Presenting the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award Winners

Brian Clarke and Bernie Toon

Distinguished Alumni Award Winner
Brian G. Clarke
BSPA’83, Personnel Administration and Labor Relations

Although Brian G. Clarke was not born a Hoosier, he was raised one. Growing up in Columbus, Indiana, Clarke was exposed early on to Indiana University. His father bought the family season football tickets in the fall of 1968 – the same year IU went to the Rose Bowl – and his older brother attended IU; there was no question that Clarke would follow.

A 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, today Clarke runs a business of people, as a founding member and managing partner of Kensington International, an executive search, outplacement, and leadership development firm. He started the business in 1989 with three other partners, one of whom he met while attending graduate school at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. His success in this endeavor led BusinessWeek.com to include him on its list of “The World’s Most Influential Headhunters.”

Among the organizations Clarke serves as a board member are the Job Search Television Network, Agilium World-wide/ World Search Group, and the Chicago Theological Seminary.

Clarke pursued a career in human resources and labor relations because he saw himself as “a people person as much as anything.” He has held positions at Quaker Oats, first as a supervisor of labor relations, then as director of corporate training and recruitment, and at First National Bank of Chicago, where, within a year of joining the bank as a human resources professional, he was presented with the opportunity to serve in a line/operation’s position that ultimately resulted in his serving as the vice president of the bank’s Global Industries Division within its Service Products Group.

At IU, Clarke took advantage of opportunities to hone his leadership skills in his fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, and in the Indiana University Student Association (IUSA). These experiences built his confidence in leadership roles and his ability to articulate his positions on a variety of issues. His run in campus politics took him all the way to student body president in 1977–1978.

Between his involvement in IUSA and his course work in SPEA, Clarke says he “developed an overall desire to be aware of what’s going on in the world and in our communities,” which prompted him “to keep a finger on the pulse of politics, which is in large part what SPEA brought to the table for me.”

Over the years, Clarke has developed a sophisticated skillset for quickly and accurately selecting and assessing talent for his client companies, the foundation of which was laid at IU. “All the things I did at school in terms of interfacing with other students and groups positioned me to be comfortable at being out front, consulting, selling, and influencing others.”

Distinguished Alumni Award Winner
Bernard R. Toon
MPA’81, Public Finance

Bernie Toon’s first brush with politics came at an early age in his small hometown of Medora, Indiana. It was there he first met Representative Lee Hamilton at a local town hall meeting. Toon was intrigued by the issues Hamilton was passionate about and the work he was doing in government. When he decided to commit to studying public policy after two years as a theatre major, he transferred to Indiana University. “IU had a world class poli-sci program and my mother was a 1937 graduate of the business school, so the move fit perfectly.”

A 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Toon is a founding partner of The FIRST Group, a bipartisan strategic planning, communications, and government relations firm. Toon’s work is about helping people solve problems, about “bringing your expertise to the table in order to get your head around their challenge, and help them find a path to dealing with it – that’s rewarding.”

Toon’s career working on Capitol Hill in both the public and private sectors spans more than 30 years. He has served as chief of staff to U.S. Senators Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Joe Biden (D-Del.), and Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), and to U.S. Congressman Tim Roemer (D-Ind.). He worked as a staff member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), and for Hamilton on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He also took time off from the public payroll to manage political campaigns in Indiana and New Mexico for the U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate, and governor.

After earning a B.A. in political science from IU, Toon pursued an MPA in public finance. One of his most valuable lessons came during a conversation with SPEA Professor Jerry McCaffery. Struggling with whether to take a policy or budget track at SPEA, McCaffery opened up a new perspective for Toon when he said, “Bernie, I have news for you, budgets ARE policy.” Toon realized that how public money is spent reveals and reflects officeholders’ priorities, and he was able apply this new awareness as a Presidential Management Intern at the Pentagon and subsequent jobs in Washington.

The skills Toon developed at IU – the ability to speak well, write clearly and succinctly, work hard, and anticipate the needs of policy makers – carried on to his professional life. “I think the greatest gift that IU gave me was that it made me a well-rounded person. I took a number of courses in very diverse disciplines; IU made me appreciate not just diversity in people but diversity in issues – preparing me for work in both the public sector and the political arena.”

Toon has always had one mandate for his career: “Always have fun in your work. Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”