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Clark Honors College

University of Oregon Special Collections

Robert Donald Clark

1910 Born March 30, Frontier County, Nebraska, to Earl and Kathryn Clark.

1916 The family moves to Missouri. 
His father invests his homestead money but is very unhappy.  He can't
stand the rocks and roots that he has to deal with to plow, compared
to the 12-16 feet of volcanic silt in Nebraska.

They live in a beautiful big log house, with his grandparents, the
Jewels.  Another unit of the family lives two miles away in a rented
house.  The beauty of the woods and flowers stimulates RDC's interest
in natural history.  There is a view down a slope across the fields. 
His father has a pacer, a buggy horse. He starts school there.

1916 They return to Nebraska to a farm about 14-15 miles from the trading
center of Maywood, about elections time. His grandfather was an
ardent Republican, his uncle Harry turned Democrat and RDC remembers
the arguments that interested him in politics.

His father distributes gas and oil, has a tanker that he pulls with
4-6 head of horses, and mules. They live on the edge of a small
canyon, a delightful place to explore.  Over the bank was poison ivy,
and not knowing, the young future naturalist once took the beautiful
leaves to school to show.

School:  He is given a reading test and has no difficulty reading. 
The school has a library and he reads books like The Overall Boys, and
The Sunbonnet Girls.  He doesn't remember learning to read--always
seemed to be able to do it.  His father and grandfather had lots of
books.  While they were at lodge meetings (Oddfellows), he'd take down
the books (age 7) and he could read some things.  He has artifacts in
a scrap book from his second grade. He was skipped from 2nd to 4th

His father switches to working for Farmer's Equity elevator, a
cooperative elevator-in that job about 2 years.

1919 They move to Smithfield, Nebraska (about 100 people).

1922 They move to Holdredge-

1923 They move to Yuma, Colorado-"the great years of my youth"-from 8th
grade on.

1927 RDC Graduates fro. H.S. in Yuma--he is class salutatorian and winner of
the prize in the history exam. (His salutatorian address, against war,
is available online). That summer he works on road construction in the
hills above Fort Collins.  His next door neighbor takes him out there.
He has a scholarship to the University of Denver and tries for another that

would fund his education, but a city boy gets it.  His neighbor
finds a job in Albuquerque for him. 


His father is very active in the Methodist and then the Nazarene church

and sings bass in the mission band.  He gets in touch with a Nazarene church friend--the Nazarenes were Methodists, but smaller.  The father moved the family to the Nazarene church.  On his way to New Mexico, his father told RDC the
representatives were there recruiting students for Pasadena College. 
They said I'll get you a stock pass and you come to Pasadena. So he
goes to Pasadena on a train, as the stock boy.


1927 RDC enters Pasadena College. He decides to major in English because of
a marvelous teacher, Robert H. White, who was thrown out for his
unorthodox views. His text is Ideas and Forms of American Literature.
[H. Orton Wiley brought White back when he came, after a few years.]
He also is in drama, and debate.


During the college years, RDC works at the Crown Hotel as a dishwasher,

bellhop, and night clerk--his chief source of income and lodging during his

years as a student.  He is reading William James, Varieties of Religious Experience, and the controversial Ingersoll.

1929 Junior year. A debate judge from USC comments favorably on his good
English as a speaker.  The new English teacher immediately drafts him
to grade papers of remedial students. Among those students is Opal
Routh, who needed help with Freshman English, having all those years
in nothing but a Colorado country school.

1930 As a senior he teaches in the Pasadena College Academy, a high school.

He enters into a two-year engagement with Opal Routh. [The Dean of
Women calls her into the office, suggests she find a less radical boyfriend than that Bob Clark].  Opal works for the Charles Coits, Mrs. Barbour, Mrs. Freeman

as a governess, cook, and driver.

1931 Graduation from Pasadena College. 

RDC is a teacher of freshman composition in the Pasadena College, and
teaches literature at the Academy.  See Mildred Smith's For Heaven's
for the best representation of that life--she was his student and the book

includes a portrayal of RDC. There is also a history of Pasadena College which

RDC owns.

