Former President Traina honored by biotech, business leaders

Retired Clark president Richard Traina has been renowned for building partnerships in some of the unlikeliest places.

He forged ties between his university and the surrounding neighborhood, whose relationship was often troubled, and between Worcester’s business and academic communities, which regarded each other with suspicion that could border on hostility.

Traina seized on those challenges during his 16-year tenure, forging the University Park Partnership that helped knit Clark with the Main South neighborhood and led to the revitalization of what had been an often neglected piece of the city. In 1991, he became the first college or university administrator to chair the Worcester Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, legitimizing the notion that academia and business could work toward common purposes and throwing his support behind Worcester’s emerging biotech industry.

On Dec. 30, at his home in Charlton, Mass., Traina’s efforts were recognized by representatives of the Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives and the chamber of commerce, who awarded him the Joseph R. Carter Life Science Innovation Leadership Award.

President David Angel said he’s frequently asked if Clark will continue to sustain the University’s relationship with the Main South neighborhood that was forged by Dick Traina and his wife Polly.

Read the Worcester Telegram coverage of Traina's award.

“My stock answer is that it’s an important part of our DNA,” Angel said. “This is now part of what Clark is, and what we stand for.”

Angel praised Traina’s “terrific visionary leadership” at Clark, exemplified by the University’s academic mission, engagement with the community and investments that came to fruition during his tenure. Traina solidified the ideal that the University has “a responsibility that’s bigger than ourselves.”

David Grenon, founder of Protector Group Insurance Agency Inc., described Traina’s approach to complex problems as “quiet thunder.”

“You never wasted words, never raised your voice, and you were always logical,” Grenon said. “You were the moral compass for us in the community.”

Chamber of commerce president Richard Kennedy noted that the city of Worcester’s commercial base was once composed of 50 percent manufacturing jobs, a number that has dwindled to 9 percent. Other commercial centers like biotech and health care, in addition to Worcester’s colleges and universities, are now the city’s linchpins. It was Dick Traina, he said, who “stitched together the academic and business communities. The involvement of colleges and universities in the city was led by Clark.”

Dr. Abraham Haddad, the MBI board chairman, in presenting the Carter Award to Traina, recalled that the former Clark president built a “culture of collaboration,” while Kevin O’Sullivan, M.P.A. ’87, president and chief executive at the MBI, cited Traina’s “yeoman’s work” in directing Worcester toward the opportunities offered by biotechnology.

“There is a time to be reminded of humility,” Traina said as he accepted the award, which depicts a DNA double helix encased in glass. “Everything I’ve been involved with required the cooperation of good and committed people. I’m accepting this on behalf of a number of teams.”

Traina noted that his becoming chair of the chamber of commerce “was not entirely welcome by the faculty” at Clark, but he enjoyed his work on behalf of the chamber nonetheless.

When he arrived at Clark in 1984, it was clear the University “was of the community of Worcester; it wasn’t just located there.” During his first fall on campus, he attended several meetings with neighborhood representatives who were upset about several issues. He arrived at two solutions to calm the waters with his neighbors: more parking and better noise control. To that end, Traina oversaw the expansion of Clark’s parking and initiated construction of a 220-student resident hall to move more Clarkies out of the surrounding apartments and onto campus.

“When [the neighbors] saw that happen, they believed that we were in this for the long haul,” he said.

He termed the development of the University Park Campus School “one of the most exciting things I’ve ever been involved with. It’s a little miracle in itself.”

“You can have ideas,” he said, “but if you don’t have the people to make those ideas happen, then there’s no point to it. Accomplishing those things is a very special treat in life.”

-  Jim Keogh

Director of News and Editorial Services