The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

Clay Clemens - 2012 Faculty/Staff Recipient

CLAY CLEMENS, Chancellor Professor of Government, is one of the best-known and beloved members of the William and Mary faculty.  A 1980 graduate of the College and a member of the faculty since 1986, Dr. Clemens teaches with passion, expertise, creativity, and legendary wit and humor.  Majors and non-majors alike flock to his classes, knowing they will come away enriched by the experience.  Professor Clemens is also an excellent and caring advisor – in his words, “There is no substitute for the face-to-face advising conversation. It is a chance for the advisor to hear what expectations the student arrives with, and to respond directly — generally with encouragement and guidance, at times with caution.” 

What truly distinguishes Dr. Clemens, however, is the extent to which he knows and is known by students.  He seems to be everywhere students are, supporting them in their many endeavors.  Whether attending a cappella performances, judging the Mr. William and Mary “pageant,” or supporting student organizers at the Yule Log Ceremony each December, Dr. Clemens gives freely of his time to celebrate his students and to be a part of the many gatherings –large and small, formal and informal – that affirm community.  His commitment to student life on campus has also been evident in the major committees he’s led, including the Greek Life Task Force, the Vice President for Student Affairs search committee, and most recently the President’s Honor System Review Committee. Alumni always seek him out when they return to campus, and his participation in a political panel discussion at Homecoming 2010 resulted in a special “compilation of his best zingers” on YouTube!

Respected by students, faculty, and administrators alike, Dr. Clemens’ positive influence on his alma mater cannot be quantified.  It is telling, however, that more than half of the graduating classes in the last twenty years have chosen him as the sole faculty member to address them at the Candlelight Ceremony on the eve of their Commencement.  With an ingenious blend of humor and genuine affection, Dr. Clemens leaves no doubt that he understands and values the student experience, and he reminds us all of what it means to be a part of this William and Mary family.