Ken and Layne Smith
They met in the 6th Grade, were friends throughout high school and college, but it wasn’t until after they both graduated from Clemson that Ken (’81) and Layne (‘81) Smith fell in love.
Choosing Clemson was an easy choice for Ken. Growing up in nearby Greenville, he was able to attend Clemson football and basketball games early on, and his dad was avid fan. He knew he wanted to major in Engineering, so coupled with the cost of out of state schools, Clemson was the obvious choice. Layne had different reasons in the beginning to help narrow her decision. “My older sister went to South Carolina and I knew I wanted to do something different,” she says. Layne’s family moved to Greenville in the early 70’s, so she gradually became a Clemson fan during high school because many of her friends were fans. She chose Clemson and has never regretted the decision.
During their time as students, Layne and Ken were both active in Greek life and, of course, attending Clemson athletic events. Memories of First Friday parades, bowl games, sorority and fraternity rush and Homecoming are still vivid. “Homecoming week was a lot of work…it was a lot of fun, but a lot of work,” Ken remembers. Coming in the middle of the semester when classes where in full swing, working day and night on the Sigma Phi Epsilon display always made Sunday night after Homecoming a challenge. Looking back and thinking, “how can I catch up on a week’s worth of work in one night?” A sentiment to which generations of Clemson students can relate. “Students that can balance the fun, the challenges and stress, staying up all night, going to class, the tests while delivering results.…that’s a well rounded person. So, in a strange way, it’s a little bit of life training.”
They should have graduated together in May of ’81. Layne did, but Ken wanted to pursue a Masters degree, so he remained a student through the Fall of 1981, a magical time for all Clemson football fans. He decided a few weeks into the Fall semester that he wanted to go to work instead, so he graduated in December and left Clemson on a National Championship high, attending the Orange Bowl soon after graduation.
As a Sociology major, Layne knew she wanted to use her skills in sales. Landing a job after graduation was slow at first until she came back to Clemson for a job interview sponsored by the University. She landed a sales position for Xerox. “The classroom and social activities I experienced at Clemson provided an excellent foundation that paid off in sales,” reflects Layne. Ken used his contacts from his intern experience and started a job with J. E. Sirrine. While walking into a building to buy insurance soon after starting with Sirrine, Ken ran into Layne. They reconnected, started dating and got married in 1984.
1986 was an eventful year for the Smith’s. Ken decided to move into sales. They moved to Atlanta and Layne gave birth to their first daughter. Layne worked for Xerox right up to the delivery and then became a full time mom.
A few years later the family moved back to the Upstate, settling in Greer. Two more daughters followed soon after. In 1996, Ken accepted a position with Fluor. Six months into the new job, he was transferred to Cincinnati where they lived for almost three years before coming back to Greenville. Their three daughters, Kelly, Haley and Cameron are all Clemson graduates. Kelly married a Clemson graduate also, Chad Owens, in 2009. They have two future Tigers, Eli and Evan.
The ties and friendships Layne and Ken built while students continue to be important to them today, cementing the idea of a true Clemson family. Layne stays in close contact with her Chi Omega sisters, getting together every year for a girls weekend away. Ken stays in touch with many of his Sigma Phi Epsilon brothers and other friends. Supporting Clemson and IPTAY began soon after graduation, starting with their company’s matching donation program. Giving back has been a part of their Clemson DNA. Ken says, “A good friend from IPTAY told us early on…just start with what you can. Start and stay involved, and as your family and career expands, keep Clemson in your plans. This was good advice then and it holds true today.”
As their family became more involved with Clemson, it gave Ken and Layne even more reason to expand their support. This has continued not only in support of athletics, but the academics as well, opening up new perspectives to see the impact that gifts have on the University. Ken serves on the Clemson University Foundation Board; he is able to see first hand the value of donations. “Clemson does an outstanding job of getting the most out of the every dollar provided. Whether it’s a college or a business, that’s what you look for.” Annual gifts are important, but planning for the future by remembering Clemson in their wills is also important to them. “It’s something that you can not only pass down to your family, but something that you can pass down to Clemson also.” You never know when you’re going to have that event that’s going to change your life…whether it’s after college or, in the case of Ken and Layne Smith, in the 6th Grade.
For more information on planned giving contact Director of Planned Giving, Bert Henderson by phone at 864-656-2973, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit clemsontigers.com/iptay.