Wesley College welcomes 17th president

New Wesley College President Robert E. Clark II talks with students on campus.
July 1, 2015
As Dr. William N. Johnston retires from Wesley College in Dover this month, Capt. Robert E. Clark II, a former submarine commander and Naval Academy Commandant, will assume the helm as president. Clark was chosen from among 109 applicants for the position. 
“Mr. Clark’s innovative and collaborative leadership style is the perfect fit for Wesley College at this time in Wesley’s history,” said Board of Trustee chair and co-chair of the search committee Robert V.A. Harra Jr. “We welcome Bob and Ruth Ann Clark to Wesley and to Delaware.”
Why would a Navy Captain retiring after 30-plus years of service take on leadership of a small, church-related college? Students, faculty and staff may stand at ease — they will find Clark to be friendly, personable and passionate about his new opportunity.
In a telephone interview, Clark said, “I am very excited about Wesley’s future and the passion, as well as committed expertise, that is present in our leadership, faculty, staff, administration and coaches. Additionally, and most importantly, I look forward to working closely with the entire Wesley College family, as together we all have the privilege of molding and mentoring our nation’s future and national treasures…our student body.”
He continued, “I have had the honor of serving and leading several large and diverse organizations over the years... Although each leadership position has unique cultures, demands and challenges, a commonality/approach that I firmly believe in is that a leader is a facilitator for those whom he has the privilege of serving — ever mindful of their needs, and ensuring that they have the freedoms, materials, opportunities and support to succeed. Making decisions when needed and with the counsel of a diverse group of advisors, leadership is meant to empower, enable and improve the individual as well as the organization and community.”
Clark served as the 84th Commandant of midshipmen at the Naval Academy for more than three years, becoming the longest standing Commandant in the history of the Naval Academy. There he was responsible for the professional development and day-to-day activities of all 4,500 midshipmen in the brigade. Among the midshipmen were both of his sons. The older son, Andy, is now a Lieutenant Junior Grade. He and his wife live in San Diego, Calif., where he serves with the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Branch of the Navy Special Forces. The younger, Wes, recently commissioned, is an Ensign assigned to a destroyer in Norfolk.
Most recently, Clark has served as joint service coordinator for Pennsylvania State University while holding the academic rank of full professor. Clark said, “This is a unique assignment that has allowed me the opportunity to serve in a senior leadership role at a major university while I transition from active duty.”
Clark said what attracted him to Wesley College was its size, liberal arts and science focus, United Methodist Church affiliation and “the sense of family that abounds at Wesley.” He was familiar with Wesley, having given a speech in Dover several years ago and having explored the college during his younger son’s basketball recruitment. 
“When I was made aware of the presidential opening, it immediately piqued my interest. As the process unfolded and I learned more about Wesley College, and had the privilege of meeting members of the Wesley College family, I became drawn in and excited about the possibility of being the next president of Wesley College,” Clark said. “I truly felt this is a place where I believe I can make a difference.”
Clark described Bill Johnston and his wife, Susan, as “unbelievable people, gracious, and most professional. My wife, Ruth Ann, and I look forward to carrying on the legacy of selfless service and excellence that Bill and Susan Johnston have established at Wesley College and in the surrounding communities.”
He added that what makes him a good fit for Wesley, and vice versa, is “our common passion, dedication and focus in providing the opportunity and inspiration to mentor and mold the next generation of critical thinkers that will help to positively shape, and assure, our future.
“I would tell anyone who questions our future to come spend a day at Wesley College and meet our students, and they will quickly come to realize that our future is in great hands.”
Clark is looking forward to “getting to know, and learn from, members of the Wesley College family. A leadership philosophy that I follow, simply stated, is that one must, ‘Listen, learn and then lead…and to listen and learn one must be out and about.’ Visibility, approachability and engagement are essential aspects of a senior leader and especially of a college president. A campus presence at all major events reflects a commitment to the students and staff we so humbly serve, and participation in community events solidifies one’s commitment to civic partnerships while strengthening the college’s brand throughout the region.”
In his leadership roles, as a senior officer in the military, as well as a parent and citizen, Clark said he has seen the importance of a sound liberal arts education. “What society needs — and businesses are hungry for — are critical thinkers, people who can read and write and inspire and help change lives. If we can personalize that kind of experience, as Wesley does, it’s something that’s enduring and in great demand.”
He noted that College Raptor Inc., a college matching platform, has named Wesley “the best hidden gem institution in Delaware.” Hidden gems are defined as high-caliber colleges and universities which receive fewer than 5,000 applicants per year but have a total enrollment of greater than 1,000.
A new core curriculum at Wesley offers students undergraduate research during their freshman year. A Cannon Scholars program for exceptional STEM students offers a four-year scholarship for a select group of academically talented students. A new entry level occupational therapy program — the first of its kind in Delaware — will be available in 2016, a great addition to Wesley’s undergraduate and graduate nursing program.
Wesley also offers a scholarship for its Master of Arts in Teaching program for college graduates who aspire to teach. Graduates of the program will serve in schools with diverse and/or high-needs populations.
Last, but certainly not least, Wesley has three sports teams — football, basketball and track — that have ranked nationally in the last few years. 
Clark concluded, “We are fortunate to have one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country in Delaware, and without question, ‘Great Things Await’ at Wesley College.”
For more information about the college, visit wesley.edu or call 302-736-2300.
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