By Kip Ryle '23
Reinhardt and Coca-Cola? Who would have thought that a relationship between the two entities extending far back to the early days of the company and the University has existed for a century. Beginning in 1923 with one of Coca-Cola’s first executives serving on Reinhardt’s Board of Trustees, all the way to the present day, Coca-Cola and Reinhardt remain connected.
After his uncle Asa Griggs Candler bought the Coca-Cola formula, Samuel Candler Dobbs became the company's first salesman and served as its president in 1919 and 1920. As a supporter of Methodist higher education, Dobbs took an interest in Reinhardt, joining the Reinhardt College Board of Trustees in 1923. Named President of the Board in 1927, he remained an active member of the Board until his death in 1950. Major contributions by Dobbs to serve the campus included the construction of a new science building in 1926, a stock barn and dairy barn in 1929, a gymnasium in 1931, a modern dormitory for girls in 1939, and an endowment.
One of the first female directors of a major U.S. corporation also has a continuing impact on Reinhardt and its students. After being appointed in 1934, Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans served for nearly 20 years on the board of the Coca-Cola Company. A generous philanthropist and a successful businesswoman, she left a legacy of her concern for others. Since the 1960s, her foundations have been providing scholarships to female students at Reinhardt, and significantly contributed to the university’s growth, notably through funds provided in 2006 towards a new student center.
John McRoberts Mount was a trustee of Reinhardt for over a decade and served as executive vice chairman until his death in 1982. After his death, Mount’s family asked that donations be made to Reinhardt’s endowment, and a fund in his name continues his giving to this day. He was a retired senior vice president of Coca-Cola USA. His former boss and company president, John H. Ogden, also actively supported Reinhardt and its Methodist Ministerial Association.
George Lawson Sr, another benefactor of Reinhardt, worked as a former vice president and general counsel for the Coca-Cola Company for 23 years until his retirement in 1973. Lawson valued a meaningful education and saw giving as a perpetuating benefit. Lawson’s many gifts enhanced the learning environment, including his art collection, an academic building named in honor of his 1992 donation to support a modern educational facility, a scholarship endowment, and a trust to continue his giving legacy.
The lasting legacy of Roberto Goizueta, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company from 1981 to 1997, continues today in the lives of many Reinhardt students. For over 20 years, the Goizueta Foundation Scholars Fund has provided Hispanic and Latino students an opportunity to thrive on campus and in leadership roles. In 2018, the foundation began supporting the entire University with The Goizueta Foundation Endowed Fund for the Center for Innovative Teaching and Engaged Learning (CITEL).
The tradition of having Reinhardt Board of Trustee Members who represent Coca-Cola resumed over the past decade. From 2014-2018, Katherine Dunlop, former Director of Sales for Coca-Cola North America, invested in the Board of Trustees as a member of the Advancement Committee, Membership Committee, Advisory Board, and founding co-chair of Reinhardt University Women’s Leadership. Heather Trotter, Vice President of National Food Service for the Coca-Cola Company, served as Reinhardt trustee from 2018-2021. She was impressed with the widespread opportunities available to students—from diverse courses to a place to call home.
In 2021, Lisa Pinkston, Vice President for Customer Engagement at Coca-Cola North America, joined the Board of Trustees at Reinhardt. In 2023, Glenn Rivers, Director for Foodservice Customer Leadership at Coca-Cola North America, also became a trustee, continuing the century-long tradition.
Currently, students at Reinhardt can learn successful business practices from instructor Russ Fletcher, who served as vice president for Customer and Trade Communications for Coca-Cola North America for twenty years. In 2023, Fletcher received the Faculty Mentor Award. In 2022, as part of the RU Leads Series, CEO and President of Coca-Cola Bottling United, Mike Suco, shared with students his experiences as a Latino businessman.
Reinhardt students will forever be impacted by the legacy of these Coca-Cola company executives.
As new leaders from Coca-Cola join Reinhardt's mission, the timeless lessons of generosity, stewardship, and goodwill being passed down since the earliest days continue to find fertile ground in which to take root and flourish.
Kip Ryle ’23 serves as the Assistant Director of Prospect Research and Records Management in Reinhardt’s Office of Advancement.