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Dr. Robert S. Clark, described as one of the "best of Baptist higher educators and leaders," died Friday, April 5, at his home in Campbellsville. He was 81.
He served 32 years at Campbellsville University, most of those as academic vice president, until his retirement in 1998.
Clark, known for his integrity and his gentlemanly manner, "touched the lives of thousands of people during his abundant life of Christian servant leadership," Dr. Michael V. Carter, president of CU, said.
"He was a distinguished academician and higher education vice president during his decades of leadership at Campbellsville University," Carter said.
"Dr. Clark was a very fine professor and historian, and his many years of church leadership as a senior pastor and other ministry roles were exemplary. Dr. Clark continued serving even in retirement as director of missions for Taylor County Baptist Association.
"In many ways, he was one of the best of Baptist higher educators and leaders. We extend our deepest sympathy to Mrs. Clark and his loving family. We thank God for the life and legacy of Dr. Robert Clark."
Al Hardy, with whom Clark worked as a colleague and who was a fellow pastor, said, "There has never been a more caring, consistent Christian than Robert Clark. When you thought of a man of integrity you would think of Robert. Many times he has put others interest before his own. His love of history was only surpassed by his love for the Bible and Jesus Christ. If you needed someone with whom to share a problem, you knew you could trust Robert Clark."
Clark began his work at CU as an associate professor of social sciences in 1966. He became vice president for academic affairs and dean, as well as professor of social science, in 1976 and served until his retirement.
He had a life-long love of CU and attended many events on the campus with one of his last being the Church Relations Council on March 21-22.
Dr. Frank Cheatham, a professor of math, succeeded Clark in the role as vice president for academic affairs.
"It's hard to put together words that describe my admiration and love for Robert Clark," he said.
"He has been a mentor to me both as a faculty member and in this role as vice president for academic affairs. The best word I can use to describe Robert is 'integrity.'
"He gave advice and assistance to thousands of students. His years at CU have definitely been a blessing to me. Robert was a true Christian educator."
Connie Wilson worked with Clark as his secretary for more than 15 years. She is also working with Cheatham.
She said what she will remember most about him is the "great Christian man he was and the exemplary life that he led."
"He touched many lives during the years he served at Campbellsville," she said. "Dean Clark was a great historian who saw and taught the relevance of history in our daily lives."
Dr. Robert Doty, professor emeritus in English, who was close to the family, said Clark and his wife were frequent hosts to foreign exchange students, and he made sure his students at the university knew they could come and talk with him.
"He was a champion of students," he said.
Doty said Clark was "very modest and humble and didn't talk about himself. He was a selfless being."
Doty said Clark was a gardener and once had a garden on a farm at Sandy Y in Taylor County. "He rarely got the produce because animals took it away from him!"
Doty said he was a "strong, active and committed Democrat."
"I remember Robert from the day he started teaching at Campbellsville College," Dr. Jerry Kibbons, faculty emeritus in Christian studies, said.
"We were teaching in the social studies department. We became close friends from that first day. He and I were of the same political and religious backgrounds and enjoyed our conversations together. After a few years, I began teaching in the Christian Studies Department, and he became the academic dean. Our friendship deepened as we often shared the same room at meetings when I became chairman of the Division of Christian Studies.
"Robert was a cheerful person and did not have any harsh words about people.
"The university has lost a great friend also."
When Clark retired from CU, President Kenneth W. Winters presented him with an honorary doctorate of humane letters.
Winters, who served as academic dean or vice president for academic affairs for much of his administration, said, "Dr. Clark was a dedicated member of the administrative team at CU for many years.
Dr. Clark's overall objective was always to do what is right/best for Campbellsville University and its students. Seldom do you find a person more dedicated to the students we serve than Dr. Robert Clark.
"Campbellsville University and its many graduates are better because Dr. Robert Clark and Lillian came our way."
Clark grew in the ranks of church work and higher education since serving as minister of Shop Springs Baptist Church in Lebanon, Tenn. in 1957. He also served as minister of Green Hill Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., and as part-time professor of religion at Cumberland College of Tennessee.
Clark loved history and did graduate work in history with his Ed.D. in higher education administration from George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University.
A native of Shelbyville, he graduated from Shelbyville High School, received his bachelor of arts degree from Georgetown College, his master of divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and master of arts from Middle Tennessee State University. He did graduate work in Tulane University in New Orleans.
He was a member of the Filson Club of Louisville, the Kentucky Historical Society and the Taylor County Historical Society where he was a charter member and served as president and director. He participated as a speaker with the Kentucky Humanities Council and was well known for his knowledge of President Abraham Lincoln's Kentucky connections and Baptist history.
He was a contributor to the historical writings of CU especially during the university's Centennial Celebration in 2006. He had belonged to the Southern Historical Association, Society, the Southern Baptist Historical Society, the Kentucky Historical Society and Kentucky Baptist Historical Society.
Clark was one of the founding members of the Campbellsville Kiwanis Club and where he served as past president, vice president and director.
In 2006, the Central Kentucky News-Journal named his "Taylor County Man of the Year." On May 5, 2007, he was awarded the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at CU commencement.
Fellow pastor, friend and former colleague, Dan Flanagan, said, "The passing of Dr. Clark leaves a major void in the lives of the many hundreds of people he has influenced over the years. He was a man of wisdom, high principles and integrity who ministered to the needs of everyone with which he came in contact.
"His positive approach to life will be missed by our community, the higher education community and Christian community."
In one of his addresses at CU, Clark said, "Instead of interpreting history in terms of present and past events ... the Christian looks at history with eyes of faith and gives to it a special kind of interpretation."
Clark was a long-time member of Campbellsville Baptist Church.
Clark is survived by his wife, Lillian Bruner Clark, who has served for many years on the Taylor County School Board. She is also a retired high school counselor and English teacher and has taught English at CU.
He is also survived by four children, Sandra Blanton and her husband Larry of Indiana; Renee Kessler and husband Marc of Greensburg; Beverly Manley and husband Gerald of Waddy, Ky.; and Bobby Clark and wife Mary of Campbellsville; 12 grandchildren; 24 great-grandchildren; and a sister, Betty Breniser and her husband, Jack, of Indiana.
Funeral will be at 11 a.m. Monday, April 8, at Parrott & Ramsey Funeral Home. Burial will be in Brookside Cemetery.