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Longtime Regis president was educational entrepreneur

Father David M. Clarke, S.J., former president and chancellor of Regis University, died April 4 at Hospice House in Spokane. He was 87.

“The legacy of Father Clarke runs deep at Regis University,” Father John P. Fitzgibbons, S.J., president, said. “His visionary leadership pioneered Regis in adult education and his passion for education was illustrated time and again by his dedication to this institution.”

David Marshall Clarke was born Nov. 28, 1927 in Chewelah, Wash. to Melvin and Louise (Van Bibber) Clarke. The family later moved to Spokane. Father Clarke first encountered Jesuit education at Gonzaga University, where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He went on to earn a doctorate in organic chemistry from Northwestern University. His experience with the Jesuit tradition at Gonzaga inspired him to enter the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, in 1953. He was ordained in Spokane June 13, 1964.

After a stint at Gonzaga University, he was hired by Regis University in 1972. He served as president for 20 years and transitioned to the role of chancellor for 21 more years until his retirement in 2012.

“Considered an educational entrepreneur, Father Clarke was instrumental in founding the College for Professional Studies, which has brought educational opportunities to generations of adult learners,” Father Fitzgibbons wrote in a statement. “Later he formed the foundation of what is today the Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions by bringing in the nursing program from Loretto Heights College.”

“His innovative and successful leadership of the university changed the lives of countless students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members,” he added.

Regis University dedicated the David M. Clarke, S.J., Hall in January 2013.

“The Regis community will always cherish the memory of Father Clarke for his devotion to the future of education at Regis University,” Father Fitzgibbons said.

Father Clarke moved back to Spokane when his health declined. He is survived by his sister, Ann Nechodom (Warren), and nieces and nephews. A vigil service was held April 10 and funeral Mass celebrated April 11 in the Jesuit House Chapel on the Gonzaga University campus. He was interred April 11 at Mount St. Michael Cemetery. A memorial Mass is set for 10 a.m. April 25 in St. John Francis Regis Chapel at Regis University.

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