Athens, Ga. – Maxine Clark, a 1971 graduate of the University of Georgia and founder, chief executive and chairman of Build-A-Bear Workshop, will be the speaker for the university’s summer commencement exercises Aug. 2.
The number of students eligible to receive degrees will not be known until the conclusion of final exams on July 31.
During Clark’s 30-year career, her ability to spot emerging retail and merchandising trends and her insight into the desires of the American consumer have generated growth for retail leaders, including department, discount and specialty stores. In 1997, she founded Build-A-Bear Workshop, a teddy-bear themed retail-entertainment experience. Today there are more than 370 Build-A-Bear Workshop stores worldwide, including company-owned stores in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland and France, and franchise stores in Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. Build-A-Bear Workshop extended its in-store interactive experience online in 2007 with the launch of its virtual world at buildabearville.comTM.
“Maxine Clark is a friend to the University of Georgia and an inspiration to our students,” said UGA President Michael F. Adams. “As a female entrepreneur and a successful business leader, she has shown that a UGA education can help provide a solid foundation for success.”
Clark was formerly president of the $2.5 billion Payless Shoe Source, a division of May’s Department Store. After working her way up May’s executive ladder for 23 years, first as an executive trainee at Hecht’s straight out of UGA’s journalism school in 1971, she called it quits in 1996.
In 2008, Clark was named one of The 25 Most Influential People in Retailing by Chain Store Age. In 2006, she was inducted into the Junior Achievement National Business Hall of Fame and received the 2006 Luminary Award for Entrepreneurial Achievement from the Committee of 200. She was named a Customer-Centered Leader in the 2005 Customer First Awards by Fast Company magazine. Maxine was one of the Wonder Women of Toys by Playthings magazine and Women in Toys, and was also one of the National Finalists in Retail for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2004. In 2005, the National Association of Small Business Investment Companies made Build-A-Bear Workshop Portfolio Company of the Year, it was named one of the International Council of Shopping Centers “Hottest Retailers of 2004” and the Retail Innovator of the Year for 2001 by The National Retail Federation.
Maxine is a member of the board of directors of the J.C. Penney Company, Inc., and serves on the board of trustees of Washington University in St. Louis. She is chair of Teach for America – St. Louis and a member of the Teach For America national board. She is also a member of the Committee of 200. Clark also holds an honorary doctor of laws degree from St. Louis University. In 2006, her first book The Bear Necessities of Business: Building a Company with Heart was published.