Longtime IPTAY Donor Credits Wife for Decision to “Do Something for Clemson”
Steve Pearce will be the first to tell you his wife, Priscilla, is the one blessed with the brains.
So, when Priscilla suggested he reconsider the structure of his will to make sure the charities that were important to him got something significant when he was gone, Steve knew she was on to something.
“We’re pretty much charitable givers; we do our share if we can,” Steve said. “But we had it spread so thin among a lot of little things, it really wasn’t going to help any of them very much.”
Steve had been an IPTAY member since the 1960s, but it wasn’t until years later he met Priscilla and they got a chance to share their love of Clemson.
Pearce grew up in Charleston and followed some of his high school pals to Clemson University in 1953. But after a couple of years, his father had a different plan.
“My daddy suggested after two years that I’d make a good Marine,” Pearce said. “In other words, I didn’t do very well. I
didn’t apply myself.”
After eight years in the Marines, Pearce never made it back to Clemson as a student, but instead returned to Charleston and went to work.
He worked as a credit adjuster, then a chemist’s assistant, then a salesman and then drove a gasoline tanker for a while.
On one of his deliveries with the tanker truck, Pearce noticed a customer had a small coin laundry adjacent to the gas station.
“It was just a little hut with probably six washers and three or four dryers,” he said. “I used to tease him about it and say, ‘You make any money with that, just getting a nickel here and quarter there once in awhile?’ And he’d say, ‘Oh, they pay for themselves.’”
That was the start of Pearce getting into the coin laundry business – completely by accident – and he soon opened up his first washerette. Then another. And another.
Pearce ended up taking over for the salesman from whom he bought his equipment and did well selling laundry equipment, and that eventually led to a distributorship with the company that made the equipment.
“We became the largest distributor in the United States of their products for six or seven years, which is kind of amazing because we were competing with California and New York and all these big states, and we were right here in little South Carolina,” Pearce said.
While Pearce never finished his studies at Clemson, a love for the school’s athletic teams, particularly football, was sparked during his time on campus.
Pearce’s passion for Clemson sports didn’t truly start to mature until he moved back to Belton to open his first coin laundry, and he joined IPTAY soon thereafter.
“I really don’t know what year I joined IPTAY – back when it was 10 dollars a year,” Pearce said. “Frank Howard was the coach back then.”
After he retired in 2000, Pearce began doing charity work at a church in Greenville, where he would help the pastor serve meals to the homeless on Sundays.
It was there that he met Priscilla, who also volunteered there and had graduated from Columbia College and gone on to get her Master’s Degree from Clemson.
“Priscilla is a genius in mathematics, literally,” Steve said.
After heading up the math department at the South Carolina Governor’s School, Priscilla eventually got her Doctorate in Theology and went into the Methodist ministry.
“God gave her a late calling in life, but she’s been good at everything she’s ever done,” Steve said.
The couple has been married 10 years now, and with Clemson being such a big part of both their lives – both before and after they met – Priscilla suggested to her husband he do something to give back to the school they love.
“She said, ‘Why don’t we think about some of the things in your will? You’ve got too many charities in there, and nobody is really getting enough of anything. Why don’t we eliminate a few of those and do something for Clemson?’” he recalled. “So, in my will is left to Clemson, I guess, a pretty substantial amount of money. I didn’t ask anything back, and I didn’t expect anything back. It’s just a way of saying thank you.”