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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Capt. Bob Clark Returns to Lead Old Dominion’s Military Engagement

By Tom Robinson

When Capt. Bob Clark retired as commanding officer of the world's largest naval base in Norfolk a few months ago, he headed home - to Old Dominion University.

A 1989 University graduate, Clark recently transitioned to his new station as Old Dominion's director of military activities and special projects.

To Clark, coming aboard his alma mater is another "pinch me" moment in a storybook career he prepared for at ODU as a Hampton Roads Naval ROTC midshipman.

"I remember sitting in the (Batten Arts and Letters) auditorium, listening to commanders speak about leadership, and thinking, wow, I wonder if I could ever make it that far?" Clark said in his Koch Hall office.

In May of '89, he earned his mechanical engineering degree and his military commission - and married ODU alumna Jennifer Donovan for good measure.

Soon he was a first division officer on the last crew of the USS Wisconsin, steaming for the Persian Gulf and on to a succession of greater commands. The latter culminated in three years at Naval Station Norfolk, first as executive officer, then as commanding officer.

"My goal was to be the CO of a ship. I wanted to lead sailors," said Clark, who commanded the USS Mason from 2007 to 2009 and then was operations officer with the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group. "I did that. I was complete. I'm humbled that I then got to go to major command."

Clark maintained connections with Old Dominion throughout his career, including as a football season-ticket holder. His son Rob attends ODU. Clark even served as grand marshal of the University's homecoming parade two years ago.

It all added to Clark's eagerness to return to ODU when retired Vice Admiral David Architzel left the military affairs position for private industry.

"Bob's close ties to the University and his great service in Hampton Roads make him a perfect fit for Old Dominion," said Capt. Bob Geis, chief of staff of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, which oversees installations as far west as the Great Lakes. "He knows as well as anybody the importance of education and of taking care of sailors who are transitioning to civilian life."

Along with being ODU's liaison with the Department of Defense (DOD), military installations and service personnel, Clark will manage senior-level special projects and advise University leadership on the implications of DOD policy.

Other duties include securing external funding, grants and contracts, representing ODU at military events and programs, pursuing DOD support for instructional and research programs, and coordinating on-campus ROTC units.

"Bob Clark's background and leadership skills are a valuable addition to Old Dominion University," said David F. Harnage, Old Dominion's chief operating officer. "His extensive network and the respect that the military community has for him will bring new assets and opportunities to Old Dominion. I look forward to working with Bob."

Clark said his immediate plans include broadening and strengthening ties to all local military installations to foster collaboration and increase awareness of Old Dominion's support services for transitioning and active-duty service members.

His ultimate goal, echoing Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's priority, is to retain military talent in the region and the state, Clark said.

"Through education and benefits and access to programs, there's no reason why we can't keep more veterans here in this area," he said.

Clark noted that Old Dominion's Military Connection Center and Veterans Business Outreach Center are already important players in that regard. Those programs have found significant success helping service members, reservists, guard members and their families transition to academic life.

With 26 percent of its students military-affiliated, ODU is ranked 14th by Military Times for "Best for Vets Colleges." And ODU has been named a "Military Friendly School" for seven years in a row by G.I. Jobs magazine.

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