For a woman who has so many honors and awards crowding her resume, Karen Boykin-Towns says there is one she cherishes above all. "My most treasured award is the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Council on Independent Colleges and Universities. To have my name submitted by the Mount and then to be selected, it meant so much for me. I was recognized in the place where it all began--the place where I learned the basic tools for success.”
Ms. Boykin-Towns was recently named the Chief Diversity Officer of Pfizer Inc., the largest research-based pharmaceutical company in the world, and often credits her many accomplishments to the lessons she learned at the Mount. "The Mount played a tremendous role in my overall success. Living on campus you had to learn how to work and get along with many different types of people - for me, an African American woman and not Catholic – it was an opportunity to learn and grow and have great respect for people of all different types."
Since graduating from the Mount, Ms. Boykin-Towns has held many high profile positions. She worked with then-NYS Senator David A. Paterson, now NY's Governor, for six years, eventually becoming his chief of staff, a position that she says, "Prepared me to get things done." She went on to become Deputy Director for the then-New York State Senate Democratic leader, Manfred Ohrenstein. Ms. Boykin-Towns held the position for three years while earning her Masters of Business Administration degree from Baruch College.
Over the years, she has earned a reputation for being a highly effective leader who is compassionate, enthusiastic and has a drive for results. Not content with just being a leader in the corporate world, she serves as member of the National Board of Directors for the NAACP and is President of the Brooklyn Branch. "We didn't have a branch due to a lack of leadership but we revived it and built a strong leadership team. We are now fast-growing and award-winning. The fulfillment however comes from making a difference for those in the community. It is important to give back and use your talents for something bigger than yourself. That is what my husband and I teach our two girls and how we live our lives. I believe we must be connected as a society. We should all challenge ourselves to find ways to give back, it doesn't matter if it is in big or small ways."
When asked what advice she would give to the Mount's incoming freshmen class, many of them first-generation college students she remarked, "I too was a first generation college student. The thing most important to understand is that all you engage in has importance and meaning. These are critical lessons you are able to learn in a safe environment. You can later apply them to the real world and be a couple steps ahead. We live in a competitive society where students now need a graduate degree, not just an undergraduate degree to compete.”
According to Ms. Boykin-Towns, "Students should be more proactive in seeking out alums for mentorship, connections to industries they are interested in pursuing. They should seek out Mount alums in businesses as contacts just as students who attend many of the Ivy League colleges do. When I am contacted I am always willing to help, and there are many Mount grads doing pretty amazing things all over."
Ms. Boykin-Towns credits the Mount in preparing her for the many opportunities she has enjoyed during her career and for being a foundation that continues to keep her grounded. Today, she is married to Assemblyman Darryl C. Towns (D-Brooklyn), son of Congressman Edolphus Towns, and lives in Brooklyn with their daughters, Jasmine and Trinity.