Professor and Administrator
Ronald E. Carrier was born on August 18, 1932 in Bluff City, Tennessee. Carrier was the 10th of 11 siblings. His father was a butcher and the family lived in Bluff City, but owned a farm in the more rural area of the city. Carrier remembered his parents as “kind, focused, and well-organized” and they were a huge impact on his personality (Carrier, January 2013). During his high school career, Carrier wasn’t focused on his academics and instead his two greatest loves were “basketball and baseball” (Carrier, January 2013). He was involved with his local Methodist church and helped out with the services. When Carrier graduated from high school his brother Lavon, who had gone to college after serving in WWII, was able to provide his family with enough money to send Carrier to college and Carrier enrolled in East Tennessee State University.
While at ETSU, Carrier was a part of the university’s student government and participated in the student judicial system, which handled dorm governance and heard hearings for expulsion of students, among other things (Carrier, January 2013). Through his participation in student government, Carrier met his future wife, Edith. During his time at ETSU, Carrier’s mentor was Dr. Lloyd Pierce, a professor of economics who was also the son of Carrier’s high school principal. Carrier became Pierce’s student assistant and helped Pierce with his classes and special projects (Hilton, 24). Pierce inspired Carrier to become a professor in economics and helped Carrier obtain a scholarship and a teaching assistantship at the University of Illinois.
In 1960, Carrier became a professor of economics at the University of Mississippi. Carrier was eventually voted best Teacher in the School of Business. While at Ole Miss, the Carriers had two of their three children, Michael and Linda. The provost of Ole Miss, Dr. Charles Heywood, took a personal interest in Carrier and recommended that he serve on a special commission studying the role of Mississippi in the space program. Heywood would eventually leave Ole Miss and Carrier became the leader of the project to determine what role Mississippi colleges would have in the space program. This position eventually led to Carrier becoming an assistant provost in charge of developing budgets. Carrier’s predecessor as assistant provost told him that he would call when he wanted the boxes from his old office. Carrier eventually received a call from his predecessor, who was now at Memphis State University, who told Carrier that, “I want something out of my office – you” (Hilton, 25). In 1963, Carrier became the head of the Memphis State Bureau of Business and Economic Research and also accepted a position as a professor of economics at Memphis State.
Carrier moved his family to Memphis, TN, where the Carriers had their last child, Jennine. In 1966, Carrier was contacted by his old boss, Heywood, who was now dean at the University of Kentucky. Heywood offered Carrier a full professorship as well as the directorship of the Center for Development Change at Kentucky (Hilton, 25). The president of Memphis State, Dr. C.C. Humphreys, greatly valued Carrier’s skills and, in order to keep him at Memphis State, offered him the brand new position of provost when he was only 33 years old. This position would put Carrier in total control of both the academic affairs and student affairs areas of MSU. Carrier accepted the position and served as provost for 3 years, when he was given the broader title of Vice President for Academic Affairs (Hilton, 26).
While Carrier was provost and vice president at Memphis State University, he cultivated many valuable skills that would he would later utilize as president of Madison College. During the mid to late-1960’s, race relations in Memphis were often tense and MSU had a sizeable African-American population. Dr. Carrier became a mediator between the administration and the leaders of student demonstrations (Carrier, January 2013). He would help the students in various ways by bringing their needs to the administration and trying to reach a compromise between the students and the administration. Carrier also showed that he supported change when the musical Hair, was put on at MSU in large part due to his leadership. This was a controversial play to be shown at a very Southern university. While Carrier was at MSU, enrollment went from 10,000 to 20,000 students; a law school, engineering school, and numerous doctoral programs were added; and the school hired 600 faculty members (Hilton, 26). Carrier had a hand in many of these significant changes and this experience helped prepare him for the changes he would cause as president of Madison College.
Hilton, Fred. “Changing from a College to a University: Madison College to James Madison University, 1971-1977.” Master’s thesis, James Madison University, 1996.