An easy smile, sense of humor, and friendly conversational style are the first things that people notice about Tom Carpenter. He has a way of putting people at their ease, and he gives off a reassuring sense of “we can do this.” Leadership comes naturally to Tom, and he feels it’s an important part of life. For Tom, this has resulted in a multitude of rewards. Helping people to grow and find their own voices is rewarding, but becoming aware of synchronicities and the scope of the campus and community as a whole, well, “that’s gold.”
Tom has been a member of SPAC for five years, and is in his second term as Chair; he also served as Vice Chair and as Secretary. For the past 12 ½ years, Tom has been Director of Graduate Admissions and Services. On February 5 he moves into a new position as Assistant Dean of Extended Campuses. He has enjoyed working directly with graduate students to help them solve problems and succeed. He looks forward to working with new programs in Extended Campuses, though he’ll miss working directly with the students.
There are many (and unexpected) facets to Tom. He was born in Havre, Montana, and moved to Kingman, Arizona, at about age 10, when Kingman was still “small-town Arizona.” It was here that Tom first learned to love canoeing—which remains one of his favorite activities—when he earned a canoeing merit badge in the Boy Scouts. Tom left Kingman when he joined the US Navy in 1975; he used the GI Bill to attend NAU (BS in English) and the University of British Columbia (MFA in Creative Writing). While at NAU, he met and married his wife, Kathleen, who was his supervisor at Cline Library. They moved together to Point Roberts, Washington, while Tom earned his master’s. While there, Tom served as the Fire Chief of Point Roberts. They returned to Arizona for the birth of their son, James, who graduated this past December from the University of Arizona with a degree in Creative Writing (must be in the genes). James is awaiting posting with the Peace Corps.
When James turned 17 (“and didn’t have time for me anymore”), Tom dove into community involvement. His first step was to join the Flagstaff Leadership Program, which exposed him to a wide spectrum of community volunteering opportunities. After finishing that program, he began volunteering with the Northern Arizona Book Festival and the Arizona Historical Society, and remains active with both.
Writing has been a lifelong passion for Tom. Many of you have seen his column in the Arizona Daily Sun, which he began writing in 1995 (a book of his collected columns, Laughing on the Inside, was published in 1998); he also writes poetry (see his limerick below), and has written extensively for Arizona Highways (he remains the only author to also be featured on the cover).
Tom has been teaching creative writing at NAU and CCC for a number of years; currently, he teaches a humor writing course each fall through NAU’s Journalism program and helps with the Finley Humorous Writing Contest each year. Tom was a freelance writer and editor for a few years, during which time he edited, among other things, cookbooks, a scuba diving manual, and books on the martial arts.
In addition to writing, canoeing, and community involvement, Tom is a serious musician and has played guitar for 40 years, as well as the banjo, mandolin, Dobro, and ukulele.
by Tom Carpenter
From Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, July 1991
‘Twas July when we buried Calhoun
And sealed him tight in his tomb.
His headstone is bare
With no markings there
Since his name we had buried in June.