By Patricia O’Dell
Bob Carpenter, an award-winning sports broadcaster and voice of the Washington Nationals baseball team, has seen a broad change in broadcasting since he graduated from UMKC in 1975. A keen understanding of the field and an appreciation for hard work have contributed to his success, but he counts his years at UMKC as a significant influence.
“I loved UMKC,” Carpenter says. “Going to UMKC was the best decision I ever made. There were about 75 people in the whole department. I loved the intimacy of it. It had a real team feel.”
It is the connection to the school—and the opportunities that its preparedness provided—that led Carpenter to donate $15,000 to the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences for new equipment for the broadcasting studios.
“When I was in school 40 years ago, all the equipment was old stuff. Our engineer was always putting things back together with duct tape. Even then I thought that if I were ever in a position to give back, I would.”
Carpenter started his career as an over-night disc jockey at a small station in Arkansas. He spent 16 seasons as a baseball announcer with ESPN and had stints as team broadcaster for the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets, Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers. He has been the voice of the Washington Nationals since 2006. Carpenter, who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was recently inducted into the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. However, he does not want aspiring broadcasters to think the road to success was easy.
“I’ve tried to mentor young announcers,” Carpenter says. “I’m happy to advise on the basics. There are people I talked to 20 years ago who are anchoring Division I sports now. But I also let them know that this isn’t a business where you’ll be CEO at 26. It doesn’t happen. For me, it was 42 years of baby steps. People took chances on me for reasons I couldn’t always see.”
Carpenter says giving back gives his career extra meaning.
“We’ve seen so much change in technology,” he says. “When I worked at KCUR we were using 2-inch tape that I cut with a razor blade. I want UMKC’s students to have the type of equipment that is going to prepare them for their jobs when they graduate.”
Caitlin Horsmon, associate professor and chair of communications studies, acknowledges the gift’s importance.
“So often now a reporter is a one-man band,” Horsmon says. “They have to do everything – shoot, edit and publish. Up-to-date equipment ensures that we are giving them the best launching pad for success when they graduate.”
Wayne Vaught, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, is honored by Carpenter’s commitment to the program.
“The college appreciates Bob’s gift,” Vaught says. “His generosity will have a tremendous impact on students in the communication studies department for years to come.”