A scholarship in memory of a great man – her great-grandfather
Grateful donor visits Nebraska for the first time to learn more about John Davidson Clark, a former dean of UNL’s business college and an adviser to President Truman.
Posted: Mon, Oct 5, 2015
John Davidson Clark first walked the halls of the University of Nebraska more than a hundred years ago.
He studied in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts (now the UNL College of Arts and Sciences). He played basketball on the freshman team, one so good that it reigned as all-class champs in 1902. He rose to editor of the Daily Nebraskan. He joined a frat.
One night at a sorority dance, he met a young woman named Joyce Broady. She was very pretty and smart, a bit standoff-ish. They connected right away. He told his parents he’d just met the girl of his dreams, and he wrote this limerick to go with her photo in the 1906 yearbook:
This sweet little maiden named Joyce
Is cut out for masculine choice;
But the sound of her laugh,
Cut in two by just half,
Would make a man’s hard heart rejoice.
While he finished his degree, he went on to law school at Columbia University. They married in 1908 and moved to his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and started their family.
He rose to a big career in law and banking and eventually became vice president of Standard Oil. He served in the Wyoming Legislature.
He and Joyce never forgot their alma mater. In 1928, they endowed a $2,000 scholarship in memory of Joyce’s father, Jefferson H. Broady, who had been a district court judge in Nebraska.
Then at the peak of John Davidson Clark’s career – he wasn’t even 45 yet – he probably surprised a lot of people by deciding to give up his career and give back to the world in a different way.
He wanted to teach.
He enrolled in grad school at Johns Hopkins University and earned a Ph.D. in political economics in 1931 and then taught at the University of Denver and the University of Nebraska. In 1941, he became the second dean of UNL’s College of Business Administration.
He loved being dean. He was good at it, too, and brought to his students his worldly experience.
His office was beyond the tall columns of the CBA building, up the stairs on the second floor, and that was where he took a phone call one day in 1946 from the president of the United States, Harry S Truman, who asked him to move to Washington, D.C., and serve on his newly created Council of Economic Advisers – a Cabinet-level post.
John Davidson Clark went home and asked his wife what they should do.
They decided to go, leaving the University of Nebraska – the place they loved, and where they fell in love – for good.
John Davidson Clark left the world in 1961. His black-and-white photo hangs on the wall of a hall inside the CBA building, along with photos of the other deans.
His legacy lives on in his service to his country and his home state of Wyoming and to the University of Nebraska. It lives on in what he and Joyce did for all of the students over the years who’ve received the scholarship they created long ago.
And his legacy lives on in his family.
He and Joyce had three sons.
One of the sons had a daughter.
The daughter had a daughter.
Her name is Gwinneth Berexa.
One recent day, she walked the halls of the University of Nebraska for the first time, searching for information about a great man.
She opened old yearbooks.
She read the poem he wrote for his sweet girl.
She followed the paths they must have walked as they talked and fell in love.
She toured her great-grandmother’s sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta. At Love Library, she found old photos and newspaper clippings. She hadn’t known he played basketball.
She looked up at the photo of him on the wall of the hall of the CBA building and smiled.
They have the same chin.
“I have been literally walking in his footsteps,” she says, “and I didn’t even know the man. I started this adventure, this journey, to learn more about him. For me, it’s been so great because suddenly, I don’t feel like this piece of information is missing anymore. It makes perfect sense to me now.
“This gives me a frame for my life – who I am.”
She had done some research on her great-grandfather before coming to Nebraska. She’d traveled to a cousin’s house in Virginia, and she’d read his writings from the time he was on Truman’s board. She realized her great-grandfather’s political views were like hers, conservative – even though the rest of her family is so very liberal.
“I had thought maybe Martians had dropped me off at my house by accident. Now it makes sense, the more I get to know him.”
She realized that, like her, John Davidson Clark was extremely methodical about things.
She was born in South America, in Colombia. She went to private schools in the United States as a kid and then on to Columbia University to study sociology. She retired last fall, after a career in banking, finance and consulting that took her around the world.
Like her great-grandfather, she’s reached a point in her mid-life when she’s looking for a different way to give back to the world. She plans to go to Costa Rica as a volunteer to teach math to young girls.
And, like her great-grandparents, she also is giving back to the University of Nebraska: She’s endowed a fund in his name for UNL students in his old college, Arts and Sciences.
She named her fund “The John D. Clark Courage and Commitment Fund.”
“I named the fund the ‘Courage and Commitment’ because it’s about the principle of integrity,” she says, “and doing something you know is important to do, just like it hit my great-grandfather at age 44 when he left Standard Oil to go back to school and teach.
“That takes courage and commitment.”
Someone at the university pointed out to her that the amount she gave is exactly the same amount, by today’s standards, as the scholarship fund her great-grandparents had endowed so many years ago.
That brought tears to her eyes.
Her time in Lincoln, she says, made her see something new in herself – yet another thing she has in common with great-grandfather:
A love for Nebraska and its great university.
“I can sort of imagine what it was like while he was here. I can suddenly understand what he loved about this place – and he loved this place.
“He would not have left if he had not had that call from President Truman.”
The John D. Clark Courage and Commitment Fund benefits undergraduate students in the College of Arts & Sciences at UNL by providing scholarships to help them study abroad, do research and have travel opportunities – giving preference to students who are interested in economics, political science and/or human rights and humanitarian affairs – as John Davidson Clark was throughout his lifetime.
The fund also benefits faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences who want to engage in international research and travel tied to economics, political science, and/or human rights and humanitarian affairs and then to share their international experience in the classroom as motivation for students to have the courage to embrace their own global experience opportunities.If you would like to help support the fund, please give online or contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216.