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AMERICUS (Sept. 25, 2017)--Not many schools can say a former U.S. President and First Lady are a part of their history. For Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW), that is something that faculty, staff, students and alumni can say, as both Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are GSW alumni.

In a special ceremony Friday, Sept. 22, GSW recognized President Carter in dedicating its new "Presidential Plaza," located at the Jimmy Carter speaking at plaza dedication ceremonymain entrance to campus on the Wheatley Lawn.

Completed in spring 2017, the new plaza features a set of planted hedges that spell “GSW,” along with a mounted signature-etching on the opposite side where President Carter etched his name in wet cement as a GSW freshman in 1942. The plaque on site within the plaza says the following:

On February 13, 1942, four freshmen identified as possessing strong leadership skills etched their names in the wet cement of the newly constructed driveway of the Wheatley Building: Bill Davis (DeSoto), John McCrea (Atlanta), Bob Logan (Quitman) and Jimmy Carter (Plains). Jimmy Carter would later become the 76th Governor of Georgia and the 39th President of the United States. In 2014, the cement etching was removed from the driveway to preserve it for future generations of Georgia Southwestern State University students.

“I doubt there was anyone there in 1942 that thought we would be here in 2017, or what the impact of one of those individuals would be,” said GSW President Neal Weaver during his introductory remarks. “You never know how far your impact may reach.”

Carter indicated that he was chosen to sign his name at the time because he was a chemistry lab assistant for Dr. L.R. Towson, who taught physics, chemistry and astronomy at GSW.

"I don't think they paid me anything," Carter quipped, "but I got a lot out of it."

Today, two GSW chemistry scholarships are named for Towson.

After attending GSW during the 1941-42 academic year, Carter later transferred to Georgia Tech and ultimately graduated from the Naval Academy.

"Most people from Plains who came to Georgia Southwestern then went back and forth every day, like my wife did later on," Carter said regarding his time as a student at GSW, "but I wanted to be totally immersed in the college experience, so I stayed in the dormitory here."

Though it was only a two-year college when Carter was a student, he stated how much the now four-year university means to him.

"I'm very grateful for what it did for me," said Carter, "getting me started in my academic life."

Descendants of the the late GSW President Peyton Jacob (college president while Carter was a student) were on hand for the event as special guests. They included his granddaughter Margaret Fite and her husband David, great-grandson Mark Fite and great-great-grandson Peyton Fite. 

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Carter, again, signed his name in a new section of wet cement that will also be on display within the Presidential Plaza. 

Presidential Plaza ribbon cutting

L to R: Kristi Weaver, Neal Weaver, Rosalynn Carter, Jimmy Carter, David Fite, Margaret Fite (granddaughter of former GSW President Peyton Jacob, 1934-1948), Peyton James Fite (great-great-grandson of Peyton Jacob) and Mark Fite (great-grandson of Peyton Jacob). | Photo credit: Chris Fenn.

 Jimmy Carter signing his name in wet cement

President Jimmy Carter signing his name in wet cement with GSW President Neal Weaver looking on. | Photo credit: Chris Fenn.

Jimmy Carter's signature in wet cement

President Jimmy Carter's signature in wet cement following the ceremony.

- GSW -




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