By Marissa Bean
Many changes have come to Bridgewater State University in recent months, but no change has been as important as the search for a new university president.
After a search lasting more than six months, the Board of Trustees voted for Frederick W. Clark, Jr., Esq., to become the next president. His duties president of BSU will begin on July 1, 2015, following the retirement of current president Dana Mohler-Faria.
Clark was born in Brockton, but moved to West Bridgewater and Easton when he was young, and currently resides in Easton. He is one of six children. No one in his family attended college, but his parents expected that all of their children would graduate from college.
Clark and four of his siblings attended BSU. Four of them, including Clark, graduated from BSU, and the fifth graduated from Stonehill College. The sixth sibling graduated from what is now UMass Dartmouth, fulfilling their parents’ hope for them.
Clark attended BSU as an undergraduate student, majoring in political science. Although he commuted from Easton, he still found ways to be involved on campus.
“You have to work to engage as a commuter, and I was very involved with student clubs and organizations,” Clark said. “I was involved in student government, and I was on the student court at the time. I loved that experience. I was on the speech and debate team, the political science club, and I got involved in everything I could get involved with as much as possible, but I also worked, like most of our students do.”
“I worked at a lumber company, so it was challenging to go to class, work, try to be involved as a student, and try to take care of responsibilities at home,” Clark added.
Clark cited faculty involvement as the highlight of his undergraduate experience. “What was special about Bridgewater for me more than anything was the engagement I had with professors. The professors here are still the same type of people, in fact some of them are still here teaching,” he said. “They take an interest and they get involved, and they stay with you even after you graduate. It’s pretty special. That’s at the heart of the Bridgewater experience.”
Following his graduation in 1983, Clark began an internship working for Congressman John Joseph Moakley. He later worked for Moakley as a congressional aide. He graduated with a J.D. from Suffolk Law School.
His involvement with BSU did not end at graduation.
“I was asked by President Tinsley to be on the Board of Trustees, and I did that for eight years, and then after that I represented all nine state universities, including Bridgewater, with the Council of Presidents, and I was also the chair of the Board of Higher Ed, again representing Bridgewater State,” Clark said.
Clark returned to the BSU campus in 2011 as Executive Vice President and Vice President for External Affairs.
He said, “When President Mohler-Faria called me three years ago and asked me to come in as Vice President, I thought, ‘That makes sense
for me.’ I wouldn’t have done that for any institution, but I wanted to do it here because it’s so special to me, and it was another way for me to give back to a place that I love.”
Matthew Jepson, student trustee on the Board of Trustees, said that Clark’s connection with BSU had an impact on his personal vote.
Jepson said, “When interviewing him I was able to ask more in depth questions on specific issues on the campus currently and how he would have dealt with them. When I talked to students, they were definitely impacted and I brought that information to the board, that the entire student body was in support for Fred. Many students felt that Fred was a secure choice in a president because he knows the institution and its students.”
Jepson feels that Clark has certain qualities that set him apart from the other candidates, and that will help him succeed as president.
“Fred has an amazing story about his life and how BSU has been tied into it all the way. That set him apart from the beginning because he will not stop fighting for this institution,” Jepson said. “Fred also has many political ties within the state, he served under [Congressman] Joe Moakley and has been in the system since he graduated BSU. He served as the first chair of the Board of Higher Education, and also chair of the BSU Board of Trustees and in that time he elected President Mohler-Faria to office. He is a person who truly bleeds BSU and BSU pride.”
Even though his duties as president will not begin for several months, Clark has already considered the goals he plans to complete in his new role.
“I want to focus on student success,” Clark said. “It means keeping our classes small, it means making sure that we have good advising, it means making sure that we have high impact practices like study abroad, like internships or learning communities, so I will invest in student success. That’s critical for me.”
Despite the challenges, Clark knows what it is like to be a Bridgewater State student. His experience as a student will help him more than ever in the coming months and years as he begins his new role as university president.
“I understand where our students come from. I understand the challenges that they have. I understand how hard they work and how much they value a Bridgewater education and ultimately a Bridgewater degree because I’ve walked the same path as them. I know what it means to have a Bridgewater experience and I know what that experience means, not only to our students but to their families as well. I bring that awareness and I bring that passion to the job and for me it’s not really a job, it’s a labor of love,” Clark said.
Marissa Bean is a Comment staff writer. Follow her on Twitter at @MarLaur16.