Carey Dunai Lohrenz ’90

Flying High

Carey Lohrenz


Carey Dunai Lohrenz ’90 knows you’ve been afraid sometimes. She has been, too.

She also knows the life-or-death meaning of teamwork. On the deck of an aircraft carrier. In the pitch-black night. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

And, she knows that with grit and honor, you can work through that fear — even at thirty thousand feet. Lohrenz made history as the first female F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy. She navigated a path through military service with nearly every kind of fear-inducing challenge: physical, mental, legal, political.

“People think that fighter pilots aren’t afraid of anything, and yet that’s not true,” she says. “It’s that we’ve learned and developed the ability to work through fear, and flip it, and make it actionable, so that it works for us, and not against us.”

Lohrenz left the navy in 1999. Today, as a speaker and consultant for the business world, she translates the soaring highs and lows of her aviation career into powerful insights about teamwork and leadership. In her book Fearless Leadership, she offers clues to her motivation: she’s a former UW varsity rower and a native of Green Bay, Wisconsin — “a place where people tend to have a tremendous work ethic,” she writes.

Through her travels, Lohrenz has discovered that this “Midwestern stoicism … that ability to just do the work with no fanfare” may be uniquely Wisconsin. But, she warns, that attitude may actually be an unexpected disadvantage in today’s workforce, filled with noise and often-unwarranted self-promotion.

“Those of us who grow up in a system thinking, ‘All I have do is perform, and my performance will speak for itself’ can actually be left behind,” says Lohrenz, who’s embraced social media as one way to tell her own story.

The mother of four loves to visit UW–Madison, where her eldest child, Alexandra Lohrenz x’19, is the newest Badger in a family of grads that also includes Lohrenz’s father and brother.

Back home in Minneapolis, Lohrenz is, unsurprisingly, flying fast. Her consultancy takes her worldwide; she’s launched her debut book; her second book is due out this fall; and she’s pursuing an MBA with the ultimate goal of a PhD in organizational psychology.

“Anything great that you’re going to want to accomplish is going to involve fear and discomfort, and making other people uncomfortable,” she says. “But you have to go for it anyway. That’s how you make a difference.”

Published in the Summer 2016 issue


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