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RAISING FUNDS AND FRIENDS: LEADERS | LEGACIES

Engineering F

IFTY YEARS HAVE PASSED

since Dick Clarke (ME ’53) was a student at the University, but it’s possible he spends more time on campus these days than some commuters do. An active member of the Minnesota High Tech Association, the IT Alumni Society, and the Mechanical Engineering Advisory Council, Clarke is a standout among University alumni. When asked about the demands of all this involvement, Clarke replies matter-offactly, “My big thing is education, especially education in Minnesota. It’s what’s important to me.” Clarke isn’t the type to pull punches. He’s quick to say what he thinks and to act on his beliefs. He’s donated his time and financial support to Campaign Minnesota and to the effort to build the new mechanical engineering facilities. He says it’s been well worth it. Clarke calls himself a local boy. He grew up in St. Paul and attended the city’s Central High School. Unable to provide financial assistance for his college education, his parents encouraged him to find a means to get his degree. “That was just the way it was,” he says. He entered the University, lived at home, and financed classes with a Naval ROTC scholarship. “On the Holloway Plan, they helped with tuition and books, and we got a stipend of 50 per month,” he recalls. “It was a wonderful plan for a lot of us.” When Clarke started at the Univer-

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INVENTING TOMORROW Winter 2004

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success

MTS and then turned his attention to the University. The mechanical engineering building in use at the time had been built in 950. Clarke believed that updated technology and facilities would allow students and faculty to perform at peak potential and also attract top faculty. “I thought it was extraordinarily important for the department and for the state,” he says. “Being a mechanical engineer is radically different today than it was 50 years ago, and we need the tools and equipment to do the new kinds of work that reflect the needs of industry in Minnesota.” As a member of the Mechanical Engineering Advisory Council, Clarke met with the department head to discuss the possibility of a new building. At the meeting he promised, “We are going to do this for you. I don’t know how, but if we don’t try, we won’t succeed.” With that rallying cry, Clarke revved up the plan. He and a dozen dedicated alumni obtained a funding commitment from the state and then took on the next challenge— raising an additional 0 million, the University’s share of the project’s cost. The group raised the funds within four years, and today the gleaming new facili-

sity in 948, prospects for engineering computers filled whole rooms,” he laughs. jobs were not good. The country was in a “We’re talking about vacuum tubes!” postwar recession, and large numbers of During his three years with Univac, World War II veterans were flooding the Clarke filed a number of patents for cutjob market. ting-edge technology and established a “Regardless of the circumstances, I de- strong reputation in the field. One aftercided that I wanted to be an engineer,” he noon he received a call from Bill Norris, says. “I was always science-minded; it’s just founder of Control Data Corporation, the way my brain works.” who offered him a job. “I just about spilled When he graduated with honors in 953, my coffee,” Clarke says. “He was sort of a Clarke had an obligation to serve three deity in our profession at the time.” years in the navy. He was assigned to a When Clarke joined Control Data, its destroyer as the engineering officer and revenues were less than  million, and completed three tours of duty in the west- the company made strong annual growth ern Pacific. “It was tough,” he says. “You its primary objective. During the comlearn a lot about yourself. It builds a lot of puter industry’s early days, Control Data confidence that you can get into a tough achieved spectacular success, but growth situation and work your way through it.” also brought other changes. Returning in 956, Clarke found the job “Every year when we doubled in size, market for engineers much improved. “At that time, all you had to do was apply for a job, and you got an offer,” he says. “The choice for me came down to building computers for Univac or building atomic weapons at Los Alamos. I have always it became about half as much fun,” says ties are proof that the volunteers made been thankful that I chose computers.” Clarke, who eventually quit after 0 good on their promise. “The dean doesn’t His desire to remain in Minnesota years. owe a nickel on it,” Clarke adds proudly. strongly influenced his decision. “I just After a brief attempt at his own start-up IT dean H. Ted Davis is indeed a hapreally am a born and bred Minnesotan,” company, he took a job as a vice president py man. “There was a lot of development he says. “I love the summers, how green with MTS Systems, where he built testing work that went into this effort,” he says. it is, and the winters. I really like four systems for automobiles and airplanes. Al- “The team came together and mapped out seasons.” though he took his responsibilities very se- strategies for how to approach companies, Clarke became part of the burgeon- riously, he wasn’t above engaging in banter talk to government, and query donors. ing computer field, creating the technol- with his peers. They rose to the occasion and made it ogy that started a revolution. “In 956 no “We had a little saying: If the wings happen.” one realized what the computer industry come off, it can muck up a pilot’s day,” he would become,” he says. “That was when jokes. Clarke retired after 22 years with ENGINEERING CONTINUED ON PAGE 27 ª

Alumnus Dick Clarke’s passion for education makes him one of the U’s most effective advocates

www.it.umn.edu

INVENTING TOMORROW Winter 2004

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Inventing Tomorrow, Winter 2004 (vol 28 no 1)  

Raising Funds And Friends: The Success Of Campaign Minnesota Is Measured In More Than Dollars And Cents

Inventing Tomorrow, Winter 2004 (vol 28 no 1)  

Raising Funds And Friends: The Success Of Campaign Minnesota Is Measured In More Than Dollars And Cents