Cornerstone Moment: Alumnus Chip Cartwright looks back on defining his role in the US Forest Service
Category: culture Video duration: Cornerstone Moment: Alumnus Chip Cartwright looks back on defining his role in the US Forest Service
Alumnus Chip Cartwright '70 talks about how his time in the Corps of Cadets and academic studies led him to be one of the first African Americans to hold a variety of positions in his field in the US Forest Service.
I had a dream. And my dream was to be a Forest Ranger. Going to Virginia Tech was the beginning of the laying of my cornerstone development. I was one of 20 or so black students, in a 10,000 college population. There were no freshmen, no black freshman in my squadron, which was D squadron. My experiences in the Corps of Cadets formed me respectfully so into the leader that I am today. I'd say the academic side was where I really blossomed. And it was there that my association with other forestry students and professors who told stories of their work life and of their experiences, what it meant to work in the wild, what it meant to be in the forest. So it was here that my dream images actually began to build. Now, just like when I decided to go to Virginia Tech. Like I told my mother, she asked me, "Is there anybody in that field that looks like us?" I said, "I don't know of any but I believe that there is." And it wasn't until later on in my career that I found out what role I was going to play in helping that image come to be. In '79, I was the first African American District Ranger in Washington state, actually I was the first African American District Ranger in the history, the 100 year history of the US Forest Service. It's a combination of the academic side plus the Corps side, the leadership training side. Those two together placed me in a position in which I could succeed. I learned to believe in myself and I learned to open myself up for others who also believed in me. And that when the accomplishments that I made, they were not only for me but they were for others as well. Which got me into that other cornerstone block of knowing that I had to learn that I needed to pay it forward. I needed to be able to as some reached out to me, I need to be able to play that same role for others who were looking ahead and maybe I was in their field of vision.