Rosalynn Carter standing at a podium
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter addresses participants in the 2006 Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo courtesy The Carter Centre)

Remembering former first lady Rosalynn Carter, LLD’12

Former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter, LLD’12, passed away on November 19 and is being mourned around the world, including at Queen’s, where she is fondly remembered for her special connection to the university.

In November 2012, Rosalynn and her husband Jimmy Carter (the 39th president of the United States), came to Queen’s to receive honorary degrees in recognition of their decades of humanitarian work.

Among the couple’s many volunteer efforts, they were well known for their work with Habitat for Humanity, a charity that helps build homes for people in need. During her tenure as first lady (from January 1977 to January 1981) and for many years after, she was also a passionate advocate for mental health programs and wrote several books. 

Giving back was something Rosalynn Carter reflected on during her speech to several hundred graduates who gathered in Grant Hall a little over a decade ago for Queen’s convocation. She encouraged people to take time to help others.

“You are at an important juncture in your life, with a chance to do things you may never be able to do again. I hope you will take advantage of this period,” she said.

She urged the graduating students to take a week, month or even a year to join an organization and give back to their community before the responsibilities of family and work make it difficult to volunteer.

“(Giving back) will add a whole new dimension to your life, I can guarantee you that,” she told the crowd.

Earlier this year, the family announced that Rosalynn was battling dementia. Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter were married for more than 77 years.