An apple for the teacher: Dr. Mary K. Clark educated us all

Over her 15-year tenure as assistant dean for student affairs, Dr. Mary K. Clark brought immense wisdom to the Wayne State University Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences – so much so that Associate Dean for Health Sciences Sara Maher called her “my WSU Jedi master.”

Dr. Mary Clark
Dr. Mary K. Clark has left her mark on WSU Applebaum with dedication, compassion, integrity and strength.

Among Dr. Clark’s sage advice:

  • Kindness wins.
  • Stay in your lane.
  • Don’t borrow trouble.
  • And if all else fails, laugh.

These proverbs and more were shared by the 60 colleagues, friends and family (many of whom overlap) who feted Dr. Clark during a celebration of her service as she prepares to depart Wayne State for the greener pastures of retirement. Her last day in the office is Thursday, May 19, 2022.

Read about Dr. Mary K. Clark’s career and accomplishments

“I learned early on in my time here that when Mary K. suggests that you consider something, you should listen. Because you’re listening to a lot of experience, and you’re listening to a lot of wisdom, but it’s also coming from a standpoint of compassion and really what is best,” WSU Applebaum Dean Brian Cummings said.

Occupational Therapy Program Director Doreen Head agreed: “She has that sense of calm, that sense of direction and intentionality. She's very perceptive, and she's a gifted listener, and that makes her an exceptional problem-solver.”

A nurturing leader

From the stories told during the virtual gathering, which was emceed by Dr. Clark’s former colleague and longtime friend Lisa Whitmore Davis, problem-solving and untangling sensitive issues brought to her from every corner of the college took up the better part of her days. But she also made time for active leadership, particularly when it came to developing the strengths of the 10-member team she led in the Office of Student Affairs.

OSA staff with Mary Clark
Academic Services Officers Robert Hellar, Moira Fracassa and Jessica Pfeiffer with Dr. Clark.

“I have had a lot of supervisors in my career, and I’ve learned from all of them,” said Academic Services Officer IV Moira Fracassa. “Many of them taught me what not to do. Mary has taught me – has taught all of us – what to do. She doesn’t just mitigate our challenges; she works with us to acknowledge them, face them, and move forward as our best selves.”

Throughout her time at WSU Applebaum, Dr. Clark perpetually shined the spotlight on her team, nurtured their individual strengths, and expressed her gratitude for their work.

“Mary had an incredible impact on my career and educational journey. She broke me out of my shell and encouraged me to do my first conference presentation,” said Academic Services Officer III Jessica Pfeiffer.

“Mary’s leadership style helped me to flourish in this position,” added Academic Services Officer II Shauna Reevers. “I am grateful for her support in difficult times, and her willingness to help or guide during those times.”

For Dr. Clark, leaving her team is the most difficult part of her impending departure, calling them her “family away from home.” Building the Office of Student Affairs staff is her greatest source of pride when she considers her career at WSU Applebaum.

“What has allowed me to be able to move on at this time is knowing that whoever assumes this role after I leave is going to be a very lucky person, because they have a team that is second to none,” Dr. Clark said. “They have the most brilliant, dedicated, intelligent student affairs professionals that will make their job very easy, because they're good at what they do. They enjoy what they do, they enjoy doing what they do, and they enjoy each other.” 

An unyielding advocate

Dr. Clark made it her mission to showcase WSU Applebaum and its health professions to young learners. She brought metro Detroit middle schoolers into the college’s classrooms through the Community Apple Days program, which she conceived in 2013 and was instrumental in leading annually. Apple Days inspired the young visitors to see a health care career in their future, perhaps for the first time. 

Apple Days in the Nurse Anesthesia sim suite
Apple Days middle schoolers check out the Nurse Anesthesia simulation suite.

For example, students learning about the Nurse Anesthesia program on Apple Days experienced a visit to the simulation suite to see the process of anesthetizing and intubating a patient.

“The students were fascinated, especially when given the opportunity to intubate the mannequin. This program is extremely valuable,” said Prudentia Worth, who was Nurse Anesthesia program director at the time.

Head noted that a recent graduate of the Occupational Therapy program, Hannah Neal MOT ’21, attended Apple Days when she was in middle school, and the experience influenced her path to OT as a profession and WSU Applebaum as her training ground of choice. There is no doubt that many more examples of student success can be traced back to Dr. Clark and Apple Days.

Dr. Clark also built WSU Applebaum’s connections with the Wayne State C2 Pipeline and other programs aimed at growing the university’s population of students historically underrepresented in higher education due to family income, academic preparation or first-generation college status.

Apple Days
During Apple Days, Dr. Clark always had on her biggest and brightest smile.

Her championship of these programs reflects Dr. Clark’s commitment to issues of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in the college’s professional programs – and the professions themselves. She has been an influential advocate for the importance of a health care workforce that looks like the Detroit community many alumni serve.

“Mary K. has been an outstanding voice for doing what is right, and shouting out for what is right and fair,” Cummings said.

Earlier this year, Dr. Clark shared her own story of rising to her current role as part of the WSU Applebaum Black Women in Health Education Leadership video series.

A forever mentor

Apple workd cloud
Colleagues, friends and family submitted words describing Dr. Clark to create this apt art.

Dr. Clark served as a mentor to many people of all ages from a range of places, and no doubt will continue to do so in her retirement. Another former colleague and longtime friend, Cheryl Kollin, tied a bow on all the sentiments shared at the celebration: “Mary has a gift for bringing people together. She's a caregiver, and she also challenges. And I know this may sound very cliché, but if you're lucky enough to have Mary as your friend, you’re lucky.”

During the celebration, Dr. Clark was presented with a crystal apple engraved with a message of appreciation, among other heartfelt gifts that will ease her into the retired lifestyle, including gift certificates for spa treatments and for painting sessions at Curtis Wallace's Be Creative Studio (which, thanks to Mary, has inspired many WSU Applebaum staffers) and a financial contribution toward her next travel adventure. A video scrapbook collected gratitude and memories from several dozen individuals whose lives she has touched.

Dr. Clark’s final words of advice: “Kindness wins. Stay in your lane. Don't borrow trouble. If you come up with a situation that you can’t figure out the answer to, ask yourself: ‘What would a reasonable person do?’ And if all else fails? Just laugh. Just have a good old, you know, down-in-the-belly laugh, and by the time you're done, the problem will either be solved or at least it'll be less than it was.”

An anchor in urban health care

The Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is built on more than 100 years of tradition and innovation in the heart of Detroit. We have grown deep roots in our city, harnessing its powerhouse hospital systems and community service organizations as vibrant, real-world training grounds for students, with an ongoing focus on social justice in health care. And our research at all levels – from undergraduates to veteran faculty members – translates into creative solutions for healthier communities.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering approximately 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 25,000 students.

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