Education is the key to unlocking an individual’s potential. In the case of Niel and Helen Carey, education was the beginning of their legacy in education.
While stationed in England for three years during the Korean War, Niel Carey ’59 discovered UMD’s overseas education program and took that opportunity to earn one year’s worth of college credits. This experience would become a stepping-stone to further education followed by a successful career that would span government, industry and public education. In 1969, while teaching both science and math, Mr. Carey met and soon married Helen Simmons ’64. They have enjoyed almost 62 years of a meaningful marriage and family.
“During my first year after college graduation, we met while we were both teaching math and science at the same junior high school in Baltimore County,“ Helen Carey said.
After a few years in the classroom the Careys would both go on to become counselors. Over the next thirty years Mrs. Carey would build a successful career as a counselor in the Baltimore County School system, and Mr. Carey would eventually transition into other roles.
“I believe that education is an equalizer,” Mr. Carey said of his passion for public education. “Helen and I are basically teachers, but our lives have been enhanced so much by higher education, especially by the University of Maryland. We have a very strong connection to the University and want to make an impact by giving back to our community, because without UMD we would not be where we are today.”
After spending about 10 years as a teacher, counselor and guidance department chair in several secondary public schools in Baltimore County, Mr. Carey was recruited by the Maryland State Department of Education for the position of state supervisor of vocational guidance, where he served for 15 years. In this position he chaired a task force which was charged with defining and implementing the state’s career education program. He was appointed state coordinator of career education by the state superintendent. In the role of state coordinator he developed a collaborative relationship with the Counseling and Personnel Services Division of the College of Education at UMD, working with George Marx, Charles Berry, Kenneth Hoyt, Nancy Schlossberg and Gary Gottfredson. At the national level, Niel Carey chaired a group of state coordinators who formed the American Association for Career Education and became its second president.
Following his work for the state, Mr. Carey was employed as the first executive director of the National Career Development Association (NCDA), in the Washington, D.C., area. After a 10-year tenure at NCDA, he retired but continued to be actively involved in professional advocacy, including chairing the NCDA government relations committee.
When NCDA became a founding member of a national coalition that focused on strengthening career development in American education, Mr. Carey played an active role in the coalition’s national summit. His participation in the coalition of 100 businesses and organization (including the National Governors Association, IBM, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation), as well as Mrs. Carey’s service in education and counseling, fueled their desire to initiate the Carey Career Development Endowed Fellowship at the University of Maryland College of Education.
“We started the Carey Career Development Endowed Fellowship to help students clearly identify and outline their future,” said Mr. Carey. “Research supports the idea that students who have goals achieve higher results.”
The goal of the Careys’ endowed fellowship is to give financial support to students as they pursue their advanced education and career path—while helping them identify their strengths, interests and dreams, and gain an understanding of where and how they might be able to achieve their goals.
To express their gratitude and pay it forward, Niel and Helen Carey have dedicated their lives to helping others realize their potential by using education as their foundation. This passion to help students succeed has embodied the Careys’ life work, as they feel it was education that put them on the right life path. Today, the Careys continue to do their part to ensure that individuals have access to a quality education.
They learned, they taught, they counseled, and they served. And the Careys have left an indelible mark on the field of education through the students they support and through philanthropy. It is their hope that other alumni will follow their lead and consider a way to give back.