By Kristen Griffith, The Whetstone
It seemed like Wesley College’s new president, Robert E. Clark II, barely has enough breath to get out all he wants to say.
From tossing around ideas about Wesley College’s future, to boasting about all the people he knows, it’s tough to keep up with him.
“I am a fan of opportunity,” Clark said. “I am a fan of potential. I am a fan of the Wesley College student body.”
In his office, he can’t hide the pride in his voice as he shows picture after picture on his computer of people he knows, from members of the rock band Kiss to Michelle Obama.
“I really like how the photographer captured this picture of us,” he said, referring to the First Lady.
In the picture, Clark is listening intently while Michelle Obama is speaking.
Clark officially became the 17th president of Wesley College on July 15 – and, he said, he couldn’t wait for the students to move in.
“The college took on a whole new aura since you all have arrived,” he said. “I haven’t stopped smiling since.”
Clark said the faculty, coaches and administration are his family.
“I am even more impressed by the sense of family on campus,” he said. “It’s small and inclusive, and everyone knows each other by name.”
Clark identified two staff members by name as he drove to his office in a white Buick, and noted how nice one was and how long the other had worked at Wesley.
“I like to be out and about,” he said.
Senior Rahson Morrison said he has never seen Clark.
“I hope he comes around more, like to football games,” he said. “I hope he interacts with the students, gets his name out there, and make everyone feel comfortable.”
Morrison said he hopes Clark has some of the qualities previous president of Wesley, William Johnston, had.
“When you hear ‘president’ it makes you feel like you’re in trouble,” he said. “Johnston didn’t make you feel like that. Johnston was cool.”
Clark said he likes to watch sports practices and games. He said he does not have a favorite team – he’s a fan of all of them and each of the players.
“You all put so much in your education, and you all put so much passion in the things you like to do,” he said.
Freshman Shawny’e Jones and his football teammates were invited to Clark’s house for ice cream during the preseason.
“It was a wonderful experience because a lot of people from higher up don’t talk to people below them,” he said.
After having a birthday dinner with his wife, Ruth Ann, on Sept. 1, Clark made sure to make it back to campus in time to see field hockey, soccer and volleyball games on the first day of the fall sport season.
“We made it to every one of the sporting events,” he said.
Clark said he and his wife have sampled many Dover restaurants, but nothing compares to the campus.
“My favorite place is right down the street at Wesley College,” he said.
Clark said everything he does and will do is about the students. He even referred to Whetstone reporters as his daughters.
“You’ll never find anybody that works harder and is more committed to the job,” Ruth Ann Clark said about her husband.
He said he appreciated his wife’s comment, “But the critique I want the most is from (the students),” he said.
Senior Taylor Lynch said Clark is already a great president.
“I wish this wasn’t my last year because I would love to see how much more progress he makes,” she said.
Lynch said she likes how Clark shows his support by attending her soccer practices and games.
“He’s just a pleasant man to be around,” she said.
Clark said he was concerned with the violence near campus, but said he has a plan to improve it.
“It is an opportunity to partner with the community and to be part of the solutions,” he said. “We will move our family forward to help heal the community and make them partner and move forward with us.”
Building a relationship with the community was one of the things on Clark’s to-do list, he said. Another is to extend Wesley into the downtown area.
“It’s all about what we can do to make [the student’s] experience brighter,” he said.
He said he is also looking forward to the future student activities center, which has yet to leave the planning stage.
“Great things await, and there is no doubt about that,” he said.
Clark only spent two years at the previous institution (Penn State) he worked for, but said he is not leaving Wesley any time soon.
“This is not a stepping board for somewhere else,” he said. “We came to be here for a long, long time.”
Whetstone reporter Brittany Wilson contributed to this report.