Lorie Karnath, FCLC ’81
Lorie Karnath is a 1981 alumna of Fordham College at Lincoln Center.
From the North Pole to the South Pole and nearly everywhere in between, Lorie Karnath has explored some of the most radical and beautiful landscapes of our world. She has lived in the jungles of Borneo, traced the Silk Road and traversed the Taklamakan Desert—all in the name of science.
“It’s something that you really can’t duplicate. Like the first time you are in Antarctica and as far as you can see it’s white, from the ground beneath you to the sky above, and it’s all covered in crystals. You forget all the pain or being too cold,” she said. “You remember all the fantastic moments.”
For Karnath, trekking the globe is not simply a hobby; it’s her vocation. Last March, she was named president of the Explorers Club, a 106-year-old multidisciplinary professional society dedicated to the advancement of fi eld research and the ideals of exploration. Since joining the club in 1989, Karnath has led several expeditions, including one in which she and her team endured the mercurial conditions of the Artic to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Frederick Cook’s voyage to the North Pole.
Exploring has always been second nature for Karnath. Her father’s job as an international consultant had the family skipping across the globe, and by 15 she was already climbing mountains—“way off the beaten track,” she said. “I was very much determined to see as much as I could from early on.”
After graduating from Fordham College at Lincoln Center in 1981 with a B.A. in art history, Karnath earned an M.B.A. from INSEAD, the international business school, and worked as an investment banker till 2004. Before taking the helm at the Explorers Club, she was the managing director and chair of the Scientific Advisory Board for Rescentris Inc., a life science informatics and information-service provider for biotech and pharmaceutical researchers.
Today, issues of conservation and sustainability are paramount for the Explorers Club, Karnath said. In 2007, for example, she led an expedition to help the endangered white storks, following the birds’ migratory path across Europe to help establish a sanctuary for them in northern Germany.
“In the beginning, it was about filling in blanks on the map,” she said. “Today we’re looking for ways to ensure our planetary survival.”
Karnath is also passionate about science education. She has written several books in German, including Verwegene Frauen (Wandering Women), which examines the history of women explorers. “Many of them didn’t get the credit that was due to them because of the social stigma,” said Karnath, whose husband, Robert Roethenmund, is also a longtime member of the Explorers Club. “But today I think women are on par with men.”