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CSM Alumna Chelsea Clute ’06 Takes the Helm as CSM Foundation Executive Director, Continues Family’s Lifetime Commitment to Education

November 13, 2021

CSM Alumna Chelsea Clute ’06 Takes the Helm as CSM Foundation Executive Director, Continues Family’s Lifetime Commitment to Education

College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Alumna Chelsea (Brown) Clute ’06 is very busy these days getting ready to participate in her seventh CSM Giving Tuesday – a 24-hour, online giving event that will raise needed monies for CSM’s scholarships, athletic programs, and the college’s food pantries. Coming up on Nov. 30, this international day of giving has become CSM’s largest single-day fundraising event, garnering more than $675,000 in support over the last nine years. [See: CSM Begins Countdown for Nov. 30th Giving Tuesday Event; Asks for Community’s Continued Support.]

But Giving Tuesday evokes a deeper emotion for Clute this year because she is proudly leading the effort as the Foundation’s executive director – a position she was promoted to in July, and what she calls her “full circle moment.”  Perhaps more poignant, is that Clute is getting into her stride as CSM’s new Foundation executive director while also having to mark the one-year anniversary of her mother’s death Nov 13. Her mother – Pamela Starkey – retired from CSM in June 2020 after an extraordinary 30-year career at CSM working as an administrative assistant, office manager, benefits coordinator and human resource generalist, but most notably, as a beloved friend to all of her CSM colleagues. 

Growing Up A CSM Hawk

untitled-collage.jpgClute grew up surrounded by educators and academia – and learning at a very young age that attending college – was as expected of her as was working at her grandparents’ house every weekend.

“When I was little, we would go over to my grandparent’s house every weekend and they would put us to work,” Clute shared. “We’d sort coins, do yard work, clean the pool. They instilled in us a strong work ethic and commitment to family. They grew our sense of community and taught us the importance of always learning things. In fact, I learned to use a rototiller at a very young age,” laughed Clute.

Her grandfather, the late Jesse L. Starkey, was a long-time Maryland educator who rose through the ranks from a Carroll County math and science teacher, to principal positions in Calvert County before joining Charles County Public Schools in 1967 first as deputy superintendent, and then serving as superintendent of schools for 12 years. The Starkey patriarch retired in 1981 and 10 years later, his daughter – Clute’s mom – Pam, began working at then Charles County Community College.  

Clute remembers all 30 years of her mother’s career at CSM having often tagged along to work with her. “I was always at the college as a child,” Clute shared. “I attended college events and summer camps and eventually I attended as a student.”

When she became a full-time CSM student, Clute said she stayed even busier with the college. “I had multiple student assistant jobs across campus, including as event staff with athletics and traveled with the men’s basketball team as their statistician.” Clute joined the ranks of proud CSM alum in 2006 along with her mom (’93) and her sister, Jennifer (McCarthy) Marth (’98).

“Mom was a single, working mom, and she still managed to graduate with her associate’s degree from CCCC and then later went on to UMUC and received her bachelor’s degree at the same time my sister was getting her master’s degree from McDaniel College,” explained Clute. “I went on to Towson University to get both my bachelor’s of science in Sport Management and master’s in Business Administration. I began my career at the University of Maryland where I got involved with development, donor relations and stewardship - first with the Terrapin Club and then with the A. James Clark School of Engineering.”

Clute said she had an inkling that she wanted to make another career move in 2013. That’s when she attended a ceremony to celebrate commemorative bricks purchased by Pam Starkey and engraved with her and her sister’s names along with their alumni year for placement at CSM’s La Plata campus. The event was part of the CSM Foundation’s annual brick fundraising efforts in support of student success.

“When you’re fundraising, it is often hard to see the impact,” Clute shared. “While I learned a lot from working at UMD, I felt far away from the students. I saw those bricks and participated in the ceremony and realized I wanted to do more for students in need in my own hometown.”

