There are many Tigers who go the extra mile to show their love and devotion for Clemson University. Each of them dedicates themselves to leaving Clemson a better place than they found it. It is extraordinarily special when those individuals are not Clemson graduates themselves.
Kathy Sexton is just that kind of Tiger. Most of the students at Clemson call her the “stand-in mom and cook.” She is the one who is there to lend a hand or a home cooked meal when their own mother is out of state or too far away to get there in just that moment.
Kathy has a Facebook group well known to Clemson parents called “3 Shrimp and 3 Hushpuppies.” As a local parent she began the group in February of 2020 so parents, grandparents, and loved ones would have a resource to contact if their Clemson student needed anything. Whether they are having a rough day, or if they are homesick for Mom and the comforts of home, Kathy prepares and delivers to them special treats. Hugs are always a part of the package. A picture of the student is taken at each visit and sent to the parent. Every student that she and her husband meet automatically becomes their adopted student and this relationship continues beyond graduation. Kathy considers her interactions with the students to be a ministry of love and concern for each student she meets. She reminds them that she is only a phone call away if they need a listening, non-judgmental ear and if a hug is needed, she will gladly come to them. She wants them to always know how special and loved they truly are.
Kathy is a retired nurse who, as she describes in her Facebook group, “grew up in a kitchen where my mother was a constant presence.” She explains that she shared that same type of experience with her own children, Jennifer and Robert, creating lifelong memories that centered around cooking.
The most asked question: what does “3 Shrimp and 3 Hushpuppies” mean? Her answer explains a little deeper why she has chosen to become the “extra mom” to Clemson students. On family vacations, she and her daughter could never finish their meals so one day Jennifer suggested they split an order and each would have three shrimp and three hushpuppies. It became a standing joke between the two whenever they would go out to dinner. In 2015, Jennifer passed away and the memory of their shared joke came to mean so much more.
After Jennifer passed away, Kathy began to spend more and more time cooking in the kitchen, the place she was most relaxed, and the activity that gave her the most comfort. She describes it as her “therapy” explaining when she is in the kitchen, her mind can focus on the joyful times she spent cooking with her mother and her children.
Eventually, her time in the kitchen became a new source of joy, one where she could help comfort others when their own family is unable to be with them. Her Facebook group is filled with photos of smiling students holding birthday cakes with personal messages, multi-course meals for them and their roommates, homemade cookies, pies, casseroles, and Kathy’s famous enchiladas. Family members can even request their student’s favorite meal. Even if Kathy has never made it before, she will give it a try and ensure they get a taste of home.
Kathy was nominated for Mother of the Year by a Clemson mom who appreciates the love that Kathy shows to children who are not her own. Susan Cannon describes Kathy, who she has never met, as “the epitome of a “Clemson Mom” for out of state, local and non-local parents/students. She has a servant’s heart. She lost her daughter and to honor that daughter, she has become “mom” to so many. Cooking and baking home cooked treats to celebrate special occasions or just because students need a home cooked meal.”
“Being able to recognize someone who gives so much to others is such a special honor for the Clemson Student Alumni Council,” said council president, Lane Josey. “Kathy exemplifies the definition of selfless and we are proud to present her with this award.”
Kathy lives in Clemson with her husband, Rob ’79, ‘81, and in addition to cooking and being a die-hard Clemson fan, what she most enjoys is spending time with her family, especially her two young grandsons. As a member of FBC Clemson she bakes the communion bread for the church every month.
Since 1949, Clemson University has celebrated a “Mother of the Year.” The Mother of the Year is selected by the Clemson Student Alumni Council and is someone who loves Clemson, shows a great passion for the community and lives a life that exemplifies the Clemson spirit. The award was presented to Kathy at her home in Clemson and she was recognized during the Homecoming festivities in October.