Rosalynn Carter’s immeasurable impact on Georgia Southwestern State University

Published 6:10 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2023

AMERICUS – Rosalynn Carter had an immeasurable impact on millions of lives throughout the state of Georgia, around the nation and around the world through the many passions and causes that she championed. One place that felt her impact and still does to this day is her alma mater, Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW).

“Her impact has been enormous,” said GSW President Neal Weaver, Phd. “She by far is our most famous alumnus. She’s certainly among the most accomplished of our alumni. I think she sends a message to all of our students and all of our other alumni that no matter where you come from, you can really make a difference in this world. Georgia Southwestern can be a part of that journey and we should all be very proud of our institution and how we do things and the culture that we have.”

Dr. Weaver went on to say that her legacy on campus is remarkable and that the Carter family is incredibly important to the university. “We strive every day to try to preserve that legacy and instill the lessons we’ve learned from their lives into our students and make sure that they carry that with them into their careers and their lives as they serve their communities,” Dr. Weaver said.

Rosalynn Carter graduated from Georgia Southwestern in 1946, when it was a two-year institution. She was the Vice President of the sophomore class and was a student marshal on campus. “She was very active and a leader, even in those days,” Dr. Weaver said.

Rosalynn Carter was also very involved with the university during the years after she graduated from GSW. According to Dr. Weaver, about 35 years ago, she established the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers on the GSW campus. “For the first 31 years or so, it was a function and a part of the university,” Dr. Weaver said. “A couple of years ago, it became an independent organization that is housed on the campus. Certainly that has been a huge connection for her. She and President Carter have been able to put their names on our Carter Leadership Program. We have the Carter Library on campus and we brought back the Marshal Program because that was something that she was a part of and it was a legacy of hers.”

Dr. Weaver went on to say that Rosalynn Carter’s connection to the campus has been longstanding and that the Carters were regular guests on campus throughout the years not only for university events but attended many community events as well. “They were very involved with the Boys and Girls Club and numerous fund raising events on campus to support the Boys and Girls Club and they were always very active and involved alumni of the university,” Dr. Weaver said.

Ashley Carag is in the university’s Jimmy Carter Leadership Program and is currently a nursing student at GSW. According to her, the legacy of Rosalynn Carter is all about making one’s self available to serve others. Carag recently participated in the Plains Food Distribution. “We just had one last Saturday,”Carag said. “In the beginning years of my college experience as part of the program, it was mandatory for us to go there and volunteer to serve around 100 families. Now, this past Saturday, we just served around 400 families and it’s a growing volunteering event at Plains. It’s pretty nice being able to serve other people.”

Carag went on to say that she had the privilege of meeting Rosalynn Carter at one of the food distributions. “Just meeting her and having that impact on us motivated us to go even though we weren’t required to any more,” Carag said. Carag went on to say that even though it was a Saturday morning, she took the time to go down to Plains and help people who needed it. She also stated that being that she is part of the nursing program, the money that Rosalynn Carter donated to the Rosalynn Carter Institution for Caregiving is helping her get the education that she needs.

She also stated that Rosalynn Carter was an important female role model.

“Through her foundation and what she stood for, especially with mental health and advocacy and being an activist really definitely helps me have someone to look up to and just feel empowered to keep going as a Nursing major,” Carag said. “Her statue would literally greet me every morning going to class. Just seeing her statue in front of the building just reminds me that anyone can do what ever they dream of.”

Carag went on to say that she read former President Jimmy Carter’s autobiography and stated that she was touched about what she read about Rosalynn Carter. “It just touches you in a way that, like, ‘Hey! Just because you’re a woman now, like, it’s possible. Anything is possible’. She’s giving so many people opportunities through her foundation, like being able to volunteer out of the country and giving more for healthcare. Nursing is a big thing now and she’s definitely helped touch a lot of people in the nursing program,” Carag said.

Carag went on to say that every time she leaves the building after taking an exam, she sits down in front of the Rosalynn Carter statue and talks to it as if she was really sitting there listening. “I’m not going to lie. I just talk to her about it. It might seem a little weird, but seeing her there and, like, being what that building stands for, I feel like it’s empowering in a way,” Carag said. Carag went on to say that she felt very privileged to have met someone who touched many lives.

Carag went on to say that Rosalynn Carter’s legacy to her means that she is touching people without even being present in front of them because of her work from her earlier years and that her impact inspires people today.

Carag also stated that Rosalynn Carter helped the Jimmy Carter Leadership Program in that she made the women in the program feel empowered to do great things.