Role Model

Karen and Henry Coaxum

Class of 2007 | Coaxum Enterprises

Annually since 1986, YLC has selected a class of outstanding New Orleanians who serve as Role Models by actively contributing to the betterment of the Greater New Orleans region. These individuals are an inspiration to YLC’s young professional members and to the community at large.

Our 2020 Role Model Class is comprised of past role models from YLC's 34-year history. Revisiting our Role Models is an opportunity to learn about their changes in leadership, leadership lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what makes them Proud to Call New Orleans Home.

About Karen:

Karen Nabonne Coaxum is a proud native New Orleanian.  She grew up in the historic Pontchartrain Park subdivision, and is an honors graduate of St. Mary’s Academy High School, where her desire to become a journalist sprang.  She served as editor of the school’s newspaper and yearbook.  Attending Loyola University New Orleans led her to further her work in journalism.  She majored in journalism and was a writer for the university’s newspaper.  Before receiving her bachelor’s degree in three years, she was hired by New Orleans’ daily newspaper The Times-Picayune as a staff reporter.  She later joined the public affairs staff of the Ochsner Medical Institutions where her duties as director of communications included editing the employee newsletter, handling media and community relations, and acting as a spokesperson for the institutions.  She has served as director of public relations for Mercy Hospital, the Downtown Development District, New Orleans General Hospital, the Good Neighbor Clinic and the United Way of Southeast Louisiana.  

Her work in the media included her role as community affairs director at the NBC-affiliate WDSU-TV where she produced a weekly public affairs show.  Her career includes serving as director of marketing of Medfirst Health Plans, vice president of marketing of the Orleans Private Industry Council and as executive director of the Gulf South Minority Supplier Development Council.  Now, as director of marketing of Coaxum Enterprises, she oversees the marketing programs and activities of three McDonald’s restaurants owned and operated by her husband, Henry Coaxum.  

She and her husband were named as 2007 Role Models of the Young Leadership Council.  They also are the recipients of the United Way of the Greater New Orleans Area’s 2011 Alexis de Tocqueville Award – the highest honor bestowed upon individuals in recognition of philanthropic work and community volunteerism.  Coaxum was one of the 2012 New Orleans CityBusiness Women of the Year, which recognizes 50 women from the area whose successes in business and contributions to the community have set the pace for our region’s future. 

Coaxum and her husband, served as co-chairs of the “Ladies in Red”, an annual fundraiser of the African American Heritage Program of the Preservation Resource Center, the Edgar “Dooky” Jr. and Leah Chase Family Foundation Gala and the UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball. 

Coaxum served as a member of the Board of Directors of The Friends of WWOZ Radio Station; a member of the governing body of the United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Women’s Leadership Council; and a member of the United Way Board of Directors.  She has served as a former chair of the SuccessBy6 Program of the United Way; a member of the Board of Commissioners of the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission; and a member of the Advisory Council of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc.  She currently serves on the board of WYES New Orleans, the East New Orleans Business Development District, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.

She is a graduate of Loyola University of the South; the Amos Tuck School of Business’ Minority Business Executive Program at Dartmouth College; and the McDonald’s Corporation’s Worldwide Hamburger Marketing University.

She previously served on the boards of the YWCA, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the Girl Scouts of Southeast Louisiana, and the Louisiana Children’s Museum.  She also was an active member of the Press Club of New Orleans, the Public Relations Society of America, and the International Association of Business Communicators.  

In 2018, Coaxum served as a media consultant with New Orleans Convention Company, Inc., the event management company that produced the 45th Annual Bayou Classic.  She has been named as one of the recipients of the 2019 Prix d’Elegance Award, sponsored by the New Orleans Men of Fashion and Women of Fashion.

About Henry: 

Henry L. Coaxum, Jr., president of Coaxum Enterprises, Inc., is the owner/operator of three McDonald’s restaurants in New Orleans.  He has over 36 years of experience with the McDonald’s Corporation.  His first job with the McDonald’s Corporation was as a manager trainee at the McDonald’s restaurant located on the I-10 Service Road and Read Boulevard in Eastern New Orleans.  His career came full circle in 2002 when he became the owner/operator of that very same restaurant.  

Coaxum is past chairman of the New Orleans Business Alliance, the city’s first-ever public-private partnership for economic development and served as treasurer of the City’s Hospital Service District A Board that oversaw the redevelopment of the New Orleans East Hospital.

Coaxum has served as president of the Great Southern Region’s Black McDonald’s Operators Association.  He received The Ronald Award – a prestigious award that honors McDonald’s owner/operators for outstanding service to both the McDonald’s brand through exemplary operations, marketing, and employee relations practices, as well as to their local communities.

He currently is a member of the boards of the New Orleans Museum of Art, Audubon Nature Institute, GNO Inc., National World War II Museum, New Orleans African American Museum, University of New Orleans Foundation, New Orleans & Company, Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, Committee of 100 Louisiana and the Business Council of New Orleans & the River Region.

Coaxum and his wife Karen served as Co-Chairs of the Edgar “Dooky” Jr. and Leah Chase Family Foundation Gala; were named the recipients of the United Way’s Alexis de Tocqueville Award — the highest honor bestowed by the United Way, and share the distinction of being selected as Role Models of the Young Leadership Council.

Coaxum was recognized by the Neighborhood Development Foundation as being the recipient of The Leadership Award which honors an individual or organization who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the development and growth of New Orleans neighborhoods.  He was selected as a Laureate of the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame of the Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans, Inc., which inspires and prepares young people to successfully participate in their economy through workforce development, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy.

Coaxum was the recipient of the McDonald’s 365Black Award, which salutes outstanding individuals who are committed to making positive contributions that strengthen the African-American community.  

Coaxum, a 1973 graduate of Talladega College, was recognized by Talladega College with a Regional Outstanding Alumnus Award.  The Talladega College National Alumni Association selected Coaxum as its 2015 Hall of Honor recipient, presented by the UNCF National Alumni Council.   At the 2016 Talladega College’s commencement ceremonies, Coaxum received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from his alma mater.  

He is a recipient of the New Orleans Council for Community Justice’s Weiss Award.  As an individual who has been an influential leader within economic development, Coaxum received the 2017 Chairman’s Award for Lifetime Achievement from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).