While at Penn Karen Saah could have been called “the renaissance woman.” Field hockey coach Ann Sage remembers, “she represented the true scholar-athlete. You always knew she had a whole life beyond sports, such a diverse young woman.”
Saah says, “I never really thought about it since I was also an athlete in high school. In college, I played sports, I worked, and did two degrees so I had a busy schedule, but it was manageable. I liked staying involved in every aspect of Penn.”
In addition to field hockey, lacrosse, and track and field Karen completed a dual degree, earning a B.S. in economics from Wharton and a B.A. in international relations from the College of Arts and Sciences, all while getting grades good enough to be named Academic All-Ivy.
Upon graduating, Saah headed to England as a Thouron Scholar. The Thouron Awards are an exchange program between Penn and a selection of British universities. Candidates are selected based on their academic quality and “ambassadorial qualities,” and receive tuition and a living stipend.
While in Great Britain, she received a post-graduate diploma from the University of Cambridge and an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She returned to the United States, and after working as a strategic consultant in New York, completed a J.D. at Stanford University Law School, then clerked for Federal Appellate Judge R. Guy Cole.
Originally recruited as a track and field athlete, Saah always knew she wanted to play field hockey in college. She was named second-team All-Ivy in 1992, and played on the Ivy championship team that season.
Sports were important during her middle and high school years, both for herself and because she made most of her friends through sports. She first learned about Penn when, as a junior at the Columbus School for Girls in Columbus, Ohio, she was invited to the LEAD program at the Wharton School in the summer of 1988.
She chose Penn because “at the time I was very interested in business, so I really wanted to go to Wharton. I also wanted to play field hockey and Penn had the best team out of the other four schools I was looking at.” She almost chose Yale where her older brother, Maurice, played football.
Though her coaches hadn’t recruited Saah, she says, “they were willing to give me a chance and I was on the traveling team as a freshman. They understood how to motivate and teach me.”
As a freshman she was also positively influenced by teammate Ellen Vagelos. Of the three time All-Ivy, two time All-American, Karen says, “I loved the way that she played, the way she handled herself on and off the field, and how she interacted with her teammates. I always hoped to be a similar player and person.”
Today, Saah is an associate at the law firm Shearman and Sterling in New York, specializing in capital markets. She hopes to become a corporate LLP in-house counsel or perhaps a family court judge. She feels she didn’t miss out on anything Penn had to offer, describes her time there as a “wonderful experience,” and says of her coaches, “they definitely understood my personality.”
Coach Ann Sage remembers her well. “Karen contributed greatly to the championship team – and you knew she was good at fitting field hockey into academics,” she says. “She represents balance.”
This story was written by Suzanne Eschenbach in 2007 in conjunction with the Ivy@50 celebration.