Class of 1968
Merck & Co., Inc.
President and CEO
As president and chief executive officer of Merck & Co., Inc., one of the world’s premier pharmaceutical companies, Richard Clark knows all too well the challenges that he faces in returning Merck to its leadership position in the industry. But thanks to the early success of a blueprint that he and his executive team put in place in 2005, Merck is achieving results—bringing novel medicines and vaccines to market and delivering value to customers and shareholders.
With the 2006 launch of Gardasil, the first-ever vaccine to help protect young women from human papillomavirus, one of the causes of cervical cancer—the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women worldwide—Clark is reminded of the deep sense of satisfaction that all Merck employees feel by contributing to such an important development in women’s health.
“We know among the lives saved may be our own sisters, daughters, or granddaughters,” Clark says.
Clark attended W&J in the late 1960s, majored in history, and was active in Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. Being a first-generation college student, he did not know what to expect from college life. However, the closeness of the relationships with his fellow students at W&J made college seem like home. His classmates and professors became like his family—always ready to help him. Clark has fond memories of his professors, especially Dr. Williams Mitchell in the history department. “He was a diligent lecturer who would force you to think through the issues,” Clark says. “I think W&J professors must have a special knack for knowing when you aren’t prepared for class. You could never hide from Dr. Mitchell.”
After graduation, Clark received his M.B.A. from American University in 1970 and spent two years as an U.S. Army lieutenant before joining Merck in 1972. He has stayed with the company ever since, working his way up through the ranks and serving as vice president in several different areas. Clark was appointed CEO in May 2005 and quickly went to work reaffirming Merck’s mission of discovering new medicines through rigorous research conducted under the highest scientific excellence.
“The education that I received at W&J gave me confidence,” Clark says, adding that the mixture of liberal arts, the humanities, and sciences at W&J helped prepare him to meet any challenge.