In honor of the late artist, teacher, and friend, Dr. Christopher Layton Clark, Utah Valley University’s School of the Arts (SOA) has presented the Chris Clark Fellowship, an academic scholarship designed to help UVU theater students to participate in the UVU Theater Study Abroad program.
SOA presented the scholarship to Emilee Simko, a UVU senior student and aspiring actor, writer and director, during a livestream at the Noorda Center for the Performing Arts on June 6. Simko will study in London from July 12 to August 10. watch Shakespeare plays, attend workshops and study the art of theater directing.
“I don’t really know if I have the words to express how I feel,” Simko said. “I guess I would just say, from the bottom of my heart: Thank you very much. It means the world to me to have help in achieving my goals. Money is so hard and life is so hard, and sometimes you just have to rack your brains to accomplish what you need, and it’s like a breath of fresh air when you get the ‘assistance.
Simko said she never really had the chance to work with Chris Clark, but she had seen a lot of his work. She said if she could talk to him now, she would ask him a lot of questions. “I think the life he led was so interesting and amazing,” Simko said. “All the experiments he had to do. I really wish I could learn from him.
On the livestream was Lisa Valentine Clark, wife of Dr. Clark, to present Emily with the scholarship funds totaling $1,400.
“My late husband, Dr. Christopher Clark – who is still very much loved here at Utah Valley University – loved his time here,” Clark said. “Part of his legacy that was most meaningful to him was being able to continue that scholarship he started studying in London abroad – he really knew the power of giving students real opportunities to see theater on more engaging, exciting and thrilling. as part of their education. And I’m so excited to have this happening today so I can present this first scholarship long into the years to come.
During his time at UVU – which included chairing the university’s theater department – Dr. Clark took students to London and Edinburgh as part of the Theater Study Abroad programme. There, students would attend live plays at venues like Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of William Shakespeare’s plays.
After Dr. Clark passed away from ALS in June 2020, employees at UVU School of the Arts wanted to nurture his passion for the study abroad program.
UVU School of Arts Marketing Director Isaac Walters met Chris in college and was responsible for transitioning the project – originally a stage production – to an online memorial.
“He had a huge impact on so many people I know,” Walters said. “He had a very big impact on me. He was there for me as a friend during some of the darkest times of my life. And I think he was that for just about everyone he met. He was a remarkable person.”
Funds for the scholarship come from the Ron and Kaye Gunnel Family Foundation, which has contributed up to 75% of the amount needed to fully fund the scholarship. The remaining 25% is currently raised through Dr. Clark’s Memorial Fund and Online Scholarships. In addition, the 2019 profit production of Xanadu – produced by Dr. Clark’s Friends and Collaborators and held at the Hale Center Theater Orem – raised enough money to help a directing student attend the Theater Studies Abroad Program.
“There is something to be said for his legacy, for leaving something behind that will continue to do good year after year,” said Erika Stone, Marketing Director for the School of the Arts. “I think it’s a wonderful thing for his wife and for his family to know that he’s going to continue living. He’s going to continue helping people and doing the same things he used to do in life in terms of impact on people.
Dr. Clark’s signature quote, “Well Roared, Lion”, comes from Shakespeare Dream of a summer night. While its meaning depends on interpretation, the quote signifies a voice and a life well lived, according to Walters.
“For me, [that quote] represents Chris so much because it’s Shakespeare, something he loved very much,” Walters said. “And secondly, it’s Dream of a summer night. It’s all about comedy and Chris loved to make people laugh. That says a lot about who he is as much as the quality of what he did, which was, of course, extraordinary.
You can contribute to the Chris Clark Scholarship here.