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Reflections of a leader.

Reflections of a Leader

The spirit and character of an organization are crafted largely by its leaders. As a voluntary organization, the ARthritis Foundation looks to its key volunteers throughout the country to provide leadership and direction. The vision and ideals of these volunteers determine what the foundation is and will be.

To coordinate and organize the efforts of these diverse volunteers and to see that their ideas are brought to fruition, there must be a focal point where the many ideas are deposited, sorted and distributed for implementation. Within the Arthritis Foundation, this pivotal role is played by its top staff leader -- the president and chief executive officer. For the past 15 years, this key position has been filled by President Clifford M. Clarke, CAE, who retires in December.

The concept of service -- helping those in need, working for a cause, making the world a better place -- is an ideal most of us embrace and value but few of us make our life's work. Cliff Clarke is one of the few.

That Clarke has made service a way of life is evidenced by the myriad service organizations he has founded, headed and/or taken part in -- both as a volunteer and as a professional staff member. That he has been an effective leader is evidenced by the progress of these organizations under his guidance.

A Commitment to Service

Clarke traces the roots of his commitment to serve others to his experiences during World War II, where he partiipated in the invasion on D-Day as a rifleman with the First infantry Division. After 52 days in combat, he was wounded and evacuated to England. For his wartime injuries, he was awarded the Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters.

Before Clarke became a rifleman, he had always wanted to be a minister. His war experiences, however, changed his mind. "When I came out of the service I decided I was not worthy enough to be a minister," Clarke says. "I had lost so many friends during the war, and because I didn't understand why I was spared and they weren't, I decided I would try to make it up by being as constructive as I could during my life."

After returning to civilian life in his native Savannah, Ga., Clarke finished high school and earned a B.A. in political science at Emory Uuniversity in Atlanta. Then he took a job with Lockheed Aircraft Corp. in Marietta, Ga. As a loaned executive from Lockheed, he experienced his first real taste of managing a voluntary organization.

First, Clarke was loaned to the American Red Cross to organize its blood recruitment program for the Korean War. Soon afterward, he was loaned for a year to the Associated Industries of Georgia (now the Business Council of Georgia), a statewide employer organization. "When my year's leave was up and it was time for me to go back to Lockheed," Clarke says, "I decided I liked voluntary organization work, so I stayed with AIG for 20 years."

After his long tenure with the Associated Industries, Clarke worked two years as chief executive of the Bicentennial Council of the Thirteen Original States, then accepted the position of president and chief executive officer of the Arthritis Foundation in 1975. It was to be a productive match.

Leading the Fight Against Arthritis

For the next 15 years, Clarke, who has arthritis himself, would stay at the helm as the foundation moved forward in every area. In 1974, the organization raised about $12.6 million, of which $8.6 million went toward funding arthritis research and programs. By 1989, the foundation's total revenue had reached almost $58 million, with $43 million going to research and programs.

"I think it is a great tribute to the organization's founders that it has grown to its present level," Clarke says. "Since our beginning in 1948, we have seen tremendous growth in public awareness, research, programs, education and public support. I am very pleased to have been part of that growth. I am pleased to have been here when the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases was created. I am pleased to see the growing support in Congress for adequate funding for the institute. I am also proud to have been a part of establishing a permanent national headquarters for the foundation."

Clarke's successor, Don L. Riggin, who takes over as president and CEO of the foundation in January, says, "Cliff is a visionary leader. The Arthritis Foundation has had significant growth in services, fundraising and efficient management during his tenure as president and chief executive officer, and we will continue to use him as a resource even in his retirement."

Clarke's special empathy for people with arthritis comes in part from his own experiences with arthritis-related diseases. "Shortly after I returned from the service, I developed gout," he says. "My feet -- primarily my big toes -- were extremely painful. I was on crutches for nearly a year. But now it is under control with medications and very rarely flares."

For the past six to eight years, Clarke has also had osteoarthritis, which he describes as cminor for me but sometimes very uncomfortable." he says he has had to make accommodations for the arthritis primarily in his gardening -- a lifelong love of his, evident in the meticulously kept flower- and tree-filled grounds of his Atlanta home.

