When asked why she is so committed to creating quality educational opportunities for St. Louis children, Maxine Clark is quick to speak about the positive role her own teachers played in her life. She has devoted significant time as a business leader in the St. Louis community to mentoring professionals in education and working to develop better schools for all children.
Professionally, Maxine Clark is one of the true innovators in the retail industry. Building on a highly successful retail career, in 1997 she founded Build-A-Bear Workshop®, a teddy-bear themed retail-entertainment experience with over 400 Build-A-Bear Workshop stores and over 130 million stuffed animals worldwide. In June 2013, Maxine stepped down from her role as Chief Executive Bear to apply her entrepreneurial skills to her passions – improving K-12 public education and encouraging and investing in women and minority entrepreneurs.
Maxine has been an important leader in the education reform movement in St. Louis. She has served in leadership roles with Teach For America (at the national and regional level), Beyond Housing, Parents as Teachers, Donorschoose.org and the KETC Channel 9 – PBS Board of Directors. She and her husband, Bob Fox, are founding donors of KIPP Inspire Academy, and Maxine is chair of the charter school advisory Board of Trustees. Maxine’s energy and commitment to education are unequalled. She visits two schools in St. Louis every week to help further her understanding of education in the St. Louis region. She visits one school that is underperforming and one that is successful to gain better insight into why schools fail and how they can succeed.
Maxine is widely recognized for her business accomplishments and has received numerous distinguished awards. In 2013, Build-A-Bear Workshop was named to the FORTUNE Best Companies to Work For® list for the fifth year in a row. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia and holds an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Saint Louis University.
Maxine serves on the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee of Washington University and on the National Council of the Brown School of Social Work. As one of her nominators, Rob Wild, said, “I cannot think of a person who is more committed to improving the quality of life for the children of St. Louis than Maxine Clark.”