Mrs. Agnes Clarke remembered

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Geneva remembers Mrs. Agnes Clarke

"I am so very grateful for the privilege I had of knowing Agnes Clarke for sixty-two years. Agnes was always so gracious and kind whenever we were together, whether it was working for the Salvation Army Auxiliary, College Hill Women′s Club, Geneva Faculty Wives, or keeping the teapots ready for the many "teas" she hosted in the Richardson House and Fern Cliff.

One spring she was so kind to try to teach me how to play tennis on the estate of Doug Brooks. She didn′t have much success. Other memories include our trip to Tempe, Arizona, to deliver a car to her daughter, Carolyn, as well as our trips to Washington, DC. These are just a few of the many times we had together.

We shared time together here at Sherwood Oaks, and many residents have said to me since her passing what a gracious and friendly person she was to all the residents. I truly will miss her kind and friendly ways, and her calling up to catch up on the news about mutual friends."

- Ann Lee

"When my father, Stewart Lee, told me, as a little girl at College R. P. church, that Mrs. Clarke was Canadian, it came as something of a shock. I had assumed that everyone in our congregation was American-born and bred. Not so! Consequently, my horizons were broadened. Mrs. Clarke was a beloved friend of our family for several reasons, particularly to my mother, Ann Lee. As many have noted on this page, Mrs. Clarke′s graciousness is remembered by us all, whether it was her helping with family night suppers at College Hill R. P. church or entertaining at the Richardson House. The Clarkes and the Lees often sat near each other at Reeves Stadium and in Metheny Fieldhouse, cheering on the Golden Tornadoes. And Mrs. Clarke always willingly bought whatever I was selling to raise money for grade school, junior high and high school fundraisers!

Mrs. Clarke′s service went beyond the church and Geneva. She and my mother were members of the College Hill Women′s Club and volunteers for the Salvation Army Women′s Auxiliary. Mrs. Clarke and my mother would try to persuade the other to step up and be an officer in College Hill Women′s Club when there were few volunteers. And volunteering for the auxiliary meant, among other things, ringing the bell by the familiar Salvation Army bucket on a cold day at a local store and fixing Christmas baskets for those in need. I know that my mother could not have imagined life in Beaver Falls without her dear friend, Agnes.

My parents moved to Sherwood Oaks, in part because of the recommendation of Mrs. Clarke. They were so glad that she was there, and I was thankful that we could continue to visit with her there. Whenever I saw her at Sherwood Oaks, she would always ask me how I was and what I was doing. And when my father passed away, it was a comfort to my mother to know that Agnes was there. I am reminded of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Gal. 5:22-23. Our dear friend, Agnes, demonstrated so many of them, and we will always remember, among other things, her kindness, gentleness, patience, and love."

- Kathryn A. Lee

"When Marilyn and I think of Agnes Clarke, it is her image of gracious dignity, and class that comes to our minds. Faculty teas, new employee receptions, dinners at Richardson House and Alumni events all had the "Touch of Agnes." Tables were set to perfection and the presentation of a full course meal to cookies on a tray, were artistic displays. The choice of vegetables were coordinates with the entre′ and the theme of the season. Most often she prepared everything herself, from the salad to the desert. Within her friendly formality, Agnes had a keen sense of humor. On several occasions I would tease her by asking what her husband did to contribute to the dinner. Without hesitation she would respond, "Eddie him filled the water glasses." While Dr. Edwin Clarke was the CEO on campus, Agnes was the chief executive at home.

In every way she was a classic wife, mother and help mate in supporting her husband, Bob and Carolyn. Her love of her grandchildren was obvious and a frequent source of conversation. Agnes Clarke was the example of a Christian woman quietly serving her LORD and her family. In addition to her family, Agnes reached out to the community, serving as a volunteer with the Salvation Army and The Medical Center, Beaver. Before she moved to Sherwood Oaks, she had accumulated hundreds of hours working in hospital gift shop and bringing comfort to those she met. She continued to use those talents at the gift shop at Sherwood Oaks.

