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Continuing Studies


  • Donald Gillespi
    Donald Gillespi

Donald Gillespie ’04

Class Year



Business Administration

Current position

Adjunct Business Administration Professor

Dreams may be deferred, but they don’t have to die.

For Donald Gillespie, the dream of an education began in a turbulent era in a Mississippi town. More than three decades later, it came true at Carthage.

Mr. Gillespie said he first thought of attending college during his senior year of high school in Macon, Mississippi, when schools were desegregated midway through the school year.

“I was transferred over to the ‘white’ school,” he recalled. “I met Richard Gillette, one of the three white students who stayed and didn’t transfer to a private school. We decided to move to Chicago, become lawyers, then fix all the racial tensions in Mississippi.”

Mr. Gillespie eventually settled in Waukegan, Illinois, where fate sent him on another course.

“I stopped by a barber shop to get a haircut,” he said. “The barber worked at American Motors, and he was telling other people that American Motors was hiring. The next morning, I borrowed a friend’s car, and drove up to Kenosha. Surprisingly, they hired me.”

‘A distant dream to go to Carthage’

For the next decade, Mr. Gillespie lived in Racine, and began a 31-year career with American Motors and Chrysler. He completed his service there as a production supervisor.

“I’d drive down Sheridan Road to work, and I’d be fascinated by the College,” he said. “The buildings sat so far back from the road, it was almost intimidating. But it was a distant dream to attend Carthage.”

In 1984, Mr. Gillespie started pursuing a degree, by taking a class at another institution. A year later, he was one of a group of workers from the Kenosha plant transferred to work at AMC’s Jeep factory in Toledo, Ohio. He would continue working there and at Chrysler plants in Michigan until 1996.

During this time, he took classes from institutions in Ohio and Michigan, but it wasn’t easy.

“Because of the ups and downs of the auto industry, moving from shift to shift and state to state, I started courses and had to drop them in the middle,” he explained.

‘I came straight to Carthage’

By 1996, when Mr. Gillespie returned to Kenosha, he had less than half the credits he would need to graduate.

“When I came back and came here, that’s when I had fewer interruptions,” he said. “I didn’t even consider (other schools). I came straight to Carthage, because this was where I wanted to go. It was a challenge, but a good challenge.”

No sooner did Mr. Gillespie earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2004, than he enrolled in the Loyola University Chicago MBA for Executives program at Carthage. He received his MBA in February 2006.

“I had just finished, and I was so excited from the educational experience I felt like I was on a roll,” he said of his decision to go on. He enjoyed learning from fellow students who held managerial positions at various firms and was fascinated by a trip to China that was part of the MBA program, calling it a highlight.

From student to teacher

Shortly after his graduation, Mr. Gillespie turned the table and taught a Graduate and Professional Studies course in production management. 

Mr. Gillespie said he couldn’t help thinking that “after riding by this mysterious, intimidating college sitting up on a hill,” he had the opportunity to teach there. “I’m thrilled beyond words. The only person more thrilled is my wife,” Desanka.

Mr. Gillespie has a further desire to learn and teach. He had plans to apply for admission to Loyola’s doctoral program in theology, with the thought of possibly teaching that subject eventually.

“Business is what I did, earning a living,” he said. “Theology is what I want to do.”

Mr. Gillespie said he has lost touch with Richard Gillette. But he adds with a smile that “I’d love to run into him. We’d have a lot to talk about.”

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2018), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • Scheduled to open in fall 2018, a new residential tower will offer suite-style housing and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about The Tower

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • 96% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit Career Services.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. 95% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • As a freshman in the highly selective Honors Program, learn how to gain expertise in anything from music to forest ecology. After that, tackle a contemporary social, economic, or political problem. If you like, you can live on an Honors-only floor of a Carthage residence hall. 

    • In 2016, 2017 and 2018, Carthage was named a top producer of Fulbright Scholars by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our athletic and recreation center, student union, computer labs, audiovisual production suite, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 10 years. Our new science center caps it off.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from archaeology to athletic training, neuroscience to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of our students receive financial aid, a hefty chunk of which is scholarships and grants — including $1.25 million annually from the Presidential Scholarship Competition and numerous Merit Scholarships. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” says biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 30 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from 75% tuition up to full tuition, room, and board. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about the Carthage core.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 120 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Chemistry Club, to Frisbee and Latin Belly Dancing. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • Imagine presenting your original research at an international conference — as an undergraduate. Carthage is dedicated to undergraduate research. Learn more about current opportunities.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 5 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …