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Donor & Founder of Bakersfield College Delano Campus
John Drow received the award on behalf of the Carpenters.
Ralph and Jan Carpenter fell in love on the University of Arizona campus nearly 75 years ago. They led full and happy lives with their three children and seven-decade marriage.
They spent much of their time traveling the world and most of their time at home serving the community in Delano.
Ralph started his journey to Delano when he left the East Coast on his brand-new motorcycle in 1933 at the age of 19. In his cross-country trek, he ran into a cow, totaling his motorcycle. The mishap forced Ralph to ride a freight train the rest of the way to Tucson, Arizona.
He arrived in the Old Pueblo with less than three dollars in his pocket. Ralph joined the Delta Chi fraternity and selected Journalism as his major.
In 1937, he met (and would later marry) Jan Hemenway. Ralph moved to New York City after graduation and worked as a steward on a ship, sailing in and out of Hamburg, Germany. Jan stayed in Arizona and got her degree playing the Cello. After they married, they settled in Greenwich Village in New York City. Ralph was still working as a steward sailing to ports in South America. Jan found a job as a secretary for the Head of the National Association of Manufacturers.
After Pearl Harbor was bombed, Ralph enlisted in the Navy for three years and served as a gunnery officer on the USS Kitty Hawk, a railroad transport ship used to deliver men, airplanes and ammunition to the South Pacific. Jan moved to San Diego to be near her husband.
After his time in the Navy, Ralph was in search of a non-union paper, and Delano, California, was the first town he visited on his way up the Central Valley. After a few years of working, and with two other newspapers in Delano, he realized his future in Journalism did not look very promising.
Ralph liked Delano, stayed, and decided to sell life and health insurance, which he did successfully until he retired at the age of 80.
The Carpenters always gave back to the Delano community. Jan founded and served on the Delano Music Memorial Foundation board. The board provided financial assistance to promising music students to include internationally celebrated soprano and Grammy award winning opera singer, Benita Valente.
Jan’s love of music was something she shared and it was common for her to play at various community events. In the late 60s and early 70s, the Carpenters -- along with Delano’s mayor -- decided to establish a Delano college so students could get a local education.
They were the driving force, and main contributors to establish the Bakersfield College, Delano College Center and Delano College Center Foundation. Ralph held firmly, “No student would be turned away for lack of ability to pay”. The foundation provided over a million dollars in scholarships and book awards since 1972. Ralph died on June 23, 2010, at age 95 and Jan died the next year on April 18, at age 93. We will not forget the effort and contributions Ralph and Jan Carpenter made over their lifetime and the impact they have made on the lives of so many.
The Carpenters’ generous nature and commitment lives on in our Delano Campus students and makes them truly deserving of recognition as Bakersfield College Centennial Stars.