A Eulogy from the funeral of Jack Clarke in December 2016 by Mr John Castles AM (Wyvern 1966) A memorial service to celebrate the life of Jack Clarke will be held at Queen’s College on Friday 7 April at 3pm in Eakins Hall.
John (Jack) William Clarke OAM
1921 – 2016
We all share inevitable sadness at Jack’s death, but draw comfort from the good fortune, that we knew him and that we were influenced by such a remarkable man.
Following the news of Jack’s death tributes quickly flowed – a man of complete integrity, the highest standards, strong moral fibre, generosity of spirit, irreplaceable and an extraordinary human being whose influence will remain for years to come. Jack was respected, loved and in fact revered – he was unique, the Mr Chips of Queen’s.
Such expressions must bring comfort to you Elaine and to Jenny, Kate, Peter and David and to your families. Each of you will have your own special and treasured memories of your Jack.To you we extend our condolences.
It was a real compliment to be asked to speak today. To do justice to such a wonderful man, who lived for 95 years, in just a few minutes, is a challenge.
When Elaine brought Jack to meet her family in Wagga in December 1953, I was fortunate to meet him, not knowing that in a little over 10 years our lives would become entwined in and through Queen’s College. My memory from then, is of a tall erect and commanding figure with kindly yet penetrating eyes, well polished shoes and a crop of perfectly groomed shiny black hair (Brylcream was favoured in those days).
Jack wrote that he was fortunate to have had the loving care and nurturing of wonderful parents. Jack, the son of a Methodist Minister, was born in Tasmania in 1921. When the family moved to Melbourne he attended Wesley College and on leaving school he joined the Bank of NSW (now Westpac). In 1941 he enlisted in the Australian army and then later the British army. After distinguished service Captain Clarke worked in the London office of the bank before returning to Melbourne.
In 1951 Jack enrolled in the University of Melbourne and as a non-Resident of Queen’s. He graduated in Arts with diplomas in Psychology, Social Studies and Education.
The church, the great depression, war service and service in India, his broad education and related experience helped shape his strong personal characteristics. When in 1964 Jack was appointed Vice Master of Queen’s College, it was a position for which he was ideally suited and which defined his career.
He had a deep interest in people, he was inclusive and accepting of all. He had a generosity of spirit and maintained the highest of principles, he had great empathy and understanding. He was neither proud nor arrogant but he always maintained a dignified presence. His fairness and consistency, his understanding and personal qualities commanded respect from all. Jack could always see the other side of any argument and always see the good in an individual.
First and foremost Jack was a dedicated and loving husband and father. It is from this and because of this that Jack was the outstanding figure we knew. He spoke frequently about family, talking proudly of achievements and informing me of their comings and goings (considerable in Peter’s case).
A visit to Jack’s office in the Vice Master’s home would invariably end up with family hospitality. His office was ordered in a very personal way – surprisingly he was able to find things. The Clarke household was always welcoming – a buzz of activity, homework, laughter, the kettle on, Elaine ironing or marking school assignments. As well as the four youngsters there were family pets including a rabbit (which caused me a lot of trouble – a story for another time)
Jack made a massive contribution to Queen’s on so many fronts, but his principle focus was on students: their welfare and their wellbeing. He was always approachable, tireless and energetic. In some ways Jack seemed to be both omniscient and omnipresent.
One evening a student had broken in to the Ormond clock tower. He received a request to meet with Jack in his office early the next morning and was somewhat amazed at Jack’s knowledge of the crime.He was understandably reprimanded. As he left Jack’s office still shaking his head in disbelief Jack said “By the way here is your room key;you left it at the scene of the crime”.
Jack had a sophisticated sense of humour. The morning after an evening of student celebration, Jack approached a student and suggested that his conduct the previous evening had been obstreperous. “How could that be” was the response “I can’t even spell the word”. Even Jack’s firm but understanding expression showed some amusement, I am told.
In 1988 Jack was the guest of honour at the annual Wyvern dinner (Wyverns are former members of the College). Jack gave an excellent address, outlining what had changed and what had been achieved, modestly illustrating his contribution in those years 1964 – 1988.
In his 25 years as Vice Master, Jack worked with three Masters, but it was the two decades of constructive partnership with Owen Parnaby which saw the management of considerable social change and growth in the College including the introduction of co-education in 1973 (a subject upon which Jack and I differed). With quiet understanding and perception these changes were guided to great effect.
Music was ever present for the Clarkes. Elaine taught music at Merton Halland conducted the chapel choir. Jack loved singing as anyone who stood near him at a choral event will know. How fitting it was that during the 1988 dinner a humourous recital was performed, written by the then Master Dr George Scott,who with Elaine, Jenny and Ian Manning sang the verses. The last verse is apt today.
So ring the bells and blow the trumpets, bang the brass, the clappers crack,
Sound the organ’s acclamation, celebrate our crackerjack
Hallelujah, raise the glasses. Hallelujah, here’s to Jack!
Jack concluded his address by reminiscing about the life he and Elaine, together with their young family had shared with the many students at Queen’s and in their home. He expressed his love and gratitude to Elaine for her unfailing support. He continued “….it has been a great privilege to watch the development of so many students progressing through their courses and then to follow their careers”. He maintained friendships with an amazing array of Wyverns. The standing ovation at the end of his address was an eloquent expression of the love and respect felt by those who were in the packed Eakins Hall that night. This spontaneous expression of affection and esteem was reinforced in 2010 at the “Jack’s Back” Wyvern dinner– never to be forgotten by those there.
Paper cuttings relating to students, the College and the College community and the many contacts he made attest to his continuing interest and concern for the College at large. His influence on student lives was legendary, as was his influence on the lives of all those with whom he made contact immeasurable.
In ‘retirement’, now with white hair perfectly groomed, Jack was invited to be Acting Warden at Graduate House, Acting Vice Master at Ormond College, both Dean and Acting Warden of Trinity, Acting Master at his old College Queen’s and Project Officer at Glenn College Latrobe University. This was a positive endorsement of his standing and the respect he commanded.
In 1990 he was awarded a medal in the Order of Australia for services to youth and the community.
A great love of his was the Welsh Choir. Jack loved singing and with many of the choir, he and Elaine enjoyed several overseas trips.
On one occasion an interviewer referred to Jack as a ‘Committed Christian’, a title which didn’t rest comfortably with him. Though he remained loyal to his traditional links with the Methodist, later Uniting, church he brought challenging intellectual enquiry to his faith. JW, as I often called him, strongly believed in, and lived by the basic ideals of Christianity. He had noted these as,‘love your neighbour’, ‘be a good Samaritan’, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.
It is extremely rare for an individual to be held in such esteem, and command the respect Jack did from young and old alike. Jack has left each of us a rich legacy of memories, and by example a challenge. Jack was a great friend.
After a life so richly and honourably lived he takes with him our thanks for all he has done, our lasting gratitude for his influence on us, our love and our blessings.
May he rest in peace.