Dr. Sherrie Ford was born in 1946 in Meridian, Mississippi to Charlie May Womble Ford and Otto Theodore Ford. Her father’s military career took her and her family to distant locales from Libya to Germany. She spoke fluent French and developed a love for traveling. Dr. Ford’s background was in literary scholarship, completing her Masters with a degree in Creative Writing at the University of Southern Mississippi in 1973. She taught French and English at Emanuel County Junior College in Swainsboro (now known as East Georgia College) before she earned her PhD in English from the University of Georgia in 1982. She went on to join the faculty at Athens Technical College where her interest in manufacturing grew.
She was a prominent consultant in the field of work culture change and lean manufacturing. She was the head of one of the largest women-owned businesses in the United States. She changed the lives of workers in plants throughout the country and practiced what she preached in her own manufacturing facility in Athens, Georgia. Ford pioneered a unique process of work culture transformation that engaged not just management, but the entire hourly workforce she had experienced firsthand in the facilities she had worked. She encouraged manufacturers to embrace world-class manufacturing techniques and lean production principles. Her writing on these topics was widely published and she spoke and consulted extensively in South Africa, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands.
Her refinement and gentility were often out of place in the overtly masculine atmosphere of the plants in which she worked she once had to walk a half mile to even find a ladies’ washroom in one facility-but when she spoke to hourly employees and their bosses, she won minds and turned around their deeply-instilled workplace behaviors. She was a leader and advocate for better treatment for women in the workplace. Therefore, the Sherrie Ford Fund was made in memory of the legacy she left behind by her daughter, Juniper Ford.
Reita with JRF cofounders Gail Dendy, Heather Kleiner, Margaret Holt, and Sue Bailey
Reita Rivers was born on September 13, 1930 in Jenkins, Kentucky. She was the only child of Lola Dotson Rivers and Earl Rivers. Most of her childhood was spent in Wise, Virginia. She attended Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, Virginia and received her BS degree from Radford State Teachers College.
Reita taught Spanish before switching to a career as a representative for Silver Burdette textbook company in Atlanta. There she met a colleague, Pat Haynes, his wife Corky and family. A close friendship quickly formed and lasted a lifetime. Pat left Silver Burdette and moved his family to Athens in 1964. Reita moved to Athens the next year. She quickly was hired as a graduate assistant and started taking graduate courses herself. While pursuing job offerings at the student employment center, she saw an ad: “Personal Assistant for Miss Jeannette Rankin,” it was a name familiar to Reita; her grandfather had talked about “that woman from Montana has more guts than most men!” Reita knew Jeannette’s historic journey as America’s first elected Congresswoman. She was hired and very soon became a close friend of Jeannette.
Miss Rankin passed away May 18, 1973, days short of her 93rd birthday. Reita executed her estate. Miss Rankin stipulated money left in her estate was to provide educational opportunities for older women. Reita along with four of her closest friends who were also committed to equal rights sought to expand opportunities for women. They were JRF co-founders, Sue Bailey, Heather Kleiner, Margaret Holt, and Gail Dendy. Together they developed the idea of creating The Jeannette Rankin Foundation. The JRF was founded in 1976.
Later, Reita worked as Communications Director for the Sea Grant Program and Marine Sciences Department at the University of Georgia for over 20 years. She created a successful project of merging science with art. Reita held exhibitions of the art throughout the state and sparked the public’s interest in and appreciation of coastal resources.
Reita passed away in January of 2020 and will be remembered as an advocate for social justice, a dedicated feminist, and animal lover. The Jeannette Rankin Foundation endows this scholar grant in memory of her.
Michael was born on April 8, 1915 in New York City, son of Milton and Alene Stern Erlanger. He attended the University of North Carolina and Ohio State University. Upon graduating, he went to work for BVD Corporation, the business founded by his grandfather and great-uncle, Charles and Abe Erlanger. He went on to volunteer for the National Guard and later transferred into the U.S. Army Air Force, which he served with the 8th Air Force in England during World War II. After his service, he returned to serve as president of BVD and later as a chairman of the board for Erlanger Mills, Inc. He presided over the sale of the business in 1970 and retired in 1971. During the 1960s, Michael wrote two novels, “Silence in Heaven,” a science fiction work, and “Mindy Lindy May Surprise,” a novel about quarter-horse racing (he had a lifelong interest in horses and riding). He also studied drawing, painting, and sculpting. He and his wife were avid art patrons and collectors. Upon moving to Athens in 1980, Michael found numerous outlets to fulfill his interests in art. He served as a director of the Georgia Museum of Art since 1981, was a member of the board of the Friends of the GMOA, and was a strong supporter of theatre, dance, and music programs at the University of Georgia and Athens community.
