EMIDIO MACHAIEIE, the fourth-ranked tennis player in the Republic of Mozambique, drops the opening serve of Ken Carr '79 into the bottom of the sagging net. “Always the first point is yours, professor... I mean, the third,” he grins, referring to the pair's standing arrangement that the American begin each game up 30–love. If Carr can take a set from the local pro, his next “lesson” is free. The two laugh like old friends. After only a month–long residence in this developing nation about as far from Cache Valley as is geographically possible, Carr's impact is readily apparent. A one–time studentbody president and current adjunct lecturer in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University, “Professor Ken” is winding down a term teaching an MBA course on venture valuation at Mozambique's oldest university, and leading by example.
“In all my time here, I've never once felt unsafe,” he says. In stark contrast to many other third�world countries, the people here, he says, are just plain happy. It boosts his faith in humanity.
Carr is just one member of a family of charitable Aggie alumni from Idaho Falls, Idaho, doing volunteer work in Africa. His younger brother Steve graduated in political science and now serves on the nine–member Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, the international movement's highest governing body. Steve Carr' 81 is the first American ever to be elected to the commission, which has the task of providing strategic guidance on all aspects of the massive organization's responsibilities. Another younger brother, Greg '82, graduated in history and went on to Harvard, then made millions by marketing his new idea for voice mail to Boston telephone companies. He has since spent his time in various philanthropic projects in Idaho and around the world. Both Steve and Greg have spent extensive time in Africa overseeing various projects in their respective volunteer efforts, and big brother Ken is certainly beginning to foster his own love for the continent as well.
Ken himself graduated from USU in 1979 with a BS degree in economics and moved on to law school at the University of Utah. He practiced law in Utah and Colorado for 15 years before following his passion to pursue business and other endeavors. In 2006, he returned to Cache Valley to be near three of his four children who had chosen USU for their undergraduate experience. He applied for a teaching position in the business school and has since received much recognition for his work in the classroom.
Leaving the tennis courts drenched from a workout under the hot African sun, he stops to introduce me to his new friends at a foreign language institute, as well as a whole host of street vendors lining the sidewalks of Maputo, the nation's capital. He praises a certain souvenir vendor for employing unique methods to sell his woven fabrics, and buys only from him. He enjoys rewarding those who employ creative entrepreneurial techniques, hoping the creative spirit will catch on. Though he only buys from one, nearly every vendor on the street recognizes the robust blond professor and illuminates with pride as he stops to slap their hands. “In all my time here, I've never once felt unsafe,” he says. In stark contrast to many other third–world countries, the people here, he says, are just plain happy. It boosts his faith in humanity.
But any contentment felt by the locals has come at a hefty price. Mozambicans have had to withstand an excess of wide–scale calamities—war, disease, and famine—and it's all chillingly recent. With the help of the Soviet Union, the FRELIMO liberation front declared the nation's independence from Portugal only in 1975, following a 10–year struggle for control of the government. Many of the Portuguese permanently returned to Europe at this point, leaving the fledgling war–torn nation to fend for itself. The decade of revolutionary war gave way immediately to 17 more years of civil war, as the Resistencia Nacional Mocambicana, or RENAMO attempted unsuccessfully to wrest control away from the communists. An agreement was reached only in 1992, giving way to a democracy.
When the deep red dust finally settled, however, Mozambicans were left with one of the perennially poorest nations on earth. They had won their freedom, but nearly three decades of continuous war had ravaged the land. Dense jungles, open grassland, and white Indian Ocean coastline all became casualties of the long campaign for independence, as did the large percentage of the nation's GNP that once came from tourism. Today, live land mines scattered generously by both armies pepper much of the countryside. “Growing up, you just learn to stay on the paths,” says Mary Walz, an American political officer with the U.S. Embassy, and supervisor of a de–mining team in the Maputo area.
Following his daily tennis match with Machaieie, Ken Carr showers, wasting no time in preparing for the remainder of the day's activities. On the docket today is a meeting with the president of the university, final preparations for his last lecture, and finally, the class itself. The University of Eduardo Mondlane (UEM), founded just after the revolution in 1962 as the nation's first university, houses about 18,000 students in various departments directed at furthering Mozambique's growing infrastructure. All of this isn't enough for Dr. Filipe Couto though. Couto is UEM's rector, an office equivalent to the president in an American university. He is a short, middle–aged man of largely Portuguese descent with curly salt–and–pepper hair, who doesn't appear far removed from his previous post as a Catholic minister. He greets us in his conference room, a strikingly modern hall with a huge polished wood table and ornate reception couches. A portrait of FRELIMO revolutionary leader Mondlane looms high on one end of the room, faced by two massive elephant tusks suspended over the other.
the nation's most influential university, UEM has a responsibility to improve the standard of living of all of its citizens. He needs graduates to stay because, “the qualified people are those who can go to the rural areas”
—Dr. Filipe Couto
“I would like the faculty to graduate people who are connected with practical causes,” the rector slows down to emphasize the last four words in perfect English. An enormous challenge not at all unique to sub–Saharan Africa, many of UEM's top–performing graduates leave the country upon finding more lucrative jobs in South Africa, Europe, or the United States. He and Carr discuss possible methods for retaining graduates, and what American schools like USU could theoretically do to help.
Ten minutes into the discussion, Couto shifts around in his high–backed chair, now completely comfortable with Carr as an ally, and reveals more about his greatest concern: the staggeringly low quality of life for the 80 percent of Mozambicans still living the bush life. He says that as the nation's most influential university, UEM has a responsibility to improve the standard of living of all of its citizens. He needs graduates to stay because, “the qualified people are those who can go to the rural areas,” he declares, and the room hushes. He solemnly hints at malaria, which affects over 5 million of his countrymen and kills thousands each year. Maybe, he hopes, the educated can save them. “You have the power to make the place where you were born... become the best place,” he says. The American agrees.
Photo GalleryMouse over thumbnail for detail
A young student in the village of Vinho, near Gorongosa's entrance, waits with classmates to sing thank-yous to the
Elephants and other wildlife are some of the treasure of Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park, for which Greg Carr
has signed a 30-year commitment of personal fortune and time to restore.
Students and villagers fill bottles with clean water from a well Greg Carr facilitated. The school in the background was also
a gift from Carr, whose efforts combine building villagers up to live harmoniously with the surrounding animals and land.
Ken Carr, an adjunct lecturer in USU's Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, is well know to vendors in the Mozambican
capital of Maputo, where he enjoys rewarding “creative entrepreneurial techniques.”