Dec. 2 2015 06:57 AM

It was a full 85 years for World Wide Sires' Willard "Bill" Clark.

A cowman, businessman and art collector, World Wide Sires Founder, Bill Clark was unafraid to pursue his passions. Born in the Central Valley of California, Bill's impact reached far beyond his hometown farming community of Hanford. His education included the University of California-Davis and the Harvard Business School. He also served his country for four years in the U.S. Naval Air Force.
Bill Clark, World Wide Sires

Bill Clark (seated center) at the 1983 World Dairy Expo International Party with some of the World Wide Sires employees.

Although he learned about Japan in his sixth grade class, it was most likely his time in the service in Japan where his affinity for Japanese art blossomed. He was a collector and amassed nearly 1,700 objects. Initially housed at the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture in rural Hanford, Bill's entire collection was donated to the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 2013. The $25 million collection is the largest in the Western world with more than 10,000 square feet and 15 galleries. He wanted the art to be exposed to a larger audience than the museum in the middle of an almond orchard could provide and did not want to burden his children with subsidizing the museum when he passed.

For his efforts, Bill received accolades from the Japanese government for his "introduction of Japanese art" and "promotion of cultural and educational exchange" between Japan and the U.S.

But, this art collector was also a farm boy. He spent his entire 85 years on the same ranch where his family farmed. And after his military service, Bill managed the family dairy where he developed another of his passions, Holstein genetics.

He founded World Wide Sires, which is based in nearby Visalia, Calif. World Wide Sires has semen distributors in 66 countries, including Japan. Thanks to his vision, his organization was responsible for selling more dairy genetics around the world than any other entity.

For those in the dairy industry, we will likely remember him for his Holsteins. As a California native, I knew the name Willard Clark by his prefix, Cal-Clark. My family had used Cal-Clark Board Chairman and I owned my own Chairman daughter, Renaissance. She was a beautifully uddered young cow that descended from my very first calf I received as a child. I was unfamiliar with his art collection at the time, but I now know her name has an "artistic" connection to the breeder of her sire.

But, Board Chairman did a lot of good for dairy producers. His daughters earned him Gold Medal Sire honors for transmitting both type and production. Nearly 40 years after his birth, Chairman still is represented in 4.8 percent of Holstein genetics in Section 2 of the Holstein Red Book (August 2015). That encompasses bulls with Chairman in the fifth through tenth generations. I find his strongest influence was through his well-known son, To-Mar Blackstar-ET, who has sired the most Holstein cows with production records over 50,000 pounds of milk.

So, while many outside of the dairy industry will remember Mr. Clark for his art collection, I will always remember the man who brought top dairy genetics to the producers around the world, through his Holsteins and World Wide Sires.

Hurtgen blog footer

The author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.