Ray C. Anderson (IE 1956, Honorary PhD 2011), founder and chairman of Interface Inc. and noted environmentalist, died Monday at age 77 after a 20-month battle with cancer. He died at his home in Atlanta surrounded by family.
Anderson was an honors graduate of Georgia Tech's H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) in 1956. Anderson recently received an honorary degree at Georgia Tech’s 240th commencement ceremony on August 5, 2011, for his work to secure a greener world for future generations through his championing of the business case for sustainability.
Anderson founded Interface, Inc. in 1973 to produce the first free-lay carpet tiles in America. Interface is now the world’s largest producer of modular commercial floor coverings and interior finishes. He moved from day-to-day management of Interface Inc. in 2001 and spent the next 10 years as non-executive chairman, focusing his time and energy on the business case for sustainability, delivering more than 1,000 speeches and authoring two books on the topic. By serving as the driving force behind the company’s efforts to completely eliminate any negative impact it has on the environment by 2020, Anderson earned the well-deserved global recognition as the “greenest chief executive in America.”
"Ray is one of my few heroes. He put the company he built and his personal fortune on the line when he committed Interface, Inc. to sustainability. Who else has done that?” said Craig Tovey, professor in ISyE and in the College of Computing at Georgia Tech. “He eloquently communicated his profound understanding of how externalities and corporate governance fundamentally drive against sustainability in the U.S. We will miss him and his leadership."
A loyal and devoted supporter of his alma mater for more than five decades, Anderson served as chair and vice chair of the Georgia Tech Advisory Board as well as serving on the ISyE Advisory Board. He has also served on the Georgia Tech Foundation Board of Trustees, the Capital Campaign Executive Committee, and his 40th and 50th class reunion committees. In partnership with Interface, Anderson established the Anderson-Interface Chair in Natural Systems at the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech.
“Ray was an inspiration to me and to many of us here at Georgia Tech,” reflects Valerie Thomas, Anderson-Interface in Natural Systems Associate Chair. “He shook things up; he made change that will continue. Ray challenged us to redesign the industrial system to eliminate waste of all kinds. We have a long way to go and we need to take giant steps. Ray took giant steps himself, transforming the sleepy carpet industry into a model for sustainable manufacturing worldwide.”
Anderson is a College of Engineering Distinguished Alumnus, a recipient of the Dean Griffin Community Service Award, and a member of the College of Engineering Hall of Fame, and the ISyE Hall of Fame.
In 2007, Anderson received the Purpose Prize from Civic Ventures, a think tank and incubator that generates ideas and invents programs to help society achieve the greatest return on experience. The same year, he received the International Quality of Life Award from Auburn University. In 2001, he received the George and Cynthia Mitchell International Prize for Sustainable Development. In 1996, Anderson received the inaugural Millennium Award from Global Green and won recognition from Forbes magazine and Ernst & Young, which named him Entrepreneur of the Year. He also has been honored by Southface Energy Institute, SAM-SPG (Switzerland), the U.S. Green Building Council, the National Wildlife Federation, the Design Futures Council, the Children’s Health and Environmental Coalition, Harvard Business School Alumni (Atlanta Chapter), the International Interior Design Association, the Southern Institute for Business & Professional Ethics, the Possible Woman Foundation International, the World Business Academy, and the Council of Scientific Society Presidents.
A former board chair for the Georgia Conservancy, Anderson served on the boards of the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation, Rocky Mountain Institute, the David Suzuki Foundation, LaGrange College, Emory University Board of Visitors, the ASID Foundation, Worldwatch Institute and Melaver Inc. He was also a member of the advisory boards of the Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment and the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. He holds eleven honorary doctorates.
"Not only did Interface and the world lose a great man today, but I lost a friend and mentor,” said Interface President and CEO Dan Hendrix. “Ray's iconic spirit and pioneering vision are not only his legacy, but our future. We will honor Ray by keeping his vision alive and the company on course."
For those who would like to share thoughts about Ray and his life, visit the blog "In Memoriam" at http://raycandersonblog.com/
Industrial and Systems Engineering