Johnnie Ruth Clarke | July 28, 1919 — May 15, 1978
ST. PETERSBURG — Senator Darryl Rouson remembers Dr. Johnnie Ruth Clarke as an “academic warrior with warm charm.” He enjoyed reminiscing about spending quality time in her home, enjoying a delicious meal at her kitchen table.
“Dr. Clarke was selfless. She treated everyone as her own child,” Rouson reminisced.
St. Petersburg College’s National Council on Black American Affairs (NCBA) Chapter presented 75 scholarships to students at SPC’s St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus Music Center. For the last 19 years, SPC has honored Dr. Clarke’s legacy by awarding disadvantaged and underrepresented students with a scholarship of 12 credit hours per term over two consecutive years.
On July 28, Clarke would have been 100 years old. As the keynote speaker, Rouson encouraged scholars to continue her legacy of academic excellence.
“You make her rise again by accepting the burden, blessing and responsibility of this scholarship,” he told the award recipients. “It is your time to make the best out of your academic experience.”
Johnnie Ruth Clarke Scholar Alisha King, a graduate of Boca Ciega High School, was excited to receive the scholarship in hopes of following her mother’s footsteps by becoming a nurse.
“I’m very appreciative and grateful to receive this scholarship,” King said. “It’s a great feeling to know this is something I achieved. I just want to make my mom proud by becoming a nurse like her.”
Dr. Clarke was the first African American to receive a doctorate from the University of Florida’s College of Education and the first black woman to earn a doctorate at any Florida public university. She taught at Pinellas County public schools, at two Florida colleges and was the dean of the all-black Gibbs Junior College in the 1950s.
As assistant director of the Florida Regional Medical Program in 1972, Clarke organized programs to fight sickle cell anemia and other diseases. She also wrote a column for the St. Petersburg Evening Independent, where she frequently expressed her hope for St. Pete’s minority community.
SPC administrators welcomed the students as new Titans and challenged them to achieve their dreams.
“Never be limited by other people’s limited imagination,” said SPC Gibbs Campus Provost Dr. Leslie Hafer.
To learn more about the scholarship, click here.