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Suzanne McKechnie Klahr

CEO & Founder | BUILD


Experienced, inspirational and humerous speaker on social innovation and living a life with meaning in the social and private sector



Suzanne McKechnie Klahr founded BUILD in 1999 with a public service fellowship from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Under Suzanne's leadership, BUILD has grown from an initial four students to serve more than six hundred students from nineteen partner public high schools. BUILD currently operates two San Francisco Bay Area sites, one site in Washington, DC, one site in Boston and has plans for national expansion. BUILD maintains an incredible track record with 100 percent of its seniors having applied to and gone onto college.

For her accomplishments with BUILD, Suzanne has received numerous awards and been asked to speak nationally on such topics as education, social entrepreneurship, venture philanthropy, new models of providing legal services to the poor, and poverty alleviation strategies. In 2006 she was inducted as a lifetime member of Ashoka, a global fellowship of leading social entrepreneurs. In 2007, she was honored by CBS's Jefferson Award on television, on radio, and in print. In 2008, Suzanne was elected to the San Mateo County Women's Hall of Fame. In 2009, she was named as one of Silicon Valley’s Most Influential Women by the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Times and in 2011, she was honored as the KQED Local Hero for Women's History Month.

Suzanne serves as a trustee of the Skadden Fellowship Foundation and as a board member of the Bay Area Community Equity Fund, the Glow Scholarship Foundation, and is an Honorary Board Member of the Until There's A Cure Foundation. For the past seven years, she has served as faculty adjunct at Stanford Law School teaching "Social Entrepreneurship," the first class of its kind at a Law School in the United States. She recently launched her social entrepreneurship course as a guest lecturer at Harvard Law School. She earned a dual degree from Brown University and a JD from Stanford Law School, and she has successfully completed the Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program in Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management.

Industry Expertise (4)

Business Services




Areas of Expertise (2)

Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector

Social Entrepreneurship

Accomplishments (5)

KQED Local Hero for Women's History Month (professional)

Silicon Valley’s Most Influential Women by the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Times (professional)

San Mateo County Women's Hall of Fame (professional)

The Women’s Hall of Fame pays tribute to extraordinarily dedicated women who have left an indelible imprint on the history of San Mateo County and in some cases, our state and our nation, as well.

Jefferson Award for Public Service (professional)

The Jefferson Awards are a prestigious national recognition system honoring community and public service in America. The Jefferson Awards are presented on two levels: national and local. They began in 1972 to create a Nobel Prize for public service. Today, their primary purpose is to serve as a "Call to Action for Volunteers" in local communities.

Ashoka Fellow (professional)

Ashoka Fellows are leading social entrepreneurs who we recognize to have innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society. They demonstrate unrivaled commitment to bold new ideas and prove that compassion, creativity, and collaboration are tremendous forces for change. Ashoka Fellows work in over 60 countries around the globe in every area of human need. All Ashoka Fellows must undergo a rigorous search and selection process.

Education (3)

Stanford Law School : JD

Harvard Business School’s Executive Education: Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management

Brown University :

Affiliations (1)

  • Ashoka

Sample Talks (4)

Using Entrepreneurial Thinking to Advance Your Team

What It Takes to Be An Exceptional Mentor

The Road Less Travelled and How It Made All the Difference

A talk aimed at corporate leaders to help them think about how to "make a difference" in the issue areas that inspire them.

Doing Well AND Doing Good


  • Keynote
  • Moderator
  • Panelist
  • Workshop Leader
  • Host/MC