Remembering Clarke Worthington, Namesake of Character Award

  • Ravens Rewind
Remembering Clarke Worthington, Namesake of Character Award
Karen Lewis Taylor

Worthington, who served as Ravenscroft’s first academic dean, “touched a lot of lives — a testament to the extraordinary human being and educator he was.”

When the Upper School gathers next week for Honors Convocation, faculty and leadership will celebrate the accomplishments of students from all four grades. They’ll also recognize one member of the Class of 2022 with the Clarke Worthington III Outstanding Character Award.

The award, as the description states, recognizes “the senior whose character, integrity and treatment of other people best provides leadership by example” and whose integrity “has a notable influence on fellow students.” It honors the legacy of Clarke Worthington, who served as Ravenscroft’s first academic dean from the summer of 1989 until his death in December 1990.

The award has been given in Worthington’s memory since 1991 because, as longtime Ravenscroft counselor Chris Harper remembered, “he embodied so many characteristics described in the award.”

An article from p. 1 of the November 1989 Nevarmore introduces Worthington to the school community.

A smiling Clarke Worthington is pictured in the February 1991 Nevarmore article filled with student remembrances.

“An impressive background”

Worthington came to Ravenscroft during what a number of his colleagues from that time described as a period of purposeful change. Then-Headmaster Jim Hendrix, who hired him, was working to enhance the school’s reputation through distinctive offerings including an advisory program and more structured college counseling — which Ravens have been enjoying since.

“Clarke was one of my best friends. I knew he had an impressive background in independent secondary education,” Hendrix recently said of his decision to recruit him. “His professional and academic knowledge was a perfect fit for Ravenscroft.”

His path here started when he was a boy, growing up around and then attending Woodberry Forest School, where his father worked in institutional advancement. A graduate of Princeton University, Clarke embarked on a career as a history teacher and, later, an administrator in independent schools across Virginia and North Carolina. His brother, Kent, recalled that he worked at schools including Blue Ridge School, Aylett Country Day, Hampton Roads Academy, Grimes Memorial and Forsyth Country Day (where he met Hendrix, who was head at Greensboro Day) and was keenly focused on serving students.

“He did like the classroom, certainly, and he continued to teach even as headmaster,” Kent Worthington said. “If I had to generalize, I’d say his interest was in helping young schools get established” — a passion that led him, eventually, to start an educational consulting business. A class note in the Princeton Alumni Weekly for Sept. 27, 1989, announced that he had closed that business to accept the position at Ravenscroft.

“He set the tone”

Once here, Worthington created the academic advisory program, which replaced the homeroom model many schools followed at that time, and became the school’s first official college counselor. Wanting to be connected to students, he took on an advisory, taught a section of Upper School history and even coached the junior varsity boys tennis team.

His colleagues remember him as a passionate educator who was deeply committed to collaboration.

“What I remember most from faculty meetings with Clarke was his insistence that decisions should always be made around what was best for students,” retired Upper School Spanish teacher Steve Swaim said. “That impressed me, because it meshed with my own philosophy.”

Whether working in his capacity as academic dean, advisor, history teacher or coach, Worthington quickly established a reputation for collaboration, integrity and humor; the photo here is from the 1990 Corvus.

“He had a boundless curiosity,” Leslie Pressel, who chaired the Science Department, recalled. When the department traveled to investigate a collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Worthington not only volunteered to join them but participated in their fieldwork, “mucking about with nets and muddy sediment. He was just as excited as we were,” she remembered.

“Because he went out of his way to ‘be there’ for kids and faculty, he became a favorite of everyone who knew him. He helped set the tone just by being himself,” longtime Upper School English teacher Marcia Jones said. “And he was such fun, always smiling and never taking himself seriously.”

Alumni remember him in much the same way.

“I was his advisee. He had bushy eyebrows and was wryly funny. Going into his advisory felt like a safe haven in the crazy of high school,” Laura Helton Kalorin ’92 said.

