Remarks at the Dedication of Clark King Hall
More about the Dedication
7 December 2007
General Knapp, General Morgan, members of the King Family, ladies and gentlemen…good afternoon and welcome again to this dedication luncheon in honor of Clark King. We have had considerable discussion whether Clark preferred Coach or Dr….and perhaps the answer is either, dependent on the time of one’s association. My relationship was one of him being my backfield coach…, so “Coach” just seems appropriate. I hope that does not offend anyone.
Today we will answer a hope expressed by Coach King some five years ago. He once said…, “Being trusted with the responsibility for teaching and training young men is a high honor and very rewarding. When it is over, it is my hope that it mattered that I worked here.” … I am struck by the modesty of that statement from such an influential, inspiring gentleman, mentor, and teacher. All of us hope the same for ourselves, but few will achieve their wish to such a high degree that Clark King did in his 38 years as a coach, faculty member, and administrator at the Institute. Yes, indeed, it mattered very much that Coach Clark King “worked here,” and there are legions of alumni who will attest to that.
We often talk about “the VMI Man” – meaning now, of course, either a man or a woman. Normally, when talking about “the VMI Man,” we are talking about an alumnus … but sometimes – on rare occasions – we are talking about a special person who did not attend the Institute, but who displays all the qualities that we hope to find in a graduate of this Institute. In this sense, then, Clark King was a “VMI Man” – soldier, teacher, coach, mentor: a man of honor, courage, and integrity. It’s not often we can speak in such terms of an individual, but in Coach King’s case, these words only approximate who he was and what he was.
Colonel Gordon Calkins beautifully detailed, at the plaque unveiling and dedication, his incredibly rich life of 79 years, but allow me to review (again) a few aspects for “his” was a life of selfless service that left an indelible mark on his students and on the Institute.
Coach King was a mid-westerner, which may explain much about him. After service in two wars, he came to VMI as an assistant football coach in 1952, first serving as an end coach under Head Coach Tom Nugent, and then as a backfield coach under Head Coach John McKenna. In those days, VMI played one-platoon football. Coach King was instrumental in developing some of VMI’s finest offensive and defensive backs…and he was splendid in assisting Coach McKenna with game day strategy and offensive play calling.
On the 15th of September, 1963, Coach King left the varsity football field and became an associate professor of physical education, director of physical training, and Head of the VMI Physical Education Department. He would remain in that department for the next 28 years, where he labored tirelessly to establish programs that built the health, strength, and confidence of cadets. With him, “a sound mind in a sound body” were not just words; they were a way of life. Coach King became “Dr. King” in 1970 when he was awarded a Doctorate in Education from the University of Virginia’s Department of Counselor Education.
We would be here for quite some time if I were to review all the work he did for the larger community, serving on boards and committees to make Lexington and Rockbridge a better, and more beautiful place. Two deserve mention for their long-term benefit of VMI and the wider community: he was a moving spirit behind the acquisition and development of the “Chessie Trail,” and, he strongly supported VMI’s innovative “College Orientation Workshop,” created by Eugene Williams ’74.
Over the years, in addition to his duties with the Department of Physical Education, Coach King took on many related responsibilities as the Institute worked to meet the changing needs and challenges of new generations of cadets, and as the Institute took on a more public role. In 1971, he was appointed Director of the VMI Summer School, which greatly benefited cadets who needed to find a summer program whose schedule would allow them to attend ROTC summer camp. Also in 1971, as a reflection of the new challenges of the times, he was named Chairman of the Institute’s Drug Committee, expanding that into the Drug and Alcohol Committee in 1982. In 1975, he was named Director of Continuing Education, with responsibility for the Summer Session, the VMI Evening College, the VMI Foreign Study Programs, and media instruction -- including radio and television -- conferences, short courses, workshops, summer camps, and other special programs -- enough work and responsibility for a half dozen individuals. If that were not enough, in the mid-1980s, he was named Chairman of the Long-Range Academic Planning Committee that contributed to the development of assessment programs and funding priorities.
Did he leave an impression on cadets? Did he change their lives, for the better? Yes, indeed.
Coach King received the VMI Distinguished Service Award in 1983 for his” extraordinary contributions to the life of the Institute.” He retired in 1991. And, in 1997, he was elected an honorary alumnus of VMI by the Alumni Association Board, an honor that had been granted only 22 times in the Institute’s history.
And so, in answer to his expressed hope “that it would matter that he worked at VMI”, I can confidently say that VMI would not be what it is today without Coach and Dr. Clark King’s enormous contributions to the health and welfare of the Corps of Cadets. We honor him today by the dedication of Clark King Hall, but his real monument is to be found in the “well-being” of countless alumni who continue to follow his guidance and teaching in the conduct of their lives. I am confident Coach King would be humbled, yet appreciative, by this dedication turnout today…a grouping of his family, closest friends, co-workers, and admirers.