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Campus & Community

Building Together

A. James Clark & Alice B. Clark Foundation Makes Historic $219.5M Investment in UMD

By Terp Staff

New scholarships for incoming and transfer students that increase college affordability and access. Graduate fellowships and expanded scholarships for generations of promising University of Maryland students. Funding to recruit high-level faculty across campus who will pursue research opening new frontiers. New facilities that will cement the A. James Clark School of Engineering’s stature among the world’s finest.

This is what an unprecedented new investment of $219,486,000 from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation will do to transform the university.

The largest gift ever given to a Washington metro area public institution, “Building Together: An Investment for Maryland” celebrates the legacy of the late A. James Clark ’50, noted philanthropist and a builder of modern Washington, D.C., and his belief in the power of education.

“The University of Maryland played an unparalleled role in my dad’s academic preparation and his success as a business leader,” said Courtney Clark Pastrick, board chair, A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation. “This gift is symbolic of his profound gratitude and commitment to ensuring the best education is accessible and affordable to all with the will to work hard.”

“This investment is historic in scope and transformational in impact, and I do not say this lightly,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “Access to higher education is essential, if we are to solve urgent national problems. Creating this path for the most promising students in engineering and other fields may well prove to be Mr. Clark’s greatest legacy.”

As both a philanthropist and the former president and ceo of the Clark Construction Group, A. James Clark invested heavily in his alma mater: He donated millions in his lifetime to grow and strengthen the college that bears his name, and his company developed much of the campus that we see today.

The Foundation named for him and his wife is guided by the Clark family’s belief in the value of hard work and their desire to create immediate impact, backing projects focused on engineering, D.C. education and community, and veteran support.

The monumental investment from the Clark Foundation will enhance the university’s role as a bold leader sparking new innovations that solve today’s problems and forms the foundation of Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland. The most ambitious and comprehensive fundraising effort in the university’s history, it is scheduled to launch in Spring 2018.

“A Giant of a Builder”
A. James Clark knew what a difference a scholarship could make.

Born in 1927 to an insurance salesman and a homemaker, Clark spent his childhood summers earning 10 cents an hour working on his grandmother’s Virginia farm. His family couldn’t afford to send him to Cornell University, but he earned a scholarship to the University of Maryland. Every day he hitchhiked from their home in Bethesda to pursue an education in civil engineering.

Shortly after he graduated in 1950, a modest local firm hired Clark as a field engineer for a job at the university. Over the next 60 years, Clark transformed it into one of the nation’s largest construction companies.

Under his leadership, it became the first builder to use tower cranes, which greatly reduced build time and labor costs, and put Hyman Construction on the cutting edge of construction technology. In 1977, Clark founded Omni Construction, a subsidiary of Hyman, and in 1996, the two companies merged to become the Clark Construction Group.

With a hands-on approach that continued well into his 80s, Clark spent time in the field, visiting jobsites, climbing ladders and learning about the latest innovations in construction.

His company’s portfolio of projects grew nationwide to include convention centers, sports complexes, museums, government buildings and of course, a large part of his alma mater’s modern campus.

Clark donated $15 million in 1994 to endow undergraduate scholarships at the engineering school; it was later renamed in honor of his contributions and leadership in the field of engineering. In 2005, Clark established a $30 million endowment to provide need-based support for high-performing and diverse Clark School undergraduate engineering students. Then, inspired by his interest in biosciences, Clark made a $15 million gift in 2012 to support the design and construction of A. James Clark Hall. Dedicated in November, it is expected to serve as a hub for human health innovation in the state and beyond.

Clark served as chairman of Clark Enterprises until his death on March 20, 2015, at the age of 87. The New York Times memorialized him as “King of Concrete,” but those who knew Clark described him as private and humble, honest and trustworthy.

“On one hand, he was so human, caring and unpretentious in his beliefs, while on the other hand, he was a giant of a builder who was driven by grand ideas, confidence and achievements,” former UMD President C.D. Mote Jr. said then. “He was the engineer’s engineer.”

The transformative investment from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation, a private organization funded by A. James Clark’s family, will propel the University of Maryland and the A. James Clark School of Engineering to the forefront of education and research worldwide by establishing and funding an array of scholarships, assistantships and fellowships, professorships, and communications and capital projects.

Highlights of the investment include:

The Clark Challenge for Maryland Promise
A campus-wide matching program that will provide need-based scholarships to hundreds of students every year from all majors. If fully matched by gifts from other donors, this program will establish a $100 million fund to support students with financial need.

A. James Clark Scholars Program
A new program providing scholarships to 40 high-performing engineering undergraduates. Reflecting the Clarks’ commitment to the local community, priority will be given to in-state students.

Clark Opportunity Transfer Scholars Program
The endowment of a pilot program that will provide need-based scholarships to 40 engineering majors coming from Maryland community colleges.

Clark Distinguished Chairs
The creation of eight faculty chairs for stellar engineering researchers who directly address engineering’s most critical research areas, such as additive and advanced manufacturing, autonomy and robotics, and energy and sustainability.

Clark Leadership Chairs
The establishment and endowment of five faculty chairs throughout the campus in interdisciplinary fields that are critical to the knowledge-based economy of the future, such as data analytics, neuroscience, virtual and augmented reality, and cybersecurity.

Clark Doctoral Fellows Program
An endowment supporting 30 additional first-year doctoral fellowships, allowing the Clark School to increase research productivity and graduate more outstanding Ph.D.s every year.

New engineering building
A new space that secures the university’s stronghold in engineering innovation by helping recruit and retain world-class faculty and facilitating collaborations between disciplines with institutional and business partners.

IDEA Factory
An expansion of the Clark School’s signature Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building that will foster innovation with new cutting-edge labs, startup space and areas dedicated to cross-disciplinary research.

Also known as the 125th Anniversary Fearless Ideas Mpact Challenge, the A. James Clark School of Engineering’s “moonshot” engineering program to spur innovative engineering research.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.