Meet Loretta Clarke ’87, ’90. A great supporter of UTSA and its College of Education and Human Development, this alumna is a lifelong champion and ambassador for education. Her husband Jeff Clarke is also a UTSA alumn, graduating from the College of Engineering in 1986.
Clarke’s love for education began at an early age. Growing up, she was surrounded by educators in her family, notably an aunt who was a long-time teacher and an uncle who worked as a teacher and principal.
“I have always enjoyed teaching, particularly helping educate school-aged kids,” Clarke said. “Teaching runs in my family, and it’s something that I’ve been blessed to be able to do in my career.”
When Clarke chose to pursue her education degree at UTSA, the university was much different than it is today. Nevertheless, she found a sense of independence as a college student.
“UTSA was my first real experience with being and succeeding on my own,” Clarke said. “As a result, the UTSA community has always felt like a second home to me, and I feel very connected to it.”
Clarke graduated from UTSA with a bachelor of science in physical education in 1987 and her master’s in early childhood education in 1990. She said the many overwhelmingly positive experiences she had engaging with and learning from COEHD faculty helped shape her teaching style and dedication to early childhood education.
The professors were very caring and invested in our success as students and future educators,” Clarke said. “They were great role models for my life as an educator. They taught me that if you care about your students and their success, then they in turn will do their best for you.”
After graduation, Clarke kept in touch with UTSA and COEHD and served as an alumni ambassador.
In 2003, Clarke, along with her husband and fellow UTSA alumnus, Jeff ’86, gave $500,000 to create two professorships: The Robert E. Clarke Jr. Distinguished Professorship in Electric Engineering and the Loretta J. Lowak Clarke Distinguished Professorship in Health and Kinesiology. At the time, it was the single largest alumni gift UTSA had ever received.
In 2012, the couple gave again, this time $1 million to establish two professorships: the Mary Lou Clarke Distinguished Professorship for Leadership in Electrical Engineering and the Henrietta Zezula Lowak Endowed Distinguished Professorship. The latter is named after Clarke’s mother.
COEHD Dean Betty Merchant was the first recipient of the Henrietta Zezula Lowak Endowed Distinguished Professorship.
“Dr. Loretta Clarke has been incredibly supportive of the COEHD – as an alumnus, ambassador and donor,” Merchant said. “She has consistently demonstrated her faith in our college, our mission and our ability to make a significant positive impact on the lives of educators and health professionals. We will always be grateful to her for her support and encouragement of our faculty and students.”
Clarke adds, “In addition to knowing that my gifts are making a real impact, getting to know Betty Merchant has been great. It’s like icing on the cake. She’s fantastic and cares so much about the education of the college’s students.”
Since Clarke’s time as a student, UTSA has grown significantly. New buildings and residence halls have been built and new colleges, degrees and departments have been created. And, of course, a UTSA Roadrunners football team – something that makes Clarke particularly pleased as a strong supporter of the university.
“It’s been nice to see how UTSA has grown,” Clarke said. “The university football team is pulling the UTSA community tighter together, even pulling in people from the greater San Antonio community who may not have gone to UTSA to create a lot of community pride.”
Clarke wants to help foster growth of the UTSA community. Her connection to UTSA is so strong, she said, she wants to help create similar connections in past, current and future students.
“I want all students to receive the type of education that I received at UTSA,” Clarke said. “I encourage all past and future alumni to stay connected to the university and see how it evolves. UTSA is and always will be a part of their life.”
– Jesus Chavez