AMERICUS (Oct. 11, 2013)--On Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, Georgia Southwestern State University and the GSW Foundation named the Capitan Plaza in honor of William H. Capitan, Ph.D., the University’s eighth president. Capitan Plaza is located between Building I and II of the new Rosalynn Carter Health and Human Sciences Complex. The Capitan Plaza includes a commemorative bronze plaque that was unveiled as part of the ceremony along with benches, trees and flowers planted specifically for the area.
The ceremony started with an introduction from Georgia Southwestern’s current president, Kendall Blanchard, Ph.D., and was followed by remarks from friends and colleagues of Capitan: A. Gatewood Dudley, M.D., GSW Foundation, Inc. life trustee; Russell Thomas, Jr., chair of the board of directors of the Charles L. Mix Memorial Fund; Jerry Williams, Ph.D., professor and vice president emeritus of Academic Affairs; and J. Franks Myers, III, a distinguished alumnus from the class of 1983.
Many of the remarks centered on the profound effect Capitan had on the Georgia Southwestern campus and the Americus community during his tenure and the effects that have manifested since then. Capitan served as GSW’s president from 1979 to 1995, following William B. King, Ph.D. Myers equated this transition to that of the coach who followed Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama; “Certainly an unenviable task.” However, Myers speaking of Capitan stated, “You succeeded. You thrived.”
Capitan’s tenure brought growth in GSW’s academic and external programing, new construction, and higher enrollment. Capitan also brought the idea that Georgia Southwestern could not just be a good college, but a great one. “He enabled us [the GSW community] to believe we can be better than we were,” said Williams. “He wanted to leave it [Georgia Southwestern] a better place than when he arrived. . . . As a result, he left us as better people.”
Capitan was instrumental in establishing the GSW Foundation, which was chartered on Dec. 4, 1979, and the Rosalynn Carter Institute founded in 1987. Since its creation, the GSW Foundation has granted over 10 million dollars in scholarship to students, according to Dudley.
Under Capitan’s leadership, new degrees were instituted including the Bachelor of Fine Arts; the Bachelor of Science in computer information systems, computer science, and computer science technology; and an expanded Bachelor of Business Administration degree. Capitan led construction efforts for the Fine Arts Building, the Deriso Pool, the Education Center, and the Westbrook Bell Tower. Enrollment in Fall 1995 reached its highest point since 1975 under his guidance.
“I’m moved by this,” said Capitan at the end of the ceremony. “Thank you to Southwestern, Sumter County and Americus for greeting my family and me and never letting us go.” Capitan concluded that he hoped that when people walked by the plaza and garden, they would see it as “the stamp on a love letter to this campus.”
Caption--William H. Capitan, Ph.D., former GSW president, addresses assembly gathered in his honor at the newly dedicated Capitan Plaza and garden.
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