Art Carpenter ’91

carpenter_artUSF gave many things to Art Carpenter, who went on to become a dentist, and now he is giving some things back and feeling great about it.

He is giving his time and wisdom in USF’s Student Alumni Mentoring program. A dentist operating a boutique dental practice in north suburban Kenilworth, Ill., Carpenter has long been drawn to teaching and mentoring.

When he is not at work he is usually providing a service to somebody somewhere else. It might be as a coach for his kids’ sports teams, or as an instructor at the College of Lake County School of Dental Hygiene. Where USF is concerned, for the past three years his service has been as a mentor to a student interested in a career in health care. He mentors USF students the same way he treats his dental patients— with objectivity and respect.

“I tell my patients that I’m an educator, not a salesman,” says Carpenter. “I say, ‘I’ll tell you what your needs are, but I’m not trying to sell you anything.’”

The bottom line is, navigating the health care path — from dentistry to pharmacy to chiropractic — can be daunting. It’s not just the work involved to make it through the extra schooling, it’s the decisions and preparations that need to be made just to get started.

“I always want to assess what they’re looking at,” Carpenter says. “I take them through all of the allied health professions, and I tell them to look at those and tell me what they really want to do.”

Once they reach a decision, Carpenter makes it very clear to them what is involved in that particular choice — to ensure that they are still interested. Without someone like Carpenter at their disposal, some students might get in over their heads, wasting both time and money.

“I enjoy mentoring and passing down the knowledge so that the kids don’t make the same mistakes we made when we were younger,” says Carpenter, who was accepted to medical school but declined after realizing that hospital and medical work was not for him.

Dentistry would be his new path and he has not regretted a day since. He now helps students with those tough decisions, and the complicated process leading up to the next phase of their educational journeys.

Carpenter’s first USF mentee went on to dental school. His second is working toward becoming a physician’s assistant, and his current mentee is planning for medical school. Guidance is what he is giving to USF and its students, but let’s get back to the many things that USF gave him.

First, it gave him what he was most looking for coming out of Marist High School in Chicago: a Catholic education at a school with small class sizes. He knew he would be getting those things before he even arrived in Joliet. But then he became an on-air personality at the campus radio station. He wrote editorials for the school newspaper, got involved in student government and joined the science club. Best of all, he made lifelong friends, thanks to USF’s intimate campus life. “I lived in the dorms all four years and I made friends there that I am still friends with today,” he says.

From the start, USF (then, CSF) felt like home to him. “I distinctly remember an awesome experience a week before classes started, when the school opened the dorms up and let us move in early. We spent a week getting to know each other, playing basketball and hanging out on the Quad.”

That set the tone for the next four years, and during that time Carpenter experienced thousands of typical USF moments—those times when you know you are part of a larger family and someone is looking out for you. One particular incident occurred on a day when Carpenter was filling out financial aid forms. He thought he had crossed every T and dotted every I, and it wasn’t until he was out in the hallway that he realized he had overlooked an entire form. A Franciscan Sister from the office chased after him with the blank form in her hand.

“At a big state school that would have been ‘Oh well,’” he says. But that Sister would not have dreamed of letting the oversight go. Carpenter is thankful for her act of kindness, and no doubt at least three USF students are thankful for his, too