Jimmy Carter among new Mercer University trustees

mstucka@macon.comNovember 8, 2012 

When Mercer University trustees gather Friday for their fall meeting, one of them will have Secret Service protection.

Jimmy Carter, the country’s 39th president, is set to join other new members of the school’s Board of Trustees.

Carter, 88, a former Georgia governor, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. He served as president from January 1977 until January 1981.

Mercer’s board and the board of The Carter Center will be the only boards Carter is serving on, said Deanna Congileo, a spokeswoman for The Carter Center.

Mercer’s board is set to name Carter and nine other trustees to the board during its meeting, which begins at 9:30 a.m. in the University Center, said Mark Vanderhoek, a Mercer spokesman. Details with the U.S. Secret Service were still being confirmed Thursday.

Carter’s ties to Mercer include a session in his living room in Plains about six years ago with Mercer President Bill Underwood and former university President Kirby Godsey. The three men talked about a large meeting to bring Baptists together. That led to a 2008 convention at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The event, Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, also featured former President Bill Clinton, a fellow Baptist.

In a statement released through Mercer, Carter indicated his support for Mercer’s mission.

“I have been impressed with how Mercer is combining research and service to solve real-world problems that improve the lives of people around the world,” Carter said in the statement. “I believe Mercer has a very important mission, and I look forward to learning more about the University in the years ahead and helping advance its mission as a member of the Board of Trustees.”

Larry Brumley, a senior vice president of Mercer, said Carter will have a substantive role, as do all trustees, in setting Mercer’s policies and guarding its mission. Brumley said Mercer’s mission of service seems to mesh with Carter’s.

“Certainly there have been some intersections between Mercer carrying out its mission and President Carter carrying out his interests,” Brumley said.

Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, started The Carter Center in 1982. Since then, the organization and Carter have embarked on a slew of work, from observing 92 elections in 37 countries to attempting to eliminate debilitating human diseases such as Guinea worm.

In a 2008 speech before about 1,000 people at Mercer University’s Willingham Auditorium, Carter called for the United States to resume its role as a champion for human rights.

“America didn’t invent human rights,” Carter said then. “Human rights invented America.”

Friday’s trustees meeting will include new trustees including Carter, recognize outgoing trustees and feature a State of the University speech by Underwood.

The board is also slated to consider creating several new graduate degrees, which were still being deliberated upon by a committee Thursday, said Brumley, who declined to identify the proposed degrees.

Carter has to leave after the meeting is over, said Rick Cameron, Mercer’s senior assistant vice president for marketing communications.

Mercer’s 45-member board of trustees has responsibility for overall policy­making for the college. They serve five-year terms, and trustees typically meet each spring and fall.

Other new trustees include Barbara Baugh, president of the Baugh Family Foundation; Neville Callam, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance; Holly McCorkle Jones, attorney and civic leader; retired Lt. Gen. Claude M. Kicklighter, former Pentagon inspector general; Thomas W. Malone, Atlanta attorney; M. Diane Owens, Atlanta attorney; Miller Peterson “Pete” Robinson, chairman of Troutman Sanders Strategies; Raymond M. “Thad” Warren III, chairman and CEO of Warren Environment Inc.; and Jerry S. Wilson Jr., former senior vice president and chief customer and commercial officer for the Coca-Cola Co. Jones, Kicklighter, Malone, Owens, Robinson, Warren and Wilson are Mercer alumni.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. Writer Oby Brown contributed to this report. To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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