The Boston University community lost a valued member this weekend with the death of Terry Clarke, a BU alumnus and a professor of public relations and advertising in the College of Communication. He was 80 years old.
Clarke was spending the weekend in Florida with the Boston Common, the barbershop quartet of which he had been a part since 1971, when he died.
“He always used to talk to me about his passion for that,” said Paul Tedeschi, a former student of Clarke’s. “At least he was doing what he really loved doing.”
In addition to singing with the quartet, Clarke showed a passion throughout his life for the public relations and advertising industries, as well as for the welfare of his students and Boston University as a whole.
In his more than 50 years of experience, Clarke worked as a public relations manager at the Pepsi Cola Company, as chairman and CEO of Clarke Goward Advertising, Clarke & Company Public Relations and as the owner of Clarke Communication Group. Academically, he was a product of the University of Pittsburgh, Yale University and BU, where he earned his degrees in public relations and mass communications.
“I consider him a true Mad Man,” said Tedeschi, who graduated from COM in 1989. “You think about the ‘60s and ‘70s with advertising — he was a bigger-than-life guy back in his day. He was truly a visionary, creative guy.”
Throughout his time at BU as a professor and trustee, he was an avid advocate for what he believed was best for the university. Clarke was “BU’s biggest fan and supporter,” said John Verret, a retired COM professor of advertising.
Clarke protested against the dissolution of the university’s football team in the late 1990s, and in 1994, he led the movement for BU’s Communication Research Center to build COM’s first research lab, said Michael Elasmar, the director of COM’s Marketing Communication Research Program.
“I always think of him as Mr. Boston University,” Tedeschi said. “He was a constant promoter of this school and of COM in particular.”
He was known for bringing his extensive industry experience into the classroom to immerse students in the fields of PR and advertising. Clarke would often bring client cases from his other jobs to students and allow them to learn from real-life companies and scenarios.
Wendy’s was one of Clarke’s notable clients, and he would bring the Wendy’s case to class and ask students to work on it, said Ben Sturner, a student of Clarke’s in 1999.
Alina Woo, a COM junior in Clarke’s advertising management class this semester, said Clarke had been planning to take the students on a field trip later this week to the Boston office of MullenLowe, one of the biggest ad agencies in the city.
“He had a lot of experience in the ad world, so he had a lot of connections,” Woo said. “He said he was going to pull some strings to get us to go [to MullenLowe] and see these execs.”
Clarke’s commitment to his students was undeniable, manifesting itself in the personal relationships he had with them and his humor, which lasted until his last days, when he would jokingly tell his students he was 110 years old.
“He’s one of the most likeable and inspiring professors that I’ve ever had,” Woo said.
Clarke would often meet with his students at local establishments like T’s Pub or Dugout Cafe to get to know them and have a beer, said Sturner.
“When you meet him, he lights up a room,” Sturner said. “… He just liked being around people and helping and he had a big sense of pride when it came to BU.”
Clarke’s advertising management class this semester will go on, taught by Christopher Cakebread, a long-time faculty member in the Department of Mass Communication, Advertising and Public Relations.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this obituary did not include Clarke’s age at the time of his death. His age has been added.