"My best friend now is a little four-legged stool," he says. "I can't bend over or squat much anymore, and I have trouble getting on my knees. So the stool is what I use to garden."

It is somehow fitting that just as Clarke ends his time of service to the Arthritis Foundation, the research he has supported and helped fund should uncover a major piece of the arthritis puzzle -- a piece that may someday lead to preventive measures for the type of arthritis Clarke himself has suffered. (See story on osteoarthritis, page 12.)

Leading as a Volunteer

Despite his arthritis and a few other health problems that have dogged Clarke throughout his life, he has been a dedicated volunteer for numerous professional and service organizations, civic and community groups, patriotic and veterans' organizations, and governmental committees and commissions. In addition to the three associations Clarke has headed in professional staff positions, he has also been at the helm of various organizations as a volunteer, including both the Georgia and American Societies for Association Executives.

His experience and leadership in these diverse organizations have made Clarke a nationally known and respected leader in association management. R. William Taylor, CAE, president of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) says, "No individual has made a greater impact on ASAE throughout his association management career than has Cliff Clarke. He has won every major award the society offers and is considered to be one of the finest association executives ever."

Clarke's extensive experience gives him an informed perspective on the association world. He predicts a plethora of new voluntary organizations. "Presently they are being formed at the rate of several thousand a year," Clarke says. "The majority of these organizations looks to the American public for support, and the need for this support will grow in the coming years.

"In order to survive, these organizations will have to be operated on a businesslike basis. They will have to recruit and retain qualified professional personnel and motivated volunteers." Clarke sees this need for volunteers as one of the greatest challenges facing these groups in the future.

"The Arthritis Foundation, like so many organizations, runs on the energies of its volunteers," he says. "Not only do they do so much of the work, but they provide the guidance. It's their organization." But Clarke notes that the available pool of volunteers is being diluted by the explosive growth in voluntary organizations and by the changing makeup of today's family. "With the growth in the number of two-career families and single parents, there's just not that much free time available," he says.

Some Time for Himself

As for Clarke's own future, he plans to divide his time between continued service to the Arthritis Foundation and a pet project of his own. In the new position of president emeritus, Clarke will continue to work closely with his successor in several areas of concern to the organization. In particular, he will be responsible for long-range planning regarding the foundation's national headquarters facility and for the organization's international activities.

"We are hoping to invite all organizations similar to the Arthritis Foundation throughout the world to send representatives to our 1991 national meeting," Clarke says. "At that time, I hope we will begin planning some kind of a loose federation -- a cooperative, information-sharing organization -- that would meet somewhere in the world every two or three years and would serve as the mechanism for us to exchange publications and information on research going on in our countries."

But Clarke's future won't be all business. "I've always nourished a dream of perhaps someday having a beautiful antebellum house," he explains. "So, knowing that I planned to retire in the next year or two, I started trying to find an old house that I liked, that I could afford and that was worthy of being restored, preserved, maintained and shared."

After "traveling the highways and byways, nooks and crannies" of Georgia for nearly two years Clarke finally found what he was looking for: a run-down but architecturally sound 1845 very-early-Greek-revival house. In order to re-establish the house in an appropriate pastoral setting, he had it neatly cut into four sections which were moved individually to the new location 26 miles away.

"I figure it will take me five to 10 years, after reassembling the house, to restore and landscape it and put up the out buildings. I will feel like I've made a contribution, but at the same time, I will have really done something I've enjoyed."

This concept -- finding enjoyment while contributing to the betterment of the world -- has been a hallmark of Clarke's life. While the bulk of his contributions to the Arthritis Foundation are now behind him, his legacy in the fight against arthritis -- and in the many other causes he has served -- will live on for many years to come.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Arthritis Foundation, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:includes speech excerpts; Clifford M. Clarke, Arthritis Foundation president and chief executive officer, 1975-1990
Author:McDaniel, Cindy T.
Publication:Arthritis Today
Article Type:Biography
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Words:1706
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