of Endeavor, a creative, co-working community.

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