• Lavern Norris Gaynor
  • Lavern Norris Gaynor President’s Chair

    In support for the mission of Hodges University, and in recognition of the longstanding leadership of its then president,Dr. Terry McMahan, the Lavern Norris Gaynor President’s Chair at Hodges University was established in 2006. The gift represents the fullest respect for the qualities of Hodges University’s leadership — leadership that embraces community trusteeship,empowers faculty and staff, and is forever serving our students.“I’m amazed by all President Terry McMahan has accomplished in such a short span of time and how this university has helped so many students finally achieve their dream of securing a college degree. I marvel to see so many of their graduates now assuming leadership roles throughout the region. We live in a time where leadership is so important in our country, in our community, in our corporations, and especially in our schools. My reason for establishing this chair is to ensure a continuity of the principled leadership that Terry McMahan has provided throughout the entirety of his career with Hodges University,” says Gaynor. Terry P. McMahan retired in2013. The Lavern Norris Gaynor President’s Chair will continue to support all future presidents of the institution.

    A daughter of the late Dellora Angell and Lester Norris, Lavern was raised in St. Charles, Illinois, where her parents were recognized as the philanthropists behind such foundations as Delnor Hospital, Delnor Medical Park, the Norris Sports Complex and a cultural center that exists on 70 acres of land donated to Saint Charles High School. Her parents’ legacy of public service traces beyond 1917, but it was at this time that Dellora, all of 15 years old, inherited a portion of John Gates’ famed fortune; an inheritance amounting to millions amassed through the manufacturing of barbed wire and the founding of a company known as The Texas Oil Company (recognized today as Texaco).

    Lavern married George Gaynor, one of Texaco’s most dynamic, young executives. The son of Joseph and Agnes Gaynor, George came from humble beginnings in New York but dedicated himself to earning an education and working hard at his career. Texaco ultimately entrusted him with the expansion of their overseas markets, and he, with Lavern, spent a number of years living in New York,Belgium and Italy before his retirement in 1971. They raised two children along the way; a daughter, DeeDee, and a son, George.

    After moving to Naples in 1976, George and Lavern donated time, energy and critical financial help to causes such as the YMCA, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Naples Philharmonic, the Naples Historical Society, the Naples Alliance for Children and Youth Haven. Beyond providing financial support, Lavern has devoted more than seven years of service to Youth Haven’s Board of Directors, garnering a lifetime appointment and designation as the first recipient of their Frances Pew Hayes Child Advocate of the Year Award. Additional honors include Naples Daily News Citizen of the Year and distinction as the YMCA’s Preeminent Pioneer. In 1997, in a gesture recognizing the depth of the humanitarian impact Lavern Gaynor has made in Naples, Hodges University distinguished her with their inaugural Humanitarian of the Year Award.

    For her ardent support of education, and for her passionate advocacy of children and families, Lavern Norris Gaynor has transcended her role as a wife and mother and will be eternally remembered as one of the most benevolent benefactors in the history of Hodges University and the greater Naples community.

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