Kim Carpenter of The Vow to Speak at Commencement
Las Vegas, N.M. – New Mexico Highlands University alumnus Kim Carpenter, whose true story inspired the 2012 international blockbuster movie The Vow, will be the university’s commencement speaker May 11.
Carpenter worked for Highlands University for 17 years and calls Las Vegas his second home. He served as assistant athletic director from 1989 - 1998 and head baseball coach from 1991 – 1994. He directed the university’s Farmington Center from 1998 – 2004. Under his leadership, the center added 13 degree programs.
He earned his bachelors in business administration and masters in sports administration from Highlands. During his tenure with the university, Carpenter also taught physical education and sports administration courses, among other responsibilities.
Carpenter and his wife, Krickitt, authored the New York Times bestselling book The Vow, which was printed in 19 languages and has been called the greatest love story of our time. It chronicles how the couple remained true to their wedding vows after a traumatic brain injury erased Krickitt’s memory of her husband.
The newlyweds’ lives changed forever on a cold November night in 1993. They were driving from Las Vegas to Phoenix to visit Krickitt’s parents for Thanksgiving. A horrific collision with a semi truck and one-ton pickup left Krickitt with a severely fractured scull.
She was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Medical Center, where doctors didn’t expect her to live. Krickitt defied the odds and emerged 21 days later from a deep coma, but the brain injury caused retrograde post-traumatic amnesia. Kim was a complete stranger to her.
“I was in anguish when Krickitt was so disoriented, and didn’t recognize me,” Carpenter said. “It was heartbreaking, and she never recovered her memory of me.”
Carpenter decided the only thing to do was to never give up hope that one day they’d be a loving couple again. He said both the couple’s parents provided strong examples of committed marriages of more than 50 years.
“We live in a society where vows are constantly broken. When we married, we took a vow of ‘til death do us part. For me, it’s about being a person of your word,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter said his faith helped him persevere during the darkest of times. He prayed often, either alone or with family and friends.
“When you’re told that your wife is beyond medical help and yet she miraculously survives, clearly there’s a higher power at work. My faith gave me great strength but also waivered at times. It was a roller coaster of emotions, including bitterness and depression. I had to be Krickitt’s rock – the way she was for me before the accident,” Carpenter said.
With the hospital bills soaring, Carpenter returned to his job at Highlands in February 1994, calling Krickitt every night at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. At times, Carpenter despaired that his wife would never love him again. One night he came home late from Cowboy baseball practice to a ringing phone.
“Krickitt’s mom was on the line and said, ‘There’s someone who wants to talk to you.’ I took a deep breath and tried to suck for air. It felt like I was in 50-below-zero weather. Krickitt said, ‘Hi. I gotta go now. Bye.’ It gave me so much hope and was a huge turning point,” Carpenter said.
This was the beginning of a long, difficult journey for the couple. In April 1994, Krickitt was discharged from the neurological institute and returned home to Las Vegas, where a counselor advised the couple to start over and build their new relationship from the ground up.
“It was different from when we first met. We dated with thankfulness and appreciation that we were getting back on track,” Carpenter said.
They’d eat dinner at local restaurants like El Rialto and the Spic & Span. Outings like ones to Santa Fe to bowl and to see the zoo in Albuquerque added variety to their new time together.
“We had a lot of help from our friends in Las Vegas who went through the whole ordeal with us. I can’t say enough about how supportive the university administration was during this very trying time,” Carpenter said.
On May 25, 1996 the Carpenters married again, exchanging new vows and rings. They have two children: Danny, 12, and LeeAnn, 9.
In Carpenter’s family, Highlands is a tradition. His brothers, Kelly and Kirk, also earned their degrees from the university.
“Highlands prepared me academically, professionally and socially for success in life, and I’m proud to say I’m a Highlands Cowboy. People use to say I bled purple and I still do. I will forever be indebted for the warm embrace that the people of Highlands and Las Vegas gave us. Some of the greatest people on the face of the earth reside there,” Carpenter said.
Today, Kim, 47, is the county executive officer for San Juan County New Mexico, with the county seat in Farmington, his hometown. He oversees a $140-million budget and more than 1,000 employees. Krickitt, 43, is a substitute high school teacher.
The couple also tours nationally and have given numerous interviews, including ones for NBC’s Dateline, ABC’s 20/20, Inside Edition, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and People Magazine, to name a few.
In 2012, the Carpenters received the International Association of Marriage and Family Educators Award for their courage, and for sharing their remarkable story. Kim is working on a second book titled, Keeping the Vow.
Carpenter said he’s looking forward to speaking at his alma mater more than any other speaking engagement to date, calling it an honor.
“I hope my story will inspire the Highlands students in simple ways. I’m a huge believer in the circle of life and giving back to humanity. This will be one of the themes of my commencement speech,” Carpenter said.
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