On June 10, 1963, 15-year-old Ron Clark almost died when the van he was in, along with 13 other boys and scoutmasters, rolled down a cliff. After the tumble, Clark lay at the bottom and wondered why he was still alive.
“We (the boys who made it out alive) lost a lot of innocence that day,” Clark said. “We become very sober very quickly, and we had to grow up quickly.”
Because of this experience, Clark, BYU director of Public Affairs and Guest Relations, encourages students to embrace the now, to plan aggressively for the future and to look at the benchmarks in life.
“You never ever know when all of that will come to an end,” Clark said.
His experience taught him to live life with a purpose as he transitioned from boyhood into his lifelong career of public relations. Clark has worked in the public relations field for over 40 years, spending five years working for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in its public relations office, 14 years with the Osmonds in show business and 28 years at BYU.
Clark retires in May and is grateful for his career opportunities.
“I have been so blessed,” Clark said. “To see (my career) wind down is very challenging, but it’s time to shift gears. There hasn’t been a time where it hasn’t been absolutely thrilling.”
Clark has interacted with several campus visitors, including ambassadors, educators, CEOs and recruiters. Clark attributed this wonderful experience to students.
“That’s 31,000 of you living your life to the best of your ability,” Clark said. “The students are my boss. We (the faculty) come together so we can serve them, honor them and celebrate their lives.”
Several factors contribute to the spirit and environment of the BYU campus, Clark said. These factors included students’ ethics, strong character, ability to look into peoples’ faces and smile, and their desire to set goals and to worship on Sunday.
“The Spirit is never off this campus,” Clark said. “Peace, purpose; something not of this Earth. We are all focused on one goal here. What can possibly go wrong in an environment like that?”
The BYU experience, according to Clark, is one in which people come together on common ground, without influence of politics, and learn through the influence of the Spirit. He said that many students take it for granted because they feel and experience it all the time.
“The BYU experience: People experience that just by coming here,” Clark said. “I have hundreds of stories about nonmembers coming to campus. All come with one conclusion: we’re different.”
Clark expressed deep gratitude for his career, especially at BYU.
“I’m leaving something that will never be out of my system,” Clark said. “That Y is a symbol to me of absolute success and accountability. If I could have a tattoo, I would have one on my forehead,” Clark said, “so everyone would know that I’m a product of BYU.”