Georgia Southwestern dedicates plaza to former student Jimmy Carter

Georgia Southwestern State University dedicated its new presidential plaza to former President Jimmy Carter on Friday. / Mary Green

More than 75 years ago, four students left their mark in then-Georgia Southwestern College's fresh new driveway by signing their names in the cement.

Three of those names are still there today: Bill Davis of DeSoto, John McCrea of Atlanta and Bob Logan of Quitman.

However, a new rectangle of pavement now covers where the fourth signature once was, because that mark has been moved to a new location.

On Friday, that signer, Jimmy Carter of Plains, returned to GSW's campus to see his signature's new home, which is the Presidential Plaza now dedicated to him.

While the plaza, which stands on the lawn in front of the Wheatley Administration Building, has been up since earlier this year, it was formally dedicated at a ceremony Friday morning, attended by former President Carter, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, special guests and members of the GSW community, including dozens of students.

"I got my start here, and I've always loved this place," Carter said.

Carter said his biggest goal back in 1942 was to earn an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, which he eventually did. But he also wanted to make the most of his year in Americus, before he attended Georgia Tech for a year.

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

Carter said the campus has changed a lot from when he wrote in that wet pavement as a freshman.

"It was just a two-year college then and with a very limited curriculum," he noted.

But he added that he's proud of what's now a four-year university — "and very grateful for what it did for me, getting me started in my academic life," he said.

GSW President Neal Weaver said the plaza is more than a commemoration: It's a reminder "that you will never know how far your impact may reach or how far the people who enter here may go," he said.

At least a few current students have already taken in that message.

"It gives me hope that I can finish and go on to bigger and better things, definitely," sophomore Katelyn Meierotto said.

"Even though it's a small school in small-town Americus, you know, he was President of the United States. Great things come from this school," junior Jordan Ernst added.

Carter wrapped up the ceremony by signing his name in a new slab of concrete, which GSW said will be installed at the plaza at a later date.

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