William D. “Bill” Clarke ’51

B.S., Denison University, 1951
B.S., Northwestern University, 1952

Volunteer/Human Rights Activist
Canton, OH

Citation awarded June, 2007

As a founding member of Habitat for Humanity, Bill Clarke was on the Habitat board that approached Jimmy Carter for his involvement. Bill’s interests in ecumenical religion-based activities, peace, and children are reflected in his avocation choices: he was instrumental in bringing the Young Life program to Ohio schools, served 10 years as chair of Refugees International, and is very interested in world religions.

Bill was featured in the Summer 2006 issue of Denison Magazine which chronicled his world travels: “He’s comforted refugees in a crowded Croatian camp, broken the law to save the lives of desperate Salvadorans, and persuaded the government of Thailand to aid a hungry hill tribe.” His efforts to establish Habitat for Humanity programs around the globe sometimes involved negotiating with rebel groups for the safety of Habitat projects.

Bill’s roots in Canton are deep. From 1951-2005, he worked for Hilscher-Clarke Electric, the firm started by his father. As Chair/CEO/Owner, Bill oversaw growth that resulted in annual sales of approximately $25 million. Bill combined his business and civic interests during the construction of the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Hilscher-Clarke wired the building and Bill chaired the committee that gathered exhibit memorabilia. In 2005 Bill received the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce Award of Merit for his volunteerism and philanthropy with the YMCA, Habitat for Humanity, Young Life Christian outreach organization, local colleges and other organizations.

Bill has a broad record of philanthropic involvement elsewhere as well. He is a 40-year member of the Museum of Northern Arizona, serving on their Board’s finance and development committee 1998-2002, and chairing the management committee 2001-02. He served as a director of Habitat of Humanity 1977-1994, director/chair of Refugees International 1985-96, and director of Young Life International 1981-85. He has served on the boards of both Mount Union College and Malone College. He was also a part-time instructor of “Business Law” and “Introduction to Business” courses for eight years at Stark State College of Technology in Canton.

Bill’s volunteer service to Denison includes serving on the 1951 Golden Anniversary Committee. He had the good fortune to meet his wife, Joan, when they both worked at AC Neilson in 1952. Married in 1954, they have four wonderful daughters, all deeply involved with youth and education. The oldest, Sue, graduated from Denison in 1979. Joan is an integral part of Bill’s life and work.

We honor Bill Clarke ’51 for his ability to look at the world through a wide-angle lens, and his commitment to local and global action that empowers people to live more fulfilling lives.