By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
Lai Andrea Granger Gandy says she never craved the limelight, not even when she was involved in the drama program at Muskogee High School.
“When we did the all-school musicals, I was in the background,” Gandy said. “I was in ‘The Pajama Game,’ and I was in the background.
“Deb Mehew, the drama teacher at the time, took me under her wing. It was just something different. I liked it because it was something I had not done before. I worked on the lighting and the music. But it was all in the background. I’m not a person who has to be in the limelight at all.”
OK, so she doesn’t seek the limelight, but that doesn’t keep the outgoing 33-year-old from seeking to put her best foot forward.
As a retail account executive for a phone company, Gandy puts her best foot forward on the sales floor to help customers.
“You take customers to make them friends — friends who keep coming back to your business for life,” she said.
As a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, she puts her best foot forward to encourage young Muskogee women to succeed.
“When these young girls look at you, you want to make sure you want to be that role model for them,” she said.
And as the mother of a 4-year-old boy, Gandy puts her best foot forward to help him discover the values of a close family.
“I always had close cousins around me,” she said. “I want my son to know that, too.”
Gandy has a strong family legacy to uphold. She comes from the Granger family, which operates a funeral service in Muskogee.
“My dad is the third generation in the family,” to run the funeral service, she said. “I would have been the fourth.”
Even while putting her best foot forward, Gandy said she continues to learn ways to improve her service.
“I have to always be learning or else I would not be a good teacher,” she said.
Meet Lai Andrea Gandy
CAREER: Retail account executive for AT&T.
EDUCATION: Irving and Harris-Jobe elementary schools, West Junior High; Muskogee High School, class of 1996; Northeastern State University, 2001.
FAMILY: Son, Kaben, 4; parents Gayle and Willie Granger.
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Christian.
HOBBIES: Shopping, hanging out with family and best friends.
skills and networking
Lai Andrea Granger Gandy keeps active in the Alpha Epsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha. The sorority began as a way for college-educated African-American women to inspire younger women.
“We are a national sorority, and I joined them eight years ago,” Gandy said. “They’re a group of educated women, degreed women who want to make a difference in the community.”
She said the legacy of educators such as Dr. Virginia Shoats and Avalon Reece inspired her to join.
Gandy said Alpha Epsilon Omega, now in its 85th year, is the sorority’s oldest chapter in Oklahoma.
“It’s a great sisterhood,” she said. “It’s very much a sisterhood. I have lots of sisters through the chapter and some extra moms.”
She said that when she joined Alpha Kappa Alpha, she attended several conferences. Those proved to be great networking opportunities, she said. “They have given me some extra skills.”
Gandy now passes such skills to other sorority sisters. The sorority is planning its Founder’s Day program. The chapter also recently had a fashion show featuring young men and women.
The sorority helps young women succeed by offering a scholarship to the African-American Muskogee High female student with the highest grade point average, she said.
Family set a
Gandy looks to her family as role models for her life.
“My mother was definitely a role model,” she said, referring to Gayle Granger, a retired Muskogee municipal employee.
“She always wanted the best for me,” Gandy said. “She was definitely a strong leader.”
Coming from her mother’s large family could have strengthened family ties, she said, recalling all those cousins around her.
“We used to get together for all the holiday dinners and cookouts,” she said. “Mom’s brothers and sisters — sometimes they would come over and it was cool to get together. Now, as we got older, it’s cool to create that with my cousins and their kids.”
Her parents also reared various foster children over 15 to 20 years, she said.
“That taught me the value of helping each other,” she said. “My family has always had a heart to help others.”
Now there is another generation to care for — Gandy’s son, Kaben, 4. Kaben’s father’s siblings have children, she said. And her parents dote on the boy.
“He is my parents’ only grandson,” she said. “And he’s a pretty special guy. We love to do things together. We like to go play miniature golf. He loves all kinds of sports and he likes to read his books. He’s 100 percent boy.”
She said the one thing she wants Kaben to learn from her family is the value of sticking together.
“It’s just to always be there for each other,” she said.
From college to
a job to a career
Gandy’s passion for business and retail began when she was in high school and got stronger during college.
At Muskogee High School, she got involved with DECA, an international association of marketing students.
“It was a great opportunity to begin to learn the particulars of business,” she recalled. “As a senior, I got to work at Strictly Fitness, and I continued working there through Connors.”
Gandy originally sought to follow her family’s legacy and go into the funeral business. She finished her general studies at Connors State College, then enrolled in the University of Central Oklahoma’s funeral service program. However, a job at an Oklahoma City clothing store led her to change her major and career direction.
“It all goes back to interaction with the customers,” she said. “I’m always wanting to help people find solutions. I have a passion for merchandising. I love pretty stores and making stores look pretty.”
Gandy moved to Northeastern State University and changed her major to marketing and business.
After graduating from NSU in 2001, she worked in the child welfare area for a year before a friend told her about an opening at a phone store.
She began working at AT&T on March 3, 2003 – “03-03-03,” as she says.
Gandy moved up from sales representative to management to retail account executive. She said she loves the opportunity to work with the public and with customers.
She said she also likes working with the sales staff at Muskogee’s AT&T stores. She sees herself as a liaison between customers and AT&T.
“It started out as a job, but it turned out to be a career,” she said. “I love it. I love the people I work with. It’s always exciting, ever-changing.”
HOW DID YOU BECOME AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
“I was born and raised here. I came back after college, I guess, just because my family being here made me want to stay here. AT&T gave me the opportunity to stay.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
“I like the small-town feeling. This is home, I guess. My family here. I’m really close to my family.”
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
“Can’t think of anything.”
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING IN MUSKOGEE?
Retail account executive for AT&T.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
“Hang out with some of my friends, hang out with my family. I love to eat good food.”
WHAT OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE?
“Probably several people. My parents. Not only did they work in the community, they opened their home to foster children. They always wanted me to help other people.”
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
“Probably having my son. That was memorable. That was a special moment I’ll always cherish.”
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
“A neat little town. I like its family orientation. It’s a great place to raise a family.”