Ava Milam Clark and her travels…

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Born on November 27, 1884 in Macon, Missouri, Ava Milam Clark was one of five daughters of Ancil and Louisa Milam. She taught two years in a public school (1902-1904) and then spent three years teaching at Blees Military Academy in Macon, Missouri (1904-1907). Clark returned to school, this time as a student, obtaining her Ph.B. (1910) and A.M. degree (1911) from the University of Chicago. While working as an instructor of Foods and Nutrition at Iowa State College in the summer of 1911, she was hired to be a professor and head of the Department of Foods and Nutrition at Oregon Agricultural College (1911-1916).

She was named Dean of Home Economics in 1917, the youngest dean in college history, and under her leadership the program became nationally known. In 1932, she was made Director of Home Economics for the Oregon State System of Higher Education.

Clark was known for her international travels, focusing on establishing home economics programs in Asia. In 1922, Clark went to China to help establish a home economics department at Yenching University (Peking), introducing the study of home economics to China. She left OSC for a year in 1931 to work as a consultant in home economics at various universities in Asia. In the summer of 1937, Clark returned to Asia with Alma Fritchoff, conducting a home economics tour of both China and Japan. For five months in 1948, she acted as a consultant in home economics colleges in Korea and China, making an educational survey in the Philippines for the Foreign Missions Conference of North America. Finally, from 1950 to 1952 Clark served as a home economics advisor to the governments of Syria and Iraq for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). She retired from OSC in 1950 and was made Dean Emeritus. In 1966, she received the Distinguished Service Award from OSU, two years later she received the same award from Yonsei University.

Clark wrote many articles for various professional magazines as well as two books: A Study of Student Homes of China (1930), and her autobiography, Adventures of a Home Economist, with Kenneth Munford (OSU Press, 1969). To see a more complete list of her publications, click this link to see the Open Library project site.

Ava Milam married J.C. Clark on November 1, 1952. Nearly 25 years later, on August 14, 1976, Clark passed away.

In 1915, a charming bungalow on Corvallis’ NW 26th Street was built for Clark. She remained in this house for over four decades, spanning her remarkable career. In her autobiography, Ava Milam Clark wrote this about her house: “Early in 1915, I decided to build a home of my own in which to live and entertain students, faculty, and other friends. When my parents came for an extended visit that summer, Father helped me choose a lot a few blocks from the campus. Mother helped me develop plans, while Father talked with the carpenter. In a time when large houses were the custom, many people thought I was building a doll’s house when I built one just large enough to accommodate myself, a college girl to live with me, and a guest or two from time to time” (p. 105). To learn more about the house and read more about its evolution, visit the City of Corvallis site to read the Oregon Inventory of Historic Properties form. To see some great pictures, especially of Clark when she was young, click here.

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