The Founder, I.W. Carpenter, Jr.

I.W. Carpenter, Jr. (1923 -- 2007)

The Appalachian State University was formally dedicated in memory of its founder, Dr. I.W. "Bill" Carpenter, Jr. on May 3, 2008

Irvin Watson Carpenter, Jr., PH.D. Professor Emeritus of Biology

Irvin Watson “Bill” Carpenter, Jr. ( b. November 29, 1923 -- d. December 11, 2007) son of Ruth McCord and Irvin Watson Carpenter, Sr., was born in Washington, District of Columbia. After graduation from Western High School in 1941, Carpenter entered Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana. In July of 1942, he left Purdue to serve in the United States Navy. He served four years on the U.S.S Wisconsin and during that time received six battle stars. He was discharged from active duty in 1946 and joined the Naval Reserves to serve as a lieutenant.

After his tour of active duty, Carpenter returned to Purdue University, where he received his B.S degree in forestry in 1948. He also received his M.S (1950) and his Ph.D. (1952) degrees in botany from Purdue University. In 1953-53, Carpenter was employed by Purdue University as an instructor in forestry.

Carpenter is married to Jessie Luella (J. Lou) Carpenter (Appalachian associate professor emerita of speech pathology and audiology), and the couple have three daughters: Kim Jean, Ruth Ann , and Carol Ernestine.

In 1953, Appalachian President, B.B Dougherty appointed Dr. Carpenter to the faculty at Appalachian as a biology professor. Dr. Dougherty would surely be proud today if he could know of the tremendous dedication and service Bill Carpenter provided to Appalachian during his thirty-three year tenure. Bill voluntarily served as “cameraman” to take films of athletics events for the Mountaineers for fifteen years! During most of that time, he donated his services without charge. After he was required to accept payment, he donated his pay, along with enough other fund, to the Yosef Club to make him a member of Appalachian’s most prestigious level of giving, the Chancellor’s Committee. Dr. Carpenter has the distinction of having made a gift to the Appalachian Foundation every year since the foundation was formed.

Carpenter was co-chair of the Ida Belle Ledbetter Scholarship and a sponsor of the Chan Gordon Scholarship. For a number of years, Dr. and Mrs. Carpenter served as sponsors of the Appalachian cheerleaders. The list of accomplishments to Carpenter’s credit clearly reveals his generous spirit of giving to his adopted alma mater. The following are highlights of Dr. Carpenter’s career at Appalachian:

  • 1955 Established Appalachian’s first Greek Honor Society, Beta Beta Beta, and was the organization’s regional vice president for twenty years
  • 1958 Established Appalachian’s Herbarium, now listed in Index Herbarium (international listing)
  • 1959 Began work with United States National Park Service in establishing Naturalist programs at Price Lake
  • 1960 Began first use of overhead projection in teaching large lecture sections in general biology
  • 1962 Participated in planning and development of a new science building (Rankin)
  • 1963 Awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for summer program to improve high school science teachers
  • 1964 Awarded NSF grant for optical equipment and cases for Appalachian Herbarium
  • 1965 Awarded NSF grant for two 4-wheel drive vehicles for biology department
  • 1966 First use of closed-circuit television for teaching biology
  • 1967 Awarded NSF grant for summer program for high school biology teachers
  • 1969 Participated in the development of plans for enlargement of the Rankin Science Building
  • 1973 Established Field Biology of Continental USA as a summer course and directed the first trip in 1974, participated in trips in 1977, 1980, 1983, and 1986, elected chair of biology, June 30, 1973
  • 1974 With a grant from NSF and encouragement of Chancellor Herbert Wey, started a program of audio- tutorial labs for over 1,400 general biology students, largest program operation in southeastern U.S.A.
  • 1976 Instrumental in obtaining greenhouses for research and teaching biology
  • 1978 Added a new program, Naturalist, to the revised programs of instruction in biology
  • 1980 Resigned as chair from biology to devote time to teaching and curating the Appalachian Herbarium
  • 1892 Appalachian Herbarium reached 25,000 sheets (specimens) under Dr. Carpenter’s direction

In addition to all the time he gave to his career, Dr. Carpenter also made time for community and church activities, as well as for many professional organizations. He has been a member of the following civic organizations: Master Snow Masonic Lodge (1960-61) and 32nd Degree Mason; Shriners (Oasis Temple), Charlotte, North Carolina ( participated in several Shrine Bowl games in 1960-70); Rotary Club of Boone; Boone Lions Club; American Legion; Veterans of Foreign Wars; Moose Lodge of Boone; and the Boone Chamber of Commerce.

The professional organizations Carpenter has belonged to include Trustee Highlands Biological Station; Society of American Foresters; Botanical Society of America; Indiana Academy of Science; North Carolina Academy of Science; Society of Southeastern Biologists; Southern Appalachian Botanical Society; Beta Beta Beta National Biological Society (regional vice president); Sigma Xi national research fraternity.

Carpenter also has several biological publications to his credit:

  • “Genetic Investigation of Liriodendron.” Journal of Forestry. 1951.
  • “Anatomy of Seedling Roots of Oak.” Journal of Forestry. 1952.
  • “Iron Deficiency in Q. palustris.” Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science.
  • “The Hepatic Flora of Watauga County.” Appalachian State University Faculty Publications. 1963.
  • “Commercial Moss Use.” Economic Botany. 1964.
  • “The Vascular Flora of Stone Mountain State Park in Wilkes and Alleghany Counties of North Carolina.” Association Southeastern Biologists’ Bulletin 23:2 (April 1976).

After retirement, Carpenter did botany consulting and volunteer work for Project on Aging at Watauga Medical Center, where he earned his Senior Pin.

Sources: Appalachian State University files, and personal correspondence

-Dr. Richard D. Howe


Herbarium Dedication - Visiting the collection are daughter Kim, left, herbarium curator Dr. Zack Murrell, Mrs. J. Lou (Bill) Carpenter and daughter Carol. (photo by Jane Nicholson)

Dr. Richard Henson - Sharing memories of the late Dr. Carpenter with friends and family. (photo by Derick B. Poindexter)