Clifford D. Clark

Clifford D. Clark (1975-1990)

The Early Years

A farmer's son from Kansas who became a noted economist, Clark earned his bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Kansas in 1948, and his master's degree and PhD in economics from the University of Chicago in 1951 and 1953, respectively. Prior to earning his degrees, he served with the 42nd Infantry in World War II, receiving a Bronze Star for combat in Northeastern France, and 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. In 1951, he began his career as an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, where he served until 1955.

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 (1957-1968) and taught at North Carolina State University (1955-1957).

The Presidential years

During his 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, oversaw the 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 to include a family nurse practitioner/clinical nurse specialist graduate program, and oversaw a revamped curriculum for the School of Management to include an international focus.

To enable the growth in graduate programs, Clark reorganized the senior administration to coordinate both the undergraduate and graduate programs under a provost. However, budget problems that were ongoing throughout the 1970s, in particular the year Clark took office when New York City defaulted on its loans, forced retrenchment in some areas and slowed Clark's plans.

Budget issues also brought student protests and a temporary occupation of the administration building. Clark worked with students to resolve their concerns, and moved forward with a new mission statement that would serve as a guide to campus priorities during the difficult financial years and beyond. The new mission statement set as an objective to put resources and energy into a few key programs to make them as strong and competitive as possible. It also called for priority within the graduate school be given to the development of selected PhD programs, applied master's programs in the arts and sciences, and master's programs in the professional schools.

Clark considered the support and participation of local community leaders of special importance to the University. He created the Division of External Affairs (now Division of Advancement) to coordinate the work of communications and marketing, advancement and alumni affairs. He also, with the Binghamton University Foundation, established the Binghamton University Forum (originally called Harpur Forum) to bridge community-campus relationships.

A strong supporter of social justice and campus diversity, Clark also worked to increase student diversity. Binghamton had a Transitional Year Program in place, giving students an opportunity for a year of bridging between high school and college work, and this program expanded into the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), becoming a statewide initiative funded by legislation. Binghamton's EOP is now the most successful program in the state.

Other initiatives to increase diversity on campus included the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) instituted by the Decker School of Nursing to increase the number of minority licensed professionals in prelaw, psychology, engineering, management, prehealth and nursing. The program continues today, still administered by the Decker School of Nursing.

Clark also provided support for the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities, hiring its first director. 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 1987, that provides merit-based fellowships for graduate students who demonstrate exceptional scholarly talent and who contribute to the diversity of the student body. To date, more than 450 graduate students have benefited from this program.

Though there had been student protests due to budget cutbacks in the 1970s, there were also frequent divestment rallies, urging the SUNY system to divest itself of stock in companies doing business in South Africa. In 1979, Clark told students he agreed with their call to boycott the apartheid regime and would join them in their fight. In 1985, following a demonstration and occupation of the administration building, students hung a banner of the Couper Administration Building demanding it be renamed for South African leader Nelson Mandela. Administrators later named the Mandela Room in the University Union in his honor. In 1986, the Binghamton University Foundation announced it would sell its investments in companies linked to South Africa.

The 1980s also brought about the most intense student activism, focusing on issues including racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, personal safety, personal freedom, anti-CIA recruitment, anti-drinking laws and, yes, budget cutbacks again.

Throughout Clark's presidency, Binghamton usually exceeded its enrollment targets, and, in the fall of 1990, there were 9,150 undergraduates and 3,052 graduate students, an increase of about one-third during his tenure as president.

In addition to the growth in enrollment, development of the physical facility during Clark's presidency included the Anderson Center for the Performing Arts, the (now E.W. Heier) Teaching and Research Greenhouse, as well as several residential communities.

The Academic years

When Clark stepped down from the presidency in 1990, he joined 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 extremely 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.


From 2002-2005, Clark was a visiting professor of economics at the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign, and from 2006 until his death, he was a visiting professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, 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.

Leadership positions, awards and affiliations

His Legacy

Clifford D. Clark was president of Binghamton University from 1975 through 1990. Among his many achievements were the development of Binghamton's graduate and diversity programs.

Since its inception, the Clifford D. Clark Diversity Fellowship Program has assisted hundreds of outstanding students from historically underrepresented groups follow their dreams and achieve their full potential, advancing their discipline through discovery and teaching.
Established by the State University of New York in 1987 to increase the diversity of the student body, thereby fostering different ideas, perspectives and knowledge, the graduate fellowship program was embraced by Clark and was named after him.

It was his vision of a top-notch education accessible to all that helped the University take its place among the most highly selective and widely respected public doctoral universities in the nation.
To date, more than 450 Clark Fellows have graduated from Binghamton and have gone on to make their mark in the world — advancing their disciplines through discovery and teaching, influencing policy and decisions in government, or creating and innovating in industry and business.

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Last Updated: 2/13/14