Pupil transportation leader Don Carnahan backed collaboration, technology

Thomas McMahon
Posted on October 6, 2014
Don Carnahan, who died suddenly on Friday, was serving his second term as president of NAPT.

Don Carnahan, who died suddenly on Friday, was serving his second term as president of NAPT.

RENTON, Wash. — School bus industry stalwart Don Carnahan, a Zonar executive who was serving his second term as president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), has passed away.

Carnahan, 75, died suddenly at his home in Renton on Friday night.

In an interview with SBF, NAPT Executive Director Mike Martin described Carnahan as “not just a great president, but a great mentor.”

Few people in pupil transportation could claim such diverse experience in the industry as Carnahan. He served as a state pupil transportation director for Washington, then as a regional director for school bus contractor Laidlaw.

While at Laidlaw, Carnahan served his first term as NAPT president, from 1997 to ’99. Also, in 1990, he chaired the 11th National Congress on School Transportation.

Most recently, Carnahan worked for fleet management solutions supplier Zonar as vice president of business development for pupil transportation.

At last year’s NAPT Summit in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Carnahan began his second, two-year term as president of the association.

During both of those terms — as well as during the years in between, as Carnahan continued to attend every NAPT board meeting — Mike Martin worked closely with Carnahan as the association’s executive director.

“When you reflect on Don as not just a transportation professional but as a human being, he was kind of larger than life,” Martin told SBF. “Don was thinking and talking about issues that we’re still talking about today, 30 years ago. He was always in the vanguard.”

As an example, Martin said, Carnahan recognized early on how technology like that developed by Zonar could be used to improve efficiency and safety in pupil transportation. Carnahan was also an early adopter of Apple Inc. products and attended some of the influential tech company’s first few conferences.

Carnahan was also credited for his commitment to building bridges across the school bus industry’s various sectors.

“Don had probably the broadest appreciation for collaboration of anyone I know,” Martin said. “That was one of the things he tried to teach me early on — the importance of all parties in the industry and of collaborating to make the industry stronger. That may ultimately be his greatest contribution to the industry.”

In 1990, while he was Washington's state pupil transportation director, Carnahan was named SCHOOL BUS FLEET's Administrator of the Year.

Carnahan was predeceased by his wife of more than 50 years, Sharon, in 2010.

To read Carnahan's obituary and to see a gallery of photos from throughout his life, go to the website of Greenwood Memorial Park Funeral Home. Friends and colleagues are also sharing their remembrances of Carnahan on the website.

Read SBF’s most recent Q&A with Carnahan here.

Update: Carnahan's memorial service will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 15, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. PT at the Beach Park Event Center, 22030 Cliff Ave. South, Des Moines, Washington. Zonar has arranged for a school bus shuttle to take attendees from the DoubleTree Seattle Airport to the memorial. Shuttle service will begin at 10:30 a.m. The shuttle will also be available to bring attendees back to the hotel after the service.

Related Topics: conferences, history, NAPT, SBF Administrator of the Year

Thomas McMahon Executive Editor
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