Michael Pennington Nieri ’86

Great Southern Homes Founder to Receive Clemson Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award

One of America’s leading homebuilding entrepreneurs, Michael Pennington Nieri of Chapin, will receive the Clemson Alumni Association’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award.

Nieri, who graduated from Clemson University in 1986 with a Bachelor of Science in Construction Science and Management, is the founder, owner and president of Irmo-based Great Southern Homes, ranked by BUILDER magazine in 2020 as the nation’s 44th largest homebuilder. Also in 2020, Nieri received BUILDER magazine’s Hearthstone Humanitarian Award, a national recognition honoring homebuilders who demonstrate a lifetime commitment to public service.

He was inducted into the S.C. Housing Hall of Fame in 2018 and was twice recognized as “Builder of the Year” by the Building Industry Association. He is a past president of the BIA Charitable Foundation.

Professionally and personally Nieri has contributed significantly to improving the quality of life for individuals and communities across South Carolina. Beneficiaries range from the Boys Farm in Newberry, a haven for boys facing difficult family situations, and Camp Cole, a summer camp for children with cancer, to Habitat for Humanity projects in the Midlands and Pickens County.

For Clemson, Nieri and his wife, Robyn, who was named an Honorary Alumna in 2020, are Cornerstone Partners for both academics and athletics. In 2015, they made a $2.5 million Cornerstone gift to develop the Nieri Family Student-Athlete Enrichment Center in Memorial Stadium, and in 2019 they donated $5 million dollars for the Department of Construction Science and Management, which now bears the family’s name.

The Nieri Family Department of Construction Science and Management is the first named department in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities and the fifth named department at the university. Michael Nieri serves on the department’s advisory board and recently contributed to and led fundraising efforts for a new remote laboratory classroom.

Michael and Robyn Nieri have three children, all Clemson graduates: son Pennington, Class of 2015; daughter Maigan, Class of 2018; and son Patrick, Class of 2019.


The Clemson Alumni Distinguished Service Award is based on three main criteria: personal and professional accomplishments; dedication and service to Clemson University; and devotion to community and public service. Members of the Clemson family nominate potential honorees, who are then selected by the Clemson Alumni Association as outstanding alumni, public servants and examples to others. The 2021 award presentation will occur during the fall.

The Clemson Alumni Association is an open-membership, nonprofit organization that exists to connect alumni with their alma mater. Through a variety of programs and services, the Alumni Association works with alumni around the world to ensure they have a Clemson Experience every day.