This is a tribute article but more to the future than the past.
My friend and mentor, Rich Clark, passed suddenly at 71 last month. Rich spent the first 18 years of his career as a religion teacher and administrator at Loyola Academy in Chicago, his alma mater. He moved to Cleveland to became principal of St. Ignatius High School where he led a growth spurt for this nationally recognized school.
Thanks to the 150 friends who completed our survey monkey. Your input, which will be summarized next month altered the course we will take starting 1.1.23. -Tim
Around 2002, inspired by his long-time friend, Father John Foley, SJ, Rich founded St. Martin de Porres in Cleveland’s inner city, the 5th of the now 38 school Cristo Rey network. Briefly, Cristo Rey schools get low-income kids ready for college using a brilliant and unique work-study concept for its students and benefactors.
Around 2017, having successfully transitioned leadership of the now 600+ student STMDP high school, he started thinking about helping regenerate faith-based inner-city grade schools through another unique model, this one based in New York City named Partnership Schools. He and his amazing team were up to four repurposed schools in the Cleveland network when Rich passed.
There’s the background, here’s the point. The greatest testimonial we can make to someone we will miss is to carry on their spirit. And so, when someone important to me passes, I list the things I admired most about them that I wish to carry on. In Rich’s case I want to:
- Approach my service to others with humor and a light heart. Rich was take-your-breath-away funny and his humor was always based in truth. Whether making fun of himself, me, or the byzantine structure of the Roman Catholic church he loved, humor lightened everyone’s load.
- I want to be a troublemaker. Rich’s disarming approach felt to many like the bull in the china shop but there was always strategy behind the sacrosanct bowls and teapots he broke.
- I’d like to be the alliance builder Rich was. His toughness and resilience turned friends into disciples and disciples into soldiers for the poor. His was a large island for (us) misfit toys.
Who have you lost that you admired and whose spirit you would be proud to carry? Write them down along with the trait that you most admired and then look them over occasionally.
The people whose traits I carry with me (in addition to Rich) include:
- My Mom’s inclusiveness
- My Dad’s steadfastness
- Father Norm Smith’s loyalty
- Jan McCoy McCarthy’s fearlessness
Those at Rich’s funeral were told the types of stories I wish to be told at my own homecoming. Many were funny but the most endearing one was this: when Rich would say goodbye to family or friends he would often say, “I love you…and there’s nothing you can do about it”.
Samuel Hoffenstein said, “hearts dead are never buried.” We buried Rich but his heart remains. In me.