For Retiring Teacher George Grody, Giving Back Is On Brand

Man in Duke shirt wearing glasses in front of signpost art at home.
George Grody at home (Photo by Les Todd).

By Michele Lynn

When George Grody T’81 returned to Duke in 2008 as a teacher in Markets and Management Studies, he planned to stay for just two years. But passion for his students kept him teaching, sharing lessons gained from his nearly thirty-year career as a global marketing and sales executive at Proctor & Gamble, until his retirement this spring.

As a Duke teacher, Perkins Library has become Grody’s campus home. It’s where he teaches—in a classroom in the Link that he named with a gift to the Libraries—and where he meets daily with students, working as their advocate and as an ambassador for the university.

“I’ve had my best times at Duke in the library,” says Grody. “When you think of a library, you may think of a quiet, somber place, but I don’t. I’m there to have fun.” Grody finds fun in teaching, meeting with students—whether they are asking about classwork or for career advice—and staying in touch with alumni, some of whom graduated years ago.

He has also found joy in the library theme parties he helped organize over the years. Pre-pandemic, the parties were a popular Duke tradition, inspired by library collections. As the faculty advisor for Duke’s Marketing Club, Grody helped plan four of them, beginning with “Mad Men and Mad Women” (2011), based on the popular show set in the 1960s world of advertising. For that event, students decorated the library with larger-than-life vintage ads from the Rubenstein Library. The event was a smash, inspiring future library soirees around similarly fun themes, including comic books (2012), French cabaret (2014), and murder mysteries (2017).

Man sitting in white leather banquette while watching party at library.
George Grody at the “Mad Med and Mad Women” library theme party he helped organize as faculty advisor to the Duke Marketing Club, 2011.

Grody often sits outside the library’s entrance, appreciating the beauty of the quad and the energy of the campus community around him. “For me, the library is the intellectual heart of campus,” says Grody. The library is also where Grody’s literal heart failed him. “I had a cardiac arrest and died in my classroom,” he remembers. “God was looking out for me; I looked at the statistics afterwards, and there’s no way I should have survived.”

Thankfully, three Duke EMS students were studying nearby and sprang into action. With chest compressions, oxygen, and shocks from an automated external defibrillator (AED), the students saved Grody’s life.

The students in the Marketing Club later told Grody they felt helpless because they didn’t know CPR. In response, he brought together club members and Duke EMS to launch CPR training events, which have so far reached about 5,000 individuals across campus. Grody, working through the American Heart Association, also funded AEDs in public places throughout Durham.

Man in green shirt standing with three students in Duke EMT uniforms.
Grody with three of the Duke EMS student volunteers who helped save his life in Perkins Library in 2015. From left to right are Kirsten Bonawitz, Ritika Patil, and Kevin Labagnara.

Grody’s commitment to service reflects the personal brand which has shaped his life: “I’m obsessed with adding value to every person and organization I touch, both in the classroom and in the greater community.” Grody has added value to Duke not just by teaching and mentoring, but also through philanthropy. In addition to supporting Duke Athletics and Duke Children’s Hospital, Grody is a longtime donor to the Libraries.

In 2017 the Libraries launched the Grody Challenge, which encourages graduating Duke seniors to support the Libraries by having Grody match any gift seniors and recent grads make to our Annual Fund. Grody has also established a planned gift for the Libraries, which will support many future generations of Blue Devils. “One of the values in my brand is ‘leaving a legacy,’ and this is a way for me to do that,” he says. “I want to give back to the library, which is home to me, to add value and make things better for everybody who comes after me.”