Mon, 08/26/2013

Priscilla M. Clarkson, dean of Commonwealth Honors College, has died.  On August 26 she passed away peacefully at her home in Leverett, Mass., after a long battle with breast cancer.


A triple-alumna of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Clarkson earned an undergraduate degree in zoology in 1969, a master’s degree in marine science in 1973 and a Ph.D. in human movement/exercise science in 1977. She was a professor of kinesiology.


In her 36-year career at UMass Amherst, Clarkson rose to the top ranks in her field, authoring more than 200 scientific publications and becoming a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine. She founded and ran the Muscle Biology and Imaging Lab at UMass Amherst and was well known for her work in muscle function and dysfunction. She also served as associate dean of the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Science from 1994 to 2006. She was appointed dean of Commonwealth Honors College in 2006. The campus awarded her the Chancellor’s Medal in 1997 and the university named her a Distinguished Professor in 2008.


In addition to her work as a researcher and mentor to countless graduate and undergraduate students, Clarkson maintained a lifelong involvement in classical ballet, including as a performer, choreographer, board member and president of the Pioneer Valley Ballet, and co-author/editor of books in dance medicine. She also held a deep love of and concern for the welfare of animals, especially her three dogs, two cats and the birds that visited her yard.


“We are tremendously saddened by the loss of Priscilla Clarkson, particularly as it coincides with the opening of the new Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community, for which she was a tireless champion and advocate,” says Kumble R. Subbaswamy, UMass Amherst chancellor. “She fully realized the power of strong collaboration between the academic and residential aspects of a university, and this new complex will honor her work and vision by serving as a model for undergraduate education in both universities and honors colleges nationally.”


She leaves her husband Ronald Pipkin, professor emeritus of legal studies at UMass Amherst, her mother Mary Massei, and her brother Edward (Jay) Massei, Jr., of Milbury. Gifts in her memory may be made to the Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community for a classroom in her honor, to the UMass Amherst kinesiology department’s graduate endowment fund for a fellowship in her honor (at or UMass Amherst Development Office, Memorial Hall, 140 Hicks Way, Amherst, MA  01003), or to the Dakin Animal Shelter.


Visit the UMass Office of News and Media Relations for more on the life and legacy of Priscilla Clarkson.


An event to celebrate Priscilla's Clarkson's life and many accomplishments is scheduled for October 3, 2013.