A community college leader of his time, Charles E. Carpenter was the founder of the Community College Leadership Program at Oregon State University, now part of the College of Education’s Adult and Higher Education Program. Shortly before Charles passed away in 2003, the Charles E. Carpenter Lecture and Conference endowment was created in his name. Today his legacy is carried on by his spouse, Doreene Carpenter.
As a young man returning from WWII, Charles completed his GED and pursued higher education in Colorado. Instructing night classes he found an affinity and talent for teaching adults. The emerging community college system became the arena for what he viewed as “servant leadership.”
He worked alongside an architect to plan and build Highline Community College in South Seattle where he was an administrator and teacher, and served briefly as interim President. With the same architect, he served as planner and initial developer of the multicampus Seattle Community College.
Charles was inspired to improve his credentials so he earned a Ph.D. at the University of Texas-Austin, surrounded by outstanding professors and a cadre of students who became notable leaders in the blooming community college movement. Immediately Charles put his skills to the challenge to become founding President of Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
When that institution was well established, Charles turned his attention to bringing additional leaders into the field in Corvallis, Oregon.
Charles and his wife, Doreene, arrived in Corvallis in 1972. He found that it would require vision and persistence to develop courses and attract professors and students in a university setting. Eventually, his Community College Leadership Program took off. Student cohorts met monthly at Silver Falls Conference Center, which allowed them to remain employed and engaged in their careers. Charles and his teaching cadre could boast that their program had the highest completion rate of all.
While Charles was accomplishing his goals, Doreene was busy as well. Having previously taught in Seattle and Austin, she enrolled in a summer class at OSU to become credentialed to continue teaching in Oregon. Although her life as an OSU student was brief, it was meaningful.
“My life’s trajectory could not have proceeded without that one class. It opened up everything for me, and I loved my teaching.”
She taught K-2 at Bellfountain School in South Benton County before becoming employed in Corvallis, where she taught primarily kindergarten at Adams, Wilson, Fairplay and Harding.
“I would have 30 students in the morning and another 30 in the afternoon. With the flow of students coming and going, I could have upwards of 70 students over a year. That is a lot of children.”
She has since enjoyed the privilege of attending weddings and holding babies, and occasional encounters with former students and their parents.
Doreene holds a great amount of pride for Charles’s extensive and lasting influence. “Students come from across the country to achieve higher degrees in community college leadership. It’s a very strong program. It’s important.”
Inside and outside the classroom, Doreene Carpenter has always found a way to inspire education. Through her support of the Charles Carpenter Conference and Lecture endowment she seeks quietly to play an impactful role in the success of College of Education students.
“My legacy has to be that I helped keep Chuck’s legacy going,” she says.
Every year, Doreene looks forward to greeting attendees of the lecture, admiring student work, and immersing herself in the richness of the lecture. She continues to donate to the event and the program, eager to see how it continues to evolve throughout the years.
“I think it’s remarkable what everyone is able to pull together and present each year,” she says. “I want these annual events to be very inclusive and bring people together.”
The lecture and Doreene’s donations all center around her belief that community colleges, and educational institutions in general, are vital to the success of everyone.
“Community colleges lift entire communities, student by student,” she says. “They are nimble and able to respond to the needs of students in their communities and create programming to support what the workforce needs or give students a leg-up toward university instruction.”
Doreene plans to continue inviting friends, associates and degree recipients to become donors to the Charles Carpenter Annual Conference and Lecture Fund. She hopes to further develop the Conference aspect of the event.
“In the end, Charles left me in a position to be able to support the annual lecture in a meaningful fashion, for which I am very grateful.”
This year’s Charles E. Carpenter Lecture and Conference Endowment will be held virtually on February 17, 2022, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. PST. The event speaker will be Dr. Rufus Glasper, President, and CEO of the League for Innovation in the Community College. The title of the lecture is The Paradigm Shift for Higher Education.