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Paying It Forward

Paying It Forward

Clint Sallee ’94, CAP program co-founder and MBV Executive Partners chairman, honored for volunteer work with President’s Award from USC Alumni Association.

Paying It Forward

Clint Sallee '94 was given the President's Award by the USC Alumni Association for his tireless volunteer efforts on behalf of the school. "Giving back is the very essence of the Trojan Family," he says.

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It was his best friend who talked him into transferring into USC Marshall

After high school, Clint Sallee was taking classes at College of the Canyons, and as a first-generation student, he was not even sure he belonged there. But his best friend, Kev Zoryan, a USC student, told him about the entrepreneurship program, which appealed to him. “He promised me he’d wait to do all the fun stuff until I got here,” Sallee recalled. That was reason enough to apply as a transfer student. He got in.

“I very much remember being on campus for the first time,” said Sallee, who today is an entrepreneur and the CEO of Tan and Green Holdings. “It was a magical mixture of awe and fear and humility and gratitude.” USC, he said, changed the trajectory of his family’s life. “Nothing has been more pivotal in my life. USC put me on a path for who I am now. It’s a debt I will never be able to pay back.”

But he’s spent the last 26 years trying. And on Sept. 15, the USC Alumni Association honored him with the President’s Award at its annual volunteer recognition dinner.

“Giving back is the very essence of the Trojan Family,” he said. “You should always be looking for ways to help your family.”

Sallee, who graduated in 1994, earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in entrepreneurship. He worked for two years for a small investment banking firm before going out on his own, looking for a company to buy. It was an arduous, bumpy road, he said, but he eventually realized his strengths. “I’m not going to build a better mousetrap, but I know how to fix a broken company,” he said. He launched what would eventually become Tan and Green Holdings, a portfolio of profitable small-to-midsized companies, in 1996.

With that settled, he wasted no time in becoming involved with the university.

“To me, I owe USC. It doesn’t owe me,”

Clint Sallee, '94

Connecting Students to Mentors

Every Marshall undergraduate today knows about the Career Advantage Program (CAP), which pairs students with mentors in a field that interests them. Sallee co-founded this program in 1997, just three years after he graduated, so that students would feel better prepared to transition from college to their professional lives.

“I thought that we could prepare business students better by having them work with professionals in the field. On day one there were seven of us: four mentors and three students. We couldn’t find a fourth student,” he said, laughing. But at the annual dinner this year there were 500 people involved in the program packed into Town & Gown, he noted. He himself has been a mentor since day one. “I enjoy helping students in any way I can.”

In 2013, he met James Bogle, program director of the new Master of Business for Veterans program. “I am so proud of USC for the way it treats its veterans, I asked him how I could get involved,” he said. “James just shook my hand and said, ‘You already are!’” Sallee has sat on the MBV Board of Councilors (now known as Executive Partners) since then, and today serves as its chairman. He's also volunteered with the USC Board of Governors since 2016, the last four years on its executive committee.

When informed he’d been chosen for the President’s Award, he admitted to feeling a bit uncomfortable. “To me, I owe USC. It doesn’t owe me,” he said. But when told the decision had been made, he knew he couldn’t let people down. Having organized many an alumni gala himself, he knew how much work went into such events. He attended that night with his wife and two children — both of whom will be Trojans one day, he said.

“How enriching is it to have an impact on a school after leaving it? The Trojan Family comes with an honor and a debt. When you’re here on campus, you’re on the receiving end. Once you’re off campus, you have to do whatever you can to pay back that privilege."