Profiles

His dream never died

John Carey Jr. ’17 found a supportive community at TU in Northeastern Maryland

For two years he lived in a car, tormented by undiagnosed mental illness.

Now he looks forward to graduate school and a career dedicated to helping others who are as down on their luck as he was half a lifetime ago.

In December John Carey Jr. ’17 graduated from TUNE (Towson University in Northeastern Maryland). The 62-year-old psychology major, who excelled academically at the Bel Air, Maryland, campus, became a friend and role model to students young enough to be his grandchildren.

With the support of TUNE faculty and staff, he’s set his sights on earning a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. “I want to help homeless vets because I was one,” he says simply.

He didn’t always have such confidence.

After serving in the Navy for 12 years, he was honorably discharged but mental-health issues he attributes to extreme stress soon landed him on the streets of Huntington, West Virginia.

Driving other homeless people to the liquor store or hospital provided a meager income.

Most of the time, he hid. “I was really afraid,” he explains. “I didn’t know what was wrong with me.”

After two years of homelessness, Carey was diagnosed with severe manic depression and agoraphobia (fear of public places).

With medical care and Veterans Administration supervision, he was able to get a job and a disability check from the federal government.

The years that followed included becoming an education major in 1993 at Marshall University in Huntington along with doubts about being able to teach with his disability. He left without graduating.

A major medical setback followed. But by 2016 he was living in Bel Air with his husband and applied to TUNE. His goal was to follow in the footsteps of those who’d reached out to him in his darkest hour.

“They say people major in psychology because they want to understand themselves better,” Carey says with a chuckle.

Marjorie Tversky, TUNE’s director of Student Services, remembers when Carey began taking classes. “He was uncomfortable at first,” she says. “But as the months passed he seemed to blossom here.”

Mark Chachich, who directs TUNE’s psychology program, is a staunch admirer. “John is brilliant, a fantastic student and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet,” he says.

“My time at TUNE really invigorated me,” says Carey. “Everyone treated me with respect and dignity, and there was never a discouraging word. It was always a pleasure to be there.”

Trust Your Dog

Police officer relied on, and retired with, his best partner

Dave Nails ’84 has always been an animal lover. When he began working as a K-9 officer at the Dallas Police Department in Dallas, Texas, his commitment to these furry friends became the final stage of his career.

After serving as a patrol officer, a detective, undercover officer and airport officer, Nails found his calling and it found him in the form of a dog.

But after 33 years in law enforcement, Nails recently retired with his K-9 partner—Baron. Most officers do not get to take their dogs with them when they leave. But Baron’s age and chewing habits gave Nails the privilege of leaving the force alongside his four-legged partner.

Now, man and canine spend their time relaxing after some eight years in the field.

“Trust your dog” was the phrase that Nails remembers hearing constantly within the K-9 unit. And in more times than not, the phrase was true. The bond the two formed together was built on trust and hard work.

Baron’s talents were varied. He was trained to search buildings, to bite and hold, to sniff out narcotics and to track. Nails remembers with pride one particular occasion when Baron’s insistence led the unit to catch an armed car thief.

Like a human partner, however, Baron had a quirk or two in his personality, Nails says with a laugh.

On a call to a large grocery store, Nails recalls “Baron began going down aisles on one side and I started on the opposite. Next thing I knew, Baron comes out with a 10-pound ham hanging from his mouth.”

With Baron’s fun-loving and dedicated personality, Nails wishes he had begun working as a K-9 officer sooner.

“Dogs are just such amazing animals,” says Nails, who trained Baron as a four-month-old puppy and then became his
official partner, working side by side to form a perfect team. “Seeing him come into the program was amazing,” he adds.

Reiko Gallo ’18