Rose Wine was experiencing doubts. The first-year English major sensed herself growing detached from Clark University and entertained thoughts of transferring to another institution. She reached out to President David Angel, who as her First-Year Intensive instructor also served as her adviser. They met one afternoon in The Bistro to sort through her concerns.
“His approach wasn’t what I expected,” Wine recalls. “He said he would write me a glowing letter of recommendation if I chose to transfer, but he wanted me to try something first. He’d reached out to two professors and a student in the English Department who he believed were very much like me, and he asked that I connect with them before I make a decision.”
She took his advice.
“From the moment I made those important connections, things started to fall into place for me at Clark,” says Wine, who graduated this spring and who is planning a career in nonprofit management. “Without that conversation with David Angel, I might never have stayed.”
“I think we take some things for granted at Clark. One of those things is that we’ve had a president who cares about the people of Clark on a very human level.”
Read more about David Angel’s Clark legacy:
The Clark Board of Trustees took nothing for granted when they selected David Angel to succeed John Bassett in 2010 as Clark’s ninth president. Since his arrival in 1987 with a newly minted doctorate in geography from UCLA, the London native had progressed from professor to dean of graduate studies to provost. His talents as a teacher, researcher, and administrator were well-established, his devotion to Clark unassailable.
But there was something else. Ross Gillman ’81, current chair of the Board of Trustees who served on the search committee for Bassett’s successor, recalls that during the search process Angel expressed the vision of a Clark University poised to become a transformative force in higher education. Clark would empower its students to think creatively and critically, and to move with confidence as they pursued lives and careers of consequence. To accomplish this, the academic experience needed to connect students with the world beyond the classroom earlier and in more meaningful ways than was typical.
The message resounded with trustees, faculty, alumni, and students.
“From the beginning, David possessed a strong and deep love and vision of who the University is, and who we can be,” Gillman says. “I can’t imagine Clark would be in the healthy position we’re in if we’d had a different leader.”
Following a 33-year career on campus, Angel is retiring from Clark on June 30. He will be succeeded by David Fithian, the former executive vice president at the University of Chicago and a member of the Clark University Class of 1987.
From the outset of his career, Angel has championed the ways Clark’s intimate size and diversity of thought offer ripe opportunities for collaboration across disciplines and with business and community partners. He sees how those interactions shape a learning and research community — both at the undergraduate and graduate levels — that crackles with possibilities.
His own scholarship has informed his attitudes. Angel has researched the complexities around the greening of economies in rapidly industrializing nations, developing an early awareness of the emerging challenges related to climate change. He also merged his specialty of economic geography with the expertise of environmental scientist Halina Brown and professor of philosophy Patrick Derr to co-author a book detailing Poland’s success in promoting a healthier environment while nurturing economic growth.
“Everybody talks about interdisciplinary research, but very few institutions or individuals know how to do it. Clark is good at it,” Brown says. “To be successful we had to continuously learn from each other. On that count, I greatly enjoyed working with David. He’s a great teacher and student, and a rigorous scholar.”
As provost, Angel worked with faculty and administrative partners to form an undergraduate curriculum that broadens and deepens a student’s base of knowledge while developing the necessary skills needed to thrive in the world and workplace. Matt Malsky, professor of music and then-chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department, participated in a task force convened by Angel to draft the blueprint for a model of liberal education that would be both foundational and dynamic — something, Angel said, “attuned to the profound changes underway in our economy, our society, and our democracy.” The model would come to be known as Liberal Education and Effective Practice, or LEEP.
“We looked at the kinds of things unique to Clark,” Malsky recalls. “Our version of liberal education possessed a certain complexity that allowed students to fashion their own paths with the support of faculty. David saw that Clark should not only remain devoted to liberal education, but that we should say this loudly and proudly in the face of national discourse where it wasn’t always easy to take this stand. He was true to the institution, and to what we wanted to accomplish.”
On February 29, 2012, Leap Day, Clark launched Liberal Education and Effective Practice with a campus conversation and celebration that concluded with students, staff, and faculty taking turns to spring from a stage onto a mat once used by high-jumpers — their brief flights captured on camera for posterity. Joining the celebrants in a leap that day was President David Angel.
“LEEP reaffirms the hallmarks of a Clark education, including our passion for the liberal arts, the opportunity to work closely with faculty who are leaders in their fields, and the drive to mobilize knowledge and education to make a difference in the world,” Angel told the campus.
The learning model not only built on Clark’s strengths, it also introduced new facets to the curriculum, like Problems of Practice courses and a capstone requirement, which amplified and expanded the academic experience.
“Liberal education in this country needs to advance,” Angel says today. “We have to continue to intentionally and systematically develop the skills of effective practice, problem-solving, creativity, and compassion — and we’ve built a very powerful curriculum around this idea.”
President Angel also committed resources to create the Career Connections Center, which has reimagined and reenergized Clark’s efforts in the area of career planning for students. “It’s not enough for our students to be well educated,” Angel insists. “They need to be launched.”
