After 63 years, alum fulfills dream of Bachelor of Arts degree

- July 5, 2024

Ken Clark crosses the stage at Convocation this past spring. (Nick Pearce photo)
Ken Clark crosses the stage at Convocation this past spring. (Nick Pearce photo)

Ken Clark (BA’24) marvels at how much Dalhousie changed over the course of his Bachelor of Arts degree. For example, textbooks became accessible online and the dress code became much more relaxed.

“I noticed a lot more tattoos and piercings,” laughs Clark.

If the nature of those changes seems surprising, consider that Clark’s degree has been 63 years in the making. He has a pretty good reason for why it took so long to achieve such an important milestone: he put his studies on hold in 1961 when he got a job at CBC TV Halifax.

“The whole industry was brand new then,” says Clark, who was majoring in languages at the time. “Television had only been around in this part of the world since 1954 and Halifax was doing some really interesting things, including live broadcasts. I left Dal and went to work, always with the intention that I would go back and finish up somehow.”

Keeping a promise

In fact, Clark did return to Dal in the late 60s to take summer courses, inching his way closer to that degree. However, his success in broadcasting meant deferring his dream longer than he anticipated. Over the years, he produced variety and news shows for CBC Halifax and helped launch the channels that became CTV Atlantic and Global Halifax. After that, Clark moved on to Winnipeg, New Zealand, Fiji, where he introduced an evening news broadcast, and Papua New Guinea, where he bought a TV station. 

Even with all these achievements, which also included appointment to the Order of Fiji, Clark remained motivated to take care of what he calls “unfinished business. It was something that, in the back of my mind, I thought, ‘Well, let’s do that some time,’” he says. “A year ago, the opportunity became available to make it happen.”

The opportunity was made possible when Clark returned to Halifax from Fiji, where he was retired, in 2020 and his subsequent outreach to the university to see how he could do it. In the end, all he needed to take was an economics course to complete his degree. 

The spirit of celebration

Take a look back at scenes from the Class of 2024's Spring Convocation.

Navigating new ways of learning

Although Clark had experience in reading balance sheets, he says learning economics was akin to learning a new language. He struggled with the course initially, and with using an online textbook, despite considering himself somewhat computer savvy. He found a workable solution by blending elements of old school learning (a printed textbook he managed to source) and digital tools (online access to lectures). “I passed the first midterm, the second one, and my final mark was my best,” he says.

As a result, Clark suspects he was not much of a mentor to his classmates. If anything, he believes his interactions with them may have been more beneficial for him, as he gained greater insight on the challenges his grandchildren are facing. He also gained a strong sense of admiration for their work ethic. “I don’t know how they did it,” he says. “For me, that course totally occupied my time, so the fact they were able to do that, and all their other courses simultaneously and still excel, was amazing.”

Joining a legacy

Crossing the stage for his diploma proved overwhelming for Clark, not just because of the significance of the moment, but also because he joined a long family legacy of Dal alumni. They include his father Ewan (BA’27), who was a Dal professor; his mother, Helena (BA’33); his uncle, William (BA’27); sister, Janet (BA’69, MLS’71); his brother, Ewan (BA’65, BEd’67); and his daughter, Mary Jane (BSc’90).

Having crossed his degree off his bucket list, Clark is thinking about what comes next. It might be working as a mediator, having earned accreditation from the Australian Dispute Centre, or it could be a master’s degree. Whatever he does, Clark hopes his experiences inspire others who, like him, have unfinished business.  

“Follow your dream,” he says. “Never give up. It’s cliché, I know. But it’s the truth.”


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