Robert O. Carr, Give Something Back (Give Back) founder, will deliver the keynote address at Williamson College of the Trades’ Commencement at 2 p.m., Friday, June 1, in a tent on the lawn in front of Rowan Hall.
Carr will inspire the Class of 2018 as they receive associate in specialized technology degrees or craftsman diplomas and are sent into the world of work.
In November 2016, in a Give Back Partnership Celebration, Carr presented Williamson with a gift of $250,000, which was matched with a $250,000 gift from Williamson trustee Richard Clemens, a retired senior partner at Sidley Austin LLP. The money will be used to help 40 high school students receive a free education at Williamson. Williamson was Give Back’s first trade school and first school in Pennsylvania to become a partner school.
He once said, “From the day I walked onto Williamson’s campus, I knew this institution would serve as an extraordinary option for the scholars in our program who wish to pursue an academic, trade, or technical career. It’s hard not to be impressed with the values-based environment here that fosters faith, integrity, diligence, excellence, and service.”
Carr grew up in humble circumstances, but was able to attend college because a Woman’s Club gave him a $250 scholarship. With that money and the confidence it gave him, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in computer science at the University of Illinois.
He went on to found Heartland Payment Systems, a Fortune 1000 debit- and credit-card transaction company that was very successful. A few years ago, he sold the company for over $4.3 billion. He never forgot the Woman’s Club that helped him and he decided to repay them for their help by helping other young people receive a college education. Upon the Woman’s Club’s 100th anniversary, he presented them with a check for $100,000 for scholarships and that was the inspiration for Give Back.
In 2003, he founded Give Back, a nonprofit, which provides mentors and scholarships to help low-income students go to college and graduate debt-free. Since its inception in 2003, Give Back has contributed more than $35 million, providing 1,000 scholarships.
In 2017, Carr founded Beyond and serves as CEO and board chairman. His new company’s mission is to provide business solutions that simplify operations, reduce costs, and steamline payments for owners of small and mid-size businesses. Give Back is a beneficiary of his new venture.
Carr also serves on the board of directors for MENTOR and Snider Hockey, and is a trustee at Lewis University in Illinois. Carr was appointed by President Obama to a key White House post on the National Infrastructure Advisory Committee.
He has written two books, Through The Fires: An American Story of Turbulence, Business Triumph and Giving Back, and Working Class to College: The Promise and Peril Facing Blue Collar America, which includes high praise for Williamson’s educational approach.
Carr has won plaudits for technological prowess and ethical leadership. He has been honored as the Entrepreneur of the Year in the financial services category by Ernst and Young, as the top entrepreneur by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and with a lifetime achievement award from the payments industry trade group. Businessweek published an article about what other companies could learn from Carr. Jim Cramer, the host of the television show Mad Money, pointed to Carr’s honest and straightforward approach as something businesses should emulate.
He also serves on the boards for Bid Pal, Lewis University in Illinois, Ed Snider Youth Hockey, and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.