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Students gain valuable insight into integration of faith and business at Chick-fil-A headquarters

November 26, 2012 | Ian Richardson


The integration of faith and learning met the integration of faith and business on October 21, when a group of Evangel students piled into a pair of 15-passenger vans to drive to Atlanta, Georgia. Their mission: to discover the inside scoop on one of America’s most beloved fast food chains — Chick-fil-A.

“Chick-fil-A is a major, fast-growing, privately owned company,” says Business Department Chair Bernie Dana.

“You hear in the news about their leadership taking positions based on biblical principles, including being closed on Sunday. You wonder if an organization of that size can effectively integrate faith with business at all levels of the organization. Our visit made it evident that they do.” In fact, the group was able to witness that integration from the very beginning of the visit.

At 8:20 on Monday morning, the group joined the Chick-fil-A associates for morning devotions. After this time of praise and worship, the group began its grand tour, complete with briefings on operations, marketing, logistics and leadership. Even during the day, the group noted the importance of faith to the workers. “Every professional who briefed us shared a story about how God guided them to what they are now doing,” says Dana.

Evangel students with Truett Cathy

The group of students from Evangel were pleasantly surprised by a visit from the company founder himself, 91-year-old Truett Cathy.

“I thought it was fascinating that Chick-fil-A does devotions every Monday morning,” says junior Katelyn Bye. “No one is required to go to them, but you can tell that people go because they legitimately want to. I also thought it was incredible that Chick-fil-A provides breakfast and lunch for its employees for free every single day. They really care about their staff and want them to enjoy work.”

Later in the day, the group received an unexpected visit from S. Truitt Cathy. The 91-year-old founder still comes to work, and his visit was enjoyed by students and faculty members alike.

In Cathy’s office is an antique wooden wagon filled with glass bottles of Coca-Cola, which serves as a reminder of how he got started in business. His lifelong relationship with Coke began when Cathy was a child. He would purchase bottles, six for a quarter, and sell them on the street for a nickel apiece. This early business venture set the tone for the rest of his career and cemented his affinity for Coca-Cola products.

Truett Cathy's vintage wagon and Coca-Cola bottles

Truett Cathy’s vintage wagon and Coca-Cola bottles serve as a reminder to how he got his start in business.

Tuesday morning, the group had the opportunity to take a tour of the corporate headquarters of Coca-Cola, provided by staff members who work directly with Chick-fil-A. The “Vision and Values” tour educated the students and faculty about the relationship between Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-A. It included a visit to the board room, history lessons on the company and an opportunity to taste some experimental flavors.

“We got good insights on the various ways they provide support to make Chick-fil-A successful,” says Dana.

Following an afternoon of travel, they spent the night in Nashville, Tennessee. While there, they toured the Opryland Hotel and its many attractions. The group arrived back on campus late Wednesday.

“We stopped at a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Paducah, Kentucky, on the way home,” says Dana, “just to show our loyalty.” However, he does admit that the free sandwich coupons they received in Atlanta also might have had something to do with it.

None of this would have been possible, however, without the support of Evangel business alumni. The initial idea to visit Chick-fil-A headquarters came from Ted Papit, a former CEO and senior leader in the fast food business who is currently an adjunct faculty member in Evangel’s Business Department. Papit also made a donation last spring to lower the cost of the trip to be more affordable for students.

Papit’s friend and fellow alumnus Gene Ontjes, who has been a Chick-fil-A franchise operator in Philadelphia for 38 years, used his connections with the organization to set up the visits at both Chick-fil-A and Coca-Cola.

Dana, along with Business faculty members Elizabeth Fletcher and Ted Papit and Evangel Director of Public Relations Paul K. Logsdon, headed the trip.

The fun, four-day experience provided the students with a prime example of the value of faith in the workplace. “I learned how important it is to stand up for your values and morals in the business world,” says Bye. “God will bless your business if you honor Him. I would definitely recommend this trip to future students and encourage the Business Department to do it every year.”


— Ian Richardson, sophomore English major from Afton, Iowa

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