A Bulloch County native, an avid supporter of Georgia Southern University and a devoted benefactor for art and artists everywhere, former Georgia first lady Betty Foy Sanders passed away Sunday. She was 95.
Born on Aug. 6, 1926 on South Main St. in Statesboro, Sanders went onto graduate from Statesboro High.
“My roots are in this town and in this county,” she said in 2015 when she was honored as a Legend of the Arts by the Averitt Center. “I grew up playing kick the can with the other children on Savannah Avenue,” which is where her father, Manassas Foy, built what is now called the Brannen-Donehoo home, she said. “I say it's the Foy home.”
Sanders studied art at the University of Georgia. Later when her husband, Carl Sanders, served as governor from 1963-67, they made a lasting mark on arts and education in Georgia. He founded the Georgia Council for the Arts, and she encouraged the construction of buildings dedicated to art at several colleges and universities. The one at Georgia Southern was named the Foy Fine Arts Building in honor of her father.
In 1967, Sanders established the Betty Foy Sanders Georgia Artists Collection, which she continued to curate until recently, and is on permanent display at Georgia Southern University’s Center for Art and Theatre, featuring the works of Georgia artists. The collection contains more than 50 works, among them more than 15 paintings by Sanders herself.
She fostered her love of learning for art students for more than four decades at Georgia Southern and the Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art at Georgia Southern is named for Sanders.
“Everyone knows how dedicated I am to my town, and I have been associated with this college devotedly since 1966,” Sanders said while visiting Georgia Southern in 2013.
In addition to her many gifts of art and helping bring the Georgia Artists Collection to the university campus, Sanders made several financial donations, including a $500,000 gift from the estate of her late husband former Georgia Gov. Carl E. Sanders to the university’s Department of Arts in 2015.
“I join with many, many others in the Georgia Southern community who are mourning the passing of Betty Foy Sanders,” said Georgia Southern President Dr. Kyle Marrero. “I was blessed to meet with her several times, and as many around her know, once you spend some time with Betty Foy Sanders, you never forget her spark, passion and love for art. I’m proud to have known her, and more proud that the Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art at Georgia Southern University will forever be a testament to her legacy and impact on this great state.”
A talented and prolific artist herself, works by Sanders appear in small museums, corporations and some of the finest college and private collections in the South, such as High Museum of Art, Callaway Gardens, Swan Coach House, Day Hall at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the Georgia State Capitol.
“During her years as first lady and during her long and fulfilling life afterwards, she was devoted to beautifying our state, preserving Georgia's proud history, and helping students of the arts further their education and talents,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement about the passing of Sanders. “Her influences are felt at the Georgia Governor's Mansion to this day, and they will be felt for years to come.”
Legend of the Arts
In September 2015, then First Lady of Georgia Sandra Deal inducted Sanders into the Legends Gallery of the Averitt Center as a Legend of the Arts.
Sanders is one of only seven local artists in the Legends Gallery. She is joined byommunity legends Emma Kelly, Willie McTell, Michael Braz, Roxie Remley, Delmar Presley and Mical Whitaker.
During the ceremony, Deal recounted how she reached out for Sanders' advice after she and husband Gov. Nathan Deal moved into the Governor's Mansion. The mansion is decorated with some of Sanders' artwork, including a painting of water lilies. Sanders also designed the landscaping and helped raise funds for a Georgia marble fountain to be installed at the mansion.
No information about funeral services for Sanders has been announced publically.