Five years ago, James and Andrea Clarke sold Clearlink, their Salt Lake City marketing business, and moved their young family to Provo to begin a new chapter. “I love Utah Valley,” says Clarke. “We moved here because we knew there would be wonderful opportunities and wonderful people with whom we might be able to work. I think our move has been one of the best experiences we’ve ever had as a family.”
The Clarkes started Clearlink in 2001, when they were engaged, and grew it over a decade. Their hard work and business acumen led to remarkable success, attracting such colossal clients as AT&T, Verizon, and Dish Network. “Andrea was my first real investor,” says James. “She believed in me in both business and life and has been a great partner in all that we do.”
The move to Utah Valley didn’t impede Clarke’s career trajectory at all — he was recently featured on the cover of Utah Valley BusinessQ as one of the “10 Coolest Entrepreneurs” in the valley. Shortly after moving to Provo, he started Clarke Capital Partners, a family office that invests in growth companies. He aims to continue elevating the caliber of entrepreneurship in Utah Valley and the Rocky Mountain west. “You can see what’s taken place relative to technology over the last 30 years in this valley, even as opposed to Salt Lake,” he says. “The vast majority of the great technology deals have taken place here. It started with WordPerfect and Novell, and many of the valley’s technology companies have their roots in those businesses.”
The registered LLC of the company is not Clarke Capital Partners, though. It’s Labore et Honore, Latin for Labor in Honor — words that appear on the Clarke family crest. As a young boy working for his father, Clarke learned the meaning of the motto. He worked three hours a day and got paid weekly by check. In the memo section of the paycheck, his father would write “labor and honor” if he did a good job, but just “labor” if he hadn’t. The pay was the same, but it didn’t feel the same if the honor was missing. Clarke encourages everyone he works with to labor with honor and is passing that value down to his children as well.
Andrea doesn’t officially work at Clarke Capital, but James calls her a thought partner. “She’s a wonderful partner in everything we do and truly someone I look to as an expert. I am not going to make any major decision in business or otherwise without her input,” he says. The couple loves skiing and traveling with their three children. Last summer they toured throughout Asia, and they’ve traveled extensively in the United States and Europe.
At the time of the move, Clarke also enrolled at Oxford University in England, in a master’s program that focused on projects and enterprises valued at more than a billion dollars. The head of the program called Clarke a phenomenologist — someone who does, then goes back and studies what he’s done. Nevertheless, Clarke hopes his Oxford education will serve him well in the rest of his life. A self-proclaimed lifelong learner, he also hopes it isn’t his last foray into formal education. “I’m just inherently curious, and I want to learn more, so it was fun to be overseas and learn with some of the best scholars I’ve ever witnessed and to be at this university that’s been around for almost 800 years,” he says.
As chair of the Utah Valley University Foundation Board, Clarke is helping to take the Foundation and the University to the next level. The board has shattered fundraising records and has implemented a more sophisticated approach to managing Foundation assets. But Clarke takes no credit for this progress. He sees his fellow Foundation Board members as superstars and calls working with President Matthew S. Holland one of the great experiences of his life.
“I cannot say enough about my fellow board members. They are leaders within the community, and I am honored just to be amongst them,” says Clarke. “It’s the most wonderful and diverse makeup of a board that I’ve been a part of. What they all have in common is their passion for the University and their ability to get things done. This is not a board of people who sit around and talk, it’s a board of doers and playmakers.”
Another thing Clarke likes about board service at UVU apart from other universities is that you can really make a difference here. “At UVU you can be involved in the mission. I’ve never been part of a board where I felt so much ownership and felt that we truly could make change,” he says.
Clarke says that the UVU Foundation Board has always been great, but in recent years it has reached new heights. “My hope is that during my tenure as Foundation Board chair we will at least double the size of the endowment from the day I took office, and I believe we’re well on our way,” he says.
Likening UVU to an early MIT, Clarke explains that both started out as trade/tech schools, then grew into universities. “For a lot of years, MIT was written off as a little tech and trade school, and it’s interesting to see what has happened over time. It’s one of the world’s great universities today, and I think UVU is on a similar path. You can see the great foundation that’s been laid in the past and where the university is going today under wonderful leadership. UVU is now predominantly a first-choice university.
“It’s an exciting time to be involved with UVU. People in this community feel a real sense of ownership for the University, and we’re starting to feel a groundswell of support. We had a lot to do coming into our 75th-year anniversary, but it was accomplished, because community members and businesses have really gotten behind UVU’s mission,” says Clarke, who thinks UVU’s leanness — the fact that it does a lot with very little — has helped to garner it more respect.
More than anything else, seeing the difference made in students’ lives is what motivates Clarke. He loves UVU’s ability to engage with students in a way that fosters success, and he sees UVU’s diversity as contributing to success. Older students returning to earn a degree, for example, come with a real sense of purpose. They are motivated by a desire to support their families, and they have a greater appreciation for education. “There are so many wonderful success stories at UVU, and I love seeing lives changed in ways that will also change generations of families,” he says.