Karen Weiss Mulder loved Stanford.

She was born at Stanford Hospital, attended Stanford as an undergraduate, enjoyed working in the center of campus at the Hoover Institution, and attended as many Stanford sporting events as time and money would afford.

Karen Weiss Mulder, 52, of San Mateo, CA, passed away suddenly on February 2, 2024, in Cooke County, Texas, after a tragic car accident, while driving with her husband, James Mulder (who succumbed to his injuries on February 8, surrounded by family). Karen leaves behind a beloved son, Zack Weiss; her brother, Raymond; and her sisters, Alice and Kirsten. Her loss leaves a hole in the hearts of all who knew and loved her.

Karen was born on December 20, 1971, at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, CA, and thus began a lifelong passion for all things Stanford.

As chief operating officer and chief financial officer at the Hoover Institution, Karen was responsible for managing the budget, establishing financial controls and policies, and leading the finance, operations, events, human resources, and IT teams. Her passion for her work extended to every aspect of it. “Karen had the enviable gifts of seeing future possibilities and instilling in every individual their critical importance to making the vision a reality.  She was Grace in action,” said Hoover distinguished research fellow Margaret (Macke) Raymond. She took great care and pride in ensuring the financial house was kept in good order. She stood at the fiscal helm, ensuring the generosity bestowed upon Hoover by its donors would be honored and utilized to make the most impact in support of its mission.

Condoleezza Rice, director of the Hoover Institution, said, “For two decades Karen dedicated so much of herself to the Hoover Institution and the Stanford community. Through her careful stewardship of its resources, to the countless deep friendships she cultivated through her warm heart and deep faith, Karen was, in many ways, the heart and soul of this institution. Her untimely loss has been a very difficult one to bear for the entire Hoover family —but her memory will forever live on in the many lives she touched.” 

Prior to coming to Hoover, Weiss Mulder worked for Bristol-Myers Squibb pharmaceuticals as a pricing manager. During her tenure, she developed a new customer segmentation methodology; established pricing for new, private label–branded pharmaceuticals; and led the implementation effort of new price optimization and negotiation software. She began her career in finance at a construction management firm more than twenty years ago.

Karen loved country music, San Francisco sports teams, and Christmas (nearly every room in her home had its own tree). Her career, church, and interests led to lifetime friendships that she treasured. But she loved her son Zack above all.

Karen was a person of great spiritual devotion and engaged in church and faith activities throughout her life. It was in that spirit that she sought and embraced community wherever she was. “Karen lived every moment of every day in accordance with her Christian faith, in every relationship, every endeavor,” recalled Hoover senior fellow Stephen Kotkin. “She was, in an unassuming way, the most consistently Christian person I have ever known.” During the COVID pandemic, Karen, along with a few friends, began a prayer group that has continued to this day, which now feels a canyon-size loss without her.

Karen loved life, and loved sharing it with her husband, James. They were only just married on December 8, 2018, in a holiday-themed wedding overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Together they recently built their dream home in Texas—but she commuted between Texas and California, determined to continue the work she loved.

Hoover senior fellow Victor Davis Hanson remarked, “Few people are irreplaceable in what they do. Karen Weiss Mulder certainly was, given her singular intellect, her competence, her ethics, and her decency. Karen was the best of us at Hoover and we will never forget her.”

Much like the institution’s founder, Herbert Hoover, Karen was a person who sought to improve the human condition, both in her everyday personal life and professionally in the work she did at the Hoover Institution. She lived with purpose, with a big heart, and with great faith in something bigger than herself. She was a trusted confidant to many and cared very deeply about others. The world certainly could use more people like Karen Weiss Mulder. Given her faith in God, there is no doubt that she rested in the knowledge of eternal life in heaven, but on Earth, she will be terribly missed by all who knew her.

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