Archetypes: Chris Chadwick

 In Culture, Interviews


A conversation with Chris Chadwick, mother, teacher, nonprofit leader, regional steward and community volunteer. Chris is the founding executive director of FOCUS St. Louis, a nonprofit with the mission of influencing positive community change by engaging citizens to participate in active leadership roles. A native Chicagoan, Chadwick has made a tremendous impact on St. Louis through her work with FOCUS since its founding in 1996. During her tenure, more than 4,000 people have participated in one of the organization’s six leadership programs. She is a highly active community volunteer, having served on more than 30 nonprofit boards and currently sitting on seven. After 18 years with FOCUS, she will leave the organization next month and looks forward to new projects and challenges.

What is your current frame of mind? Open to possibilities.

When and where are you happiest? When I’m with my family—because they’re really cool and fun—and when I’m on a dance floor. I’m always the last to leave.

What is your favorite smell? Babies, fresh-cut grass and morning coffee.

What is one word that describes you? Authentic—what you see is what you get.

What did you eat for breakfast today? Instant oatmeal with blueberries.

What is your most marked characteristic? My optimism and zest for life.

What is your greatest weakness? It is difficult for me to say no.

What trait do you most admire in others? Integrity, courage and patience.

Who or what is the greatest love of your life? My high school sweetheart, David, who has been my husband for 43 years.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? That I could do a better job at remembering people’s names.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? My legacy in life is my four kids.

Which living person do you most admire? My local heroes are Ms. Frankie Freeman and Dr. Bill Danforth. They really are our elder statesmen.

With which historical figure do you most identify? Eleanor Roosevelt, because she was an incredible advocate for women and racial equality—and because she was feisty and tall.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, who or what would it be? A lead singer in a Motown/rock band, because I have the worst voice and I love to dance.

What is your most treasured possession? Good health.

What is your greatest extravagance? Overseas travel.

What is your greatest fear? Becoming a burden to the ones I love.

On what occasion do you lie? Only if the truth hits too hard.

Who are your favorite writers? John Gardener, Maya Angelou and Dr. Seuss.

Which artists do you admire most? All musicians. Music, for me, is a daily vitamin.

What is your favorite hobby? Gardening—I find it very therapeutic.

Where would you like to live? I’m a St. Louis booster. I’m really happy here.

Who are your heroes in real life? Women and men in uniform and their families.

If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be? Nelson Mandela. I would be captivated by his stories and remarkable leadership lessons.

What’s something interesting that you just learned? I just learned to paddle board in Grand Cayman.

What are you most looking forward to? A little bit more free time to explore new adventures.

What is one thing you wish would happen? That the divide between the rich and the poor would be erased.

What is one thing you want to do before you die? To more fully reconnect with my spiritual life.

If you could say something to your younger self, what would it be? You are right to follow your passions. And wear heels.




Photo credit: Wesley Law

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