People who meet Lark Doley are drawn to her friendly smile, approachable demeanor and willingness to talk about anything. With an air of Southern hospitality, she greets strangers as if they are old friends. Lark admits an affinity for cowboy boots (common attire where she lives in the U.S. state of Texas) and glittery, gold ensembles, which she wears to represent the “golden benefits” of Toastmasters.
Lark brings a wealth of leadership experience to her new role as 2018–19 International President. For 12 years, she was chief executive officer of Second Wave Inc., a company she co-founded with her late husband, Roger Storer, DTM, that manufactured hardware devices for Apple Macintosh products. She developed global sales and marketing strategies, licensed new technologies and managed staff. Prior to Second Wave, she worked as the executive director of Texas Instruments’ computer users group, where she managed the association’s staff, monthly magazine, annual convention and regional events. She now works as a training team lead for MAXIMUS, leading their professional development strategy and drawing on her Toastmasters skills daily.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Lark spent her childhood moving to different towns across the U.S. states of Texas and Oklahoma. Her father worked for Phillips Petroleum as a mechanical engineer, which required them to relocate every three to four years. Since 2003, home is a small community near Austin, Texas, where she lives in a lighthouse overlooking Lake Travis.
Lark graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and German from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.
A Toastmaster for 28 years, Lark is a member of three clubs: Today Toastmasters, MAXIMUS Austin Toastmasters and the Arthur Storer Club, which was chartered in honor of her late father-in-law.
You are only the sixth female International President. What does that mean to you?
More than half of our members are women, so I’m honored to represent women around the world and to encourage them to pursue their leadership journeys. It’s interesting that at every level of our organization we have women in leadership, except at the executive officer level where we have seen very few. If I can inspire women to advance to international director and officer levels in our organization, then I will be extremely proud.
Tell us about your family.
Roger and I were married for 20 years; he died of cancer in 2014. Roger was a brilliant speechwriter and speaker. He won the district humorous speech and international speech contests multiple times, first in District 56 and then in District 55 after our districts split. He competed at the regional semifinals three times and placed second twice. I, on the other hand, was drawn to the leadership track; I did not want to compete against my formidable husband. In the leadership track I was able to leverage my strengths of organization and professional development. We made for a perfect Toastmasters couple, with him pursuing the communication track and me pursuing the leadership track.
We did not have any children of our own, but I have two incredible stepsons and daughters-in-law and four beautiful grandchildren. In the Doley family I have a supportive brother and sister-in-law, two amazing nephews and their wives and three energetic great-nephews.
What’s the story behind your unique home?
I live in a lighthouse-style home built by Roger in honor of his father, Arthur. My husband and his family were from England, and during World War II, Arthur served as an underwater mine demolition expert in the Royal Navy. Arthur loved any body of water: lakes, rivers, seas, oceans. After Arthur immigrated to the United States to live with us, we collected lighthouse memorabilia for him whenever we traveled. In 1997, Arthur died after undergoing heart surgery. During the summer after his death, Roger and I visited Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. This breathtaking lighthouse inspired us to build a Texas lighthouse in honor of Arthur. It now stands in honor of both Arthur and Roger, a father who loved the sea and a son who loved his father.
Describe your first club meeting.
In the 1980s, I was invited to a meeting at Texas Instruments, where I worked at the time. I was called on as a guest to answer a Table Topic about a specific person I didn’t even know. I sat down feeling like a failure. No one invited me back, so I thought, “Wow, I really was a failure.” Many years later, a member from the Get Up and Go club invited me and I declined, telling him about my experience on my first visit. He said, “If you come to my meeting, I promise no one will call on you to speak. And if anyone does call on you, I’ll throw myself onto the floor in front of you and not allow you to pass.” That was so funny that I had to go!
What inspired you to finally join?
I actually attended the Toastmasters International Convention before I ever joined Toastmasters. The Get Up and Go club invited me to ride in a bus chartered by local clubs to attend the 1990 International Convention in Dallas and cheer on our local contestant, David Brooks, in the World Championship of Public Speaking. I had a great time on the bus with all these encouraging and supportive Toastmasters. And David Brooks won! I was so inspired by his speech that I said, “I’m joining this organization.” I joined the Today Toastmasters club the following week and gave a speech about attending the convention. So, my first speech in Toastmasters was not my Ice Breaker speech!
What do you hope to accomplish in your year as Toastmasters International President?
I want more and more people around the world to experience Toastmasters, to gain the golden benefits of personal and professional development through our organization. To do this, we need to provide a golden quality club meeting experience at every meeting for our members and guests. We need to publicize our organization through the work done by club vice presidents public relations, our district public relations managers and through PR at the international level. Set a gold standard for your clubs and share the gold of Toastmasters in 2018–19!
Why did you decide to run for the role of International President?
During my second year as a region advisor, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. He would say to me, “Lark, you know you have more to give. You know you want to serve as an international officer of Toastmasters.” He believed in me, but when he died, I was devastated. Past District 55 Governor Gloria Williams, DTM, invited me to go with her to our Toastmasters International Convention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. While attending this convention, several leaders asked me what I was planning to do next. I thought, “Next?” Their support gave me the courage to come back to the U.S. and form a campaign team to run for Second Vice President. Leaders and members from around the world supported me every step of the way. Due to the encouragement of others, I am serving in this role today. This is a lesson for all us. As World Champion Dananjaya Hettiarachchi told us, “I see something in you ... ” When you see leadership potential in others, tell them!
Why are you excited about Pathways and what it offers?
Pathways has something to offer to all our members—both new and tenured. Pathways is an education experience that is competency based, with more than 300 competencies to learn—each with a clear focus. In the Presentation Mastery path, you will gain presentation skills; in the Innovative Planning path, you will learn planning skills. I took the Pathways assessment, and when it gave me my three different paths, a light bulb came on. I said, “Yes, absolutely! This is what I want for myself.” And this is what I want for the next step for this organization. I click my cowboy heels and tip my cowboy hat to the Education Team at World Headquarters for the incredible job they’ve done!
What is one thing you want members to know?
Toastmasters is a lifelong experience, like eating healthy food and exercising. If we stop eating healthy food and exercising, our bodies are going to know it. I love my sugar, but my body knows when I eat it! If we don’t maintain our communication and leadership skills, then those skills will fade. People who leave Toastmasters often come back because they reach a plateau where they feel they’re missing an edge or losing some effectiveness. So, they come back to hone those skills again. I want members to realize the golden benefits of staying in Toastmasters to reach their full potential, both personally and professionally.
Toastmaster Magazine Staff is comprised of five editorial team members. Learn more about them on the Staff page.