Aug 5, 2011

UC alumnus makes lemonade out of lemons

Clark Beck "turns lemons into lemonade."

"There are so many things you can't control in life, so you just have to play the hand you're dealt and trust that being positive and persistent will pay off in the end."

Now an accomplished engineer living in Kettering, OH and proud UC alum, it's evident Clark's positive and strong-willed approach to life did, in fact, pay off. But the road to success certainly wasn't an easy one for Clark, who graduated in UC's first class of African American Engineering students in 1969. More than 40 years later, he looks back at UC as the "something better" that came along after so many other doors were closed on him.

After earning a math degree from the Virginia Union University, Clark's repeated rejection from engineering programs near his home in Indiana only intensified his ambition to pursue his dream.  He eventually found himself in the office of UC's Dean of the College of Engineering, where he was admitted into the mechanical engineering program, despite being told he'd likely "catch hell" as one of the first African American students in the program.

At times, Clark wonders how he made it through those days. He struggled through an intense engineering program with few friends, a weak support system and undesirable, yet more affordable, living conditions off- campus. Finding a co-op job was a difficult trek too, but he eventually landed a position with the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base two weeks prior to the deadline – an opportunity that paved the way for the rest of his career.

Today, Mr. Beck’s grandson Emory is following in Clark's footsteps, pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering , but at a completely different UC than Clark experienced forty-plus years ago. Emory lives on campus. He has friends, roommates, and a huge support system through the Darwin T. Turner Scholars Program and Emerging Ethnic Engineers (E3) Program - both of which were not available to Clark.

“UC has grown leaps and bounds since I was in school,” Clark says, “Not just academically and physically, but intellectually. UC has made tremendous changes – all for the better – and I’m proud of that.”

“I’ve always looked up to my grandfather as an engineer, as a person, especially intellectually, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Emory says. “I’m even working at Wright Patterson and plan on working there as an engineer for my career.”

Tell us what you know about turning lemons into lemonade! What was your biggest educational challenge and how did you overcome it?

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