The Clemson Alumni Association recognized Charlie Barker of Virginia Beach, VA with the designation of Honorary Alumnus of Clemson University. The Honorary Alumnus designation is a special recognition reserved for unwavering supporters of Clemson whose passion for the university is undeniable, even though they never officially attended Clemson.
Charlie Barker forged a highly successful career spanning over 40 years in the automotive industry. His accomplishments include being named Newsweek Magazine’s Top Dealer of the Year in 2004 and receiving Time Magazine’s Quality Dealer Award for Virginia in 2005. He was also inducted into the Hampton Roads Business Hall of Fame, named First Citizen of Virginia Beach and is a recipient of the Tidewater Humanitarian Award presented by the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. Throughout his career, Charlie gained recognition for his exceptional business acumen and his significant contributions to community leadership.
Charlie’s impact on Clemson University extends deeply, as his granddaughter, whom he and his wife Suzie adopted at the age of 6, now proudly calls Clemson her alma mater. Charlie’s commitment was evident as he became the inaugural Pillar Donor for the Cadden Chapel and played a pivotal role in securing additional substantial donations for the project. He lent his support to the first ClemsonLIFE prom and made consistent annual contributions to the program. Charlie serves on the President’s Advisory Board and acted as an Honorary Chair of the Student Affairs Gala. He is also a former PAW Journey Mentor. Charlie also serves on the Committee on Philanthropy at Clemson and is a Cornerstone Partner. In recognition of his family’s dedication, Clemson honored them as the “Family of the Year” in 2016. Additionally, Charlie has generously provided tuition completion funds to students in need.
Michael Nieri, a Clemson alum from the class of 1986 and the president and founder of Great Southern Homes, attested, “Charlie is fiercely committed to Clemson… While he did not attend the university, he has undoubtedly committed more time, energy, and financial support to Clemson than most graduates.”
Charlie Barker’s commitment to education extends beyond Clemson. He serves as the chair for An Achievable Dream, a school in Virginia Beach, VA, catering to students from economically challenged backgrounds. He also provides needs-based scholarships to eligible students at An Achievable Dream who choose to attend Clemson. Moreover, he dedicated six years of service as a Board Member and Treasurer of the Benjamin School in North Palm Beach, Florida.
Wil Brasington, the Chief Executive Officer of the Clemson Alumni Association (CAA), lauded Charlie’s unwavering dedication, stating, “Charlie has treated Clemson as if it is his own alma mater, and through his support, our university can continue to have an impact on future generations of Tigers.”
The Honorary Alumnus designation was personally presented to Charlie at his residence in Clemson, surrounded by his family and friends. The ceremony included the presence of Jeff Duckworth, Chair of the CAA Board of Directors; Wil Brasington, CAA CEO; Clemson University President Jim Clements; and Vice President for Advancement, Brian O’Rourke.
Honorary alumni are carefully selected by the Alumni Association board of directors based on their exceptional service, lifelong devotion, and unwavering loyalty to Clemson University or the Clemson Alumni Association. Nominations for the 2024 Honorary Alumnus/a designation will be open from October to January 31. To nominate a deserving individual, review past honorees, or access award guidelines, visit the Clemson Alumni website at alumni.clemson.edu/honoraryalum.