The Atlanta-based Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation recently gave $212,000 to the Georgia State University Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing and Health Professions, its latest gift in a long legacy of support. In the past 31 years, the foundation has given more than $2.7 million to GSU.
“We are tremendously grateful for the long-standing generosity of the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation. These funds directly benefit our outstanding nursing and allied health students in their academic pursuits,” said school Dean Margaret C. Wilmoth. “Mrs. Whitehead had the foresight to recognize that educating girls meant empowering them as women, which in turn makes a difference in the economy of the community. This gift has implications far beyond our students who have received the scholarships.
“In the past year alone, the Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholarship has made it possible for nearly 115 female students to complete their education.”
The school offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing, nutrition, and respiratory therapy as well as the Doctor of Physical Therapy and Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing. In the past 40 years, the school has prepared more than 5,000 nurses, nurse practitioners, educators and researchers to serve in Georgia and beyond.
Lettie Pate Whitehead (1872 – 1953) had a keen sense of duty to those in need, which prompted her youngest son to establish the foundation in 1946. Their family helped develop the business of bottling Coca-Cola, which previously had been a fountain beverage.
When her husband, Joseph P. Whitehead, died in 1906 at the age of 42, she “immediately assumed responsibility for the family’s business affairs, overseeing not only the expansion of the Coca-Cola bottling business, but also the family’s real estate investments,” according to her biography on the foundation website. “Mrs. Whitehead became one of the first women to serve on the board of directors of a major American corporation, serving as director of The Coca-Cola Company for almost twenty years beginning in 1934.”
As a philanthropist, her gifts benefited several colleges and universities in Georgia and Virginia, as well as overseas during World War II. After she remarried, she established the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation. Her generosity also influenced her other son to create the Joseph P. Whitehead Foundation as a memorial to his father.
The foundation devotes most of its resources to scholarship grants to schools and colleges for deserving female students in nine southeastern states.
Byrdine F. Lewis (1924 – 2010) was a registered nurse in south Georgia. Divorced and raising two children on her own, Lewis often worked double shift to support her family, according to a 2003 GSU news article. She had worked as a registered nurse for 46 years, mostly caring for postoperative patients.
Feb. 6, 2012