Dr. Carla Knorowski is a leader, author, and cultural explorer inspired by ethical leadership. Throughout her career, she has worked to educate and develop current and future leaders to ensure a more secure and peaceful world. As President and CEO of Thirteen-Fifty Philanthropy, LLC, she effectuates transformational impact and growth for the nonprofits with which she collaborates and serves.
Image © Mary Sylvester 2018
Dr. Knorowski has been a leader in the non-profit sector for more than 35-years. Prior to her founding Thirteen-Fifty Philanthropy, she was President and Chief Development Officer of the Naval War College Foundation, as well as the Chief Executive Officer of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.
She has held senior leadership positions at the Chicago Humanities Festival, Northeastern Illinois University, Northeastern Illinois University Foundation, University of Illinois Alumni Association, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Over the course of her career, she has raised hundreds of millions of dollars in private support benefitting numerous charitable institutions and their constituents.
She earned a Ph.D. in public policy analysis from the University of Illinois at Chicago and is an alumna of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education Management Development Program.
She is a current member of the University Club of Chicago, Economic Club of Chicago and The Society of Midland Authors. Additionally, she is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Private Directors Association.
During her tenure at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, she was fortunate to study one of the world's greatest leaders, Abraham Lincoln. She has worked with presidents, statesmen, community leaders, CEOs and others at the highest levels of leadership. She is inspired by and continues to learn from leaders around the globe.
Under Lincoln’s Hat: 100 Objects That Tell the Story of His Life and Legacy
(Lyons Press, 2016) Co-authored with James M. Cornelius
“A must-read for Lincoln lovers.”
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian.
Gettysburg Replies: The World Responds to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
(Lyons Press, 2015)
Her writing also is featured in Lincoln: An Intimate Portrait (Life Books, 2014 ), as well as, Celebrated Living magazine, The Chicago Tribune and other publications.
Watch Carla’s interviews about Gettysburg Replies on PBS affiliate WTTW and
She created and co-curated the interactive exhibition, The Power of Words (2013)
at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum with essays from Gettysburg Replies
to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.
Carla is the co-creator of the ABE APP, an app about the 16th president of the
United States downloaded by thousands of individuals the world over.
Dr. Knorowski is currently a member of the board of directors of The Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris, the official U.S.-based foundation dedicated to rebuilding, restoring and preserving the historic Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.
Additionally, she is a:
Current Member of the Board of Directors, Pritzker Military Museum & Library;
Current Trustee Emerita, former Member of the Board of Trustees and Regional Director, Naval War College Foundation;
Current Strategic Advisor, Lincoln Academy of Illinois’s Next Generation Task Force;
Current Strategic Advisor, The Henry Ford;
Current Member, University Club of Chicago, Civic Affairs Committee;
Current member, former Board Member of the Society of Midland Authors;
Former Member, Co-Designing the Future of the Lincoln Memorial Committee.
In January of 2023, Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, Senator Sara Feigenholtz and the Senate of the Illinois General Assembly congratulated Dr. Knorowski for being named an Officer in the French Republic's National Order of Merit and her "service to the global community...the people of the State of Illinois and her dedication to civic engagement." Similarly, in November of 2022, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago City Council congratulated, Carla Knorowski for the French honor and for her "many academic, philanthropic and literary accomplishments."
French President Emmanuel Macron and the French General Assembly Bestow Upon Carla Knorowski, Rank of "Officer" in its National Order of Merit
Image Credit: Mark Campbell Photography
On behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron and the French General Assembly, French Consul General of the Midwest, The Honorable Yannick Tagand awards Dr. Carla Knorowski the French Republic's prestigious National Order of Merit in recognition of her active civic engagement for both the French Republic and the United States of America.
