The state’s first college of veterinary medicine will be constructed in Pendleton on land next to one of the most pristine areas of the Clemson University Experimental Forest.
The university trustees recently approved the acquisition of the 87-acre tract of land through an agreement with Naturaland Trust, which will secure the property through a charitable bargain and then transfer the property to the university for no cost, according to a Clemson news release. The trustees also approved appropriated funding by the South Carolina General Assembly for the continued development of the veterinary school.
Clemson trustees granted approval to increase the Phase 1 construction budget for facilities at the college of veterinary medicine to $110,466,000 to reflect the total funding provided by the state in the fiscal year budgets for 2023 and 2024, the news release stated. The board previously authorized $10 million in Phase 1 funding. The additional funds enable the university to continue planning and design activities, begin initial site work and to award early release packages for long lead time items such as HVAC equipment, electrical transformers and switchgear, and structural systems, according to the release.
The tract of land in Pendleton is adjacent to one of the most ecologically sensitive areas of the 17,500-acre Clemson Experimental Forest known as the George Aull Natural Area, the university says. This area of the forest is the best remnant of Piedmont old-growth forest in the Upstate. The area was never logged or planted in cotton and has some overstory trees that are more than 200 years old.
Initial site work for the college is scheduled to begin in April, with a planned completion for fall 2026 when, pending accreditation, the university expects to enroll its first class, the release said.
Clemson University announced plans for the vet school in June when the trustees approved initial plans with support from the governor and South Carolina General Assembly. The Palmetto State’s first home-educated veterinarians would graduate in 2030 if all plans stay on track.
“Today is a historic day,” Clemson President Jim Clements said in a statement at the time of the announcement. “We are thrilled that Clemson University has received landmark funding to establish the state of South Carolina’s first college of veterinary medicine. Clemson University is continuing its mission of positively impacting the lives of our students and the citizens of South Carolina. The new college will continue to elevate the state of South Carolina by meeting the needs of our communities, retaining top talent, supporting the state’s economy and protecting animal and human health.”
A feasibility study conducted ahead of the decision found that 33% of the state’s counties have fewer than five veterinarians and 48% of the counties have fewer than 10. At the time of the study, 200 students from South Carolina were enrolled in 13 veterinary colleges outside of the state. The state was providing tuition coverage for 46 students to pursue veterinary education at Tuskegee University (seven), Mississippi State University (10) and the University of Georgia (29) at a cost of more than $6 million per year.
“Veterinarians today play an increasingly important role, in addition to caring for both companion and farm animals, protecting public health, playing an essential role in food safety as well as in detection and control of zoonotic diseases,” said Boyd Parr, co-chair of the Clemson College of Veterinary Medicine steering committee and retired South Carolina State Veterinarian. “This new veterinary college can produce the veterinarians and research that will contribute to a better future for our citizens and our animals.”
The new college will use a distributed model of clinical teaching, where students learn their basic sciences, anatomy, pre-clinical skills and communication skills during their first three years on campus, after which students conduct clinical learning in distributed learning sites throughout the state.
In July the university named Dr. Steven Marks the founding dean of the college. He was director of veterinary medical services and clinical professor of emergency and internal medicine at North Carolina State University, where he also served as associate dean. He joined the Clemson University faculty in August.s