Gonzaga Alum Honored for Giving Back
"Returning the Favor" show profiles formerly homeless graduate Rick Clark
Gonzaga’s Jesuit ethos embraces a commitment to human dignity and solidarity with the poor and vulnerable.
Alumnus Rick Clark ('19) lives those values and knows poverty firsthand. Formerly homeless, Clark launched the nonprofit outreach program Giving Back Packs to help those experiencing homelessness in his hometown of Spokane.
Clark started the program around the time he decided to return to school after having dropped out of high school nearly three decades earlier. He transferred to Gonzaga after graduating from Spokane Community College.
Since graduating from GU this spring with a degree in communication studies, Clark formally launched his nonprofit and has continued to receive local and national recognition for making a positive impact in his community.
Clark's story was featured on a Facebook Watch Show, "Returning the Favor," which stars host Mike Rowe. The episode streamed for the first time on July 8 and is now available on-demand.
In the show, the "Returning the Favor" crew follows Clark around campus and Spokane under the premise of doing a documentary about his work.
However, Clark was in for a big surprise. As he entered the McCarthey Athletic Center as part of a "campus tour," a crowd of friends, family, and cheering Gonzaga community members awaited.
Clark bleeds Gonzaga blue and red, as a prominent GU tattoo on his right forearm reminds. He is unabashedly loyal to the institution, due to its positive impact on his life and those of others.
He returned to campus for a “Returning the Favor” watch party. In attendance were those who helped to make it happen, along with some of his former communication studies professors.
Gonzaga staff members, along with those in Clark's inner circle, worked with the show's producers to plan out and execute the surprise reveal at McCarthey Athletic Center. A great deal of effort was undertaken to ensure the event was a surprise to him.
The behind-the-scenes story was one of several areas Clark discussed in a question-and-answer session that followed the watch party. Clark also talked about lesser-known aspects of his journey at Gonzaga, including a strong faith belief in which his story is grounded.
Clark has been experiencing a personal time warp over the past few months. He says his life has been a blur since the film crew was on campus, followed by graduation, then the debut of the Facebook Watch episode on Monday night and ensuing press coverage. All of it has raised the profile of his nonprofit and brought about new opportunities and unforeseen offers of support.
Previous coverage by Gonzaga University
- Read the accompanying story, Student Offers Backpacks of Hope to Homeless
- Read Clark's inspirational first-person story, Resiliency: Making it to Round 10
More stories about Rick Clark
- How backpacks and a bus ride changed Rick Clark’s life (Spokesman-Review)
- Former homeless Spokane man recognized for 'Giving Backpacks' to homeless (KREM.com)
- Man makes Spokane a better place one backpack at a time (KXLY.com)
- Student creates nonprofit which gives hope to the homeless (Gonzaga Bulletin)
- Careers & Outcomes
- Faith & Mission
- Service & Community Impact
- College of Arts & Sciences
- Communication Studies