Ray C. Anderson Collection Fund
Ray Anderson was born July 28, 1934, in West Point, Georgia, the third son of William Henry Anderson, an assistant postmaster, and Nannie Ruth McGinty.
Ray attended the Georgia Institute of Technology on a football scholarship where he played under legendary football coach Bobby Dodd. An injury during his freshman year left him sidelined and unable to play, but Dodd allowed Ray to continue his education and keep his scholarship as long as he maintained his grades. Ray did not disappoint and graduated with honors in 1956 from Georgia Tech’s School of Industrial and Systems Engineering.
Ray learned the carpet industry from the ground up at Deering-Milliken and Company and Callaway Mills before founding Interface in 1973, with a vision to provide flexible floor coverings for modern office buildings. By 1983, the company was posting sales of $11 million annually, and following the 1987 acquisition of Heuga Holdings B.V., it became the undisputed world leader in carpet tile manufacturing.
Ray Anderson experienced an environmental epiphany in 1994, and challenged the company, which at the time was heavily dependent on petrochemicals, to become environmentally sustainable without loss of profits. His ultimate goal, in his own words, was “to be the first enterprise in history to become truly sustainable – to shut down the smokestacks, close off effluent pipes, to do no harm to the environment and take nothing not easily renewed by the earth.”
Today, Interface is a $1 billion publicly traded company (Nasdaq:TILE) with manufacturing on four continents and sales in more than 110 countries. Despite the loss of its visionary leader in August 2011, the company remains committed to its Mission Zero® pledge to eliminate its environmental footprint.
Ray Anderson died August 8, 2011, and is buried at Shadowlawn Cemetery in LaGrange, Georgia. In September 2015, the Ray C. Anderson Foundation and Interface Inc. donated his papers and ephemera to the Georgia Historical Society. The collection contains approximately 109.5 linear feet of artifacts, artwork, audiovisual materials, awards, correspondence, meeting materials, notes, pamphlets, photographic materials, reports, speeches, and writings. The collection also contains Ray C. Anderson’s book collection, which focuses on the topics of environment, sustainability, and business.
This is a collection of significance to future researchers. Ray Anderson was not only a pioneer in his industry, but he also possessed the conscience and character to step out from the crowd and take the risk to prove that sustainability and profitability are not mutually exclusive. The Ray C. Anderson collection will provide the insight and inspiration into the life and work of one of the founding fathers of the industrial environmental movement.
The collection was accompanied by a gift from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation to the Georgia Historical Society’s Next Century Initiative to process and endow the collection—ensuring its care and accessibility to researchers for generations to come.