Michael passed away on February 21, 2002 at his home in Athens, Georgia. His life included many various careers as a textile manufacturer, novelist, poet, and patron of the arts. He and his wife of 53 years, Mary A. Erlanger, were supporters of JRF for many years. Michael brought much merriment to an annual Epting High Hat Tea one year where he purchased a grand red hat for Mary which was auctioned to benefit the Foundation. Over the years, Michael served as an Advisor to the Foundation and lent his expertise to the Foundation’s Investment Committee. He was a long-time and beloved friend of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation and is remembered through the Erlanger Memorial Fund which was endowed in his memory by his wife, Mary.
Marjorie Saunders Magruder was born in 1920 in Wray Colorado. Growing up in the shadow of the Great Depression she was fiercely independent and self-reliant. She attended Cottey College in Missouri, but her college career was cut short by her father’s death.
When World War II broke out in Europe, she answered the call by joining the American Red Cross in support of the U.S. servicemen. She drove a Red Cross Clubmobile in England, boosting morale serving coffee and donuts to the growing number of U.S. servicemen there. After D-Day she and her Red Cross convoy followed the advancing Allied Armies into France. Her Red Cross convoy was strafed by a German plane near Saint Mere Eglise in France.
Once back in England she married Joseph Hull Magruder, a staff officer with the U.S. 8th Air Force, after a whirlwind courtship. Their marriage in November 1944, at High Wycombe Abbey outside London, lasted 45 years until Joe’s death in 1989. Marjorie and Joe settled in Connecticut where they raised three children.
Marjorie Saunders Magruder
She was an avid reader and instilled a love of reading in her children and grandchildren. She was the Program Director of the Public Library in Fairfield, Connecticut, where she lived for many years. Later in life she moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where she was heavily invested in the community and volunteered with numerous organizations.
Marjorie would have been delighted to know her legacy was carried on through these Scholar Grants and that women are able to achieve higher education despite multiple obstacles. May her spirit continue to inspire generations of future scholars who can benefit from her self reliance, independence, and strength.
Marian Alexander Spencer, born in June 1920, granddaughter of a slave, was from the small town of Gallipolis, Ohio. After graduating from the University of Cincinnati in 1942,when African Americans were not allowed to live in the dormitories or attend classes at the Colleges of Music, Medicine or Engineering, she is credited with the integration of the entire campus by 1950. In 1975 she became the first Black woman on the University Board of Trustees. Today, Marian Spencer Hall is an integrated dormitory on campus housing ten Spencer Scholars a year on full scholarships in addition to 300 other students. Spencer had a long list of “firsts” including integration of all YWCA swimming pools, cafeterias and summer camps across the country in 1950; integrating Cincinnati’s Coney Island Entertainment Park in 1952; first Black candidate for the Cincinnati school board in 1974; first Black woman elected to Cincinnati City Council, where she served as Vice Mayor in 1984, first woman president of the Cincinnati chapter of NAACP, and many more. Marian married Donald Spencer in 1940 while she was still a student. Together the two became known as Mr. and Mrs. Civil Rights of Cincinnati. The street on the East side of the National Underground Railroad Museum is named Marian Spencer Way. The West side is named for Rosa Parks. Marian’s story is an inspiration to all interested in racial struggles throughout the 20th century. Her lifetime theme was Be Smart, Be Polite, and Vote! She died shortly after her 99th birthday in 2019. For more information see her biography: Keep on Fighting: The Life and Civil Rights Legacy of Mary A. Spencer, by Dorothy Christenson.
Mattie Newton Traylor was born and raised in rural Troup County, Georgia in 1888. She graduated with honors from Agnes Scott College in 1909. She returned to Troup County, married L.H. Traylor, and raised a family of three. She was actively involved in her church and her community of LaGrange in which she resided. Prior and after raising her three children, Mattie was always a beloved school teacher at several institutions. She concluded her career teaching literature and social studies at a junior high school in her hometown for seventeen years. Mattie was not only intelligent, but wise, and her calm quiet demeanor set an example for all who knew her.
Mattie’s granddaughter, Sarajane Love, established the Mattie Newton Traylor Fund in memory of her. Sarajane has been a long time friend and supporter of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation, going back to the 1980s. Sarajane established this fund after being a long-term supporter of JRF. She says, “It’s just a no-brainer. I am so in awe of what our Scholars accomplish with so little. If they don’t deserve our help, no one does. This is truly a compelling organization and mission. When the right circumstances came around I thought, it’s time, let’s do it. So here we are.”
