• Clay Englar (BS '49)

Member Spotlight: Clay Englar (BS '49)

Name: Clay Englar (BS '49)
Member Since: 1979
Membership Level: President's Circle 
Chapter: Northern California
Job Title: Retired

Tell me how you first got involved with the Caltech Associates and why supporting Caltech is important to you.  

My Caltech education was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is a great institution, and I am so appreciative of my time spent there. Caltech taught me how to look at, work through, and solve problems, which is an invaluable skill. Now, when faced with an issue, I draw on my Caltech education, frame my mind not to panic, and figure out the problem at hand.

I value all that the Institute provided me, and I needed to give back whatever I could. I had heard about the Caltech Associates and knew that it was a good organization, so it was a natural way for me to support and to stay connected with the Institute.

What do you enjoy the most about being part of the Caltech Associates?

It is the people. The people involved with Caltech and the Associates are wonderful. My late wife, Miriam, and I enjoyed traveling. In fact, one of the deciding factors in upgrading our membership to the President's Circle level was the opportunity to travel with the Associates. It is a great experience to interact with the faculty off duty, so to speak. I live in the Bay Area, so I am a little far from the campus. Participating in the trips connects me to Caltech. They offer unique opportunities, and I have traveled to places I wouldn't ordinarily go, such as the Galápagos. We were also guided by extraordinary experts, like the late Bob Sharp [Caltech professor of geology and longtime division chair in geology]. Bob was the most fascinating person I have ever met. He and Lee Silver [Caltech's W. M. Keck Foundation Professor for Resource Geology, Emeritus] together were so much fun. I remember traveling to Yellowstone with Lee and Arlana, the former executive director of the Caltech Associates, and Lee would bring the sights alive. One vignette was when my wife and I, Lee Silver, and Stan Holdridge found out it was Bob's birthday during one of the trips. We arranged an impromptu rendition of "On Top of Old Smokey" about Bob. None of us hit the same key, but it was a lot of fun. These are the great memories I have of the Associates. I have met many wonderful members, and just recently I was thrilled to read about fellow Associates member and alum Carl Larson (BS '52), who was recognized in this year's Distinguished Alumni Awards


Outside of your involvement with the Caltech Associates, what do you do?

I used to be very involved in my local community theater group, and I still sing in the church choir.


What might we be surprised to know about you?

I was a manager for the Caltech basketball team in the late 1940s. Unfortunately, I had poor vision, so I couldn't play, but instead I ended up managing the team. We had a pretty good team back then. Paul Saltman (BS '49 and PhD '53) was the goon of the team, and Carl Shy was the coach at the time. He led the Beavers to the undisputed championship by beating every conference opponent at least once, along with scoring a record 112 points in a 50-point win over then non-conference La Verne—both records that still stand today. It was great to read that Carl Shy was still involved!

Also, I met my late wife at Caltech—she was an assistant secretary at ticketing for the games. We enjoyed 50-some years of marriage. So Caltech has done all sorts of wonderful things for me!


Do you have a favorite Caltech memory/story/moment?  

After my first semester at Caltech, I had to leave to serve in the army. After three years I returned, and, being legally allowed to drink, I brought back a suitcase with a combination lock, filled with liquor. I was quite a popular guy on campus for a while.

I also fondly remember hearing Linus Pauling deliver introductory chemistry lectures. He was an extremely compelling teacher and an inspiration.