Karen Louise Peterson Thomsen is spending her life serving and leading others. She continues to touch family, friends, acquaintances, and the citizens of Iowa. Karen is a shining example of the many exceptional women who contribute to the State of Iowa.
Karen Thomsen was born in Sioux City, Iowa on August 1, 1936. Her parents were Louis Andrew Peterson and Bessie Geraldine (Jerry) Van Syoc Peterson. The first born she was joined shortly by twin sister Joyce LaRee. On June 5, 1946 her brother Dale Terry was born to complete the family. They always lived in the Lawton Iowa community. Karen was very active in many Lawton Consolidated School activities as well as 4-H and the Presbyterian Church.
Shortly after high school graduation in 1954 Karen was married to Ernest Thomsen from Cumberland, Iowa. He was engaged in farming and they still farm near Cumberland. Their daughter, Pamela Denise, was born February 16, 1956. Patrice Ann was born September 26, 1958, followed by Jeffrey Mark on October 15, 1963.
When her children were small, Karen worked part-time at the Cumberland Savings Bank and was active in women's clubs in Cass County. She taught Sunday School at their Lutheran church and served on the Extension Service Family Living Committee. 4-H became an important part of family life. For many years Karen was leader for the Union Lucky Clovers girls' club. She was organization leader and for many years shared her talent for sewing as the sewing leader and judge at local achievement shows. County fair week remains an important time for the Thomsen's and they look forward to the time when grandchildren will be showing hogs and exhibiting their talents.
Because of her sewing ability, Karen was asked to serve on the Iowa Porkette Pigskin Committee. Creating garments from hides was only one aspect of this unusual assignment. Karen traveled around southwest Iowa giving sewing classes and one person style shows. It was a unique learning experience especially since the committee's goal changed from pigskin suede promotion to creating a "for profit" business over a period of a dozen years. Karen was president of the Iowa Pigskin company for several years before it was sold.
Always inspired to learn Karen decided to do some serious studying by the 1980's. What started out as an "interesting" psychology class led to the desire for more and more study. In 1988, she earned a degree from Iowa Western Community College. The next logical step was night classes in Council Bluffs offered by Buena Vista College. Karen received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1991. Later she completed a Public Administration course at Drake University.
It was 1981 when Karen was elected to the Cumberland & Massena Community School board. She served six years and was president for three. In 1987 the Cass County School boards elected her to represent them on the Area Education Agency Board. Now in her ninth year she has served as president of the Area 13 board and currently is in her second year as president of the statewide Association of Area Education Agencies. This board has opened the door for many new opportunities to work for better public education in Iowa. For a number of years she has been on the SW Iowa Regional Planning Board working toward increased vocational opportunities for students. Strategic planning is a procedure she supports wholeheartedly having participated in the process at many levels.
Karen has attended a great many Iowa Association of School Boards meetings. The meetings are always learning opportunities. Her work in this group has earned her a Better Boardsmanship award eight times. Many of the association's activities center around legislation. Karen has always taken part in legislative activities both at the state and national level. She had the opportunity to serve on the Iowa Legislative K-12 Education Reform committee, a two year appointment.
Interest in the legislative branch of government came naturally to Karen. Her father served in the Iowa House of Representatives for several years. When she was asked to run for that same assembly in 1988 it was a challenge she had to take. She believes campaign work is harder than anyone who has not done it can imagine! Knocking on every door in every town is wearing and time consuming. Linda Boston served as her able and dedicated campaign manager. It was a good effort but not good enough to win. In 1990 she tried again - with better results but still not victory. Running as a Democrat in a strong Republican district made the challenge even harder. Many asked "Why try when the chances of winning are so small?" Karen knew that good things come from a campaign even an unsuccessful campaign. She met wonderful people and received the support of many who are willing to invest time and money because they believed in her. The statewide network of new acquaintances and a better understanding of the political process were also benefits that helped Karen grow.
In 1989, Karen was chosen from Cass County to receive the Governor’s Iowa Hall of Fame Award. The day was more special because her father stood beside her to receive the same award as Volunteer from Woodbury County.
Technology has made it more possible for Karen to continue to be a lifelong learner. Computers, CD Rom and E-mail are a few of the new vista that have recently attracted her. Karen will always be alert for a new idea to explore or challenge to accept.
This brick was donated in loving appreciation and admiration by her daughter Patrice (ISU, BU- 1981, MS- 1985)
Submitted on 10/95