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Educator, University of Guam president

Rosa Roberto Carter (1929-2010) was a highly accomplished educator whose professional career spanned from kindergarten teacher to University president. She is the only woman to serve as University of Guam president.

Carter, the oldest of nine children, was born to Antonia Santos Garrido and Jose Duenas Roberto on 29 August 1929. Under the Japanese occupation of Guam (1941-1944) she and her family survived World War II, including internment in 1944 in the Menenggon concentration camp.

Not counting her employment as a librarian in Guam’s United States Army Medical Center in Dededo immediately after the war, her career as an educator began at age sixteen in 1946. The island had turned to a double-session to make up for schooling lost during the war. For three years Carter was a student at George Washington High School in the morning and an elementary school teacher in the afternoon.

After graduating from George Washington High School in 1950 as salutatorian of her class, Carter continued her academic pursuits to earn several post-secondary degrees. These included a Bachelor of Science degree in history and elementary education from Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, in 1954; a graduate diploma in comparative education as a Fulbright Fellow from Sydney University in Australia in 1958; a Master of Arts degree in guidance and counseling from Northern Colorado University in Greeley in 1962; and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in administration and supervision from Bowling Green State University, Ohio, in 1976.

These degrees provided Carter with the academic background to teach as well as serve as an administrator at various educational institutions. She taught at several public and private schools including Agana and Adelup schools, and Wettengel Elementary school, where she was also an assistant principal; counselor at PC Lujan Middle School, Notre Dame High School, Guam Community College, and the University of Guam (UOG). Following her full-time experience at UOG and prior to returning to teach Chamorro and English part-time for the university, Carter taught at the special school located in the Department of Youth Affairs for six years.  In the 1950s and 1960s, and again in the 1990s, Carter also taught as a volunteer in her church.

Hired as an instructor at the Territorial College of Guam in 1958, Carter attained the rank of full professor at the University of Guam. She taught courses including Chamorro, English, History of Guam, Psychology, Tests and Measurements, and Counseling, as well as other courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

In addition to serving as president, other administrative positions that she held at the University of Guam include Registrar, Admissions Officer, Director of Registration, Financial Aid Officer, and Dean of Students.

In 1970, she married Lee Carter, a professor at the University of Guam.  Together, along with William Wuerch, the Carters edited the publications Guam History: Perspectives, Volumes I and II, in 1997 and 2005, respectively.

In 1977, she was selected to serve as the President of the University of Guam. In 1980 Carter lobbied with legislators and won a much needed increase of approximately ten percent in university faculty salaries. In January 1981, when a few members of the university faculty abandoned their positions in sympathy with striking Department of Education teachers, Carter kept the university operating as usual while encouraging those absent members to return. When some of them did not she issued official recognition of their permanent departure. The Board of Regents voted to return those faculty to their former positions after one year.

During Carter’s tenure as president, the university experienced accreditation challenges based on two factors: the uncertain level of funding for its programs, as well as outside political interference. The first factor impacted the university’s ability to do what it claimed to do. The second factor undermined the self-governance component essential for internal decision-making as an accepted institution of higher education.

Carter’s term ended in 1983 with her firing by a new board of regents at the direction of a new governor, which was standard procedure at the time. Eventually, due in part to Carter’s lobbying, local laws were changed and the responsibility for education belonged to the Government of Guam, rather than the Governor of Guam.

Allowing purposefully for a full five years between her service at the university and her own political activism, in 1988 and 1990 Carter was an unsuccessful candidate for election to the Guam Legislature. In 1988 and 1992 she attended national political conventions with a vote as a national committee woman elected by Guam’s Republican Party.

In 2003, Carter provided testimony about her family’s experiences during the Japanese occupation of the island during World War II. Her poignant portrayal of the experiences during this time of her personal history is part of the documentation for the Guam War Claims Review Commission.

In her testimony Carter, who was twelve at the beginning of the Japanese occupation, said:

There’s no way to know all the negative effects of the two years of malnutrition we were forced to experience when the occupiers confiscated our food for themselves. In the last two weeks, they forced us into more difficult situations involving a forced march and virtual imprisonment in a squalid camp, where there was no food at all. We older kids foraged for our family, searching wild lands for many miles. We nearly starved to death at that time.

Carter was a member of several civic and education-related organizations, serving as the elected leader of most of them in turn, including the American Association of University Women, the American Red Cross, the Governor’s (Manuel Guerrero) Youth Council, the Government of Guam Retirement Board, the Guam Community College Board of Trustees, the Guam Memorial Hospital Volunteers’ Association, Soroptimist International of Guam, Phi Delta Kappa (education), and the Women’s Clubs of Guam, among others. Additionally, she was recognized with several awards including the Distinguished Alumni Award from Northern State University and induction into the Guam Educators’ Hall of Fame.

Carter died 11 April 2010 at the age of 80.

By Velma Yamashita

For further reading

Carter, Rosa Roberto. “An Analysis of Teachers’ Demographic Data and Teachers’ Perception of Administrative Functional Efficiency.” PhD diss., Bowling Green State University, 1976.

–––. “Education in Guam to 1950: Island and Personal History.” In Guam History: Perspectives. Volume One. Edited by Lee D. Carter, William L. Wuerch, and Rosa Roberto Carter. Mangilao: Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam, 1997.

Guam Legislature. Relative to Recognizing and Commending Dr. Rosa Roberto Carter… Resolution No. 91. 30th Guam Legislature. 29 April 2009.

–––. Relative to Posthumously Recognizing and Honoring the Late Rosa Roberto Carter, Ph.D… Resolution No. 334-30. 30th Guam Legislature. 26 April 2010.

Guam War Survivors. “Home.” Last modified 27 June 2021.

I Manfåyi: Who’s Who in Chamorro History. Vol. 2. The Hale’-ta Series. Hagåtña: Political Status Education and Coordinating Commission, 1997.