AUSTIN, Texas (CBS) — David Carter stands outside of the University of Texas’ Austin campus every day, offering the same warm greeting to students who pass by, “Hello, my friend!” He’s a panhandler who once went to the university, but fell on hard times.
Carter, now 67, attended the school from 1972 to 1975 as a studio art major. Then, he was involved in a crash, and his life took a turn. “I had a skull fracture, a broken pelvis and a broken jaw,” Carter told CBS affiliate KEYE-TV.
He then had trouble with substance abuse and faced mental health challenges, leading him to drop out before completing his degree.
“If I could change one thing about my past life, I would have stayed in school,” Carter said. He said he knows an education can change someone’s quality of life.
Carter resorted to panhandling in the last few years for a simple reason. “I’m always flat broke,” he said. While most people would walk right by a panhandler, one student at the university decided to stop and chat with Carter – and he learned a valuable lesson: you can’t judge a book by its cover.
“A lot of UT students see them as criminal vagrants or stereotype them as dangerous or unfriendly, and that stereotype just isn’t true,” Ryan Chandler, a junior at the school, to KEYE-TV.
Chandler got to know Carter and saw his potential. “He completed 87 hours of course credit, which is enough for a degree for most people, but he just never finished,” Chandler said.
The student wrote a blog post about his new pal, and luckily, the right people heard about Carter and stepped in to help.
The University of Texas readmitted Carter as a student — more than 40 years after he last attended the school. And an anonymous alumnus stepped up to the plate to pay Carter’s tuition, KEYE-TV reported.
His first day of school is Thursday, June 6.
To read the full CBS News article, click here.