The Marshall University community mourns the passing of Dr. Sam Clagg, professor emeritus of geography and acting president of the university from 1983 to 1984.
From the “Living Legends” story in Marshall Magazine, Spring 2007:
Dr. Sam E. Clagg retired in 1986 after becoming a member of the Department of Geography faculty in 1948. Clagg was chair of the department from 1961 to 1986; he also served Marshall as acting president from 1983 to 1985.
Clagg received a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Marshall as well as a master’s degree in education. He earned his Ed.D. at the University of Kentucky, where he coached football alongside the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant. Clagg also served as a coach with both the Marshall football and wrestling teams; his close relationship with renowned Marshall basketball coach Cam Henderson resulted in the publication of The Cam Henderson Story: His Life and Times.
“I originally thought I was going to be the best football coach in history,” the 86-year-old Clagg said with a laugh. “But, I soon realized even the good ones are fired in short order. Coaching is a form of teaching, so, I chose instead to enter the classroom and live happily ever after. I worked very diligently at my trade.”
In addition to his long list of academic and athletic contributions, Clagg also is a retired Lieutenant Colonel with the U.S. Marine Corps. “The Marine Corps influenced me as a professor,” Clagg said. “I always approached the classroom with an air of discipline. Students cannot learn in a chaotic atmosphere.”
Former Marshall President Bob Hayes echoed Clagg’s opinion. “Sam never deviated far from the Marine Corps lifestyle in terms of the expectations he placed on himself and on his students. He was very demanding and highly regarded.
“Sam was much more than a classroom professor,” Hayes said. “He has an extensive background and accomplishments exceeding those of many professors; he is an outstanding individual on many, many levels.”
Clagg, the inaugural recipient of Marshall’s Distinguished Service Award, published a total of 12 books, including atlases of Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. He also published numerous journal articles and maps, and his description of West Virginia appeared in the Encyclopedia Britannica from 1974 to 1989. “I have always said good writing is a way of influencing eternity,” Clagg said.
A Geographical Information Systems lab in the Department of Geography was named for Clagg in 2003. According to current department chair Larry Jarrett, Clagg spearheaded efforts to bring the lab to Marshall’s campus by donating his time and money. A GIS lab is used to teach geography and GIS through computer techniques and programs that manage data in geography.
Despite advances being made in the department, Clagg said his best advice to students was not tied to academics. “I always told them, ‘You don’t live by geography alone.’ I brought another dimension to the classroom, and in this way, perhaps I was even more influential. I recommended that my students keep their principles with great diligence – for out of these proceed the great issues of life.”
Sam Clagg was awarded an honorary Doctor of Pedagogy degree by Marshall University upon his retirement.