In the early days of her husband′s presidency, Agnes would travel with him in their 1956 Four Tone… White, Black, Green, and Gold …Hudson Hornet (I think it was one of the last Hudsons made, since they stopped production in 1957). With a portable typewriter on her lap, Agnes would type letters to Alumni and friends whom they had met along the way thanking them for their support of the College.

Dr. Clarke got considerable credit for the development of tennis in their family. Bob and Carolyn had distinguished careers on the courts. Often forgotten was the fact that Agnes was a pretty fair tennis player in her own right. After all, she met Dr. Clarke on a tennis court during the finals of a tennis tournament in Edmonton. They were opponents in mixed doubles. Little did "Eddie" know he was playing against the Alberta provincial singles champion. Tennis was an integral part of the Thorburn family. Agnes′ sisters were the Alberta provincial women′s doubles champions. Given Dr. Clarke′s competitive nature, when it came to tennis, I don′t think the romance would have flourished if Agnes wasn′t a very good player.

Agnes Clarke, indeed, was a spirit filled woman of dignity, class and grace."

- Charles "Chick" O′Data

"I have fond and unforgettable memories of Agnes Clarke. I met her soon after my family and I arrived in Beaver Falls in 1976 to become a part of the Geneva College Family. During those first few weeks of adjusting to a new area she invited my daughter and I to accompany her to the Beaver Valley Mall. What a thoughtful gesture to introduce us to the mall, something every woman wants to know about when taking up residence in a new area. My daughter and I enjoyed getting to know her that afternoon.

One evening she invited our family to dinner at Richardson House and graciously shared her dessert recipe with me, a recipe we still enjoy. I saw Agnes many times over the next 33 years and she often inquired about our family, the last time being just a few months before God called her home. Proverbs 17:17. What a very special friend she was!"

- Gwynn Reyle

"When I was a freshman at Geneva, living in McKee Hall in the fall of 1975, my roommate and I heard an announcement that if anyone wanted to go to the mall there was a ride available. We answered and went down to the lobby to find Agnes Clarke waiting for us. We got into her little sports car and she took us to the mall. What a treat that was! She was wonderful to us and made us feel very special. Later on I remember seeing her when we visited at College Hill and she was always so friendly but I never forgot the kindness she showed to us as freshmen."

- Vicki Rhodes

"Since I did not attend Geneva College as a student I did not become acquainted with Dr. and Mrs Clarke until later. It was after my election to the Geneva Board of Trustees in l976 that I really got to know them. At that time Dr Clarke was the college president. In my early days on the board he served as my mentor in helping me to understand various issues that were coming up for board consideration. This was accomplished in a series of dinner meetings, usually at a local restaurant. It was at these times that I became acquainted with both Ed and Agnes Clarke. My friendship with them grew in the years that followed.

Agnes Clarke was a gracious lady. She showed a gracious spirit in all that she did. She was concerned for others and particularly the students at the college. She and Ed both loved Geneva College and wanted the Lord's best for it. She supported Ed in his role as president with quiet strength and helpfulness. In my mind Agnes Clarke was the consummate college president's wife."

- Joe Lamont

"Ed & Agnes Clarke were the first residents of Richardson House when it became the college President's home. In fact Agnes helped select many of the first furnishings for the house and as first lady she set a high standard for all those who followed her. Her thoughtful attention to detail, whether it was hosting students, a faculty group or a distinguished campus visitor, was always evident and made being a guest in their home a delightful occasion. The words of Proverbs 31:25, 26 seem to me to be a fitting way to describe Agnes "Strength and dignity are her clothing. She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." My life has certainly been enriched for having had Agnes as my friend since l946."

- Jean Hemphill

"Church dresses, high heels, white gloves, and little hats with veils--that is what we wore when we went to the Clarke's home for teas when I was a student at Geneva College in the mid 1960's. Mrs. Clarke was always the gracious hostess, managing the details of greeting people and yet keeping the food and table under her surveillance. Mrs. Clarke spoke warmly to everyone in attendance, whether she knew them or not. She made us feel important.