1932 Marriage, Sept. 6, to Opal Routh.

Teacher, Pasadena College. He coaches the Debate team. RDC didn't know
what he wanted to do at first, taking graduate work through USC night
classes reached by the Interurban Service "red cars."  He takes
Comparative Lit. and a couple of other lit. classes, but he feels
lured into Speech by his teaching at PC.  Composition was "perhaps the
most enjoyable teaching experience I had in all my years."  But he has
to create some speech courses when the lit teacher, White, comes back.
USC Speech required a second area of study.  He tries psychology, but
hits on history, his undergrad minor.  This is the most influential
thing that happened to him because it led to his meeting with his
mentor, historian William B. Hesseltine.

Debaters and other students become lifelong friends: Roberta
Schlatter, for example, Henry Ernst, Al Fenske.  Opal graduates from
PC, takes drama classes sponsored by the WPA.  They are living in the
Freeman bungalow-ORC works for Mrs. Freeman.

1934 RDC's debate team defeats Whittier College, whose star debater was
Richard Nixon. Lawrence Holman was a member of the RDC team. Mrs.
Holman may have the letter from Nixon admitting the defeat.

1935 M.A. in Speech, English minor, USC; starts classes (at night) for Ph.D. 


Opal is fired for making an original salad, they move, she starts doing catering.

1936 Riverside Nazarene Church-RDC pastor. They move into a new duplex
"bungalow"' Everyone works several jobs, struggles to survive the depression.
Claude, Opal's little brother, lives with them, then Jim, RDC's younger brother.
Mel Griffin, a former fellow student, influences this decision.

1937 Back to Pasadena.  RDC returns to teach full time at Pasadena College, debate.


Opal contracts tuberculosis--RDC nurses her at home for six months. They
are desperately poor, with no money for a hospital. Nonetheless, she
stays in bed and gets better.

1938 Teacher, Pasadena College, Opal recovery.

1939 Suzanne is born October 24.

Asst. prof, Stockton, College of the Pacific (now University)-teaching
in lower division, jr. college. He feels from the outset that his job
there was temporary.  There was a wonderful music program there and
good drama.

They break with the Pasadena church, move to a Congregational church.
They live at a house on Alpine St.. 

Roy McCall is head of the Speech Dept. at College of the Pacific,
later also at the U of Oregon; RDC knew him previously from debate
[Western Speech Assoc. had tournaments before conferences-he met, e.g.,
Duane Orton]

Spaffords, McCalls, Ray Nichols, Hopkins, Jantzens, Eckerts, Truebloods.

1940 RDC is active in his discipline; the Executive Secretary of Western
Association of Teachers of Speech. He works frequently with Spaffords, McCalls,

Ray Nichols, Hopkins, Jantzens, Eckerts, Truebloods.

1941 RDC spends summer in LA, classes at USC with William B. Hesseltine of
Wisconsin, his "greatest fortune, greatest teacher."  He has two courses, a lecture

class and a seminar.  Hesseltine is a little bit scornful of RDC being a speech

major and undergrad at Pasadena College, but it turns out that Hesseltine's

background was in Southern Methodism.  After RDC's seminar presentation (with

a gentle critique of Hesseltine's work), Hesseltine takes him down to his office to

talk.  He ends up serving on the dissertation committee and being the major

influence on it.

  Paul and Helen Berry.

1942 Ginny is born August 4.

With the war the college goes on a shortened day schedule. There is a
shortage of labor.  RDC works on fruit processing in the cannery, then as a

reporter for the newspaper, the Stockton Record, -- offered a permanent job there

at a salary to match COP, which is tempting.  RDC in L.A. taking classes in the


1943 The Dean of the Speech Division at USC recruits him to the University
of Oregon.  Paul Trueblood persuades him that Oregon is a good place.

  Assistant Professor, UO Speech Dept., in English Dept.  Appointment:
Sept. 13, 1943.  Walford Dahlberg, Chair.  English Dept. chair
Valentine Boyer, former president of the UO. RDC taught "Fundamentals
of Speech," "Oral Interpretation" (UO English Professor Thelma Nelson
Greenfield was later in his class), "Argumentation."  There was no
debate at UO-instead RDC did "Symposium," a forensics program that
went to high schools, churches, granges--50-60 a year.  John Castile
had eliminated debate.

