The following story originally appeared in the winter 2022 issue of the W&M Alumni Magazine. – Ed.
From her days as vice president of Major League Soccer to her current role as chief executive officer of LA28 — the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles — Kathy Carter ’91 has been all about leadership.
Looking back, she got a crash course on that subject in her first year on the women’s soccer team at William & Mary.
Her coach was John Daly, who would win 413 games in 31 seasons. Two of her teammates were seniors Jill Ellis ’88, L.H.D. ’16, who coached the United States to two World Cup championships, and Julie Shackford ’88, now in her fourth season as the Tribe’s head coach. Carter saw little playing time that season. But she paid attention to the way the seniors encouraged younger players to keep up with their schoolwork.
“How do you help somebody who was coming in behind you? That is an invaluable lesson of leadership,” she says.
Carter also drew inspiration from Mark McCormack ’51, L.H.D. ’97.
“When I was a senior, Mark, who was one of the originators of the sports marketing industry, came back to William & Mary and spoke to a lot of the student athletes,” she says. “Coming out of that, everybody said, ‘Boy, wouldn’t it be great? This is exactly what I want to do, to go into sports.’”
Carter, who earned her B.A. in political science and government, will be using what she learned to the fullest over the next seven years. In September, Carter was promoted from chief revenue officer to CEO of LA28. It will be the first time the Olympics have been in the U.S. since 1996 and in Los Angeles since 1984.
Seven years might seem like a long way off, but Carter and her group are already busy.
“There are probably three phases to the journey,” she says. “The first was for us to really establish how we pay for it. What’s the revenue look like? The second is starting to put the foundational elements of the organization in place, because we’re essentially a startup that’ll grow to be tens of thousands of people and then we’ll go out of business.
“Then we’ll move into the third phase, which is execution, and that won’t happen until about 2024. So we’ve got a few years to make sure we’ve got the foundation of the organization in place.”
Carter’s first job out of college was as a consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1993, she joined World Cup Marketing to help organize the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. That started her on a path to a career in athletics.
She spent the majority of her career in soccer and was one of Major League Soccer’s founders. After the joint venture between LA28 and the U.S. Olympic Committee won the right to host the 2028 games in LA, she signed on as their chief revenue officer.
Carter also makes it clear that 30 years after graduation, she still loves her alma mater. She is strongly behind the All In campaign for W&M Athletics, which aims to build community, raise $55 million and increase annual giving.
“To me, it’s non-negotiable to pay it forward and to help future leaders,” she says. “Part of that is contributing back to the university and certainly to W&M Athletics. That helps us create future leaders for our country and across the globe. There’s no better way to do that than through athletics.”
Sports were always a big part of Carter’s life. She grew up in Northern Virginia, the same area as Ellis and Shackford. Together, the three of them worked a soccer camp run by Ellis’ father. She believes these experiences and her time at W&M set the foundation for her success.
“If we look at the history and the statistics today, a disproportionate number of women who are in the C-Suite played collegiate athletics or were athletes through their childhood,” says Carter. “There’s no doubt that what you learn and the commitment you have to make to be a Division I collegiate athlete has an undeniable impact on future leaders.”
She loves coming back to campus and being part of the W&M family. Every time she returns to Williamsburg, she enjoys reconnecting with all the great things she remembers from her time at W&M.
“I made my lifelong friends at W&M. There is something very special about the experience as students, as athletes and as people, and I think the college does a great job of fostering that. It is sort of a special sauce. There is an experience that people come away with that is a foundational element of who they become.
“In my recent trips to W&M, it’s been remarkable to see the investment in the facilities. And I’d say to all alumni, get in the game and help continue that trajectory forward! William & Mary is a beautiful place and something we need to continue to make even better for the next generation.”