Lois A. Clarke
Growing up in Buchanan County, Virginia, Lois Clarke never imagined she would find herself in the realm of high finance. The eldest of eight children born to Joe and Frankie Street, Clarke was part of a close-knit family that endured hard times together, a family whom she credits today for much of her success in business.
She treasures her memories of growing up with her three sisters and four brothers. Like most eldest children, Lois grew up with responsibilities.
"I often took care of my brothers and sisters while dad worked in the mines and mom worked in the garden," she recalls. "But there was always time for playing and having fun together. My family was, and still is, with me. They have always supported my decisions and been there whenever I needed them."
A graduate of McClain Business School in Bluefield, West Virginia, Clarke's first job was with Dent K. Burke Associates, in Grundy. She was quickly promoted to accountant and eventually assigned to handle the growing finances of the United Coal Company in Bristol, Virginia.
Hired by UC in 1970, Clarke was promoted to comptroller and vice-president a year later, just as the company began experiencing unprecedented growth during the ‘70's coal boom.
"I was in the right place at the right time to get a job with a start-up company in the coal business that was on an exciting journey into the future," said Clarke.
It was during this growth period that Clarke was approached by the company's owners about investing UC's profits. She developed her own strategy of market analysis, and chose to invest in utility stocks at the time.
Under her direction, the company expanded into a diversified energy company. Selling its last coal-related business in 1997, United today operates an oil and gas division, with holdings throughout the United States and Canada; a construction supply division; a real estate and golf division; and a finance services division – United Management Company. The financial services division now stands as the largest division for the United Company.
In addition to managing the region's only locally held mutual fund and as the United Company's CFO, Lois also manages accounts for corporate clients, individuals, endowments, foundations, and pension funds, totaling well over $1 billion in financial investments.
Clarke attributes her success not only to the support of her family, but also to United's owners and her co-workers.
"This has been a team effort," she said. "United is a family, and I work with a great group of people."
She particularly credits United's chairman, president, and CEO James W. McGlothlin with mentoring her along the way.
"He had confidence in me, and gave me the responsibility and freedom to get the job accomplished," she said.
"I believe you always need to do your best in everything you do, with the talents God has given you; to surround yourself with people who know more than you do, work together as a team, and always give credit where credit is due," she said.
People and community are equally important to Clarke. She serves on the AmSouth Board of Advisors, King College Board of Trustees, ETSU Roan Scholars Leadership Program Advisory Board, and Bristol Train Station Foundation Board of Directors. She is a member of the morning Rotary Club of Bristol, the Boys and Girls Club Mentor Program, and Central Presbyterian Church, Bristol, Virginia.
Her honors include the YWCA's first Tribute to Women in 1992. She was chosen by United in 1996 for its "Woman of the Year" award. In 2000 she received the Golden Ladder Award from the Tri-Cities Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.
In the midst of her professional advancement and community involvement, Lois and Larry reared two sons, Frank and Alan. Alan, 17, lives at home and is a senior at Tennessee High. Frank and his wife, Pam, have two children: Sydney, a 3-year-old girl and Finn, an 18-month-old boy. Lois claims that she isn't spoiling her grandchildren.
Lois's only solitary pursuit is reading. Her other hobbies, family activities, hiking and golf, are shared with family and friends.
Clarke believes that community involvement is important in improving the lives of others.
"We need to give of ourselves in order to make it a better place to live," she said. "I firmly believe that we must give back to the community, and you will receive so much more than you give."