Jack Clark, 76, of St. Peter

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Dr. Jack Lowell Clark died on March 7, 2005, at the Community Healthcare Center in St. Peter.

A Professor of Religion and Classics at Gustavus Adolphus College, he retired in 1999 due to illness. He was born to Garland and Betty (Pahl) Clark on Jan. 15, 1929, in Albert Lea. A graveside service will be in the Alden Cemetery later in the spring. Jack was baptized by Rev. Bowes at the Methodist Church in Albert Lea in 1929 and confirmed his faith at Grace Lutheran Church in Alden in 1942. He graduated from Alden High School in 1946. Enlisting in the U.S. Army in August 1946, he rose to the rank of sergeant in the headquarters of the Third Armored Division in Fort Knox, Ky. He received his honorable discharge in 1948, then enrolling at Gustavus Adolphus College and graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1952 summa cum laude. He continued his education at Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary and again led his class, there receiving his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1955. Jack held the degree of Master of Arts from the University of Minnesota in Classics, a second Master of Arts degree from Yale University in Judaic and Hellenistic studies, and the Doctor of Philosophy degree from Yale in biblical studies, with particular research in Hellenistic Historiography.

On May 15, 1954, Jack and Esther Frances Strege were married in Minneapolis.

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In 1959, he was one of 40 outstanding graduate students in religion in the United States and Canada to be awarded a Rockefeller doctoral fellowship announced by President Nathan M. Pusey of Harvard University. Following teaching assignments at Northwestern Seminary, the University of Minnesota and Yale University, Jack joined the Gustavus faculty in 1962. He is the person his colleagues credit with the survival of the Classics Department. It was said that “He kept Classical Greek alive at a time when the college was putting less emphasis there.” He began offering Greek on an independent-study basis until the department could establish its own identity. In 1974, Dr. Clark won the Edgar M. Carlson Award for Distinguished Teaching, the highest award given to Gustavus faculty members in recognition of teaching excellence. Dr. John Kendall, the presenter, remarked, “Jack Clark is demanding where his colleagues are concerned, and he has difficulty disguising his feelings when confronted with fuzzy thinking or a poorly developed argument. He is also demanding of his students and will use a variety of devices to get them to do their very best. But, most of all, he is demanding of himself.” Also in 1974, Dr. and Mrs. Clark attended the Summer Session at Mansfield College-Oxford, where its place in theology and church history was studied and discussed. After 25 years of service, Dr. Clark received the Gustavus Seiko watch and continued to teach.

A highly regarded scholar, he held memberships in several professional organizations, including the American Academy of Religion, the Society for Scientific Study of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the Catholic Theological Society. He served both the College and the wider society, chairing not only the Gustavus Faculty Senate but also the Northern U.S. Research Committee of the Lutheran World Federation and The Humanities 100. An associate editor of the theological journal Dialog, he also published articles in such periodicals as The Journal of Biblical Literature, The Lutheran Quarterly, and Lutheran World, the journal of the Lutheran Federation.

He retired in 1999 after serving for 37 years, and, ever the consummate educator, he was still seeing students of Hebrew and Greek in his room at the nursing home. Classical music was his passion, and it was the last sound he heard.

Survivors include his sister, Barbara Forsyth of Alden; his brother, Richard P. Clark of Minneapolis; niece, Deborah Disgrazzi and husband Gino of Albuquerque, N.M.; niece, Paula Donovan and husband Gary of Ocean View, Hawaii; niece, Rebekah Clark Sousa and husband James of Albert Lea; sister-in-law, Ruth Lemster of Valparaiso, Ind.; brothers-in-law: Vernon Strege and wife Ruth Ann of Valparaiso, Ind., and James Strege and wife Delores of Ortonville, Minn.; as well as many grand-nephews and grand-nieces; a host of friends; and a multitude of grateful students.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Esther, in 2004; his nephew, David Forsyth, in 2004; his parents: Garland and Betty Clark; his grandparents: Ethan and Mollie Clark, and August and Eliza Pahl; his brother-in-law, Rev. W.J. Forsyth; his father- and mother-in-law: Carl and Alma Strege; his brother-in-law, Robert Lemster; and his nephew, Robert Lemster Jr.

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn&uot;- John Cotton Dana.