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Faye Clarke

Born Aug. 6, 1931 in Pine Bluff, Ark., Faye Clarke was the first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Business School. But that isn’t her biggest significant accomplishment.

That accomplishment has its roots in her shock and dismay at the abject poverty Ms. Clarke saw in schools during her trips though the South on behalf of food giant ARAMARK, for which she was a regional vice president.

When Ms. Clarke retired in 1991, she and husband Frank decided to do more than grieve. In addition to donating books belonging to themselves and their eight children, they spent $250,000 from her retirement fund to purchase supplies for these schools and their students, and founded the Alabama-Mississippi Education Improvement Project Inc. The organization is now known as Educate the Children Foundation. Designed to find books and other material for schools, the foundation recycled and distributed surplus materials from educational publishers and discarded items including writing materials and furniture from more well-heeled districts. Clarke and her husband opened warehouses in Montgomery, Ala. New Orleans, Atlanta and Greenville, Miss. After an introduction to John Walton, heir of the Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, the Clarkes obtained a grant from the Walton family to continue their efforts.

Today Educate the Children Foundation of Huntington Beach, Calif., is a clearinghouse and distribution center for more than $20 million in books, supplies and equipment that go to eligible schools throughout the United States. Faye Clarke serves as executive director. Along with her husband she has received numerous awards and honors including the 1996 President?s Service Award, awarded at the White House by President Clinton.