Carolyn Choate-Turnbull ’80 P’15
2019 Alumni Citation Recipient
Carolyn graduated without distinction from Washington College in 1980 with a degree in English, but her experience here would eventually read like Frost’s iconic The Road Less Traveled. “Receiving a college education in my family was, by far, the exception,” admits Carolyn. “Still, it took several years and surviving on my own following the Carter recession to understand just how valuable that diploma was financially, intellectually, and emotionally.”
A native of Bel Air, Maryland, Carolyn attended Bel Air High School, where she was an honors English student with a penchant for creative writing. “Call it destiny or just plain luck, but my teacher Barbara Osborn, a 1970 graduate of Washington College, did a great sales pitch. After two years in her class, WC was the only place I wanted to go and the only place I applied.”
While at WC, Carolyn not only immersed herself in American and English poetry, philosophy, and world and art history, she worked off campus 20 to 25 hours a week and played just as hard. “I fancied myself the campus Bohemian, a poetry-writing, guitar-playing free spirit whose curiosity about life would naturally direct my future path.”
It would first take her to Burlington, Vermont, where she worked at a department store for several years before entering the media biz – first in sales at a weekly tabloid, and then as host of a zany talk show on public access – before she and her business partner/husband formed a TV production company and began producing serious local cultural affairs programming through leased cable.
In 1988, the couple moved to Nashua, New Hampshire, where they successfully managed a Class-A TV station for 23 years before taking ownership. Carolyn’s long-running, award-winning program, “142 Main,” captured the unique flavor of politics in the “first-in-the-nation” primary state, as well as the controversies, newsmakers, and human interest stories unique to New Hampshire. “I may have been born to be an interviewer, but without WC’s liberal arts education, I wouldn’t have had a snow ball’s chance in this industry,” maintains Carolyn.
Cancer was one path she never dreamed of taking. In 2003, Carolyn was diagnosed with stage 3b breast cancer. “At the time, my daughters, Sydney and MacKenzie, were 12 and 9 respectively, and the doctor said I probably wouldn’t live to see Sydney complete middle school. I told her she obviously didn’t know me very well.”
Following numerous surgeries and aggressive treatment, Carolyn went on to complete her master’s degree in writing and establish the Breast Cancer Educational Initiative for Low-Income & Minority Women, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching early detection to society’s most vulnerable and offering financial assistance.
In 2013, the TV station was sold to OTA Broadcasting, a subsidiary of MSD Capital. While Carolyn remains in TV management, she has finally launched that freelance writing career. Food, wine, travel, and healing are her muses.
Daughter Sydney graduated from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a degree in arts management in 2012 and works at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in Saudi Arabia. MacKenzie is a member of the Class of 2015 at Washington College, where she’ll graduate with double majors in French and theatre. “I don’t know which day will be more memorable for me, the day MacK was accepted, or the day she’ll graduate. Either way, I just feel so blessed to be alive and honored to serve my alma mater, one that “… has made all the difference.”