Vanderbilt University School of Nursing

Celebrating 1908-2008

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This picture taken in 1923 shows the preconstruction lot of Godchaux Hall in the foreground with the horses and workmen. The famous Kirkland Hall clock is shown in the upper right portion. The School of Nursing building was finished in 1925 and serves as a hub of activity for students.


It all started when a boy from Abbeville, La., switched from Louisiana State University to Vanderbilt to play football, in 1897. That same boy, Frank Godchaux, was a good player, but an even more successful businessman. He became a self-made business magnate and patriarch of the family’s successful rice business originally known as Louisiana State Rice Milling Company.

Son Frank Godchaux, Jr. also attended Vanderbilt and joined the expanding family business. His beloved wife, Mary Ragland Godchaux, was originally from Murfreesboro, Tenn. She loved animals, gardening and entertaining. Due to various illnesses throughout her life, she learned first-hand the value of nurses in the healing process.

The Godchaux rice business grew, and so did Frank and Mary’s family. When their sons, Frank III, Charles, and Larry (now deceased), were ready for college, they turned to Vanderbilt. After graduating, the children followed their father’s lead, and joined the family business. The business continued to grow and became known as Riviana Foods in the mid-1960s. Many consumers couldn’t sit down for a meal without using a Godchaux product such as Mahatma, Carolina or Success Rice. The family sold Riviana in 2004.

In 1971, Frank Godchaux Jr., and his sons, Frank III and Charles decided to give back to their alma mater. They honored their mother’s respect for nurses by providing financial support for much-needed renovations to the School of Nursing Building (then known as Mary Henderson Hall). The building was renamed for their recently deceased mother — Mary Ragland Godchaux. It is her portrait that greets all incoming students just inside the School’s historic arched doorway.

For more than 40 years, Frank III, Charles, their children and grandchildren have continued financial support to the School of Nursing in ways large and small — all of which make a day-today difference in the School of Nursing experience for students. Most recently, the family matched National Institutes of Health funds for the 2006 renovation of Godchaux Hall.

It’s not uncommon for Nashville or Abbeville-based family members to visit often and participate in various events. So far, 15 members of the Godchaux/Ragland family have attended Vanderbilt University and members of the fifth generation are either at Vanderbilt or soon reaching college age. Another constant is the family’s commitment to the School of Nursing.

“Nursing touches every level of society and nurses will play an ever-increasing role in keeping society healthy through first-line clinics, emergency rooms, often being the first contact with a health professional that most people have,” said Frank Godchaux III.

“We’re committed to the School of Nursing and proud to play at least a small role in helping the profession be recognized for its vital role,” he added.

Godchaux Family members include: Frank (VU ‘49) and Agnes Godchaux and their children Katie (VU ‘76) and Joel Derby, Mary and Larry Wieck, Leslie Godchaux and Frank K. Godchaux (VU ‘84); and grandchildren Frances (VU ‘09), Elizabeth and Joel Derby, Stephen Wieck, and Leigh and Gus Godchaux (VU’ 2011).

Charles (VU ‘52) and Doe Godchaux and his children Theresa Payne (VU ‘75) and Becky Godchaux and his grandchildren Charles (VU ‘03) and Abbey Payne, Rebecca and Benjamin Spence, Nelson and Julian Payne.

fall 2008

class notes

class notes

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don’t forget


March 7

Alumni Board Meeting

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April 25

Country Music Marathon
(Nursing Alumni Association will have a team who will begin training in January under the leadership of Whitney Simmons, president of the board)

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May 6 — 12

Nurses Week 2009

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October 30

Senator Bill Frist, M.D., “Health Care as a Currency for Peace”

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November 20

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, “What the Future Looks Like in Health Reform”

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December 5

Donald M. Berwick, M.D., M.P.P.

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