Linda C. Carleton

University Dean – Community Leader

The life of Linda Carleton has been centered on service to her Lord, developing young leaders and leadership in her community. While she has never been a student at HSU, her life has been intertwined with HSU for more than three decades. During those years, she established herself as a significant leader on this campus and in the Abilene community.

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana on March 19, 1943, Linda Carruth attended public schools in Shreveport, graduating from C.E. Byrd High School in 1961. Her undergraduate years included enrollment at San Jose State University, Louisiana State University, Centenary College, and Louisiana Tech University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Education in 1965.

She returned to Shreveport in 1966 to begin her career as an educator, teaching junior English at Byrd High School, her high school alma mater. The following fall, she transferred to teach junior English at Captain Shreve High School when it opened in 1967.

The following year, 1968, she married Robert Carleton and they began a new life as a Christian couple in Shreveport. Rob worked in the electric utility industry and Linda continued to pursue her career in public education, completing a Master’s degree in Education at LSU in 1974.

In 1977, Rob was transferred from Southwestern Electric Power Company to West Texas Utilities in Abilene to develop a corporate training program. The couple enjoyed living in a college town and began attending events on the Hardin-Simmons University campus. One of their favorite events was the Christmas tree lighting ceremony. They had been in town less than a year when Linda joined the HSU family part-time, supervising student teachers. In 1985, she moved to full-time status, to serve as Associate Dean of Students. Thus, began Linda’s 30-year career as a student development administrator at HSU. She was promoted to Associate Dean of Students and Director of Housing and, soon after, to Dean of Students in 1992, then, ultimately, in 1998 to the very significant leadership post of Associate Vice President of Student Development.

Affectionately known as “Dean” Carleton to thousands of students under her positive influence, she served as a vital senior administrator with three HSU presidents – Fletcher, Hall and Turner. Her responsibilities were numerous. They included working with social clubs, student government, chapel/assembly programs, new student orientation, as well as student discipline. While supervising and administering student discipline is not always the most pleasant of experiences, Dean Carleton pursued a redemptive approach and tried to teach meaningful life lessons as she worked with each student.

In 2008, Dean Carleton retired from HSU, but only after launching her dream in 2004 for a neighborhood enhancement program. Abilene’s non-profit organization, “Connecting Caring Communities,” a neighborhood enhancement initiative, is the result of that dream.

Throughout her busy and productive professional career, she has been extremely active in their church, First Baptist Church of Abilene, and in service to her community.

Listing all her church activities would be next to impossible. From 1983 to 1985, Carleton served as Outreach Director of the church. She has served on numerous church committees including the Budget Committee, Finance Committee and the Committees on Committees. For two years, she chaired both the Committee on Committees and the Budget Committees. She was ordained as Deacon in 1997, and has served as deacon secretary, vice chair and chair. She has also chaired the Reflection and Direction Committee and the Vision Coordinating Team. She and Rob have served as Co-Directors of the Young Adults in Sunday School, and she has taught 7th grade girls.

Within the Abilene community, she has served on numerous boards including Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Office of Community Services Advisory Council and Connecting Caring Communities. Not surprisingly, she served as President of Connecting Caring Communities for two years and on that board from 2008 to 2014.

The Carletons have two daughters, both HSU graduates, Leslie Strader and Robin Cunningham, two sons-in-law – Ross and Greg – and most importantly, five grandchildren: Maggie, Jay and Katherine Strader; and Wesley and Gracie Cunningham.

For her outstanding leadership in her church and in the community, and for her devotion to developing student leaders, Hardin-Simmons University is proud to induct Linda Carleton into the HSU Hall of Leaders.