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Love of horticulture grows prolific career
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- As a boy growing up in central Mississippi, Joe Gordy never imagined that his love of flowers would grow into an accomplished career.
Gordy, a Mississippi State University alumnus, has a passion for floral design that began in childhood.
“As a child I was fascinated with plants and flowers. I grew up on a farm, and I loved working in the flower garden,” Gordy said. “Horticulture was a subject I wanted to study because I have always been interested in plants. But design is what I love.”
Gordy graduated in 1963 from MSU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with a horticulture degree and several design awards to his credit. He immediately went to work and spent 14 years in the retail floral industry and residential and commercial interior planning and design. He then spent more than 10 years as the director of product development with Knud Nielsen Company, a prominent manufacturer and importer of dried flowers.
“Knud Nielsen processed and sold naturally dried plants and flowers and came along before the industry had what are referred to as silk and fabric flowers,” Gordy said. “When I worked for them, I took their product to trade shows and into the marketplace. That experience really prepared me to take on the next phase of my career.”
Gordy and his wife, Carol, who is also a floral designer, purchased Natural Decorations, Inc., from Knud Nielsen in the early 1990s. The couple led the company to its current standing as the world’s foremost provider of floral and botanical reproductions.
“All of our flowers and designs are made from high-quality fabric and mimic the colors and textures found in nature as closely as possible,” Gordy said. “We strive to make our products as botanically correct as possible.”
NDI’s products are used by interior designers and have appeared in several popular interior design magazines, such as Elle Decor, Traditional Home and Veranda. NDI’s designers have created arrangements for television and movie sets, celebrity homes, the Oscars, the Rose Parade and the White House. In January, NDI accepted its seventh ARTS Award, which is a peer-nominated prize for professionals in the home accents industry.
NDI’s only showroom is an 8,000 square-foot facility in High Point, NC. All floral designs are created at NDI’s headquarters in Brewton, Ala.
Gordy has been a member of the American Institute of Floral Designers for many years and has served as national president and national vice president. Through the AIFD, he was invited three times to decorate the Reagan White House for Christmas. He also served as a Rose Parade judge as part of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, decorated at Ellis Island for a birthday celebration of the Statue of Liberty, and served as one of six floral design experts judges of the 1993 World Cup of Floral Design in Sweden.
But Gordy has not forgotten his alma mater. He serves on the MSU Foundation Board of Directors as a representative of CALS. He was named Alumni of the Year in 2004 by MSU and Alumni Fellow in 2008 by CALS. In 2010, he and his wife endowed two faculty positions: the Joe and Carol Gordy Endowed Chair in Horticulture and the Joe and Carol Gordy Endowed Professorship in Horticulture.
“Mississippi State did a lot for me through the years. I walked away with an education that has served me well,” Gordy said. “And now I want to give some of that back to future horticulture and floral design students. I think that is important.”
Gordy is admired for his work ethic, personality and generosity.
“Joe is revered as one of MSU horticulture’s best products,” said Lynette McDougald, an instructor of floral management in MSU’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. “He has a wonderful eye for design, and that is reflected in every arrangement his state-of-the-art facility makes. Once you talk to him, you understand how he became one of the greats in permanent botanical production. He is a wonderful industry model for our students.”
His hands-on approach has played a major role in his success.
“He connects with people on a personal level,” McDougald said. “When I visited with one of my classes from the university, Joe greeted each of his staff by name as we toured. We could tell Joe knows his employees, and they know Joe.”
The endowments will help give other students the opportunity to follow their dreams, said College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean George Hopper.
“The benefits provided by Joe and Carol will positively impact our students for years to come,” Hopper said. “Joe Gordy is a man of high character and determination. He serves as a role model for our students, exemplifying how hard work, cultivating God-given gifts, and following your passion lead to success.”