In Memoriam: College safety advocate Howard Clery

Clery became college safety advocate after daughter's murder at college in 1986


Howard Clery, whose fury over his daughter's 1986 murder at Lehigh University helped spawn a landmark federal law requiring the disclosure of campus crime statistics, has died.

Clery, 77, died at his home in Palm City, Fla., on Tuesday, according to King of Prussia-based Security on Campus Inc. Clery co-founded the watchdog group a year after his daughter, Jeanne, was raped and killed in her dorm room by a fellow student.

Clery and wife, Connie, sued the Bethlehem school, arguing the school failed to provide security and covered up campus crime. They settled the suit for an undisclosed sum, using the money to establish Security on Campus Inc., which lobbied for legislation targeting crimes at colleges and universities.

Clery told The Morning Call 10 years after his daughter's death that he felt his family's work for campus safety was having an impact.

"On some levels it's rather nice seeing some college administrators not being as smug or arrogant as they used to be instead of having all the answers and blaming students," he said at the time. "They've come to come into the real world and stop living in this medieval myth about college and universities being peaceful sanctuaries."

The Jeanne Clery Act, signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, requires colleges and universities to disclose information about campus crime and security policies in a timely fashion. The Education Department can fine violators up to $27,500 for each infraction or can suspend them from participating in federal student financial aid programs.

Bush, at a Rose Garden ceremony, lauded the work of Clery and his wife on behalf of crime victims by noting "their campaign to build an America where every victim of every crime is treated with the dignity and the compassion they deserve."

Security on Campus said the Clerys helped secure passage of more than 30 state and federal laws related to the disclosure of crime information and victims' rights.

On April 5, 1986, Josoph Henry broke into Jeanne Clery's dorm room. She awoke while he was burglarizing it; he proceeded to rape and strangle her.

Henry was sentenced to die, but appealed his conviction. In 2002, a federal judge rejected Henry's appeal but vacated his death penalty, saying the county judge who presided over the case gave unclear jury instructions.

Both Henry and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli appealed the case. Later that year, Henry agreed to drop his appeals in exchange for a sentence of life in prison.

Following his daughter's death, Clery castigated university officials for failing to protect students.

In a stinging commentary at her funeral, an angry Howard Clery lashed out at Lehigh: "Have you forgotten to screen out the rapists, the morally perverted, the drug addicts, the dormitory thieves? I think you're afraid to do it because you would be accused of discriminating."

Contacted via e-mail Friday about Clery's death, a Lehigh official offered his sympathies to the family.

"Our deepest condolences to the Clery family for their loss," wrote John Smeaton, vice provost for student affairs. "We commend the Clerys and Security on Campus Inc. for their ongoing efforts to promote campus safety."

Clery is survived by two sons and his wife. A funeral Mass is scheduled for Tuesday at Villanova University.