Liberal Education and Effective Practice was, indeed, a leap — albeit a leap that was keenly conceptualized, thoughtfully planned, and communal.
“We needed to be willing to move from the existing model of liberal education to something that was much bolder, much more transformative,” he says. “We had the courage to reinvent.”
May 31 marked the conclusion of the most ambitious and successful fundraising campaign in Clark University history. Campaign Clark rallied donor support from across a spectrum of Clarkies, most notably from ardent alumni, to raise more than $155 million, well beyond the initial goal of $125 million. The gifts fund an array of needs like student scholarships, faculty research, and academic programs.
The campaign reflects the judicious stewardship practiced by Angel, who leaves Clark with the University on sound financial footing. During his tenure, the endowment grew from $267 million to $461 million (as of December 31, 2019). Clark’s credit ratings were upgraded by both Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. University debt fell from $81 million to $59 million.
Last year, Clark recruited one of its largest-ever undergraduate classes: 665 students from 38 states and 25 countries. The University’s graduate programs also have boomed in recent years thanks largely to a revitalized School of Professional Studies, featuring a broadened, more market-responsive slate of programs.
Capital improvements in President Angel’s tenure have changed the face and function of key parts of campus. With the support of a generous gift from Bill ’76 and Jane ’75 Mosakowski, and through negotiations with the city of Worcester, Clark in 2012 reconfigured the north end of campus with the closure of a portion of Downing Street and the construction of a pedestrian plaza in its place. The project knit together the campus and resolved a long-standing safety hazard.
Clark’s newest building, the Shaich Family Alumni and Student Engagement Center, opened in August 2016 as a hub for essential student services, a gathering spot for alumni, trustees, and community groups, and home to many offices vital to University operations. While the building’s aesthetics declare itself a 21st-century space — its appearance a departure from the neighborhood’s former mills and triple-deckers — the Center was planned and constructed with great care and sensitivity to the surrounding Main South neighborhood. The construction coincided with significant improvements to adjoining University Park that were partly funded by Clark.
“The Main Street building strengthens the ties with the community,” says Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus. “It’s just another example of how Clark’s presidents over the years have valued the university’s role in the community and what a mutually beneficial partnership this has been. Worcester is certainly going to miss David. He left his mark on this city.”
As his time in the presidency draws to a close, David Angel can reflect on the range of partnerships that have proven indispensable, and which have provided sources of inspiration nd momentum for him and for Clark. His most important partner, he says, is his wife, Jocelyne Bauduy, who, with their sons Sebastien and Julien, has long understood the demands of the presidency and the time and energy required to meet them.
Angel came from the ranks of the faculty — a rarity for a college president. He maintains an abiding appreciation for the crucial role of faculty governance in Clark’s success, and for the intellectual and creative heft of the University’s teachers and researchers, their collaborative spirit, and their unflagging attention to the education and well-being of their students.
He has worked with four chairs of the Clark Board of Trustees, Bill Mosakowski, Peter Klein ’64, Steve Swain ’89, and Ross Gillman. “I’ve been blessed with having a sequence of very successful partnerships with the board chairs,” he says. “They are all deeply committed to Clark, and have been central to its success.”
Engaging and reengaging alumni has been important to him, particularly as alumni come forward to share their expertise and energies on various leadership and parent councils and through the ClarkCONNECT career-mentoring platform. Angel delights in the confluence of alumni passion and student achievement exemplified by Steve Steinbrecher ’55, who funds the Steinbrecher Fellowship Program that allows undergraduates to conduct original research anywhere in the world.
As the work of Clark continues, alliances, friendships, and fellowships are pivotal to the future of the University, because there is more work to be done.
“The way in which research and student learning comes together at Clark — in the lives of the students and in the lives of the faculty — is something we’ve reexamined throughout my time here,” Angel says. “We are a research university that’s the size of a liberal arts college, which is as true today as it was when I came here in 1987, but we’ve constantly explored ways to do things better.
“What a journey it’s been.”
There are challenges with every college presidency. Economies surge and ebb. Social movements roil campuses. New technologies disrupt how the business of higher education is done.
In the final months of David Angel’s presidency, the COVID-19 crisis altered every facet of university life. As the pandemic raced around the globe, Angel, in concert with the Board of Trustees and his administrative team, made the difficult yet necessary decisions to move students out of the residence halls, initiate online learning, and reimagine the commencement ceremony — then begin planning for the various scenarios under which Clark would resume operations.
The president’s response to the crisis was thoughtful and sure, say the people who worked alongside him. Gillman regards Angel’s performance in facing this historic challenge to be emblematic of his 10 years of Clark leadership, and one of his finest moments. “It’s been quite remarkable,” Gillman says. “I’ve always been impressed by David’s leadership, but no more so than the way he’s guided the University with a sound and sober voice. He’s examined the ways the crisis is impacting Clark, and he’s worked through it for the benefit of the students and for the entire Clark community.
“The decisions David has made have been moral, ethical, and appropriate.”
Or, as David Angel’s former advisee Rose Wine might put it, very human.