Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Start, Privileged to Be There

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Start, Privileged to Be There

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson

BRUNSWICK, Ga. - Bee Carlton's office at College of Coastal Georgia has the trappings you would find in those of most athletic directors.

There are signed footballs, a painting of No. 16 at Augusta National and some family photos. One of those footballs recognized Carlton as making Presbyterian College's all-decade team for the 1970s.

Asked what speaks best about him, he examines one of the footballs and then looks at the wall beside his desk and the framed degrees: the bachelor's from Presbyterian, the master's from Georgia Tech and the doctorate from the University of Texas.

He's also a proud of the Army captain in a photo: Eric Gust in artillery of the 1st Calvary Division. Gust, who has been to Iraq twice and is likely going to Afghanistan in February, is married to Leigh, the oldest of Carlton's three daughters.

An artillery officer himself at one time, Carlton retired from the Army in 2003 as a full colonel to become athletic director at Presbyterian. He could have stayed nine more years in the Army as full-time faculty at West Point, teaching systems engineering and operations research, and retired with 30 years in the service.

West Point, after all, is not just some duty station.

He says he was privileged - a phrase he uses often - to have been at two of the most beautiful places on Earth at times they are at their best: Augusta National in the spring and West Point in the fall when the leaves turn and football is in the crisp air. He could sit in his kitchen on a Saturday, sip a Coke and walk 300 yards to the stadium and watch Army place Air Force or Temple or Vanderbilt.

Unless the snow was too deep, he could walk to work every day.

"That was really a special place," he says of West Point. "It was hard to leave."

But he did leave, for two homecomings of sorts, first to Presbyterian and then to St. Simons Island where his grandmother moved in 1922 as the first schoolteacher to live on the island. Carlton was born in Brunswick, but his family moved when he was very young.

At Presbyterian he attended football games with Cally Gault, the retired coach for whom he had played.

"It was a real privilege to play for him. I was the captain in my senior year. It's an honor I'll always cherish."

Speaking of cherish, he met his wife, Laura, there.

It was from Presbyterian's ROTC program that he went into the Army and stayed 21 years.

"I never had any designs on making the Army a career," he said, "but a lot of good opportunities came along."

His latest opportunity came when he and his wife decided a few years ago they wanted to live where they still spent vacations, at his late grandmother's house. He wrote a letter to the college but never heard back. When Valerie Hepburn took over the college presidency, he wrote another letter. …

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