Watch: Also Honored,
James W. Clark, Jr.
(read at the 2015 North Carolina Writers Conference in Washington, NC, 25 July 2015, by Rebecca Godwin)
The best thing about teaching is that it is life-changing for everyone involved: the teachers, the students, and the communities where we work and live out our daily lives.
The best thing about having Jim Clark as your teacher is that he’ll open your eyes and your mind and launch you into lifelong learning, whether you are 18 years old or 80. Jim has changed lives for the better from the time he first stood in front of a class and opened a book.
I’ve worked with Jim for the past 20 years. My job as director of the North Carolina Center for the Book was to develop and implement humanities programs in public libraries statewide. Jim directed N.C. State’s Humanities Extension Program so we had a common statewide mission, and he quickly became my #1 resource. We traveled around the state for 20 years, and in every audience and every gathering he knew somebody and most often multiple somebodies. He had taught them or he had taught their children or he knew their parents or he had worked with them somewhere in some capacity. He remembered their names, their affiliations, their families and their interests. I learned to introduce myself on our travels by saying, “Hi, I’m with Jim Clark”. And I was IN. Totally.
Here’s one example of our many collaborative projects. After 9/11 I wanted to get experts into public libraries to help communities make sense of this national tragedy. Jim was my go-to person to identify the experts to present the programs. Within a few weeks the show was on the road, bringing audiences into their public libraries to hear what experts had to say and to have a forum for discussing common concerns. This was public humanities in action, showcasing the role of the public library as a community cultural center and a gathering place for thoughtful discussion guided by expert teachers, with, of course, Jim Clark among them.
After Jim’s retirement from the university classroom he simply continued his outreach mission through the classrooms of N.C. State’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, through writing workshops in retirement communities and wherever people sought his guidance and his expertise.
To everything he does, Jim brings his lifelong exploration of literature, of the arts, of everyday life and how people live and work together. He is quietly passionate about the work he loves, and he shares that passion with everyone who knows him.
I believe Jim Clark invented networking, before anyone else thought to call it that. For Jim this includes being generous with his time and his resources and always knowing how to connect people to what or who can help them.
I had never been one of Jim’s students until I retired and began to attend his OLLI classes, which, by the way, fill up faster than ticket lines for ACC basketball games. His classes open our minds and hearts, and he fills our time together with intriguing speculation and thoughtful awareness. His delight in exploring literature is energizing and he brings everyone present into the conversation, guiding us all into the wide, deep and rich world of ideas. Way cool!!!
I am totally addicted to the Fun Factor of any endeavor, and Jim is always on board with this. If laughter is good for the soul, then so is Jim Clark.
It’s always a treat to be in the excellent company of Jim and his many, many fans, so I regret that I’m not with you today. I am very grateful that Margaret Bauer (who, by the way, is also SERIOUSLY fun!) will say out loud at this important gathering what I think of my friend Jim Clark:
Jim Clark ROCKS!!!