It all started with a summer job and a mayonnaise jar.
In the summer of 1948, Eddie White showed up for his first day of work at the Dwarf Grill in Hapeville, Georgia. The oldest of seven children, he felt a responsibility to help his parents support the family. The restaurant’s owner, Truett Cathy, had a similar story, and was glad to offer White a summer job.
White spent that summer learning everything from Cathy himself, from cleaning dishes to making fries from scratch.
“Every time I was at work, the environment was always so positive,” said White, who is now 83. “I know that positivity started with Truett.”
When school started that fall, White was determined to continue working at the Dwarf Grill. His income had helped his family, and he had found a friend and mentor in Cathy. So White went on to spend the next five years working at the restaurant.
During his senior year of high school, White received a partial scholarship offer from Morris Brown College in Atlanta. While he was overcome with excitement, White said, “I knew my family was in big financial need, so I couldn’t accept the scholarship. I couldn’t go to college and leave them without help.”
After graduation, White began working full-time at Cathy’s restaurant. When his coworkers Gladys and Louise heard of his aspirations to receive a college education, the two waitresses decided to help. The women grabbed a large mayonnaise jar, cleaned it out and cut a hole in the top of the lid. Then, they wrote “Eddie’s College Fund” on the front and set it on the counter.
Over the next couple of months, the jar filled up with contributions from customers who had become like family to White. As the college application period neared, Cathy and White sat down to count the contents of the jar. Unfortunately, White did not have enough to afford tuition.
One day when White returned to work, Cathy reached for his checkbook. He smiled as he handed White a personal check for the remainder of his college tuition.
“I couldn’t believe the gesture at first,” said White. “He wanted to make a genuine difference in my life.”
That moment marked the start of something special – what would become Chick-fil-A’s Remarkable Futures education initiative. Through Chick-fil-A’s scholarship program, officially established in 1973, Chick-fil-A now carries on Cathy’s legacy of generosity and passion for youth and education.
White went on to attend Morris Brown, where he studied biology and chemistry on the pre-med track. He graduated in 1959 and decided to change his career from medicine to education. In 1961, he embarked on what would be a long and accomplished career.
Beginning as a classroom teacher, White worked his way up the ranks in Clayton County Public Schools, and was appointed as the assistant superintendent of schools in 1991. After serving in that capacity, White joined the board of education for Clayton County for three years.
Throughout the years, White and Cathy remained close friends. Today, White looks back on his time with Cathy fondly.
“He became not only a boss, but a friend that I respected and appreciated,” said White. “He has touched the lives of so many people – I’m just thankful to be one of them.”
Eddie White and Truett Cathy during the 25,000th scholarship ceremony
Since that mayonnaise jar, Chick-fil-A has helped over 53,000 Team Members achieve their dreams of a degree, donating more than $75 million in educational scholarships.