By Reginald Tucker— Di Anna Borders, the award-winning vice president of design at Armstrong Flooring, lost her brave battle with cancer on March 17. She was just 50 years old.
Michel Vermette, Armstrong Flooring CEO, reflected on Borders’ talents and positive attitude. “She was a strong-minded girl from Mississippi with an infectious smile who grew to become one of the most respected designers in the flooring industry,” he said. “She was a consummate professional and a free spirit who loved design and its science. Her team development and success were very important to her. As a leader, she was competitive, generous with her time—and kind.”
Borders’ closest colleagues agreed, recalling their own fond memories of working with her. David Thoresen, senior vice president, product and innovation officer at Armstrong Flooring, was Borders’ supervisor when she returned to the company in 2020. Not only were they co-workers in a previous life (both of their careers intersected at Mohawk prior to her last stint at Armstrong), but they were also dear friends.
“Di Anna was a passionate designer and constant creator—every collection she created or signed off on was more important to her than the last,” Thoresen noted. “Always learning and improving her trade, Di Anna went on to become one of the most highly awarded designers in the industry, but she would always call it a ‘team’ win.”
Indeed, Borders’ award-winning track record speaks volumes. Since her return to Armstrong in 2020, the design team—under Borders’ direction—garnered a slew of honors, including three NeoCon awards in 2021. One of which was Best of NeoCon Gold, the most prestigious and competitive achievement in the commercial space. Other honors included: Best in Category for Architectural Record’s Products of the Year; Interior Design HiP Award; Kitchen & Bath Business Readers’ Choice; Architectural Record Award of Excellence Advertising; and an Adex Platinum award. Armstrong Flooring was also voted Top Brand in Builder magazine in 2021. Borders’ award-winning pedigree was also evident in the trophies that she and her respective design teams earned from 2013 to 2019, when she worked at Mohawk and, later, IVC Group.
“She signed off on virtually every design that came out of this department,” Thoresen said. “She was always very involved. She was all over it. She’s probably the most commercially awarded designer out there.”
More importantly, Borders was able to assemble a highly functional design team when she rejoined Armstrong in 2020. “Coming here was something that she really enjoyed,” Thoresen recalled. “We had a lot of issues here at the time, but she had the design team all squared away in just six months. Today, her team is working like a well-oiled machine.”
Beyond her sheer design skill sets, Thoresen also attributed Borders’ accomplishments to her stellar work ethic. “She had a real knack for getting a lot of work done; I don’t know how she did it,” he recalled. “Nobody ever waited on Di Anna; she always seemed to be waiting on everybody else when it came to getting projects done on time. She was a true workhorse.”
As a team leader, her colleagues knew her as fiercely competitive, but also kind, fair and inclusive. Co-workers said she was approachable and generous with her time. According to Thoresen, Borders also made herself readily available to partake in the company’s popular “Voice of the Customer” conference calls that took the place of face-to-face, in-person interactions during the initial weeks and months of the COVID-19 outbreak in the US “With all the work she had to do, she was on many of those calls when everything was shut down—sometimes for 14 hours a day,” he said. “I think she reached more than 150 people in one month’s time.”
Work hard, play harder
Borders graduated from Columbia College (Chicago) in 1996, with a Bachelor of Arts degree. In work, as in her personal life, she was a force with which to be reckoned and a proven leader as vice president of design at Armstrong Flooring. Good design was her passion and her mission, and she approached it with eyes wide open, according to Vermette.
At the same time, an important part of her personal life was spent on her bicycle. She won numerous competitions as a mountain bike racer, and she enjoyed recreational road cycling for years with friends from all over the world, including Crystal Boudreaux, John Luthe, Mary Hetrick, Peter Messer and many others. When her health was compromised by cancer, she still rode using an electric bike with friends from the Lancaster Bicycle Club.
“She loved her shoes, pets and a great meal with friends,” Vermette added. “Di Anna was special, and I’m thankful that we were friends. We’ll always be grateful for the contributions she made to our company and our lives and will continue to miss her for many years to come.”
Thoresen competed. “Her great humor, pointed wit and kindness will be sorely missed.”
Borders is survived by her husband, Dr. Garen Evans, who she married 12 years ago; her sister, Mary Borders; a niece, Lisa Hall; her adopted parents, Tom and Judy Herrington; her old friend, Doug Stringfellow; her dog, Stella, who she rescued on the streets of Gulfport, Miss.; and Matilda, a calico cat, also a rescue. Borders was a passionate animal lover, and she rescued many dogs and cats throughout her life. Among her friends, her closest allies were the flamingos of Chevy Chase: Michelle Goodwin, Elizabeth Norcross and Gwen Frothingham.
In lieu of flowers or other gifts, donations may be made to Pet Pantry of Lancaster or your local animal shelter. Armstrong Flooring will also be making a grant from its Community Fund to one of Borders’ favorite charities, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).