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UMass dean and Leverett resident dies

LEVERETT — Priscilla Clarkson, a 66-year-old University of Massachusetts dean and professor, died at her Leverett home Sunday after a long battle with cancer.

Clarkson was the dean of Common-wealth Honors College since 2006 and a distinguished university professor of kinesiology, nationally recognized as a researcher in muscle function. She founded and ran the Muscle Biology and Imaging Lab at UMass Amherst.

In her 36-year career at UMass Amherst, Clarkson rose to the top ranks in her field, authoring more than 200 scientific publications and becoming a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, where she also served multiple roles, including as national president and as foundation president. As a researcher and faculty member, Clarkson mentored countless graduate and undergraduate students.

The university awarded Clarkson the Chancellor’s Medal in 1997 and named her a Distinguished Professor in 2008. She was a triple alumna of UMass Amherst, having earned her undergraduate degree in 1969, her master’s degree in 1973 and her doctoratein 1977.

“We are tremendously saddened by the loss of Priscilla Clarkson, particularly as it coincides with the opening of the new Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community, for which she was a tireless champion and advocate,” said Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, in a prepared statement.

“She fully realized the power of strong collaboration between the academic and residential aspects of a university, and this new complex will honor her work and vision by serving as a model for undergraduate education in both universities and honors colleges nationally,” he said. “Her spirit and love of learning will be deeply missed.”

Clarkson’s colleagues and former students said she was an encouraging and driven worker who played a critical role in the university’s academic development. She won a number of awards and accolades for her research work.

She served on a number of groups and committees, including the Massachusetts Governor’s Panel to improve police training practices to prevent cases of rhabdomyolysis (muscle damage) leading to kidney failure during training. She was editor of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism for eight years, and editor-in-chief of Exercise and Sport Science Reviews.

Clarkson maintained a lifelong involvement in classical ballet, including as a performer, choreographer, board member and president of the Pioneer Valley Ballet. She was an co-author and editor of books on dance medicine.

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