Engineering alumna, retired Air Force major general guides graduates on how to "move the world forward"

Keynoting two Purdue University commencement ceremonies Dec. 16, industrial engineering alumna and retired U.S. Air Force Major Gen. Theresa C. Carter shared life lessons on how to realize the Purdue Moves tagline: “What we make moves the world forward. We are Purdue, makers all.”
Theresa C. Carter

Carter (BSIE 1985) advised the nearly 2,600 graduates on the West Lafayette campus to become 10 different kinds of makers: hope makers, knowledge makers, opportunity makers, change makers, trail makers, message makers, confidence makers, memory makers, contribution makers, and difference makers.

“Above all, whatever you choose to do, be a difference maker,” Carter emphasized. Quoting the author Leo Rosten, she said: “I cannot believe the purpose of life is to be happy. I believe the purpose of life is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate. It is above all to matter; to count; to stand for something; to have it make some difference that you lived at all.”

Carter added: “Be compassionate, you’ll make the world a better place. Don’t be afraid to take a stand. Make a difference, make your lives matter.”

Concluding, Carter said: “Class of 2018, it’s now up to you. Move the world forward by leading change and leaving your footprints. Move the world forward by taking that giant leap. Move the world forward by doing the right thing, even when no one’s looking. Move the world forward by making a difference. Move the world forward by being a Boilermaker!”

The keynoter has practiced what she preaches. Her career illustrates the value of leaving one’s comfort zone, learning from setbacks, thriving on change, and taking on momentous challenges – all of which encouraged graduates to do.

Among career breakthroughs, Carter was the first female civil engineering officer to be promoted to brigadier general and to serve as Air Force Civil Engineer, the career field’s highest-ranking officer.

Serving 31 years as a civil engineer officer and installation management leader in the Air Force, she commanded five units, ranging from 400 to 8,000 members. Carter capped her career by leading the Air Force’s largest and most complex reorganization since 1992, consolidating installation support activities at the intermediate command level, and creating the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center and serving as its first commander.

Carter is a Purdue Distinguished Engineering Alumna, Outstanding Industrial Engineer award winner and Purdue ROTC Hall of Fame inductee.

Currently, she is CEO and senior strategist for TC3 Solutions LLC, a director of the Purdue Alumni Association, and a member of the United Water Federal Services Inc.’s board of advisers and Purdue’s Industrial Engineering Advisory Council.

Carter, who received a master’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Oklahoma and a master’s degree from the National Defense University, is enrolled as a doctoral student at Drexel University with anticipated completion in 2021.

In addition to Carter, Purdue President Mitch Daniels and student responders spoke at Purdue’s winter graduation ceremonies, held in Elliott Hall of Music.

The university conferred approximately 1,491 undergraduate, 709 master’s and 377 doctoral degrees, as well as two doctor of pharmacy and five doctor of nursing practice degrees.

Related link: Purdue News Room