T.R. Carr was planning a career in public service in state or local government, as he attended Minot State University. His major was Public Administration. But observing John Wilson, the faculty adviser of the Minot InterVarsity chapter, T.R. saw a different perspective on service, the opportunity to influence the lives of young men and women by being a Christian faculty member at a public university.
“He had a significant impact on my life,” T.R. recalled. “I decided I wanted to pursue an academic career.” Through most of his career T.R. has continued his association with InterVarsity.
Volunteering on many campuses
As T.R. and his wife Lucy continued their post-graduate education at Minot State, and then at the University of Oklahoma, they worked as volunteer associate staff with InterVarsity’s ministry on both campuses. T.R. then taught Public Administration at Texas Tech and the University of Oklahoma, serving as a faculty adviser to the InterVarsity chapters on both campuses.
When Southern Illinois University—Edwardsville (SIUE) established a Public Administration Department, T.R. and Lucy used the opportunity to move back to the St. Louis area, where they had grown up. For the past 11 years, T.R. has been chairman of the department.
Although the Carrs attended Family Camp at InterVarsity’s Bear Trap Ranch in Colorado for 15 years, their contact with InterVarsity tapered off a bit when their son Doug was in high school. They became involved with a high school-focused ministry, opening up their home to dozens of students every week.
But then Doug went off to college. And even though T.R. had been elected mayor of the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood, which absorbed a lot of his spare time, the Carrs decided it was time to get more involved with InterVarsity once again.
Volunteering at Urbana
They volunteered for InterVarsity’s Urbana 2000 Student Missions Conference, working at the Information Booth. They volunteered again for Urbana 03. When Urbana 06 moved from the University of Illinois to St. Louis, they were ready again, this time directing the Information Booth.
“It’s really enjoyable because we get to spend time talking with students,” he said. They’ve noticed that the nature of the Information Booth changes over the duration of the conference. The first day or two they help new arrivals with concrete information on where to go as they get acquainted with the venue.
Later the attendees have questions about workshops, electives and other Urbana features, and there’s more time to talk with them. A lot of times they’re also asking questions about which seminar session they should attend. “We take the stress out of the conference for students,” he said.
They also get to explain the Urbana conference to members of the local St. Louis community who wander in and to the permanent staff members who work at the America’s Center and the Edward Jones Dome, where Urbana is now held.
“The way the attendees conduct themselves really had an impact on the people working there,” he said. “They were continually amazed that after a day with students in the dome all they had to do was empty the trash and sweep the halls. Cleanup was relatively minor. There are all these little things that we get to see and that we really enjoy.”
T.R. and Lucy will again be directing the volunteers at the Information Booth at the Urbana 09 conference coming up in St. Louis, December 27-31, 2009. They’re already involved in helping to mobilize the 2,000 volunteers needed for the conference.
Planning a new volunteer role
Now that T.R.‘s term as mayor has ended, he is looking forward to investing more of his spare time in ministry at SIUE, where he’s still teaching. “I see myself being primarily involved with helping to develop an InterVarsity faculty fellowship on campus, and supporting staff work on campus by helping raise money for them,” he said.
This summer and last summer the Carrs have enjoyed InterVarsity’s Faculty conferences, held at Cedar Campus in Michigan. “Since our son Doug is now a faculty member (at Oakland University in Michigan), it’s kind of like a family vacation,” he said. “At the same time we’ve got great teaching sessions, and we talk about what it means to be Christian faculty on a secular campus.” Doug will also be helping manage the Information Booth as a full time volunteer at Urbana 09.
T.R. Carr had been walking in the Christian faith long before he got to college. But when he got to college he had questions about his faith and he was glad that InterVarsity was there to help him find answers.
“I was looking for a solid intellectual rationale,” he said. “InterVarsity came along at a crucial time. Now involvement with InterVarsity is just something that we do. It’s a logical extension of our vocation.”