Read Dr. Knorowski's acceptance speech here:
Good evening, dear family and friends. It is a humbling honor to be recognized as an Officer in the National Order of Merit of France. My profound gratitude goes to the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron who also serves as Grand Master of this prestigious Order. I also extend my gratitude to the French authorities for this esteemed recognition including the Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honor of the National Order of Merit, General Benoit Puga, as well as three French leaders and diplomats with whom I have had the distinct privilege to work, namely, French Ambassador to the United States His Excellency Philippe Etienne, First Counsellor of the Chancery in the French Embassy in London Mr. Guillaume Lacroix and Consul General of France to the Midwest in Chicago Mr. Yannick Tagand. Thank you, Consul Tagand for your kind words and this extraordinary honor which you have bestowed upon me this evening. And thank you, too, Penny and Bill Obenshain, for so graciously and generously hosting this exquisite event and for the gift of your friendship which is truly a blessing in my life. I have stood behind many podiums and have given many speeches throughout my career. I have peered into the eyes of thousands of audience members, but never none so warm, friendly and loving as those I see tonight. You, my family and friends and so many others who were unable to be here, but who are here in spirit, I thank you, especially Nancy, David, Janice, Andrew and Tyler for your constant love and support. I would also be remiss, not to thank my parents, Mary and Walter, their siblings—my aunts and uncles--and all the members of my family and friends who have gone to their eternal rest. Their collective spirit is here with us this evening, championing all of us to strive on to do great works, be the best we can be and always act with compassion and empathy. Author, poet and activist Maya Angelou once said that although she was born economically poor living not much beyond the confines of her grandmother’s porch, in reality she lived a life of riches because she surrounded herself with books—books whose words would transport her down the street and to the farthest reaches of the globe. Her story always stuck with me and I could relate to it. When I was a child, my parents recognized my love of travel and nurtured my curiosity gifting to me an all-important book, “The Children’s Picture Atlas of the World” which I still have to this day. For only $4.95 that atlas took me to every continent and among other places, taught me about a country in Europe called France. I learned that one-quarter of its population—circa 1966—made a living through agriculture; that it had fertile plains and navigable rivers like the Seine. That it had lush forests and harvested grapes for wine. And on page 192, this precious atlas gave me my first glimpse of Notre-Dame Cathedral. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect I would one day walk through its doors, let alone be entrusted to raise funds to rebuild this historic world heritage site. I first stepped upon French shores on a summer’s day in August, 1980. I was with my college chums Peggy and Francis who happily, are here tonight. Our first destination was Paris. We were backpacking and because we arrived very late and had nary a French franc in our pockets, we had no place to sleep. We spent the wee hours of that first night alternating between the Metro, the beautifully manicured grounds of Les Invalides and finally settled upon a park bench on the Champs Elysees in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe. It was one of those rare moments when life truly imitated art as we lived out Henry Miller’s prescient words where “on that day, in that glorious hour, the inexpensive bench belonging to the municipality of Paris became our throne allowing us to calm our restless spirits if only for a few hours.” That night, that bench became my home away from home, as all of Paris has; as all of France has. Who would have guessed that, that sacred bench would eventually lead me to this night. The United States and France have a long history of friendship dating as far back as our colonial times. Were it not for France, the United States of America and our constitution—the world’s oldest—would not exist. Over the centuries, we have come to each other’s aid in times of need and have celebrated together in times of joy. Friends do that. I am wholly and proudly an American citizen, but I am also a citizen of the world and it is in this spirit that I have embraced France and graciously she has embraced me. Whatever service I have given to my country; whatever service I have given to France, has been given with a selfless desire to roll up my sleeves and get things done; to break down walls and barriers and find commonalities between our peoples and cultures…whether in Paris, France or Paris, Texas. We are more alike than we are different and it is for us to recognize and cherish the similarities and celebrate and learn from the differences while at the same time, embracing them all. This is the spirit which brought me to France and the National Order of Merit. Being a part of this august group only spurs me on to continue to effectuate good works which not only advance France, but the United States of America. Good works which further strengthen and forge partnerships and solidify the bonds of friendship between our two great nations. In 1886, when the United States was celebrating its centenary, France, like all close friends, set out to find the perfect birthday gift. Instead of buying one, she decided the best thing to do, was to make one of her own: the Statue of Liberty. This gift—this bold and beautiful Lady designed, sculpted and cast by French masters—migrated to our shores and took residence in New York harbor. She went straight to work beckoning countless millions, her luminous torch lighting their way. Immigrant poet Emma Lazarus called her The New Colossus and described her saying: Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Our ancestors, our family members were blessed to walk through that golden door just as we are today, all blessed to call it our own. Thank you Consul Tagand for your nation’s steadfast support of our country. For your precious gift of the Lady in the Harbor—our collective Statue of Liberty—and thank you for this tremendous honor. As an officer in the National Order of Merit, I pledge to you my continued support; my continued commitment to our mutual causes and that I will do everything within my power to have Notre-Dame Cathedral restored to her former glory. I shall not only hold sacred this honor you have bestowed upon me today, I shall continue to earn it. Thank you all again for sharing this special moment with me. May God bless France and may God bless the United States of America. -Remarks given by Carla Knorowski upon receipt of the French Republic's National Order of Merit, Saturday, October 8, 2022
The Points of Light Foundation, founded by President George H. W. Bush, named Knorowski a "Point of Light" for her work and commitment to civic engagement.
In March of 2015, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago City Council commemorated the 150th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln and recognized the publication of Gettysburg Replies and Illinois essayists
contributing to the book including editor and essayist, Carla Knorowski.