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Fund at GU law to honor attorney

Some young lawyers will now get a boost paying off their law school debts thanks to a gift from the family of an attorney who often put the law and his clients ahead of fees for his service.

Spokane defense attorney John R. Clark died in 2010 following a long battle with cancer. Even approaching his last days, Clark could often be seen standing at the lectern in local courtrooms in obvious pain as he practiced what he considered his calling.

In honor of his 30-year career, Clark’s family has established the John R. Clark Loan Repayment Assistance Program at Gonzaga University School of Law.

Law school graduates from Gonzaga will be selected to receive help in paying off their student loans if they agree to become public defenders, said Clark’s wife, Superior Court Judge Ellen Kalama Clark.

“He would love this,” Judge Clark said. “He always wanted to do something big for Gonzaga and to help folks. This rolls right into everything he believed in.”

The endowment will accept applications starting later this month. Each year, the interest from the endowment will be used to help one or two law school graduates pay off their loans. If the endowment grows, so will the participation, Clark said.

“One of the criteria is that they must work as a public defender,” Clark said. “That’s where John’s heart was. Those who work in public defense may not be making huge money, but they probably will have huge debt.”

John Clark graduated from Gonzaga in 1980. “They accepted him and gave him a chance,” Ellen Clark said.