“Life takes many unexpected turns, but given the opportunity, anything is possible.”
This life lesson continued to resonate with me after I sat down with Bates alum Tom Carey ’73, head of the Bates Security and former FBI agent, who contributes yearly to the Bates Fund even as a faculty member. Hailing from Framingham, Massachusetts, Carey always considered Maine to be his second home and did not need to think twice about applying to Bates. After his initial admissions interview, Carey was dead set on making Bates his home:
“I never looked back. I really embraced Bates and the friendships that you develop in the four years that you are here. I walk around the campus today, and even though there are new buildings today, I still see the campus exactly as it was 45 years ago when I first came here.”
Carey spent his years at Bates studying government (a major that is now politics), and was deeply involved with both the school and the community around it. Paving the way for his own successful career, Carey’s studies focused on law enforcement funding, a path that lead to a summer of working for the Lewiston Police Department.
“The opportunities present themselves, and it’s serendipity,” says Carey, “a lot of things you don’t plan for, and the opportunities present themselves. You just have to go with it.”
As a student at Bates and a member of the police force, Carey witnessed Lewiston and Auburn during a transformative time.
“It’s changed a lot from 40 years ago,” says Carey. “It was a different place, but it was always a nice town. I think it’s unfortunate that the ‘Dirty Lew’ moniker has been attached to Lewiston, because it’s a nice town that has a lot going on.”
While attending Bates, Carey became the manager of the football team and reminisces about skiing at Lost Valley with his friends. He also believes that his time at Bates groomed him for his successful career with the FBI.
“I’m a strong believer in the liberal arts education…you get a broadened perspective, for example at Bates where you are forced to question yourself and work hard. Your perspectives are also broadened by the people around you. I saw that 40 years ago.”
Despite one’s major, said Carey, it’s the power of the transformative Bates experience that provides an environment for personal growth.
After attending Bates and the University of Maine where he received a Masters in government administration, Carey joined the FBI for a colorful career in anti-terrorism.
“It was a busy time; counter-terrorism really came to the forefront. When I came into the FBI my thought process was that I wanted to work on large-scale cases like one thinks of in the traditional sense. I had no idea that I’d be doing what I ended up doing, traveling around the world and being involved in some of the signature cases of the last 25 years.”
During his time spent with the FBI, Carey worked cases such as the Pan Am flight 103 bombing, the Khobar Towers bombings in Kuwait, the 9/11 investigations, and traveled and met with allies to explain the FBI’s actions and why they were necessary. In fact, Carey was a part of almost every anti-terrorism investigation from the late 80’s until he retired in 2003.
“It made for some great opportunities,” said Carey.
One particularly memorable opportunity, remarked Carey, was to represent the FBI at the first anti-terrorism meeting after the September 11th attacks of 2001, in St. Petersburg, Russia. There, he sat among some of the most powerful men in the world. He also frequented the White House where he would represent the Bureau at meetings in the “situation room.”
Although Carey retired from the FBI, he was far from done with his career. He returned to Bates with vigor and passion for the community.
“When I got offered the job, I really did some soul searching of whether after 30 years it was time to come home. It was very appealing to come back to Maine, and to come back to a place I love. I really wasn’t looking for a college security job… if Bowdoin came and offered me a job tomorrow, I couldn’t care less. This is what I came back to, this is the last job that I will ever do. I feel very strongly about Bates and what we do.”
Apart from his many contributions to the Bates community, Mr. Carey also contributes yearly to the Bates Fund:
“I believe in it, I believe in the liberal arts education. I’ve seen not only in myself, but also in others, the opportunities that a liberal arts education can give you.”
To Carey, it’s about the big picture and the whole student experience, an image that the Bates Fund actively attempts to endow. To Carey, a Batesie is a unique and diverse being. In his opinion, a Bates student could be described as “a person who is endowed with the spirit and philosophy of liberal arts, in a setting that is demanding yet welcoming and friendly.”
When asked if he had ever dreamed that he would end up back at Bates, or as the head of security for that matter, Carey laughed and shook his head. Almost serendipitously, he is back where he belongs at Bates, and not unlike his time in the FBI, is in charge of keeping us safe. And so far, he has done just that.