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Grateful Grad Dr. Lawrence Clark Sr., C’59

Dr. Lawrence Clark Sr., C'59, and Charlotte Barry Powers, C'15, MBA'19

After three semesters at Penn State and a stint in the Army, Dr. Lawrence Clark, DDS, C'59, transferred to the Mount. He shares stories from his time at the university and his career in the U.S. Air Force Dental Corps.

dr-clarke-photo-in-text.jpgQ. Tell us about yourself.

A. I was born on March 16, 1934, in Philadelphia, to Dr. Thomas J. and Anna D. Clark. Dad was a dentist. In 1947, I was shipped off to LaSalle Military Academy (LSMA) in Oakdale, New York. After a year, my family moved to South Jersey and I transferred to Holy Spirit High School in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I had fun, but I didn't think I was learning enough to get into college, so I went back to LSMA for my last two years and graduated with honors in 1952. The regimentation kept me in my studies, so I had no problem getting into Penn State. I felt like Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz”: a big university with 52 fraternities and a great football team. Who had time for classes and studies?

I didn't make the time to study and learn. I wanted to go to dental school, but my grades were so bad it never could have happened. I decided after Christmas that I was not going to return to Penn State. I came home for the Christmas of 1953. After the festivities, my dad asked when I was going back to college. I told him that I wasn't going back. He looked at me and said, "They threw you out, didn't they?" He called his second cousin, who was the head of the Local Draft Board, and on my 20th birthday, I was on a bus to Fort Dix, New Jersey, to begin my new career.

That was when God took over. I learned that if you wanted to get somewhere you had to earn it, so I worked hard and did well and decided I was going to do whatever it took to get into dental school. I transferred to Mount St. Mary’s University in 1956 for a January start as a second-semester freshman.

My life started over at that time. From then on, I was taught by mostly priests, seminarians and lay teachers who knew what they were doing. I married Maria (Teddi) Horn in May 1959. We have three children, Deborah, Thomas, and Michael.

Q. Who was your favorite professor?

A. Father Gordon was my advisor. He was a man who knew chemistry and could teach organic chemistry as if he wrote the book. He was also the advisor for all the pre-med & pre-dental students, so he knew every move you made.

When I was in my third semester, I applied for dental school. I ended up interviewing at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, University of Maryland. The chair of the admissions committee, Dr. Van den Bosch, asked me what I did for three semesters and a summer at Penn State. I just told him that I had fun… I thought that was the end for me. As it turned out, I received an acceptance letter the next week. I found out, when I got to the school in August 1957, that Dr. Van den Bosch asked a freshman student from the Mount if Father Gordon was well or having some problems with his mind. He told the student that if I didn't do well then Father Gordon's recommendations would be suspect. Fortunately, Father Gordon was right, and I did well and then entered the United States Air Force Dental Corps, and retired as a full colonel in 1980.

Q. What is a lesson you learned at the Mount that has impacted your life?

A. A lesson that has stayed with me to this day is never give up, always use the knowledge you have gained for the good it can do and never doubt that God is always there to help. With all I have done wrong in my life, I know that God has been there to pick me up and put me back on the right path. 

Q. What is your favorite Mount memory?

A. When I arrived at the Mount, all the veterans' dorm rooms were taken, so I was placed with a sophomore student. He had a lot of friends, and he would invite them to the room for fun and games after dinner. This interfered with my studying. I told my roommate that from 4-8 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, was study time and he could have fun somewhere else. I even put a sign on the door that read: “VISITING HOURS” and wrote the hours they could be in the room. This didn't go over too well, but it worked, and I was able to study in peace.

Q. Tell us about your career.

A. After graduating from Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1961, I entered the U.S. Air Force Dental Corps. I had eight years of Army, active and reserve, so when I retired in 1980 with 19 years in the Air Force, I had 27 total years of service. Only God could have made that happen. My first assignment was to the Dental Service at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, where I worked for two years before I took my Air Force Boards to get a regular commission and was promoted to captain. This was the normal turn of events for a medical corps officer at that time.

In August 1964, I got my orders to Albrook Air Force Base in the Republic of Panama. There was some dissension in Panama at that time, so my family could not come with me. In January 1965, my second son Larry was born in New Jersey, so I took leave to go home for that. In March 1965, the family was able to join me in Panama. Prior to leaving for Panama, my boss said that I should stop in Washington, D.C. and speak to the general of the Dental Corps.

When I met him, he asked what my plans were for my career. I told him I wanted to get advanced training in general dentistry but since there were none available, I applied for a residency in prosthodontics. He called his number two colonel and told him to tell me about the plans they had. They were planning on starting a two-year master’s residency in general dentistry in 1966. Although my three-year tour in Panama would not be over until 1967, I should apply for the second class. As it turned out, God did it again. The program did not get started until 1967, so I applied and was accepted into the first general practice residency. They must have liked my planning because I was promoted to major and outranked all but two of my fellow residents.

In 1967, we went to Houston for didactics and in 1968 to Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, for clinical. Then I received my master's degree from the University of Texas in 1969 and moved to Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. to direct a one-year general practice residency. After two years, I was promoted to lieutenant colonel, and in 1972 I was assigned to Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock, Texas, as the base dental surgeon where I worked for two years. I was then assigned as base dental surgeon to Korat Air Force Base in Thailand for a one-year tour. In June 1975, I went to Eglin Air Force Base as the director of the GPR Program. In 1978, I was assigned to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as the base dental surgeon where I served for two years.

I retired and began to teach at the University of Mississippi Dental School in Jackson, Mississippi. Five years later, I was hired by the University of Florida College of Dentistry to run an extramural program where I worked until I retired in 1997. I continued teaching part-time until I decided to fully retire after a double bypass in 2010. I now spend my time bothering my youngest son Mike and daughter-in-law Tammy.

Q. Why do you support the Mount?

A. I love the Mount and don't think I realized how much I do until I was away for a while. When my situation was more financially stable, I knew I had to do something to show my appreciation for all the things I achieved because of the education I received at the Mount and all the love that was there when I needed it.


Dr. Lawrence Clark Sr., C'59, and Charlotte Barry Powers, C'15, MBA'19