- Associated Press - Monday, March 20, 2017

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) - Clemson University has a unique obsession with class rings. It’s definitely not uncommon to spend hundreds of dollars on a class ring, and anyone who visits the Clemson Alumni Center will find themselves face-to-face with a much larger-than-life version of the deeply loved piece of jewelry.

A 15-foot fiberglass class ring has lived out on the Clemson Alumni Center’s “front porch” for the past few years, even though it was originally intended to fit inside the lobby, said Stewart Summers, director of alumni engagement.

“It was larger than we expected - it just never made it through the doors,” Summers said. “When the ring came about, we just said, ‘Wow, it’s much larger than we thought.’”

Evidently, they didn’t want to send it back and get it resized.

“It’s just a giant symbol of their love for Clemson. You wear your class ring as a symbol of your affiliation and your affection for Clemson - people treat it much like their wedding bands,” Summers said. “I think the giant ring expresses that in a much larger term.”

Unlike the supersized ring given to the alumni center, senior language and international health major Trey Price got handed down his grandfather’s class ring, which was a few sizes too small. Several companies denied his request to have the ring resized, saying it was too risky a process and the ring would likely be permanently damaged. But one finally came through and executed the resizing without flaw.

“It came out perfectly,” Price said, adding that his grandfather graduated from Clemson in 1966 but never wore the ring because of the work hazard it presented in his job. “The ring is basically untouched. That’s why it’s in such great shape.”

Price said he had always intended to get a class ring, and when he inherited his grandfather’s last summer, he grew to love the unique story that came with it.

After completing 90 credit hours, which usually happens during junior year, students are eligible to buy a class ring, Summers said. The starting cost of a ring is $502, but if you’ve got large fingers and would like 18K gold, a class ring will cost you $2,030.

Cost doesn’t seem to be an inhibiting factor - Dana Morgan, associate executive director for marketing and special initiatives, expects upwards of 60 percent of the 2017 graduating class to purchase a class ring. In 2014, that number was 45 percent.

“Last fall, we sold over 2,000 rings,” Morgan said. “We’ve already sold over 1,200 this spring - we usually sell 900 in the spring.”

Nancy Holland, a senior biological sciences major from Fort Hill, said her family spent around $700 on her ring, and it was something she knew she would be getting from the start of her collegiate career at Clemson.

“My whole family went here, so it’s kind of a thing. My mom was more excited about it than I was - I didn’t really have a choice,” Holland said. “People notice it and know exactly what it is.”

Stephen Linnell, a senior computer science major from Neshanic Station, New Jersey, said his parents spent upwards of $900 on his ring when he ordered it last fall. It’s something students are sort of expected to have, he said, and it becomes a conversation starter more than anything after graduation.

“Pretty much everybody gets it,” Linnell said. “I’ve been trying to get into the habit of wearing it. I’m just trying to get used to the ring.”

Each semester Clemson holds a ring ceremony, which presents students with an opportunity to learn about the ring’s history and actually receive their rings. The attendance numbers for the event rival that of graduation, Morgan said, and she remembers saving up for her own ring years ago.

“You see alumni around the world wearing them and it’s an instant connection,” Morgan said. “Whether it’s just a smile and hello, a conversation about your time at Clemson, or it could even be a great networking opportunity: It’s just a symbol of our family.”

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Information from: Anderson Independent-Mail, https://www.andersonsc.com


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