Developer, attorney, optometrist, banker … and a People Connector. Half an Ironman, part of an Irongirl. A loudmouth punk, a snowboarder and a lake lounger. Lots of Young Professionals. And lots of passion…
These are the people who make up Columbus and the Valley and the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Five Under 40 for 2010. Each has a story as unique as the community in which they live. But each shares a common goal of making their community an even better place to live.
Colby Cardin, Amy Giglio, Dr. Griff Gordy, Nick Stutzman and Chris Woodruff were selected from dozens of submissions by Columbus and the Valley readers. Nominees were invited to tell us about how these young professionals are making a difference through their leadership and dedication to family, business, faith and the community.
The judges found their task exceptionally difficult, but extremely rewarding. We hope you, too, will be inspired by the dreams and accomplishments of these five bright stars and the five Rising Stars named at the end of this feature. You’ll want to keep your eye on them, as well.
Dr. Griff Gordy, 34
Hometown: Phenix City
Family: Wife Jennifer, son Evan, 5 months
Occupation: Optometrist, Gordy Eyecare
Education: Central High School
University of Alabama-Birmingham
If you wanted to remake It’s a Wonderful Life in the Chattahoochee Valley, you could cast Dr. Griff Gordy in the lead role. Small town boy grows up and marries his sweetheart, runs a business that puts people ahead of profit, encounters faith-shattering crisis but rises above it all to become a new man.
That’s not to trivialize Griff Gordy’s life, it’s to celebrate its good-hearted, old-fashioned simplicity
Like so many boys, Griff dreamed of being a professional baseball player when he grew up. But he never quite “grew up.” “It got to the point where everyone else kept growing and I stayed the same size. That’s when I realized pro ball might not be a realistic possibility.”
Fortunately, Griff also always had a desire to go into a medical field. “I’m a people person. I enjoy helping others, so I always saw myself in a position where I could help others in whatever I did.”
Griff landed in optometry and decided to come home to Phenix City to open his own business. Evaluating a person’s vision turned out to be the easy part. “But running a business is on-the-job experience. In four years of medical school they hardly have enough time to teach you all you need to know about optometry; the business part you just have to learn as you go.”
Griff says there’s extra work in owning your own business, but on the plus side, it gives him the flexibility to spend more time with his family and the community. “I tell my wife, Jennifer, if it were that easy, then everybody would do it.”
Just as Griff’s career was taking off, his father was diagnosed with cancer. “My dad was my best friend. Growing up, he coached me in football and baseball. And when I got older, he was my biggest fan.” Griff’s dad was the best man at his wedding. That was exactly one year before he died.
“My dad’s passing away has kind of gotten my life back on track. I’ve recommitted myself to God. My spiritual life has taken priority. It’s amazing to see how everything else in my life has kind of fallen into place because of it. It’s a good situation coming from a bad situation, I guess.”
One of the ways Griff turned the negative into a positive was by raising money for the American Cancer Society. With the help of the Gordy family and hundreds of others, the Phenix City/Russell County Relay For Life raised more than $107,000 this year, $13,000 more than the goal.
“The ultimate goal is to raise money to find a cure, but I take it also as an opportunity to talk to others that might be going through the same thing we went through.”
Griff credits his faith for carrying him this far. “I don’t see how people can go through something like that without having a relationship with God.” He belongs to Summerville Baptist Church, the same church he grew up just down the street from, the same church where his parents were married.
Griff uses his expertise as an optometrist to give back to his community. He gives free eye screenings to athletes at Central, Glenwood and Russell County schools.
Even without kids of school age, Griff makes time to lead Central High School’s booster club. “It’s an opportunity to get involved, to meet people and to make sure kids are getting the best experience possible, whether it’s on the field or off.”
As much as Griff loves his hometown, he sees problems that need to be addressed. “Our community has some issues with unity,” he explains. “The city and the schools aren’t working together very well. I think a lack of communication is one of the biggest problems. You have to set your pride aside and realizing we’re all working for the children in this community—our future.
“When you focus on the small things, you lose the big picture. And when you get in that zone, it’s hard to get out of it.”
Dr. Gordy’s focus now is on making his own version of Bedford Falls a better place. “Phenix City is so near and dear to my heart because of all the people here who helped me to the point where I am in my life. I feel like I am living my dream by being able to come back here and give back to my