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John Clark Sims (1845-1901)

University Affiliation:
  • A.B. 1865, A.M. 1868
  • Member of Phi Kappa Sigma, the Glee Club and Philo
  • Member of class and varsity cricket teams
  • Class secretary
  • Founder of "Class Day"
  • Founder and President of the Athletic Association
  • Trustee
Biographical Summary:
  • Secretary of the Pennsylvania Railroad
  • Respected member and leader of numerous athletic and cultural organizations


John Clark Sims was born in Philadelphia on September 12, 1845, son of John Clark and Emeline Marion Sims.

When young Sims entered Penn's Class of 1865 as a sophomore in 1862, he immediately took on a leading role in the organization of student life. During his sophomore year he was Secretary of the Class of 1865, secretary and treasurer of the University Glee Club, as well as a member of the University Chess Club, the Philomathean Society and Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity. As a member of the Executive Committee of his senior class, Sims was intrumental in the establishment of Penn's first Class Day.

While in college, Sims was a member of Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity, the Philomathean Society. He played on his sophomore class Cricket Eleven and on the 1864 University cricket team that played in Penn's first athletic event, a match with Haverford College. Sims' leadership included serving as secretary of the Glee Club and secretary of his sophomore class. He was the driving force in organizing the first day of school tradition known as "Class Day." According to the 1865 Record, this event was "the most splendid celebration which the University has ever known."

After his admission to the bar in 1868, Sims entered the service of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company as the assistant secretary. He later rose to become secretary of this company as well of several other railroad companies. Outside of his professional life, Sims served as a Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania and as a manager of the University Hospital, the University Veterinary Hospital and the Girard Trust Company. He was also the accounting warden for St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill and a lay deputy to the Diocesan Convention.

Sims' interest in the University did not flag after his graduation. He was greatly involved in Penn athletics as President of the University of Pennsylvania Athletic Association and of the Pennsylvania Railroad Athletic Association. He became instrumental in cricket matters while serving on the committees managing some of the most important international matches of the day. At the time of his death he represented the Trustees of the University on the Faculty Committee on Athletics. He served as a trustee of the University from 1885 until his death on January 6, 1901, at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. At the time of his death he represented the Trustees of the University on the Faculty Committee on Athletics.

In addition, John C. Sims was a member of many of the most respected organizations in Philadelphia and the northeastern United States. He was a member of the Society of Cincinnati in the State of New Jersey as well as the Philadelphia Society Sons of the Revolution. Sims was also a member of the Society of Colonial Wars, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and the Germantown Cricket, Philadelphia, University and Penn Clubs. When Sims died in the University Hospital on January 6, 1901, he left a legacy that still leaves its mark on Philadelphia today.

Sims married Grace Ledlie Patterson, the daughter of Joseph Patterson, the president of Western National Bank in Philadelphia. Their son Joseph Patterson Sims (1890-1953) earned the degree of Bachelor of Science in Architecture at the University in 1912.