Walter Clark Jr.

Walter Clark Jr., associate professor emeritus of English Language and Literature at LSA, died May 11 in Hancock, N. H., where he had built a house and retired in 1993.

He was born Oct. 6, 1931, in Pittsfield, Mass., the son of Walter and Ruth O’Brien Clark. The family spent parts of the summer in the family cottage on Lake Wentworth, near Lake Winnepesaukee, N.H.

(Photo courtesy LSA)

Clark graduated from Middlebury (Vt.) High School and then from Philips Exeter Academy. He received his Bachelor of Arts in English Honors from Swarthmore, and a master’s degree in English and a doctorate in philosophy and education, both from Harvard.

Clark taught at U-M for 28 years, first as an assistant professor in 1965 and as an associate professor after 1970. He taught courses ranging from freshman composition and creative writing to graduate courses in critical theory and philosophy of education. He also taught in the Residential College, where he served as director of the freshman seminar program. He was twice elected to the departmental executive committee and was a member of the LSA curriculum committee. He received two teaching awards from U-M (1970, 1987), and was awarded a Silver Medal from the University of Graz during a Fulbright lectureship.

He was the author of two books of poetry, as well as other poems in such magazines as the Iowa Review, the Harvard Magazine, the Michigan Quarterly Review and the New York Times. He wrote more than 30 book reviews, and nearly two dozen articles and chapters in books. In retirement he particularly enjoyed participating in a poetry reading and performance group in Hancock.

Friends and colleagues say his proudest contribution to U-M was the New England Literature Program (NELP), which he founded in 1975 and co-directed with professor Alan Howes until 1991. Clark recently summed up what he thought the most important factors were in NELP’s continuing success: “Size, environment and relative brevity are all actors that contribute to the unique character of NELP, but it is the attitudes toward students in relation to subject matter which really distinguish it. NELP is, above all, a place where students are taken seriously — in writing, in discussion of the texts they read and in all other aspects of student life,” he wrote.

Clark found as much variety during his retirement as he had during his teaching career. He continued to climb Mount Washington and to hike in the Pemigewasset Wilderness and on parts of the Appalachian Trail. He became a skillful vegetable gardener; he enjoyed baking bread and making his own maple syrup.He read voraciously in a number of areas: philosophy, biography, World War II, current politics and Chinese poetry. He was elected trustee and chair of the Hancock Library. His tastes in music and art were broad enough to include the music of Bach and the wood block prints of Hiroshige.

He is survived by Francelia Mason Clark, his wife of 41 years; their daughter, Alison Clark of Boston; his brother, Jonathan, and his family of Brookline, Mass.

A memorial was held May 17, with Jonathan Clark conducting the service. Burial will be at a later date in Lakeview Cemetery in Wolfeboro, N.H. Memorial donations may be made to Oxfam International, 226 Causeway St., 5th Floor, Boston, Mass. 02114-2206. Please note on your check that the gift is to be used for needs in Southeast Asia.


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