Preserving the memory of Flannery O'Connor is at the core of giving

Flannery O'Connor's room with desk

Preserving the memory of Flannery O'Connor is at the core of giving

M ike and Wendy Laidlaw, of Portland, Maine, had always loved 20th century author, essay and short-story writer Flannery O’Connor and her creative works. When they bought their second home in Savannah—O’Connor’s birthplace—the couple knew they would eventually travel to Milledgeville to see Andalusia—O’Connor’s home.

“The interest in Andalusia came from my interest in Flannery,” said Mike. “I’d been reading her stories for a long time and knew she was from Savannah. We also knew we would visit Milledgeville sooner rather than later.” 

Currently, two peacocks roam Andalusia. However, at her peak, Flannery O'Connor had 40 peacocks on her farm.
Currently, two peacocks roam Andalusia. However, at her peak, Flannery O'Connor had 40 peacocks on her farm.

Shortly after visiting Andalusia in 2017, Mike and Wendy knew they wanted to make a financial commitment to O’Connor’s home. 

“It was clear to me that Andalusia was a good place to represent who Flannery was,” said Mike. “It was worth investing in. So, everything just fell into place.”

The couple knew Flannery had gone to school at Georgia College. Both the information they received from the university and the campus tour gave them a sense of the school and town.

“There’s a nice, southern vibe to it,” said Mike. 

“It was clear to me that Andalusia was a good place to represent who Flannery was,” said Mike. “It was worth investing in. So, everything just fell into place.”
– Mike Laidlaw

“Not only am I interested in Flannery’s work, but I’m equally interested in her as a person,” said Wendy. “Flannery was unaware of the social issues that she struggled with at times.”

Wendy feels O’Connor’s writing applies to the 21st century, as well. 

I'm really amazed at all the social issues that are arising independent of one another in our nation,” Wendy said. “The whole issue of race and bigotry that produces racism—it seems there’s a natural move to better understand and deal with this. I think Flannery’s creative works figure into this in no small way.”

Wendy feels it’s important to view O’Connor as a human being in an evolutionary process of growth and existence. 

Flannery O'Connor's desk, where she wrote her famous creative works is on display at Andalusia.
Flannery O'Connor's desk, where she wrote her famous creative works is on display at Andalusia.

“I think she’s a great example of all of us trying to work through issues,” she said. “Of course, Flannery was living and writing from a different place and time, as she was evolving and working through issues. This is a good lesson to take away.” 

Wendy and Mike Laidlaw
Wendy and Mike Laidlaw

The couple encourages others to learn more about O’Connor by reading some of her stories and visiting Andalusia and Georgia College.

“Visiting Andalusia and the college was more meaningful than I expected it to be,” said Wendy. “It’s become very personal for us. Having these electronic communications and meeting the college president have been great. It’s not only the intellectual connection with Mike’s love of literature, but now this passion has become broader to include me and more people with an experiential connection in both places. For us, Andalusia has become a high priority in our life that extends to our giving.”

And their giving has had a tangible effect on the landscape of Andalusia. Recently, they donated funds to help expand the footprint of the peafowl enclosure and bring that part of the grounds closer to how it was when O’Connor lived there. At her peak, she owned an upwards of 40 peacocks; currently, Georgia College has two. 

O’Connor has been an inspiration to the couple’s new snowbird life, as they come to Georgia four to six months each year. It’s also been a way for them to meet individuals associated with O’Connor. Supporting Andalusia fits with their mission to give. 

Andalusia was home to World-famed Author Flannery O'Connor from 1951 to 1964.
Andalusia was home to World-famed Author Flannery O'Connor from 1951 to 1964.

“We have multiple goals for our giving. We talk about it regularly. Not only for estate planning purposes, but just for annual giving as well,” said Wendy. “We’re pretty well aligned in our thinking about those areas that are near and dear to our heart.”

“I think our giving to Andalusia will continue well into the future, and probably increase over time,” said Mike. “My primary focus will be on the Andalusia Institute.”

Although Mike and Wendy are in different professions, they share the same giving interests. They feel it’s easy to give to Andalusia.

“We found that giving yearly through the donor-advised fund has been very simple,” said Wendy. “You don’t need a lot of money to do this. You choose to donate what you’d like when it’s convenient for you. And you can donate cash or lower, cost-basis securities, which is what we’ve done.”

“It’s been a very easy way for us to contribute more than we ever gave before and to give on a schedule that’s convenient for us,” said Mike.

The Laidlaw’s intend to help Andalusia thrive through the coming years.

“After much discussion, we give to organizations, causes and undertakings that we feel close to due to the personal nature of each one,” said Mike. “Here, we’re all on the same mission to protect Andalusia.”