I am in the process of writing a “quasi memoir” of sorts. I have had the privilege of spending a great deal of time with my grandson, Jackson. We’ve collected stamps, shot skeet and sporting clays and played a good bit of five card stud. I have been trying to teach him to be a sportsman and someone you’d want to spend some time with. In the course of trying to be a mentor and positive influence on Jackson, I have had to opportunity to look back on people who have been kind enough to spend some time with me and help me understand life and its many pitfalls and opportunities.
Both of my step grandfathers were very important role models for me and I am filled with pleasant memories of both of these loving men. As I reminisced about others who have had a deep influence on my life I realized that one of my favorites is a man that I have only known for six years. Dr. Will D. Carpenter.
Will and I may have a relatively short relationship, but we share a common background and heritage. We both grew up in Sunflower County, Mississippi. Will in Moorhead and me twenty miles away in Ruleville. My grandfather was a very progressive cotton farmer and Will’s Dad was the County Agent. I’m sure they knew each other. Will and I grew up hunting fishing and playing high school football. He went to Mississippi State in the fall of 1948 and I came along in 1957.
There are a lot of similarities between Will and me. We were both Boy Scouts. Will earned his Eagle and I didn’t. We both joined the military when we were still in high school. Will the Naval Reserve and me the Mississippi National Guard. Will ended up with a ROTC commission and was discharged as a Captain, and I finished my eight year obligation as a Corporal. Will graduated from Mississippi State with an Ag degree and went on to get his PhD in Plant Physiology from Purdue. I finished State with a history degree after being invited out of Petroleum Engineering. There are a lot of similarities and some major differences. Will Carpenter is apt to finish what he starts.
Will and I met in 2004 when I needed some serious help starting a company to commercialize University based technologies. Will was recommended by people whose judgment I trusted. I asked Will to join our board and amazingly he accepted. Will had retired from the Monsanto Company as Vice President and General Manager of the New Products division. Will’s many professional achievements are far too many to list here. Suffice to say, Roundup, the pesticide that has changed agriculture was developed on his watch and he was the U.S. Representative that successfully negotiated the chemical warfare treaty. He holds many international awards for his work in agriculture and the chemical industry. Will is to agriculture as Ted Williams is to hitting a baseball.
While Will’s scientific and governmental expertise proved to be invaluable to our company, it was his personal advice and guidance that won my respect and admiration. First and foremost, Will is an honorable man. He is a teacher and a mentor. I had the honor to be invited to a tribute to Will and his lovely wife Helen this past year and I met dozens of people whose lives had been changed by working for and with Will Carpenter. In the words of the late John C. Stennis; Will has plowed a straight furrow. His Dad would be very pleased and proud of him, and to Will, there could be no higher praise. I treasure his friendship.