Butler Alum gives back through his own foundation
A lifelong academic, Butler alum doesn't let past define him.
His parents were illiterate. He grew up in what he calls “abject poverty” in rural Kentucky. He didn’t dream about going to college — something no one in his family had done.
David W. Carter not only went on to earn a doctorate after starting his education at Butler Community College, he also now funds scholarships so others can follow in his footsteps through his Laurie Marie Foundation. The foundation recently awarded scholarships to five Butler students.
Carter was the 2019 commencement speaker at Butler. A speaker and educator, he served in the U.S. Air Force as a combat engineer, as a police officer and as an education technician for the National Park Service. The San Diego resident now serves as the Chief Academic Officer for Columbia College Hollywood.
“I work with companies, colleges and universities to improve efficiency in organizations,” he said. “I’m a lifelong academic, so I’m always teaching in some capacity as well. I write as well. I work more in the education space than anything else.”
Carter started classes at Butler in late 2006 prior to a deployment, finding the college while he was at McConnell Air Force Base. He finished up in 2008. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Maryland, a master’s degree in military history from Norwich University and a doctorate in higher education and organizational development from Benedictine University. He’s given two TEDx Talks about leadership — “The Lesser Seat” in 2015 and “How Old Are You?” (the answer is “old enough”) in 2016.
Carter said he was inspired to start his foundation to help students like him see a path to success.
“I do not believe in debt,” he said in a recent interview. “Community college has long since had a mission to make college affordable for students. Butler has continued along that path. That was a big part of the impetus for starting the foundation.”
Butler provided a $500 scholarship to Carter when he started classes, and he used it to purchase a laptop.
“It was a powerful moment for me,” he said.
Carter named his foundation after his mother-in-law, who gave him money to “buy an old Jeep in Benton, Kansas, so I could get to classes at Butler.”
Without the laptop and the vehicle, he’s not sure where he would have ended up. His mother-in-law reviews every scholarship application.
The foundation cuts checks directly to students.
“We don’t have a middleman, so to speak,” he said.
He keeps the criteria simple, hoping to reach students who need the most financial assistance. Applicants must write in an essay how the scholarship would benefit them. The foundation, created in 2016, awards five to 20 recipients every year. Money for the scholarships comes from his speaking fees.
“I put 50% of what I make as a speaker and give it to the foundation,” he said. Students don’t have to be studying anything particular. He studied teaching at Butler.
“Secondary education was my focus there, and I’ve been teaching ever since,” he said. “I had fantastic instructors at Butler who poured into my education. Because of that, I’ve always had Butler in mind as far as giving back.”
This was the first year the Laurie Marie Foundation awarded $500 scholarships to Butler students. Being commencement speaker, he said, “just reinforced that concept of giving back where there’s a need to do so. Community college is just such a great place to give.” At age 17, Carter joined the military “so I would have a pathway to education in some form.”
He remains the only one in his family to graduate from college.
“That wasn’t a thing that anyone did in my family,” Carter said. “I did have a difficult upbringing — as a lot of students do. I didn’t let that define me.”
During a 2018 visit to Butler, he told staff at a conference during orientation week that “I have so many fond memories of my time here. My mind got stretched here. The courses I took changed my life.”
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