Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from the April issue of GCU Magazine. To read the digital version of the magazine, click here.
By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau
Every time Jim Carter visits the Grand Canyon University campus, he thinks about the impact it has had on his life.
“It all started right here,” said Carter, who was inducted into the GCU Alumni Hall of Fame in March. “I’ve gone from a teacher to a prosecutor to an attorney to a judge – all because of what Grand Canyon University did to start with.”
Carter never envisioned that career path as a teenager in the early 1950s, when he had nothing more than big dreams and a determined spirit.
“I was a kid from south Phoenix who had no clue where I was going to go,” he said. “I was raised by a single mom. I had no money to go to school.”
After graduating from high school, Carter was working as a laborer, wielding a 12-pound sledgehammer, when he quickly realized that “this isn’t going to be for me.”
Fortunately, God had other plans, too.
Carter was playing softball at his church, Southern Temple, at the same time Dr. Dave Brazell was starting a baseball team at what was then Grand Canyon College. Brazell invited Carter and his friend Sam to try out.
Carter remembers the day, right down to the time (2 p.m.), date (Aug. 3, 1953) and place (Monterey Park) – emphasis on the time and date.
“Boy, was it hot,” he said.
He also was a hot prospect, as it turned out, and Brazell gave him a scholarship. But not only was Carter an athlete; he also was a Christian and a servant leader – perfect for Grand Canyon. As a junior and senior, he served in student government and became vice president. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education in 1957.
After graduating, Carter was a teacher and coach at Sunnyslope High School for four years while earning a master’s degree. Then God pointed him in a different direction when he decided to go to law school.
“I really thought I could make a difference by going through the teaching route,” he said. “God had a change of heart and a change of mind because He turned this completely around. I took the LSAT on a whim, and a month later I was in.”
Carter went on to become Assistant City Prosecutor for the City of Phoenix and held that position for seven years before he was appointed Chief Prosecutor for two years. He quickly ascended to the civil side, where he was in charge of the real estate division.
Through that experience, Carter was appointed to the judicial faculty of the limited jurisdiction courts, handling criminal cases. Carter retired in 2005 and recently decided to serve once a week as a pro tem judge.
“Through these years of teaching to law school to the city attorney’s office to municipal court judge – that really shows you God’s humor,” he said. “As a judge you have a chance to make some impact in people’s lives that come before you because they come in already with trouble. So I prayed every morning from the bench for wisdom and sensitivity, and I applied the law as best as I could.”
He added half-jokingly, “You don’t want to see me on Fridays.”
Faith Weese, Chief University Relations Officer, has known Carter for years.
“He is very honest, loving and more emotional than people think because he is a tough judge,” she said. “But under all the toughness, he is a softie.
“He is probably one of the most sincere, dedicated and positive people I know. Jim knows that the world changes, life changes but God never does.”
While Carter’s professional accomplishments are remarkable, Carter credits his wife, Ginger, for his success and happiness. He gushed about his love for her with no hesitation.
“She should have gotten a Ph.T. – Putting Hubby Through,” he joked. “She is dear to me. She is God’s gift to me, no question.”
The couple met at GCU when Carter was a sophomore and Ginger was a freshman. They were married by Carter’s bible study professor on March 7, 1957, and raised two daughters. They now have three grandchildren.
Carter’s connection to the University remains strong, and his hope is that the generations to come never lose sight of the legacy that was started by its alumni.
“We are the root,” Carter said. “My purpose is to represent this University wherever I am and with my Christian values day to day.”
OTHER HALL OF FAME THOUGHTS
Mystie Johnson Foote
CEO, Banner Medical Group
“I’m humbled and I am honored to be recognized. There are a lot of fun memories of the campus. There is a connection here that I don’t think very many other universities share because of the experiences students get to have here.”
Dr. Michael Baird
Retired Theology professor
“It is a great honor to represent the people I have worked for for over 35 years. … I believed in the cause and I believed in teaching.”
Executive Director, Arizona
Technology in Education Association
“There was a time we didn’t know if Grand Canyon was going to survive. I’m thrilled that it’s here and is as exciting as it is. Most important, I am glad that it still has its strong, Christian focus.”
First Team All-American in baseball
“I know I’ve been blessed to have my experience at Grand Canyon — whether that’s baseball or the interaction with people. I miss this place.”