I knew Mrs. Clarke in more recent years when I was far from being an undergraduate and was struck by her ability to speak kindly to everyone and show them how important they were to her. She always asked about our family and how we were doing. Mrs. Clarke often attended college functions in her later years, and we always felt supported by her when she came to concerts and other events on campus. She was a great First Lady and always a wonderful supporter of the college. We do miss her!"

- Louise Copeland

"The Geneva community has recently celebrated the life of Mrs. Agnes Clarke. Her husband, Edwin C. Clarke preceded her in death in 1987. A tribute to one of them is a tribute to both. Agnes Clarke was a great lady and many of us knew her as the wife of Edwin C. Clarke, Geneva′s President from 1956 to 1980. Mrs. Clarke never wanted to be in the limelight, yet her support of her husband made them a team. Hence on the occasion of death of Agnes Clarke, it is fitting to remember both of them and their service to their church, community and especially Geneva College.

While I was still a young pastor and meeting President Clarke soon after his election as President, my wife and I attended a dinner meeting together with them. As the guests walked down each side of the long tables to their places, it happened that Dr. and Mrs. Clarke were across the table from Dottie and me. Wanting to make a good impression, I leaned across the table to shake hands with Dr. Clarke, but in the process, my little finger caught the edge of a paper cup of tomato juice, which was deposited down the front of Dr. Clarke′s suit, shirt and tie. On returning from the rest room where he tried to soak up the tomato juice, his only comment was: "It is surprising how much tomato juice one of these little cups holds." Years later I mentioned this most embarrassing moment to him and he claimed to have forgotten it all. Such was a mark of his gracious spirit.

Edwin C. Clarke, the vice-president for development, was selected to succeed the out-going president, Charles M. Lee. Immediately Dr. Clarke turned his attention to the pressing needs of the college and the years of his presidency were marked by major accomplishments. Among them were: attention to faculty hiring, retention, development and salaries; expansion of campus buildings as the college moved from a largely commuter school to a largely resident institution that included the Metheny Field house, Clarke and Pearce dormitories and Alexander Hall. Dr. Clarke guided the school peacefully through the turbulent decade of the 1960′s.

In his inaugural address, Dr. Clarke set forth an enormous goal for the college. He said: "Since [to glorify God] is the chief purpose of life, it is also the chief purpose of education….By Christian education we do not mean secular education with Christian features added externally; Christian education means education that is Christian in its essence….The Bible, as the revelation of the mid and will of God, is the true standard of education and therefore the relevant principles of the Bible are the standard for every field of study. It is not by accident that the open Bible has been placed in the center of the Geneva College seal. Since we recognize this unifying principle to true education, no part of knowledge will be properly taught unless this relationship is assumed, and so far as is appropriate, pointed out."

From the vantage point of the 21st century, it is hard to imagine how revolutionary such a vision was in the late 1950s. Even at the time, there was no charted course. Within a decade, the vision had been translated into the "Foundational Concepts of Christian Education" and into the culture of the college. His definition of a leader was a person out in front with people behind him. He knew how to carry that out; he led the way, and he brought people along with him.

Through all of this, Agnes Clarke was by his side. All of us who knew her have stories of her service to her husband, her family, her church, her community and, of course, to Geneva College. She was a gracious hostess on every occasion. No matter how pressing the moment, she had a ready smile and time to speak to those around her. In her retirement, instead of talking about herself, she would quiz her visitors about themselves and their families and especially about Geneva College.

It was my privilege to serve on the board of corporators or the board of trustees, beginning in 1964 and extending beyond the tenure of Dr. Clarke. He was a mentor to me. I believe he was a great president of the college, a man for the hour. Over the years, Dr. and Mrs. Clarke became Ed and Agnes to Dottie and me at their insistence.

When, in 1973, Dottie and I were moving to California, we were the guests of Ed and Agnes, and Bruce and Doris Willson. We were together at a lovely restaurant, and I was careful not to spill tomato juice on Ed′s suit.

The death of Mrs. Agnes Clarke is an appropriate time for us to reflect on the legacy of President and Mrs. Edwin C. Clarke."

- James D. Carson (‘50)

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