Obituary: John J. “Jack” Clancy, lecturer in Arts & Sciences, 82

John J. “Jack” Clancy, lecturer in the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities, died on October 28, 2019, surrounded by loved ones. He was 82. Family and friends gathered in St. Louis on Saturday, November 30, for a memorial service.

During his 25 years of teaching in Arts & Sciences, Clancy built a reputation as a thoughtful and inspiring educator. He taught courses in ancient and modern political thought; particularly popular were his offerings on Lincoln’s political thought and on economic thought from Aristotle to Keynes. Students and colleagues noted the boundless energy and intelligence with which Clancy approached these topics.

“Jack Clancy built, and also slipped into, a life in which affection, thought, reading, and good humor circulated in great abundance,” said Joe Loewenstein, professor of English and director of the Humanities Digital Workshop and the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities. “His many students loved him, admired him, and boasted that they learned a lot from him.” 

George Pepe, professor emeritus of classics, met Clancy in 1980, when Clancy enrolled in University College while working at McDonnell Douglas. 

“It was soon apparent that Jack was one of the smartest men I had come across,” said Pepe, who at the time was co-teaching a course on texts related to the American Republic and to ancient Greek and Roman history. “He was a voracious reader who seemed to remember everything he had ever read. It was no surprise that as an engineer he had a solid grounding in math and science, but he was also interested in political and economic thought and could write like an angel.” 

Clancy later joined the Washington University faculty, teaching courses in the Text and Tradition program and the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities, where he worked alongside Pepe and Loewenstein.

“On top of his remarkable intellect, Jack was funny, courteous, and never given to self-promotion. He was also an avid and fairly decent tennis player and a delightful lunch companion,” said Pepe. “He will be sorely missed by me as a friend and by the several academic programs he distinguished by his learning and by his high regard for his students.”

“He was a wonderful teacher, learned, droll, and warm; there was a kind of dignified hospitality to everything he did,” said Loewenstein. “The way he talked about his classes made his classrooms sound like a kind of paradise. He brought out the best in his students and he loved to talk about their growth and achievements. He got as good as he gave.”

Clancy was born in New York City on September 7, 1937. Prior to joining Washington University, Clancy was an executive at McDonnell Douglas Automation Company and president and CEO of Valisys Corporation. He is survived by his wife, Sue; his three children Elizabeth Williams (Stuart), John William (Nancy Walsh), and Mary Ann Schwartz (Kenneth); his three granddaughters Elizabeth, Diana, and Ellie Schwartz; and his siblings Elizabeth Clancy and Ambrose Clancy of New York City.