Former 88’ Reck Driver looks back on Tech

Dale Lawson was the 1988 Ramblin’ Reck Driver and was the second ever female driver of the Reck. Lawson drove the 1930 Ford Model A Sport Coupe around campus to spread school spirit. // Photo courtesy of Dale Lawson

Driving Tech’s iconic mechanical mascot, the Ramblin’ Reck, is an honor very few Tech students get to experience. Every year since 1961, one student is selected to care for the Reck. This student is the only person allowed to drive the Reck and takes great care in maintaining the car. The Reck makes frequent appearances around campus and spreads spirit wherever it goes. 

Dale Morgan Lawson, IM ‘88, was elected Reck driver by the Ramblin’ Reck Club in 1988 and was the second woman selected for the position after Lisa Volmar, IE ‘86.

The Technique recently talked with Lawson about her Tech experience and what driving the famous car is like. 

Since Lawson was a child, she knew she wanted to one day be a Jacket. 

“I’m from rural south Georgia, and it is Bulldog country, but I was always that kid that didn’t care,” Lawson said. “None of my friends pull for Tech, but I pull louder for Tech.”

During her first few years of college, Lawson ran cross country. However, later during her time at Tech, she decided to look at other extracurriculars that would give her the same kind of spirited community and joined the Ramblin’ Reck Club. It was then that she was selected as the Reck driver. 

“I did feel a huge sense of responsibility to know how to care for the Reck,” Lawson said. 

She can still remember exactly what driving the Reck felt like. 

“I loved every minute of it. It was absolutely my favorite thing that I did the entire time I was there. I mean, the adrenaline of right before the game, coming out of the tunnel, pressing the accelerator, praying that it was going to go forward,” Lawson said. “… That was a feeling I definitely will never forget.”

Although Lawson is no longer a student at Tech, she still has close ties to the Institute. She met her husband through Reck Club. Her daughter, Jordan Lawson, is a second-year BA. They frequently attend athletic events, such as football games and women’s basketball games. 

She has, over the years, watched Tech’s evolution. 

“It just seemed as if we had emerged as this world class university even better than we were in the 80s and 90s,” Lawson said. “… I sit on the Georgia Tech Parents Board as well, and so it’s just so interesting. The administration comes and shares their plans and their views, and [Tech’s] a great place to be. You guys are an amazing place right now.”

Lawson mentioned one of Tech’s most notorious traditions that the student body must no longer participate in — drownproofing. 

“I thought ‘This is great, I’ll get ahead, I’m a fairly athletic kid, I’ll go ahead and take it my freshman or sophomore year,’ and I did and it wasn’t so bad, and then they did away with it before I graduated,” Lawson said. 

Besides her involvement in cross country and Reck Club, Lawson also enjoyed the community she found in the dorms. 

“I lived in the dorms for over two years, and I loved that, because I love the camaraderie of the intramural sports and … just interactive dorm stuff,” Lawson said. 

After Lawson graduated from Tech, there was a 27 year gap before the next woman Reck driver, Hillary Degenkold Burson, CM ‘16, was elected. While at Tech, Lawson did not really focus on the fact that she was only the second woman driver. However, when reflecting back, she can identify one way in which she felt the effect of gender stereotypes. 

“I took an auto mechanics class [in high school] because I wanted to understand how to fix engines, and so I guess that would be the one thing I would say I felt that I needed to make sure I was competent because of the stereotype of, maybe even more so in that day, of maybe women not wanting to get down in the nitty gritty of taking care of an engine,” Lawson said. 

Although Lawson graduated with a degree in industrial management, she later had a change of career to medicine. 

“I just made the decision in my late 20s that I needed to go for it,” Lawson said. “… I took all the prereqs that I needed and then went to medical school, and so I’ve been doing emergency medicine for about almost 20 years now. It’s been a really great career.”

However, the past few years since the start of the pandemic have been very challenging. 

“There was no playbook, we were all just figuring it out day to day,” Lawson said, who mentioned that the pandemic especially hurt the eldery and poverty-stricken population in her area. 

Despite this, she remains optimistic at the progress that is being made. 

“Every time things got a little bit better, we got smarter and better at doing things. We got more information,” Lawson said.

As a leader during her college years, and now a leader in her profession, Lawson has advice for college students looking to their futures. 

“I think we should really back off the gender stereotypes. I think women are done with that. We’re all done with that, and I think men are done with that,” Lawson said. “… Whoever’s best equipped to do whatever the job is should be doing the job. We just encourage women and men to forget about the stereotypes and go for the things you want to go for.”