On the Passing of Priscilla Clarkson, Ph.D., FACSM

ACSM mourns the loss of Fellow and Past-President Priscilla M. Clarkson, Ph.D., FACSM. Dr. Clarkson, who served as the College’s third female president (2000-2001), died Aug. 25 at age 66 following a long battle with cancer. She served the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, as dean of Commonwealth Honors College and Distinguished University Professor in Kinesiology and was a nationally recognized researcher in muscle function.

ACSM’s current president, William W. Dexter, M.D., FACSM, said, “Priscilla Clarkson was an elegant thinker, collaborator and person whose legacy will continue to unfold. She was an exemplary scientist, teacher and mentor. Priscilla gave so much to the College through all the roles she joyfully filled, from committee service to her leadership as President. We will miss her sorely, even as we celebrate her many contributions to the field and to ACSM.”

Dr. Clarkson was a 36-year member of ACSM, frequently presenting and participating in the ACSM Annual Meeting and serving on numerous committees, task forces and research conferences. Among her many ACSM honors are the 1997 ACSM Citation Award, the 1999 New England ACSM Honor Award and the 2005 National ACSM Honor Award. In 2007 she presented the keynote Wolffe Lecture at the ACSM Annual Meeting in New Orleans. She was an actively involved member and past president of the New England Regional Chapter (NEACSM), which named one of the annual meeting’s keynote lectures in her honor. Dr. Clarkson also served as editor-in-chief of ACSM’s journal Exercise and Sport Science Reviews and as president of the ACSM Foundation. In 2001 she received the Excellence in Education Award from the Gatorade Sport Science Institute.

The appreciation of the ACSM community for Dr. Clarkson’s contributions may be summarized in the following comment by Patty Freedson, Ph.D., FACSM: “I knew Priscilla for over 30 years. She was a friend and mentor to me and she was always someone I could count on for encouragement and support. She was an amazing person whose tireless commitment and passion for training countless graduate and undergraduate students who have gone on to outstanding careers in science was second to none. I will always remember her for the grace and dignity she showed in everything she did and her legacy will live on in our department forever. I will always be grateful for having had the privilege of having her as a friend and colleague.”

In a 36-year career at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Dr. Clarkson rose to the top of the ranks in her field, authoring more than 200 scientific publications. She founded and ran the Muscle Biology and Imaging Lab at UMass Amherst and was particularly known for her work in muscle function and dysfunction. As a researcher and faculty member she mentored countless graduate and undergraduate students. The campus awarded her the Chancellor’s medal in 1997, and the university named her as Distinguished Professor in 2008. Dr. Clarkson was appointed dean of Commonwealth Honors College in 2006 and received the University of Massachusetts Graduate School Centennial Award in 2008. She served the University of Massachusetts as a trustee, and also served as associate dean for the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences. She was a triple alumna of UMass Amherst, having earned her undergraduate degree in 1969, her master’s degree in 1973 and her Ph.D. in 1977.

Dr. Clarkson maintained a lifelong involvement in classical ballet, including as a performer, choreographer, board member, and co-author/editor of books in dance medicine. She was known for her incisive mind, creativity, drive, warmth, and tenaciousness.

Dr. Clarkson served on the Massachusetts Governor's Panel to improve police training practices to prevent cases of rhabdomyolysis (muscle damage) leading to kidney failure during training. She served as a scientific advisor to the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), as a member of the Science Working Group at NASA to develop laboratories for the International Space Station, and as a scientific advisor to the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. She also served as a member of the NCAA Competitive and Medical Safeguards Committee, on the National Commission on Sports and Substance Abuse, and on a subcommittee of the Committee for Military Nutrition at the Institute of Medicine. She has served on the Research Review Board of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, the National Lipid Association Statin Safety: Muscle Expert Panel and the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Cooperative International Neuromuscular Research Group. She served eight years as editor for the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

Priscilla Clarkson is survived by her husband Ronald Pipkin, professor emeritus of legal studies at UMass Amherst; her mother, Mary Massei, and her brother, Edward (Jay) Massei, Jr. She also held a deep love of animals, especially her three dogs, two cats and the birds that visited her yard. 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 www.umass.edu/give); the UMass Amherst Development Office, Memorial Hall, 140 Hicks Way, Amherst, Mass. 01003, or to the Dakin Animal Shelter.