It was a momentous night for Terry Carleton, but what meant more to the 59-year-old Needham resident was the opportunity to give voice to his beloved Bentley University.
Monday night in Orlando, Carleton was inducted into the Capital One Academic All-American Hall of Fame.
“It was an awesome, humbling experience,” said Carleton, a member of the Waltham university’s board of trustees.
“You’re entering a small fraternity of just a few hundred.”
And most of the inductees are from Division 1 schools. Prompted by the event’s emcee, Carleton proudly explained how Division 2 Bentley “built an outline of athletic and academic” excellence where 95 percent of the athletes graduate in four years.
Carleton admitted he was a little nervous with the likes of former NFL stars Kiki Barber and Derrick Brooks also being honored. But the entire audience was about to hear about Bentley. Carleton explained that the school began on Boylston Street in Boston in 1917.
“But we all know it really began in 1968, when it moved to Waltham.” The moving and shaking was about to begin.
A Walpole High grad, Carleton was a Bentley freshman in 1973 and became a star on its fledging soccer team. Monday night “they asked me what soccer was like back then,” he said, as if it was the Dark Ages. In what Bentley and its athletic program is now, Carleton has played a huge role.
And the Capital One Academic All-American Hall of Fame board took note.
One day last winter, Carleton was on the phone conducting business in his Boston office at UBS, a global private wealth development firm, when a co-worker informed him he had another call.
It was Dick Enberg, he was told. “Tell him I’ll call back,” said Carleton.
Enberg, the legendary play-by-play announcer for NBC and CBS who received a special honor Monday, had called to let him know he had been elected to the hall of fame. Carleton was floored.
“It was unexpected,” he said. “And impressive.”
Very impressive. The hall inductees include Rhodes scholars, giants of industry, White House appointees, war heroes, educators, noted physicians and scientists — that’s just a sample of the people who made significant impacts in their lives and who just happened to play a sport.
Carleton fit the criterion. His story was compelling.
A few days after graduating from Bentley in 1977, Carleton began work on Wall Street. Three years later, he joined Kidder Peabody, a Boston-based securities firm. In 1988, he worked for advertising agency Hill Holiday, stayed for 10 years, then “quietly went back to Wall Street,” he said.
But the ties to Bentley were about to change his life, and the lives of the university’s student body. He joined Bentley’s board of directors in 2000, and chaired the board for a few years. When the school’s president left to join a Fortune 500 company, Carleton took over the role, working without title or salary for two years.
For the past 15 years, in large part due to his boundless energy, vision, and expertise in numerous areas, Bentley’s growth spurt has exploded.
“We changed to a live-on campus,” he said. New residential housing, and academic, athletic, and recreational facilities went up. The school’s endowment rose to $250 million.
“In 2008, it was under $150 million,” said Carleton.
He is especially proud of on-campus housing. “We have 3,600 beds on campus. We’re the biggest hotel in Waltham!”
The school became his cause. He thought of it as giving back. “The friends you make in college are your friends for life,” he said. “A lot of my friends weren’t athletes.”
Administrators, students, and coaches marvel how Carleton has elevated the university’s stature.
“Oh my god, has he ever!” said Bob DeFelice, the school’s athletic director and its only baseball coach (46 years). “Buildings went up like lightning.”
Andrew Shepardson, vice president of student affairs, said, “Terry is very passionate about the school, and it shows in everything he’s done. He rapidly advanced our facilities.”
Carleton remains on the board of trustees but it doesn’t take much to get him back on campus.
“I see him at football, basketball, and hockey games and alumni events,” Shepardson said.
“He’s one of the friendliest, happiest people I know. People go out of their way to say hello to him. They want to connect with Terry.”
In an e-mail, Bentley president Gloria Larson wrote, “His passion for his alma mater has carried, and will continue to carry, Bentley forward.”
Carleton was a soccer and baseball player (he also gave basketball a whirl as a senior on a winless squad) at Walpole High. John Lee, a neighbor, was in the midst of turning the Rebels into a power on the gridiron. Future Bruin Mike Milbury was a teammate on the pitch. “He was the goalie, and a good one too,” said Carleton.
He stuck with soccer at Bentley; the program was two years old.
“We played all road games,” he said. “By the third year we were in the NCAA tournament. It was unbelievable.”
The Falcons haven’t been back to the tourney since. Carleton remains the program’s fourth all-time leading scorer. In one memorable game, with Bentley trailing 1-0, Carleton scored four goals and had an assist in a 15-minute span.
Former Falcon Dave Lipsett, also a teammate at Walpole High, recalled Carleton being “wiry, thin, but quick and elusive. And he was tough as nails. We would say he sharpened his elbows before every game.”
They remain friends.
“Terry’s done well in life for a lot of reasons,” Lipsett said. “He’s bright, very personable. What stood out for me was his ability to have a good time on and off the field, but he knew when it was time’’ for one or the other. “I’m not surprised at all at what he’s done.”
DeFelice said Carleton was a good baseball player but he didn’t come out for the team at Bentley. ”I think he heard I was too strict,” the coach quipped.
Carleton met his future wife, Sharon, right after high school. They were married in 1977 and have three children, Erik, Tim, and Megan.
“I talk to my friends proudly about Bentley,” said Carleton. “It’s amazing how far it’s come.” Take a closer look. His imprint is all over it.