Whenever Victor E. Clarke would meet with University of Miami Frost School of Music Dean Shelton “Shelly” Berg, he would talk about his fascination with music technology.
“Victor was always curious about technology,” said Berg, “and I think that’s what drew him to music. He was somewhat of an amateur music technology buff.”
Clarke, a UM trustee who grew his father’s Coral Gables-based engineering firm into a worldwide leader in custom-made avionics control panels and audio systems, and donated funds to build a UM music recital hall that bears his name, passed away on November 27. He was 81.
“Innovative and inquisitive” is how Berg described Clarke, who earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering from Cornell University. “Even when he was in poor health, Victor stayed very up on what was going on at the music school,” recalled the dean. “I last saw him about a month ago, and we met for about an hour. We just had the greatest conversation, and he was still very excited about what we were doing.”
A lifelong resident of Miami who graduated from Coral Gables High School, Clarke followed the philanthropic example set by his parents, Victor P. and Charlotte H. Clarke, who gave to many causes. Clarke’s gift to UM’s music school named the Victor E. Clarke Recital Hall, a 120-seat venue dedicated in April 1994 that continues to play a critical role in the Frost School’s mission, serving as an ideal setting for solo performances and smaller concerts that wouldn’t be held in the larger Gusman Concert Hall.
With the Frost School now in the midst of a major expansion phase that includes a new music studios building, 200-seat performance hall, and an experiential learning center, Clarke Recital Hall will be retrofitted with high-tech sound and lighting features to accommodate electronic classical music.
Among the other projects made possible by Clarke’s generosity are the Victor E. Clarke Pavilion at Baptist Hospital in Kendall, the Baptist Cardiovascular Institute, and the Victor E. Clarke Education Center at South Miami Hospital.
Born on March 13, 1932, in Miami, Clarke served his country as an officer in the United States Air Force during the 1950s. Shortly after graduating from Cornell in 1956, he joined his father’s avionics firm, Gables Engineering, later succeeding the elder Clarke at the helm as chairman, CEO, and principal owner.
Clarke was appointed a University of Miami trustee in 1982, and an emeritus trustee in 2000. He served on the Academic Affairs, Athletic Advisory, Finance and Audit, Student Affairs, Master Planning and Construction, and Development Affairs committees. He also chaired the visiting committees of the College of Engineering and Frost School of Music, and was a member of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science Visiting Committee.
He was a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and in recognition of his contributions to engineering, Clarke was inducted into Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society, in January 1986.
Clarke is survived by his daughters, Charlotte “Anne” Clarke and Patricia “Lynn” Clarke Cogan; granddaughters Erin, Colleen, Kerry, Kelly, Mary-Bridget, and Meghan-Ann; and five great-grandchildren, Luke, Hannah, Gabrielle, Ryan and Natalie.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to a charity of your choice.