Distinguished Alumni Award


Joan Carter '65


June 2005

Joan Carter says she decided on a major at Wooster more or less by default: "I went to college saying I thought I might major in music, so I did. I didn't know it at the time, but I didn't really have the talent..."

Later Joan would discover her true talent, for entrepreneurship, which she has exercised con brio in a diverse array of businesses ever since.
 
As a student, Joan sang in the girls' chorus, performed in theatre productions, including a lead role as Buttercup in H.MS Pinafore, and sang in a group called the Street Singers. ("We fancied ourselves a Midwest Peter, Paul and Mary.") She participated in Wooster in Vienna, "a wonderful experience."

But it wasn't all smooth sailing. She recalls visits to Dean of Women Edith Frey, to discuss the impropriety of taping posters to dorm walls, the importance of curfews, and other matters. "You're such a leader," the dean sighed during one of their meetings. "The girls follow you. It's such a shame you don't lead them in the right direction."

For several years after graduation, Joan taught high school German and then taught music in a nursery school to pay for the tuition of her two children. Then in the early 1970s, she met a man who was interested in turning an academic idea into a new business. Cardiovascular stress testing was only being done in university research labs at that time, but John Aglialoro thought the procedure had commercial potential. 

"So we both mortgaged our homes," Joan says, "took out an SBA loan, and started a business. We were very entrepreneurial. We created strategy to explain what we were doing instead of creating a strategy and then implementing it." As the business grew, they branched out into cardiac rehabilitation, exercise equipment, dialysis centers, a hospital supply company, even a printing company. 

They took the company public, changed its name to United Medical Corp., took it private again, spun off the dialysis business to W.R. Grace, sold the original cardiac testing business, and merged the exercise equipment company with CYBEX International Somewhere along the way, they found time to get married.

 In 1995, the company's name was changed to UM Holdings, Ltd., to more accurately reflect its status as a private corporation that invests in a variety of private and public companies. Joan is president and chief operating officer of UM Holdings, as well as CEO of PetroChem Inspection Services, a Houston-based provider of inspection and testing services to the petrochemical and refining industries, while John is CEO of UM Holdings and CYBEX. 

Joan's entrepreneurial energies have found other outlets as well. She was chairman of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve, and currently serves on the boards of Penn Mutual, CarrAmerica, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, and The College of Wooster. She was the first woman member of the Union League of Philadelphia, and now serves on that board, too. (John's entrepreneurial energy also has other outlets. He won the U.S. poker championship last October.) 

Except for the highly improvisational nature of life as an entrepreneur, there may not seem to be many connections between Joan's Wooster career and her life today. But there are. 

When she spoke at Rutgers University's business school several years ago, Joan told the assembled professors that from her perspective as a businesswoman, the most important thing they could do for their students was "teach them to think critically and write well. We'll take it from there." 

Spoken like a true liberal arts college graduate.