Friday Morning Banner

The People in the Room

by Jim Campbell, ETEC President

For the last three or four years, an older gentleman came to our Friday morning meetings just to listen. He never mingled much. Just listened. Learned.

Wayne Clark is now 97 years old, and he’s struggling. It’s hard on those of us who consider him to be a friend because we can’t go see him…not at the hospital where he’s been admitted several times in the past few weeks, nor at NHC where he is convalescing. I’d like to tell him, remind him perhaps is a better term, that he did good. He lived well.

Wayne’s a chemist by trade. He and his wife Pat came to Oak Ridge in the 1950s where he worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. But that was never enough for him. The couple owned an office supply store. They helped start organizations like CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for troubled teens. They were a vital part of the integration of Oak Ridge in the 1960s. Wayne chaired the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce for a time.

He had an “angel investment fund” that he managed for about 50 years, helping technologists start up new companies. It wasn’t a huge fund, but every little bit helps in that world. He closed that organization down about five years ago and bragged to me that none of his angels over all those years ever lost a nickel on the investments that were made.

Bu the thing Wayne wanted most, the thing he dreamed about for almost all his life, was creating a University of Oak Ridge. He thought a town like Oak Ridge would be an ideal setting for some sort of college. He even purchased a big parcel of land in the southwestern portion of Oak Ridge to accomplish that mission. He worked and worked on that vision, and when it was not to be, he joined the fight to create a campus for Roane State Community College in Oak Ridge. He wanted it on his land, but when another site was selected, he never wavered in his support.

And all this time he still did his chemistry. The building his lab was in burned not too long ago, but he just moved his latest experiment to the next place. He still has one working, I’m told by his wife, who is now a sprightly 94 years old. They are quite a pair.

All this is to say, I miss seeing you on Friday mornings. There is an incredible amount of talent that gathers in the Homer Fisher Room at the UT Outreach Center on most Fridays. There are hundreds of stories like Wayne’s. I enjoy hearing them all.

NEXT MEETINGS: For the time being we are going to continue to plan for remote meetings. I want to commend our staff, Tracy Boatner and Nicole Allen, for learning how to apply these ‘new to us’ technologies so effectively. We’re still learning, and I believe we will add a few bells and whistles to upcoming programs as we learn more.

FOCUS ON MISSION: We continue to hear from our Nuclear Working Group about upcoming opportunities. They range from fuels and radioisotopes to new reactor manufacturing. Some are federal, some are private. A fourth stimulus bill will be before Congress soon. Our appropriators are working hard these days. ORNL’s supercomputing capability continues to make international news related to the pandemic. People are beginning to realize what a powerhouse we’ve got in our backyard. Kudos to those groups who continue their work on the federal missions during these difficult times.

Be safe. Be well. Have a Happy Easter!
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East Tennessee Economic Council
1201 Oak Ridge Turnpike, Suite 100
Oak Ridge, TN 37830