The history of the Clemson Ring

Clemson Ring History

Clemson issued the first class rings in 1896. The fine gold and enamel rings had nothing to identify them with Clemson until 1901, when the letter “C” accompanied by the state tree, the palmetto, began appearing in the center. In 1927, the name Clemson College was added to the area surrounding the center stone.

An eagle facing right, representing a country at peace, was added to the side of the ring in 1906. The U.S. shield, originally George Washington’s coat of arms, was placed below the eagle in 1915. Two sabers, then standard issue for Clemson graduates, are positioned on either side of the seal. The Tiger head below the U.S. seal embodies loyalty and fierce protection.

On the opposite side of the ring, the South Carolina coat of arms represents Clemson as a land-grant institution. Inside the shield on the right is a single figure symbolizing hope. Surrounding it is the state’s motto in Latin meaning, “While I breathe, I hope.” Inside the shield on the left, is a palmetto tree with the inscription: “Prepared in body and mind.” Beside the state shield are M1 rifles signifying the military service of Clemson men and a star that represents their sacrifice.

The secret to the Clemson ring lies below the palmetto tree. Here a little-known but fitting motto is inscribed: “Who shall separate us now?”

Clemson graduates and the Alumni Association have the answer: “No one.”

Jerry Reel


The Sanders family all in orange

The Sanders family is truly Solid Orange

Clemson freshman Leslie Sanders wasn’t nervous about starting college this fall. She knew she already had a support system on campus in her four siblings who also attend Clemson. Read more

Ben Skardon talking about the Clemson Ring

Personal Sacrifice

During the months that followed the fall of Bataan to Japanese Army Troops [WWII] and the subsequent imprisonment of captured American troops at the large POW camp at Cabanatuan in Central Luzon (the main island of the Philippines), the physical condition of many POWs deteriorated. Hundreds died from lack of sufficient food, medicine and medical care. At this time, I was fortunate to have teamed up with two fellow officers who were Clemson graduates: Henry Leitner ’37 and Otis Morgan ’38.

As conditions worsened, I became a victim of beriberi, malaria, diarrhea, and an eye infection. I had no appetite, and I could hardly swallow. Henry and Otis took turns spoon-feeding me, cleaning my eyes, carrying me piggyback to an open latrine, washing me and carrying me back to our nipa shack.

Most of our personal possessions had disappeared; however, I had managed to keep my Clemson class ring hidden. Otis, who worked on “the farm” as an “in-charge” (an American who could understand enough Japanese to pass on the instructions to the POW work details), let it be known that he knew of a gold ring available for trade to the Japanese for food.

A deal was made, and one evening Otis came in from the farm with a small can of potted ham and a live pullet-sized chicken. Henry borrowed a tin pail, built a fire and boiled the chicken. They fed me hot chicken soup, chicken with rice and rice with chicken. Nothing was left except the bones, which by that time, were gleaming white. They broke the bones and retrieved the marrow with a piece of wire. Nothing edible remained. The little can of potted ham was used to make highly flavored rice-balls. These delectable little nuggets seemed to restore my appetite, and my physical condition improved.

My debt to Henry Leitner and Otis Morgan is heavy – it cannot be repaid. Otis was killed aboard an unmarked ship carrying POWs to Japan. Henry died in early 1945 at a POW camp in Japan. [Skardon was eventually freed from a POW camp in Manchuria after Japan’s surrender.]

Hardly a day goes by that I do not remember the selflessness and the personal sacrifice of Henry and Otis and the role my Clemson class ring played in keeping me alive.

Colonel Ben Skardon ‘38

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