Trailblazer Award


The Trailblazer Award was created in 1994 to recognize a woman who is/was an influential community leader, is/was “the first” in her field, or made/is making a significant contribution toward elevating the image of women in business.

This is a wonderful opportunity for you to nominate an outstanding woman who not only represents great accomplishments in her field but furthers the reputation of St. Louis Forum as a remarkable organization.

The Trailblazer Award nomination window is closed for 2024. We hope you'll join us at the 2024 Trailblazer Award Celebration Luncheon.


2024 Trailblazer Award Recipients

Maxine Clark

Founder, Build-A-Bear Workshop
CEO, Clark-Fox Family Foundation
Inspirator, The Delmar DivINe™

Maxine Clark is the Founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop®, a teddy-bear themed retail-entertainment experience. In 2004, Build-A-Bear became a public company traded on the NYSE. Today there are nearly 500 Build-A-Bear Workshop stores worldwide and over 250 million stuffed animals have been sold world-wide. In 2022, Build-A-Bear celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Maxine stepped down from her CEB (Chief Executive Bear) position in 2013 to start her next act-- to help unleash the potential of women and minority entrepreneurs and to use her entrepreneurial skills to create platforms and places that give access to more 
St. Louis families. Her latest venture is the Delmar DivINe™—the transformation of a neighborhood eyesore, the historic St. Luke’s Hospital in the St. Louis West End, into a multi-use real estate development opened in late 2021.

Maxine is an Emeritus member of the Build-A-Bear Workshop Board of Directors and a recent past member of Footlocker, Inc. Board of Directors. Maxine is also an Emeritus member of the Washington University Board of Trustees and an Emeritus member and former Chair of Goldfarb School of Nursing. She now serves on the boards of Arch Grants, Venture for America, Operation Food Search, PBS national and Nine PBS boards. In 2017 Maxine was named to the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame and in 2015 was named Women of the Year by the Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation.

Maxine is a graduate of the University of Georgia and holds an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Washington University in St. Louis and St. Louis University and an Honorary Doctor in Human Letters from the University of Missouri St. Louis and an Honorary Associates degree from St. Louis Community College.

Laurna Godwin

Owner/President and Co-Founder
Vector Communications Corporation

For more than 40 years, Laurna Godwin has been using her communications skills to inform and educate people about issues affecting how they live, work and play. She also helps build relationships between clients and their target audiences. Laurna is a three-time Emmy award winning broadcast journalist who today is Owner/President and Co-Founder of Vector Communications Corporation, an engagement and communications consulting firm based in St. Louis, Missouri. Vector’s motto is “Reach. Engage. Communicate.” The firm helps government agencies, corporations, nonprofits and community organizations reach and connect with their audiences through engagement, communications planning, media relations, crisis communications, brand awareness, event planning and video production. Some of Vector’s current and former clients include: Great Rivers Greenway, Forest Park Forever, BJC, McDonald’s, Amazon, Walmart, the Missouri Department of Transportation, SIUE, St. Louis Community College and Webster University. The firm has been honored with several international, national and local awards. For instance, Vector received the national “Entrepreneur Excellence Award” from Wells Fargo Bank and the National Black MBA Association for “innovation, performance, growth and community service.” 

Prior to co-creating Vector in 1998, Laurna spent nearly twenty years as a television news anchor, reporter and talk show host working for NBC in Virginia, WNET in New York City, KETC and KPLR in St. Louis and CNN as a mid-west reporter. 

Laurna has received several awards. In February 2023, the St. Louis American newspaper named her “Entrepreneur of the Year.” She has also been honored by organizations including: the Federation of Press Women; the St. Louis Women’s Foundation; the Missouri Athletic Club; Women of Achievement; the St. Louis County and City NAACP; and many more. The St. Louis Business Journal named her one of the most influential businesswomen and one of the most influential minority business leaders in the region. 

When not working with clients and staff, Laurna is a governance volunteer. She has served as board chair of: Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois, where she received the Gideon Blackburn Award, the college’s highest volunteer award for non-alumni; the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, which honored her with its “Thanks Badge,” the highest national volunteer award and the Council’s “Individual Legacy Builder” award.

One of Laurna’s proudest achievements is bringing Give STL Day – the 24-hour online fundraising event – to St. Louis when she was board chair of the St. Louis Community Foundation. Since 2014, Give STL Day has raised more than $30 million for local nonprofit organizations.

