Faye Clarke (1931–)

Faye Clarke co-founded the Educate the Children Foundation, which was created to support rural and impoverished school districts with donations of books and other educational materials. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2002.

Faye Wilma Robinson was born on August 6, 1931, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) to Jerimah and Eariest Robinson. In high school, she was an Arkansas National Merit Scholar and went on to study at Hampton Institute in Virginia. After graduation, she attended a one-year program in businesses at Radcliffe College taught by professors of the Harvard Business School, where women were not yet allowed; she was the first African-American woman in this program. She began working at Aramark, a company that provides food, facility, and uniform services, eventually becoming a regional vice president. While at Aramark, she helped to organize services for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California.

She married Frank Clarke 1982; they had eight children.

In her work for Aramark, Clarke frequently traveled through the South, often accompanied by her husband after his retirement, and the two of them became aware of the many structural inequalities facing children in lower-income school districts. In particular, the Clarkes happened to meet the Superintendent of Public Instruction for Mississippi at an administrators’ conference (Faye Clarke had the responsibility of securing food service contracts with school districts) and were invited to tour the schools of the Mississippi Delta region, where poverty is endemic.

Shocked at the conditions they witnessed, the Clarkes returned home to Cincinnati, Ohio, and began donating books and calculators to needy school districts in the South. After Faye Clarke retired in 1991, the couple used most of her $300,000 retirement fund to establish the Alabama-Mississippi Education Improvement Project, with Clarke as executive director. This was renamed the Educate the Children Foundation in 1993. The goal of the foundation was to locate books and other materials for school districts deprived of the means to secure such for themselves. To that end, the foundation worked to obtain surplus materials from educational publishers and discarded furniture from wealthier school districts. The foundation opened warehouses in Montgomery, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana; Atlanta, Georgia; and Greenville, Mississippi.

By 1999, more than $20 million worth of books and other equipment had been distributed to schools in nine states and Washington DC, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands, Haiti, and Ghana. The Clarkes also worked to establish computer labs in various schools, including on Native American reservations in the American West, and opened a computer-oriented summer camp for children in Compton, California, in 1997.

Faye and Frank Clarke received the President’s Service Award from President Bill Clinton in 1996, and the following year they received the National Caring Award. They live in Long Beach, California.

For additional information:
DuCharme, Catherine C. “‘They Are All Our Children’: Frank and Faye Clarke and Their Crusade to Educate the Children.” Education 119, no. 2 (1999): 313–319.

Gaouette, Nicole. “A Couple’s Quest to Aid Poor Schools.” Las Vegas Sun, August 20, 1997. Online at http://lasvegassun.com/news/1997/aug/20/a-couples-quest-to-aid-poor-schools/ (accessed September 10, 2020).

Smith, Doug. “Couple’s View of Philanthropy: Give Till It Helps.” Los Angeles Times, December 8, 1997. Online at http://articles.latimes.com/1997/dec/08/local/me-61921 (accessed September 10, 2020).

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


    I had the honor of working one year with Faye and Frank Clarke when they generously donated computers and other items to Hays Elementary in the Cincinnati Public School System. Faye and Frank hired me right out of college to teach creative writing to children during an after-school and a Saturday summer program at Hays. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The Clarkes didn’t know the word “no” when it came to expanding the minds of children, and I learned invaluable wisdom from them. Thank you!

    Jaylynn Gray