Remembering former CMC Prof. Carol Carney

A Zoom memorial service and endowed scholarship fund honor a beloved teacher, mentor, and colleague who invested wholeheartedly in students

CMC Trustee Tao Li ’02 will always remember Carol Carney as his “American Mom.” Yes, she helped him significantly improve his English in two literature classes and in the Writing Center. But it was how she eased his homesickness for family in China that really made the difference during his first year at Claremont McKenna College. She sent him See’s Candies and invited him to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner. “She was a perfect mom and role model as a kind and caring person,” said Li, co-founder and managing partner at Teng Yue Partners in New York. Years later, Carney shared summer camp stories with Li’s children and mailed them some of those special California chocolates for the holidays.

When Cindi Guimond started work in the Dean of Faculty’s office, Carney became a fast friend, someone she could go to for advice about life and family. “We could spend hours,” Guimond said, “debating about Mr. Darcy's character or Mary Shelley as one of the greatest writers of all time, and even gabbing about our secret love of the ‘Real Housewives’ franchise.” One December, Carney became Guimond’s “Secret Santa,” ensuring her family had gifts and a holiday dinner during a difficult time. “If it was not for her, my children would not have had a Christmas that year,” said Guimond, who is now CMC’s director of academic administration. “Carol was one of the kindest and most generous women I've ever met. Above all, Carol gave love and she received it back tenfold.”

Although it’s hard to beat the honorific of "Mom" or "Santa," Carney held three, more official titles at CMC, where she served on the faculty between 1987 and 2003: assistant professor of literature, director of the Writing Center, and director of senior thesis. The relationships she nurtured during that time continued long after her retirement. And 17 years on, the CMC community was saddened to learn Carney passed away on Aug. 2, 2020, from COVID-19. A Zoom memorial service will be held on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020.

Determined that her spirit of generosity should live on, one of Carney’s former students donated $100,000 to establish the Professor Carol Carney Endowed Scholarship Fund. The Fund will provide financial assistance to one or more CMC students demonstrating financial need, with preference given to a student majoring in literature.

“Any financial donation I give to CMC pales compared to the way Professor Carney has helped so many students and made CMC a special memory,” the anonymous donor said. “As I write this, I believe she is watching me from Heaven and probably itching to correct my grammar! We all love her, and she will forever live in our memories!”

John Faranda ’79 was a close friend who visited Carney, and her husband, Philip, and son, Andrew, in Lake Geneva, Wis., as she struggled with serious health issues over the past several years. Professor Carney was one of those magical professors who became personally involved and invested in the lives of their students—in and out of the classroom. She was able to reassure them about their abilities and inspire them to new heights from her position as an academic mentor and also as a friend,” said Faranda, CMC’s ambassador-at-large.

Ben Xu ’05’s first semester at CMC was his first time away from Shanghai and right after 9/11. Carney invited him for Thanksgiving dinner. “It was one of the most heartwarming evenings in my life,” said Xu, a partner at Centerline Investment Management in Hong Kong.

“While my written English was not good, my conversational English was even worse. But Professor Carney encouraged me on my improvements and got her son to help me speak to everyone at the party.”

“Her encouragement and positive feedback were enormous and long-lasting,” Xu added. “Starting with running for student government in college until now, talking to investors around the world, I never shy away from or hesitate to engage in conversations.” 

Carney’s colleagues also were effusive in their praise. “Carol Carney was one of the most caring professors! She loved her students as part of her family,” said Marc Massoud P’89, the Robert A. Day Distinguished Professor of Accounting.

Professor James Taylor, senior lecturer in accounting, said Carney was a “terrific writing instructor and just a wonderful colleague and friend.” He sent several students to Carney to get her help in saving their theses.

Ronald Paz ’01 was thankful to have had Carney as a reader. An accounting and economics major whose thesis covered mergers and acquisitions, Paz came to CMC with English as his third language. Born in Bolivia, he studied at a German school before coming to Claremont McKenna. “Professor Carney’s instruction about how to write well and how to express myself was instrumental for me at Claremont, but also in my professional career afterwards,” said Paz, who is managing director of investments at Brookfield Infrastructure Group in São Paulo, Brazil.

“It can be very frustrating and scary when you first immerse yourself in a new culture,” Paz added. “I always will remember her as one of the key people to make me feel welcome to American culture. She was very warm, very patient in helping me navigate that really hard semester as a young adult coming from South America to the United States.”

As a new faculty member, Robert Valenza, now the holder of the Dengler-Dykema Chair of Mathematics and the Humanities, met Carney through the Preceptorial Program, in which students who might be at academic risk came to campus for some late-August preliminary work. “Carney conducted the writing and literature components of this two-week course of study,” he said, “and during the regular academic year, she worked wonders with the Writing Center.

“Carol had a seamless, monolithic personality, one that sufficed for her as wife, mother, friend, colleague, and teacher. Her sense of universal kindness and optimism suffused and dominated all of these roles,” Valenza said. “Carol transcended mere professionalism. In this she was quietly exemplary—as quiet, and yet as hard to miss, as the Sun on the brightest of days.”

The CMC community is invited to join the Carney family for a Zoom memorial service on Saturday, September 26, 2020, at noon Eastern Time; 9:00 AM Pacific Time. Use the Zoom.com meeting ID 969 2741 1819 or telephone +1-669-900-6833 and enter 969-2741-1819.

As mentioned above, a scholarship fund has been established at CMC in Professor Carney’s memory. Donations may be made to the Carol Carney Memorial Scholarship Fund, Claremont McKenna College, 400 N. Claremont Blvd., Claremont, CA 91711. Or online at https://online.cmc.edu/giving/donate-online and add her name in the “Designation” box.