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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Milestone Makers

Jeff and Loretta Clarke

Jeff and Loretta Clarke graduated from UTSA more than 20 years ago, yet they remain committed to ensuring that students have greater access to higher education, strengthening the university’s capabilities and providing an environment where students want to be.

"We were both first–generation college graduates and the opportunities we have had are a result of going to college," said Loretta ’87, and they are focused on providing other first–generation collegians with the same prospect.

"As long as there are great quality professors and there is a great curriculum and energy, then the kids can learn and that is what is going to make a difference," added Jeff ’86.

The couple, who met at UTSA, credit their years at the university for the people they are today. After Jeff earned a B.S. in electrical engineering, he embarked on a 25–year career at Dell, where he is now vice chairman and president of the company’s global operations and end User Computing Solutions. Loretta earned her B. S. in physical education, then taught at Esparza Elementary School in San Antonio while earning her master’s in early childhood education. She later earned her doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas at Austin.

"UTSA was a place where I sort of found myself," Jeff said. "I was trained well, taught well, I knew I could compete against anyone, and I had the confidence to do so. The leadership skills I developed there paid dividends in my career."

So they give back to the university. They began by giving their time by serving as alumni association board members. Their first monetary gift was in 1992.

In 2003, they gave $500,000, which they divided in half to create two professorships: The Robert E. Clarke Jr. Distinguished Professorship in Electrical Engineering, named after Jeff’s father, and the Loretta J. Lowak Clarke Distinguished Professorship in Health and Kinesiology. at the time, it was the single largest alumni gift to the university.

After learning of the $120 million capital campaign goal, the Clarkes contributed $1 million to establish two additional professorships, one in the College of Education and Human Development—named in honor of her mother, Henrietta Frances Zezula Lowak—and another in the College of Engineering named after Jeff’s mother, Mary Lou Clarke.

As an educator, Loretta felt it imperative for her to support the College of Education and Human Development. Doing so also supports UTSA becoming a Tier One university.

"Having two endowed professorships in the College of Education and Human Development provides essential support for recruiting and retaining exceptional faculty," said Dean Betty Merchant. "At a time when public schools and colleges of education in particular are receiving so little support, Loretta’s personal and financial contributions to the college have significantly enhanced our ability to respond to the critical issues associated with education, health and wellness."

Jeff directs his gifts to the College of Engineering "to provide labs and the ability to hire the right professors to bring higher–quality students and develop and nurture them so the potential they have gets unleashed and realized in society."

The gift has been "nothing short of tremendous," said Mauli Agrawal, Dean of the College of Engineering. he also noted that Jeff’s professional success pays dividends that are intangible but no less important to a university serving many first-generation college students.

"He is a tremendous role model for our students," Agrawal said.

As UTSA continues to grow in size, it is also maturing in stature. Students should have an opportunity to access the quality education that the university is becoming known for, the Clarkes said.

"We feel that our education at UTSA was such a sound basis and foundation for all our successes both educationally and professionally," Loretta said. "We just want the same for all the kids who probably struggle to be able to afford school."

Asian Festival turns 25


Amid crashing cymbals, pounding drums and popping firecrackers, participants greeted the Chinese new year at the 25th Annual Asian Festival at the Institute of Texan Cultures on Jan. 28.

This year, the Year of the Dragon celebration featured groups from across a variety of Asian cultures, including mainland China, Korea, Japan, the Indian subcontinent and the islands of the Pacific Ocean. The groups shared their heritage through food, music and dance, cooking demonstrations, martial arts demonstrations and crafts.

Poetic Perfection

poetic perfection

Carmen Tafolla has been named San Antonio’s first poet laureate. Tafolla, a senior lecturer in the Department of Bicultural–Bilingual Studies, is an acclaimed writer and award–winning author of children’s literature.

In 1976 Tafolla published Get Your Tortillas Together, a project she collaborated on with two other poets. She was the head writer for Sonrisas, a bilingual children’s program, and published Curandera, a collection of poems, after earning her doctoral degree in bilingual education from the University of Texas at Austin. Curandera is still used as a textbook in high schools and colleges.

Viva Italia

Viva Italia

UTSA has partnered with one of the oldest universities in Italy for a four–week summer course, The Classical World, to be based at the Università Degli Studi di Siena.

To be taught jointly by professors from both schools, the course will engage students in hands–on study of classical antiquity and explore major themes of the anthropology of the ancient world.

It is the first time that the school, founded as a public university in 1240, has allowed an American university to teach a course on the Siena campus for college credit toward an American degree without requiring an academic transfer.

Solar Power (To the People)

With the flick of an electronic switch, solar panels recently installed on two Main Campus buildings began generating energy and savings.

A $1.08 million federal stimulus grant, UTSA’s first for clean energy, will mean a solar photovoltaic project that is expected to reduce the university’s carbon dioxide emissions by up to 273,661 pounds annually, generate 237 megawatt hours of energy and also realize nearly $86,000 a year in energy cost savings.

Already, the Downtown Campus’ Durango Building is having its solar panel array installed. also slated are 10 electric vehicle charging stations, eight on the Main Campus and two at the Downtown Campus.

Tsin Honored at White House

Andrew Tsin with President Obama

Andrew Tsin, professor of biochemistry and physiology, was the only Texan among the nine people who received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering mentoring from President Barack Obama at the White House in November.

The award recognizes the role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science and engineering, particularly those who belong to groups underrepresented in those fields. Tsin, a nationally recognized biochemist with a 30–year record of mentoring minorities, received $25,000 from the National Science Foundation.


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