Alumni Profiles

Hawley Smith '67

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."

"...WHEN HAWLEY WALKED IN THE ROOM, IT WAS LIKE YOU WERE IN THE PRESENCE OF JOHN WAYNE...HE WAS BIGGER THAN LIFE..."

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.

George T. Stapleton '75

How in the world does someone get from 750 Fowler Street to running a large corporation headquartered in Calgary, Alberta that is currently testing an electro-thermal approach to the extraction and production of bitumen from the Athabasca tar sands. Just ask Brother George T. Stapleton (GA #1369). With 35 years of international experience in the off-shore oil construction and service industry including oil and gas exploration projects, he knows.

Upon graduation from Georgia Tech in 1975 with a B.S. in Civil Engineering, George spent 19 years overseas with J. Ray McDermott in the Arabian Gulf, North Sea and Asia as Division Manager responsible for all business development activities throughout the region prior to assuming his current role.

We caught up with Brother Stapleton in between trips from Houston to Canada...and found a Brother of Gamma Alpha who is proud to give back. "Growing up as an Army brat, I lived on a number of posts throughout the US and overseas including Germany, Spain and Argentina," he said. "My dad was a career military officer...Full Bird Colonel & grad of West Point...Class of 1950...so we moved constantly. I went to Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, Va. where my father was assigned to the Pentagon, when not serving in Vietnam."

He continued, "I knew I wanted to attend a top engineering university in the south, which put Georgia Tech at the top of my list. As luck would have it, Cary Thach (GA #1356) was my dorm's RA. It was still 2-3 days before most students would begin arriving, so Cary took me over to the Sigma Nu house and introduced me to what would become my Stateside "family". After meeting such characters as Bobby Clotworthy (GA #1359), Steve 'Blade' Day (GA #1349), Lee Douglas (GA #1348), Tom Fowler (GA #1334), Nelson Brooks (GA #1346), Dickie Carpenter (GA #1340), Jeff Tiller (GA #1364), and Pat McKenna (GA #1345), I don't think I even looked at any other fraternities. I accepted my bid as soon as it was offered and was the first of my pledge class.

Brother Stapleton learned quickly that the fraternity could lead to lifelong friendships.

"Randy Tate (GA #1375) and I had gone to high school together and he also pledged Sigma Nu. I recall voicing an opinion during Rush that Dave Heindel (GA #1388), who was from New Jersey, was way too obnoxious to fit in at Sigma Nu and boy was I wrong. Not about the obnoxious part, but about him fitting in. He became one of my best friends and I even traveled from Singapore to be at his wedding in San Francisco one week after the earthquake.

"I am sure that everyone believes their pledge class to be the best, as do I. Besides Dave and Randy, I made more than a few trips to Moe's and Joe's with Dean Clower (GA #1368), Jim Daws (GA #1367), John Bradley (GA #1377) and Gery Vornbrock (GA#1391). John and I roomed together at the house our sophomore year, and there never seemed to be a dull moment, particularly when living two doors down from Dickie and Doug Edwards (GA #1327). Shaving cream and water balloons were the norm.

That year's pledge class was also special and included my only little brother, John Rhett (GA #1402)."

Rhett, who is currently Chairman of SunTrust Investment Services recalls George fondly. "George was a genius. It just wasn't fair...he never studied and consistently pulled a 4.0. Sometimes it took me three quarters to aggregate a 4.0."

After graduation, Brother Stapleton faced the prospect of joining the work force with a wardrobe of t-shirts, cut-offs and flip-flops. "I accepted a job with J. Ray McDermott in New Orleans and, after some discussion, was able to wrangle a $500 advance in lieu of the
company paying for my relocation since I had nothing to relocate.

"After three months, I was asked whether I would consider a sixmonth temporary assignment to Dubai in the Arabian Gulf. The overseas premiums looked very attractive and I had the travel bug anyway, so in July 1975 I moved to the Middle East. My assignment got extended to 18 months and eventually to 19 years before I
returned to the US. During that time I spent three years in the Middle East and India, three years in the North Sea, principally Belgium and Norway, where I met my wife Audhild, and then 13 years in southeast Asia between Singapore and Indonesia. I left the US with flipflops, t-shirts, cut-offs and a backpack and returned 19 years later with a wife, 3 children and a 40-foot container."

