Joe and Cathleen Karcher and their daughters Lauren and Emily pose with Joseph Womack, president of Northwest Christian University in Eugene. The Karchers were recipients of the Exemplary Ethical Leadership Award presented by the university’s Center for Leadership and Ethics. (Courtesy Jeremiah Leslie)
Joe and Cathleen Karcher and their daughters Lauren and Emily pose with Joseph Womack, president of Northwest Christian University in Eugene. The Karchers were recipients of the Exemplary Ethical Leadership Award presented by the university’s Center for Leadership and Ethics. (Courtesy Jeremiah Leslie)

EUGENE — Cathleen and Joe Karcher, members of St. Paul Parish here, have been recognized by Northwest Christian University for ethical leadership and commitment to the community.

The Karchers in May received the 2018 Exemplary Ethical Leadership Award from the school’s Center for Leadership and Ethics.

“Cathleen and Joe embody what it means to live a Christian life,” said Joseph Womack, president of Northwest Christian. “Faith is at the center of their lives at home, in the office and in the community.

 Their generosity can only be measured by the prayerful humility by which they have raised a family, built a business, provided employment opportunities, and how they have selflessly and quietly given to our community.”

In accepting the award, Joe credited his in-laws and parents for the way they learned to live a faith-filled life. Joe shared a story about his father, Carl, the founder of Carl’s Jr. restaurants, to underscore how faith can be integrated into all that we do.

“My dad became quite an iconic person in Orange County. He became very well known for always giving out a guest card for a free Carl’s Jr. meal to anyone he met,” Joe said. “And I mean anyone.”

The family has a photo of Carl Karcher handing a free meal card to Pope John Paul II.

“It was not just a guest card,” Joe said. “My dad used this as a way to spread his faith. The guest card was always enclosed in a small pamphlet that included the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. There is one line in this prayer that says: ‘For it is in giving that we receive.’”

The Karchers, along with their infant daughter Lauren, moved to Eugene in 1990 to become the Oregon franchisee for Carl’s Jr. As their business grew, their family did, too, with the additions of son Alex and daughter Emily. In 2015, they added to their business by beginning to franchise The Human Bean coffee stands and Jersey Mike’s sandwich shops.

Their charitable work began by assisting with fundraisers at St. Paul Parish School, St. Paul Church and Marist High School.

Today, they work with many organizations including Catholic Community Services, Northwest Christian University, St. Vincent de Paul, Special Olympics, United Way, the University of Oregon, Volunteers in Medicine, Angel Hair and Clark County Food Bank.