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Build-A-Bear CEO Sharon Price John to Receive CCI Hileman Award

Sharon Price John

Sharon Price John, CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc, will receive the 2014 Donald G. Hileman Alumni Award from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Communication and Information at its awards and scholarship donor appreciation banquet on Friday, Nov. 14.

The banquet is being held in conjunction with the college's Fall 2014 Board of Visitors meeting.

"Sharon Price John has a remarkable ability to innovate, manage change and turn around corporations,” said CCI Dean Mike Wirth. “In recognition of her many accomplishments as a leading business executive, we are proud to present her with the college’s highest alumni award. She is a true role model who serves as an inspiration for our students.” 

John, who has a bachelor's degree in communications from UT and an MBA from Columbia University, took over as CEO and "chief president bear" of Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc. in June 2013. Under her leadership, the company has experienced 6 consecutive quarters of improved operating performance, and it generated pre-tax income of $3.4 million during the first nine months of 2014 marking the first time since 2007 that it has been profitable at this point in its fiscal year.

Prior to joining Build-A-Bear, John was president of Wolverine Worldwide's Stride Rite Children’s Group LLC—another company she helped revitalize.

From 2002 to 2010, she held senior management roles with Hasbro. Separately, she served as general manager and senior vice president of marketing for the US Toy Division, overseeing iconic brands such as NERF, Transformers and My Little Pony while managing key licensing relationships such as Star Wars and Marvel.

John also worked with Mattel in a number of roles including marketing director of Barbie and as a vice president in the Disney business unit.

John's early career was in the advertising industry. She worked at top New York City agencies, including DDB Needham Worldwide on the Hershey account and Bates, USA as the account supervisor of the Snickers/M&M Mars business.

She has served on the board of directors of Jack in the Box since September 2014 and as a member of The Committee of 200 (an invitation only membership organization of the world’s most successful women entrepreneurs and corporate leaders) since July 2014.

The Donald G. Hileman Award is named for the first permanent dean of the College of Communications, the forerunner to the College of Communication and Information. The award was established in 1994 in celebration of the college's 25th anniversary. It is awarded to college alumni who have made notable contributions to the field of communication and information.

Past recipients include Charles Tombras, Jr., president and CEO of the Tombras Group advertising agency; Alexia Poe, director of communications for Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam; McCormick & Company Inc. chairman, president and CEO Alan Wilson; president and co-founder of Avenues the World School and former Esquire magazine publisher Alan N. Greenberg; Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist John Noble Wilford; and former UT quarterback and five-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning.

Other CCI alumni receiving awards at the banquet include:

  • Advertising Alumna of the Year: Dana McCullough (’95), Vice President, Account Director, McCann Erickson
  • Communication Studies Alumnus of the Year: Tyler Summitt (’13), Head Coach, Louisiana Tech Women’s Basketball Team
  • Information Sciences Alumnus of the Year: Marcellus Turner (’88), City Librarian, Seattle Public Library System
  • Journalism and Electronic Media Alumna of the Year: Viola Gienger (’84), Senior Writer, United States Institute of Peace
  • Public Relations Alumnus of the Year: Isaac Wright (’03), Vice President, American Bridge, Director, Correct the Record 2016 Project

For more information on the College of Communication and Information, visit