Since leaving McDermott in 1994, Brother Stapleton has been based in Houston where he has been involved in the development of energy-related projects and startup companies. He is the co-founder of a company testing an electro-thermal approach to producing
bitumen from Canada's tar sands with significantly reduced environmental footprint when compared to current open-pit mining operations. A second company is producing heavy oil in Missouri. Current projects include an avoided deforestation project in the
Brazilian rain forest, the commercialization of a silicon-based chemical that has multiple uses in enhanced oil recovery, mining and industrial cleaning and the establishment of a distribution company for a breast cancer risk assessment test.

And he's enjoying time with those great things brought back to the US with him. "My wife and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage next January. Hilde has been battling melanoma since 1999, with a recurrence from 2006 through 2008. Recent scans show no
evidence of disease, and with children now grown, we are looking forward to traveling and reconnecting with old friends. All three children were born in Singapore. My oldest daughter is completing a Ph.D in English literature at the University of Wisconsin, my
second daughter is a theater graduate who has been working as a stage manager off-Broadway for the past three years and my son is entering his senior year in petroleum engineering at Texas A&M."

Brother Stapleton proves that no amount of distance can break the Sigma Nu bonds.

"My many years abroad were a wonderful experience, but I lost contact with so many of my friends from Georgia Tech and fraternity Brothers from Sigma Nu," he said. "When Gary Jones (GA #1290) called me regarding a contribution to the Capital Campaign for
a new Sigma Nu house, I knew this was a positive way to begin to reconnect with these friends. Sigma Nu made a huge impact on me, and this was a way to recognize that fact and say THANKS! A planned Homecoming visit in 2006 had to be postponed, but I am
hopeful that Hilde and I can make it this year. My experience in Sigma Nu at Georgia Tech was a remarkable experience....primarily because of the amazing Brothers I was able to meet and with whom I was able to share that experience. I really owe a lot to Gamma Alpha of Sigma Nu."

GEORGE T. STAPLETON...GAMMA ALPHA 1369...WALKS IN THE WAY OF HONOR
MAKING A DIFFERENCE...ONE BROTHER AT A TIME!

Andy McKenna '69

Since 1896, our Chapter has prepared men dedicated to the promotion of professional development and to the building of a strong network among Alumni. The Chapter's graduates are a living advertisement for the quality of Sigma Nu as evidenced through their enthusiasm and their considerable accomplishments. This alumni profile is the tenth in a series on Gamma Alpha alumni who truly 'Walk in the Way of Honor'.

Integrity and Honor are part of the SIGMA NU DNA, as Evidenced by Brother Andy McKenna

Andy McKenna GA 1237 enjoyed pledging Sigma Nu so much, that he did it two times! Now, that's dedication.

His first pledge class was in 1964/1965; it was full of great brothers whose company he really enjoyed. Unfortunately, Mother Tech and young Andy had different priorities, so he didn't make adequate grades for initiation. However, he did learn to persevere, and after several quarters as a dorm rat and working a co-op job, he was finally initiated in a great 1966 class.

One of the highlights of his pledge class was its acquisition of the ROCK in the middle of the chapter house that honors several brothers who died in a terrible auto accident. One of the honorees includes Dick Clotworthy GA 1207 who was in Andy's original pledge class. To obtain the ROCK, they rented a beat-up dump truck and went out to the construction site of I-20. They met an understanding construction superintendent and convinced him to load a boulder into their truck. Andy remembers, "The most difficult part of the effort was getting the ROCK through the chapter house into the center garden area. It took some Tech ingenuity and pledge manpower.

"I have many great memories of Sigma Nu and my brothers. I roomed with Lee Cannon GA 1230 and Tony Henderson GA 1236 in the house; we worked very hard to make sure everyone else looked like academic stars." Andy is also pleased to see other pledge class brothers involved in the Capital Campaign for the new house including Tom Cauble GA 1227, Russ Cooley GA 1239, Steve Menke GA 1220, Joe Netherland GA 1233, Scott Rich GA 1224 and Dave Whitehead GA 1236.

