Cliff attended York Road High School in Charlotte, North Carolina and earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Chemistry and Mathematics from North Carolina Central University. He then earned his Master’s of Science degree as well as his PhD in chemistry from North Carolina State University. After his academic career was completed, Cliff became an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Florida, a visiting assistant professor of chemistry at Bowling Green State University, and eventually took an assistant professor of chemistry position at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1974.
While at the University of Tennessee, Cliff has held positions as an associate professor, full professor, and as associate dean for research and resource development in the College of Arts and Sciences. He was in this role for seven years before becoming the associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and then later vice provost for UT. Cliff continued his academic rise when he became interim provost and chief operating officer in the year 2000 and then vice provost for faculty affairs in 2001. Having excelled in the area of scientific research, Cliff assumed the role of vice chancellor for research in 2003 and then associate to the chancellor and director of the Textiles and Nonwovens Development Center. Currently, Cliff is professor emeritus, department of Chemistry, and associate vice chancellor.
Cliff has several professional affiliations and has provided service as a board member or volunteer for more than fifteen organizations, including his alma mater, North Carolina State University and Oak Ridge Associated Universities. His awards include valedictorian of his high school, outstanding sophomore in Science and Mathematics at North Carolina Central University, Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities, Outstanding Graduate Student at N. C. State, UT’s Outstanding Teaching Award from the Chancellor’s Commission for Blacks, and two Chancellor’s Citations for Extraordinary Service.