"Mrs. Gordy-Rankin has a clear vision of quality, a generous heart, and a kindly Christian grace," said Reinhardt President Dr. J. Thomas Isherwood. "She loved Reinhardt, and her contributions will enrich the students at 'her' school for generations to come. Her care and attention for her alma mater will live on through the spirit of Reinhardt."
Gordy is one of the first names learned by those coming to Reinhardt. Since the mid-1980s, "See ya' at the Gordy" has referred to the picturesque dining and meeting facility Mrs. Gordy-Rankin built in the center of Reinhardt's campus. But please be specific when you say "The Gordy!" In the early 1990s, she moved the Gordy Hospitality House to the campus, and Gordy Hall was named by her brother-in-law and his wife, Herbert I. and Lilla W. Gordy.
Mrs. Gordy-Rankin's ties with Reinhardt go back to 1924, the year she and W. Frank Gordy Sr. attended Reinhardt Academy. Though they did not know each other well during that year, they renewed their acquaintance after both settled in Atlanta. She attended Draughons Business School and worked for the G. L. Miller Co. and later the Trust Company of Georgia. He attended Georgia Tech, then Oglethorpe, but soon returned to full-time work. The Gordys courted and married in June of 1930.
Two years earlier, in April of 1928, Mr. Gordy founded The Varsity, which would grow to be the world's largest drive-in restaurant. Mrs. Gordy worked for the restaurant in various capacities, from bookkeeper to CEO, over the years. Their business acumen also included real estate and other ventures. They worked hard and raised a fine family. Their son, W. Frank Gordy Jr., died in 1980. Their daughter, Nancy Simms, is now president of The Varsity, Inc., and has served as a Reinhardt trustee since 1985.
In the early 1980s, the Gordys decided to make a major gift to Reinhardt as an expression of their love for each other and of their appreciation for the place they met. At the time, their gift was the largest single donation, other than a bequest, ever given to the College. Almost a year later, the Gordys made another even larger gift and designated both gifts toward the badly-needed food service facility.
Only a few months after making the second gift, Mr. Gordy passed away, and Evelyn decided to upgrade the plans to ensure that the dining hall would be a fitting memorial to Frank and to their loving marriage of 53 years. She succeeded, and on Oct. 26, 1984, the W. Frank and Evelyn J. Gordy Center was dedicated to the glory of God and the memory of Frank Gordy.
"Almost anyone who has been to Reinhardt has visited the Gordy Center," said Wilson. "The facility is just like Mrs. Gordy. Elegant, yet practical and efficient. She was gracious and kind, yet also strong willed, always a true Southern lady. While some dining halls are sterile and institutional, ours is warm and welcoming, That was her goal, and she accomplished it with class."
In 1986, Mrs. Gordy married a longtime friend, Olney Rankin. Several years later, when the decision was made to sell the land occupied by her family's home on Piedmont Road in Atlanta, she had a choice to make. The lovely white house had been a Christmas gift from her husband, Frank, in October of 1940, and she treasured many memories of the years they spent in it. Should she tear the house down or move it? She listened to her heart and relocated the building to Reinhardt.
In less than two years, the home was carefully cut into four sections, wrapped in plastic for transport, moved to the campus, unwrapped, reconnected, completely restored and renovated, and furnished. Again, Mrs. Gordy-Rankin weighed on every stage. At the dedication ceremony on Oct. 20, 1991, then Reinhardt President Dr. Floyd A. Falany got a big laugh with a story about the building's foundation. "We finally got the house assembled exactly where she wanted it," he said. 'We were excited for her to see it. When she did, she told us it was in the wrong place; it needed to be moved back 15 feet. And of course we did. We would have put it on the hill [where the President's Home sits] if she had wanted it there."
Though Mrs. Gordy was a generous benefactor to many causes in Atlanta -- from Wesley Woods and Feed My Lambs ministries to Peachtree Road United Methodist Church and Georgia Tech -- she remained true to her first love, and she received two honorary doctorates and two alumni awards from her alma mater. The College's Alumni Loyalty Award is also named for her.
"She is one in a long line of alumni and friends who choose to support Reinhardt because they know their gifts will be appreciated and well used," said Wilson. 'I know she's looking down on us now, and I know she's happy about what she sees."
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