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Dignified Work

Coco retiring after career of educating, empowering students

Clark Coco

From The Ichabod - Spring 2019

Clark Coco sneaked into Coach Jack Hartman’s basketball practice at Kansas State University and sat in the bleachers. The legendary coach sent someone to check on the young student.

“He sent a manager up, probably to kick me out,” Coco said. “I told him I wanted to coach, and I respect the discipline of Coach Hartman’s program.”

After relaying the message, Coco could watch every practice from then on, and the experience helped propel a successful career. He’ll retire this summer after seven years as dean of Washburn University Institute of Technology. Meeting workforce needs, he’s partnered with industry and community leaders to create five national training centers, Washburn Tech East and new career programs. High schools sending students to Washburn Tech increased from 16 to 42. Overall enrollment increased 55 percent.

Blake Flanders, president, Kansas Board of Regents, is a proponent of Coco and the value of technical education.

“Clark cares about students first,” Flanders said. “He is a tremendous motivator, and he’s had a real vision for where he wants the institution to go.”

Coco’s approach includes making students feel important. He recalled an individual who lost their job, took a Washburn Tech entrance exam and was one point short. Coco allowed the student to enroll, and the student was later voted student of the year. Coco also remembered homeless students whose classes were the steadiest aspects of their lives.

“It’s very powerful when a student knows they’re welcome and wanted,” Coco said.

Mantras of dignity and transformation fill the campus landscape, and from winning competitions to having one of the highest graduation and placement rates in Kansas, students excel. Flanders believes the culture will continue.

“Clark’s leaving it in a much better place,” Flanders said. “And he’ll be their biggest cheerleader.”

Coco and his wife moved to Glasco, Kansas, where he’ll stay busy. They bought the town newspaper, and Clark is on the city council. One of his many sports analogies can wrap up the career he’s leaving.

“At the end of the game, you walk off the court, you look at the scoreboard and you don’t need to talk. You let it speak for itself.”

Clark Coco with Washburn Tech students

Read more about the impact Clark Coco made in his seven years at Washburn Tech.


Spring 2020 Alumni Mag

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2019-20 spring edition online and look for it in mailboxes in May.

View past editions


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