Chamber honors Shannon Kelly Carter ’71

Shannon Kelly Carter ’71 has been called a force of nature, a woman whose drive comes from wanting to better her community. On February 18, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber honored her with the Great Living Cincinnatian Award.

“It was not at all something I was expecting. So many of my heroes have received the award,” she says.

Awardees include Neil Armstrong, civil rights activist the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and Carter’s husband, Lee Carter, and stepfather, Nelson Schwab Jr.

Carter has a long history of service, beginning when she sorted clothes as a high school student at the Children’s Hospital Thrift Shop. She is best known for Crayons to Computers (C2C), a nonprofit organization she co-founded that distributes school supplies to teachers in Cincinnati’s underserved schools—for free.

“I am proud that we were able to give away $100 million in supplies while I was there,” she says.

For 16 years, she was president and CEO of C2C, working for a salary of $1 per year. She left the organization in 2012 with a healthy endowment in place and a business model so successful it has been replicated in 42 cities.

Her ability to collaborate is the hallmark of her volunteerism. When she received a donation of a truckload of poster board, she partnered with inmates in Ohio state prisons, who made flashcards for C2C. Now in its 18th year, Crafts with Conviction also makes journals, book bags and other supplies.

“Becoming personal friends with some of these inmates has been life-altering for me,” says Carter.

Carter says retirement is not her style, and she is still rolling up her sleeves to help her community in creative ways. Most recently, she wrote Living Artfully, Inspired by Tradition (Orange Frazer Press, 2015). Proceeds from the book—an expression of her love of collecting antiques—benefit the Taft Museum of Art, where she is a board member.

An art history major, she says her life has come full circle. “At Wheaton, I received a fabulous, grounding education.”