Leesa Clark began her time at Campbell in 1984 and spent her first two years of college at the university. After changing her major three times, she decided on a degree in journalism and transferred to East Carolina University; Campbell did not have a journalism program until later. During her years at Campbell, she was greatly impacted by longtime English professor Dorothy Whitley, to whom she credits her writing skills.
Clark was confident in her writing skills when she arrived at Campbell because she excelled at English in high school. However, when she received her first paper back from Mrs. Whitley, it was covered in red ink. She began to rethink everything; had she chosen the wrong major?
As the semester went on, Professor Whitley challenged Clark to become a better writer. While at first Clark thought that she had to change everything about the way she wrote, she quickly realized it was the structure of her writing that needed to be improved. Mrs. Whitley taught her to preserve her voice while perfecting sentence structure and word choice. These simple fixes made all the difference.
Clark sat down with Mrs. Whitley to plan her classes for the next semester. Whitley mentioned to Clark that she would like her to be in her classes because she “liked to keep her good students.” She was overjoyed by this statement and still remembers it to this day.
“Having written well enough to get through a challenging high school curriculum, I guess I thought I could float by in college English courses like I had in high school,” Clark reflected. “Mrs. Whitley, however, had other ideas. She wouldn’t let me float. She challenged me.”
Clark finished her second year at Campbell and transferred to East Carolina University to complete a degree in journalism. Upon graduating from ECU, Clark started working for IBM while getting her Master’s Degree from NC State. After working at IBM for 20 years in technical communication and information development, she decided to step away and work as a consultant. When COVID-19 hit, she saw it as the perfect opportunity to finish the novel she began in 2014.
Writing a book had been Clark’s dream since she was five years old. She wrote and illustrated many “books” throughout her childhood. In 2020, she finished her first novel, Dead Spots: A Matthew Paine Mystery. Dead Spots is about a young doctor, Matthew Paine, who has an osteopathic medical degree, ostensibly from Campbell University. The University is never mentioned in the book; however, it is heavily implied. Living near a small town on the outskirts of Raleigh and working as a general practitioner in a family medical practice, Matthew gets pulled into the life of an intriguing patient. This leads him to a murder investigation which he then helps to solve.
After she published Dead Spots, Clark was chatting with a friend about all that Professor Whitley had done for her while studying at Campbell. Her friend suggested that she get in contact with Professor Whitley and send her a copy of the book. Unsure how to do this, Clark contacted the Office of Alumni Engagement for assistance. Clark was able to leave a message for Mrs. Whitley and send her a copy of the book along with a note to thank her for the impact she had on Clark’s writing.
Campbell University has a long history of dedicated professors who positively impact their students. Professor Whitley had such a large impact on Clark that 35 years later, Clark still credits her writing strength to her time in Whitley’s classroom at Campbell. The Office of Alumni Engagement encourages alumni to remember educators, mentors, and friends from Campbell University and to remain connected.
When she sent a copy of the book, Clark told Mrs. Whitley that if she found any errors, her feedback was welcome. Clark informed us that Mrs. Whitley contacted her and said she enjoyed the book and “in true Mrs. Whitley fashion, she found that three edits had been missed.” Clark thanked her and fixed the eBook and paperback source and uploaded them back to Amazon so that future copies and downloads will be “Dorothy Whitley approved.”