I’d had been ruminating on who to honor well into the month of March. Listening to US Sailing’s Starboard Portal featuring stellar sailors, Karen Harris was honored with US Sailing’s 2020 Outstanding Organizational Leader award. Hearing how NWSA member Karen encouraged young sailors she coached to stretch their wings in many ways — including encouragement to write poetry — that clarified my thinking!

I became acquainted with Karen during her service as a fantastic panelist during NWSA’s 2020 OLÉ conference. NWSA quickly developed a strong relationship with her. We began discussing ways we could collaborate on gender and inclusion issues. One result of our conversations is, NWSA will hold the 2021 National Women’s Sailing Association Confernece at the Jackson Park Yacht Club (JPYC) on September 11. Karen has also sat on the planning committee, acting as co-chair for the conference.

In 2016, as Commodore of JPYC, Karen re-launched the Junior Sailing Program that had been defunct for over 20 years. Beginning with the purchase of 12 Bugs from the Chicago Yacht Club in 2017, the program was entirely fee-for-service. By the Spring of 2018, Karen secured funding to purchase seven used 420s and launch the Open Horizons Scholarship Program. The JPYC Foundation awarded 64 scholarships in 2018, 65 in 2019, and over 100 in 2020.

On top of the countless hours Harris works for the JPYC Foundation, Karen is Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association (IHA), a trade association representing over 200 hospitals and 50 health systems.

Attagirl Karen. Thank you for all you do!