Karen Nabonne Coaxum is a proud native New Orleanian. She grew up in the historic Pontchartrain Park subdivision, and is an honors graduate of St. Mary’s Academy High School, where her desire to become a journalist sprang while serving as editor of the school’s newspaper and yearbook. She majored in journalism at Loyola University of the South where she was a writer for the university’s newspaper. Before receiving her bachelor’s degree in three years, she was hired by New Orleans’ daily newspaper The Times-Picayune as a staff reporter. She later joined the public affairs staff of the Ochsner Medical Institutions where her duties as director of communications included editing the employee newsletter, handling media and community relations, and acting as spokesperson for the institutions. She has served as director of public relations for Mercy Hospital, the Downtown Development District, New Orleans General Hospital, the Good Neighbor Clinic, and the United Way of Southeast Louisiana.
Her work in the media included her role as community affairs director at the NBC-affiliate WDSU-TV where she produced the station’s public service announcements and a weekly public affairs show. Her career includes serving as director of marketing of Medfirst Health Plans, vice president of marketing of the Orleans Private Industry Council, and as executive director of the Gulf South Minority Supplier Development Council. Now, as director of marketing of Coaxum Enterprises, she oversees the marketing programs and activities of three McDonald’s restaurants owned and operated by her husband, Henry Coaxum.
She and her husband were named as 2007 Role Models of the Young Leadership Council. They also are the recipients of the United Way of the Greater New Orleans Area’s 2011 Alexis de Tocqueville Award – the highest honor bestowed upon individuals in recognition of philanthropic work and community volunteerism. Coaxum was one of the 2012 New Orleans CityBusiness Women of the Year, which recognizes 50 women from the area whose successes in business and contributions to the community have set the pace for our region’s future.
In 2018, Coaxum served as a media consultant with New Orleans Convention Company, Inc., the event management company that produced the 45th Annual Bayou Classic. She has been named as one of the recipients of the 2019 Prix d’Elegance Award, sponsored by the New Orleans Men of Fashion and Women of Fashion.
For two consecutive years, Coaxum and her husband, served as co-chairs of the “Ladies in Red”, an annual fundraiser of the African American Heritage Program of the Preservation Resource Center. They also co-chair the Edgar “Dooky” Jr. and Leah Chase Family Foundation Gala, and the UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball. They are co-chairs of the National World War II Museum’s 2021 Victory Ball.
Coaxum served as a member of the Board of Directors of The Friends of WWOZ Radio Station; a member of the governing body of the United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Women’s Leadership Council; and a member of the United Way Board of Directors. She has served as a former chair of the SuccessBy6 Program of the United Way; a member of the Board of Commissioners of the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission; and a member of the Advisory Council of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc. She currently serves on the boards the Greater New Orleans Foundation; and WYES New Orleans, a PBS member station, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.
She is a graduate of Loyola University of the South; the Amos Tuck School of Business’ Minority Business Executive Program at Dartmouth College; and the McDonald’s Corporation’s Worldwide Hamburger Marketing University in Oak Brook, Illinois.
She previously served on the boards of the YWCA, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the Girl Scouts of Southeast Louisiana, and the Louisiana Children’s Museum. She also was an active member of the Press Club of New Orleans, the Public Relations Society of America, and the International Association of Business Communicators.