in Laurens NOW - Spring 2023! Read More Below.
Always a Professional.
Always a lady.
By Scott Thompson, Sr.
Being the first woman to serve as President of the Dublin-Laurens Chamber of Commerce came easy to Geva Alexander. In a male-dominated business world, all Geva had to do was what her daddy instructed: Be professional and be a lady. During the month of March when we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s look at the life and career of one of the most successful businesswomen in the 215-plus year history of Laurens County.
Geva grew up in Jesup, Georgia. Near the end of World War II, she headed off to Agnes Scott College to get a degree in biology. From there, she planned to go to medical school at the University of Georgia to become one of the state university’s first female physicians. Then, life happened. Already admitted to the medical college, Geva met a soldier from Dublin. She told him, “Get your affairs in order because I am going to marry you!” He replied, “And, I love you too.”
Grandson Harper Alexander wrote, “By 1947, my grandfather Louis Alexander had returned from World War II and married a French girl he had met while going to college at Emory University in Atlanta. He looks at her sometimes and loudly claims to have known from the moment he saw her that she would be the woman he’d marry. My grandmother Geva, short for the lovely Genevieve, smiles and shakes her head and takes a coconut cake into the other room while she remembers the hot day in Georgia when she lost her French nameBertat. Bertat. Bertat. That name, incredibly beautiful, with the little lilt at the end lifting it up.”
Geva began teaching biology at Dublin High School in 1958. Star student Peter Brandeis chose her as the District Star Teacher. It wasn’t too long after that she began to help a rising furniture store magnate, Sherwin Glass, close out an office supply store. This is what sparked Geva’s interest in owning an office supply store. Glass and banker Barron Smith tried to discourage the tiny, headstrong, endearing woman from entering the business world.
Geva discovered that there was a typewriter repair store on North Roosevelt Street, so she and Louis opened a store and a print shop there in 1964. Daughter Nannette joined her parents. Geva instilled her father’s core beliefs in her own children just as they were instilled in her. Nannette helped the Alexanders to expand their local business into a regional store with offices in Milledgeville and Macon.
The Dublin Downtown Development Authority was created in 1983 to bolster businesses in a decaying downtown. Naturally, Geva volunteered as a member of the board. Forty years ago, the Alexanders obtained a loan from the DDDA and moved to their current location on Academy Avenue.
The St. Patrick’s Festival Committee named Geva as the Woman of the Year in 1988. Her resume includes her dedicated service to her church, the Church of the Immaculate Conception. She was a member of Georgia Southern’s Business Advisory Council. She also founded the local Women’s Business Owner’s Educational Council. Her long list of achievements on a local, state, and national level are outstanding.
In 1989, Geva was elected by the membership of the Dublin-Laurens Chamber of Commerce as the first female president of the organization. She accepts no credit or accolades for her election to the presidency of the chamber. “I had lots of friends in high places. I don’t flatter myself,” she explains. “There are a lot more assertive women who could have done a better job. It is my hope that I planted a seed for professionalism in the business community and in the Chamber of Commerce. It became a professional chamber where people are actually trained to do the job a chamber should do. My greatest contribution to the chamber was to that point,” Geva adds. In judging the impact of that change, she comments, “I think it helped the whole county by making us a fully professional chamber.” She never thought too much about being the first woman to head the Chamber of Commerce. “I truly believe if I was put in a man’s world, I had to obey their· laws and rules,” she contends. It was Geva’s sole goal to achieve as a professional. Her father instilled one rule in her mind. That rule is “always be a professional and be a lady while you do it.”
Whether intentionally, or not, Geva Alexander has set the standard of the professional business woman in our community for generations to come. She initiated retreats and planning sessions while announcing new and bold goals for the future. Those goals helped Dublin and Laurens County to experience a second golden era. Today, at the age of ninety-five, you will still see Geva near the front of her store waiting to greet new customers and old friends. Every day at noon, the entire family leaves the office and goes home for a family lunch. She has no plans to retire. After all, why should she? She is still living the dream of leading her family in serving others like she has done for the last seven decades.
Scott Thompson, a Dublin native, has been a practicing atto.rney in Dublin since 1983. He is known as Laurens County’s historian. Thompson is in his 16th year with Laurens Now Magazine and in his 28th year as a historical columnist and feature writer with the Dublin Courier Herald.