Scientist, educator, and leader Reatha Clark King will address the Class of 2019 on May 23
Known for her pioneer services in chemistry, higher education, business, philanthropy, and community services, Reatha Clark King was born in Pavo, Georgia, in 1938. She began her education in a one-room school at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. She graduated from Moultrie High School for Negro Youth in 1954, earning the distinction of valedictorian.
Clark accepted a scholarship to attend Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia, and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and mathematics in 1958. Following graduation, she received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, allowing her to continue her studies at the University of Chicago, where she earned her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physical chemistry in 1963.
In 1963, King became the first African American female research chemist for the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C. During her time with the agency, King won the Meritorious Publication Award for her paper on fluoride flame calorimetry, and her research contributed to the NASA space program.
Following her work with the agency, King moved with her husband and children to New York, where she was hired as an assistant professor at York College of the City University of New York. She went on to become the associate dean for the Division of Natural Science and Mathematics and then associate dean for academic affairs. During that same time, King also received an M.B.A. from Columbia University.
In 1977 King was recruited to become the second president of Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and she served in that capacity until 1988. In 1988, King was hired by General Mills. She held several positions during her time there, including: president and executive director of the General Mills Foundation and vice president of the General Mills Corporation. She served as Chairman of the Board of the General Mills Foundation before retiring in 2003.
During her more than 50-year career, King has served on a long list of boards and community organizations, including: Allina Health Systems, Exxon Mobile Corporation, H.B. Fuller Company, Lenox Group Inc., Minnesota Mutual Companies (Securian), and the Wells Fargo Company. Currently, she is a member of the Board of Overseers of the Malcolm Baldrige Program for Excellence in the U.S. Department of Commerce, an Emeritus Trustee of the University of Chicago, and a member of the board of the Minnesota Council of Churches Foundation.
Over the years, King has received many awards and honors, including 14 honorary doctorate degrees, and the NACD Director of the Year Award in 2004. In November 2017, she was inducted into the NACD Governance Hall of Fame.
Prior to his passing in 2014, King was married to N. Judge King II for more than 52 years. The couple has two sons, N. Judge III and Scot Clark, a daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren.