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Keene State’s Biggest Fan

Keene State’s Biggest Fan
It’s in Don Carle’s nature to be a KSC booster.

When Don Carle '52, M.Ed. '56, was inducted into the Keene State Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame last winter, he modestly said, "I haven't done anything to deserve it." But we know better. For his lifelong devotion to the College – first as a student, then as an administrator, and now as an active alumnus – he rightfully deserves the honor of Keene State's number one fan.

Don Carle cheers on the men's lacrosse team at a game last spring.
Don Carle cheers on the men's lacrosse team at a game last spring.
Carle and Keene State go back a long way. He was born in 1926 in Elliot Hall (then a hospital) and grew up on the KSC campus. Carle has the distinction of having known every president of the College except its first, Jeremiah Rhodes (1909-11). His father, H. Dwight Carle, dean of men (1925-55), whose name now adorns a residence hall, and his mother, Helen, were house parents for the women's dorm at 176 Main Street, known at the time as the "Brick House."

Little Don had his share of eager women students who took turns babysitting or perambulating him around the campus. One student, Don recalls, always took him down Marlboro Street, so she could rendezvous with her boyfriend.

'Watching the games and meeting the players and their parents adds excitement to my life. Every game is like a homecoming.'

His introduction to college athletics soon followed. Carle vividly recalls going down to the athletic fields with his father to watch the Keene Normal School football team. It became a ritual on Saturday afternoons to sit on the porch with his father and listen to college football games on the radio. "I can't explain it, but for some reason I caught the sports bug," Carle said.

Later, after moving to one of the first residences on Appian Way, Don took advantage of his access to campus buildings, especially the recently constructed Spaulding Gym. He and his buddies spent countless hours shagging errant basketballs that bounced into the balcony. Don and his friends kept score using tin-plated numbers that fit into slots on boards at both ends of the court. "We didn't have to worry too much about getting the score wrong," he said. "Usually no one scored more than 30 points."

In the spring, Don and his friends headed down to the athletic fields to chase baseballs. Using chunks of white chalk, the boys kept score on the side of a barn, formerly a stable for Govenor Hale's horses, situated down the right field line. One of Don's biggest thrills came when Bob Tappley, one of the stars of the team, handed him a broken bat. "Wow, I got a Bob Tappley bat," shouted Carle, who used tape and nuts and bolts to piece it back together.

At the awards dinner last spring, Don presented the Don Carle Award to the cross country team. The award goes to the team with the highest GPA.
At the awards dinner last spring, Don presented the Don Carle Award to the cross country team. The award goes to the team with the highest GPA.

You name the decade, and Don Carle has a story. During World War II, President Lloyd Young stockpiled coal on the baseball field. Don said the Keene players got pretty adept at maneuvering around the obstacle, but he got a kick out of watching opposing players trying to scale the piles and catch the ball.

With no men on campus during the war, Dr. Young persuaded the Navy to hold one of its preflight programs at the College. Every morning at 6 a.m. the men, who were housed at Huntress Hall and taught by Keene Teacher's College (KTC) faculty, went out on Appian Way to do their drills. Several Red Sox players, including Ted Williams, were initially assigned to the program. Their orders changed, so KTC hosted the 1941 champion Boston College football team and the legendary Charlie O'Rourke.

Carle attended Wheelock School and Central Junior High, both operated by the College, before moving on to Keene High. After the war, he enrolled in Keene Teachers College, where he earned a degree in education and played on the fledging Owl ice hockey team. No team had to work so hard just to compete. Don and his teammates built their own rink, did all the maintenance, and wore hand-me-down uniforms.

Carle went on to teach and serve as an administrator at schools throughout New England. He came home in 1977, when he took over as the College alumni director. "Keene always meant a great deal to me and when I had a chance to come back, I couldn't say no," said Carle. "It was natural."

As alumni director, Carle logged thousands of miles attending meetings around New England and making friends for KSC. He also played a major role in honoring Owl athletes. He instituted the Nim Grandin 1,000-point-club award and joined with men's soccer coach Ron Butcher to establish the College's Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame.

Don Carle (right) with his parents, Helen and Dwight, c.1950
Carle retired from his job in 1988, but that did nothing to change his affection for the school. No matter the season, it's simply natural to see him in the stands supporting Keene State teams. "Keene State is his priority," said his wife, Charlotte Nelson Carle '53, who met Don at KTC. "He always had fond memories of the College growing up and that's carried on to this day."

"I can't say enough about how much Keene State athletics has helped me," Carle said. "It's given me an interest and something to look forward to every day. I might be sitting in the stands, but I still feel a part of it." He has seen the best athletes wear the red and white of Keene State, from Art Giovannangeli '37 to players like Tara Wagner '07.

Introducing him at the induction ceremony, former KSC alumni director Mike Maher spoke about Carle's unfailing and unselfish support of Keene State athletics, athletes, and families. "Don strongly believes that athletics builds character and develops leaders," Maher said. "Our athletes in turn become some of our most loyal and supportive alumni."

Every fall, like clockwork, Don is back on campus cheering on the Owls. "I come down here and my adrenaline is flowing. I look forward to the games," said Carle, who now resides in Peterborough. "Watching the games and meeting the players and their parents adds excitement to my life. Every game is like a homecoming."