Karen Sonneborn calls herself “a soft-sell volunteer. I know everyone has their own giving priorities. But when people understand how important Annual Giving is to the University, they are usually happy to contribute.” A leadership chair and participation solicitor, she has frequently served on her class's special gifts committee. She is also a member of the committee that oversees Princeton's Bridge Year Program.
“I want to see the University be the best it can be,” she says, “and any tiny role I can play in support of Princeton—that's what I want to do.”
As an undergraduate Sonneborn majored in economics, but enjoyed courses in other disciplines, particularly philosophy. “Philosophy gives you perspective on history and the world in general,” she says. “Philosophy made a good combination with economics, which is more analytical.”
Captain of the varsity women's tennis team, she remains an enthusiastic supporter of Princeton tennis. She and her husband, William, endowed the tennis pavilion with the Sonneborn Women's Locker Room, which honors Sonneborn's father, John Hammerback.
After graduation, Sonneborn earned an MBA from UCLA's Anderson School of Management, and she has worked in finance on both coasts. She has also always dedicated time to community endeavors.
When she lived in California, she served on the board of San Francisco Ballet Association; the Ambassadors for Lucille Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto; Los Angeles TV station KCET, Southern California's largest public television station; and the Los Angeles Zoo.
Now newly settled in Washington, DC, she is cofounder, with Katherine Boone '05, of a nonprofit they call “honorED.” “The mission of honorED,” she says, “is to celebrate and reward extraordinary K-12 educators.”
She is married to William Sonneborn, who works for the global energy company EIG. They have three children: Andrew, 13; Lauren, 10; and Lily, 7.