Few people can go from circumnavigating the world to a desk job at a library.
Morris library’s associate dean for support services is one of those people.
“That was another lifetime. It was a tremendous experience. Like I said, I traveled the world and found out it is a pretty neat place,” said Howard Carter, the library’s associate dean. “But all of those experiences have gone into making me who and what I am today and how I do my daily work.”
Carter said he’s always considered himself to have a love for many things, so being able to go from a job above the clouds to one among bookshelves was a no-brainer.
Carter said he rarely talks about his time in the Air Force, but it’s a long story to tell when he does.
“I am by nature a generalist,” Carter said. “I had to decide what would satisfy that need in me, and after a few years I decided a library is probably the best place for a generalist that there could be.”
In 1968, Carter’s college career became serious when he transferred from his community college to the University of Southern California where he received his bachelor’s degree in history.
At the same time, Carter was in the ROTC program where he became 2nd lieutenant.
Carter said he signed up for the ROTC because he knew he would be drafted regardless.
“I knew that when I got through my college degree I was going to be called in to the military most likely and decided to do it under my terms rather than wait for the draft board to say ‘OK, here’s your gun,’” he said.
Carter said the Air Force made the most sense out of all the other options because of how quickly he could get home.
“I figured that wherever I was in the world, in the Air Force I was 24 hours away from home,” he said. “On a Navy ship it would take longer, and in the Army it’s a long walk.”
After the bachelor’s degree, Carter had the option to delay active duty for another year to get his master’s degree in American studies, where he ended up taking various courses within the major.
In his final semester, Carter said he created a syllabus for a course geared toward the evolution of American popular music and presented it to a teacher who helped him learn the material.
Carter said the 16-week syllabus went on to become a course the university offered for years to come and the professor informed Carter he was the only student at the time who studied American popular music.
After Carter was given his master’s degree, he said he went on to Sacramento, Calif., where he learned to be a navigator. Shortly after, he took a job in New Jersey as a navigator and was then stationed to Ramstein, Germany, in 1979 as a coordinator for a pre-Internet site the government made to communicate with other countries.
David Taylor, a friend of Carter and colleague in Ramstein, said Carter accomplished many things in his time at the base, but he was never too busy to make Taylor feel welcomed.
“He took care of me, and that has stayed with me,” Taylor said. “Most everybody else didn’t have the time (or) didn’t make the time to take care of that one 2nd lieutenant they had stuck in their office, and he was the exception. He made me feel a part of the team.”
Taylor said he never found another experience as enjoyable during the rest of his time serving.
“The rest of my career I didn’t have a tour like that, and I kept looking for a tour like that for the next 20 years,” Taylor said. “It was special, and he was a big part of that.”
Taylor went on to work in the Pentagon as part of the Command, Control, Communications and Computers Joint Chiefs of Staff organization.
In 1982, Carter became a navigator at Andrews Air Force Base in the presidential support wing, where he flew U.S. government members such as Dick Cheney, Ted Kennedy and George Bush senior.
Carter said he traveled to many countries such as Japan, France, China, Egypt and Italy during his times as a navigator.
“From the Coliseum in Rome, to the pyramids of Egypt, to the Taj Mahal, to the Great Wall of China, to the confluence of the Rio Negro and Rio (de la) Plata,” Carter said. “The world is really a great place, and the people we came into contact with were tremendous.”
After his time as a navigator, Carter finally decided to pursue a career in library affairs and studied at the University of Arizona with the help of his G.I. bill. He then went on to work at SIUC for the past 11-and-a-half years holding many different positions and now holds the title of associate dean of support services where he helped incorporate technology such as overhead projectors and online programs to help assist professors with the educational process.
J.P. Dunn, LMS administrator for Morris Library, said it was always easy to work with Carter because of the way he treated the people who worked with him.
“He’s pretty laid back, and he’s one of those people who believes in the people who work for him,” Dunn said. “As long as you’re doing your job, he pretty much stays out of the way and lets them do it, and I would consider Howard a pretty good friend.”
Carter said although he enjoys his career at SIUC, he is still used to the Air Force’s ever-changing lifestyle.
“My feet get itchy,” Carter said. “After about three years I said, ‘You know, isn’t it about time to do something else?’”