Students and members of the faculty are heartbroken after Fred Clark, a former Portuguese professor and the academic coordinator for the Carolina Covenant Scholars Program, died Friday after more than 47 years with the University.
Clark retired from teaching in July, but he stayed on to fulfill his commitment to the Carolina Covenant program, which allows full-time undergraduate students from low-income families to receive grants, scholarships and a work-study job in order to graduate debt-free.
Clark loved coming to work, said Michael Highland, assistant academic coordinator for Carolina Covenant.
“In his mind, the greatest thing that ever happened to Carolina was Carolina Covenant, and that’s how he lived his life, to honor the commitment that we made,” he said.
He said he was inspired by how much Clark cared for his students.
“Fred set the gold standard of care for students,” he said. “There was never a question too minor or a concern too minor for him to take part in helping a student with an issue.”
Don Hornstein, a law professor and chairman of the scholarships, awards and student aid committee, said Clark’s teaching went beyond the walls of the classroom.
“He was one of those professors that, at some point, certainly transcended the classroom,” he said.
“He had a huge influence on people’s lives. As a teacher, he was a huge fixture in students’ lives.”
A support system
For Hornstein, Clark embodied the spirit of UNC.
“He was as much a part of the reality of Carolina as the buildings, the grounds and everything else that makes UNC so great,” he said.
Rob Moore, an instructional designer in the School of Government, said he met Clark in 1999 and was amazed by the way he made himself available to UNC students.
“He gave out his cell phone number like it was his office number,” he said. “It was amazing how accessible he was.”
Moore said Clark was always ready to handle any situation, no matter how difficult.
“I’ve had students who are dealing with some pretty difficult life stuff. Stuff I couldn’t support,” he said. “I would call (Clark), and he would say ‘send them over,’ and he would take care of it for them.”
Moore said he was particularly impressed with Clark’s constant reliability.
“I felt like if I needed something, I could call him, and he would do anything to help out,” he said. “He was a huge resource for students.”
A gentle reminder
Junior Christina Townsend, a current Covenant scholar, said she had the opportunity to speak with Clark last semester.
“He was so supportive when I told him my concerns about not being able to graduate on time and how I wasn’t doing so well at sophomore year,” she said.
“He reminded me that the point of the Covenant is that students, like myself, should remain debt free and be able to pursue academia without the added pressure of financial instability.”
Even though she only met with Clark once, Townsend said she felt the relationship could have been lasting.
“It was my first time sitting down with Fred, but I felt like I had gained a support system, and I knew if I ever needed help, Fred’s office was open,” she said.
Junior Michaela Meredith, who is also a Covenant scholar, said she wished she could have had the opportunity to thank Clark for his work and generosity.
“It’s very sad to hear about his death, seeing as how he has given me and thousands of other students the opportunity to get a world-class education that otherwise wouldn’t be possible because of financial reasons,” she said.
Clark’s love for the University extended to the entire campus, Highland said.
“He came to work for the love,” he said. “And that’s why he stayed for 47 years.”