Alumni Profiles

Bill Poland '64

Sigma Nu Connected the Dots on the Road to Success

5/2005
Today, in 2005, Bill Poland, Sigma Nu '64, is a successful real estate developer, head of his own company and happy in both career and family. In 1963, when he came to Georgia Tech from his home in Houston, Texas, he was "green, just a child." Though Bill's had many influences and experiences as he charted his path to success, he gives Sigma Nu a fair share of the credit.

"Sigma Nu really allowed me to connect the dots, in that I left Georgia Tech with an enormous amount of confidence in my abilities to succeed," he says. "The interaction with my Sigma Nu brothers led me to become more mature. We shared our successes and our failures, and I learned a lot about empathy. Certainly, my fraternity experiences allowed me to become an effective leader."
After graduation from Georgia Tech, Bill went west, to study for his MBA at Stanford University in California. While still working toward that degree, he discovered a passion for real estate. He began working in real estate development in 1971 and founded the Bay West Group in 1979. The company now has 60 employees in their San Francisco office and 30 in Seattle. "We've had great success," he says. "And, more importantly, we've been able to do good things in the communities we work in."

Bill went through rush as a freshman and received invitations from several fraternities, but he joined Sigma Nu because he hit it off with Tom Buckler, who would become his Big Brother. "Also, I had a mentor back in Houston—the father of a friend of mine—who had recommended me to Sigma Nu," he said. "I had it in the back of my mind that it would please him for me to join Sigma Nu."

Bill soon became friends with the men of Sigma Nu and shared a lot of great times with them. Bill— most guys in the House called him "Poland"—remembers a particular rainy day when he and several friends spent hours sliding down a grassy slope. "I almost sliced my finger off," he recalls.

"We had a very good touch football team," he says. "We won the inter-mural championship that year. It was a great thrill: there were real crowds at the games and it was all very exciting." As with many fond memories, it was the feelings Bill recalled rather than the details; he couldn't remember for certain what position he played!

Another fond memory for Bill involves just sitting around the house on a Sunday, swapping stories about the great party the night before. These were the kinds of shared experiences that built lifetime friendships. In addition to roommate Fred Link, Bill stays in touch with Dave Bassett, John Stanford and Ted Tomasovich. Just last month, he attended a Sigma Nu-Georgia Tech reunion on Anna Maria Island in the Gulf of Mexico. "There were 21 Sigma Nus—some a few years ahead of me, some a few years younger. But there wasn't one man that I didn't know. It was a great time!"

In addition to serving the chapter as Eminent Commander, Bill was active in student government. After stints as the representative for the sophomore and junior classes, he served as senior class president. He's quick to point out, though, that he had been elected to the vice president position and took over the president's duties "only when the other guy flunked out!"

Bill is currently on the executive committee and board of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and is active with the Bay Area School Reform Collaboration, a group that works with children in underprivileged schools. A sports lover, he is on the board of the Charles Schwab Cup, a golf tournament, and the Emerald Bowl, an annual college football game. He has previously served as City Councilman for the city of Ross, California and as chairman of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Bill has been married to Mary for 23 years and has a son, Stratton, whom they call Stratt, now 14 years old. "My wife is very pretty," he says. "She is eight years younger than I am, but looks 30 years younger." He's proud of Stratt, too: "He plays lacrosse and the piano and gets straight A's. And he's a great kid."

Bill says his plans for the future are to "do more of the same. I word hard when I'm working, but I make the time to enjoy myself." On the agenda this year are trips to play golf in Ireland and Scotland and a trip with his family to Botswana and Zambia. "My philosophy is that I'm 60 going on 40." A sure sign of a happy man.