The right homeFeatures — May 22, 2012
She came to San Bernardino with energy to match a university, a town, a region passionate about giving back
By Carmen Murillo-Moyeda
When Marilyn Karnig was a registered nurse, wife and mother of three, she didn’t realize then that she was paving the way for a future role as the “First Lady” of Cal State San Bernardino.
“My wife … has a very checkered past,” said Albert Karnig with a grin. “She was a nurse while raising our children and putting me through school. At just 24 years old, she was the spokeswoman for the hospital nursing association. She later served as a psychiatric nurse at Texas Tech Med School and served in other roles.”
Choosing a new career path, Marilyn went back to college to obtain a bachelor’s degree in marketing at Arizona State University. Then she was a businesswoman running her own interior design business for a few years. After moving with her husband to the University of Wyoming, she was the university’s first college development officer — in the College of Engineering — and afterward she became coordinator of fund-raising for all the colleges there.
For the past 15 years at CSUSB, Marilyn has become in some ways as integral to campus life as her husband, CSUSB President Albert Karnig. Now, looking back at their time, she feels fortunate to have been a part of the university during a dynamic period of growth and achievement.
“Despite major budget challenges, I think we happened to serve the right university at the right time.”
When they arrived in San Bernardino in 1997, Marilyn immediately immersed herself in campus and local community life. “We like to attend theater productions, concerts, art exhibits, lectures and athletic events on campus, and always hoped that more students, faculty and staff would attend and see the value to being part of the life of the university.”
“Marilyn, as ‘First Lady’ of the university, has done a wonderful job serving as an advocate for the university, nurturing a culture of service to students, university and community,” said Larry Sharp, CSUSB’s vice president of university advancement. “Marilyn hasn’t just volunteered in the community, she has taken on the role of being a leader in the community. She is loved and respected by her colleagues in the community for all that she does to improve the quality of life for all of us. She has truly gone beyond what we would expect of a ‘First Lady.’”
For six years, Marilyn served on the board of Arrowhead United Way and as the organization’s campaign chair for a year and chair of the board for a term. Very early on, she became a member of the San Bernardino Symphony board and currently chairs the Endowment Committee. For many years, she’s been on the Symphony Guild Board, both as president and membership vice president. In addition, she has served on the Feldheym Library Foundation Board, the Hillside School Governance Council and has been involved with many other organizations.
“From all these boards,” she said, “I’ve learned that the San Bernardino region has a strong core of people who care very much about the community and work to preserve a cultural identity for the area, as well as seeking to assist those who are struggling in the face of difficult challenges.”
Some people are process oriented, and some can get things done. “Then there are people like my wife,” said her husband, “who can do both. She doesn’t just talk about it, she gets it done. That’s a very important facet of her personality.”
Mrs. Karnig has been highly active on campus as well, for example, serving on the Scholarship Campaign Board and the CSUSB Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art board.
“Marilyn joined RAFFMA’s advisory board in 1998 as its first member and loyally served the museum for 12 years,” said Eva Kirsch, director of the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art. “She’s always present and extremely supportive, and has helped the museum grow strong during her six consecutive terms. She is smart, open, honest and practical in her professional advisory role. And our birthdays are on the same date!”
Marilyn has seen her role as a partner to her husband by supporting and recognizing the efforts and achievements of students, faculty and staff. At home, she tries to do things that make it easier for her husband to do his job by managing their social and family obligations so that her husband doesn’t have to worry about that part of their lives.
“I have learned from my wife,” said President Karnig, “to cultivate and take delight in others’ successes. She is the type of person who derives great joy in the achievements of others and enjoys contributing to their success. I’ve watched her do that, and learned to derive the same kind of pleasure.”
But just as importantly, she also sees herself as an advocate for the university. “And to do that I must have a face and a place in the community,” she said.
Once they close this chapter on CSUSB, the Karnigs’ plans include more traveling. She’s thrilled at the thought of being able to plan a trip during the fall, which was never an option in the past. This fall, they’ll take a New England cruise — Montreal to New York City — to see the autumn colors and enjoy the company of friends who also love to travel. They will remain in San Bernardino. “This has become our home. We’ve grown to love it and feel we’ve had the opportunity to contribute to the viability of the surrounding area,” she said. “We’ve developed close friendships and we have many social and civic activities that we look forward to continuing.”
A few, however, won’t continue. “I’ll miss the opportunities we’ve had to meet so many different people and the activities we’ve taken part in because Al’s been president,” she said. “We’ve always enjoyed hosting students, faculty and staff, as well as the community in our home. I’m sure there will be lots more, but for certain, I’ll miss walking across campus and being greeted by so many friendly folks. This university has been wonderfully warm and welcoming from our first day, and I hope that marvelous spirit of camaraderie continues.” With a laugh and a wink, she says, “Did I mention missing my parking pass?”