It was just like the late Jane Freund Harris to leave a perpetual valentine to the community she loved. In her bequest 12 years ago, she created the Jane and Whitney Harris St. Louis Community Service Award so that couples such as the Harrises, who have worked tirelessly to enhance the St. Louis region, would be encouraged to continue their good work.
The bequest specified that the award should be given close to Valentine’s Day. So on Feb. 16, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton held a luncheon at Harbison House to honor the 2011 awardees, Maxine Clark and Bob Fox.
“I’m sure that Jane and Whitney Harris would have been pleased that Maxine Clark and Bob Fox are being recognized today for their contributions to the St. Louis community,” Wrighton said. “They have demonstrated the commitment and dedication that Jane and Whitney cherished and demonstrated in their own lives.”
Whitney Harris died last year at age 97.
“Nearly every local cultural, civic and educational institution is associated with the Harris giving legacy,” said Wrighton, noting that at Washington University alone they have supported University Libraries, the School of Law, the School of Medicine, the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences, Edison Theatre, and the Women’s Society of Washington University.
Many local luminaries were on hand to fete Clark and Fox, including Whitney’s widow, Anna Harris, who created with Whitney their own giving tradition. Also on hand were Jane and Whitney’s son, Eugene, and his wife, Lori; friends Father Lawrence Biondi and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay; last year’s Harris award recipients Gerry and Bob Virgil; Lucy Lopata, who, with her late husband Stanley were the first honorees; and members of the selection committee for the award, including chair Michael Loynd.
“Maxine Clark and Bob Fox have made it their mission to enhance the quality of life for St. Louisans and have set a great example of community involvement through their dedicated service, generosity and leadership,” Loynd said.
After Loynd’s remarks, Wrighton presented the couple with a Waterford clock and a cash award of $50,000, to be allocated to the charities of the winning couple’s choice:
- Casa de Salud, which provides high quality basic health and wellness services for uninsured and underinsured patients, especially for new immigrants and refugees who encounter barriers to accessing other sources of care;
- College Bound St. Louis, which helps promising high school students from under-resourced backgrounds by providing academic enrichment, social supports and life skills needed to apply, matriculate and succeed in four-year colleges;
- WUSTL’s Gephardt Institute for Public Service, which supports the value, interest and importance of public service and encourages civic engagement through a variety of programs and opportunities for service;
- KIPP Inspire Academy, or the Knowledge Is Power Program, which is a national network of free, open enrollment, college-preparatory schools with a track record of preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and in life; and
- Teach for America, which is a non-profit organization that aims to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting the nation’s most promising future leaders to teach for two or more years in low-income communities throughout the United States.
Clark is chief executive bear at Build-A-Bear Workshop, a teddy-bear themed retail-entertainment experience that she founded in 1997. Today, there are more than 400 workshops here and abroad. Clark is a graduate of the University of Georgia, and holds an honorary doctor of laws degree from Saint Louis University.
Her devotion to improving public education is evident in the organizations she supports.
Besides serving on the WUSTL Board of Trustees, Clark serves on both the national and regional boards of Teach for America, as well as on the board of Donorschoose.org, an online charity connecting donors to specific classroom needs. In addition, she is on the boards of KETC Channel 9-PBS, KIPP Inspire and the Regional Business Council.
Fox founded NewSpace Inc. in 1984, which introduced the residential closet organizing business to the St. Louis region. Today, in addition to home organizational products, NewSpace is a full-service contract furniture dealer and makes fixtures for the retail trade.
After being honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business and economics from Drury University, then a master’s in business administration from Saint Louis University.
In 2009, recognizing a great need, Fox stepped forward and founded Casa de Salud, a health and wellness center serving Hispanic immigrants, where he serves as chair of the board. In addition, he serves on the board of trustees of Saint Louis University as well as the Saint Louis Zoo Foundation board. He also is committed to WUSTL’s Gephardt Institute for Public Policy, where he is a founding member of its advisory board.
Since 2000, 12 husband-wife couples have received the Jane and Whitney Harris St. Louis Community Service Award. Awardees are chosen by a selection committee from nominations solicited each fall.