Bainbridge State College’s Arts and Lecture Series will now be the President Jimmy Carter Arts and Lecture Series thanks to the former U.S. president and Nobel Peace Prize-winner donating back to the College his honorarium for his lecture on Feb. 18.Bainbridge State President Richard Carvajal said the donation marks a significant gift to the College’s capital campaign and ensures, among other things, that the institution’s new popular arts and lecture series will continue to enrich the College’s students and the community’s residents for years to come.
“Because of President Carter’s generosity, his commitment to education and his ties to the College, we are thrilled to honor President Carter in this way,” Dr. Carvajal said. “There are many special reasons why the College chose to honor President’s Carter gift by naming our series after him. Given the fact that he was the governor when this institution was founded, his obvious connection with Charles Kirbo, and the fact that he headlined our inaugural season, it seemed to me and College Foundation leaders that this was an obvious and appropriate connection.”
President Carter told Dr. Carvajal he wanted the College to retain the honorarium for the benefit of the College. Dr. Carvajal then suggested to the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize-winner that the series be named in his honor.
“President Carter was clearly touched by my offer, and he immediately responded by saying that he would be honored to lend his name to our series,” Dr. Carvajal said.
President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, visited Bainbridge State College on Feb. 18, becoming the first U.S. President to visit the College. The evening was even more special because he was speaking from the building named in honor of his close adviser and friend, the late Charles H. Kirbo.
“We have a memory of Charles Kirbo that is remarkable,” President Carter told the audience. “I have never had a man in my life that meant more to me than Charles Kirbo, except my own father. Kirbo was the wisest man I’ve ever met.”
President Carter recounted a story to illustrate how Kirbo was selfless and noble. Shortly after Carter was sworn in as Georgia’s 76th governor in January 1971, U.S. Sen. Richard Russell Jr. died, and Carter said he asked Kirbo to fill the vacancy. Kirbo turned him down.
“I think that was typical of him. He was so modest, he didn’t want to promote himself, but he wanted to promote the things for which he stood,” Carter said.
In 1962, the Bainbridge-born Kirbo saved Carter from defeat in a rigged state Senate election. Kirbo was an attorney in Atlanta when Carter solicited Kirbo’s advice on the election. That bond and trust never faded as Carter was later elected as governor and then U.S. President after he defeated former President Gerald R. Ford’s re-election bid in 1976, an election in which Kirbo’s advice played a crucial role in its outcome.
Of course, Kirbo also played a central role in the College being established in Bainbridge. When the state was first considering building a college in Southwest Georgia, Kirbo lobbied then Gov. Carter that Bainbridge should have a college. Kirbo even donated more than 160 acres of the 173 acres the main campus presently sits on, and his younger brother, Bruce, donated a portion of the remaining acres.
Bainbridge State College Foundation Chairman Charles Bowles said it was an honor to have President Carter and Mrs. Carter visit the campus and to speak in the building named in honor of his dear friend.
“It brought many people from our region together to hear our former President speak, but more importantly, to hear a humanitarian, a man of honor and reverence with compassion for all people throughout the world,” Bowles said. “This occurred at the same time the College’s Foundation is kicking off its capital campaign, which really serves as a point of inspiration for the Foundation and its donors because President Carter’s gift is the first official gift in support of the new campaign.”
Lauren Harrell, the interim executive director of Bainbridge State’s Office of Institutional Advancement, said, “A challenge has been sent to our donors that came directly from President Carter that encourages them to match his gift by supporting our Series and the other goals outlined in our Deeply Rooted, Future Driven Campaign.”
Last year, college leadership requested that a feasibility study be conducted to assess the attitude of Bainbridge State’s constituency toward its bold vision for the future. Equipped with positive feedback and vital information from the study, the College has embarked on Deeply Rooted, Future Driven, A Capital Campaign for Bainbridge State College. A number of very important investment opportunities will be funded through the comprehensive campaign.
Every project has a straight-line impact to the primary mission of Bainbridge State. Campaign goals include providing funds to support new and revitalized academic programs, additional scholarships, an expansion of international education, and the Carter Series.
Known in the early days of his successful 1976 presidential campaign as a peanut farmer from Plains, Ga., President Carter is now known throughout the world as a champion for human rights. The former president and governor of Georgia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002 “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”
Carter served as U.S. president from 1977 to 1981 and accomplished significant foreign policy actions such as the Panama Canal treaties, the Camp David Accords, the treaty between Egypt and Israel and the SALT II treaty with the former Soviet Union.
His administration’s domestic accomplishments included a comprehensive energy program conducted by a new Department of Energy; major educational programs under a new Department of Education; deregulation in energy, transportation, communications and finance, and major environmental protection legislation.
“How poignant to know that a man who has touched the lives of so many people around the world has also touched the lives of our students and residents here in Southwest Georgia, a place he calls home, too,” said Dr. Carvajal.