If you are a rather tall black male in the Middle East or northern Europe, you will be noticed. 2013 Brenau business graduate Chris Carpenter brought a world of experience to his undergraduate studies at Brenau.
Christopher Maurice Carpenter, 43, took a bit of detour on the way to the Fairburn campus by playing professional basketball in Finland and Israel for a few years.
“I’m African American and 6 feet 5 inches tall; I stood out in Finland and Israel,” Carpenter says with a laugh. Now, his Brenau University graduation day will be the same week as his 18-year-old daughter Cha’ntylle graduates from Sandy Creek High School near their home in Tyrone, Ga. He has earned a Bachelor of Arts in operations management and a Bachelor of Arts in human resource management. His unorthodox path prepared him for the career he wants in logistics.
After attending Iowa Wesleyan College in 1990 during a disastrous season for the Tigers basketball team, Chicago-native Carpenter spent three years beginning in 1992 playing for Israel’s team in the European Basketball League. He embraced the experience. He lived in Tel Aviv and in kibbutzes, the farming and high tech communities scattered across Israel. And he visited unforgettable historic sites including the high mountains separating Israel from Syria. When he describes the eerie landscape, he conjures up what could be metaphor for the Middle East itself.
“There were soldiers from both countries behind fences that were so close enough to talk to each other—but they didn’t,” he says. “They just stared at each other silently. The tension was incredible. I thought, they see this strip of land as having so much power that whoever controls it, controls the destinies of several nations.”
While visiting his brother in Atlanta, Carpenter fell in love with the city. He married and now he and his wife, Thessia, an accountant, has a 20-year-old son, Jayson, in addition to the recent graduate Cha’ntylle, who will head to Johnson and Wales College in Miami to study fashion merchandising.
Carpenter earned an associate’s degree in logistics management from Georgia Military College, which shares the Fairburn campus with Brenau. He decided to forge ahead with his bachelor’s while working full time managing warehouse operations for Flowers Bakery. Fortunately, Carpenter’s fascinating overseas experience honed his ability to concentrate and analyze.
“I studied professors, their habits, their likes and dislikes, just like I would study a job,” Carpenter says. “If it bugs a professor when students staple pages a certain way, know that and don’t do it. Working and going to college is difficult. Were their nights I went without sleep? Yes. But the professors at Brenau were so supportive. If I was doing an audit at work and had to miss a class, the professors would go over what happened in class, catch me up on the assignments. I never fell behind.”