InterVarsity alumni – Dr. Mildred Clarke

Gordon Govier
January 11, 2008

New York City’s Brooklyn College (BC) InterVarsity chapter has received Honorable Mention recognition for Outstanding Club/Organization by the BC Division of Student Life and the Office of Student Development. Dr. Mildred Clarke, the chapter adviser, also received Honorable Mention for Adviser of the Year.

“Dr. Clarke has modeled leadership, faithfulness, courage, and compassion for many years in this chapter,” said New York City area director Jason Gaboury, himself a former campus staff member at Brooklyn College. “I can appreciate perhaps more than most the transformation God has worked in this chapter through the ministry of Dr. Clarke. As a volunteer she has done what full-time staff were not able to do.”

Dr. Clarke credited the chapter members for effectively engaging the campus, not an easy task at a commuter school with a high percentage of Jewish students. “The outreach can be pretty tough, in terms of responsiveness; not only the students but also the faculty,” she said. “For the school to recognize that we make a difference as a Christian organization, is a tribute to the chapter members.”

Dr. Clarke retired from her obstetrics/gynecology practice in 2001, after delivering over 5,000 babies. She first connected with InterVarsity as a student at Hunter College fifty years ago and renewed the connection over the years, chairing the missions committee of Calvary Baptist church as the church supported InterVarsity staff members. So it seemed like a good fit when then New York City area director Kevin Oro-Hahn invited her to be the chapter adviser for the struggling Brooklyn College chapter.

“When I first went there six years ago the chapter did not have a good relationship with the administrative structure,” Dr. Clarke said. “The students have developed a relationship with the administration, which now appreciates that they are on campus.

At a recent meeting the chairman of the African Studies department publicly said that he was happy that InterVarsity was on campus, to give the kind of balance that was necessary for student life.

The student leaders of the chapter are thankful to have an adviser that is so deeply involved with the chapter. “She has committed herself to being at every chapter meeting on campus, which takes place every Tuesday and Thursday during club hours,” said Keeshia Jean. “She opens up her home to the executive team once a week for leadership training and personal development. Dr. Clarke has cared for us like her very own grandchildren.”

Acknowledging her status as “a senior person,” Dr. Clarke relishes the intergenerational contact that she has with the students. After a career of dealing with mothers and infants, she is enjoying the opportunity to work with post adolescents.

“We have to learn who each other really is to accommodate each other,” she said. “They really have very little insight into what somebody from my generation is all about: the culture that we have, the values that we have, the purposefulness that we have.”

Dr. Clarke may not use the trendiest communication practices, but she knows how to communicate. “I love Dr. Clarke because, although she demands much from me, her love is real,” said Julene Wilson, a 2005 Brooklyn College graduate. “Above all, she continues to point me towards Christ. If I had not met Dr. Clarke, I would be an insecure, immature Christian, who is merely satisfied with being good and quoting Bible verses.”

Diane Rhoden, another Brooklyn College student, said that Dr. Clarke has been a superb role model for her as she works to become a physician. “Words cannot describe how much she has opened my eyes about the world we live in,” she said. “She is a real leader, and she listens to people. She really listens, and she still thinks way ahead of her time.”

Once a month the students set up an issue-oriented book table in the lobby of a lecture hall, or outdoors if the weather is accommodating. They’ve focused on topics like Darfur, the Iraq war and elections.

“It’s outreach to the college culture to show them that Christianity is a relevant and meaningful way of life,” Dr. Clarke said. “They try to show that being a Christian is just not reading scripture and having Bible study. It’s relationship, and it’s relevant to everyday problems of life.”

Dr. Clarke has participated in medical missions trips to several regions of the globe and continues to use her medical skills during retirement. Every summer she travels to the Mississippi delta region to work on a medical team that treats residents of the area.

Regional director Greg Jao calls Dr. Clarke “a wonderful example, serving with InterVarsity in what could be her retirement years.” InterVarsity’s regional office in New York City recently established an award to recognize alumni who live the values of InterVarsity’s mission statement. It is named for its first recipient, the Dr. Mildred Clarke Distinguished Alumni Award.

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