Karen Bybee

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Courtesy BYU Magazine

Karen Bybee earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations from Brigham Young University and promptly started a job on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, and worked first as an intern for her congressman from Kentucky and then as his assistant press secretary. She then worked in the office of Utah senator Orrin Hatch. She married Jeff Holdaway a few months short of her twenty-ninth birthday and when she became pregnant with their first child, she quit her job and started consulting part-time. To this point, her life was much as she expected. But hen her daughter was born, everything changed.

This was in 1989, and prenatal technology was not as widely used as it is today. We didn’t know there were complications until our baby was born. Our daughter, Kara, was a “Trisomy 18,” which meant she had an extra eighteenth chromosome, resulting in a congenital heart defect and severe neurological challenges. She was sustained on life support for five days until the tests came back and confirmed that she had no chance of sustainable life. We were also told by the doctors that this was a genetic problem and we would probably never have our own children. We were devastated.[1]

At this difficult, deeply depressing point in Bybee’s life, a friend, who knew she spoke Italian after serving as a full-time missionary in Italy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked her to join the 1994 World Cup Organizing Committee—the worldwide soccer tournament was to be held in the United States. For the next five years she helped organize the competition, which included attending the 1990 World Cup held in Italy. Since then her career path changed to international sports, predominantly as an independent consultant, and she has worked on four soccer World Cups, eight Olympic Games, two Golf Ryder Cups, and one Women’s World Volleyball Grand Prix. She also navigated the slow process of healing from the death of her first child.

After much laboratory testing, Bybee and her husband were assured that their daughter’s genetic problems were her own and that they could have more children. They eventually had three sons.

Bybee and her husband live in the Washington, DC, area. She also served on the board of the Alliance for Haiti’s Children and as a member of the Cultural Arts Committee for the Washington DC Temple Visitors’ Center.