Carpenter retires after building career
By monét cooper
Shirley Carpenter lives by the motto, “Your life is what you make it, no matter where you are.”
Her first job, a clerical position at the Nashville Housing Authority, taught her that lesson and a few others. Carpenter, associate vice president of Human Resources, was one of five blacks who worked in the main office. But more than an experience in racial politics, Carpenter remembers the Nashville Housing Authority as the place where she learned humanism.
“The biggest thing I learned from that job is that people are people—no matter what color their skin is, what their backgrounds are or their culture.”
But Carpenter said it was her parents who provided her and her five siblings with a solid foundation.
“My parents raised us to be independent thinkers,” she said of her mom and dad, who only had a high school education. “They made us accountable for our own actions. They aspired for all of us to get an education. Whether or not we pursued that was a decision made by us.”
Carpenter graduated from Tennessee State University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and earned her master’s in administration at Central Michigan University
While working at Fisk University as administrative assistant to the president, the personnel director went on medical leave and Carpenter was asked to fill the post until the director returned. After three months on the job, she asked the president and vice president who was going to fill the position since the former director was not returning. They told her they had already found someone—her.
“Why did they choose me? The fact that I am attentive to my work, I worked well with the employees in the college—faculty and staff,” said Carpenter. “I don’t mind working hard or exercising good judgment.”
Her “good judgment” also extends to knowing when it’s time to begin something new—like the “second chapter” in her life.
“I’ve been at this for quite some time,” she said. “I enjoy what I do and I want to retire while I still love doing what I do.”
When Carpenter leaves Morehouse on June 30, she will spend a few weeks with her 9-month-old granddaughter, travel across country, revisit Hawaii’s islands and the “painted desert” of the Grand Canyon.
When asked to share a lifetime’s worth of advice, Carpenter turned to her shelf and removed a copy of the Morehouse Campus Directory. Circling a slowly over the front cover, she began to say the Institutional Values.
“Adopt the principles set out by the Institutional Values Project,” she said. “Morehouse is a fine institution that has a lot to offer, but we can only offer what the people who make up the institution are willing to give.”
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