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Chico State

Educator, Record-Setting Goalkeeper, and Distinguished Alumni Tom Carter 

A black and white headshot of Tom Carter with the words, '2024 Distinguished Alumni Honoree' written in white text across a red banner.

Tom Carter was a veritable force for the Chico State soccer team, leading the Wildcats to the 1970 Far West Conference and West Region Championships—a feat accomplished despite his lack of experience on the pitch. 

“Basketball was actually my first love,” said Carter (Physical Education, ’70; Teaching Credential, ’71; MA, Physical Education, ’75), who played on Chico State’s team as a freshman, sophomore, and junior. “I was ready for a change and the soccer team just happened to need a goalkeeper, and that was the only position where I had any relevant skills.” 

He quickly learned the game and translated his love for strategy into a winning formula; Carter posted the program’s best career goals-against average (0.80) on the strength of his record-setting single-season mark of 0.60 during his senior year. Both records stood for 48 seasons. 

While Carter proved to be an adaptable athlete and a natural leader, he was steadfast about a career in education. “From as far back as junior high, my two favorite things were always math and physical education,” Carter explained. “This carried on in high school and I really followed my gut into college.”

After graduation, he and his wife Donna Carter (Business Administration, ’69) began their teaching and coaching careers abroad, taking an opportunity to teach in Australia before returning to work in the United States at Paradise High School. Back on home soil, he served as girls’ basketball and boys’ tennis coach and taught math and PE. 

Over the years, Carter produced winning teams and fostered a culture of sportsmanship and fairness. His dedication to learners and the community led him to serve as director of officials for the Chico Youth Soccer League, tournament director for the Paradise Girls’ Basketball Tournament, and as a member of the Enloe Medical Center volunteer team. In addition, he is a former member of the Chico State Alumni Association Board.   

It is with immense pride that we recognize his contributions through the Distinguished Alumni Service Award.

Why did you choose Chico?

My dad worked for the Department of Agriculture, and we moved around quite a bit when I was growing up. But the bulk of my early childhood was in Boise, Idaho. I love Boise—it was just a nice place. 

My family moved to Sacramento during my junior year of high school, and I finished up there. When I came to Chico shortly after, it reminded me a lot of Boise. The cities were about the same size back then. But Chico was a good fit for me right from the beginning: a college town with two rival high schools in an agricultural area, and it just felt like home. That’s why I’m still here. 

What was your experience like as a student-athlete and when did soccer become a fixture on your calendar?

Basketball was my first love, but after my junior year I was ready for a change. The soccer team just happened to need a goalkeeper at the time and that was the only position where I had any relevant skills. That’s how it happened, more or less: I used basketball skills to learn to play goalkeeper. I could use my hands, had some hand-eye coordination, and could jump, but for the most part it was an on-the-job training sort of deal.

It was really an exciting time to be a part of Chico State soccer. The sport was growing a lot. Coach (Don) Batie had been there a year or two and was starting to make good changes. We had a mix of foreign players who had grown up with soccer and we also started getting players from the Bay Area. A whole nucleus of guys came up from City College of San Francisco. It was a really fun time to be playing—and, of course, winning helps. 

What took you to Australia after graduating? 

It was 1972. I had just finished my credential and there weren’t many teaching jobs in California at the time. But over in the state of Victoria, Australia, they were desperate for teachers. Their teacher training colleges were lagging behind and needed a couple of years to get caught up, so recruiters came over to California and invited us to go over there. It was a great opportunity. My wife and I had been married for three and a half years, but we didn’t have a family yet and didn’t own a house, so we packed our suitcases and went for it. They gave us both free tickets for what amounted to a working vacation. We saw a lot of Australia and gained some teaching experience. It was a good time in my life.

Were there any faculty members at Chico State who made a significant impact on your career?

As a PE major, it would have to be Willie Simmons (Physical Education, ’50; MA, Physical Education, ’51). He was a legend who coached boxing, ballroom dancing, football, and more. He had a big influence on me and many, many others. Ask any PE major who came through the program in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, they will probably all tell you the same thing. 

He specialized in training PE teachers and coaches, and one of his theories was not to get hung up on your own ego. All your decisions should be about what’s best for kids, not what’s best for teachers or what’s best for coaches. It should always be what’s best for kids. 

You’ve shown immense dedication to students and the community throughout your career. What is it about this work that has been so meaningful to you?

Teachers have an interest in kids and a lot of us get involved in things outside of school—in activities that typically involve working with kids. And, of course, PE teachers are involved in sports and there are a lot of sporting things going on in the community, like youth soccer and basketball. That’s part of the job. For those who have kids, that adds to the dynamic. I coached my son’s soccer team for four or five years and got involved with all the things he was involved in. You don’t do this with any thoughts of recognition one day.