​​Forging a path for women at Notre Dame, now and forever.

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As an Irish Catholic girl from the South Side of Chicago, Karen Kuenster dreamed of one day attending the University of Notre Dame. When she learned she had not only been accepted as a student into the second class of women, but was also awarded a scholarship, it was a dream come true. 

While many would see it as an obstacle to be among the early classes of women at the University, Karen saw it as an opportunity: an opportunity to blaze a trail and meet extraordinary women who would become lifelong friends, to visit with and learn from Fr. Ted Hesburgh, and to acquire the skills necessary to become a female leader in a male-dominated profession.

After graduating, Karen went on to become an attorney and a partner first at an international law firm and then later at a global accounting and consulting firm. Since few women became partners at the time, she had to navigate the business world without the guidance of female mentors in the early days of her career. As her career progressed, it became her passion to help young women coming up behind her in their own professional journeys.

Through the Hesburgh Women of Impact, Karen became a mentor to young Notre Dame women majoring in business. Being able to help these young women has inspired Karen and her husband Jim to amplify the impact of their philanthropy at Notre Dame by making a gift through their estate to fund scholarships for future generations of young women majoring in business. Karen’s legacy at Notre Dame began as a student, and with their estate gift, she and her husband will continue to build on that legacy, supporting women at Notre Dame today, tomorrow, and forever.