Achieving – and giving back- have marked the life of Karen Lafferty Hendricks. While at SHS, she successfully combined involvement in extracurricular activities – a majorette and women’s basketball player- and academics – class valedictorian. At Ohio State University, she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and was named one of 13 outstanding seniors the 7,000-member 1971 class.
Karen then began a distinguished business career at Proctor & Gamble in Cincinnati. For the first 16 years she developed consumer products, moving into R&D management. Identifying product technology that uniquely met consumer needs, her team’s efforts made Bounty paper towels more absorbent, Charmin toilet paper softer and moved Crest toothpaste beyond cavity prevention into tartar control. Always sanitary protection products became – and remain – the leading protection product worldwide. As a result, in an unprecedented move, P&G named Karen its first female general manager in the
U.S. Previously P&G had tapped marketing professionals, not engineers, for such positions. Karen’s first assignment was managing the Vidal Sassoon Haircare business and salons worldwide. Her last assignment was strategic planning for P&G’s global haircare business, and she expanded Pantene into 39 countries.
After 21 years at P&G, Karen moved to Dial Corporation in Phoenix, Arizona to become executive vice president of its soap and chemical business. This move expanded her P&G profit-and-loss experience to include balance sheet and capital decision-making.
In 1996 she moved to Baldwin Piano & Organ Company as CEO, and two years later was elected chairman of the board of directors. This move positioned her as one of a handful of women leading publicly traded U.S.-based companies. This role also expanded her experience to include dealing with the external business world – investors and boards. She retired from Baldwin in 2001.
During Karen’s tenure at Baldwin and thereafter, she served on other public company boards – AC Neilsen, Columbia Energy Group, Com Products International, and Groupo Elektra, a Mexican company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. She has served on various board committees – audit, compensation – and currently chairs the finance and governance and nominating committees of Corn Products. She also served on a Canadian board, KCP Income Trust Fund, which was sold in May 2007. Her board work coincided with increased federal government scrutiny of corporate boards, and she has become expert in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act corporate governance requirements and “best practices.”
Karen also devotes much time to not-for-profit board work. In 1999, Governor Bob Taft appointed her to the board of trustees of Ohio State University for a nine-year term. A loyal Buckeye, Karen has averaged two days a week on her board responsibilities that will end in May 2008. She is currently vice chair of the board and chairs its audit committee. In this role, she also chairs the James Cancer Hospital board, is a member of the endowment committee and the OSU Research Foundation that oversees all of the university’s sponsored research contracts and grants. She served on the search committee for two OSU presidents.
Karen also is on the board of the Cincinnati chapter of the Red Cross, having served eight years on its executive committee. Currently she is a major supporter of the capital campaign to build a state-of-the-art Disaster Operations Center in Cincinnati to respond to natural and manmade disasters in the 26-county tri-state region. Karen also has served for seven years as a board member of Washington, D.C.-based AGB, an association for best practices in governance for trustees of public and private universities.
In 1998 Karen was selected YWCA Career Woman of Achievement in Cincinnati.
She is a member of the Commercial Club of Cincinnati, the Women’s Capital Club of Cincinnati, and Church of the Saviour United Methodist Church. She splits her time between her home in Naples, Florida and Cincinnati with Milt, her husband of 28 years. She has four grown children: Dawn Hendricks Severt of Atlanta, John of San Francisco, and Blake and Robbie of Cincinnati. The fifth most important “person” in her life is Mac, her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Nominators: Harryet Snyder, Helen Barkdull Freese ’30, Mike Johnson ’63 Presenter: Retired teacher/coach William Varble