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Photo of Karen N. Horn

Karen N. Horn

  • President, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, 1982–1987

Karen Horn was the sixth president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and the first woman president in the Federal Reserve System.1 She served from May 1, 1982, until her resignation on April 8, 1987.

A California native, Horn received a bachelor's in mathematics from Pomona College in 1965 and her doctorate in economics from Johns Hopkins University in 1971. From 1969 to 1971, she was a senior economist at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, where she focused on supervision and regulation of bank holding companies. She then became an economist at, and later vice president of, the First National Bank of Boston. In 1978, Horn became treasurer of the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She served in that position and as treasurer of the Diamond State Telephone Company until her appointment as president of the Cleveland Fed in 1982.2

As president, Horn successfully guided the Cleveland Fed through Ohio's savings and loan crisis in the 1980s3 and was a strict defender of anti-inflationary monetary policy.4 She was a proponent of low inflation in recessionary times and was aware of the industry shifts occurring in the Fourth Federal Reserve District’s economy during her tenure. She also supported the Federal Reserve’s disciplined monetary policy position of raising interest rates, if necessary, to quell inflationary pressures. Horn opposed large federal spending deficits and cautioned about lessons learned in the 1970s regarding high inflation coupled with overly permissive monetary and fiscal policies.

Horn was public about the fact that she preferred to focus on her work rather than her status as a trailblazer. In a 1987 article she said, "My whole career I have never really focused on the fact that I am a woman. Clearly the media is interested in these facts, but it isn't my particular issue."5

In 1987, Horn left the Cleveland Fed to serve as chair and chief executive officer of Banc One Corp. in Cleveland.6


Written by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland as of November 2013 and updated by Ella Needler and Genevieve Podleski as of July 2022. See disclaimer and update policy.