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C. John Clarke: a gem from Africa brings in gold for higher education.

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee found a diamond in the rough last fall when it announced C. John A. Clarke as chairman of the Crosley Campus Center Fundraising Initiative. The retired CEO and president of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc. and his committee have taken on the challenge of raising $3 million by December 2005 for the state-of-the-art enhancements and technology needed to support expanded programs and complete the 96,000-square-foot-facility scheduled for opening in fall 2006. By March, more than half the challenge goal had been met and he was just warming up to the task.

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Born and raised in Kenya, East Africa, Clarke went on to earn a bachelor's and master's degree at Cambridge University, England. In 1977, Clarke moved to America to join Raymond Properties Company of Boston. That eventually brought him to Punta Gorda, where he and Ted Raymond founded Agricultural Management Services Company. The company later acquired Turner Corporation, and Clarke served as president and CEO of Turner Foods. When AMS became a management consultant for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc., Clarke took over in 1984 as president of SMR and in 1996, became CEO, taking the lead role in planning, permitting and structuring what is now Lakewood Ranch in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Not one to boast, Clarke prefers to remain backstage and let his colleagues take the limelight, but steps forward willingly when he believes strongly about an issue. "Founding the Lakewood Ranch Charitable Fund and ensuring the large conservation easements for sensitive environmental land are among my proudest accomplishments," he says. "Both will endure and benefit future residents of Lakewood Ranch."

So will the USF Sarasota-Manatee Crosley Campus Center. "An educated workforce and access to higher education are key components for creating a thriving community," says Clarke. "USF Sarasota-Manatee is an indispensable asset because it brings the prestige of a top-tier research university to our own backyard."

In his previous volunteer roles in the community, Clarke has served as a longtime member of the USF Community Leadership Council, on the boards of both the Sarasota and Manatee Chambers of Commerce, and as a board member and chair of both the Sarasota and Manatee Economic Development committees. He currently sits on the boards of the Lakewood Ranch Medical Center and the Lakewood Ranch Charitable Fund.

The Crosley Campus Center will house 24 classrooms; a 190-seat lecture/exhibition hall; seminar and video-conferencing rooms; computer labs; a daycare center; student gathering places; faculty and staff offices; a technology and learning center; dining facilities; and training facilities for the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management. Once completed, the Center will offer some 800 courses annually in 37 degree programs.
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Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2005
Words:442
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