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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 took on the challenge of raising $3 million in private gifts and grants by December 2005 for the state-of-the-art enhancements and technology needed to support expanded programs and complete the 100,000-square-foot facility scheduled for opening in fall 2006.

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By August, pledges reached 85% of the goal, leaving $300,000 remaining to earn a $100,000 William G. Selby and Marie Selby Foundation Challenge capping grant. Another plus, matching funds under the Alec P. Courtelis Facility Enhancement Challenge from the Florida Division of Colleges and Universities will match each private gift and grant at 100 percent, a one-time opportunity only available during new construction. Currently, $4.65 million new dollars in combined gifts and State Matching Grants have been brought in to enhance and complete the USF Sarasota-Manatee Crosley Campus Center, and the total funds could potentially be as much as $6 million.

Born and raised in Kenya, East Africa, Clarke went on to earn bachelor's and master's degrees at Cambridge University, England. In 1977, he 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 community volunteer roles, 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 and was recently appointed to the USF Foundation Board.

Like Clarke, USF Sarasota-Manatee has left a valuable legacy of scholarship serving the higher education needs of this region for over 30 years. The Crosley Campus Center is the first newly constructed building for USF Sarasota-Manatee since 1986. This multi-use academic 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 become the new home for USF Sarasota-Manatee, offering some 800 courses annually in 39 academic programs, and accommodating 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
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Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Words:590
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