In Memoriam

Burton R. Clark, professor emeritus of education, dies at age 88

|
Burton R. Clark, renowned educator, researcher, and professor emeritus of education in the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies (GSE&IS), died in Los Angeles on Oct. 28 at the age of 88 after a long illness. Widely acknowledged as one of the great sociologists of higher education, Clark made substantial contributions to virtually every area of the field, thereby defining its study for generations.
 
In his recent work, he focused on the comparative analysis of national systems of higher education and their specific forms of university organization, as well as on the transformation and sustainability of proactive, entrepreneurial universities around the globe.
 
“Professor Clark’s death is a great loss to us all,” said Aimée Dorr, dean of GSE&IS. “He was one of the first researchers to view American colleges and universities as communities and over the past five decades developed insightful, provocative work that has laid the foundation for future studies in the field of social science research in higher education.”
 
Clark began his study of sociology at UCLA, where he received a B.A. in 1949 and a Ph.D. in 1954. During the course of a long and distinguished career, he taught at five leading American research universities: Stanford (sociology, 1953-1956), Harvard (education, 1956-1958), UC Berkeley (education, 1958-1966), and Yale (sociology, 1966-1980), where he served as chair. He returned to UCLA as the Allan M. Cartter Professor of Higher Education in 1980, chairing the Comparative Higher Education Research Group from 1980 to 1991 and publishing his seminal work, "The Higher Education System" in 1983.
 
“I can think of no one who has contributed to our field more than Bob Clark,” said Ann Morey, former vice president of the Postsecondary Education Division (J) of the American Educational Research Association. “His writings influenced our understanding and scholarship in higher education from its early beginnings as a field of study until today. His most recent work, 'On Higher Education: Selected Writings 1956-2006,' is a testament to his extraordinary career and achievements.” 
 
Clark’s early research concentrated on organizational studies of adult education, community colleges, and small private colleges. He later focused on universities and authored some of the earliest typologies of student and faculty cultures in them.
 
His 1973 article “Development of the Sociology of Higher Education” stands as a landmark contribution to the understanding of economic, political, and social class influences in the development of mass education. He also expanded the scope of his work internationally by looking at the ways institutions of higher education in other countries were coping with change.
 
Clark received the American College Testing Program Research Award in 1979 from the American Educational Research Association for his studies of American universities and colleges. The Association for the Study of Higher Education named him the first recipient of its Research Achievement Award in 1985, and three years later he accepted the first Distinguished Research Award of Division J, Postsecondary Education from the American Educational Research Association. In 1989 he was granted the Outstanding Book Award of the American Educational Research Association for his work, "The Academic Life," and in 1997 he received the Howard Bowen Distinguished Career Award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education.
 
In 1978, Clark was elected to the National Academy of Education, where he chaired its Section on Politics, Economics, Sociology and Anthropology of Education and served as vice president of the academy for the four years thereafter. He was president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, a fellow of the British Society for Research into Higher Education and a Distinguished Member of the European Association for Institutional Research in 1997. The following year, he received the Comenius Medal from UNESCO and was awarded honorary doctoral degrees from the universities of Strathclyde and Turku.
 
Clark was convinced that graduate students and young academics ought to “commit to qualitative, context-defined research” and that “research for use” combined with “research for understanding” yields more dependable analyses of higher education systems.
 
Gary Rhoades, a former postdoctoral student, remarked  “In the prime of his life, in transitioning to retirement and in handling the approach of his death, Bob was ever a model for how a fundamentally good human being should behave and be.”
 
Clark is survived by his wife, Adele, and his daughter, Adrienne Clark Chandhok.
Media Contact