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GRSP 75th Anniversary
GRSP Celebrates 75 Years and Dedicates Peace Plaza & Will Watt Memorial Fountain

The Georgia Rotary Student Program celebrated 75 years with a gala January 21 and dedication of the GRSP Peace Plaza and Will Watt Memorial Fountain on January 22 in historic Thomasville, home of GRSP founder Will Watt.

GRSP Chair Bert Guy said, “When we reflect on the past 75 years, we are aware of the many leaders who played a vital part in the history of GRSP. GRSP is credited for connecting many smaller Georgia colleges with international students, often their first in the college or town.”

The gala featured a spotlight on student success and GRSP Foundation Fellow award recognitions for Trustees. District 6900 Rotarians Michael "Mike" Emanuele, Rotary Club of North Atlanta and William ‘Bill’ Smith, Rotary Club of Brookhaven, were honored for their distinguished service, presented with resolutions and named Trustee Emeritus, along with District 6910 Rotarians Al Hombroek, Rotary Club of Lawrenceville and William “Billy” Kidd of Rotary Club of Hartwell; and District 6920 Rotarians Johnny Dukes, Rotary Club of Valdosta North, and Gerald Smith, Rotary Club of Dublin.   

The GRSP Foundation partnered with the Rotary Club of Thomasville and the Courtyard® by Marriott® Thomasville Downtown in the GRSP Peace Plaza and Will Watt Memorial Fountain. The landmark will preserve the history of the program and provide a permanent marker for GRSP. Former GRSP Chair Emeritus and Treasurer J. Terry Gordon initiated the Generations of Generosity fundraising campaign, which raised more than $160,000 for the project. The Rotary Club of Thomasville led the way with more than $60,000 in contributions.

GRSP Foundation President Joe Jones recognized donors to the project, including a 1965 GRSP alumnus from Israel who graduated from Georgia Tech, Dr. Shlomo Barnoon.  made a donation in memory of GRSP Chair Emeritus Hue Thomas, Jr of the Rotary Club of Savannah and Founding Committee Member Kendall Weisiger, an Atlanta Rotarian whose support of international students through the Rotary Education Foundation of Atlanta was merged into GRSP. Barnoon considered Thomas and Weisiger to be a visionaries who inspired him to support more than 300 international students of his own.

The Rotary Club of Thomasville made a $1,000 contribution in honor of Jeremy Emmett, the chief executive officer of Southern Lodging, the Thomasville business that owns the Courtyard Thomasville Downtown. Emmett was named as Will Watt Fellow, which was presented at the dedication ceremony. Thomasville Mayor Jay Flowers read a resolution and dedicated January 22, 2022 as GRSP Day.

Will Watt III, grandson and namesake of GRSP Founder Will Watt, addressed the crowd, which included more than 20 members of the Watt family. He said Will Watt Sr.'s house at 714 North Dawson Street had an open-door policy for the Georgia Rotary Student Plan, the initial name for the Georgia Rotary Student Program.

"There are some wonderful pictures from the Thomasville newspaper of him enjoying the company of the kids," Watt said. "He even served as a stand-in 'Father of the Bride' for one student who couldn't return to her country to get married due to civil unrest that had just broken out. So he walked her down the aisle and she was married here in Thomasville."

Guy closed the weekend with a toast stating, “We honor the legacy of our Founder Will Watt and the more than 3,692 alumni from 108 countries who have shared in the success of this program. We lift our glasses to honor the program that provides leadership, scholarship, excellence and service.”

Thanks to the District 6900 leadership team - DG Mary, DGE George, DGN Andre and DGND Gordon - for taking part in the weekend. And to Thomasville Rotarian and District Treasurer Teri White who served as the local event coordinator for the GRSP Gala and the Peace Plaza Dedication. 

To read Will Watt III’s full remarks, get a glimpse of the weekend in photographs by GRSP District 6920 Director Milton Heard, review resolutions and view the full Generations of Generosity Donor List in the GRSP 75th Commemorative Program, visit www.grsp.org/history. 

 

Posted by Katheryne Fields
January 27, 2022

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