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Becky Willard joins Hawthorn Foundation as its new executive director


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Hawthorn Foundation unanimously chose Becky Willard to lead the nonpartisan business-focused group as its executive director at a quarterly board meeting last week. 

The foundation’s last executive director retired at the end of 2020, and Willard is expected to begin her work on April 12. 

“As the search progressed, we really honed in on the fact that we’re fortunate to have such a diverse group of Missouri leaders in business, education, economic development, health care, and labor on our board, but what we really need now is a fundraiser to help us fulfill our mission,” John Sebree, chairman of the executive committee, told The Missouri Times. “Where we need to do better is raising the profile of Missouri Partnership, and that takes more participation among these diverse industries.” 

Sebree said the board narrowed the search down to “five really strong contenders” who were interviewed in February. It then narrowed the search down to two candidates who held in-person interviews earlier this month. Willard was chosen unanimously as the Hawthorn Foundation’s next executive director on March 19. 

In an interview with The Missouri Times, Willard said she is looking forward to working with the Hawthorn Foundation and the Governor’s Office to promote Missouri “as a good place to live and work.” She praised Gov. Mike Parson’s focus on infrastructure and workforce development during his time in office. 

“I think Missouri is doing a really good job of promoting our location, promoting our low cost of living, and we’re doing a really good job of pairing educating a workforce and providing the jobs they need once they are trained,” Willard, 38, said. “That’s a really great growth area of bringing people up, ideally Missourians, providing opportunities for them to be trained in a variety of fields and finding jobs and recruiting jobs so they stay here.” 

“I think it’s a good opportunity with COVID-19 slowing and businesses really wanting to reengage,” she continued. “We’ve been in this period of not really knowing what’s happening, and I think we’re coming out of that. It could be a really great growth time for Hawthorn to get back out there, and with my experience with fundraising throughout the state, it’s a really great fit for both of us.” 

Willard joined Axiom Strategies in 2017 after working as a deputy campaign manager for U.S. Senator Roy Blunt during his 2016 re-election campaign. After the Blunt campaign, she continued to do fundraising for the senator as well as the House Republican Campaign Committee (HRCC) 

She also worked her way up to lead the fundraising and events division at Pelopidas, LLC before leaving the firm in 2015.