Clifford D. Clark, former president
Clifford D. Clark, 88, former president of Binghamton University, died Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, in Detroit, Mich. He came to Binghamton in 1973 as vice president for academic affairs and became the fourth president of Binghamton University in 1975.
During his 16-year tenure as president, Clark championed the growth of Binghamton’s graduate programs in selected areas, especially the sciences and professional schools. He worked with legislators, local business leaders and concerned citizens to found the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science and oversaw restructuring of several programs in the then-School of Education and Human Development, as well as a major expansion of the Decker School of Nursing.
Clark considered the support and participation of community leaders of special importance to the University. He established the Binghamton University Forum (originally called Harpur Forum) to bridge community-campus relationships.
A strong supporter of social justice and campus diversity, Clark worked for the statewide development of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and provided support for the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities. Under his leadership, the percentage of minority students on campus grew from just over 5 percent in 1975 to more than 16 percent in 1980. This legacy continues through the Clifford D. Clark Graduate Fellowship Program for Diversity, which Clark established in 1990, that provides merit-based fellowships for graduate students who demonstrate exceptional scholarly talent and who contribute to the diversity of the student body. Hundreds of graduate students have benefited from this program.
When he stepped down from the presidency, he rejoined the Department of Economics faculty and was honored with the title of university professor. He retired from full-time teaching in 1996, but then was rehired part-time, teaching until 2000 when he moved from the area.
Solomon Polachek, distinguished professor of economics, was hired as a faculty member at Binghamton University while Clark was president, but came to know him as a “truly wonderful colleague” when Clark joined the faculty following his administrative service. “He was really important to the campus,” Polachek said. “He was very dedicated to teaching and cared in particular about economic progress in developing countries. We don’t often think that top administrators at a university will be ‘into’ their field, but he was. He cared about his field and about understanding development through the lens of economics.”
Professor of Economics Clifford Kern echoed Polachek’s words, praising Clark as an excellent colleague. “He plunged right in and didn’t act presidential or pull rank,” Kern said. “He actively participated in departmental governance but never tried to dominate departmental decision making.”
Instead, Kern said, “He threw himself with incredible vigor and joy into the teaching mission. He chose to teach only introductory courses, and he was very interested in the developing world, consistent with his concern for minority students.”
Both Polachek and Kern said Clark was dedicated to students, originating a course in economic development and also teaching a course in international economics for non-majors. One key to his success as a teacher, said Polachek, was to meet individually, one-on-one, with every student in his class.
“Even in classes as large as 50, he required that students visit him in his office regularly,” said Kern. “It was time consuming for him, but in a good way. He was unstinting with his time both as a colleague and as a teacher.”
Clark worked closely with a colleague from China, Jung-Chao Liu, whose research into the economics of developing nations dovetailed with his own interests. Following Liu’s death, in recognition of their work together and in honor of Liu, Clark endowed the Jung-Chao Liu Senior Honors Thesis Program. The endowment continues to support undergraduate economics honors students as they conduct research for their theses.
A noted economist, Clark earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas and his master’s degree and PhD from the University of Chicago. Prior to earning his degrees, he served with the 42nd Infantry in World War II, helping to liberate the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau in 1945. Following the war, he served in Vienna with the Quadrapartite Government of Occupation, working to resolve the status of displaced individuals. Later he served as an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency.
In addition to his roles at Binghamton, Clark served as dean of the School of Business at the University of Kansas, taught and served as a graduate dean at New York University and taught at North Carolina State University. He was most recently a visiting professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, where he taught a highly acclaimed course in international development economics to a select group of graduate and undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds. Polachek had the opportunity to visit Wayne State several years ago, and noted that Clark’s department colleagues there were equally enamored of him.
Clark is survived by his wife, Linda Beale, a son, Geoffrey Clark, a daughter, Dr. Kathryn Clark Emery, and granddaughter Shauna Emery. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations in his memory be made to the Clark Fellows program. Checks should be made payable to the Binghamton University Foundation, indicating that gifts are in support of “Clifford D. Clark Diversity Fellowships (#20891)” and mailed to: Binghamton University Foundation, Box 6005, Binghamton, NY 13902-6005.
Gifts to the Clark Fellows can also be made online.
A memorial service will be held this spring in Owego, N.Y.