Honoring Legacies, Building New Paths

About the same time as the brick ceremony, Clute’s mom – a cancer fighter and survivor since 1998, decided to make more of an impact at CSM. Though she had co-founded the support group Cancer Survivors and Friends (CSF) at CSM years before, and had raised thousands for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, Starkey decided to establish a cancer survivor scholarship and started hosting events to raise funds. The Cancer Survivors and Friends (CSF) Scholarship became the first of its kind at CSM in 2012 to directly benefit CSM students who are cancer survivors or whose lives have been affected by cancer.  

“That’s about the time I knew that I wanted my career path to take me back to CSM,” Clute said. “I accepted the development director job in 2015, and it felt like I was coming home. CSM did so much for me growing up. I wanted to give back and dig deeper into my Southern Maryland community.”

Clute also joined the Rotary Club of Charles County – La Plata of which her grandfather Jesse Starkey was the charter president. She served as the club’s president in 2018. She then went about the task of honoring her grandfather and mother and their lifetime commitments to not just improve education in Southern Maryland, but also make it affordable and accessible for all.

“It is very meaningful for me to be in this place, at this very moment and continue the Starkey legacy,” said Clute. “It is rarely lost on me that I have had a fortunate life and every day is precious. Now I can also roll my sleeves up every day to do the hard work to help transform lives through social justice and education.”

Pam Starkey Cancer Survivors and Friends Memorial Scholarship Endowment

“One of the things that Mom said to me before she passed away last year, is that she wanted to select the recipients of the CSF Scholarship.” Clute shared. “We were able to make that happen and Mom picked the recipients for the 2020-21 academic year. We decided to award all of the money in the annual scholarship fund because we thought it was the last time we would be able to award the scholarship. It was a moving experience for all of us.”

But when Pam Starkey passed away, Clute and her sister knew immediately what they wanted to do in her memory. The two decided to convert their mom’s annual scholarship to a permanent endowment, and asked their friends and family to give to the fund in lieu of flowers.

“We started actively fundraising when she passed and reached the $15,000 endowment level by the spring,” said Clute. “It was truly inspiring to see the impact our mom has had on so many people. We are again matching donations on Giving Tuesday this year to continue to grow the fund in her memory.” 

Jesse L. Starkey Rotary Scholarship

chelsea-rotary.jpgIn June 2021, Clute was also instrumental in renaming the La Plata Rotary Club Trades and Energy Scholarship to the Jesse L. Starkey Rotary Scholarship at CSM. The purpose of this scholarship fund is to provide financial assistance for tuition, fee, and books for either credit or continuing education classes at CSM.

Jesse Starkey passed away in June 2000 after a remarkable career in which he oversaw desegregation of the Charles County public school system. During his tenure, there was substantial growth in the student population and he was noted for putting an aggressive building program in place. “When he took over in Charles, the school system operated on a $9 million annual budget,” reported the Washington Post at the time of his death. “When he left, the budget was at $39 million.”

The Rotary Club of Charles County - La Plata, Inc. was chartered on Nov. 15, 1975 with 26 members, which included the charter president, Jesse Starkey. Since that time, the club has grown to more than 50 members and has served its community for more than 45 years donating more than $1 million to scholarships and projects.

Countdown to Giving Tuesday

Donations to CSM’s Nov. 30 Giving Tuesday event are tax-deductible and will champion student success by supporting scholarships, athletics or the campuses’ Hawk Feeder micro-pantries and Hawk pantries.

“Our Southern Maryland friends and neighbors have always gone above and beyond in support of our students, and we are grateful,” said Clute. “This Giving Tuesday, we are asking for the community’s continued show of support to help change lives here in Southern Maryland.”

To learn more about CSM’s 10th annual Giving Tuesday event, visit: https://www.givecampus.com/3vwy2v.

The CSM Foundation, a nonprofit, 501(c)3 charitable organization established in 1970, helps increase access to higher education at CSM through scholarship funding and assures the excellence of that education by raising and managing funds for college projects and objectives – including workforce development in Southern Maryland. The CSM Foundation is comprised of a tri-county, all-volunteer board of directors. To learn more about the CSM Foundation or to donate, visit the CSM Foundation online.

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