Reminiscences of Dr. Alexander Clark, 1929-2009

Former Administrator Served as VP for Academic Affairs, Acting President

June 3, 2009

Alex was famous for his reasoned decision making, but often it required a rather detailed explanation. Bryce Jordan (1st President of UTD) used to say that Alex did not talk in sentences but rather in paragraphs. However, he taught me two terse adages which reflected his sagacity.

His first saying was that “It is always darkest, just before the lights go out.”

The second was even more apropos:

“The cardinal rules of being a good administrator are first not sweating the small stuff, and secondly realizing it is all small stuff.”

John Wiorkowski, Vice Provost

About Alex. He was the person who really set the academic agenda for UTD from day #1. There is a document called the “Precis” that was the “plan” for UTD developed in the 1970s. The materials that Austin shared with me focused on the early years. It said little about the next decade when he was the key academic person in the development of a curriculum for hiring the dean and Faculty for the Jonsson College of Engineering and Computer Science. He also was the academic leader who led the way when we added the lower division. He was the initial director of the Cecil and Ida Green Center for the Study of Science and Society

Alex and I had very different academic styles, yet we worked together very closely for my years as President. We spent many hours talking things out, When a decision was made we fully supported each other.

He was a great guy. The excellence of the academic programs at UTD is a monument to his career and love of the University of Texas at Dallas.

Dr. Robert Rutford, Former President of UT Dallas

Alexander Clark was an outstanding administrator of great vision with a capacity to look far into the future. He arrived in the early '70s and undertook the daunting task of morphing a research community into a university.

Dr. Austin Cunningham, Dean of Graduate Studies

Alex the Lionhearted
by Kevin Finneran

We have lost a lion,
But one with a sparkling not a glaring eye
For he roared with laughter not with menace
And wore his majesty with grace.

We have lost a Scot,
But one who must have hid some Irish blood
For his whiskey made him merry
And he never squeezed a penny.

We have lost a scholar,
But one without a hint of pedantry
For he knew that learning needed life
And that life had more to teach us.

We have lost an ear,
But one not of ordinary kind
For in jazz he heard the Seraphim
And he spurred us all to listen.

We have lost a friend,
But surely he was more than that
For he made us all feel loved so well
And we will always be the better for it.

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Alexander Clark

Dr. Alexander Clark


Career Highlights

Born: 1929 in Johnshaven, Scotland


  • Bachelor’s in sociology and accounting, San Diego State University, 1952-55
  • Master’s and Ph.D. in sociology, Stanford University, 1956-60

Academic Highlights

  • Launched sociology departments at the University of Washington and UT Austin
  • Assistant and associate professor of sociology, UT Austin, 1960-66
  • Harvard Faculty fellow in law and sociology, Harvard Law School, 1966-67
  • Staff associate, and later acting executive secretary, National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, 1967-69
  • Associate dean and later acting dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at UT Austin 1970-74

UT Dallas:

  • Joined UT Dallas in 1974 as vice president for academic affairs, a post he held for 17 years
  • Executive vice president and chief academic officer,1980-83
  • Professor: 1975-81, 1996-97
  • Acting president: 1981-82
  • In 1991, Dr. Clark became the first executive director of the Cecil and Ida Green Center for the Study of Science and Society


  • B.A. Magna Cum Laude in sociology and accounting, 1955
  • Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Stanford University,1955-56
  • John Randolph and Dora Haynes Fellow, Stanford University, 1956-57 and 1957-58
  • Harvard Fellow in Law and Sociology, Harvard Law School, 1966-67

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June 19, 2018