Kedrick Nettleton

You could truthfully say that for 2022’s OKWU Alumnus of the Year, Dr. Yorton Clark (BWC ’84), the family business he grew up in was ministry. His father and both grandparents served as lifelong pastors within The Wesleyan Church, and the impulse for Clark to serve was strong. And it’s true that his life has been one lived in service — it just turns out that his calling was a little different.

As the youngest of five children — and the only boy in the family — Clark felt some pressure, at first, to go into full-time ministry. He’d given his life to Christ as a child, and faith was an important fixture in his life. Still, he didn’t take the proposition of being a pastor lightly.

“I understood the importance of the call,” he said. “I saw my father as being an amazing man that care for people, loved God, and wanted to see them reconciled. I saw that as a call, and that’s a beautiful calling. I didn’t want to ever cut that short.”

Through his adolescence and young adulthood, Clark maintained an openness to accepting a full-time call to ministry from God — and still remains open to this day, for that matter. But during his senior year of high school, before he’d moved to Bartlesville, he felt God tugging on his heart in a very specific way.

“The one thing that I was called to, I believe by God, is that he said, I want you to be involved fully in ministry, but I want you to close the gap between the congregation and the pulpit. I want you to be a representation and a model and encourage others to engage in ministry,” Clark said. “That it’s not just a pastor’s job, but all our jobs together.”

It was a pivotal moment, and that calling has touched every aspect of his life since.

Eyes Open

Clark’s journey to Bartlesville Wesleyan College began when his family moved to Kansas while he was in high school. Before then, the Clarks had lived in Dayton, Ohio, so Clark assumed that he would attend college at Indiana Wesleyan. But once he got on campus for a weekend visit and met with the students, there was no other choice. “I never really considered any other institution,” he said.  

BWC also gave him a chance to fulfill one of his lifelong passions: participating in athletics. During his time at the school, Clark competed on the baseball team, and it was one of the foundational pillars to his time there. If you ask him now, the lessons from his time on the team lasted long past his graduation date.  

“A lot of my life is about not just competition, but the thrill of making yourself better each and every day to be able to compete at a high level,” he said. “And so that discipline of doing that early on in my life carried on, even in my academics and in my professional life.”  

And, according to Clark, the one thing he needed most during his early transition to college was discipline. “When I got to college, I got hit in the face pretty early in my freshman year,” he admitted. “There were some disciplines in academics that I’d never practiced before, and I wasn’t sure I knew how to do it—I don’t know that I knew how to do school.”  

Poor initial grades were a bit of a wakeup call for Clark, and he doubled down hard to improve. It was just the beginning of a pattern of extreme growth and improvement during his time in Bartlesville.  

“There’s no doubt that four years at OKWU took me from a pretty narrow scope, simple life, to an individual that now had my eyes open,” he said. “Disciplines had to be engaged in all areas of my life—spiritual, intellectual, as well as the emotional part of my life and maturity.”  

It was also a time of spiritual maturing, as Clark grappled with making the faith of his childhood—encouraged by a devout, ministry-focused family—his own. “It wasn’t until I was at BWC that I probably really accepted my relationship with God as my own… You’ve got to decide, is this something that you’re going to keep going with for the rest of your life? Is this your parents’ thing or is it going to be yours?” he said.  

By the time he graduated in 1984, he was prepared to step out into life as a more mature, well-rounded person.  

Transformation  

Immediately upon leaving BWC, Clark moved home to Kansas and married his girlfriend, Janean (Burke), who had also attended BWC. Throughout their marriage, they’ve had three children: Yort, Bristol, and Braden.  

Then he started as a manager for an oil company. Even more than his new career, though, Clark and his wife sought to stay connected to the ministry. They started as youth directors at the church they attended and have sought to help out in whatever ways they could ever since.  

“We’ve been youth directors, we’ve been on music teams, we have small group Bible studies—you name it,” Clark said. “We’ve been in every aspect of ministry for the last 37 years of our marriage.”  

Another aspect of their passion for Christ came through their commitment to the foster care system. Yorton and Janean have fostered a number of children throughout the decades, forming deep relationships that last to this day. It’s one way, according to Clark, that he can aid those who haven’t benefited from the same familial advantages he’s had.  

“I feel a passion for people that haven’t had the privilege of a loving, sheltered home that I had,” he said. “I want to do something to help those people.”  

Soon, Clark and his family moved to Olathe, Kansas, where he worked for 11 years in healthcare administration—even getting his master’s degree during that time for that particular job. He figured that this would be his career, until a close friend called him one day from MidAmerica Nazarene University, needing an emergency professor at short notice. The class was on management, and Clark agreed.  

Soon, that one semester of emergency teaching turned into a fill year, and the experience hooked him. “I just felt energized,” he said. “I was excited to go to class. I was excited afterwards and couldn’t wait for the next one. I just hadn’t felt energized like that in my grind at work.”  

When a full-time position came up, Clark took it—and 24 years later, he’s not looking back. He eventually got his doctorate degree in higher education administration and leadership and has advanced with MidAmerica during his time there. Today, he serves as dean for the School of Professional and Graduate Studies, as well as the program director for graduate studies in management. He teaches, too, but only one undergraduate class; it’s that same management course he started with as an adjunct.  

And even two and a half decades in, Clark remains passionate about the work, passionate about the opportunity to speak into lives at a formative time in life. “College sets the direction for just about any human being,” he said. “And I have the opportunity to speak into the hearts, minds, and souls of those individuals, to give them meaning, purpose, and hopefully direction. To transform their lives for eternity… it’s the transformation part that stokes me, every day.”  

And it’s not hard, really, to trace back the lineage of Clark’s career in service to a day his senior year of high school, when God impressed upon his heart a call to a different kind of ministry. Clark is content to keep chasing that call every day.  

Skip to content