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Carter Succeeds Cibes
By ROBERT A. FRAHM | Courant Staff Writer
December 17, 2005
Carter's Next Big Challenge
After A 17-Year Run As Eastern's President, He Will Direct The CSU System As Chancellor
As he was introduced Friday as the Connecticut State University system's new chancellor, David G. Carter reflected on how life has changed since a tragic fire shattered his boyhood in Dayton, Ohio.
Soon after the fire destroyed a family grocery store, his father died, leaving the young Carter, along with his mother and an older brother, to struggle to get by in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods.
With the encouragement of others, he escaped the tough life of the streets and built a successful career that culminated in Friday's appointment to head the state's largest university.
"It's what my mother always said," said Carter, his neck and right hand still bearing the scars of that fire. "Your situation need not be your destination."
It is a story that he has told before - a lesson in perseverance and hope that has shaped his efforts to revitalize Eastern Connecticut State University, the smallest of CSU's four campuses, and to convince countless young people that a college education could change their lives.
It was that kind of can-do approach, along with his successful record at Eastern, that led CSU trustees to pick him over two other finalists - college presidents from Colorado and Indiana - to head the system of more than 35,000 students.
Carter, 63, will finish a 17-year career as president of Eastern's campus in Willimantic when he takes over as chancellor overseeing all four CSU campuses in February.
"We've all recognized the fact he's been our finest president," said Lawrence McHugh, chairman of CSU's board of trustees. "How do you deny a person you consider a role model ... the opportunity to move forward?"
At Eastern, Carter became the first African American to head a four-year college in New England, overseeing an ambitious construction and renovation effort.
The once nondescript campus in rural eastern Connecticut underwent a major face-lift, and it expanded its student body steadily during the 1990s while other public colleges throughout the state suffered enrollment losses.
Carter also led an effort to identify Eastern as the state's main public residential liberal arts college. He attempted to broaden the school's appeal, increasing the percentage of minority students, recruiting more foreign students and expanding the number of minority faculty and staff.
He often mingles with students and is widely known for his efforts to encourage students whose low income, marginal academic record or family circumstances might otherwise prevent them from attending college.
"You don't do it alone," said Carter, who credits two schoolteachers with influencing the course of his life. He flirted with trouble during his school years, but the two teachers, sisters Katherine and Ruth Everett, took an interest in him. They encouraged him, and as he grew older, they hired him to shovel snow and do other odd jobs. When he attended Central State University in Ohio, they sent him books and continued to follow his progress.
They also encouraged him as he pursued his master's degree at Miami University in Ohio and a doctoral degree at The Ohio State University.
"I owe so much to them," said Carter, who mentioned them Friday in brief remarks to CSU's board of trustees, moments after the board had voted to appoint him to the chancellor's job.
Carter began his career as a teacher and principal in Dayton and worked in administrative jobs at the University of Connecticut before being named Eastern's president in 1988.
He succeeds William J. Cibes Jr., who will retire after 12 years as CSU's chancellor. Carter's annual salary will be $235,719.
At CSU's central office, he will take over a system that has wrestled with rising costs, tight state budgets, sharp tuition increases and pressure to build enrollment. Although Eastern's enrollment grew during the 1990s, overall enrollment at CSU slipped until near the end of the decade. The system now includes a record number of full-time students, but its growth has been slower than that at the state's other public colleges.
The system has an annual budget of about $450 million and operates campuses in New Britain, New Haven, Danbury and Willimantic.
Carter's appointment drew praise on and off campus Friday.
"If he does as well with the CSU system as he has done at Eastern, we'll have a very fine leader," said Andrew Nilsson, a social work professor at Eastern and president of the campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors. Nilsson called Carter "a consummate politician," and, he said, "he has the support and respect of the great majority of faculty."
Students said they often see Carter on campus, sometimes sitting down to eat with them in the cafeteria.
"Whenever there's a big event, you see him," said Fannie Braboy, a sophomore biology major from Norwich. She said that Carter sometimes stops her to encourage her "to work on that 4.0" grade point average. "It just lets you know he's aware of what's going on."
As chancellor, the outspoken Carter, who has been known to push hard for improvements at Eastern, now will become a key figure lobbying the legislature to build support for the entire CSU system. State Sen. Thomas P. Gaffey, D-Meriden, who is co-chairman of the legislature's education committee, praised the appointment.
"Just a great selection," Gaffey said. "He's a perfect choice to fill that role."
Copyright 2005, Hartford Courant
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