John P. Clarke, Esq. ’55CBA, ’57L
John “Jack” P. Clarke, Esq. ’55CBA, ’57L arrived at what was then the School of Commerce at St. John’s University in January 1952 and, except for two years after law school, never left. His dedication to his students, the College and the University has earned him the sobriquet of “Mr. St. John’s.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood by Irish immigrants from County Mayo, Clarke’s father passed away when he was nine, straining the family’s finances and his college hopes. Learning of St. John’s reputation for helping the poor and children of immigrants, he wrote a letter asking for help to attend college – and was rewarded with a scholarship.
After earning his accounting degree in 1955 and his law degree in 1957, Professor Clarke worked at the Supreme Court of Kings County before returning to St. John’s in 1959 to teach part time and to become Director of Alumni Relations. During his eight years in that post, he became the principal fundraiser for the construction of St. Louise de Marillac Hall, Newman Hall, and the Main Library at St. Augustine Hall. He now likes to say that he knows every member of the School of Law Classes of 1928 to 2018.
Since becoming a full-time faculty member in 1968, Professor Clarke has taught an estimated 10,000 business students, primarily accounting majors, about law.
“Mostly, I teach undergraduates,” he said. “Many of my students have had careers in business, not law.”
Those former students include Nelson A. Díaz, J.D., ’67BS, ’87HON, who became Pennsylvania’ s youngest, and first Latino, judge. When Mr. Díaz, who later became the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s General Counsel, published his autobiography, Not from Here, Not from There/No Soy de Aquí ni de Allá: The Autobiography of Nelson Díaz, Professor Clarke and former U.S. Vice President Walter F. Mondale wrote the book jacket reviews.
Professor Clarke’s lengthy list of accomplished former students also includes James P. Riley, Jr. ’74CBA, ’75MBA, ’03HON, a former Managing Partner at Goldman Sachs, as well as St. John’s University Board of Trustees members Paul M. Carroll 69CBA, 71MBA, 79APC, 17HON, a retired banker, and Joseph A. Tarantino ’80CBA, President and CEO of global consulting firm Protiviti. Former students Thomas Scaturro ‘86CBA, Senior Market Leader at Key Private Bank, Salvatore LaGreca, ‘76CBA, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Precise Leads, Inc., Peter J. Micca ‘89CBA, Partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP, Salvatore Restivo ’85CBA, ‘89MBA, Partner at EY, and Robert G. Rooney ‘78CBA, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Novitex Enterprise Solutions, are current members of the Tobin Board of Advisors.
Professor Clarke also continues to practice law, abiding by the Vincentian ideals that allowed him to attend St. John’s. Since 1998, he has also served as a Special Referee for Attorney Discipline for the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, Second Judicial Department.
Proud as he is that many of his former students have gone on to become judges, public servants, internationally-recognized lawyers and legal educators, he is most proud of his contributions to the rule of law.
“My public service is limited to writing confidential reports to the appellate judges that the public knows nothing about,” he said when he accepted the John J. Murphy Award for distinguished service to the public, the profession and the rule of law from the Alumni Association of St. John’s University School of Law in January 2019. “I have been a sole practitioner for 60 years with ordinary clients with ordinary matters. While those clients’ may not seem to have important matters, they were important to them. To me, providing those professional services epitomizes the rule of law.”
Among his many other honors is his St. John’s Spirit of Service Award in 2013, an honor which has also been given to six of his former students. He has also established The Professor John P. Clarke Scholarship at Tobin College, for students in need who show academic promise, and The John P. Clarke Scholarship in St. John’s School of Law. Professor Clarke also donates to St. John’s Public Interest Center, which provides a summer fellowship program for students interested in public interest law.
Professor Clarke officially retired in 1997, but continued to guest lecture at St. John’s. He returned in 2006 to serve as Chair of the Department of Law at what is now the Tobin College of Business.
After two thirds of a century, he could be expected to slow down. Why doesn’t he?
“The students keep me alive,” he says of the men and women who are one quarter his age. “They keep me enthusiastic.”