Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/22/2012

Karen Greve Young, Class of 1991
Director of Strategic Initiatives, MaRS

I was in the 1991 student class of the American Academy of Achievement. That was the first of many experiences since, meeting impressive, fascinating and remarkable people who were part of the Academy — either as students or honorees. My husband will forever be jealous that I had dinner at the Metropolitan Museum with George Lucas. My mother was enthralled that her daughter met the inimitable Audrey Hepburn, and horrified that I had the audacity to ask for my picture with her! I met Don Fisher without (then) realizing who he was, and never imagining that six years later I’d be working in corporate strategy at Gap Inc. in San Francisco, surrounded on a daily basis by his spectacular art collection and cultural legacy.

The Academy is where I absorbed for the first time the breadth of paths that achievement can take. This lesson has stood me well in the years since — making the then-bold decision to change from pre-med aspirations to economics at Harvard, taking a corporate path from finance to corporate strategy that led me to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Then, when my mother had terminal ovarian cancer, it contributed to my choice to leave my consulting career in favor of more flexible roles with health, education and women’s charities in San Francisco, London and Toronto. Among these, I was president of the Junior League of London, with programs serving over 3,500 children in need annually, and founder and chair of cancer awareness and fundraising initiatives for the UK’s Institute of Cancer Research. Along the way, I co-authored a book with my mother, Love You So Much: a shared memoir, about our journey with her cancer as mother and daughter, patient and family.

All of these experiences have led me to where I am now: back in the professional realm as Director, Strategic Initiatives at MaRS in the heart of Toronto’s Discovery District. In this role I work with our partners to support entrepreneurs and to accelerate and amplify innovation, creating a brighter and more prosperous future. I continue to be active in supporting and raising awareness for cancer research, particularly those “silent cancers” like ovarian that often progress without obvious symptoms until it is too late. This is my gift to my mother, and to my children who never met her, and to the millions of people who lose their lives to cancer.

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