Next Story

Siblings give back to Auburn Engineering in honor of their father

By Lauren Winton

Published: Dec 14, 2021 9:10:00 AM

William Clark William Clark

Born and raised in upstate New York and having moved to Atlanta during his high school years, William Winfield Clark (Bill) knew from an early age he wanted to be an engineer. He looked at Georgia Tech, the practical option just down the road, but then Bill realized there was an equally good school just a little further down the road.

“He loved Auburn,” his son Michael said. “He always talked about how his time at Auburn was the greatest period in his life.”

For someone who lived a life like Bill’s, that’s high praise.

Bill graduated from Auburn in 1942, just on the cusp of the Second World War. As a student, he signed a contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to work as an engineer upon graduation.  When war dawned his senior year, Bill was eager to join the fight.

“At that time, TVA was considered a vital program for the United States,” said Michael. “He was not allowed to join the military as a TVA employee.”

But that didn’t stop him from trying. Or from taking no for an answer. Eventually, after applying for service in different states, Clark became a G.I.

“I think someone made a clerical error, but anyway, he got in,” Michael said. “My dad was part of the invasion on the beaches of Normandy.”

As an engineer, Bill Clark offered the Army a distinct advantage in war-time logistics. He built bridges. He cleared landmines. But like many of the others of his generation, he didn’t talk about it.

“But he would tell us stories of his time in Paris after the war, staying with his aunt who lived there – the people, the music, the night clubs. At that time, he was 25. From the way he told it, life after the war was pretty great. I think it gave him back some optimism,” Michael said.

After his time in Paris, Bill came back to work in the U.S. as an engineer. He started with the Tennessee Valley Authority where he met his future wife, Willie Russell. After their marriage they settled on the West Coast, taking advantage of the new industry war had brought to California. Bill landed a job with Dell Webb, then one of the country’s largest construction companies, and created a successful career.

Raising his children on the West Coast, Bill always talked fondly of Auburn. Michael, his sisters Michele and Sandra and younger brother Pat grew up hearing stories about the loveliest village on the Plains.

“The way dad talked about it, well, his stories encouraged my sister Sandra to go to school at Auburn. She’s a graduate just like he is,” Michael said.

During his time at Auburn, Bill met some of the greats. He took classes from George Petrie. And he was required to take Physical Education – a course taught by none other than Shug Jordan.

“My father was very fond of Shug Jordan,” Michael said. “Dad talked about how he was such a great man.”

“I think his affection for Auburn stemmed from the welcoming, family community,” said Michael. “Auburn brought him into the middle class, giving him a profession in civil engineering. In dad’s mind, he was set for employment for life with his degree.”

Following his death in 2006 and in honor of her husband’s dedication to Auburn, his wife, Willie Russell Clark established the William Winfield Clark Scholarship in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. Understanding Bill’s love for Auburn and his gratitude for his engineering education, Bill’s children have continued to support the William Winfield Clark Scholarship. Bill would be happy to know a civil engineering student is receiving a scholarship in his name.

“My father loved Auburn and my sisters, my brother and I are pleased to honor dad in this way,” Michael said.

Media Contact: Lauren Winton, lmw0090@auburn.edu, 334.844.5519

Recent Headlines