Hawley Smith '67

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When Hawley Smith was elected Eminent Commander of Gamma Alpha of Sigma Nu in his senior year in 1967, the incoming pledge class was in absolute awe of him. His presence was so commanding, his bearing and carriage so stately and distinguished, that fellow pledge Brother John Stanford '71 - Gamma Alpha #1275 recalls, "When Hawley walked in the room, it was like you were in the presence of John Wayne...he was bigger than life."

Vernon Hawley Smith, Jr., Gamma Alpha #1191, was initiated in 1965. Hawley reminisces fondly about his early years at Georgia Tech. "There were over 35 great guys in my pledge class, and they were all great men. Most of these guys have become life-long friends. I will be forever grateful to Gamma Alpha of Sigma Nu for providing an environment and presenting an opportunity for me to polish and hone my interpersonal skills and to establish strong relationships that have endured the test of time."

While at Georgia Tech, Hawley received his degree in the very challenging field of chemical engineering. Halfway through the program, he realized that this field of study was not the ideal fit for him. "I knew that chemical engineering wasn't exactly the perfect degree for me, but I didn't have any quit in me, so I persevered."


Upon graduation, Hawley began his professional career with Proctor and Gamble. After three years, he moved on to a real estate and mortgage company and then started his own residential real estate development company in 1976. Over the years, his companies have been instrumental in planning, engineering, designing and developing properties that provide a compatible and homogenous mixture of environmentally sensitive residential communities. One of his current projects is Palencia, a 1,500-acre master-planned golf community that focuses on family-oriented activities in a natural environment. It's located between Ponte Vedra and St. Augustine, Florida on the intra-coastal waterway.

There are many wonderful memories that Hawley recalls from his Sigma Nu and Georgia Tech days, from the amazing parties; to the challenging course loads of organic and physical chemistry, calculus and thermo-dynamics; to his participation in intramural sports, which included football, basketball, volleyball, and track, where the Snakes always ruled. He also remembers the "Freshman Cake Race", in which he came in third place and received an entire cake to share with his pledge class. "All of these experiences gave us the opportunity to grow closer to one another in becoming brothers...to grow closer to one another in becoming men."

Hawley spoke with a sense of bereavement about an experience at Sigma Nu that changed his perspective on life forever. "Three of my fraternity Brothers were killed and one was severely injured as a result of a horrific car accident south of Gainesville. Dealing with the shock and sadness of that experience bonded all of the Brothers of Gamma Alpha together even more than we already were...to say the least, it was a learning and growing experience for all of us. The healing process cemented our lives together forever."

Hawley resides in Jacksonville, Florida with his beautiful wife, Emily Balz Smith. Emily was quite a catch, as she was the Sweetheart of Sigma Nu, a Tri Delt at Emory, Miss Emory, Georgia Tech Greek Goddess and 1967 Georgia Tech Homecoming Queen. Emily and Hawley agree their three children are their greatest accomplishment. Daughter Taylor Smith Day graduated from Duke in 2000 and is married to Nathan Day, also a Duke grad. They are currently living in San Francisco, but will be moving back to Jacksonville this fall. Daughter Ashley graduated from Vanderbilt in 2002 and is teaching at the prestigious Bolles School in Jacksonville. Son Hawley III, age 23, graduated in Finance from William & Mary this year, where he captained their basketball team for two years. As of this writing, young Hawley is in Kiev, Ukraine constructing a church and ministering to youth and children.

One telling hallmark of the entire Smith family is their giving nature. One of their recent gifts, which included Brother Chester Stokes '65 - Gamma Alpha #1137, was a magnificent donation of over 500 acres of land to the Seamark Ranch outside of Jacksonville. The Seamark Ranch is a home for abused and neglected children within the foster care system. Their support for causes also include the Greenwood School for special needs students, the Independent Living Foundation for the Disabled, Young Life, and local schools in Rwanda to name a few. When asked why they are so involved philanthropically, Emily comments, "Hawley and I are on the same page when it comes to giving back. Hawley's Mom always insisted that the more you give away, the more you have left over."

Hawley and Emily recently made a six-figure leadership gift to the capital campaign - BUILDING THE FUTURE.....TODAY! When asked why he supports the new Sigma Nu house campaign, Hawley responded, "Gary Jones ['71] is doing a phenomenal job in providing the leadership to build this new house. He has been good to Georgia Tech and has taken on a mission for Sigma Nu. We are indeed fortunate to have him. Part of my support stems from my desire to support all the hard work he has done. The other part comes from relishing my personal experiences at 750 Fowler Street and savoring what a wonderful and positive influence Sigma Nu had on me. Life has been good to me and my family and I am fortunate to be in a position to help perpetuate Sigma Nu for future generations. I strongly encourage those Brothers that are able to support Sigma Nu in this vitally important building Campaign."

What's ahead for the Smiths? Emily and Hawley plan to spend more "Q-T-R" – Quality Time Remaining – at their ranch in Snowmass, Colorado. Hawley's gone back to his farming roots: plowing pastures, building fences and splitting wood. He reports that he even lost 18 pounds this summer post-hole digging. Next chore: a horse barn. Does sound a little like John Wayne, doesn't it...

So now you can see why when Hawley walks in the room...HE IS BIGGER THAN LIFE!

Vernon Hawley Smith, Jr. - GAMMA ALPHA #1191 - truly walks in the way of honor.