Roderick Clarke, former teacher and headmaster of Canterbury School in New Milford, CT, died September 26 at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Utica, NY, of respiratory illness. He was surrounded by family and friends.
Rod was born on April 14, 1928, in Utica, the youngest child of Brian Warner and Mary Baker Clarke. He grew up in Utica and spent summers with his family in Barneveld, NY. Rod attended Utica Country Day School and graduated from Canterbury in 1946. He received a BA in history from Amherst in 1950 and an MA from Georgetown Univ. in 1952.
Rod’s career in education spanned nearly forty years, beginning with his appointment to the faculty of the Solebury School in New Hope, PA, in 1952, prior to joining Canterbury as a member of the history department in 1954. While foremost a teacher, he also held a number of administrative posts during his tenure, including director of studies and college counselor. In 1978, he was appointed headmaster, a role he served in until his retirement in 1990.
During his times as headmaster, he oversaw several successful capital campaign initiatives. A lifelong supporter of the arts, he helped create the Edward J. Duffy Family Gallery at Canterbury and led a modernization of the school’s musical instruction studios.
In 1984, Rod was recognized by Georgetown Univ. for his many achievements in the field of education and, with playwright Athol Fugard and the dancer Cynthia Gregory, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at the Georgetown commencement ceremony.
In retirement he served Amherst as a devoted Class agent and, as a member of the St. Francis Xavier parish in New Milford, CT, taught a preparation class for acceptance into the Catholic Church. He was awarded the Canterbury Medal for distinguished service to the school in 1995.
Known for his warm spirit, good wit, and welcoming nature, Rod maintained a close association with the Canterbury community and with decades of varied friendships. A childhood victim of polio, Rod touched many with his personality and a sense of identity that forgot, and made others forget, any notion of his handicap.
He is survived by his sisters Margaret Howland and Kate Cardamone, his brother Brian and sister-in-law Ann Clarke, and his brothers-in-law James Kernan and the Honorable Richard Cardamone. Rod was predeceased by his sisters Marietta von Bernuth and Agnes Kernan, his brother William Tyler Clarke, and his niece Phoebe Clarke. He is also survived by twenty-three nieces and nephews and many friends.
As Rod’s freshman year roommate, I couldn’t resist the chance November 11 to take partial leave of him at a memorial celebration of his life at the Canterbury School. If I understood correctly the Latin of the Canterbury School song, its theme is pretty close to “Terras Irradient,” a poke Rod cheerfully took from both his alma maters. Among others in the packed school chapel were Rod’s Amherstian cousins Cartan Clarke ’51 and Dick Clarke ’52, and his former Canterbury student Tom Gerety, who had recalled Rod’s teaching in his 1994 inaugural address as Amherst’s president. Rod’s wit and warm hospitality left it easy to overlook the wooden crutches and metal leg braces to which polio had committed him since the age of six. His big brother Brian recalled having carried a pre-teen Rod piggyback through a Boston museum, during which Rod insisted on pauses “in front of every damned painting.” That and other shared eulogies put a fine spin on the refrain of our closing hymn: “Glory! Glory! Halleluja! His truth is marching on.”
—Edge Quaintance ’50
—Willie McCormick ’50