After 27 years at Ithaca College, Ron Clark, fire building and safety coordinator at the Office of Public Safety, retired for a second time Nov. 20. Clark said he is the only employee in the history of the college to retire once and then return to take up his former position full time. This time, he is retiring from the college permanently.
Clark has been at the college since March of 1987. He began as a fire inspector and then moved up to his current position of fire building and safety coordinator. He has been involved with local fire departments since he was young and will be retiring to the Tampa, Fla., area with his wife.
Online News Editor Sage Daugherty spoke to Clark about his favorite memories at the college, his decision to retire and his plans after retirement.
Sage Daugherty: Describe your job at Ithaca College.
Ron Clark: My job is code enforcement and building inspections. I work about three months with the state fire marshal and the city fire marshal, and we go through all the buildings and check to make sure they’re safe. The other part of the job is the special events sector — like last weekend was the Cortaca Jug. We have our posts that we maintain, and we assist the ambulance, fire and police officers where needed.
SD: Describe the journey that led you to the college.
RC: I was involved with the local fire department and Dryden fire department. I was a truck captain for Dryden, and downtown I was a volunteer firefighter. I also worked at Bangs Ambulance for 20-some years as an EMT and then came here. My interview took about three hours, and I left here thinking I wasn’t going to get the job, and then three days later I was hired.
SD: What has working here taught you over the years?
RC: Professionally, as I walked in the door, I needed some training, so the college sent me to New York state code-enforcement training, which took five weeks to get my training in. The job taught me to be patient because sometimes the student body can be very testing. There are issues where I go in and somebody’s got an illegal extension cord. Whatever you do at home affects you and your family. Whatever you do here could affect 100 different people.
SD: Why are you retiring?
RC: This is my second retirement from here … I was actually 56 years old at that time and had 21 years here. My wife and I packed up and went to Florida and bought a house and then karma brought us back. My mom passed, and a year or so after that my wife’s dad passed, so we felt we were brought back. I came back, and I was the first employee to ever leave Ithaca College and come back to work full time in the history of the college. There have been people who have done it part time, but I came back full time. I walked right back into the same job I had left. And now seven years later, I’m 61, and it’s time.
SD: Tell me about your retirement plans.
RC: We bought a house in Oldsmar, Florida, which is at the very tip top of Tampa Bay, and we have a son down there, and his family and the rest of the kids are up here. I’m probably not going to be really retiring. I’m going down there, and I’ve already applied to the city of Oldsmar; they’re looking for somebody to mow their parks three days a week. Our house is 10 minutes to Clearwater Beach and 10 minutes to the airport, so it’s very accessible, and there’s just so much to do in Tampa. Twenty-seven years is a long time, and I’ve come a long way.
SD: What’s one of your favorite memories at the college?
RC: The Special Olympics in the early ’90s … we had a Special Olympics here, and nobody ever appreciated our unit as much as those athletes did at the Special Olympics. I’ve never been hugged or given so many hugs in my whole life. It was three days of long hours, we worked 12-hour days, but they were the best thing that ever happened at the campus.