August 3, 2021

Jan Clarke: Giving for a Living

Jan Clarke practices what he preaches. After all, he was an undergrad at Averett, a private Baptist college in Danville, Virginia, when got his first taste of fundraising working the phonathon. Not that Clarke is a preacher himself, but he is a philanthropist.

Assistant Vice President for Gift Planning Jan Clarke

UMW Assistant Vice President for Gift Planning Jan Clarke

As assistant vice president for gift planning at UMW, he helps fulfill the wishes of those who want to contribute to the future of Mary Washington – and the students it serves – through their estates. And Clarke, who makes monthly investments to a retirement account set up to benefit the University, is doing the same.

He was a year into a hospitality career when the vice president of institutional advancement at his alma mater offered him an opportunity. At the time, “I didn’t realize this whole fundraising world was really a thing,” said Clarke, who was a natural fit for the role, moving on to a similar position at Radford University before joining UMW in 2003.

“It never occurred to me how much grease it takes to spread over all the wheels to keep everything turning [at a university],” he said. “It’s so much more than the check the parent writes for tuition.”

Planned gifts – set up through donors’ wills, stocks, trust funds and insurance policies – can be substantial, with pledges in the millions of dollars. With that much at stake, the job calls for patience and a personal touch.

Givers come from all perspectives. “Some people want their name on the side of the building,” said Clarke, who takes great care of his clients, sending handwritten notes, delivering groceries or just stopping by for a visit. “Some people would rather die than have their name on the side of the building, but they still want to help.”

With enthusiastic Mary Washington alumni scattered far and wide, Clarke finds himself in constant motion – at least in non-pandemic times – traveling the country and beyond to meet with them. Then he matches donor dollars and passions with programs and initiatives across campus.

“We’re out there actively trying to cultivate relationships and align people’s interests with UMW’s needs,” Clarke said. “There’s a certain cross section of the population that understands the need for philanthropy and helping the next generation. That connection is meaningful.”

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Putting all the pieces together to help people fulfill their wishes for how they want to help Mary Washington, seeing them satisfied and watching a student benefit from what they’ve done.

Q: Most challenging?
A: When you know someone has the resources to be able to help but they don’t get why they should. I try to help people who don’t get it, get it.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Just keep on keeping on. If something gets in your way, you find a way over it, around it or through it.

Q: What’s the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received?
A: After my grandfather passed away, my mother gave me the pocket watch he had with him every day. That was very special.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I like to work with my hands – carpentry, gardening. I bike and kayak. I’m not much of a cook, but I like to grill, and I make a mean mojito. They’ll sneak up on you; I’m telling you.

Alum, Infectious Disease Expert, Urges Patience in Fighting COVID-19

Jerri Perkins, MD, graduated from Mary Washington in 1961, studied at the National Institutes of Health, and recommended the first FDA therapy related to AIDS. With a background in infectious disease, she believes that social distancing – and patience – are our best weapons in the fight against COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Jerri Perkins.

Jerri Perkins, MD, graduated from Mary Washington in 1961, studied at the National Institutes of Health, and recommended the first FDA therapy related to AIDS. With a background in infectious disease, she believes that social distancing – and patience – are our best weapons in the fight against COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Jerri Perkins.

Jerri Barden Perkins was heading to the peak of a powdery slope in Sun Valley, Idaho, when her ski instructor suggested they spread out from the group. As they stepped into the gondola, the women pointed their elbows away from their sides to create personal space.

It was the first of March, and coronavirus was beginning to creep through the United States. By the time Perkins, an infectious disease expert who graduated from Mary Washington in 1961, returned to her Hilton Head home in South Carolina, she was concerned. She sat down in her office overlooking peaceful Calibogue Sound to pen a letter to the editor of her local newspaper.

Like her ski instructor, Perkins believed social distancing was the way to slow the virus’s spread. But rather than scooching away from gondola-riders, Perkins was asking a town to close a bridge that provides access to an island.

“It doesn’t respect people or borders; it’s going to do its own thing,” she said of COVID-19. “If we want to survive, we have to pause and distance ourselves until we get more data and knowledge.” Read more.

Office of Gift Planning Spring 2020 Newsletter

The Office of Gift Planning recently released its spring 2020 newsletter, Planning Matters, which includes features on Sue Tillery ’81, whose planned gift will create the third Tillery family scholarship, as well as Lillian Lester ’20, a first-generation college student who was the recipient of the Franklin E. Tillery scholarship for three years. 16

http://giving.umw.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/April-20-final-UMW-Planning-Matters-3.pdf