Karen Margo, longtime Olin leader, succumbs to 10-year battle with Alzheimer’s

  • July 21, 2021
  • By Kurt Greenbaum
  • 2 minute read

Karen Margo, who followed a stellar career in banking with nearly 29 years of alumni development work for WashU Olin, died July 17, 2021, after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

After joining Olin Advancement in 1985, Ms. Margo was appointed executive director of development for the business school in 2009. Renowned for her talent for making and cultivating relationships with Olin alumni, parents and friends of the business school, Ms. Margo was herself an alumna after earning her MBA from WashU in 1979.

Ms. Margo was beloved by Olin staff, faculty and alumni and had an extraordinary talent for fundraising on behalf of the business school. During her years working for University Advancement on behalf of Olin Business School, she was known for tripling scholarship support and increasing Olin’s endowment to $309 million—a sixfold increase under her tenure. She retired from the role in 2014.

“Over the past 30 years, I believe the Olin School has had the good fortune to have the best director of development at any business school in the country,” David Blasingame, AB ’69/MBA ’71, said in a story in the 2014 edition of Olin Business magazine. Blasingame was WashU’s former executive vice chancellor for alumni and development programs and Margo’s predecessor in the role at Olin.

Prior to her promotion to executive director, Ms. Margo collaborated with Olin leadership and volunteers, driving the school’s participation in the Campaign for Washington University, where the effort led to contributions in excess of $142 million—exceeding an initial goal of $105 million—for the school.

“Through her long career here, she has helped us realize our vision as a school, and she has built a strong team of fundraising professionals who have learned from her thoughtful and gentle approach to fundraising,” Mahendra Gupta, former Olin dean and the Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management, said in Olin Business magazine.

At her retirement party, Olin Dean Emeritus Robert L. Virgil, MBA ’60/DBA ’67, announced an endowed scholarship fund in her name. More than $1 million in gifts and pledges had been received within three months of the announcement.

“You also have made a legion of friends,” Virgil said in his tribute. “Every place in America. Around the globe. Alumni. Parents. Companies. Staff. Faculty. People you have recruited, developed, and launched on their own successful careers in development. You are their model.”

Prior to joining Olin, Ms. Margo was president of the Mark Twain Bank in Fenton, Missouri, and earlier earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University. She was the salutatorian for her class upon graduating from both St. Lawrence and WashU.

No funeral or memorial service has been planned at this time. Ms. Margo is survived by her husband Mitch, son Sam and his fiancée Eva Gonzalez, her sisters Beverly Brown and Barb Romig, and her brother David Miller and his wife Carol.

Pictured at top: Mitch, Karen and Sam Margo.

About the Author

Kurt Greenbaum

Kurt Greenbaum

As communications director for WashU Olin Business School, my job is to find and share great stories about our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. I've worked for the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management as communications director and as a journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sun-Sentinel in South Florida and the Chicago Tribune.

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