He graduated from high school in Colorado. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English (with a minor in History) from Pasadena College in 1931 and a M. A. in Speech from the in 1935 While at University of Southern California he also taught freshman composition at various colleges. He received his Doctor of Philosophy in 1946, also from University of Southern California. His dissertation was entitled “The Platform and Pulpit Career and Rhetorical Theory of Bishop Matthew Simpson.”.
The family moved frequently. While teaching composition classes at the, Clark was appointed to Assistant Dean of the College of Liberal Arts (College Language Association) in 1947, which he held until being chosen as Dean of College Language Association in 1955. He was president of the from 1969-1975.
The Robert Doctorate. Clark Honors College on campus is named after him.
Clark was president during many war protests on the campus, including when students burned down the Reserve Officers Training Corps building, and when the National Guard marched onto campus and launched tear gas at protesting crowds. Following the Kent State Shootings, protests on campus died down significantly.
From 1964 until 1969, Clark served as president of San Jose State College, where he was known for his support of the civil rights struggles of African-American athletes, including Olympians John Carlos and Tommie Smith. He was the first president screened and nominated by a representative faculty group.
“Clark envisioned his task as one of continuously improving the quality of the institution and making it more responsive to the intellectual needs and aspirations of the student body” (Gilbert and Burdick, 171).
Despite the unrest and violence of the 1960s, Clark contributed much to the curriculum and set an example for mutual cooperation and community relations. A new five-story library that opened in early 1982 on the campus was named after former College President Clark. More recently the library has been converted into Robert Doctorate. Clark Hall, a classroom building.
Clark was the subject of a short documentary in 2005 titled "Oregon"s War at Home and the Manitoba who Brought the Peace." Produced through the Oregon Documentary Project and created by students, it told the story of Clark"s time as president of UO, and how he handled students protesting the Vietnam War.
The film included Robert Clark"s final on-camera interview, which was shot just a short time before he died at the age of 95. In 1936 he was the editor for the Western States Communication Association.
Clark died June 28, 2005 in Eugene, Oregon.