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Clark Family Establishes English, Physics Faculty Excellence Funds
“From our conversations with the Clarks, who have shared many wonderful memories, Stacey and I feel like we knew Zach,” said President Thomas S. Hibbs, Ph.D., BA ’82 MA ’83, as he thanked Trustee J. Barry Clark and his wife, Kathy, at the ceremony honoring their most recent gift to the university in memory of their son Zach. Zach Clark was a member of UD’s Class of 2016 who died tragically in a car accident the summer before his senior year.
Zach Clark with his parents.

The Clarks have endowed the Father Robert E. Maguire, O. Cist., Faculty Excellence Fund for English, to support faculty excellence in the English Department and honor English professor Father Robert Maguire, and the Dr. Richard P. Olenick Faculty Excellence Fund for Physics, to support faculty excellence in the Physics Department and honor physics professor Richard Olenick, Ph.D. Endowed faculty excellence funds provide critical financial support to UD’s renowned faculty. Such endowments are used to provide additional funds to help sustain faculty research so that our faculty can persist in deepening their wisdom, advancing knowledge in their fields and providing the very best education to our students. 

Hibbs noted what a perfect UD story Zach’s is: A human sciences major, he was deeply engaged in all of his classes and cherished a particular love for the four Literary Tradition classes he took with Maguire as well as his astronomy classes with Olenick. 

“We work in the formation of young minds,” said Hibbs. “Our faculty — especially these two — know that it’s through the intellects of young people that we can form them completely.”

“I wish I knew Zach, but he lives on in so many ways here,” added Provost Jonathan J. Sanford, Ph.D. “These two funds whose endowments we’re celebrating today are of inestimable value, because here at UD we combine the commitment to teaching with serious research, and this will enable in perpetuity more faculty to engage in this work.”

Sanford also noted the particular prominence of English and physics at UD in the legacies of former English Department chair Louise Cowan and former president Donald Cowan, who had a great influence on the formation of the curriculum and culture of the university.

“Thank you to Father Maguire and Dr. Olenick for being professors worthy of having these funds named in their honor,” said Sanford.

As Kathy Clark shared, Zach was determined as an incoming freshman to take the Literary Tradition Core Curriculum courses with Maguire; no other professor would do. When his schedule arrived and did not have him in Maguire’s class, he immediately decided to drive to UD and amend this oversight, not explaining the problem to his perplexed mother until he was back home with a huge smile on his face, the issue satisfactorily resolved. It is rare for a student to take all four “Lit Trad” classes with the same professor, but that is exactly what Zach did.

“I remember Zach very clearly,” said Maguire. “He was always engaged in class — an intense student. In Lit Trad, one thing we study is the heroic ideal, someone who strives for excellence no matter the circumstance, and Zach was a hero in his own fine way. He exemplified this up to the end of this life.”

Maguire explained that while study begins at UD, it doesn’t end here, and his hope is always that his students see their classes not just as courses to take to get a degree but as part of a great conversation — that they will recall what they learn and integrate it with what comes after. Even though his life did not extend beyond college, Zach did this, whether during his Rome semester, studying astronomy in the Upper Peninsula or in Colorado with Olenick, throughout his internship with Fox News in the summer of 2014, or in the missionary work he was doing with young people in Minnesota during his last summer. 

“The first time I met Zach, it was in Pitkin, Colorado, right after his Rome semester,” said Olenick. “He came straight from Rome to take astronomy during Mayterm. He sat right in front, always wide-eyed and eager to learn.”

After that course, back in Irving, Zach would always go by to visit Olenick.

“I always knew he was coming because he had a booming voice,” said Olenick. “I looked forward to his visits.”

During his Fox News internship as a sports commentator, Zach had the opportunity to appear on Fox & Friends one morning. He emailed Olenick that he was going to be on national TV, and Olenick was happy to wake up early to watch. The following Mayterm, Zach served as a TA for Olenick during the astronomy course in the UP.

“In the Bible, God asks Solomon what he needs most to become king,” said Olenick. “Solomon answered, ‘Give me an understanding heart.’ All faculty at UD strive for this, I believe, and I am very honored that the Clarks have endowed this fund in my name because it allows us to reach out to our students with understanding hearts.

“The Lord bestowed faith in the Clarks,” he added, “and this allows us to carry out our mission more fully.”

“It’s different when your kids go to college,” said Kathy Clark. “You don’t hear all about their teachers the way you do when they’re younger. But we knew about the two of you. You impacted him more than you’ll ever know. Thank you for all that you did for our son in the short time we had with him.”

“When I think about the great teachers I’ve had,” added Barry Clark, “I think of the teachers who saw more potential in me than I saw in myself, who made me do more work than I thought I was capable of doing, as I believe the two of you did for Zach.”

Clark quoted Zach’s favorite musical, Wicked: “I am who I am today because of you.”

“Zach was unique,” he said.

The Clarks presented Maguire and Olenick each with the gift of a sculpture of a cardinal on a cross. 

“The cardinal is God’s symbol of passion, strength and perseverance,” explained Kathy Clark. “It’s the symbol of hope in our hearts. Every time I see a cardinal, I know Zach is thinking of me; I know he’s close.”

“I’m grateful to Barry and Kathy for establishing two faculty excellence funds in loving memory of their son in honor of two legendary professors,” said Vice President for University Advancement Jason Wu Trujillo. “Father Maguire and Dr. Olenick have had a profound impact on Zach and generations of other UD students and alumni. With the financial assistance made available through these funds, UD faculty will continue to do so in the future.” 

To learn more about establishing your own endowed faculty excellence fund or contributing to the growth of these established funds, please contact Assistant Vice President for Development Kris Muñoz Vetter at kmunozvetter@udallas.edu. To learn more, visit our endowed faculty excellence funds page.

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Oct 28, 2020

“She was a very JOYFUL person, and still smiling the last time I saw her, at John Alvis’ funeral here at UD, because she had just received her leg prosthesis and hoped to walk again after a...

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