On this Christmas day, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a professor who has had a profound impact on my academic path and life in general.
I just learned that Eugene Clark, one of the most amazing science teachers and incredible human beings I’ve ever had the opportunity to cross paths with in my life, has just passed away. He’s had a huge impact on my education. I took three concurrent enrollment classes (classes registered through a local university for college credit) from him in high school, and a couple of geology classes from him at BYU. I remember him most fondly for making the football players in my high school geology class carry me on field trips when I was recovering from foot surgeries. For his hand-made de-motivational posters and his wry sense of humor. For driving a motorcycle to work instead of a car to save fuel and leave a better impact on the environment. For encouraging young men and young women to be respectful of one another, and for advocating and teaching a sense of profundity in co-educational teamwork. And for his testimony of the Gospel in the little things he mentioned like how he and his wife liked to go to the temple for date nights to do sealings.
He cared so much about his students’ individual learning needs and instilled a love of physics, engineering, astronomy, and geology in me that has enriched my life. In his physics class in high school, I got to work with a team of other students to build, and fire shot puts from, a life-size working trebuchet. Going to Costa Rica with a high school class to learn about volcanoes and hike through rain forests was a life-changing experience for me. He encouraged me to pursue geology at BYU and to apply for a department scholarship that eased the burden of educational expenses my first semester. If he hadn’t invited me to work as a teaching assistant for some of his labs at BYU, I might not have made the push through my social anxiety to build confidence in teaching content I had already learned to others.
As I have applied to graduate schools many times in more recent years since graduating from BYU, he has always been willing to write letters of recommendation for me whenever I’ve asked him. This year when I reached out, I learned from his daughter that he came home early from an LDS mission he and his wife were serving and has been battling cancer for the better part of this year. I have learned that he passed away just a few days ago. I, and many students whom this man has taught over the years, will sorely miss him. His humble and sincere influence for good in our lives is beyond measure.
Brother Clark, thank you for all that you have done for us many, many students, and God be with you ’til we all meet again.