Karl W. Abt was born in Helmstedt, Germany, August 20, 1923. He began attending Northwestern University in 1941 as a chemistry major, College of Arts and Sciences. In 1943 he left Northwestern and went to the U.S. Army where he was in the Army Intelligence Service, European Theatre, until his discharge in 1946. Abt attended Princeton University, taking European language courses in accordance with his military duties, from October to December, 1943.
In 1946 Abt returned to Northwestern and declared a new major in business administration, School of Commerce. He graduated in 1948 with a B.S. in Business Administration (concentration in business management/personnel). While at Northwestern, Abt was active in the NU Band, playing clarinet and bass clarinet, the Christian Youth League, and was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity. Abt also received an M.S. in Accounting from Roosevelt University, Chicago, in 1983.