Remembering Terry Clarke: A Word from John Verret

Terry Clarke is one of my heroes. He passed away this February.

I cannot remember the exact date I met Terry Clarke. I just know that it was in the seventies and his PR office was around the corner from my office at 535 Boylston St., where Quinn & Johnson was located.

I often met him for lunch at a deli on Newbury Street, where I would listen to and laugh at his remarkable stories.

Over the years, we became pretty good friends. He created a wonderful Advertising and Public relations combo: Clarke Goward Advertising and Clarke and Company Public Relations.

In the seventies, it was hard to imagine just how often our paths would cross and intertwine over the next 45 years. I knew when I met him that he was smarter and funnier than I. Although I kept trying to top him in storytelling, I never could.

He was brilliant, funny, charming, sophisticated, down-to-earth, AND he had the most eclectic mixture of talents imaginable. He was a true renaissance man. I was stunned one day when I introduced him to a young Chinese student of mine and Terry began to speak in Mandarin–a language he learned while in the Air Force. Who knew?!

While Terry was a well-connected and talented PR guy, his advertising agency became a hot house for creative talent in Boston.

He was a member of “The Boston Common,” literally the best barbershop quartet on the planet. You can still hear his sublime baritone on its albums.

I remember going to the Hatch Awards Show, New England’s top creative award show (and the best regional award show in the country), when Terry was recognized with the coveted Sissman award for artistic talent in a field other than Advertising. (The award was named after the amazingly talented poet, Ed Sissman, who was also a brilliant copywriter).

I was sitting next to Terry when they called his name. I knew by the look on his face that he was surprised and honored, but his sense of humor took over as he looked at me and said, “Great choice, don’t you think?” And it was a great choice indeed!

When I was the president of Arnold Advertising and PR, I competed with Terry for the Public Relations portion of the Boston Regional McDonald’s Advertising Cooperative. Never was there a friendlier competitor. He won the public relations account, and we won the advertising portion. We worked together seamlessly and laughed together constantly as we helped the McDonald’s owner and operators grow their businesses. Terry helped make the work more fun than anyone is supposed to have while working.

And then there was his love for Boston University’s COM. In 1996, I decided to quit my job and become a teacher. Terry was already an adjunct professor teaching in the Public Relations/Advertising/Mass Communication department at COM, and he proposed that I start teaching as an adjunct professor.

Thus began a new chapter in my relationship with this remarkable man. Terry had been teaching there for years and was the “organizer and social director”of the PR/Advertising Adjuncts of the time. He and the others taught me about creating a syllabus, controlling a class–AND how to party at The Dugout after class.

After two years, I was offered a full-time position as Associate Professor of Advertising and became part of the “daytime staff,” as Terry referred to my new gig.

Terry was always in the background of my 20-year stint at BU. He was a guest lecturer in my strategy class, and I reciprocated in his Ad Management class. He also made sure that I did not miss the nights at The Dugout where he knew everyone who walked through the door.

Boston University was part of Terry’s DNA. He was incredibly passionate about the growth of COM and about promoting that growth. He had received his master’s degree in PR there, and he contributed time, talent and money to make it the best communications school in the country.

Terry’s son Lawson also earned his master’s degree at COM, and his son Penn co-taught with Terry for many semesters. Terry and his wonderful wife Judy attended all of the major events related to BU and COM.

As I walked through the halls of COM in the early evenings, I could always tell where Terry was teaching. That booming voice was hard to miss. And there was no missing the energy and enthusiasm of his students when he taught. They loved him, and he loved them.

I was honored and amused by the funny emails each semester informing me of the exact date that I would be lecturing. “I know that it is an honor to teach in my class, and you are barely worthy of it, but I expect to see you at the date above (and you do not want to get on my bad side by not showing up). P. S. Please let me know if you need to come on another night. Love, Terry.

He was a Life Force, a lovely human being who will be missed by everyone who came in contact with him. COM will not be the same without him.

Rest In Peace, Terry Clarke.

John Verret is a Marketing and Advertising Consultant and a retired Associate Professor of Advertising at COM.

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