Willie Jones was the cook ("get out of his kitchen"; I don't eat that stuff"). According to Andy, he was always up to something. "I vividly remember him holding a handkerchief over the phone receiver to disguise his voice while arranging something unseemly." Sigma Nu was also blessed to have Housekeeper/Mentor/Preacher Clarence E. White. "Clarence invited us to hear him preach one Sunday and he was amazing."

"Gamma Alpha deserves the support of all its alums...I would have never made it through Georgia Tech without the support of Sigma Nu..."

When Andy first arrived at Tech his first PE class was drown proofing with Coach Fred Lanue, who Andy remembers as the meanest man alive. "Although I was a good swimmer, I couldn't float, so I almost drowned trying to get though that class. We had to learn to stay in the water with hands and feet tied. My Tech experience was like that: almost drowned several times, but managed to survive and get out."

After graduating in 1969 with a degree in Industrial Engineering, Andy went to work with United Airlines in Chicago. One of his former Sigma Nu brothers, Jack Painter GA 1142, worked in the same group. "Jack was very helpful in introducing me to my wife, Margaret, and I to United Airlines and life in Chicago. We had a great time with Jack and his first wife, Rosemary. Later, Jack moved to Hawaii and we visited with him there."

Margaret and Andy moved around a lot with United. They lived in Chicago, San Mateo, CA and New York. However, traveling was not bad. They had opportunities to visit with Sigma Nu brothers, including Thanksgiving with Lee Cannon GA 1230 in Chicago, and brother Bill Poland GA 1187 in San Francisco, at Pebble Beach for the golf tournament.

Andy later secured a job as a financial analyst in the New York office but soon realized how little he knew about finance and accounting. He applied to graduate school at Purdue University, so Andy and Margaret and their two-year-old daughter moved to West Lafayette, Indiana. "Purdue was a great experience for our little family, and it led us back to Atlanta for a career as a Management Consultant with Touche Ross and Co."

While at Touche Ross (which later became Deloitte and Touche), Andy helped recruit two other Sigma Nu brothers to the firm: Steve Baldwin GA 1274 and Steve (Goofy) Simpson GA 1287. "We all became partners and had successful careers there."

Home Depot was one of Andy's clients, and he led several consulting assignments for them in their early years. Eventually he was approached by one of the founders, Bernie Marcus, who told Andy that he should get a real job and come to work for Home Depot. His first position at Home Depot was CIO, with responsibility for all information systems. Later, he became President of the Midwest Division and then Senior Vice President, Strategic Growth Development.

After years of hard work and dedication, "I am now mostly retired, although I do dabble with a few business interests. I am a Board Member of two public companies, AutoZone and Danka PLC."

Andy is very proud of his Sigma Nu experience and will always offer his support. "I believe in the Capital Campaign for Sigma Nu and am proud to support it. While involved as a Board Member of the Georgia Tech Alumni Association, I became aware of the direct correlation between successful Tech grads and participation in fraternity life. Georgia Tech and the fraternity/sorority system at Tech produce bright, entrepreneurial young men and women who become highly success people. Sigma Nu is the best fraternal organization on campus and it deserves the support of all its alumni. Sigma Nu was very important for us and we need to ensure future students have the same opportunity we enjoyed."

Sigma Nu has long been a family for Andy in a host of different ways. Real life as well as fraternity Brothers include Pat McKenna - Gamma Alpha #1345 who was initiated into Gamma Alpha in 1971; and Matt McKenna Gamma Alpha #1447 who was initiated in 1976. All of the McKenna Gang are proud of their affiliation and continue to give back. Pat has spent countless hours as Chairman of the Sigma Nu Housing Corporation..... and Matt, who served as Eminent Commander his senior year, has served as Class Agent. Both have made 5 figure pledges to the new Capital Campaign.

Andy and Margaret have two daughters - Kristin McKenna Dawson, who is a Tulane grad; married to James and now lives in Houston. They have two children - a daughter Drew - 7 and a son Wyatt - age 4 . Megan McKenna Durkee is living in Durham, NC where husband Steve is in grad school at Duke. Megan is a Tech grad, class of 1999 and was in A D Pi sorority. Andy and Margaret spend most of the year in Kiawah Island, SC and enjoy golf, fly fishing, travel....and of course spoiling their grandchildren.

Andy McKenna... Gamma Alpha #1237...TRULY WALKS IN THE WAY OF HONOR!