LENTHON CLARK – DOING GOD’S WORK
When I moved back to Arkansas to work in 1990, I was a young professional in my early thirties. Lenthon Clark worked across the hall from me in the Arkansas Union at the University of Arkansas, where he served as Director of Financial Aid from 1977 until his retirement in 1995. We had an instant friendship. We both served in the division of Student Affairs, along with Lenthon’s wife, Shirley.
I used to tease Len that when students did not get their financial aid exactly as expected, they would run across the hall crying to our department where we tried to dry their tears and calm their fears. I said he owed me for soothing the hurt feelings and offering reassurance to students who thought their time at the university was over because their money was not immediately available when they began a new semester. Fewer things were computerized then and everything moved at a slower pace, particularly approvals for federal aid.
Shortly after my arrival at the University, Len asked if I had found a church family. He invited me several times to Rolling Hills Baptist Church in Fayetteville, where he served as a deacon. I waited almost two decades before I finally visited and joined Rolling Hills. Although I knew that Rolling Hills was not an African-American church, I was surprised to find that Lenthon and Shirley were the only African-American church members.
Although Lenthon had a great sense of humor, he was quite serious about his work. He was good at what he did. And it was not just his work at the University that he cared about. He cared about people. He saw needs and stepped forward in faith to assist. He was serious about service to others. To this end, Len helped create a Habitat for Humanity student organization at the University. He helped bring Omega Psi Phi Fraternity to the University, so he and others could mentor young African-American brothers. Len even volunteered at the University after he retired. He was a host, helping visitors navigate our campus.
Outside of the University, Len helped start Cooperative Emergency Outreach (CEO), a food and resource bank coordinated by several churches to assist the less fortunate in the area. Len was a member of the local Kiwanis organization, where he likely took the prize for selling the most oranges and nuts for the group during the holidays! Both he and Shirley volunteered at Washington Regional Medical Center and were extremely active there. Len served as President of the WRMC Auxiliary and helped raise over $500,000 for a hospital expansion. I also learned recently that Lenthon was instrumental in bringing the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to the State of Arkansas.
Betty Loewer, also a deacon at Rolling Hills, described Lenthon as someone who was fully aware that he often did not have the same skin color as those he worked alongside, especially in Northwest Arkansas’ earlier days. I am sure it was not always easy, but he was comfortable in his own skin, so he let nothing stop him from doing his work. Lenthon had the ability to see not only the outside of someone; he saw the inside. And that is what I saw of him- his heart for service.
Sadly, we lost Lenthon Clark in August of 2014 at the age of 81. He is remembered as one who always led with a positive and determined attitude. He certainly made the most of his time on earth, leaving his mark and God’s, on those around him. He bridged many gaps through his service to others…an important reminder that the most important thing that ALL of us should be doing is God’s work.
Director, Off-Campus Student Services, UA
Rolling Hills Baptist Church
Resides in Fayetteville