Stuart C. McWhorter ’91 Receives the 2023 Distinguished Service Award
Entrepreneur. Public servant. Engaged and ardent Clemson advocate.
Stuart McWhorter of Brentwood, Tennessee, earned his Clemson stripes both in and out of the classroom. On the way to earning his Bachelor of Science in Management degree in 1991, he spent three years as the Tiger mascot, demonstrating as a student the laser-focused commitment to Clemson academic and athletic excellence that continues to be the hallmark of his leadership and service for Clemson as an alumnus.
Professionally, Stuart has a diverse background in entrepreneurship, corporate finance and strategic planning. He co-founded the venture firm Clayton Associates in 1996 and, ultimately, FCA Venture Partners, focused on healthcare and technology. He has more than 25 years of experience in entrepreneurship and early-stage investing.
He moved into the public service sector in 2019, when he was appointed by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee as commissioner of the Department of Finance and Administration. Stuart led the drafting of two fiscal year state budgets, co-chaired the Governor’s Healthcare Modernization Task Force and was appointed director of the Tennessee Unified Command Group to coordinate the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic before returning to the private sector in 2020. He also served as the CEO of Nashville’s Entrepreneur Center, an innovation hub for entrepreneurs to create, launch and grow businesses.
Governor Lee recruited Stuart back into public service in June of 2022 to become commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. The department is responsible for recruiting new businesses and industries to the state, supporting existing companies, expanding economic opportunities across rural Tennessee and boosting the state’s overall economic prosperity.
Stuart has been involved with a multitude of organizations, causes and communities around the globe, including Belmont University, the Tennessee Business Roundtable, Blood Water Mission, the YMCA of Middle Tennessee, the Nashville Alliance for Public Education, the Tennessee Golf Foundation, the Hospital Hospitality House, St. Luke’s Community Center, The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, Nashville’s Agenda, the Christ Presbyterian Academy Campaign and the Nashville Cityfest Initiative.
He was chairman of Nashville’s FirstBank Financial Corporation, overseeing $11 billion in assets, and is the lead investor and partner of D17 Holdings, parent of Outsider Media Network, ON3 Media and Spiny.ai of Nashville, Tennessee, and London, England.
He earned a master’s degree in health administration from the University of Alabama-Birmingham and has served as an adjunct professor at Belmont University, teaching healthcare, finance and entrepreneurship.
For Clemson, Stuart has served as Executive-in-Residence for the University’s entrepreneurship and economic engagement initiatives. He is a member of the President’s Advisory Board, and an advisor to President Jim Clements and Provost Bob Jones on issues related to entrepreneurship and economic development. He is a former member of the Clemson University Foundation’s board of directors and served on the cabinets for The Will to Lead and Tiger Pride fundraising campaigns.
Stuart and his family have invested generously in Clemson’s academic and athletic programs, including a gift to honor former Tiger mascots resulting in the bronze Tiger statue at Gate 1 of Memorial Stadium. He was a founding investor for the Entrepreneurial Leadership Enhancement Fund.
Stuart and his wife, Leigh Anne, are members of the Clemson Cumulative Giving Society and founding partners of the President’s Leadership Circle. Most recently, their generosity created the Angelyn “Angel” Sauls Westcott Memorial Scholarship Endowment to provide nursing scholarships in memory of Stuart’s mother. They also invested in the McWhorter Softball Stadium, becoming the 18th founding member of the Athletic Cornerstone Partner program.
Stuart and Leigh Anne have two sons, Clayton and Thomas, who are Clemson students, and three daughters: Caroline, Marleigh and Layla.
Click here to nominate a Tiger for the 2024 Distinguished Service Award.