The echo of change after life

When a person dies, there’s always an echo. Sometimes that echo fades quickly. Sometimes, though, it continues to whisper years and years after the person has left us. Such is the life of the late Chris Carter (’97), a friend to many at JMU, who died unexpectedly of Type II diabetes in 2009.

Recently, we received a letter from Kelly Warren (’00) nominating her late friend Chris for Be the Change.  Kelly beautifully describes the life of one who changed lives while he lived — and continues to do so.

Chris Carter

by Kelly Warren (’00)

The late Chris Carter ('97) (from the CCF website)

Christopher Michael Carter’s effect on the JMU community began the first day he set foot on campus in 1993. With his infectious smile and contagious, boisterous laugh, Chris brightened the lives of everyone who crossed his path. He completely embodied the JMU spirit, always approaching each new day with a love for life and a personal commitment to helping others. No task was too big or small for Chris. He welcomed every opportunity to make someone’s day better through laughter and love.

On campus Chris quickly made his mark, both in and out of the classroom. Whether playing tennis with Dr. Carrier or helping a lost freshman find her way to class, his cheerful and friendly demeanor never faltered. He always carried himself with an honest and easy confidence, and treated everyone equally with respect and compassion.

As a member of the Alpha Kappa Lambda fraternity, Chris slid into the role of mentor to many of his brothers and incoming pledges. He was the one people turned to for a good laugh and sound advice, knowing he would be straightforward, tactful, kind, and fully engaged in improving the situation. No matter how bad the circumstance, Chris was always able to find a silver lining and get you to laugh and smile by the end of the conversation.

In his final two years at JMU, Chris decided to channel his school spirit and passion for helping others, and became an Orientation Assistant. This is where I first witnessed his magnetic and charismatic personality. As an incoming freshman I was nervous and full of questions, yet excited about all of the possibilities in my future at JMU. Chris welcomed me with open arms to JMU, dissolved any and all fears, answered my questions with his trademark beaming smile, and convinced me that I had made the right decision by choosing to spend the next 4 years of my life in Harrisonburg. He made me feel special, but the truth of the matter was that he unconditionally did the same for thousands of other incoming students. Everyone was special to Chris.

Chris’ commitment to serve others in need continued well beyond his time at JMU. He had a photographic memory with an uncanny ability to remember anyone’s face, along with the most minute detail s about virtually everyone he met during his short but tremendous life.

It was not until this world lost Chris that we all began to see and feel the magnitude of his love and spirit. Stories emerged from people who had heard of his passing. The overwhelming theme of these very personal accounts was that being friends with Chris meant that he made you feel like you had his complete attention and that there was nothing he would rather be doing than to spend time with you. He was a best friend to hundreds, and shared his knowledge on life and love without expectations. His love was spread far and wide, and never diluted. Everyone who needed him got him 100 percent.

Chris Carter lived his life fully and selflessly. He leaves behind a legacy of laughter, love and kindness. To have witnessed his greatness was a true blessing and gift. For all that he has done for me, and countless others, I believe that Christopher Michael Carter is a perfect “Be the Change” nominee.

Kelly Warren (’00), Ph.D.,MPT

Kelly, a teaching assistant professor at The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, also told us that Chris’ legacy continues. She writes:

“After Chris unexpectedly passed away in 2009, his best friends and fraternity brothers from JMU (Alpha Kappa Lambda) created the Christopher Carter Foundation. Partnered with Virginia Hospital Center (where Chris was cared for in his final days), CCF raises money and awareness for diabetes education and treatment. Chris was unaware that he had Type II diabetes, and it eventually took his life very quickly.  One hundred percent of what is collected (by the foundation) is given to VHC.  In the past two years, the foundation has organized fundraising events such as 5K memorial runs, golf tournament, auctions and more. I belive the founding members have brought in close to $100,000 in their first two years as a nonprofit. I think this is very impressive, especially since the foundation is something these men do out of their love for Chris. Each of them have full-time jobs and families to care for.”

Still they make time to honor their late friend. And in doing so, they are changing the world for others with diabetes. While Kelly so eloquently nominates Chris, the efforts of Chris’ friends are equally laudable. In keeping Chris’ memory alive, Vincent Coyle (’97), his best friend, and many others are continuing to change lives.

It is all a beautiful and meaningful echo from the life of Chris Carter. His life — like the memory of his laughter — reminds us of how important it is to connect with others. Only by that connection, whether intimate or international, can real change happen.

To learn more about the Christopher Carter Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting the prevention, early detection and active management of diabetes, visit


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

2 Responses to The echo of change after life

  1. Anonymous says:

    Very touching and heart warming I believe Chris is still sharing his talents,now he is an angel
    for the Lord.I have seen his infectious smile.It somehow warms the soul.No greater gift to have than warming peoples souls.


  2. On behalf of our group, I would like to extend a huge “Thank You” to both Kelly Warren and to the “Be the Change” blog for running this entry. When Chris passed away, so many people were left with such an empty space in their lives. Taking part in this organization and trying to channel our grief into positive change has provided a tremendous outlet for a lot of people connected very closely to Chris – while hopefully impacting in a positive way the lives of others facing this terrible disease. Our Board of Directors is fully comprised of JMU alumni and we sincerely hope our work can serve as a source of pride within a great number of communities, especially within the greater JMU community. Thanks for sharing our story!

    Kevin C. Harris (’97)
    President, The Christopher Carter Foundation

    PS – We can also be found on Facebook at:


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