BURRILLVILLE – Members of the Burrillville School Committee voted unanimously this month the rename the high school gymnasium after a town native, whose long list of accomplishments includes serving as a vice admiral in the U.S. Navy.
The dome gym at Burrillville High School will be named after retired Vice Admiral Walter Edward Ted Carter Jr., who currently serves as president of the University of Nebraska.
A 1977 graduate of Burrillville High School, Carter graduated the naval academy in 1981, making him the first Bronco grad to complete the program, and was designated a naval flight officer in 1982. He graduated from the Navy Fighter Weapons School Top Gun in 1985 and holds the record for successful landings on 19 different aircraft carriers, assisting pilots in 2,016.
During his Navy career, Carter commanded a strike fighter squadron an oil replenishment ship, an aircraft carrier, and an aircraft carrier strike group. He also started the Navy’s 21st Century Sailor program, focused on mental health and resiliency among enlisted sailors, according to an article on the vice admiral on military.com.
Carter also served as president of the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, and was superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy from 2014 to 2019.
Carter was the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony for the BHS Class of 2020.
The initiative to honor the town native was brought froward by business owner Jeffrey “Ace” Ferrell, who sent a letter to the committee in July, and told members this month that he believes seeing Carter’s name on the facility will inspire students.
“They can look at his name Google him and see what he’s done in his career, which is pretty incredible when you think of it,” said Farrell. “They can know that someone from Burrillville can really attain that elite status.”
The owner of Farrell Signs, Farrell noted that he travels marking the floors of various gymnasiums as part of his career.
“I put names on a lot of floors,” he said. “I just feel very strongly it would be a good thing, where we could honor him.”
Farrell noted that the renaming is also an homage to school faculty, who guided the respected former Navy vice admiral through his early education. Carter’s mother was also an English teacher at high school.
“He did a bunch of things that no one in the Navy has done,” he said. “A lot of people around here don’t know who he is. People I talk to all have the same conclusion. He’s basically a living legend.”
Town Councilor Raymond Trinque also spoke in favor of the effort, noting that when Carter took over the eastern branch of the Navy, there was a ceremony, and he invited two teachers from BHS.
“They didn’t know they were going to be sitting in the front row with generals,” said Trinque. “They didn’t know he was going to put them in a spot of such respect.”
“The fact is he’s a tremendous representative of Rhode Island – wherever he moves to he puts a Rhode Island flag up– and he’s a tremendous representative of Burrillville, its schools and its teachers,” said Trinque. “I think it’s appropriate.”
Noting that her father also served in the Navy, Committee Vice Chairperson Dorothy Cardon said she was proud to make a motion supporting the change.
Member Terri Lacey said she spoke with Carter when he was in town as the graduation keynote speaker.
“I didn’t realize all he’s done until Mr. Farrell’s letter,” said Lacey. “I think it would be quite an honor to have that gym named after him, and I hope he’s able to come. He’s very deserving of this honor.”
Farrell said he plans to raise funds privately for marking the gymnasium with Carter’s name and will keep the School Committee informed of his progress.