The work never stops for Cartwright

Amanda Garrett

President Carol Cartwright is beginning her 15th year on the job this fall.

Credit: Beth Rankin

She dreamed of being a chemical engineer.

She was born in Sioux City, Iowa, but grew up all over the Midwest.

She loves to cook.

Meet Carol Cartwright, president of Kent State.

Cartwright has been a familiar figure on campus since she began her tenure as president in the fall of 1991.

The job description for a university president is “hard to get your arms around,” she said. Cartwright said she works 80 to 90 hours a week running the “overall leadership and management of the university.”

“I have a very strong team of provosts and vice presidents that I work directly with,” she said. “I view my job as being like a symphony conductor. When all the players are working together it makes a great symphony.”

Kent State has made significant progress under Cartwright’s leadership, said David Creamer, vice president of administration. Cartwright’s most significant achievements are building a relationship with the Northeast Ohio community and increasing enrollment during a period of decreasing state and federal funding.

“She has done a substantial amount for the university,” Creamer said. “The amazing thing is that she has moved the university forward during very harsh financial times. Most presidents would have probably went into a holding pattern and just tried to stay where we were.”

In her rare downtime, Cartwright said she enjoys reading novels and biographies.

Another passion of Cartwright’s is cooking.

“I don’t specialize in a particular cuisine,” she said. “I enjoy exploring cuisine and experimenting with all the spices and ingredients to see what the results are.”

Cartwright lives near Kent with her husband G. Phillip Cartwright, professor emeritus of special education at the University of California Davis. The Cartwrights have three grown children and two grandchildren.

During their university careers, Cartwright worked closely with her husband. They have written around two dozen research articles and textbooks together.

“We are very fortunate, because we have always worked well together,” she said. “We complement each other.”

When Cartwright entered the University of Wisconisin-Whitewater to get an undergraduate degree, she didn’t plan on specializing in education.

Cartwright wanted to be a chemical engineer, but there were few women in that field.

“At that time, it was an extremely chilly atmosphere for women in science,” she said. “The only two fields considered acceptable for women were nursing and teaching.”

Cartwright went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and a masters’ and doctorate degree in special education.

After teaching and conducting research at the University of Hawaii, Pennsylvania State University and the University of London, Cartwright moved into university administration. She served as dean for Undergraduate Programs and Vice Provost of Penn State from 1984 to 1988, and as Vice Chancellor of UC Davis from 1988 to 1991.

Although she has worked at several other universities, Kent is unique because of its strong ties to Northeast Ohio.

“Kent State has an extraordinary commitment to our region,” she said. “The scientific research that occurs in so many fields, we put to work in the region.”

The future of Kent State depends on regional development, Cartwright said.

As for her personal future, Cartwright said she will work until the end of her two-year contract, and then she will decide whether to continue at Kent State.

For now, she said she is looking forward to the new semester.

“There is always a sense of excitement at the beginning of a new academic year,” she said. “You can feel it in the air — the sense of possibility, of dreams coming true.

“In a matter of two or three weeks things change and settle down. Routines and rhythms are established. But for those first few weeks of the semester, everything is new and it’s very exciting.”

Contact on-campus reporter Amanda Garrett at [email protected].