Born John Howard Carpenter on January 16, 1948 in Carthage, New York, the son of Howard and Jean Carpenter relocated with his parents to Bowling Green at the age of five. Howard Carpenter accepted a position teaching music history and theory at Western Kentucky University in 1953, and the family moved into the log cabin that remains today on the grounds of the Kentucky Building.
John attended College High School in what is now the Science and Technology Hall before enrolling at WKU as an English major. After two years, John’s passion for making movies carried him to California where he attended film school at the University of Southern California. He returned to Bowling Green in May of 2007 where he received an honorary doctorate from Western at their spring commencement ceremony, meeting with students and faculty while on campus. John was also inducted into WKU’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 1999. “I suppose that most of who I am and what I believe in was figured out walking around the grounds of the Kentucky Building after dinner when the sun’s going down... I don’t think I’ve been in a more beautiful spot in all my life. And the thoughts of life and death, people, beauty, cruelty, fear... whatever I was thinking about, I thought about walking by myself there. I was a loner, but I grew up in a paradise. I kind of became who I am now.” John Carpenter Western Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni Video, October 1999