Stephen Weitzel has made it a mission to encourage young Georgia Tech graduates to begin giving back to the school at an early age. Just like he has and continues to do.
Weitzel, now 37, didn’t want to wait until he reached retirement age to become a financial backer of the Georgia Tech athletic program. The 2006 graduate funded a football scholarship only 12 years after his graduation and believes it is important for younger alumni to start donating sooner rather than later.
“They told me I was among the youngest donors to endow a scholarship for athletics,” Weitzel said. “So, one of the things I want to work with the Alexander-Tharpe Fund on is having a better process around engaging with younger alumni, whether they graduated this year or 15 years ago, like I did. We all want our programs to be nationally relevant and it takes a commitment, it takes resources to make that happen.
“I feel like I’m in a very fortunate situation or position and I’m blessed to have the career I’m having. I’m still young but I look for opportunities to give back. One of the biggest roots of my success is coming to Georgia Tech and that’s why I’ve been so compelled to be engaged with Georgia Tech athletics, which is a big representation of the Georgia Tech brand. Any way that I can help foster a better environment there, I want to be a part of.”
Weitzel and wife Courtney endowed a football scholarship in 2018. That decision turned out to be even more satisfying for the couple when the first recipient was Mike Lockhart, a player from Birmingham, Ala. – Courtney’s hometown. Most of Courtney’s family went to the University of Alabama, but they’ve all embraced Georgia Tech and become fans.
“It was kind of cool that we were doing this and then there’s the tieback to Birmingham, which is really cool for us,” he said.
In 2020 Weitzel added an operational endowment to benefit the Georgia Tech golf program. He has been playing golf most of his life and carries a 1.5 handicap. Weitzel has used golf to build relationships with prospects and clients and enjoys playing when possible.
“They say a bad day of golf is better than a good day at the office,” he said. “I don’t know if I agree with that, because I’ve had some really good days at work and some really bad days on the golf course.”
Weitzel’s involvement with the golf team began after Moe Trebuchon, executive in residence at Georgia Tech, invited him to attend the annual Ramblin’ Wreck Golf Tournament. That event brings together supporters of the golf team and brings back many Yellow Jackets who have had success on the PGA Tour, including Stewart Cink, Matt Kuchar, Cameron Tringale, Troy Matteson, Roberto Castro and Nicholas Thompson. Weitzel was blown away by the experience.
“That was my introduction to the golf team two years ago,” Weitzel said. “There’s not enough good things you can say about coach Bruce Heppler and the program he runs and the quality of the young men that are there.”
Stephen Weitzel (L) with former Georgia Tech golfer Will Dickson (R)
Weitzel grew up in Fayetteville, where his mother and father worked for Delta Air Lines. Georgia Tech was the only school to which he applied. His sister Stephanie was already at The Flats, two years into pursuing her accounting degree.
“I’ve been a Georgia Tech fan for as long as I can remember and the fact that my sister was already there gave me some additional ties. I ended up there and kind of fast-tracked my way through and graduated in 3 ½ years,” he said.
Not that there wasn’t a stumble along the way.
Weitzel grew up as an auditory learning, someone who would pay close attention in class and soak up the information. He graduated No. 5 in his class at Fayette County High School. The approach seemed to work his first semester at Georgia Tech, where he had a 3.2 grade-point average.
“I was thinking to myself, this place is supposed to be breaking people and I just made a 3.2 and I’m not even really trying that hard,” he said. “The next semester I’ve got chemistry, computer science, calculus and an English class and about halfway through that semester, I realize I’m in trouble. I realized I couldn’t get by just doing things the way I had been my whole life because they were only covering a portion of the subject matter in class. That second semester was when I really learned to study and I finally learned how to learn.”
He scrambled to make three Bs and a C and was able to hang on to the HOPE Scholarship. The next semester, those fresh study habits in place, he made three As and a B and never again struggled academically.
“That second semester is when I got broke in a school that will really test you,” he said. “At Georgia Tech, people find a way to overcome and that set the stage for me graduating with high honors. It was probably the most enduring piece of my academic career while I was there.”
He immediately took his management degree and went to work for Bank of America in investment services. He later worked as a senior financial adviser at Merrill Lynch for five years and as portfolio management director at Morgan Stanley for seven years and in 2021 helped establish and become managing partner of Reveille Wealth Management in Peachtree City.
Weitzel today encourages other Georgia Tech graduates to get involved with the Alexander-Tharpe Fund while they’re young.
“There’s a big misconception among a lot of alumni who thinks the school doesn’t need their money,” he said. “They say the school has billions of dollars, which is true … the school does. But what people don’t realize is that there is a real need for support of the athletic program because it has to stand on its own.”
He said financial support at any level from the Georgia Tech community would be helpful.
“If everybody was doing something … if they were sending $500, $1,000, $5,000, then the sum of those efforts is really meaningful,” Weitzel said. “The real reason we’re doing it is for the people behind the program. They’re going to forever change the trajectory of their own lives and their family’s lives because they don’t come from a place that would naturally see them matriculate to Georgia Tech.
“But what I know from my own time there and the success that I’ve had, I attribute a lot of it to the education I got when I was at Georgia Tech. We’re going to set them up with an education, building to thrive, and we’re forever going to change the trajectory of their lives and their families’ lives. That’s why it’s so meaningful for people to participate.”
Stephen and Courtney Weitzel live in Peachtree City and have three children, Ben, Evie and Ella.