Dolan to receive award at Reunion for a lifetime of service to Clark

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tom and Joan Dolan

If you were to read aloud the list of positions, awards and achievements that Tom Dolan ’62, M.A.Ed. ’63 compiled during his 42-year career at Clark University, you would first have to draw a deep breath.

Indeed, just typing it could give you carpal tunnel syndrome.

Regardless, here goes:

In his time at the University, Dolan worked as director of admissions, director of financial aid, director of alumni affairs, director of the Clark Fund, vice president of development, vice president of alumni affairs and planned giving, and senior vice president. He received the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award, and he was the first administrator to be named an honorary faculty member. The Thomas M. Dolan ’62 Outstanding Service Awards are now given annually to the male and female juniors who have demonstrated exemplary service and commitment to Clark and who have outstanding potential to become future leaders of the University and the Alumni Association.

He can add one more honor to the stockpile. On May 18 at the Alumni Weekend annual dinner, and on the occasion of his 50th class reunion, Dolan will be presented with the first Clark University Lifetime Service Award.

'When someone asks what I did at Clark, I usually say I held every job at the place except two: being president, and running the boiler room.' ~ Tom Dolan

Tom Dolan’s love affair with Clark began shortly after he returned to his hometown of Worcester, having served three years in Germany as a Russian interpreter for the United States Army. He’d already completed two years at Holy Cross before entering the military, and assumed he’d finish his degree there.

But the dean of Holy Cross, in an interview with Dolan, noted that he was a different young man than the one who had left campus three years earlier. He was older, wiser (and, Dolan notes, thanks to a little too much good living in Germany, 40 pounds heavier). Tom Dolan had changed, and Holy Cross had not. The dean suggested Tom might find a better fit across town at Clark University, and suggested he investigate.

Dolan soon visited the campus and spotted a student walking across the green. He asked for directions to the admissions office.

“At Holy Cross, they would have led you by the hand to the office, or at least pointed out how to get there,” he recalls during a recent interview at a Worcester diner. “This student turned to me and said, ‘Why do you ask?’” He laughs. “What a great question!”

Dolan enrolled as a history major and played basketball for Clark. A tall, hard-nosed forward, he was typically assigned to guard the opposing team’s leading scorer. During his two years the team earned a 25-9 record.

Technically, he also played varsity baseball, though his “career” was brief.

“One day I got a call from the baseball coach Bob Stairs — they were down a player and needed a body for the game that afternoon. So I played third base, cleanly handled the two or three balls that were hit to me, and went one for three at the plate. To this day I can honestly say my lifetime batting average for Clark is .333.”

After graduating with a history degree in 1962, Dolan completed his master’s degree in education and planned to embark on a teaching career when he was asked by Director of Admissions George Merriam if he would be interested in an admissions job. He accepted, and spent the next four-plus decades in a wide range of “A” positions — admissions, alumni, advancement and administration — to recruit students, connect with alumni, raise money and enhance the University’s reputation.

“When someone asks what I did at Clark, I usually say I held every job at the place except two: being president, and running the boiler room,” he says.

Dolan’s goal was always to have Clark mentioned in the same breath as schools like Amherst, Williams and the Ivies, and he spread the word relentlessly. If he wore a Clark T-shirt or baseball cap out in public and was asked, “What’s Clark?” he was only too willing to educate the uninformed questioner.

He especially enjoyed traveling with his wife Joan Dolan ’60, M.A.Ed. '74 to visit alumni, parents and friends of Clark, crisscrossing the United States and making excursions to far-flung countries like Thailand, Korea and Japan. To this day his recall for all things Clark is exceptional; the contacts file on his smartphone is busting with 2,000 names, phone numbers and personal details (including the names of folks’ pets). Trying to find a photo in the Clark records of Tom Dolan by himself is nearly impossible: his arm is invariably wrapped around someone else’s shoulders, urging the person into the frame with him, and always wearing a wide smile while he’s doing it.

“Eighty to ninety percent of what I did was friend-raising — building relationships,” he says. “I’m a future kind of guy, and I was trying to lay the foundation for the future. Friend-raising first, fund-raising second.”

Dolan served under seven Clark presidents, saw thousands of students pass through the University’s gates, and in retirement remains a reliable presence at Clark events, ever the ambassador for his University. He is still a competitive tennis player, despite two cancer scares, one necessitating the removal of his stomach (Dolan proudly notes that his five-person medical team was composed entirely of Clark alumni, and proceeds to name them all).

In 2003, Clark named the new field house on Beaver Street in honor of both Tom and Joan.

“Ah, that was named for Joan,” he says. “Her name should come first on the building; she deserved it. Whenever we traveled to alumni events on behalf of Clark, it was Joan everyone loved to see. I’d walk into a room and people would start hiding their wallets.”

Dolan’s decision to retire in 2004 was surprisingly easy. He wanted to devote more time to his family, which includes sons, Thomas ’79, and Brian, M.B.A. ’87, and five grandchildren.

“I’d been at it forever,” he says, “and Clark was always at the front of the parade. It was time to rearrange things.”

Of course, Tom Dolan will be a visible presence at Reunion Weekend, doing what he enjoys — sharing laughs, telling stories, and putting those long arms across the shoulders of friends. For these couple of days in May, Clark again will lead his parade.

-  Jim Keogh, director of news and editorial services

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