(given by her children Stanley, Nancy, Helen, Karen, Joel, and Janet Sterk)
Mae with her family
Mae had a deep love for education, and particularly for science. She aspired to be a doctor in a time where there were few female doctors. Her father refused to send her to college because “girls don’t need an education.” So with funds she earned herself, she went to college. She graduated from Calvin College in 1947 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, one of the few BSNs awarded in the 1940s. After completing RN training at Rush Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago, Mae married Watson Sterk and brought six children into the world before returning to school to obtain certification as a Public Health Nurse to work as a Health Nurse for Dodge County, Wisconsin.
When she was in her 50s, Mae returned to school again to obtain her Master’s of Science in Nursing, with the tenacious determination to perform all her statistics computations by hand. She retired in 1986 from her nursing career in her final position as Administrator of Nursing for the Dodge County Mental Health Facility.
Mae and her husband sent all six of their children through college, understanding that a college education would open up the world to them. Everyone appreciated her passion for education. Her daughter and Jeannette Rankin Foundation’s CEO, Karen Sterk, along with her brothers and sisters, endowed this Scholar Grant for women anywhere in the United States pursuing a Nursing degree. Their goal is to give a woman the help she needs to achieve her dreams.
Mabel Davison was born Mabel Donaho in 1909 near Floresville, Texas. She was a loving mother and grandmother to her family. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Education from Southwest Texas State Teachers College in 1928 and began her career, following the profession of her mother and father. She was a teacher and a school librarian for over 40 years. Mabel was a strong believer in education for both men and women throughout their lives. She went on to earn her Master of Arts in Education from Incarnate Word College in 1963 in San Antonio, Texas. Being a deeply religious person, she honored the dignity of every human being without prejudice. Her son, Ralph M. Davison, and his wife, Nancy Davison, established and financed the Mabel Davison Fund in her memory. Nancy continues the Fund in honor of Mabel and her family. Nancy also established a separate endowed Scholar Grant in honor of her husband, Ralph M. Davison. Both Funds are intended to encourage and to assist strong women to return to school to improve their own lives, their family’s lives, and to work for the greater good in their communities.
Dr. Hardeep Sodhi left India in the late 50’s and came to the United States to join her husband and do her Medical Doctor Residency. While in the states, she gave birth to their daughter Mimi. At that time in America, she and her family experienced a lack of cross cultural understanding and acceptance. Ultimately, they decided that America was not the place for them. She and her husband decided to return to India, and stopped over in London on the trip home. While there, her husband was offered a partnership in a medical practice, so they made the decision to stay in London. While there, Dr. Hardeep Sodhi became a General Practitioner MD and served the people of London for many years. She gave birth to two more daughters and lived out a full life in London.
Dr. Sodhi traveled the world and instilled in her daughters the desire to create understanding and acceptance across cultures. She died on August 6, 2017. In her honor, her daughter Mimi Sodhi created the Hardeep Sodhi Fund, a Scholar Grant for JRF scholars pursuing degrees in the helping professions of nursing, social work, childcare, or teaching. Mimi Sodhi is a former JRF Board Member and a current friend of JRF.
Greta Kleiner was the daughter of Scott Alter and Heather Smith Kleiner, JRF Founding Mother. She was born in Chicago in 1961 and moved with her parents to Lynchburg, VA, where her sister Catherine was born in 1966 before they moved to Athens, Georgia. Greta was a talented artist, spending her last two years of high school at Wykeham Rise School for Girls, a school with an emphasis on the arts. Upon graduating, she received the Lorraine Hansbury Award in recognition of her outstanding accomplishments and excellence in the arts. Greta attended Agnes Scott College, earning a diploma of Graphic Design from the Portfolio Design Center of Atlanta. She also graduated from UGA with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. Greta began her professional career as a commercial interior designer. She was also an accomplished musician, playing both classical and folk guitar. She was also the lead singer for Athens’ country bad Deep Step and rock band Street Dancers.
Greta’s work as a commercial designer took her around the country, from Atlanta to Cincinnati to Los Angeles to Dallas. In 1999, she married Darrel Berryhill and they moved back to Athens, where she continued her work as an interior designer. She left her mark on the Jeannette Rankin Foundation, designing the organization’s logo, which features a silhouette of Jeannette Rankin in a large brimmed hat. She loved seeing the logo she created in various places around Athens. Greta died in 2002 of acute pancreatitis. On October 28, 2004, her parents, Heather and Scott Kleiner, established the Greta Kleiner award in her honor.