Sister Kathleen Clark (1919-2003)

Inducted in 2008

clark 08Used by permission from Casa de los Ninos

In 1973 Sister Kathleen Clark established the first child crisis nursery in the country. Appalled at the victims of child abuse that she saw in her work as a nurse in the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tucson, she resolved to open a safe haven for neglected and abused infants and toddlers, a place where they could be protected and loved. Through her determination and perseverance she founded and became the Executive Director of Casa de los Ninos where she served from 1973 until 1987. After her retirement, she continued to work at the home until she moved to Los Angles in 1997. One early volunteer recalled that in the early days, they never knew if they would have enough baby formula for the next day, but that Sister Kathleen always managed to find money to purchase what they needed.

She garnered financial and social support to make the nursery a valuable, functioning institution. She constantly advocated for neglected, abused and uncared for children and helped other communities establish similar homes. An article in the Los Angles Times in 1976, credits her and Casa de los Ninos as a pioneer in the efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect. One of the nuns who worked with her went on to establish the Bay Area Crisis Nursery in 1981 and modeled it after Clark’s.

Under her direction, in 1978 Casa de los Ninos expanded to include older children ages four through eleven. In the first thirty years of its existence, over 32,000 children stayed at Casa de los Ninos.

Sister Kathleen Clark received numerous community and national awards for her work with neglected and abused children. In 1978 she received the National Jefferson Award for the greatest public service benefiting local communities and in July 1988, Newsweek Magazine recognized her as one of America’s Unsung Heroes. Her community awards included Woman of the Year from the City of Tucson (1974), the Service to Mankind Award (1976), Distinguished Citizen Award from the U of A Alumni Association (1976), Woman of the Year (1984), Spirit of Arizona Award (1984), Myer Marmis Humanitarian Award (1985).