Beyond Basics Honoring Heroes for Education


BIRMNGHAM — Beyond Basics will honor the following individuals for their dedication to literacy and mentoring for children at the annual gala this Friday in Lovett all at the The Henry Ford in Dearborn.

Education Hero: Clara Smith

Smith, Ph.D. was born in Detroit. She attended Detroit Public Schools, graduating magna cum laude from Charles E. Chadsey High School.She received a Board of Governor’s Scholarship from Eastern Michigan University and graduated from Eastern with a BS in Science. She received a master’s degree in education from Wayne State University in with a focus upper elementary education, her educational specialist degree in Mathematics from Wayne State University, and her doctorate of education in sdministrative studies and a cognate in mathematics from Wayne State University. 

Currently, Smith is principal of Thirkell Elementary School. She adores her staff, students, and parents. Smith is married to the Rev. Richard A. Smith, pastor of Prayer Temple of Love Cathedral, in Highland Park and is the mother to Ricardo and Dojsha.

Literacy Chair Award: Josh Linkner 

Linkner is The New York Times bestselling-author of Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity, named one of the top 10 business books of 2011. Linkner is the CEO and Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partners. Together with his partners, Linkner is actively rebuilding urban areas through technology and entrepreneurship.

Linkner is the founder and former CEO of ePrize, the largest interactive promotion agency in the world providing digital marketing services for 74 of the top 100 brands.

Prior to ePrize, Linkner was the founder and CEO of three other successful technology companies. He has been honored as the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and is a President Barack Obama Champion of Change award recipient.

Linkner is a regular columnist for Forbes and Inc. magazine, and his work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, USA Today, and The New York Times. Linkner is also a Berklee-trained professional jazz guitarist performing regularly in jazz clubs throughout the United States.

Volunteers of the Year

Above and Beyond Award: Karen O’Keefe

O’Keefe is the Education Partnership Manager for Office Depot. After being exposed to urban education in Detroit, O’Keefe knew she needed to get involved to help support change in education in America today. She works with various school districts building relationships that help support academic success for children and engaging Office Depot to help support the districts vision.

Office Depot was named Supplier of the Year 2011 as a result of O’Keefe efforts to support Detroit Public Schools. O’Keefe passion is in the interest of raising the quality of public education for all children in the U.S. regardless of economic means. She believes every child in America deserves an excellent education and each one of us has a call to action to be involved in some way to make that happen. Business engagement is part of the solution and O’Keefe leads the cause within Office Depot in Michigan.

O’Keefe, her husband Kevin, and son Collin are Plymouth residents.  Her son Patrick is a University of Michigan-Ann Arbor graduate and is currently working in Nashville, Tenn.

Volunteers of the Year

Above and Beyond Award: David Ellis

Ellis is manager gas operations for DTE. For the past 30 years he has been engaged in the operations, engineering, and management of this fortune 500 utility company. He has gained experience in utility generation, electrical transmission and distribution systems, engineering management, training development, as well as regulatory compliance. His current concentration is the integration of advanced energy products into existing electrical distribution systems.

Ellis has a bachelor’s of science degree in Engineering Technology from Lawrence Technological University, where he developed, and taught an Alternative Energy Technology curriculum based on energy economics. He is also a Certified Energy Manager.

Ellis serves on the board of directiors for The Heat and Warmth Fund this state-wide agency provides an economic and sustainable safety net for at risk energy consumers, AABE-Mich board of directiors, Economic Development Committee Engineering Society of Detroit.