JTHS Alumni Spotlight: Philip Clarke, 1972 Steelmen of the Year

Career & Education At-a-GlanceClarke.jpeg

  • University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
  • Joliet Junior College




Joliet Central High School Alumnus Philip Clarke was recognized as Steelman of the Year before graduating in 1972, and he has continued to demonstrate exceptional leadership, community service, and musical passion to this very day through a variety of professional and service activities.

His love for music and academics sparked at a young age. He attending Eliza Kelly from kindergarten to sixth grade, and then went on to graduate from Washington Jr. High School as the Class Valedictorian and recipient of the John Philip Sousa Award for musical excellence.

Throughout his time at Joliet Central, Clarke worked hard and took advantage of the opportunities available to him by actively participating in varsity track and basketball, along with the Human Relations Club, the Black Student Union and the band where he was the student conductor, drum major and section leader and president. His remarkable music skills landed him in the All-State Band. He also made Joliet Central High School history by being the school’s very first African-American drum major.

Reflecting on those busy high school days, Clarke expressed gratitude when asked about his inspirations throughout his childhood. Clarke said, “I actually had three teachers for whom I’ll always be grateful.

The first would be Mrs. Jeanette Franklin-Pinnick, who always reminded me that individual achievement doesn’t have value unless your purpose is to ‘bring everyone along with you’. She meant that if I wasn’t cognizant of the needs of my community, then whatever I did would be solely for the purpose of my own gain. She kept me grounded.

The second is my German Teacher, Mr. Egan Engers. He taught me the truth of my people that we actually were the people from whom civilization arose. The sciences, music, everything pertaining to knowledge had their origin in our ancestors. Mr.Engers believed that until we understood those things, we’d never take our rightful places in the world.

The third is Mr. Theodore Lega, who gave me every opportunity to be successful, in what was my passion…music! Mr.Lega held me accountable for my actions through both correction and support. I’m forever grateful for his input in my life.”

Clarke continued to persevere and continued his education at Joliet Junior College and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

A well-rounded man guided by his strong Christian values, Clarke also received his License of Ministry in 1978 under the Rev. Richard Thompson, and was ordained in 1980 under the Rev. DR.A.M. Varnado of the Lebanon District. After receiving this license, Clarke went on to attend the International Ministers Conference in Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, Korea in 1985, and on a separate occasion he was privileged to preach the eulogy of the actress Lynne Thigpen, and wrote “The Dreamweaver” for her.

In addition to continuing his involvement in ministry and music, he has worked dedicatedly as a transportation driver for Laraway CCSD-70 for the past eleven years. He also received the Copely Publishers Award while working as a District manager for the Joliet Herald News.

Furthermore, he and his wife Jacqueline have been very actively involved in the community. They have served on the executive boards of the first Eisenhower Academy Parenting Board, the District 86 Band and Orchestra Parents Association, the Washington Academy Parents Board, the Joliet Central Band Parents Association, and he personally served for two years as Co-President of the JTC Parenting Board, and as a Community Representative for the District 204 Academy Strategic Planning Committee.

In August of this year, he and Jacqueline will celebrate 45 years of marriage, having raised four wonderful children: Nicole, Candace, Philip and Justin.

When asked to give advice to current students, Philip says, “We have what we believe… If you start out believing that you have an A, then you’ll do the work that ‘you’ need to do in order to keep what’s already yours.

I’d also like the students to know that there’s one lesson in life that they never need to learn. That lesson, never to be learned, is how to quit on yourself. If you have a dream, do the work necessary to see your dream become your reality. If you quit on yourself, you’ll never know if in just one more year, one more month, one more week, one more day, or even one more hour of striving and believing that your dream would come true.”

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