Inspired to Serve

March 1, 2017

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BUFFALO, NY - Vincent D. Clark ’97 and his siblings grew up in poverty on Buffalo’s East Side.  But circumstances were never an excuse for the Clark family, which was always at the ready to help a neighbor in need. 

“My parents told us that wherever we are ought to be a better place for us being there or we have wasted our God-given opportunities,” Clark says.

Clark took these words to heart and the Buffalo region – its economy, educational institutions, faith community and the disadvantaged – is better because he did. 

“Much of my work has been to establish, nurture and leverage mutually beneficial relationships to move the region forward,” Clark explains.  “But at the end of the day, it’s really about the ways we can make this community work for the people.”

African Americans, other minorities and the less fortunate now have a better chance at success because of Clark’s efforts on behalf of the Buffalo Urban League.  As vice president of development and communications, he helped raise $3 million for the organization’s educational programs, which include scholarship support, career exploration, life skills and vocational training. 

Clark also played a key leadership role in the development of the University at Buffalo’s strategic campaign, UB 2020.  In his role as director of community relations, he organized a coalition of support to secure landmark legislative reforms that enabled UB to advance research, discovery and economic promise in downtown Buffalo.  Clark similarly planned and implemented UB/BPS, a partnership that prepares K-12 students for college. 

It’s the kind of academic support Clark wishes he received growing up. 

“It wasn’t until I came to Canisius that I received the education that set the course for my future,” he says. 

The political science major always had his sights set on Canisius.  He grew up near the college and recalls people like Buffalo Mayor Anthony M. Masiello ’69 and Congressman John J. LaFalce ’61 who graduated from Canisius. 

Clark sought to follow the same path and was accepted at Canisius on a partial scholarship. 

“For a kid from a distressed neighborhood, it was like I gained admittance to an exclusive club.”

That, and so much more.   

Clark became the first African American president of the college’s Undergraduate Student Association.  He “reluctantly” ran for office at the urging of two mentors. 

“They saw leadership potential in me when I couldn’t see it for myself,” Clark says, speaking about Martha A. Veasey ’82, MS ’89, former director of community relations and disability support services, and Sababu C. Norris, director of the ALANA Student Center. 

That first leadership position opened doors for Clark.  After graduation, he landed a job as senior advisor to U.S. Rep. Jack Quinn (NY-27, NY-30).  Responsible for federal grants, appropriations, labor, housing and education issues, Clark is proud to have “helped direct resources for much of the development happening today on Buffalo’s medical campus and waterfront.” 

And though his latest position -  raising scholarship support for students at Stony Brook University - takes him away from his beloved city, Clark continues to work on behalf of Western New York. 

Every other weekend he returns to New Directions Christian Fellowship on Fillmore Avenue, where he is an assistant pastor.  Clark is also a regular at alma mater.  He is a new member of the Board of Regents and assumed a leadership role on the planning committee for the 2018 Jubilee Celebration for the Afro American Society. 

“Canisius laid the foundation for my career empowering others,” says Clark, who truly earned his place as a distinguished member of the “exclusive club” he once admired from afar.