The College of Business

Mayberry Chair of Excellence

The mission of the W.E. Mayberry Chair of Excellence is to increase awareness and enhance the development of quality and quality-related practices in business and education on a local, state, and national level. This is achieved by conducting and disseminating research, implementing quality-related projects and activities, conducting workshops for practitioners, and instructing students in undergraduate and graduate classes. Dr. Curt W. Reimann, first director of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, serves as the chairholder. The chair is also supported by a highly distinguished board of advisors. The Mayberry Chair of Excellence was created at the College of Business Administration, Tennessee Technological University, in the 1993-1994 academic year. Be sure to visit our Quality Resources link for the web's best quality information. Please send your feedback by clicking on the following e-mail link:

Dr. Reatha Clark-King will be delivering the 2018 Mayberry Lecture on Thursday, November 15, 11:00 a.m. in Johnson Hall Auditorium. Topic: Leadership for Performance Excellence”

Dr. Reatha Clark King

From the farm fields of Georgia to astronauts on the moon

Reatha Clark King didn't set out to become a research chemist who would one day help NASA discover rocket fuels for the space program. Nor did she intend to become a college professor, university president or executive director of the General Mills Foundation.  Rather, she set her sights on a career as a home economics teacher.

Clark King was born in the rural Deep South of Georgia long before the civil rights movement, when Jim Crow laws created a system of economic, social and educational disadvantages for black Americans. The daughter of a poorly educated sharecropper and a domestic servant who divorced when she was young, Clark King and her two sisters moved around Southern Georgia several times, and spent summers picking cotton and gathering tobacco in the fields to earn money. And yet, Clark King's bright mind could not be muted by the difficulty of her circumstances. She graduated as valedictorian of Moultrie High School for Negro Youth in 1954 and received a scholarship to Clark College in Atlanta, where she declared home economics as her major. Clark King explains, "At that time, women were told that the appropriate work for them was to be a nurse, social worker or teacher, particularly if you were going to get a degree, a home economics teacher."

Clark King's path took a sharp turn when she enrolled in freshman chemistry (a home economics requirement) and met Professor Alfred Spriggs, who encouraged Clark King to pursue chemistry. Clark King was then faced with the difficult task of telling her mother that she would not be returning to her hometown to teach home economics. She recalled, "That would have been an elevation of stature for our whole family, to have a child who's a teacher in the local high school."After graduating from Clark College, she was awarded a Woodrow Wilson fellowship that made it financially possible for her to attend graduate school. Clark King received her doctorate in 1963, becoming one of the first African-American women to receive a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Chicago.Later in life she went on to earn an MBA from Columbia University.

From 1963 to 1968, Clark King was a research chemist with the prestigious National Bureau of Standards (known today as the National Institute of Standards and Technology) in Washington, D.C. Highlights of her work there included inventing special equipment that allowed her to study very reactive materials for rocket fuels and avoid explosions — an important piece of NASA's rocket design work in the space program. "It was a good feeling to know that your work was part of something really big." 

In 1977, Clark King's career path took another turn, and she was named president of Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minn. She credits the discipline, creativity, critical thinking and project management skills she developed as a scientist as critical training for her future: "I can say with confidence that my work as a research chemist became an enabler for success in these other fields…Work as a scientist develops your abilities, perhaps better than any other kind of work," Clark King noted.

In 1988, Clark King was invited to become president and executive director of the General Mills Foundation, a position she held for 14 years. During that time, she increased the foundation assets and corporate contributions from $7 million to more than $50 million, and championed programs helping African Americans gain access to higher education.

Dr. King has served on the boards of a number of other corporations including ExxonMobil; Wells Fargo; Department 56; Minnesota Mutual Companies; and the H.B. Fuller Company.  She has also served with nonprofits, such as, the Council on Foundations, the National Association of Corporate Directors, and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. She has served as a trustee with Clark Atlanta University, and is a Life Trustee for the University of Chicago.  She is a member of the American Council on Education and the Executive Leadership Council in Washington, D.C.  She has a particularly strong interest in education, and has stated: "I realized early in life that education is our best enabling resource, that technical skills are important, and that my stamina for championing educational opportunity for all people is inexhaustible.