Life, legacy of Dr. Garlan Gudger, Sr., celebrated at portrait unveiling

Jul 21, 2023Gail Crutchfield
Gudger Portrait Unveiling

The family of the late Dr. Garlan E. Gudger, Sr., speak with Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics at the ceremony unveiling the portrait of the college's first Dean of Students in the building that bears his name.

Hanceville, AL — Family and friends of the late Dr. Garlan E. Gudger, Sr., gathered Thursday morning at Wallace State Community College to celebrate the life and legacy of the college’s first Dean of Students at the unveiling of his portrait in the Student Center that now bears his name.

“I believe we could all agree that we cherish community, the quality of life that we have, the availability of good jobs and the ways in which our community values tradition, respect, character and hard work,” said WSCC President Dr. Vicki Karolewics. “Our community is a reflection of its people, of its families, of its leaders and there is no doubt that Dr. Garlan Gudger, Sr., and Dot, his beloved wife, and the entire Gudger family, are outstanding examples of this reflection on our community.”

Karolewics touted Dot Gudger’s legacy at Wallace State as the first Business instructor employed at Wallace State.

“Thank you, Dot, for your contributions to Wallace State, but most importantly as an educator,” Dr. Karolewics said. “Thank you for influencing the lives of our business student alums who have become outstanding employees, business owners and leaders in their communities as you have been in ours.

She also thanked Dr. Gudger’s son, Sen. Garlan Gudger, Jr., for his tremendous support of the college.

“Having grown up in the hallways of Wallace State, you understand firsthand the importance of community colleges to the state of Alabama, and we’re truly honored to have your support of our mission in the Alabama Senate,” Karolewics said.

“Today, on behalf of Wallace State Community College, our faculty and staff and most especially our students, I’m so proud to honor Dr. Garlan Gudger Sr.’s commitment to education and to Wallace State, but most importantly to supporting the whole student and their college experience. Dr. Gudger’s legacy remains the outstanding athletic program and student intramurals that today are so important to our student engagement activities.”

Jenny Folsom

Cullman City Council President Dr. Jenny Folsom gives the tribute to Dr. Garlan E. Gudger, Sr., during the ceremony unveiling his portrait as his widow, Dot Gudger, and son, Sen. Garlan Gudger, Jr., look on. 


Students First

“This building sits in the heart of this campus, and the name, Dr. Garlan E. Gudger, Sr., Student Center, honors the man who always had student success in his heart,” said Cullman City Council President Dr. Jenny Folsom, who once served as Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs at WSCC. “The portrait to be unveiled today will be an everlasting reminder of his contributions and legacy to Wallace State Community College.”

“Dr. Gudger was the epitome of putting students first and ensuring that they are here to succeed,” she added. “He supervised everything to do with students…he realized student involvement was the key to student success.”


Garlan Gudger Jr.

Sen. Gudger is proud to see that the athletic and intramural programs his father helped start are thriving and touching students’ lives at Wallace State.

“The more that you can do in college, the more you learn about yourself, the better you can be as you mature into an adult and leave college,” he said. “It makes you a better person as you go into the real world and start working and being a productive citizen. So, we’re thankful there are activities here. My father helped start most of those as the first dean of students and from those, those things have multiplied tremendously with the leadership that’s happened here at Wallace State.”

Sen. Gudger said his father’s legacy is that of a Christian man who wanted everyone to push themselves to their full potential. “He’d always say God gave each and every one of us talent and different gifts and he expects you to use those to be the best person you could be, and that’s the way he raised me and my two sisters and everyone who came into our family.”

“We’re blessed to have had a father who loved us, loved the people around him, wanted people to be the best they could possibly be, loved this school and changed people’s lives, and a lot of them, we don’t even know about,” Sen. Gudger added.

Dot Gudger

“He truly loved the students,” Dot Gudger said of her husband. “He would often times pay tuition for students; he wanted to keep them in college. I hear about this all the time, students still come to visit. It makes me happy to hear these stories because I know what these students meant to him. He had a saying that said you need to leave this life better than you found it. I had that put on his tombstone, because he meant that.

“I appreciate you all for being here and all for your support,” she added. “Just remember to leave this life better than you found it.”

The Dr. Garlan E. Gudger, Sr., Student Center houses the 950-seat Betty Leeth Haynes Theatre, Wally’s Grill, student activities center, the E-Sports Lab, and Lions’ Kitchen Food Bank. The Dr. Garlan Gudger, Sr., Endowed Scholarship has also been established through the Wallace State Future Foundation.

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