Fall 2012

Harters are at the head of the class

Harters are at the head of the class
Geri Kodey / UNLV Photo Services
Michael and Carol Harter are academic leaders.

Although Michael Harter ’64 and his wife, Carol Harter ’64, MA ’67, PhD ’70, attended Harpur College more than a half-century ago, the pioneering spirit from their time as students lives on. Both owe their success as academic leaders to their experiences at Binghamton.

Carol was the first person to earn all three of her English degrees from Binghamton and the second woman to get a PhD here. That was in the pre-Title IX era, when it was unusual for women to advance in graduate study on any campus. She’s grateful to Harpur professors Aldo Bernardo, Mario DiCesare and John Hagopian for their support.

“They were really great and encouraged me as I went for the PhD,” Carol says. “I was married and starting a family, and they didn’t look at me in a negative way. They said, ‘You may be a housewife, but you are smart and you need to go on.’”

After earning her doctorate, she went on to hold two vice presidential positions at Ohio University, then became president of SUNY Geneseo and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV). During her 11 years at the helm — the longest tenure of any UNLV president — the university experienced unprecedented growth, transcending its image as a hotel management school with a basketball team.

“I thought, we are in the largest city, there just has to be a major public university here,” she says. “But, a major university needs professional schools. A third of my time was spent lobbying for a law school, and I heard it from the legal community, from legislators and from the state. But when we got a $5 million gift, people just had to pay attention.”

Life has come full circle for Carol. Retired from the presidency, she is back to her literary roots as executive director of UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute, an organization that engages the community in conversations with writers. The institute adds culture to an area known for gaming, not intellectual pursuits, she says.

“I’ve had 30-odd years away from my academic roots, but I did co-author two books,” she says. “To come back to literature is an unexpected joy. The quality of the writers we bring here is tremendous.”

After 32 years of senior management in higher education and clinical programs, Michael joined Touro University. As senior provost and CEO of Touro University’s western division, Michael has an aggressive agenda for growth. Touro Nevada built six schools in as many years, anticipating future needs in health science for osteopaths, physician assistants, and occupational and physical therapists.

“We offer programs in demand, and our graduates know they’ll get jobs,” Michael says. “Our bureaucracy is tiny, so we’re able to be nimble and take advantage of opportunities without too much time going by. I helped to create a physical therapy program at Ohio University, but it took four years to get it approved by the Board of Regents. I haven’t had anything take that long at Touro. We started with a plan to create three or four schools and we have actually added six.”

Touro has made creative use of physical spaces, setting up a campus in an old naval shipyard in California and turning old Nevada warehouses into school buildings.

“Indeed, it is similar to the early days of Harpur,” Michael says. “Our graduating class started at Colonial Hall and in Quonset huts before moving to the main campus.”

While their careers have been successful, it’s not necessarily what they’re most proud of. Carol and Michael, who have been together since they played a game of pingpong in their residence hall during sophomore year, are happy to have endured many changes over the years.

“We celebrated our 50th anniversary, and it’s amazing that our marriage has survived with all the job changes, commuting and moving around,” Carol says. The Harters have two sons, a grandson and great-granddaughter and are most proud of their family — the ultimate achievement, they say.