MARINE BARRACKS, Washington, D.C. -- If you've turned in an exam to the Marine Corps Institute sometime in the last three decades, chances are good that it has passed through the hands of one very dedicated woman.
On Jan. 23 the Marine Corps wished fair winds and following seas to one of its greatest civilian assets when Patricia Clark retired as registrar for MCI's Student Services Division. Marines, sailors and civilians honored her cumulative 41-year government career at a luncheon held by the waterfront on the Washington Navy Yard.
As registrar, she handled the enrollment and record management of hundreds of thousands of Marines during the course of her career, in addition to numerous other activities and tasks she had to handle daily.
Recalling her four decades of government service, Clark remembers her father's service to the Corps in the 1940s, which helped develop her love for the military, the government and especially the Marines.
Many changes have occurred during the past 40 years; technology has transformed from pencils and pens to computers and optical readers.
"We would actually sit down and hand-grade all the exams that came through and once the computer systems came in it was just like a whole new world opened up," said Clark. For her, however, one thing has never changed her commitment to Marines.
"It allows me more time to work with the people," said Clark. "I enjoy working with people -- to me, they're people first and then Marines."
Technical advances aside, the constant in Clark's career has been her caring and compassion for those she has worked with and served as registrar.
Nothing illustrates this more than the testimony of her fellow co-workers and friends, many of whom traveled great distances to be nearest the person who had touched their life. Clark's children flew in from Florida and Robert Rodriguez, a former Corporal that worked with her, drove in from New York.
"She was like a mother figure," said Rodriguez. "She was always there for advice."
From handling thousands of tests to doling out daily advice to her coworkers, Clark's presence at MCI will be missed.
Clark said she plans to tour the country with her husband before finally settling down in the D.C. area or Georgia.