For 32 years, Lorna Jorgenson Wendt was a full-time wife, mother, manager of her home and corporate wife. Overnight, she became one of the most visible women in America and a pioneer in the quest for equality before, during and after marriage.
Lorna had been married to Gary Wendt, former CEO of General Electric Capital, for over three decades when he took steps to end their marriage. When she was offered approximately ten percent of their assets, Lorna mustered the courage and strength to fight back, defending her role as an equal partner in their long-term relationship.
“My case was never about the money,” says Lorna. “It was about someone implying I was a ten percent participant in my partnership. In reality, I always gave 100 percent, putting my career on hold to raise the children, manage the household and support him in his business endeavors.”
Her willingness to go public with a very private matter started a national discussion on fairness and equality in marriage and divorce. Her many media appearances included the cover of Fortune and Oprah . She received thousands of phone calls and letters from people admiring both her stance and the self-esteem it took to rise above the negative emotional aspects of divorce and manage her process with knowledge and dignity. Dedicated to helping others understand and obtain equality before, during and after marriage, Wendt founded the Equality in Marriage Institute in 1998.
The Equality in Marriage Institute was a leader in promoting marriage as an emotional, legal and financial partnership of equals that must be defined and maintained. The Institute helped hundreds of thousands of men and women across the country better manage their marriages, their transitions and their lives. As a premiere source of information and support, The Institute was a pioneer in promoting discussion on issues related to marriage and divorce in the United States and beyond. The Institute closed its doors in 2006, but the voice and impact of the organization will resonate in our culture for many years to come
Lorna continues to tell her story and inspire others through media appearances and speaking engagements across the country. She has become a permanent part of the partnership landscape, her story captured in numerous books on marriage and divorce. In 2001, Worth Magazine named Lorna as one of the top ten most influential people on the way American’s view money.
Lorna’s efforts in the public eye have also shed light on her lifelong commitment to many civic and nonprofit organizations. She is a board member for the University of Wisconsin ‘s Women’s Philanthropy Council; and on the advisory boards of Outward Bound USA, and the University of Wisconsin ‘s School of Music and College of Letters and Sciences. She is also the vice chairman of the Outward Bound International Board, an honorary trustee of the Stamford Symphony, and serves as a singer and a member of the Greenwich Chorale Society. Lorna has also joined The Belizean Grove, an invitation only organization of women in business, government and academe.