The family attends the First Congregational church--Wesley Nicholson, minister. 
They live in a rented house on Alder St.

1944 Draft classification: 2-A. The war has left a housing shortage. The family lives

with Prof. Warren Smith, UO geologist, on University St.  His interest in rocks

and in Opal Whiteley leaves a lasting impression on the entire family.

RDC spends his summer in D.C. doing research at the Library of Congress.

1945 March 22, 1945 RDC writes to Dr. Tully C. Knoles withdrawing his name

from candidacy for the head of the speech dept. at College of the Pacific.
June—the family moves to 1449 Agate St.

1946 Ph.D. granted, USC. Jan. 1, 1946, the thesis is sent off.


He publishes a Handbook for speech students. (with Ken Wood)

RDC gains visibility: 
1) Wesley Nicholson asked him to give the sermon when he was absent
one Sunday at church.  RDC talked on the "Fifth Freedom"-the freedom
of religion, celebrating that the church was not bound by
fundamentalist shackles.  Carl Onthank, Dean of Students, heard that
talk and sought out RDC.
2) At some point in 46-47, the Dean of Students enlisted RDC to be
director of the Undergraduate Advising program. 
3) The YMCA, A.F. Holmer, Director, started a general symposium/
discussion group:  the "Eugene Town Hall," and RDC becomes moderator.

He thinks about other jobs and puts his name in the Speech Association
of America list. He gets interest and offers: at Temple, an administrative position.

At Whittier, where Bill Jones is president. April 26 1946 Elwood Murray asks to

hire him at U Denver.  By May he's received tenure and a bit of a raise and

decides to stay at the UO.

1947 Laurelle Jean Clark (Laurie) born May 2.

Assistant to the Dean, College of Liberal Arts (CLA).  Eldon Johnson becomes

Dean of CLA.  Harry Newburn, Pres., suggests that the Gen Ed program ought to be improved.
Columbia and Chicago were beginning to influence colleges everywhere.

Johnson appoints a committee of 9--3 each from Humanities, Social
Science, and Science.  Hoyt Trobridge, Chair, David Daugherty and RDC
represent the Humanities. RDC studies writings on General Education,
very much in accord with his views on education.  He continues
teaching part time in the Dean's office years.  The General Education
Committee doubled the Gen Ed requirements and included an upper
division requirement.  RDC developed and taught a "History of
Rhetoric" class.

President of the Western Speech Association in 1947-48.  The National
Convention is in Salt Lake City that year. RDC gives one of the
addresses:  "The General Ends of Speech."  He takes issue with "to
persuade" as a general end, says persuasion has to be for another end,
for a cause.  As a result, Northwestern offers him a position in that
"distinguished faculty," which he had to turn down because he'd just
accepted the assistant to the Dean job.

Roy McCall comes to campus, in no small part because Newburn was from
Iowa, where he had his degree, to establish Speech as a separate
department, with a possible major.  Ray Nichols restarts the debate
program.  RDC insists that a substantial program, for example in the
social sciences, is needed as a background--speech as "skills" is not
enough  for a major.  McCall's text only presented method.  In his
speech classes, RDC for 3rd quarter sets forth a topic and has them
work on it.  He has them read Gunnor Myrdal's An American Dilemma, and
uses that as a basis for the term.

1948 RDC Moderator, Congregational church, East Willamette Association,
ORC Chair, League of Women Voters Minority Problems Committee,
Council for Civic Unity [housing for Black population]. 
Summer--RDC teaches at USC.
Dean Eldon Johnson undertakes a radical revision of the curriculum--
Hoyt Trowbridge, David Daugherty, R.D. Clark represent the Arts on the
committee.  Influence of Chicago and Columbia experiments in Gen. Ed.
Creation of Sophomore Honors. 

