Remembering Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn Carter

Dear Emory Community,

Today, I write to you with a heavy heart as we mourn the passing of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, whose compassionate service and leadership—especially in the field of mental health—benefited individuals and communities the world over. Mrs. Carter was also a dear friend of Emory University, making many important connections across our campus throughout her time in public life. It was during her husband Jimmy Carter’s bid for governor of Georgia that Mrs. Carter began to focus on mental health—a cause that few others embraced at the time. She went on to serve on his governor’s commission focused on improving services to those with mental and emotional health issues. Then she became active honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health during President Carter’s administration, and she helped bring about passage of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. Once The Carter Center was established in association with Emory in 1982, Mrs. Carter turned to Emory experts on a regular basis in her efforts to advance access to care and parity in insurance coverage for those struggling with mental illness and to create support systems for both patients and caregivers. The Carter Center Mental Health Program deeply engaged Emory’s departments of psychiatry and psychology as well as the Rollins School of Public Health and Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. Beyond advocating for important legal protections and policy changes, the more enduring lessons she demonstrated were about fairness. Never missing an opportunity to emphasize that “mental illnesses are diseases like any other,” she spent the past 40 years steadily campaigning to destigmatize them, standing against social judgment and discrimination in all its forms. And all of this was accomplished in conjunction with her work with President Carter and their shared vision for The Carter Center, helping to resolve conflict, enhance freedom, and improve health around the world—a tremendous legacy of public service. Her wisdom, determination, and kindness were evident in all that she did. We are deeply grateful for her many contributions and proud to have partnered with her on historic work in mental health. On behalf of the university, I extend our profound sympathies to President Carter and the Carter family. 


Gregory L. Fenves