Ivey moved from the small town of Camden, Ala., to the Plains in the fall of 1963, and she immediately got to work on what would become her Auburn legacy.
“I held a number of offices while playing in the band and participating as a member of Alpha Gamma Delta,” Ivey said. “I was the president of my pledge class (in Alpha Gam) and a freshman senator.”
The following year she became Auburn’s first female sophomore senator, then secretary of the student body as a junior.
She was elected as the first female vice president of the student body and president of the senate her senior year. She was also named Miss Homecoming.
“That puts me as the only Auburn grad to run and win five campus-wide campaigns,” Ivey said.
Ivey said her involvement wasn’t driven by political aspirations for similar roles after college, but simply a desire to improve the lives of those around her.
“The beauty of the Auburn experience is that it teaches an individual to reach out and try and help situations be better than you found them,” Ivey said. “My life has been based on reaching out to help situations and help other people be the best they can be.”
Ivey tried to improve the Auburn community by creating a more representative SGA.
“I was focused on helping make campus life more inclusive, having students be more engaged in the student government process,” Ivey said. “I introduced the initiative to start having college senators.”
Although Ivey’s schedule was usually full, she found time to enjoy a social life.
“We did a whole lot of hugging, living and loving in Chewacla Park,” she said. “We played out there a lot.”
She even left her mark at the first of Auburn’s famous rodeos.
“Alpha Psi had their first rodeo and my roommate, Miss Auburn Jana Howard, and I participated in it,” Ivey said. “There was a goat-milking contest, and we won that thing.”
But eventually college came to an end, and for Ivey that meant work in teaching, banking and various forms of public service.
“Having a political future was never on my agenda until the year 2000,” Ivey said. “By then I’d had a rich career as a teacher, a banker in Mobile for 10 years, serving as assistant director of the Alabama Development Office, 13 years with the Alabama Commission on Higher Education and the first and only woman to serve as reading clerk of the House of Representatives.
“Then some folks came to me and said, ‘Given your background as a teacher, as a banker and in economic development, you need to run for the open office of state treasurer.’ So I did in 2002.”
She won the office, and many of those closest to Ivey had thought it was only a matter of time.
“I just knew that she wanted to be in elected office at some point,” said Will Sellers, Ivey’s lawyer and campaign manager who has known her since the 1980s. “I wasn’t surprised. It was just about choosing what office would help her serve others and not herself.”
Ivey was re-elected as treasurer in 2006 after receiving the most votes in a contested race.
In 2010, she decided to run for lieutenant governor.
“That was probably the closest race in the 2010 elections,” Sellers said. “She beat a guy (Jim Folsom) who had been in public office for most of his life. The Democrats’ polling data showed she was probably going to lose by 5 or 7 percent. She ended up winning with 52 percent of the votes.”
Ivey’s days are now consumed with the duties of a full-time lieutenant governor.
“The constitution requires that the office of lieutenant governor exist primarily to be the governor in case the governor is absent, gets ill or has to leave office for any reason, and to preside over the Alabama Senate,” Ivey said. “In addition to all of that, I started several initiatives to be a full-time lieutenant governor.”
Ivey has also been involved in the 2012 presidential election since being appointed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s team leader for Alabama last year.
“Her role as a volunteer serving as chairman of the Alabama Romney campaign is to coordinate organizational grassroots and financial support for Gov. Romney’s campaign, and to encourage citizens to participate,” said Allison Scott, Ivey’s public information coordinator.
As she did in her college days, Ivey still finds time to give back to others.
“Kay cares about young people and wants them to be involved, prepared and informed about the important things in life, including their government,” said Susan Speakman, alumni coordinator of Alpha Gamma Delta. “She was, and still is, involved in Alabama Girls State. My daughter participated in Girls State two summers ago, and guess who was one of the speakers? Kay Ivey.
“You can't help but get excited around Kay. Her enthusiasm is contagious.”
Ivey has also returned to her alma mater to speak at College Republicans meetings and Alpha Gam functions.
She chooses to invest her time in young people because she feels her time at Auburn helped pave her life’s purpose.
“The greatest memories I had at Auburn are the experiences that taught me if a student is focused or determined, you can indeed succeed to be an Auburn man or woman in the highest spirit of the traditions in the Auburn creed,” Ivey said.
“Just reaching out to try to make where you live better because you were there—that is part of the Auburn experience. I believe in work, hard work. I believe in education, and I believe in honesty and truthfulness.”