At this year’s Royal Roar, Ms. Yvonne Clements was inducted into the Rayburn Society, an honor reserved for donors who have contributed over $100,000 to the university.
“My goal is to help whenever and however I can, and I definitely feel the need to give back to a university that gave so much to me. I found my career and my husband and my closest friends there, so I still owe a lot,” said Clements.
Clements graduated from East Texas State College in 1960 with a degree in music. No one in her family played a musical instrument, but thanks to an untouched piano sitting in her aunt’s house, Clements discovered her love for the instrument.
“I wanted to teach music — that’s what I always wanted to do. I got an all-level music certificate, so I taught first grade through high school,” said Clements.
While attending East Texas State College, she was active in the social club, Marpessa, later known as Chi Omega Fraternity. It was one of her sorority sisters who introduced her to her future husband. After meeting on a blind date, Clements and her husband, Robert, remained married for 53 years. After marrying, they moved to Atlanta, Texas, where they founded Clements Oil Corporation.
When Robert Clements passed away in 2010, his wife decided to honor his life with a memorial scholarship endowment for agricultural students at A&M-Commerce.
“When my husband died, I was trying to think of a way to honor his memory, and Robert loved Old ET — his degree was in agriculture, so I decided the best way to honor him was with an agricultural scholarship program,” said Clements. “I knew he would approve of giving young agriculture students the opportunity to pursue their dreams in ag, like he did. He loved his farm. The scholarship’s based on need, so I think Robert would be pleased with that and pleased that it’s helping young people.”
Her daughter, Carol, a graduate of SMU, takes care of their farm from her home in Dallas. She recently took a new position as an IT executive. “And my daughter’s also a Chi Omega, so I am also happy about that!” said Clements.
Her philanthropy didn’t stop there. Clements said after she set up her husband’s scholarship, she decided to set one up for herself too. As the recipient of scholarships when she was an undergraduate, Clements recalled that they were crucial to her ability to complete her degree.
“They were so helpful and enabled me to fulfill my lifetime goal of teaching music,” said Clements. “I thought it would be a good thing to provide the same opportunities to other music students—to be able to study and finish their degrees. I hope it will help them fulfill their dreams.”
If you walk through the music building, you’ll find a plaque commemorating a donation from Clements. She donated a practice room in this state-of-the-art building. She said she finds the changes wonderful and the building beautiful.
Clements also does what she can to help with recruitment within the music department. The Steinway Initiative is of great importance to her. In order for a school to qualify as a “Steinway School,” 90 percent of the pianos must be Steinway products. Currently, with help from benefactors like Clements, the university owns 28 Steinways, bringing the school up to 55 percent and growing!
“The Steinway designation is a very prestigious thing for a school,” said Clements. “A lot of prospective students will look for that designation. If a school strives to have the best pianos, it will also strive to have the best instructors and programs.”