New United Way chief seeks to make area students 'career ready'

New United Way of Greater Toledo President and CEO Karen Mathison.
New United Way of Greater Toledo President and CEO Karen Mathison.

Making sure graduating Toledo-area students are "career ready" is the top priority for the new chief executive of The United Way of Greater Toledo.

Karen Mathison, the president of the United Way of Olmsted County in Minnesota, was announced as the new president of the non-profit agency today. Ms. Mathison, whose starting salary will be $146,000, will assume her new duties on Jan. 7.

"I'm delighted to be here," Ms. Mathison said during a morning news conference at the United Way's downtown Toledo headquarters. "I've have a passion for United Way. I've made it my life's work."

United Way Board Chair Jani Miller said Ms. Mathison's worldwide agency connections and proven ability to address heath and education issues were primary factors in her hiring.

"It was a tough decision," said Ms. Miller. "It took us six months to decide who was the right person for the job."

Ms. Mathison replaces Bill Kitson, who stepped down as the United Way's director on June 1 so he could take a similar position at the United Way of Cleveland. Jane Moore, the Toledo organization's executive president, has been serving as interim director.

Approximately 80 people applied for the Toledo position, said Ms. Miller.

Ms. Mathison earned a bachelor's degree in organizational management and leadership from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn. She has served as president of the Olmsted agency since 2002.

Ms. Mathison is credited with increasing revenue by 11 percent and improving donor retention during her tenure in Olmsted. She also oversaw the implementation of a community-wide impact plan that focused on education, income, health, and community basics.

Toledo officials hope to see similar accomplishments.

"We think you're a wonderful addition to the Toledo area," United Way Vice Chair Tom Waggoner told Ms. Mathison during today's news conference."I think we're going to see brighter days ahead for United Way and brighter days for this community."

Ms. Mathison also serves as co-chairman of United Way Worldwide's Health Advisory Council. Since 2011, she has been a member of United Way Worldwide's Partnership Committee to create collective strategies for local United Ways to work across the organization to solve issues in education and health.

She is an appointed member of the National Professional Council of United Way Worldwide, a position she has held since 2006. She is on the United Ways of Minnesota board of directors and is a former chairwoman of the United Ways of Minnesota Association. She is also a 2010 graduate of the United Way Worldwide Advanced Leadership Program.

Ms. Mathison is involved in various organizations, including the Greater Rochester (Minnesota) Rotary, the Rochester Area Workforce 2020 Coalition, and the Rochester Public Schools Foundation board of directors.

The United Way of Toledo in September kicked off its annual fund-raising campaign and hopes to raise $13.8 million - the same goal it had last year, when it raised $13.6 million.

The United Way's yearly campaign raises money to aid programs and nonprofit organizations aimed at improving education, income and health, with an emphasis on graduating high school youth.

 Contact Federico Martinez at or 419-724-6154,