Janet Morrison Clarke ’75 Discovers Another Family at Princeton

February 4th, 2015 / Advancement

Janet Morrison Clarke ’75Growing up outside Worcester, Massachusetts, the oldest of five girls, Janet Morrison Clarke ’75 believed her interests in art, design, and math would serve her well in her planned profession as an architect. She knew that Princeton had a top-notch architecture school. And when she read in Mademoiselle magazine in 1969 that the University was going coed, she thought, “I might be able to get in.” 

Her high school guidance counselor, however, was not supportive. “You really don’t want to go there,” he said. The well-meaning counselor didn’t think a previously all-male institution would be a good match. 

Despite his misgivings, Clarke applied and was admitted. It turned out to be a pivotal decision. “From the moment I set foot on campus, where I knew no one, it felt like a family,” she said. 

As a freshman, she stayed up all hours getting to know her classmates. Before long, professors and administrators invited her to dinner. She became one of the inaugural members of the nascent women’s ice hockey team. 

Clarke’s initial sense of belonging has only grown over the years. That’s why she has designated the University as a beneficiary in her will. “When you are putting your estate together, you want to make sure you don’t forget any of your key family members,” she said. “Princeton is a very key member of my family.”

Going Home to Help

“I always considered getting into Princeton as a major major gift,” said Clarke, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida. But her undergraduate experience was interrupted the first week of her junior year, when a fire destroyed her father’s lumberyard. 

As the oldest, she felt a responsibility to go home. To help pay the bills, she took on a full-time job in the drafting room of a civil engineering firm; when she wasn’t there she worked with her father to help him get his business back on its feet. At night, she would head to rinks to keep up her skating chops. “It was a pretty rough year,” Clarke said.  

Her Princeton friends mailed her a book of photographs of Princeton that they all signed. She still has it. When she resumed her junior year, she moved back in with her roommates—who had made sure to save a spot for her—and rejoined the hockey team. The University eased her transition by increasing her aid package: she financed her education with scholarships, loans, and jobs that she loved, from coat checker at the art museum to bartender to freelance graphic designer. 

That year away from college was difficult, but “it made me not fear having no money,” she said. “You can have happy moments with nothing, too.” 

Princeton has taught her, she added, that you have to look beyond barriers in life to the future possibilities: “If you give up at the barrier level, you never achieve the other things.” 

Janet Morrison Clarke ’75 speaks at the 2009 dedication of Sherrerd Hall, where a classroom was named in her honor. From the left are President Emeritus Harold T. Shapiro *64, University Trustee Robert S. Murley ’72, and then-President Shirley M. Tilghman.

Although she earned her degree in architecture, she found her professional niche in the business world, starting in sales, which was largely male-dominated at the time. She went on to hold senior executive positions at three companies—R. R. Donnelley, Citibank, and Young & Rubicam—before founding her own firm in 2002. Clarke Littlefield LLC provides strategic consulting services and gives her more time to serve on corporate boards and volunteer for various organizations.  

Princeton is the beneficiary of many of those efforts. A fiercely loyal alumna and volunteer leader, she served as a trustee from 1993 to 2008 and co-chaired the Anniversary Campaign for Princeton. By her side since her fifth Reunion has been her husband, Fred Clarke, who shares her zeal for Princeton and has been known to surprise her by getting her cars custom painted with tiger stripes.

Ensuring a Legacy

“Princeton has done so much for me,” said Clarke, who gained an influential mentor in then-President Harold T. Shapiro *64 when she chaired Annual Giving from 1990 to 1992. “He saw something in me and encouraged me to be more involved.” Shapiro and his wife, Vivian, are an “extraordinary pair of leaders while being caring humans, too,” she added.

Princeton has inscribed Janet Clarke in its memory: A classroom in Sherrerd Hall and a scholarship are named in her honor. Through her planned gift, Clarke has responded in kind. 

“Anybody who knows me knows it’s Princeton, Princeton, Princeton,” she said. “When you start to reflect on your legacy, you go back to what helped shape you. And I thought, sure, you give during your lifetime, but you want to make sure you haven’t forgotten to give at the end.” 

For more information on including Princeton in your estate plans or making another kind of planned gift, contact one of our philanthropic advisors in the Office of Gift Planning at 609.258.6318, or e-mail 1746soc@princeton.edu.