In Memoriam: Trustee Emeritus A. James Clark

Clark Enterprises founder established engineering scholars program, built landmark facilities on Foggy Bottom Campus.

March 23, 2015

A. James Clark

A. James Clark, trustee emeritus and Clark Enterprises founder, established the A. James Clark professor of civil and environmental engineering at GW and the A. James Clark Engineering Scholars program. (GW Today)

By James Irwin

A. James Clark, trustee emeritus and Clark Enterprises founder, whose contributions to the George Washington University included the construction of landmark facilities on the Foggy Bottom Campus, leadership and philanthropic support, died at his home in Easton, Md., Friday, of congestive heart failure. He was 87.

The chairman of the board and CEO of Clark Enterprises for a half-century, Mr. Clark served on the Board of Trustees from 1988 to 1993 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from GW in 2010. Mr. Clark’s company presided over the construction of academic and residential facilities South Hall, Shenkman Hall and Science and Engineering Hall, which formally opened March 3. His endeavors in the Washington region, among them the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery, also include D.C. area sports venues FedEx Field, Nationals Park and Verizon Center, according to the Washington Post.

Construction projects under his leadership transformed Clark Enterprises into one of the country’s largest contracting companies.

“Mr. Clark's generosity and friendship to our university will be greatly missed,” George Washington President Steven Knapp said in a message to the university community Friday evening. “We can take solace from the fact that his legacy here will live on for generations to come.”

A noted supporter of higher education, Mr. Clark established the A. James Clark professor of civil and environmental engineering at GW in 1986 (a position currently held by Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Steven Lerman). He donated $8 million to GW in 2011 to establish the A. James Clark Engineering Scholars program in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“No school at GW is more indebted to Mr. Clark and more appreciative of his generosity than SEAS,” said SEAS Dean David Dolling. “Mr. Clark was a strong supporter of engineering education. More than 30 SEAS students and recent graduates already have benefited greatly from the Clark Engineering Scholars Program, and many more will do so in the future.”

In addition to his many contributions to GW, Mr. Clark made significant donations to the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University, including a $15 million gift to the University of Maryland’s engineering school—now named in his honor—and two $10 million donations to Johns Hopkins for the development of a bioengineering building and the establishment of an endowed deanship. Mr. Clark also served on governing boards for both universities.

“All of us who knew Jim will miss him,” Dr. Lerman said. “The entire profession of engineering benefitted from his tremendous support and vision.”