Currently, Laurna serves as Chair of the Strickland Women’s Leadership Council at High Point University in North Carolina. She also serves on the boards of the St. Louis Police Foundation, the Regional Business Council and Greater St. Louis, Inc. Laurna is a Chair Emeritus of the St. Louis Community Foundation. 

A native of New Jersey, Laurna earned her undergraduate degree from Princeton University and her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York City.

Toni Kutchan, Ph.D.
Langenberg Distinguished Investigator and Vice President for Research
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Toni Kutchan is Emerita Oliver M. Langenberg Distinguished Investigator and Vice President for Research at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Adjunct Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis and at the University of Missouri St. Louis. Previously, she spent twenty years leading research in Germany, with her last appointment as Professor and Department Head at the Leibniz Institute for Plant Biochemistry in Halle, Germany, as well as Managing Director of that institute. 

Toni is a strong advocate of women in science and science literacy. She actively pursues developing programs that encourage girls to choose STEM education and careers. She works to provide a scientific research workplace in which women can professionally flourish and excel.

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, she pursued a B.S. in Chemistry from the Illinois Institute of Technology where organic chemistry lab experience introduced her to medicinal plant alkaloids. She expanded her interest to understand how plants make these diverse, pharmacologically active chemicals during doctoral studies at St. Louis University School of Medicine. After completion of her doctoral thesis, she moved to the Institute of Biological Chemistry at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, where she worked as a postdoctoral fellow. 

Toni established her independent research group in 1986 at the University of Munich as part of the newly established Munich Gene Center. Her lab pioneered the identification of the genes that encode enzymes of medicinal alkaloid biosynthesis in plants. She then joined the Institute of Plant Biochemistry in Halle (Saale), (former East) Germany as the first woman Professor and Department Head. Toni’s research lab focused on morphine formation in opium poppy. In collaboration with pharmaceutical industry, transgenic opium poppies were developed and tested in field trials. This was the first example of metabolic engineering of a commercial medicinal plant. In 2006, Toni joined the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis as the first woman Member & Principal Investigator. 

Toni has been a member of the Board of Scientific Advisors of the Schering Research Foundation and a member of the Central Selection Committee of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany. During her years in St. Louis, she has been a member of the Scientific Advisory Committees of the William L. Brown Center for Plant Genetic Resources of the Missouri Botanical Garden, the BioDiscovery Institute at the University of North Texas, the Forshungszentrum Jülich in Germany, and the Research Committee of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Arizona. She was a member of the STEM Advisory Committee of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri and participated on a task force to develop a new STEM Program Center in St. Louis. She is a member of the Berlin-Brandenberg Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the German National Academy of Science Leopoldina. 

Toni is currently the President of the Board of Trustees of the Academy of Science of St. Louis, the first women to hold that position in the 168-year history of the Academy. She continues to advocate for a diverse and inclusive STEM environment in St. Louis.

Click here to learn more about the 2024 Celebration Luncheon!

Past Recipients of the Trailblazer Award

1994Carolyn Losos 2009Pat Whitaker 
1994Ruth Krause Jacobson2010Joan Briccetti 
1994Patricia Rich2011The Founding Members 
1994Martha Rounds2012Brenda Newberry
1994Janet McAfee Weakley2013Margaret Donnelly
1995Susan Uchitelle 2013Paula Gianino
1996Blanche Touhill2013Gayle Jackson
1997Sue Clancy2014Lesley Hoffarth
1998Theresa Loveless2015Linda Goldstein
1999Jean C. Hamilton2016Patricia Rice Hellmuth
2000Dora B. Schriro, Ed.D2017Susan E. Block
2002Jo Ann Arnold (Harmon)2018Lyda Krewson
2003Ellen Sherberg2019Betsy Cohen
2004Marylen Mann2019Martha Uhlhorn
2005Juliann Niemann2019Marie Casey
2006Vivian Eveloff2020Anna Crosslin 
2006Marcia Mellitz2021Nicole Adewale
2006Betty Van Uum2022Frances Levine, PhD  
2007Judy Meador 2023 Mary Alice Ryan
2008Karen Levin Coburn2024Maxine Clark, Laurna Godwin, Toni Kutchan, PhD

* Our Founding Members are Schuyler Gott Andrews, Joan Briccetti, Sue Clancy, Vivian Eveloff, Dee Joyner, Rosalyn Lowerhaupt, Judy Meador, Joan Newman, Pat Rich, and Ellen Sherberg.