Feb. 10, 2010
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Joe Clark, father of UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark and subject of the 1989 motion picture, "Lean On Me," will be the featured speaker at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium of the University of Tennessee's University Center. Mr. Clark`s visit is sponsored by the Chancellor's Council for Diversity and Interculturalism.
Clark, who was portrayed in the movie by Morgan Freeman, was principal at Eastside High School in Paterson, N.J. After two years under his leadership, the once unruly institution attained model school status, as proclaimed by the governor of New Jersey. Clark later was named one of the nation's 10 "Principals of Leadership" in 1986.
Clark is a former Army drill instructor who worked while attending high school to support his mother and siblings. He then went on to get his bachelor's degree from William Paterson College and a master's degree from Seton Hall University. He also received an honorary doctorate from the U.S. Sports Academy.
His son, J.J., and daughter, Joetta Clark Diggs, have strong affiliations
with UT. Among his numerous accomplishments, J.J. led the Lady Vol track & field program to NCAA Indoor National Championships in 2005 and 2009 and assumed leadership of both the men's and women's programs in June 2009 as the school's first-ever director of track & field. Joetta, meanwhile, was a 15-time track & field All-American at Tennessee from 1981-84 and went on to compete in four Olympiads for the United States and earn induction into the Lady Vol Hall of Fame with the inaugural class in 2001.