1949 Kidney stone surgery early in the year.


1950 RDC receives a Guggenheim. He goes to Baltimore to continue research
on Matthew Simpson.

1951 Supper Club: Wallace Baldinger, Gordon Wright, Sikes, John and Magda
Balint, Carl and Barbara Moore, Nicholsons, Charles Schleicher, Keith
Skelton, Charles Duncan, Kenneth Ghent

1952 Move to 2323 University, Eugene, Oregon--the first house he has owned.

1954 Chair, Speech.  Acting Dean, CLA.

1956 Dean CLA.  Simpson book published with Macmillan.

Major projects:  (These show his belief in the involvement of faculty-faculty governance.)
1. Honors College
2. The regeneration of the Sciences (see his Chemistry paper)
3. Advanced Placement
4. Department Heads and Term limits.

1958 Summer in Durham for research on Southern preaching at UNC, Duke.

1960-61 President Arthur Flemming names him Dean of Faculties.


Establishment of the Honors College.  [see his article in the Journal of Higher Education about its founding.]  Earl Pomeroy was chair of the 1st committee.

May 2, 1960. Robert Scott Gillespie born; first grandchild.

1964 To San Jose State as President.  He moves the college forward, emphasizes

excellence, at the same time that he sympathizes with student protests over civil rights and the war in Vietnam. San Jose State survives the sixties under his leadership as a stronger institution--compare to UC Berkeley, San Francisco State.

Ronald Reagan--cuts in education, student antagonism over tuition; faculty move to unionize.

Innovations in education; New College.

Student activism over Vietnam. 

Black power. Harry Edwards and the action of Tommie Smith and John
Carlos at the Olympics.

Chicano activism.

Faculty strike.

1969 Back to U of Oregon as President

Student Protests:  against University policies, gov't policies. RDC acted to de-

escalate situations through talking to students--in large meetings and small.

Incidents--seemed to be governed by belief that the University should take a

public stand--a dramatic and serious incident:  in protest to ROTC on campus, the

burning of the ROTC building.


Sit-in in Johnson hall:
-RDC permitted students to stay the first night with safety guards—peaceful;
-the Governor was disturbed, sent a representative;
-a session held in the President's house;
-Gov wanted to send the national guard; RDC said it was not needed;
the Gov. insisted.  RDC said "if the Governor wanted to run the
University he should come down to Eugene and take over."
-the Gov. compromised:  he would send the Guard to the outskirts to be
ready if the local police needed them.
-in the meantime, RDC talked with students several times, both within
and outside the building. But communications between police and Guard broke down; Guard assumed trouble and came marching in throwing tear gas.  "It was for the public the most unhappy incident of the year."

After Kent State:  Classes cancelled for a day, "against my wish but
in accord with my felt need."

Financial problems--RDC turned to the larger community for help.
Bill Dunseth and the "Up the River Gang," Louis Perry, Ned Look, the
Baker family, the Bowman retreat, Portland discussions with business and
professional people.

Fund raising
Plans with Development Fund
Blanker from Eastern Oregon
Bowerman and track stadium
Carl Fisher and Spencer Collins
Ed Kemp and Harris gift
Flemming and endowment
H-Pup (carried out with advisory council, special review committee
that conducted hearings on cuts, made recs, Pres. Accepted most)

1975 "And I made my peace with the students, whom I had always liked:  on my

retirement the Executive Board of the ASUO elected my wife and me to membership.  A copy of the certificate hangs in my dressing room."

Retirement, and a break with the UO, or at least from unwanted
interference--RDC sensitive to any perception of meddling from him.

Winter quarter-USF had a program for retired people that hired retired
profs to staff it.  He teaches a course in Am. History in SF .

Spring-trip to England.

1975-1989 At last, time to write: Natural history essays; The Odyssey of Thomas Condon.

1989-1993  Last years with Opal at the Washington Abbey.

Rain Follows the Plow-a book about Nebraska homesteading in the time
of his grandfather, Warren Clark.

Opal dies August 2, 1993, after six months of at home care by her husband and family.

1994-June 28, 2005

His last years, until age 95, are rich with family, friends, community service, and his continuing commitments to the Honors College and the University of Oregon.  He participates in Rotary Club, the Round Table, the Audubon Society, the Natural History Society, the Arboretum, the Oregon Historical Association, the First Congregational Church and their Gordians, Eugene Symphony, Eugene, Opera, the Bach Festival. At the Arboretum's spring wildflower show in 2005, he
happily signed their booklet publishing his essay on Lewis and Clark.

See Bibliography for his extensive scholarly publications.