John L. Clarke, former president of eastern Idaho's Ricks College, now the largest private junior college in the nation, died of natural causes Wednesday, Feb. 20, 1991. He was 85.

Mr. Clarke was president of the LDS Church-owned college from 1944 to 1971. His 27-year tenure was the longest of any Ricks president. In his administration, the school swelled from 400 students and two buildings to 5,000 students and 24 buildings."President Clarke's greatest legacy to Ricks College was not the growth in enrollment or buildings," said Ricks President Steven Bennion. "It was his unflinching commitment to people - to students, faculty and staff and the community - in good times and difficult times."

Ricks was made a four-year school during Clarke's tenure, but the third and fourth years later were discontinued.

Mr. Clarke served as president of the LDS Church's New England Mission from 1971-74, president of the Rexburg Stake for nine years, and a patriarch in the College First Stake. His wife, LaRae, continues to work at Ricks as an associate dean.

At the time of his retirment in 1971, Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus said, "It is difficult to measure the impact that this dedicated leader provided for the youth of our state . . . He has been unselfish in his devotion to his chosen field."