The Republic of France has promoted Carla Knorowski to the rank of Officer in its National Order of Merit (L’Ordre National Du Mérite). The award was bestowed upon Knorowski by Consul General of the Midwest in Chicago, Yannick Tagand, at a private ceremony at the Fortnightly of Chicago on Oct. 8.
Knorowski was bestowed the rank of Officer for her body of work and efforts to raise funds and awareness for the restoration and rebuilding of the historic Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. Knorowski serves on the board of directors of the Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris (FoND), which she joined in 2019.
She is a former University of Illinois Chicago advancement and alumni affairs official. Her mother, Mary Mastrantonio, grew up in the Polk and Carpenter Streets area.
Knorowski was recognized for her many achievements throughout her career, particularly in raising funds for arts, culture and education. She has served in leadership positions as a managing director of the Chicago Humanities Festival, CEO of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, and currently as president and chief development officer for the Naval War College Foundation.
Shortly after a catastrophic fire swept through the iconic, centuries-old Cathedral–a UNESCO World Heritage Site—Knorowski organized a global virtual fundraising event whose participants included cellist and one-time Paris resident Yo-Yo Ma, actress Glenn Close, filmmaker Ken Burns, journalist Scott Simon, and Notre-Dame Cathedral’s titular organist Olivier Latry, among others. She continues to work with her French and American directors of FoND to raise much-needed funds for the cathedral’s restoration.
Knorowski also has worked with the Paris-Chicago Sister Cities Committee to raise funds to cast and erect a statue of Illinois’ favorite son and 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, in the French capital of Paris. Like the cathedral, this project is ongoing.
Knorowski is a cultural explorer and has traveled more than 89,000 miles to visiting all the cities, villages, and towns in the world named, “Paris.” Inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s literary allusion that “Paris is a moveable feast,” Knorowski has set forth on a goodwill journey to visit the world’s Parises, bridging cultural gaps between French and American cultures, traditions, and people. At the midpoint of the journey, she presented an American flag which had flown over every Paris in the United States to the City of Paris, France, as a tribute to the City of Light and all its fellow Parises. Her journey continues.
Said Knorowski upon receiving the award, “It is a humbling honor to be recognized as an Officer in the National Order of Merit of France. I am wholly and proudly an American citizen, but I am also a citizen of the world and it is in this spirit that I have embraced France and graciously, she has embraced me. I shall not only hold sacred this honor you have bestowed upon me this evening, I shall continue to earn it.”
The National Order of Merit, steeped in history, was created on December 3, 1963, by then-President of the Republic Charles de Gaulle, who was later bestowed membership. It is the second national Order of France, the first being the Legion of Honor. It is under the authority of the Grand Master, President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron. The order recognizes distinguished civil or military service. Annually it is awarded to approximately 3,000 French citizens and 300 citizens of foreign nations.
Knorowski is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago, University Club of Chicago serving on its Civic Affairs Committee, a member and former director of the Society of Midland Authors, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Private Directors Association, and a former trustee of the Naval War College Foundation. She is an alumna of Harvard University’s Institutes for Higher Education Management Development Program; and is a three-time graduate of UIC, earning a PhD in public policy and political science and an MA and BA in communication.
She is the author of Gettysburg Replies: The World Responds to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (Lyons Press, 2015) and Under Lincoln’s Hat: 100 Objects That Tell the Story of His Life and Legacy (Lyons Press, 2016, co-authored with James M. Cornelius). Her writing also is featured in Lincoln: An Intimate Portrait (Life Books, 2014).
For more about Knorowski, see https://www.carlaknorowski.com/.