Karen Jackman Ashton, along with her husband Alan Ashton, are known for their philanthropy and service to the community and to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which they are members.
Karen Ashton was raised in Murray, Utah, and educated in Salt Lake City. She attended Brigham Young University. She met her husband on a blind date and they were married in 1968. Together they had eleven children. He is one of the founders of WordPerfect Corporation. He stepped down as president of the corporation in 1994. Together the Ashtons envisioned and planned Thanksgiving Point, which they created as a permanent expression of their thanks. They also saw it as a gathering place for the communities throughout the state. Because she loves gardens, she asked that the property host a world-class garden. Fifty-five acres include twelve theme gardens contain more than 14,000 mature trees, 250,000 flowering bulbs, and waterfalls.
Karen Ashton is a natural storyteller and spent much time at the public library with her children. She served on the Orem City’s Library Board and presented story time for preschoolers. She attended a storytelling festival in Tennessee to pick up ideas for stories and programs for the Orem Public Library.
- She went to the National Festival expecting to find ladies telling stories to children in a library. Instead she found thousands of adults crowding into tents, listening to dynamic performers relating tales of history, culture, folk and family life, as well as tall tales, Jack tales, and magical adventures. Karen found what she was searching for. A festival that would bring people together as well as foster community and family values.
The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival began in her backyard and has developed into one of the largest storytelling festivals in the West. The festival also supports the annual Timpanogos Storytelling Conference and several storytelling contests and retreats. The Timpanogos Storytelling Institute promotes language and literacy in schools and the outreach program makes it possible for students to experience educational and cultural events. The year 2014 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary.
Karen Ashton says she created the storytelling festival for her children and the gardens for her grandchildren.
Ashton has served on the Utah Valley University Board of Trustees, the Primary Children’s Medical Board, the Shakespearean Festival Board of Governors, and the BYU Museum of Art and the BYU President’s Leadership Council. She has served on the Primary General Board and the Young Women General Board for the Church of Jesus Christ. She is serving as matron of the Provo Utah Temple (2013–) with her husband while he serves as president. She served with him when he presided over the Canada Toronto Mission from 2004 to 2007.
In 2012, the Ashton’s were presented with the Pillar of the Valley Award. In 2008 they were awarded the People of Vision Award.