back to news June 20, 2018

Alumna’s experience at Ohio State fuels connection, outreach in New Orleans

Karen Boudrie Greig’s heart is in New Orleans.

And she owes that, in part, to the time she spent at Ohio State.

Finding your niche and finding the things you can contribute to and learn from and grow from at Ohio State helped me do that every time I came to a city,” she said. 

From using her public relations firm to aid in the repopulation of a parish devastated by Hurricane Katrina to being crowned goddess of the largest all-female Mardi Gras krewe, Greig’s connection to the Big Easy has blossomed quickly.

Greig was born in Columbus but moved to Cincinnati when she was young. She returned to earn her degree in broadcast journalism from Ohio State in 1982 before starting her career as a reporter and anchor for a station in Corpus Christi, Texas. 

There, Greig covered the trial of Carlos DeLuna, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1989. DeLuna maintained his innocence leading up to his execution and in 2012, an investigation by the Columbia Human Rights Law Review revealed evidence suggesting he was wrongly convicted. Greig, whom DeLuna contacted by phone an hour before his execution, was recently interviewed for an upcoming documentary about the case.

In 1990, Greig formed an independent news station in southeast Georgia. She moved on to New Orleans in 1992, where she continued her broadcast journalism career as a reporter and anchor until 2001, when she started her own marketing and public relations firm.

In August of 2005, the dynamic and character of New Orleans changed forever when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Neighborhoods were flooded. Buildings were destroyed. There were people who were trapped, scared and alone.

In the New Orleans suburb of Kenner, Greig was in the middle of it all.

“Half of that city was basically underwater,” she said. “I was embedded within a bunch of emergency crews and the public works and Homeland Security folks. We were all together making decisions on how we were going to handle things.”

The chaos and tragedy of that fateful summer left deep scars that are still felt to this day. Though New Orleans has managed to emerge from the ashes galvanized and united, communities in and around southeastern Louisiana are still impacted by the storm 13 years ago.

And Greig remains immersed in the effort to restore and rebuild. St. Bernard Parish — which is situated on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico on New Orleans’ southeast side — was obliterated. A 25-foot storm surge created by Katrina destroyed levees protecting the parish from the sea, leaving almost the entire community flooded.

Today, much of St. Bernard’s infrastructure has been rebuilt, and the community has gone from recovery mode to redevelopment mode. Sold on St. Bernard is a program dedicated to moving folks back to the community. Greig’s public relations firm built the program’s website, handles its social media, develops marketing strategies and promotes its media.

“They’re redeveloping smartly and they’re doing it better than it was done before as far as revitalizing neighborhoods and bringing back communities,” Greig said. 

Karen Boudrie Greig in the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade as goddess of the Mystic Krewe of Nyx
Karen Boudrie Greig in the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade as goddess of the Mystic Krewe of Nyx.

Greig’s tie to New Orleans doesn’t end there. Last February, she led a massive Mardi Gras parade down the city’s historic St. Charles Avenue as goddess of the Mystic Krewe of Nyx. The parade consisted of 44 floats and 3,348 riders. Greig’s reign as goddess lasts until November, and until then, she plans to make various appearances as Mardi Gras royalty. 

The krewe, which formed in 2012, carries out charity and philanthropic work throughout New Orleans. Greig became involved with the krewe because of her role as president of the Military Officers’ Wives Club of Greater New Orleans. This year, she is helping fundraise for Hero Dogs, a group that trains service dogs for military veterans.

Greig once thought New Orleans would be just another stop on a longer journey. But now, after 26 years, she can safely say she’s found her destination.

"There’s just something special about the people here and the culture here,” she said. “[Hurricane Katrina and Mardi Gras] just makes you tied to that community in a way that you might not be in other places.”

Greig might be forever tethered to southeastern Louisiana, but her time at Ohio State was ultimately what sealed her desire to venture into areas unknown to her and make them her own.

“Ohio State was so big and had a lot to offer,” she said. “You had to find your niche … There was that tradition that was so strong, and coming into a city, every time I went somewhere new, I had to make my way again.”

Karen Boudrie Grieg's experience at Ohio State ignited an innate desire to connect with her communities — a mindset she has clung to in New Orleans. #ASCDaily