Published: May 8, 2017

Academics, athletics, administration commingle in 42-year career

When Professor Dave Clough retires after 42 years in chemical and biological engineering,his stat sheet will show successes in triplicate.

The admired educator spent six years as associate dean and serves as CU Boulder’s faculty athletics representative. Though peers were sometimes skeptical of his academic-administrative-athletic mashup, Clough has proven he’s as comfortable on the courts and in the corner office as in the classroom.

“I tell my students that: Opportunities come along—say yes,” he says. “It might not work out, but you’ll never sit there thinking, ‘I wonder what would have happened.’”

A 1968 graduate of Case Institute of Technology (now Case Western Reserve), Clough blazed through a master’s degree at CU Boulder in 11 months, fearful his studies would be interrupted by the Vietnam draft. After working several years for DuPont in Delaware—and being spared by the draft lottery—Clough returned to Boulder to complete his PhD.

He got his first taste of instructing as a graduate teaching assistant before accepting an “out-of-the-blue” offer to join the faculty in 1975. Clough offered valuable industry experience and co-developed CU’s first engineering computing course. An adaptable educator, he transformed his classes in the mid-90s to swap lectures for active learning.

“I loved his method of explaining things,” says former student Michael Detamore (ChemEngr’00), now a professor himself. “Dr. Clough was the best teacher I ever had at any level in my life.”

In 1986, then-Dean Dick Seebass asked Clough to serve as associate dean for academic affairs. In that role, Clough opened doors for female and minority engineers, hiring the first professional directors for the Minority Engineering Program and Women in Engineering Program. He helped develop the Gemmill Engineering Library and launch the Herbst Program of Humanities, a hallmark CU program that exposes engineering students to literature, art and history.

In a midnight epiphany, Clough crafted a memo proposing the Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory, an answer to the college’s need for additional research labs and innovative, hands-on facilities. Through the hard work of numerous collaborators, the ITLL opened in 1997 based on Clough’s groundwork.

Dave Clough

@BUFFFAR NOV. 26, 2016
Happiness = Buffs win Pac-12 South & with my best friend Steve at Folsom - tradition continues.

He returned to the department in 1992, serving as associate chair for a decade and a stint as interim chair. More recently, through a partnership with a former colleague, he even put his stamp on a new engineering program at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani.

A Division III athlete in college, Clough began meeting informally with recruits when they visited campus and was tapped for several athletics committees. In 2005, Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano asked Clough to serve as the faculty athletics representative, a liaison between the campus and the Pac-12 and NCAA.

He now knows personally every member of CU’s 17 teams, advocating for student-athletes’ well-being and maintaining academic integrity and institutional control. He travels with most teams at least once a year and tweets from the handle @BuffFAR.

Clough’s encyclopedic memory allows him to keep track of students’ whereabouts—and continue to mentor them—long after graduation.

“Dave stayed connected to everybody he met as students, beyond the academic experience into their lives, into their professional adventures,” says alumnus Mike Masterson (MS ChemEngr’77). “It’s not a stretch to say that his career is littered with those examples.”

In his four decades, Clough developed a simple philosophy on educating students: “It’s not how much of an expert you are or how good you are at explaining things or how easy a grader you are, but if you give the idea that you really care about them—that’s it right there in a nugget.”