Forest Park Forever Announces New Board of Directors Elections & Appointments, Including Lawrence E. Thomas as New Chair

Katy Peace, Marketing & Digital Media Manager | | 314.561.3290

Lawrence E. Thomas

Lawrence E. Thomas

St. Louis, MO, January 30, 2018 — During Forest Park Forever’s January 29, 2018, Board of Directors meeting, several members were elected or appointed to new roles. Lawrence E. Thomas, a longtime Board and Executive Committee member, was elected Board Chair. Thomas succeeds Thomas R. Collins, who served as Chair during the prior three years. Board members SiSi BeltránJohn Kemper and Vic Richey were appointed to the Board’s Executive Committee, Board and Executive Committee member Benjamin Akande was appointed Secretary. Director Emeritus Barbara B. Taylor has rejoined the Board of Directors as a full member.

“I look forward to continue working with Larry, Ben, Vic and Barbara to drive our organization forward and make strategic decisions to care for Forest Park,” said Forest Park Forever President and Executive Director Lesley S. Hoffarth, P.E. “I’m especially excited to work closely with Larry as our new Board Chair. He has been a strategic leader for our conservancy and a civic champion for the region for many years, and I know he will do great things leading our Board of Directors.”

“It is an honor to be elected Chairman of the Board for Forest Park Forever,” said Lawrence E. Thomas. “This nonprofit conservancy has an exceptional record of helping restore Forest Park back to greatness, as well as working with the City of St. Louis day after day to maintain it for millions of visitors each year. Forest Park is a gem for all of us to enjoy. I look forward to working closely with the Board and staff to help sustain this treasure for the entire community.”

The Forest Park Forever Board of Directors is comprised of regional leaders who all believe in the importance of caring for Forest Park now and for generations to come. These individuals represent a wide cross-section of professional experiences and will continue to bring great insights to the Board.


Lawrence E. Thomas – Partner, Edward Jones
Larry Thomas recently celebrated his 40th anniversary with Edward Jones. He started his career with the firm in 1977 as an intern and became a principal in 1983. During his tenure, he has filled many roles: starting in Corporate Bond Trading, establishing the Government Bond department, an Area Leader in Financial Advisor Development, responsibility for the Syndicate & Unit Investment Trust departments, back to Corporate Bonds, overseeing the FA minority recruiting efforts to his current role in FACD Talent Acquisition – University Recruiting.

Thomas holds a bachelor's in Business Administration from Washington University, MBAs from Lindenwood University and Kellogg School of Management, and is a graduate of Wharton School of Business. 

Thomas passionate about serving the community. He is the Board Chair at Provident, Inc., serves on the board of Washington University in several capacities (Board of Trustees Executive Committee, Alumni Board of Governors, National Advisory Council of the John M. Olin School of Business, and its Steering Committee), sits on the board of SIFMA and the Executive Committees of the United Way of Greater St. Louis and the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation.

Benjamin Ola. Akande, Ph.D. – President, BOA Consulting
Dr. Benjamin Ola. Akande, a Nigerian-born American, is a respected economist, scholar and global consultant to Fortune 500 corporations and higher education institutions on strategy, market positioning, and leadership development.

Dr. Akande served as the 21st President of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, from 2015-2017, where he made substantial gains in developing the infrastructure necessary for the college’s long-term sustainability. This included transformational changes in academic offerings, outreach, budget, financial modeling, marketing, communication and institutional advancement.

Dr. Akande holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Oklahoma and completed post-doctoral studies at JFK School of Government, Harvard University and Saïd Business School at Oxford University.

SiSi Beltrán Martí – Director, Integrated Marketing, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc.
Elizabeth “SiSi” Beltrán was raised in Puerto Rico and came to St. Louis in 2000 to attend Washington University, where she triple majored in International Business, Marketing and Romance Languages. She has spent the last 13 years at Build-A-Bear Workshop, where she is Director of Integrated Marketing, responsible for global marketing campaigns.  A winner of the St. Louis Business Journal's 30 Under 30 Award and Diverse Business Leader Award, Beltrán is involved in the community through the United Way, Washington University’s Olin School of Business, Casa de Salud, Focus St. Louis, the Regional Business Council, and the Build-A-Bear Foundation.

John Kemper – President & COO, Commerce Bank  
John W. Kemper is President and Chief Operating Officer of Commerce Bancshares, Inc., a $24 billion super-community bank holding company based in the Midwest. Previously, Kemper worked as an Engagement Manager in the New York and Chicago offices of McKinsey & Co. He is an Executive Committee member of the Regional Business Council and the St. Louis Regional Chamber. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization and the Leadership Council of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. Kemper sits on the Board of Fair St. Louis and is the current Chairman of the Board of KIPP, St. Louis.

Vic Richey – Chairman, CEO and President of ESCO Technologies Inc.
Vic Richey is Chairman, CEO and President of ESCO Technologies Inc., a St. Louis-based company with subsidiaries operating throughout the United States and around the world. Richey began his career with the company in 1985 prior to ESCO’s spin-off from Emerson Electric in 1990. He has held a variety of positions with the company both at the subsidiary and corporate levels, primarily in marketing (domestic and international) and general management. In 2001, he became President and Chief Operating Officer of ESCO. On October 1, 2002, he assumed his current position.

Prior to joining the Company, Richey spent six years as a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army. He received his undergraduate degree from Western Kentucky University and his MBA from Washington University in St. Louis.

Richey is currently on the Board of Directors of Nordson Corporation. Additionally, he is on the Boards of Go! St. Louis and the Regional Business Council. He is also on the National Council of the Olin Business School at Washington University.

Barbara Taylor – Community Leader
Barbara Taylor has been on the Board and Executive Committee of Forest Park Forever since 2009. She is currently on the Executive Committee, Marketing Committee and Strategic Planning Task Force. Taylor has also been involved with the Saint Louis Art Museum for the past 25 years, serving as Friends Board President, a Trustee, Commissioner, Vice President of the Commission and the first woman President of the Board of Commissioners of the Saint Louis Art Museum.

Taylor is married to Andrew C. Taylor, Executive Chairman of Enterprise Holding Inc., and they have three daughters.

About Forest Park Forever
Founded in 1986, Forest Park Forever is a private nonprofit conservancy that works in partnership with the City of St. Louis and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry to restore, maintain and sustain Forest Park as one of America’s greatest urban public parks.

Along with the City of St. Louis, Forest Park Forever raised $100 million between 1995 and 2003 and dramatically restored many landmark destinations in Forest Park, including the Emerson Grand Basin, the Boathouse and the Jewel Box.

Today, Forest Park Forever maintains Forest Park with the City of St. Louis; raises funds for and helps manage capital restoration projects called for in the Forest Park Master Plan; delivers experiential educational opportunities to teachers, students and adults; and provides information and guides for the Park’s 13 million annual visitors. Not part of the Zoo-Museum Tax District, Forest Park Forever is supported by private donations from throughout the community, including its 7,000 members, 1,100 volunteers and many leading community and corporate partners.

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About Forest Park
Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri, is considered one of the nation’s greatest urban public parks. The Park’s 1,300 acres feature beautiful landscapes sprinkled with forests, ecosystems, nature reserves, lakes and streams, as well as five of the region’s major cultural institutions and endless opportunities for recreation. Forest Park attracts 13 million visitors each year, making it the sixth most visited urban park in the United States. In 2016, Forest Park was voted the #1 City Park in the country by readers of USA Today.