Clemson history museum and interpretive center receives first major gift

Blake Burnside

A woman whose family has a 100-year history with Clemson University has made the first significant gift to the development of a Clemson history museum and interpretive center, which will share the stories of Clemson’s complex history for generations to come.

Mary Blakely “Blake” Hendricks Burnside has given $25,000 to the museum and plans to also include the museum in her estate, so that more money will go to support the project in the future.

Burnside, 91, who lives in Columbia, South Carolina, did not graduate from Clemson, but her father and her uncles — all five of them — did. Her father, L.A. Hendricks, earned a civil engineering degree from Clemson in 1924. Burnside’s grandmother, Lake Griffin Hendricks, was named Clemson’s Mother of the Year in 1954, making her one of the first women to receive the honor. Burnside remembers attending the ceremony and watching her grandmother inspect the Corps of Cadets on Bowman Field as part of the festivities, which were held on Mother’s Day.

“I was there with my husband and two young sons, we drove up from Columbia for the day,” Burnside said. “My grandmother was given a room in Clemson House, and her daughters were all fussing around her to make sure she looked just right.”

Burnside’s strongest memories of Clemson revolve around family, friends and football.

Lake Griffin Hendrix (center), named Clemson’s Mother of the Year in 1954. Photo donated by Blake Burnside to Special Collections and Archives,

“I remember mother and daddy going up with friends for the games. They would take their lunch and eat on the hill in the back of the stadium,” she said. The family has held season football tickets in Memorial Stadium for nearly 100 years.

Burnside was married to the late Marion Burnside Jr. for 71 years. Both Blake and Marion attended the University of South Carolina for a year or so before leaving — Marion started working in his father’s automotive business, and Blake left school to have a baby. The couple had three children — Marion III (Burny), David and Mary Grace. David graduated from Clemson, and Mary Grace carries on the family tradition as well, still using her family’s season football tickets and supporting the Tigers in other sports, such as softball.

Burnside also donated a number of family papers and photographs to Clemson Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives.

“The gifts Mrs. Burnside have given are invaluable,” said Clemson University Historian Otis Pickett. “You can’t put a price on the donation of a family’s pictures and documents. The museum and interpretive center will be a place that everyone can visit and learn about the University’s history and the context of the time when Clemson was founded. The investment Mrs. Burnside and her family have made in what we’re doing is very humbling.”

Burnside said she wanted to make the gift so that more people can learn about the history of the University, and the fact that it started as a bequest.

“I think that more people need to know the story of Clemson,” she said.