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David Carlson '89, P'20

David Carlson poses with his daughter, Devon Carlson '20, and his wife, Lara Pennington, at a recent Homecoming & Family Weekend event on campus.

David Carlson '89, P'20, poses with his daughter, Devon Carlson '20, and his wife, Lara Pennington, P'20, at a recent Homecoming & Family Weekend event on campus.

What inspired your gift to Dickinson?

This scholarship honors my parents, Walter and Marlene Carlson, who were the catalyst for our family’s relationship with Dickinson. They knew Dickinson was the right fit for me, and I was able to introduce my wife Lara’s brother, Brad '99, to Dickinson, where Brad played lacrosse for four years. And my parents were thrilled that our family’s relationship with Dickinson continued when our daughter and their granddaughter, Devon Carlson '20, joined the Dickinson ranks in the fall of 2016. My father died two months after Devon left for college, and we will always be grateful that he knew that Dickinson would continue to be a part of our family. Our goal in funding this scholarship is to add support to those students who need it most, and my mother is thrilled to attend the annual Scholarship Luncheon and to meet some of the scholarship recipients. 
 
What do you hope your gift will do for fellow Dickinsonians?

First and foremost, we want to help students who need the financial assistance to attend Dickinson. It was very important to my parents that cost not be a barrier to higher education. They sacrificed a great deal to send me to Dickinson, and to have the opportunity to repay their sacrifice by helping today’s students afford Dickinson is particularly meaningful to Lara and me.  

Second, I do hope to inspire my classmates to give to Dickinson in greater numbers. As a member of the Parents Leadership Council, I’m always amazed that the percentage of giving by parents of current students outpaces the percentage of alumni who give to Dickinson on an annual basis. After all, these parents are already paying tuition and room and board, yet they contribute significant sums to Dickinson. While large gifts are great, any sized gift is meaningful, particularly as we seek to increase the participation rate of alumni giving. I would love to see the participation rate up over 50%, but we have quite a ways to go to get there.

Why do you feel that it is important to give back to Dickinson?

Every dollar that we give allows Dickinson to do more. Whether it’s lowering barriers for more students, building new dorms, or supporting our athletic teams, we have an obligation to give back to a place that has meant so much to each of us.  

Can you speak to how Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education helped you in your life?

More than anything, Dickinson taught me how to listen and how to communicate, both of which are absolutely critical regardless of which path your career takes.

What is your favorite memory from your time at Dickinson?

My favorite memory as a parent is watching Devon sing in a capella concerts. We didn’t have that option in my time as a student, and I love watching her on stage and the overwhelming student support for the performances. As an alum, I would say that one of my favorite memories was being editor-in-chief of The Dickinsonian and watching students read the paper in the cafeteria on Thursdays after we had been up all night on Wednesday preparing the issue. 

What advice would you give to today’s students?

This is a unique opportunity in your life to try something new. Take a class that you never thought of taking, or join a club that sounds interesting. Don’t worry about your career.  You’ll have plenty of time after college to do that!

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Published January 30, 2020