Betty Morgan Holcombe of Dallas, TX was recently honored by the Clemson Alumni Association, receiving the prestigious title of “Honorary Alumna of Clemson University.” This special designation is reserved for dedicated supporters of Clemson University whose unwavering commitment to the university is unmistakable, even though they did not attend Clemson as a student.
While Betty herself did not enroll at Clemson, her life was profoundly influenced by the university. She spent her childhood on the Clemson campus, as both of her parents, J. Robert and Bertha Evans Morgan, were employed by the institution. During her teenage years, Betty even took on summer positions at Clemson. As she approached time for college, Clemson was an all-male institution, so she pursued her English degree at Winthrop University, earning it in 1956. Later, in 1974, she obtained a master’s degree in liberal arts from Southern Methodist University.
Betty’s deep-seated belief in the value of education and lifelong learning led her to a career in teaching before starting her own family. She and her husband, Dr. Milton Holcombe ‘53, share a passion for supporting initiatives that directly benefit students, with a particular focus on Clemson.
JoVanna King, who nominated Betty, described her as “a tireless advocate for education, lifelong learning, and the preservation of history. Betty’s unwavering dedication to Clemson University embodies the university’s “Determined Spirit,” and her allegiance to Clemson remains steadfast.”
Together, the Holcombes made significant contributions to Clemson, including funding the first endowed chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 1987 and establishing the Holcombe Scholars Program in 1997. They went on to endow the first named department at Clemson, the Milton W. Holcombe Electrical and Computer Engineering Department (ECE). Additionally, they are members of the Trustee Oak Society and Benefactors of 1889. Their continued support for ECE led to the creation of the Milton W. and Betty M. Holcombe Fund for Excellence to promote and support research. Most recently, Betty established the Robert and Bertha Morgan Family Scholarship Endowment to honor her parents.
Dr. Anand Gramopadhye, Dean of the College of Computing, Engineering, and Applied Science, lauded Betty as a role model for young women following in her footsteps, emphasizing her wholehearted embrace of her husband’s loyalty to and passion for Clemson University.
Beyond their contributions to ECE, the Holcombes have played pivotal roles in the establishment and restoration of Clemson’s Military Heritage Plaza. They also supported the Class of 1953 Golden Anniversary Scholarship Endowment and are founding partners of the James F. Barker and Marcia D. Barker Scholarship Endowment.
Wil Brasington, Chief Executive Officer of the Clemson Alumni Association, expressed deep appreciation for Betty’s recognition, noting that Honorary Alumni are a special group of individuals selected by Clemson Alumni for their exceptional dedication and passion, making them exemplary representatives of the Clemson Family.
Outside of Clemson, Betty has made significant contributions to her hometown in Pickens County by virtue of her involvement in historic preservation. Through the Milton W. and Betty M. Holcombe Foundation, she acquired her great-uncle’s home and donated it for the creation of the Central Heritage Museum.
Her support also extends to her alma mater, Winthrop University, where she established the Morgan-Holcombe Alumni Center and in honor of her lifelong friend and college roommate, endowed the Elizabeth Ernestine Carter Steedly Scholarship, benefiting education majors from Bamberg, SC. Betty further funded two additional endowed scholarships, the Betty Morgan Holcombe Endowed Scholarship for Pickens County, and the Barbara Morgan Hay Endowed Scholarship in memory of her sister, also a Winthrop graduate.
The title of Honorary Alumna was presented to Betty surrounded by her family and friends. Clemson University Vice President for Advancement, Brian O’Rourke, Senior Associate Vice President for Development, JoVanna King, and Associate Executive Director of Marketing for the Clemson Alumni Association, Dana Morgan, were among those who bestowed this well-deserved recognition upon her. Her family’s Clemson legacy continues with her granddaughter, Kelley Wheeler, who is currently a Junior at Clemson.
Honorary alumni are selected by the Alumni Association board of directors based on outstanding service, lifelong devotion and loyalty to Clemson University or the Clemson Alumni Association. Nominations for the 2024 Honorary Alumnus designation are currently open and close January 31. To nominate a deserving person, to review past honorees, or to view the award guidelines, visit the Clemson Alumni website at alumni.clemson.edu/honoraryalum.