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Bulking Up His Idaho Roots

Gregory C. Carr has an impressive list of credentials.

The 1986 Kennedy School of Government graduate has a masters degree in public policy, is widely credited with expanding voice mail to the system used today, and was the chair of Prodigy when the Internet firm first went public.

He is also the man behind the KSG's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, a program he helped fund with an initial $18-million donation.

All this, by the time Carr was 40.

But while the Harvard name was a nice addition to his resume, the Idaho native says his bachelors degree from Utah State often carried more weight than his Ivy League diploma.

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"I found that in some parts of the country the [Harvard] name didn't really help at all," Carr says, explaining that some native Westerners feel more comfortable getting to know someone from the region than meeting a Harvard graduate.

Over a cup of coffee in Cambridge's Henrietta's Table, Carr modestly describes "a company called Prodigy" and "a new idea for doing voice mail," preferring not to draw attention to how he helped develop the technology that forms the backbone of communication through a company called Boston Technology.

Carr says his Harvard degree helped him hire employees by giving credibility to the company and its founders. But he says the Harvard name isn't the deciding factor for success.

"It certainly helps you to start a conversation with someone, but you have to have some kind of talent," he says. "Frankly, people would rather see prior success in the real world than they would someone who just went to a good college."

One benefit from studying at Harvard for Carr was that his KSG professors helped him later in his business career.

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