left photo: 1977 Gene Clark stands on the roof of the administration building; right photo: 2022 Gene Clark headshot
Trinity Remembers Eugene "Gene" Ellis Clark
Former physics professor founded the Trinity University Solar Project

Eugene “Gene” Ellis Clark died on April 19, 2023. He had lived with Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease for eight years. He was 79 years old. 

Gene was born in Atlanta, Georgia; lived in South Carolina; and, at age 12, his family moved to Miami, Florida. After high school he went to the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, and in 1970 graduated with a Ph.D. in physics, specializing in cosmology. He was then awarded a two-year Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research and teach at the University of London, King’s College, UK. Coming back to the U.S. in 1972, he accepted a position as an assistant professor at St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s City, Maryland. In 1975, Gene moved to San Antonio to become an associate professor at Trinity University in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, where he retired as professor emeritus after 36 years.

In 1976, his second year at Trinity, Gene initiated the development of the graduate program in Applied Solar Energy. He applied for and received a $2 million contract from the U.S. Department of Energy for the installation of a solar array on top of the Trinity athletic center building. That contract was followed by other grants and federal contracts over the next decade, including a $1 million contract for construction of a passive test facility on the Trinity campus. Funding for energy conservation dried up in the early 1980s and the graduate program at Trinity ended. 

Professor Clark was fundamental in establishing the Trinity University Solar Project in 1976. Watch an archived video about the project.

Gene was considered an expert in passive energy concepts and energy conservation of all sorts, and was invited to make presentations at conferences in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. After he retired, he continued his research activities, measuring the impact of clouds and infrared light on our climate.

Anyone who knew Gene well understood that he was the ultimate caregiver. He believed that all of life – humans, animals, plants; all of nature – deserved care and respect. He had a strong sense of responsibility for anyone or anything in need. He lived that caring throughout his many years of working for the betterment of our planet. 

The Department of Physics and Astronomy in 1988. Professor Clark is second from left.

On a personal level, Gene cared for his wife, Jeanette, with a deep love during their 43 years together. Gene and Jeanette met at Trinity University where Jeanette was the sponsored projects accountant. They were married on February 27, 1982. Gene took on the responsibility of becoming a wonderful parent to his two stepchildren, ages 12 and 10 at the time.

Gene was a wonderful listener. He could, but generally did not, make “small talk” but would, instead, engage with each person one-on-one, learn about the person and have a discussion wherever the conversation led them. He was truly interested in whomever he was talking with – and he remembered what they said about their lives. 

Gene was preceded in death by his parents, Charles Ellis Clark and Elizabeth Davis Clark; and his brother Douglas Allen Clark. He is survived by his wife, Jeanette Blanke Burpo Clark; his children, Jeffery Burpo and wife, Melinda; Jill Burpo Shoup and husband, Stephen; grandchildren Ian Burpo, Ellie Shoup, Elena Burpo and Sawyer Shoup. In addition, he is survived by his sister, Pamela Clark Rinker; brothers- and sisters-in law, Grace Nail; Jim Blanke and his wife, Dorann; Sue Potter and her husband, Mike; and John Blanke and his wife, Marla; along with numerous nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

Memorial gifts may be made to the University Presbyterian Church Solar Fund, the American Solar Energy Society, the Lewy Body Dementia Association, or the charity of your choice.

Read Gene Clark’s full obituary at Legacy.com.

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