Karen was born and reared in Topeka, Kansas. Her work ethic was set early in life by frequently cooking the family meal before her teen years, and after high school classes, Karen typed the magazine copy and maintained an active extracurricular life as an AFS exchange student to Turkey and officer in several clubs such as 4-H, debate, French and Future Business Leaders.
Early work experiences also developed her commitment to public office. As an undergraduate at Wichita State University, she interned writing position papers for the Governor of Kansas. She later held a summer position in Washington D.C. in the speech-writing department of then-Department of Health, Education & Welfare. While in Texas, she joined the staff of the Governor as Executive Director to launch a new agency, the Texas Commission on the Status of Women, leading programs on work for children within the cycle of family violence.
After completing the Ph.D. at Texas A&M University where she was named from thousands of students the most Outstanding Graduate Student for Academics, Research and Service, Karen began as professor of business management at California State University, Fresno. She dedicated a 32 year career in higher education within the California State University system; the university mission was a fit with Karen's professional goals – economic development (video link) and educating both managers and prospective entrepreneurs. She received recognitions such as Classroom Excellence, founder of the Family Business Institute and chair for international reaccreditation.
In 2004 she began service as Dean of the College of Business and Public Administration at California State University, San Bernardino with campuses in Palm Desert and San Bernardino, and ultimately led the college to being named by European CEO Magazine as one of the top 18 most innovative colleges of business in the world (video link) in part because of applied learning with the business community through a robust international component in the MBA program. Karen developed a fiscally conservative, yet extraordinarily innovative budget in difficult economic times in order to expand the student and faculty experience. She co-authored a textbook in 2011 entitled The Business of Leadership. Karen has now been named Dean Emeritus.
Karen and her husband were eager to make their home (built circa 1915) in Lake Oswego based on factors that have always been important to them, including appreciation for strong sense of community, low crime rate, regionally-grown foods, walkability, joy from the great outdoors with fresh air and lack of smog or pollution, and a love of the arts. Three of their four adult children were in Oregon. The Civil War, an annual football rivalty begun in 1894, is an annual household event with one daughter who graduated from OSU and another from U of O Law School. A son worked many years for Intel. Another daughter graduated in bioengineering from Harvard and works in California.
Karen serves NW Oregon as a volunteer mentor for small business start-ups and established companies ready to grow, and as a Lake Oswego City Councilor.