Just a couple of years ago, Jack Foley, the retired vice president for government and community affairs at Clark, would have organized the unveiling of a new sign signifying that a portion of Woodland Street had been renamed in honor of a longtime employee.
But last Friday’s ceremony was different. Surrounded by family and friends, Clark employees and trustees, and representatives of Worcester city government, Foley watched as the wrapping was removed to reveal that the section of Woodland rising up to the center of campus from Main Street now bears the honorary title of Jack Foley Way.
President David Fithian noted that the corner of Woodland and Main Street — bounded by Annie’s Clark Brunch, St. Peter’s Church, and Clark University — exemplified Foley’s 45-year Clark career, throughout which he was instrumental in building fruitful partnerships throughout the Main South neighborhood.
“Jack is and always has been a tireless champion of Main South, a neighborhood that he embraced, emboldened, promoted, and loves,” Fithian said. “It is largely because of Jack’s efforts across the decades that Clark and the people of Main South have benefited from deep mutual respect and shared values.”
His work on behalf of Clark, in everything from community relations to COVID mitigation, was extraordinary and enduring, Fithian said. “Clark University was made immeasurably better by Jack’s 45 years of outstanding service, endless integrity, and a healthy dose of Irish humor. Jack is Clark scarlet to his core, and has always embodied our university’s highest ideals and standards as only a true Clarkie can.”
Worcester City Manager Eric Batista lauded Foley’s efforts to help create the University Park Partnership, which, in concert with neighborhood and city partners, has expanded educational, housing, and economic opportunities in Main South.
“Jack leaves a legacy of service, commitment, and integrity. He’s a true conduit of change who refused to settle for the status quo in rapidly evolving times. Jack Foley Way will be a reminder of his lasting connection to, and impact on, this community.”
State senators Michael Moore and Robyn Kennedy, MPA ’21, presented Foley with a citation from the Massachusetts Senate. In their remarks, both senators noted that when they were considering a career in politics, they were advised that the best way to learn about the local political landscape was to have a chat with Jack Foley.
“The way you opened the door for me makes me assume that there are many others you opened doors for and gave time to,” Kennedy said. “Generations of young people who came up in politics have a mentor in Jack Foley.”
Citing Foley’s 20 years of service on the Worcester School Committee before electing not to run for another term, current committee member Tracy O’Connell Novick (who served with Foley) noted that he never served for personal gain or attention and was a relentless advocate for others, “especially those who are marginalized.”
Clark Trustee Ross Gillman ’80 offered congratulations from the Board of Trustees, and recalled that he has been friends with Jack Foley and his wife, Robin, since he arrived on campus in 1977, when Foley was running Clark’s food service. Foley’s contributions to Clark have made a substantial impact across generations, he said.
“It’s not an overstatement to say that Jack’s tireless efforts on our behalf have made both Clark and our campus the place it is,” he said. “The renaming of this street couldn’t be a more appropriate honor.”
Following Gillman’s remarks, Lisa Gillingham, Foley’s longtime assistant, pulled a cord attached to the Clark University banner that had been draped over the Jack Foley Way sign, revealing the sign for the first time to the applauding crowd.
When he took the podium, Foley noted that it is particularly important to him that the street connects with the Jane ’75 and Bill ’76 Mosakowski Plaza, which was a transformative enhancement to campus.
Foley said Clark not only “played a pivotal role in my career, but it also shaped my life.” and thanked the many people who have played a role in both. He also recalled meeting Robin on campus, and how their three children, Brian, Lindsay, and Mara were welcomed into the Clark and Main South communities.
Foley recalled his family’s deep roots in Main South, dating back to his grandfather, who raised his family in the neighborhood. “I loved walking in the footsteps of my family with our work in this community,” he said. Under President Richard Traina, Clark became a true partner with Main South and a model for community-based planning “that we described as an alignment of enlightened self-interest toward common goals,” he said.
Foley said the neighborhood is nicely captured in the words of St. Peter’s Monsignor Frank Scollen: “Main South has character, and characters.”
“The fact that this community partnership has had such great successes over the past 40 years, and is poised so well to see Main South and Clark flourish in the future, is a testimony to the heart and soul of all who have been willing to take this chance to work together,” he said. “It has been my privilege and honor to be part of this great run and to be one of the characters of Main South.”