Carter left that legacy — and more — at Hersey

They’re still talking about the mic-drop moment heard ’round High School District 214 in 1996.

Former Hersey athletic director, teacher and multisport coach Ken Carter delivered it before a crowd of rapt attendees on the day Hersey’s main gym officially became Ken Carter Gymnasium.

“When this place is no longer a classroom, take my name down,” Carter said at the end of his speech in Arlington Heights.

“I was there,” longtime Hersey boys golf coach Dan Caporusso said. “As soon as Ken finished speaking, I thought, ‘Holy cow, that was great, so well put. His message was magic. But Ken wasn’t just talking about the gym doubling as a classroom; he was also referring to Hersey’s soccer pitch, baseball diamond, tennis courts, wherever students played sports.

“I know I wasn’t alone when I left the gym that day thinking, ‘I will support and honor those words for as long as I’m a coach.’ Ken knew the importance of learning life lessons through high school sports.”

Kenneth A. Carter, 87, of Mt. Prospect, died on March 27. He was Hersey’s first boys golf coach after the school opened in 1968, and guided the Huskies to the Mid-Suburban League championship in 1973. Carter also coached under-level boys basketball — future NBA center Dave Corzine was one of his players — at the school before serving as Hersey’s athletic director from 1974-1994.

Carter also taught physical education and driver’s education in District 214.

“Ken was always a kind, caring teacher, coach, division head and AD,” Hersey athletic director Julia Barthel said. “Ken Carter Gymnasium will continue to be a place of learning and growth in his honor.”

Born in Grafton, Wis., Carter met his future wife of 62 years, Sue, at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Ken loved sports, particularly golf, and rooted for the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers teams.

He lived in a house located a chip shot from Mt. Prospect Golf Club’s 15th tee box and a par-5 drive from Caporusso’s house.

“Ken was most passionate about golf and coaching the difficult sport,” Caporusso said. “He even coached boys frosh-soph golf at Prospect after he retired (in 1994) from Hersey. But he was a fan, an avid fan, of all high school sports. An advocate, really, for anything that had to do with any high school sport.”

Hersey assistant athletic director Steve Messer (Hersey, ’85) played basketball at Hersey, coached boys basketball at Hersey from 2007-2018, and served as AD at his alma mater from 2009-2022.

“I admired Ken’s calm strength during the inevitable conflicts ADs must resolve,” said Messer, a member of Hersey’s Class AA Elite Eight hoops squad in 1985. “He was always positive, with an understated leadership style.”

To former Daily Herald prep sports writer and current sports correspondent Marty Maciaszek, Carter was a consummate professional who called attention to himself as often as a performing mime speaks.

“Ken was a real gentleman who stayed away from the spotlight,” Maciaszek recalls. “He cared more about others and had a passion for making sure student-athletes and coaches had what they needed to succeed.”

Carter also had a delightful sense of humor. As Messer shared a classic Ken Carter anecdote, he couldn’t stifle a chuckle in the middle of it.

“Say you were a coach at Hersey, going through a rough stretch in a season,” Messer said. “Ken would come up to you and say, ‘Hey, remember, we’re with you and we’ll support you always, win or … tie.’”

Ken will be dearly missed by his wife, Suzanne; children Jeanne Bambini (Lou) and Doug Carter (Karen); five grandchildren and eight great-children; and his brother, Orv Carter (Deanna).

Celebration of life will be private.

Courtesy of Dan Caporusso
In this 1973 photo, coach Ken Carter holds the MSL trophy with players, from left: Rocky Clancy, Cal Zimmerman, Ray Peterson, Tom Schnell, Jeff Kallman, John Haack and Bruce Conroy. Carter, who died on March 27, was the school’s first golf coach and athletic director for 20 years. The school’s basketball gymnasium is named for him.

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