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Flying High

Sep 25, 2015 04:16PM ● Published by Dia

By Amber Cline
Photography by BluDoor Studios 

Corporate businesswoman and philanthropic leader, Linda Clark, has a dual identity. By day, she manages large projects for Southlake-based Sabre Corporation, the biggest travel technology company in the country employing approximately 9,000 people in 60 offices around the globe. In addition to her corporate responsibilities, however, Clark upholds another duty – one that’s just as important to her. She’s the Vice President of Grapevine Relief and Community Exchange (GRACE) in Grapevine.

Clark, who attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds a degree in industrial engineering from North Carolina A&T State University, started working for American Airlines in 1990. Over the next 20 years, Clark held various roles at the company, including Senior Man- ager of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery. Clark was in charge of enterprise IT projects for various business groups and was responsible for developing their Radio Fre- quency Identification (RFID) strategy. 

For the past four years, Clark has thrived as a Principal Program Manager at Sabre, which diverged from American Airlines in 2000. She recently moved to the Security and Risk Management division, which sometimes requires her to be sequestered to dissolve complex threats to data security.

“We meet with people who are owners of systems, talk about risk, mitigate them, and then automate the process so we can give a report at the corporate level,” Clark says.

Giving Back

Although her position at Sabre is a vital one, Clark takes her role with GRACE just as seriously. You may think balancing work and community involvement is tough, but it’s some- thing Clark has seen modeled from an early age. Clark grew up in a close-knit family in Durham, North Carolina (where she attended Sunday school with the current U.S. Attorney General, Loretta Lynch). Her father was a school principal, her mother a registered nurse. Her mom instilled in her the drive to give back in whatever small way she could.

“If I had clothes that I already used, my mother would make sure we’d give them to a relative who didn’t have as much or a friend at work who was struggling,” Clark says. “She’d make time – even having three kids and working. She made time to do things for other people.” 

It’s a determination Clark has never shaken over her 25-year career – and those around her have noticed. In 2006, Clark received the American Airlines ITS Outstanding Employee Award for her steadfast commitment to both the company and to giving back.

“I boohooed like a baby because I was totally surprised at the event,” she says. “The first thing the Senior VP, who was announcing the award, said to me was, ‘Your pictures are going to be so horrible!’ He was right. But I’ll never forget, as he was reading the letters that people had written about me... they were noticing things I didn’t realize people were noticing.”

At GRACE, Clark focuses on helping the organization stay true to its mission: to serve people. She confers with other board members on matters relating to donations and ben- eficiaries. Clark also oversees various programs and events throughout the year. One of her favorites, the Christmas Cottage, provides a shop full of donated items where parents, using a point system, can pick out gifts to take home, wrap and give to their children. GRACE accepts donations for the event all year long and is always looking for volunteers.

“Oftentimes, it’ll be a single parent or a parent who’s had medical issues that have gotten them into some financial binds,” Clark says. “But no matter what they’ve got going on, everyone deserves to give their child a Christmas gift.”

Although GRACE provides much to those in need, Clark says it truly wouldn’t be possible without the generous community in which GRACE is located. Around 700 people, including local town leaders, businesspeople and citizens, participated last year in the annual GRACE Gala, the organization’s largest fundraising event.

Packed with dinner, dancing, and live and silent auctions, this year’s GRACE Gala on October 10 is expected to be bigger than ever. In addition to raising money that GRACE can draw from throughout the year, Clark says, “The Gala is a fun event that makes people want to participate even more.”

Knowing What’s Important

When Clark isn’t discussing IT security threats or helping those in need, she concentrates on the three Fs: faith, friends and family. While she has no children of her own, she plays an active role in her niece, nephews and godchildren’s lives. She also serves at her local church, Cornerstone Baptist Church, where she’s been a member since 2001.

She recently started cycling with some friends and has set a personal goal to bike 50 miles. Her latest project? An ancestry photo book, a rigorous venture of creating docu- ments upon documents of family lineage. But Clark has loved every minute of it – it reminds her what’s important.

“I can hear of a name as I’m going through my ancestry and say, ‘I remember my mom telling me about an Aunt Janey and how much fun they had at her house,’” she says.

“That’s what lasts generations – your relationships.” It’s that mentality she tries to have as she begins each day. “I want to have a relationship with the people that work for me, with the people I work for and with my coworkers. Same with boards, family – that’s pervasive throughout all areas of my life.”

With the GRACE Gala coming up and Sabre keeping her on her toes, Clark is in for a busy rest of the year. She says she’s in the process of learning how to say ‘no’ – “You’re not being mean; you’re setting healthy boundaries!” – and staying focused on what’s important. That, she says, is also her ad- vice to young women entering the workforce – go after your goals and don’t mind what other people think. Oh, and always remember what your mother taught you.

“One person really can make a difference, for good or for bad,” Clark says. “I’d like to be the person who makes a difference for good.” 

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