Trial by Fire
PROVO, Utah – Jan 16, 2019 – In early 1990, JaLee Clarke was several months into her fourth pregnancy. However, rather than taking it easy, Clarke was back in the classroom at BYU to finish her undergraduate degree in American studies.
Her return to the university came after spending five years in New York City, where her husband had worked on the first team of sales representatives for WordPerfect. Now back in Utah, Clarke was committed to completing the goal she’d kept in mind when leaving for the East Coast. But obtaining her degree was a bit more complicated than anticipated.
“One of my last courses before I graduated was a dance class,” recalls Clarke, who was a Cougarette during her first enrollment at BYU. “Choreographing and dancing during a full-term pregnancy was not an easy task.”
In spite of the difficulty, Clarke ultimately received her degree and gave birth to a baby girl—both in April of that year. The trial by fire not only prepared Clarke for future challenges, but also set the stage for a third stint at BYU.
After more than a decade away, Clarke returned to the university in 2004—this time as a secretary for the Department of Ancient Scripture. Although she enjoyed the position, Clarke decided she was ready for a new challenge three years later.
In early 2007, Clarke left the department for an opportunity at the BYU Marriott School of Business, where she has been ever since. She currently works as the manager of executive services and human resources in the Deans Office and is primarily responsible for assisting the dean in completing necessary tasks and meeting the mission of the school.
“When I saw this position open, I knew it was for me,” Clarke says. “The business school is exciting and has a lot of positive things going on, which is something that I love being a part of. Every day my prayer is that I will contribute to the success of the BYU Marriott mission in some way.”
During her twelve years with BYU Marriott, Clarke has made significant contributions to the school. Some of her most memorable experiences include honoring Ned Hill, Gary Cornia, and Lee Perry at the end of their deanships, as well as helping to present the 2013 International Executive of the Year award to Rex Tillerson, who was the CEO of ExxonMobil at the time. These memories stand out to Clarke because of the hard work, creativity, and persistence that were required to make each event successful.
“I love feeling like my work matters in a way that makes a difference for BYU Marriott and its students,” Clarke says. “Knowing that the deans are happy gives me a great deal of satisfaction.”
The ability to be so effective and influential in her position can be attributed to the defining experiences that Clarke has had throughout her life, both inside and outside of work. Perhaps the most difficult of these challenges have been losing a brother and a granddaughter. Nevertheless, she has been able to find a silver lining.
“These losses have given me empathy for those who go through similar experiences,” Clarke says. “In the work environment, people certainly face hard things. But we can navigate those challenges collectively to help individuals be successful in their professional and personal priorities.”
Clarke acknowledges that her ability to show compassion for others has played an important role in her work efforts and has also given her the courage to embrace her own demanding experiences. The fact that her colleagues maintain the same optimistic and helpful attitude is one of the many reasons she enjoys working for the school.
“BYU Marriott is like a small town with a wide variety of people who care about each other,” Clarke says. “We know each other well, and we want to contribute at a high level. If I am going to spend this much time anywhere, BYU Marriott is the kind of place I want to be.”
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Brendan Gwynn