Lorne Hillard Clarke

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Principal of Malvern, 1938-1947

A popular education leader, mathematician, physical trainer. Builder and creator of new departments and ideas. Championed the rights and options of Malvern students. Sponsored the importance of music involving orchestras and choirs.


“Collegiates are not training grounds for university”

Lorne Hillard Clarke was born on May 20, 1890 in Stouffville, to David Clarke and Mary Wideman. He came to Malvern in 1914 to teach mathematics from Jarvis Collegiate Institute. On arriving, he assumed supervision of the newly formed Boys Athletic Society. In 1931, he was named head of the math department and became vice-principal under W. E. Hanna in 1935, who had succeeded Carl Lehmann on his retirement. During this time, he oversaw the establishment of the school Cadet Corps and the formation of gymnastics teams.

Clarke became principal in 1938, on the eve of the Second World War. He immediately began bringing changes to the school’s curriculum and purpose. He was at the helm from 1931 to 1946 when Malvern saw its second great spurt in growth to 1,500 students and 50 teachers. The large east wing was constructed and opened in 1939. A commercial department was opened that same year. With the start of the war, 1,100 graduates and students joined the services, along with 13 teachers. As principal, Clarke signed many letters of reference, most for those volunteering for the Royal Canadian Air Force, but also the Army and Navy. Clarke set up a student war effort committee, which he let run independently. A new guidance department was created in 1941 and the next year saw a public health nurse on duty each day at the school. Students were increasingly provided with a wider choice of subjects: music was given more backing and, gradually, great choirs were developed. The school’s athletic triumphs abounded, highlighted by three senior rugby championships and a junior title as well. By 1946, there were 15 student organizations functioning. Clarke actively supported and promoted full-scale productions, including the school orchestra, choirs and both boys’ and girls’ athletic groups.

Clarke believed any student obtaining 50 per cent in their subjects should be permitted to go on to the next grade. He also stated that any student who demonstrated a desire for a high school graduation certificate, should be able to obtain one. After a review, the school board found that Malvern’s scholastic standings were below both the city and provincial levels. Students were found to be missing classes and school days, both results were attributed to Clarke’s relaxed standards. When the matter came to a head, the school board voted to terminate him. Amazingly, the students organized a protest and threatened to strike if he was dismissed. At a rally in Pantry Park, on a chilly March morning, 75% of Malvern students agreed to go on strike. Many parents supported their sons and daughters in this precedent-setting venture. Clarke, although appreciative of their support, asked them to stand down. He endeavored to broker a solution with the board, but the effort failed. Clarke resigned, thus ending a 33-year career with the Toronto Board of Education.

The board published a booklet about his career, “Principal Lorne H. Clarke and the Malvern Collegiate Student Strike, 1947”, (Toronto Sesquicentennial Museum, 1992).

Lorne Clarke died on Jan. 19, 1959, and is buried in Springvale Baptist Cemetery, Stouffville, with his wife Mabel Collins, who died in 1984.

Author: Bob Watson

MRBS Treasurer and Class of '56

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