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Erwins establish advertising center at Clemson

Staff Report
Published Dec. 12, 2012

Joe and Gretchen Erwin, co-founders of the Greenville advertising and marketing firm Erwin Penland, gave more than $1 million for Clemson University to create the Erwin Center for the Study of Advertising and Communication.

“This unique program will emphasize new methods and techniques to further establish the value of creativity in driving commerce,” Joe Erwin, a 1979 Clemson graduate, said in a news release.  “Top companies, including most of our clients, are extremely proficient at developing more innovative and reliable products and services by using cutting-edge technology and insight-driven ingenuity. The Erwin Center will help prepare future generations of marketers to similarly use information, technology and modeling methods to skillfully promote these products and services.”

Initially, the Erwins’ donation will provide up to five new courses to support a new emphasis area in advertising and communication for communication studies majors at Clemson. The courses also will be offered as a minor to students in other majors. Some classes will be taught in collaboration with industry experts at Erwin Penland, a 400-person agency with offices in Greenville, New York and Detroit.

“We have a 10-year strategic plan that will make Clemson one of the nation’s top 20 public universities, and we have alumni and friends who share our vision and passion,” university President James Barker said in a news release. “Joe Erwin has been a loyal alumnus, a valuable adviser on the President’s Advisory Board and Rutland Institute for Ethics Advisory Board, and a frequent guest lecturer in marketing and communications classes.”

Housed within Clemson’s College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities, the communication studies department currently offers emphasis areas as diverse as sports communication, communication and the law, and health communication. 

“This new program will offer a tremendous opportunity for Clemson students to engage with industry professionals in meaningful, creative and immersive ways,” said Richard E. Goodstein, dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. “Education is not static; it evolves in response to the needs of our students and the needs of the professions they will enter.”

Erwin said that he and Clemson representatives will be meeting with major brands, marketing agencies and other industry leaders across the country to solicit input aimed at ensuring that the Erwin Center for the Study of Advertising and Communication develops students who are uniquely qualified to drive the future of marketing communications.

“We’re going to do this the right way,” Erwin said. “We have to build this program from collective insight and with an entrepreneurial perspective.  We have to understand what people in our business — whether they work in agencies or corporate marketing departments — need and where we can help.  If we listen, we can create the most relevant program in the country.”