New Harvard dean flowered in academics after his mission

"Boy Scout at the business school."

That headline about Kim B. Clark, Harvard Business School's new dean, was on a Boston Globe article. A secondary headline stated: "Harvard's Clark gets high marks for intellect, character."Bishop of the Cambridge Ward from 1988-1991 and now executive secretary in the Belmont Ward, Boston Massachusetts Stake, the new dean is well acquainted with both Harvard and leadership responsibilities. Dean Clark, 46, has had a 28-year association with Harvard, beginning in 1967 when he enrolled as a freshman and continuing, with some interruptions, through the years to earn bachelor's, master's and doctor of philosophy degrees from the university and to teach there. Interspersed within his years at Harvard were a call to the South German Mission, which he completed in 1970; a year at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah; and marriage in the Salt Lake Temple in 1971 to Sue Hunt, from Waterflow, N.M.

"After Sue and I got married, we came to Boston and, basically, have been here ever since," he said in a Church News interview. They are parents of four sons and three daughters: Bryce, 22; Erin, 20 (married to Brian Bradford); Jonathan, 18; Andrew, 16; Michael, 14; and twins, Jennifer and Julia, 11.

Although he has been on the Harvard scene for nearly three decades, his academic route was not set with unswerving certainty. "I was born in Salt Lake City and lived there until I was 11, when my family moved to Spokane, Wash.," he related. "My dad

Merlin ClarkT was born and raised in Cannonville, in southern Utah. Growing up, he was a real cowboy; he broke horses and rode the range. Putting himself through BYU, he was the first in his family to go to college. He went on to a career in advertising. My mother [Helen Mar Hickman Clark] was born in St. Thomas, a little town in Nevada that is now at the bottom of Lake Meade. They met and married in the late 1940s.

"When I was quite young - about 4 or 5 - my mom figured there were some things I should learn to do. On Saturdays, she took me to an elocution school where I memorized poems and scriptures. By the time I was 9 or 10, I had memorized the Gospel of St. Luke, did some `editing' of it and made it into a dramatic reading, accompanied by organ music. Although my parents encouraged me to read, they never pushed me in an academic direction. But I got the idea that they thought it would be good for me to be a doctor or a lawyer.

"We moved to Spokane, where I was very active in sports. I played baseball and basketball all through high school, but I wasn't somebody you would single out. I was good-all-around - played sports, was active in Church and had good grades - but I was not a scholar. No one would have said, This kid will become an athlete,' orHe will become an academic.' It wasn't until I got home from my mission that the academic side of me started to blossom."

During his senior year in high school, before that blossoming began, he applied for admission to Harvard. Part of the process included an interview with a successful physician, a Harvard alumnus. That interview, he said, was "a defining moment, a real turning point" in his life.

"The doctor, after a few pleasantries, took me into his office where we sat down. As the interview proceeded, he found out that I was a member of the Church and quite active. He continued to ask questions. When I left his office, I thought, `He really grilled me.' I later realized that he kept asking questions about my Church activity because I didn't waver or equivocate. I stood up for and said what was the right thing to do."

Dean Clark explained that after he had joined the faculty at Harvard he learned that the physician had called the admissions committee and said, "If you don't take anybody else from this area, take this Clark boy. He doesn't have the best grades, but he is going places." Dean Clark said, "I learned that this man's recommendation was the one thing that got me into Harvard."

Getting into Harvard was one thing; staying was another. "I thought I wanted to be a doctor," he reflected. "Other than my parents, the two people who had the most influence on me were two uncles, my mother's brothers. One was Robert Hickman, a doctor in Seattle who had accomplished great things - such as inventing a catheter used in dialysis treatments. He encouraged me to think big, to go outside the traditional things we thought about as to where to go to school. He had gone East to medical school. I decided to follow his lead and apply to attend Harvard as a pre-med student."

The plan sounded great, but, Dean Clark said, it didn't take him long to discover he was in over his head. He left Harvard at the end of his freshman year to serve a mission in Germany. When he returned from his mission, he enrolled at BYU, where another uncle, Martin Hickman, influenced him to move in a different direction.

"Uncle Martin was dean of the College of Social Sciences at BYU for many years," he explained. "He was a wonderful scholar and teacher and was revered by everybody who knew him. He was the one who, at important junctures along the way, helped me understand the academic life. He showed me that one could do great things as a teacher."

After spending a year at BYU, Dean Clark said, he was ready to return to Harvard, but he changed his focus from a study of medicine to economics. Over the years, the young man who did not see himself as a scholar became one. The Boston Globe described him as "a scholar's scholar." Further, the newspaper noted, "Even among the world-class academicians that make up the Harvard Business faculty, colleagues say he is a first-rate, productive researcher and intellect." He has written 12 books.

Colleagues and students know Dean Clark as a family man as much as a scholar, educator or expert in the world of business. Dean Clark said he has worked at learning how to have balance in his life. "It's a learning process. It's not like I woke up one day, was married and had it all figured out. Over the years, I've learned that my family and Church are the most important things in my life. In order for that to be really true, I have to act on that, and do things in my life to make that a reality.

"Many years ago we decided we needed to adopt some clear rules about my work: No work at night and no work on the weekends. I decided that when 5:30-6 p.m. comes, I would drop what I was doing and go home. We've lived by it pretty well. Occasionally, I run into situations where I can't do that. I discovered that the work I am involved in is so engrossing that it entices me to work way past the time I should be home. Many people find that in their professions. But I believe that no matter how enticing the work is, there's no more important place for a husband and father to be in the evening than at home. He needs to be there for dinner, to have some time with his wife. He needs to be there with his children, to talk about their day and about homework, to read them stories, have prayers with them and tuck them into bed. A man can't have a job that's more important than that. I've become pretty ruthless in guarding my time with my family. I'll say right out, `I've got to get home.' People gradually learn."

Not only do people learn, but they also emulate. A number of Dean Clark's Harvard colleagues are placing more emphasis on time to spend with their families. "Over the long pull, people will be more productive, more effective, and will do better quality work if you have the whole person healthy," he said. "In the short term, you can get people to work 120 hours a week, and they can be effective for a little while, but over the long pull, it doesn't work. Some companies do that with their employees who are young - they burn them out and then hire some other young people and burn them out. I can't claim there has been a revolution at Harvard because of my influence, but I hope over a period of time to introduce people to the importance of having balance in their lives. I've preached that to my students over the years."

Dean Clark, whose appointment was effective last Oct. 1, said: "Harvard is undoubtedly one of the great universities in the world. Harvard Business School has been for many years a preeminent business school. To go here is a real privilege. To be a faculty member is a blessing and privilege. To be dean of the place is something I never imagined. I always thought it was incredible that I made it to be a member of the faculty. As I think about where I came from, it seems unbelievable. See what happens when your mother enrolls you in elocution school!"

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed