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Fredericksburg-area business leaders Neil Sullivan, Tom Wack and Doug Stewart were fraternity brothers at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech alumni and fraternity brothers (left to right) Doug Stewart, Neil Sullivan and Tom Wack are behind three of the area's most successful companies.
MIKE MORONES/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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BY BILL FREEHLING
A chance encounter at Sammy T's, a failed development proposal and an enduring friendship forged 30 years ago at Virginia Tech have helped shape Fredericksburg's business landscape.
In 1985, Doug Stewart visited Fredericksburg to see his new investment. Stewart's close friend and fellow Virginia Tech graduate, Neil Sullivan, had bought some townhouses at the Clusters of Kenmore through a small real estate partnership consisting of himself, Stewart and three other Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers.
By that time Sullivan, who grew up and attended high school in Stafford County and returned after graduating from Virginia Tech in 1981, had already started making a name for himself in Fredericksburg real estate circles. He co-founded Hallberg Sullivan Investment Real Estate Inc. in 1985 after four years working in residential sales and then for development firm Malone Schooler Co.
When Stewart came to Fredericksburg in early 1985, he had spent the past two years since his graduation from Virginia Tech working for the Beta Theta Pi general fraternity. That meant 10 months a year on the road closing down problematic chapters and opening up new ones all over the country. He was tired of living out of a suitcase.
By that point Stewart still didn't know exactly what he wanted to do, though he had a number of solid offers. One thing that struck his fancy while working for Beta was watching alumni manage the fraternity's investments.
Sullivan and Stewart were at Sammy T's in downtown Fredericksburg when they bumped into Nancy Walsh, who was managing the local branch of Wheat First Securities, a brokerage firm that has since become Wells Fargo Advisors. Sullivan knew Walsh and introduced her to Stewart while suggesting that his friend could become a stockbroker.
Stewart, who was wearing a T-shirt and shorts at the time, started chatting with Walsh. That led to later interviews and a job offer. Stewart started that year with Wheat First in Fredericksburg, whose small-town feel and location were appealing to the Blacksburg native. He also liked that Sullivan was here. His friend introduced him to many people in town and helped him get started.
A BUMPY START