Florence Clark, chair of the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, was recently tapped to receive USC’s highest honor.
USC will pay tribute to Clark with its Presidential Medallion, which is awarded to an individual who has brought honor and distinction to the university.
“To be honest, my first response was amazement, and my second a profound sense of gratitude,” Clark said. “There just are so many members of the USC community who have made significant contributions, and I often think of the projects in which I am engaged as occurring a bit on the periphery or behind the scenes. So I was truly astounded that my work had been noticed at this level.”
Clark has been indispensable in driving her vocation from the periphery of the academic world to its center. Under her guidance, the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy has been ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report for five years. She also has greatly influenced the public’s understanding of the occupational therapy field, speaking on the international lecture circuit and appearing on CNN, National Public Radio and at the National Press Club.
First arriving at USC in 1976, Clark joined the faculty as an assistant professor. While teaching at the university, she earned her doctorate with a dual major in educational psychology and special education. She became an associate professor in 1982 and a full professor in 1989, the same year she became chair of the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.
One of her greatest achievements at USC sprung from her role as lead investigator on the USC Well Elderly Study. The large-scale clinical trial demonstrated that the elderly could improve their health and slow the aging process through lifestyle redesign programs. The results of the study were later published in several prestigious journals, including the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and the Journal of the American Medical Association, which up until that point had never published the results of an occupational science study.
For her pioneering contributions to her field, Clark received the prestigious Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lectureship Award and the Award of Merit, both from the American Occupational Therapy Association. She is also a fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Associa-tion and a charter member of the American Occupational Therapy Foundation’s distinguished Academy of Research.
“Professor Clark’s groundbreaking work in occupational science has helped countless people achieve a quality of life previously undreamed of, both in recovering from illness and in staving off the deleterious effects of aging,” said USC President Steven B. Sample. “Her outstanding stewardship of the USC Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy has brought great luster to our university.”
Clark not only teaches the importance of “building blocks of the self,” as she calls it; she has also contributed directly to the well-being of her students through her classroom proficiencies. An admired and popular professor, she has also chaired 70 masters’ theses and doctoral dissertations. Clark also has served on many university boards and committees, including membership in the Executive Board of the USC Academic Senate and as chair of the Academic Senate Committee on Community and Academic Life at USC.
Her commitment to student learning and enrichment even extends to campus living: she and her husband, John Wolcott, are faculty master and co-master at USC’s North Residential College.