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Saturday, Feb 4, 2023

VEDC Chairman Provides Direction at The Right Time

When Kenneth Nielsen contacted Don St. Clair in 1998 about working with Woodbury University’s enrollment department, St. Clair wasn’t sold on the idea. Taking the job required moving he and his wife cross country, which was a huge life change. But when Nielsen, now president of the school, called back for the yes or no answer, St. Clair had a spontaneous change of heart. “I had just told my wife that I wasn’t going to take the job,” said St. Clair, “but when I received the call I said ‘Yes.’” He has no regrets. St. Clair is Woodbury University’s VP of University Marketing. And he’s on the board of directors of area non-profits such as the Los Angeles County Business Federation, Valley Industry and Commerce Association, Burbank Chamber of Commerce, Burbank Community YMCA and the Valley Economic Development Center. “It took me about 15 minutes to adjust to California,” he said. “But it’s not just about the weather. It’s about the energy and spirit of this region.” With a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, St. Clair started his career working in insurance and investments. But after six or seven years, he wasn’t enjoying the work and didn’t see a clear path forward. So he started looking around. His transition from the for-profit world into non-profits came in the form of a mid-level administrator position at a college in Indiana. It was a fit because he could use his business skills to help the school get on better financial ground. And he saw an opportunity to take the position to new levels. “If you’re getting up in the morning and not wanting to go to work, you better figure out what you want to do,” said St. Clair. “When I went home at the end of the day (from the college) I felt like I was doing something good.” He was at the first college from 1986 to 1994, and then worked with a Catholic university from 1994 to 1998 prior to accepting the position at Woodbury. He has also gone on to earn a master’s degree in Executive Development and a doctorate degree in Organizational Leadership. St. Clair is heavily involved in the non-profit community because he and the university believe that being a positive agent of change requires getting involved in the community, he said. Community involvement has the ancillary effect of benefiting the school. “Either you’re a part of the problem or a part of the solution,” he said. Every board of directors and non-profit is different, in terms of how much influence the board has on the larger operation. Some board positions can be relatively tame while others allow members to really stretch their legs, said St. Clair. He’s especially proud of the work he and the board of directors have done at the Valley Economic Development Center. The non-profit went through a period of dysfunction. St. Clair, who is now chairman, and the rest of the board helped get it on the growth track again. He said the timing of the turnaround could not have been better, because the non-profit was able to provide much needed business lending services at a time when the economy was bottoming out. “In my own career, I’ve always gone to places experiencing problems and helped fix the problems,” said St. Clair.

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