Dr. H. Eric Clark, Ed.D. '83 – President at Loyola Academy, SLUH Board member and former administrator, and a leader in Jesuit education nationally – was recognized on April 25, 2022 with the Backer Award. The highest honor granted by SLUH, the Backer Award recognizes extraordinary alumni who have fulfilled the Jesuit Catholic mission of the school by serving "above and beyond" in their communities, professions and their church.
Throughout his time at SLUH (1993-2008), Dr. Clark served as Administrative Coordinator for the Minority Action Plan, Psychology Teacher, Student Council Moderator, Coordinator of the Work Grant Program, Assistant Principal for Student Welfare & Discipline, Summer School Principal, Dean of Students and Assistant Principal for Student Affairs.
Following is an article from the SLUH Magazine archive featuring Dr. Clark.
Grace and Gratitude Mark Eric Clark’s Legacy as School Leader
On May 7, 2008, more than 1,000 Jr. Billikens convened for the final all-school liturgy of the year. It was a formal attire day, but an unusual number of students were wearing suspenders.
Dr. Eric Clark ’83, who was serving as the Asst. Principal for Discipline and Student Welfare at the time, was fond of formal attire days. He liked to dress sharply, sometimes with a tie, sometimes with a bow tie, and always with suspenders. Clark’s license plates on his car read (and still do read), “LKNGD,” short for “looking good.”
The students were dressed in suspenders to show their appreciation for Clark, who was leaving SLUH to serve as the President and Principal at Loyola Academy, a Jesuit middle school for boys in the City of St. Louis.
A brief presentation honoring Clark followed the liturgy. An emotional Clark made some remarks as well. He ended his talk by addressing the students, telling them, “You guys are looking good.” The entire student body rose with a long, thunderous applause.
The event poignantly illustrated how Clark, over his 16 years as an administrator, teacher and moderator, earned the respect, trust and admiration of his students and colleagues alike.
For Clark, it was more than just looking good. He wanted his students to feel good on the inside and take pride in themselves. Clark most enjoyed working with the “trouble kids,” as he refers, those who were less popular, those with poor grades and who frequently served JUG. He never tolerated bullying and was the self-proclaimed “defender of the underdogs.”
“I always wanted SLUH to be a place where all students, regardless of their differences, felt welcome,” says Clark.
He posted a sign on the front of his office, welcoming students to talk to him about any matter. Students frequently took him up on his offer.
Driven by Mission
Today, Clark is applying his “defender of the underdogs” approach as President of Loyola Academy. The school, which was started by former SLUH President Paul Sheridan, SJ, prepares low-income students for college prep schools.
Approximately 60 students in sixth through eighth grades attend Loyola. More than 90 percent of the student population is at or below the federal poverty level, and more than 80 percent of the students live in single-parent settings. The school follows the Nativity School model, which aims to break the cycle of poverty through faith-based education and extended school days and years.
It was difficult to leave SLUH, Clark says, but he felt called by God to make the move after a few invitations and to “stretch” himself more. He continues to be mission-driven at Loyola.
“I enjoy going to work every day,” says Clark. “I look forward to it. I like helping to mold these young kids into becoming Men for Others.”
Clark blends intensity and passion for his profession with a gentle nature that is sensitive to the needs of his students. Through his leadership, Loyola continues to be successful in helping young scholars realize their potential.
The average Loyola student, through the course of three years at the school, raises his Iowa Test of Basic Skills score by 10-12 percentile points – a major improvement, especially when many students from similar backgrounds experience declining scores during middle school years. Moreover, 94 percent of its alumni are currently enrolled in or have graduated from high school. Many of these young men are enrolled in local college prep high schools, including SLUH.
Among his accomplishments at Loyola, Clark is “most proud that many Loyola alumni have gone on to attend the U. High.”
Loyola alumni are doing well and thriving as Jr. Billikens. For instance, Loyola alumnus William Edwards ’12 graduated from SLUH with distinction. He was an honors student (GPA exceeded 4.0), earned the Mac Boland Award, and studied pre-med at Loyola-Chicago.
Glowing with Gratitude
Clark’s favorite aspect of his job has always been attending graduation (both at SLUH and Loyola).
“I enjoy watching the gratitude on the faces of the students, especially those of the ‘trouble kids,’” he says. “It’s a blessing seeing them realize how far they have come and how much they have achieved.”
Gratitude is something familiar to Clark, a spiritually grounded man who has a keen awareness of his many God-given gifts. He glows with gratitude and is well known for saying, “I’m too blessed to be stressed.”
Clark, who serves on the SLUH Board of Trustees, remembers his alma mater with appreciation when reflecting on his past. As a Jr. Bill, he was on the football and track teams (later playing football at Truman State University).
“SLUH’s holistic approach to education provided me with all of the tools necessary to compete with anybody and succeed,” he says.
The “defender of the underdogs” continues to build on the success he achieved at the U. High, both as a student and an administrator, by keeping a balanced, grace-filled perspective and embracing the challenges he faces Loyola.
“I have the best job in the world,” he says. “I am blessed.”