Like many of his fellow alumni, football brought Carl Showalter ’82 to VMI. During a Keydet golden era – the football, track and basketball teams had spectacular seasons during his cadetship – an athletic scholarship paid for the fullback’s civil engineering degree.
After graduation, the alumni network was there to assist. Showalter owns a commercial site work contracting business in Charlotte, North Carolina. The company started small, with rented equipment. Just like he didn’t make it through VMI alone – coaches, professors and brother rats were always there – Showalter says he didn’t build the company alone.
The Savannah, Georgia, native found his first post-college job through a VMI alumni connection. Days after graduating, he reported to work at Appalachian Power in Bluefield, West Virginia. He didn’t know a soul in Bluefield, so he took the next logical step: He made a phone call to Moody Hall and asked who he should know in Bluefield.
Armed with a name from Moody Hall, Showalter called up his contact in West Virginia, introduced himself and was soon “adopted” by his fellow alumnus.
After a short time in Bluefield, Showalter wanted to get married. His now-wife, Jane, was working in North Carolina and didn’t want to move – so he began a job hunt. He found employment in Charlotte, North Carolina.
His next step? Another call to Moody Hall.
The Alumni Association gave him a list of “titans,” Showalter recalled. “They gave me four names and the first one on the list was Tom Dooley [’56].”
Dooley, who passed away in 2018, told Showalter to come down to the local YMCA to meet him. The meeting was in the men’s locker room. “I felt like I was back in the sinks at VMI,” said Showalter of his first meeting with Dooley.
Though the first meeting was a little strange, Dooley soon became “a tremendous influence and mentor for me … [he] sort of adopted me and my wife.” Dooley advised Showalter about everything: Where to buy a house, where to attend church and where to send his children to school.
After a couple of years in Charlotte, Showalter decided to start his own business. He and Jane were young and had few family or financial commitments.
“That was the great thing about it. I was 25 years old, as was [Jane]. She had a job. There was really no better time to go into business – because if it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. We didn’t have anything. All we had to do was make enough money to make our house payment … It was a lot simpler back then.”
Avoiding debt, Showalter initially rented equipment. At first, the operation was small. He took any and every job, pouring many driveways and foundations. It was very “hands on. I was … a laborer, chief cook and bottle washer. I had to do all that stuff.”
Little by little, his hard work built a successful construction business, Showalter Construction Company. Along with his business, he’s seen – and helped – Charlotte grow.
“It’s been a great city for my wife, for our family and for our business,” Showalter said. “It’s amazing the growth I’ve seen – and been a part of: Housing, big Fortune 500 companies are relocating to Charlotte, residential subdivisions. Just a ton of work going on.”
Aside from seeing and taking part in Charlotte’s expansion, the city is a good fit for him in another way: “Charlotte’s a philanthropic town,” Showalter said. “Charlotte’s been great to us, and we want to give back what we can.”
He and Jane, who have three adult sons, are involved in “anything our children have been involved with,” as well as their church, the boys’ colleges and a new facility called HopeWay, which provides premier mental health treatment.
And his alma mater is never far from his heart. “Even to the day, when I hear the regimental band playing ‘Shenandoah’ I get emotional. I don’t know why, but I do,” Showalter said. It’s something unique among the VMI alumni: Cadets at VMI can’t wait to leave, but when they return to Lexington for their 1st Class years, they look around and realize, “I’ll miss these guys.”
Always grateful that someone paid for him to attend VMI and for the alumni network support he received over the years, Showalter endowed the James Carlton Showalter ’82 Football Scholarship for a football cadet-athlete who emulates Showalter’s standards and character: Hard work, perseverance, and integrity – in the classroom and on the gridiron.
“Somebody’s generosity allowed me to go to VMI so I felt compelled to give back what I could. That’s kind of my mindset,” Showalter said. “You can’t be a taker all your life, you’ve got to give back.”
Molly Rolon Editorial Specialist
The editorial specialist assists the editor-in-chief in various tasks relating to the production of quarterly and monthly publications, as well as prepares written materials for publication.