Jack W. Claypoole, '87
Originally published in August 2012
Jack W. Claypoole could never really get away from Carolina. Whether it was former professors encouraging his career path after graduating, or keeping his roots firmly planted in South Carolina while spending more than six years out of state, the new Executive Director for My Carolina is home to roost and ready to help the Association and our university achieve the ambitious vision set by our leadership.
Jack took over as Executive Director on July 18, 2012, following a nationwide search. A native South Carolinian, Claypoole graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1987 with a degree in Journalism. Prior to returning to Columbia, Jack was the Associate Deputy Director of The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and prior to that was President and CEO of LRADAC, The Behavioral Health Center of the Midlands. He succeeded Marsha A. Cole, who stepped down as Executive Director in 2011 to focus on the alumni center project. Amy E. Stone, Past President of My Carolina, served as the Interim Executive Director. She is now Secretary of the University Board of Trustees.
Jack and his sister, Diane C. Creel, ’70, are the only brother-sister combination to have earned distinguished alumni honors from the College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
Home again … and again
Jack was born in Clinton, SC, but his family moved around quite a bit with his father, Calvin R. Claypoole, serving 32 years in the U.S. Army. He ended up close to campus in 1976 when his father retired and the family returned to the Palmetto State. After graduating from Brookland-Cayce High School, Jack chose to come to Carolina because of the strength of its journalism school.
“My oldest sister received her undergraduate and master’s degree from the ‘J’ school, and it was a natural fit for me to become a Gamecock,” Jack says. “I majored in public relations with a business/marketing cognate. From great professors to challenging coursework, my Carolina experience effectively prepared me to successfully apply my new-found skills after graduation. “
Outside of the classroom Jack was actively involved in the university’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America and also competed on the 1987 Bateman/PRSA Case Competition team. It was leisure time on campus that may have led to his most important find.
“Thanks to long walks on the horseshoe, sitting on the benches outside Thomas Cooper Library, and great afternoons tailgating before home games, I met and eventually married my wife Sandy,” Jack says. “While I loved my coursework and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of learning, my very best memories are the times I spent with Sandy as we got to know one another and fell in love. Whether it was a quick lunch at Andy’s Deli or the effort it took to catch up with one another in between classes – keeping in mind she was in the old “BA” building and I was in the coliseum – I can clearly remember and will always treasure those parts of my Carolina experience.”
After donning his cap and gown in 1987, Jack was able to put his degree to good use thanks in “large part” to the prodding of one of his instructors, Mary P. Caldwell.
“I quickly transitioned from my ‘first’ job in marketing/communications after graduation to become the public and government relations director for a local not-for-profit,” Jack says. “In those early years I became immersed in public policy activities at the Statehouse while also working to realign the communications strategy used to spur donations and involvement in the organization. After five years I had risen to become the deputy executive director and found myself looking for new challenges and opportunities once the heavy lifting of strategy redesign was complete.”
Once again, thanks in large part to relationships established from Carolina, he found himself taking over public and government relations for the regional alcohol and drug commission in Columbia, LRADAC. There he helped build an award-winning program of external communications and public policy that again allowed him to ascend to the position of deputy executive director.
Following a two-year stint as the deputy director of the state cabinet agency that oversees alcohol and drug programming, he returned to LRADAC as chief of staff and a year later became only the second CEO in the agency’s 32-year history.
“During my time as CEO we were able to redesign our business model, retire our long-term debt, reduce our dependence on public funding, and were named South Carolina’s best-managed not-for-profit in 2003,” Jacks says.
That success paid off as he was recruited in late 2005 to join the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, serving two administrations while building the domestic cornerstone of the President’s National Drug Control Strategy. During his tenure in Washington, Jack was able to mobilize more than 30,000 volunteers a year, support more than 5,200 grassroots community organizations, and directly manage over $620 million in federal expenditure.
With all of that success, Jack kept Carolina on his mind and admits that he knew the right opportunity would bring him back.
“While my six-plus years in Washington were an incredibly rewarding experience, they also created the perspective necessary for me to clearly see what a treasure our Association is to the University and our University is to our state,” Jack says. “While helping to create the University’s inaugural Alumni Society at the ‘J’ school, I began to understand how much our University has grown and changed since my graduation. That understanding, coupled with my Washington perspective, brought me home to My Carolina after several alumni and other university leaders made me aware of the national search taking place for Marsha’s replacement as executive director.”
He maintained permanent connections to South Carolina and to the university during his tenure in the nation’s capital. Upon meeting with various university officials, Jack had no doubt this was the right place to be, full time.
“The interview process made me keenly aware of the passion and strength of our Board of Governors, the unwavering support of our University’s leadership, and the commitment of a talented and dedicated staff of professionals,” Jack says. “Those three components give us the foundation necessary to realign our association to meet the goals set forth in our strategic plan. Whether it’s building a new Alumni Center or mobilizing the Gamecock nation in support of our University, all the tools are in place for us to successfully engage and motivate the strongest alumni base in the history of our University.”
Jack has hit the ground running at My Carolina. Recognizing there is a committed corps of alumni out there to serve the university, he is committed to serving those alumni and the university as well.
“Our job as staff is to connect, motivate, encourage and support the talents and gifts of our alumni as they work to grow our association and support our university,” Jacks says. “To better connect and involve our alumni, we are going to build a new home for Gamecock Nation – our Alumni Center. From that home base we will be able to improve our visibility, outreach, continuing education, networking, advocacy and involvement activities. The facility will give us the capacity to not only provide local service to our alumni, but it will also give us the technological capacity to support Gamecocks across the globe! Increasing alumni involvement, improving programming and support to current students as well as alumni, giving voice to Gamecocks so they can actively support our University are all part of aligning our work with strategic vision set forth by our Board of Governors.”
Attempting to engage and at times, mobilize, an alumni base of more than 260,000 individuals is certainly one of the many challenges associated with the position, but Jacks says he’s convinced that all alumni desire to see the university be successful.
“From strengthening our world-class academic portfolio to continuing to increase the competitiveness of Gamecock athletics, we all recognize the importance of creating lifelong connections with our current students as well as reaching out to our alumni and strengthening the bonds to the Carolina family.”
Jack and Sandy have one son, Connor, who attends Lexington High School.