Excellence, Hard Work, Loyalty & Love - Evelyn Gordy-Rankin's Legacy at Reinhardt College
Reinhardt College alumna Evelyn Jackson Gordy-Rankin passed away on
Oct. 31, 2006, she has left an indelible mark on her alma mater. A
Reinhardt trustee for 23 years, Mrs. Gordy-Rankin enthusiastically
supported the College"s mission, and her legacy includes a dedication to
excellence, a passion for hard work and a lifelong dedication to her
family, her church, her community and her alma mater.
"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.
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.
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.
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
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."