“Of all the teachers and administrators at Ravenscroft, Mr. Worthington was one of the special ones,” Sona Gupta Wuchenich ’90 said. “I had really tough junior and senior years at home, so I would hang around school a lot. Mr. Worthington was one who I’d often find in his office after school, and we’d chat. He looked out for me.”

In a testament to his commitment to serving students first and foremost, Worthington coached the 1990 JV boys tennis team, shown here in the 1990 Corvus.

“We all agreed”

In the grief-filled weeks following Worthington’s sudden passing, members of the Ravenscroft community were struck by what an impact he had made in such a short amount of time. Tributes from both faculty and students, published in February 1991’s issue of The Nevarmore, recalled his humility, dedication, humor and integrity.

Nevarmore advisor Angela Connor remembered an exchange that illustrated well the critical role Worthington had played at Ravenscroft: “Jim Hendrix asked me to take over as college counselor after Clarke died. I said, ‘I can’t fill his shoes,’ and Jim replied, ‘I’m just asking you to fill one.’”

When it was suggested that spring that the Upper School’s character award be renamed in Worthington’s memory — no one we spoke with remembers by whom — “it was so perfect,” Harper said, “that we all agreed.”

“The award was important, even back in the day,” she added. “The kids, and especially the seniors, always let us know with their reactions if the faculty had gotten that award right, if we had recognized someone who really was a stand-up person of good character in important ways.”

The outpouring of memories and affection following Worthington’s sudden passing is captured in this tribute by students, published in the February 1991 Nevarmore.

In the years since, the award has come to be viewed as the most meaningful recognition for graduating seniors, honoring those who have distinguished themselves as much by their principled treatment of others as by their pursuits on campus. For Worthington’s friends and colleagues, that seems most fitting.

“In the relatively short time he was here,” Hendrix concluded, “he touched a lot of lives — a testament to the extraordinary human being and educator he was.”

In this photo from the 1991 Corvus, senior Scott Mauzy ’91 accepts the first Clarke Worthington III Outstanding Character Award from his advisor, Leslie Pressel.

Other Remembrances of
Clarke Worthington III

In addition to the character award for seniors that bears his name, Ravenscroft honors Worthington’s legacy through an endowed fund established by his friends and relatives. The Clarke Worthington Fund supports faculty and staff professional development. 

Given his remarkable impact at Ravenscroft, it is no surprise that other schools where Worthington taught and led have honored his contributions there as well. Blue Ridge School, a boys’ boarding school, gives an annual award in his name to the senior “who has had the most wholesome influence on the school community during his years as a student and a leader.” Aylett Country Day School, a PreK-through-eighth-grade school where Clarke was headmaster 1971-1978, has endowed a memorial scholarship.


The Clarke Worthington III Outstanding Character Award was first given in 1991. We asked the first two recipients of the award to reflect on what the honor means to them.

Although Clarke Worthington’s time at Ravenscroft as academic dean and college counselor was brief, I clearly remember the tremendous impact his sudden death had on the entire school community. My interactions with him were limited, but I remember him as consistently upbeat, caring and genuine in his interest in helping students. To have a character award named in his honor after such a brief time at school shows just how inspirational he was. Yes, being the first recipient of the award does make me feel a little old, but more so I am honored and humbled to be associated with a person whose character, integrity and treatment of other people affected those around him so meaningfully in such a short period of time.

— Scott Mauzy ’91

I remember listening to the presenter at the time — a fairly lengthy presentation of the meaning of the award — and the sum total was, “Wow, this gentleman made a huge impact on this school, and the recipient should stand up to that example.” It did stand out then as something different, a different feel. Winning it was an absolutely humbling experience, and my parents were so proud. You don’t know who’s watching what you do; to hear how highly others thought of him and then bestowed that honor on me … it’s just humbling. Now, at 48, I think back on it, and it’s really nice to know that Ravenscroft values not just athletics and academics but also leadership and character.

— John Cathcart ’92

Scott Mauzy ’91, from the 1991 Corvus

John Cathcart ’92, from the 1992 Corvus