Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Priscilla Clarkson, dean of Commonwealth Honors College, dies

By Collegian News Staff

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Photo by Chris Shores/Collegian File Photo

Priscilla Clarkson, distinguished professor of kinesiology and dean of the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts, died at her home Sunday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 66.

“We are tremendously saddened by the loss of Priscilla Clarkson, particularly as it coincides with the opening of the new Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community, for which she was a tireless champion and advocate,” UMass chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in a statement. “She fully realized the power of strong collaboration between the academic and residential aspects of a university, and this new complex will honor her work and vision by serving as a model for undergraduate education in both universities and honors colleges nationally. Her spirit and love of learning will be deeply missed.”

Clarkson made great strides in the UMass community, first as a student, as she earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees by 1977. She then became a professor of exercise science and associate dean for the School of Public Health and Health Sciences (SPHHS).

Clarkson was a writer, researcher and educator, and quickly became a leader not only at UMass, but also at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), where she served as president and vice president of National ACSM.

With an ever-present interest in kinesiology, Clarkson’s research mainly focused on the function and dysfunction of human muscle and the effects of exercise. She published articles in the area of sport nutrition and served as Editor-in-Chief of Exercise and Sport Science Reviews.

Clarkson leaves behind a long list of achievements, including over 200 scientific research publications and a co-authored book about classical ballet entitled “Dancing Longer, Dancing Stronger: A Dancer’s Guide to Improving Technique and Preventing Injury.”

She was also a member of the Science Working Group at NASA to develop laboratories for Space Station and the NCAA Competitive and Medical Safeguards Committee.

Clarkson’s ambition motivated students and colleagues alike.

“I knew Priscilla for over 30 years,” said Patty Freedson, chair of the kinesiology department. “She was a friend and a mentor to me and she was always someone I could count on for encouragement and support. She was an amazing person whose tireless commitment and passion for training countless graduate and undergraduate students who have gone on to outstanding careers in science was second to none.”

Clarkson was survived by her husband Ronald Pipkin, professor emeritus of legal studies at UMass, her mother Mary Massei, and her brother Edward (Jay) Massei Jr., of Milbury.

1 Comment

One Response to “Priscilla Clarkson, dean of Commonwealth Honors College, dies”

  1. Dr. Ed on September 3rd, 2013 7:14 pm

    In addition to all the above, she was a decent and fair person on a campus where far too many grade on the basis of ideology.
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    Before she became Dean, Commonwealth College was becoming increasingly political — even by UMass standards. Conservative students spoke of the “woman over in some department called ‘kinesiology'” — who wasn’t teaching a required ComCol course as an ideological diatribe. Apparently others were.
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    The fact that upperclassmen in fields like Political Science went that far out of their “comfort zone” to take an honors course with someone in the health sciences speaks honors to her. The fact they were then recommending it to their friends speaks even higher honors.
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    And when she became Dean — well, I’m convinced she probably saved the place as it was starting to be known as “Communist College” and not exactly without cause. Yes there were things like the fake bomb (which shut down the entire campus one morning) and an attempt to offer academic credit for working on the Obama Campaign, but a lot of the over-the-top craziness abated.
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    In the course of something else, I would come to respect her judgment and see the basic fairness that the undergraduates had years earlier. In addition to the accolades of her field, this is worthy of note as well.

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