There's Nothing More Important
Submitted by Nadine Fiedler on Fri, 11/18/2011 - 3:38pm
Phil Hawley '43 is a great supporter of education & financial aid
By Nadine Fiedler
From the Fall 2011 Caller
He was called “the last of the old-time merchandisers” by Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan. From the time he left college, Phil Hawley ’43 worked tirelessly in the retail business—working up from windows and stockrooms to a position as CEO of the retail giant Carter Hawley Hale. In the midst of his successes, Phil never forgot his experiences at the Gabel Country Day School—and never lost sight of the vital importance of education.
The Gabel Country Day School’s most important aspect for Phil was the way teachers encouraged him and his fellow students to think beyond the confines of family and school. “The great thing I took away from Gabel was learning to think critically and analytically about issues in a larger sense. For its time, that focus was quite enlightened,” he says. That bigger picture focus stood Phil in good stead as he studied at Stanford University and Reed College before serving in the Navy.
After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1946, Phil opened a small shop in Portland, then worked his way up in the Lipman-Wolfe department store. The store management saw his potential as well as his love of retail, and gave him some great chances. He had found his niche.
Phil’s biggest career move came when he left Portland in 1958 to work in largerscale retail for The Broadway, at a time of transition from large downtown stores to branch stores. He flew up the rungs of this aggressive, fast-moving chain, starting as buyer and ending up as chairman and CEO of the corporation. He presided until his retirement in 1993, having overseen the acquisition of other large store chains such as Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and Waldenbooks.
Phil loved the pace and the intellectual stimulation of the retail business. “Retailers are deeply involved in their communities, in the very ways life was developing and changing,” he says. “Retail was a broad canvas, and you could go as far as your wishes and wants.”
Even during these hectic times as corporate leader and father of a family of eight children, Phil prioritized his service to education. He served on the boards and was named life trustee of the California Institute of Technology, Notre Dame, and the Huntington Library. Phil was also the first lay chair of the board of Los Angeles’s Loyola High School. He never forgot his Gabel roots: he’s a member of the school’s endowment committee, and he established a scholarship for Upper School students. His life is still active as he pursues projects, oversees his family’s investments, and works in his community—and his commitment to providing educational opportunities remains unwavering.
“I’m a strong believer in the benefits of financial assistance,” says Phil. “With good financial aid, we can have a child’s aptitude and ability be more important than the family’s financial capacity. If we think deeply about creating the best educational experience for all concerned, we are best served by having many different cultural and economic backgrounds represented by the student body. The importance of financial aid can’t be overstressed.”
“I feel that educational opportunities given to any of us and to families in the community at large have the greatest influence on what kind of community and world we have,” he says. “I’m trying to help in any way possible. Supporting education is the most rewarding of any opportunity. There’s nothing more important in the scheme of things.”
Phil founded the Hawley Family Endowed Scholarship Fund in 2004 in honor of his siblings Adele Hawley Davie ’35, Willard Hawley ’41, Dinda Hawley Mills ’44, and Barbara Hawley Hosking ’49. It supports financial aid for Upper School students.
Nadine Fiedler is the editor of the Caller and Catlin Gabel’s director of publications and public relations.