85,000-Square-Foot Walter J. Hawrys Campus Recreation Center Encourages Sound Body and Mind
Marilyn Hawrys Simons, Linda Hawrys Berenberg and Walter Hawrys, Jr. joined Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, and campus community members to honor their father’s memory and celebrate the dedication of the newly named Walter J. Hawrys Campus Recreation Center.
Hawrys was a decorated World War II veteran whose determined spirit gained him success in business and in competitive race walking and helped him survive with pancreatic cancer for over 13 years. A native of Brightwaters, New York, Hawrys’ company, South Shore Brick Masons, completed numerous buildings on the Stony Brook University campus.
“Walter Hawrys’ courageous devotion to duty in defense of our country, his many accomplishments in the community, in life and in love, and that he walked two miles a day while he successfully fought pancreatic cancer for 13 and a half years,” Dr. Stanley said, “I recognize that his life epitomized the Latin aphorism, mens sana in corpore sano, ‘sound body, sound mind.’”
Dr. Stanley pointed out that Mr. Hawrys had a longtime connection to Stony Brook.
“Walter Hawrys is an integral part of Stony Brook’s history,” he told the crowd of more than 150 people at the dedication event held outside the recreation center. “We are grateful and extremely proud that his name will be attached to Stony Brook in perpetuity.”
Stony Brook alumna Marilyn Hawrys Simons ’74, ’84, echoed Dr. Stanley, saying that Stony Brook University was a very important part of her father’s life, as well as her own.
“This building honors his memory and certainly helps my father’s spirit to live on, and hopefully inspires many generations to come,” she said. “I hope that all of the students that get to walk through those doors will cherish Stony Brook the same way I certainly have.”
Walter Hawrys, Jr. said the recreation center dedication was a moment to give thanks to his father “for being an example, setting a goal of a healthy mind and healthy body.”
“So it seems fitting today that the dedication is a recreation center in a place of higher learning,” Mr. Hawrys said.
Since its opening in 2012, the state of the art recreation center has become a hub of activity on campus, averaging 2,000 visits a day from students, faculty and staff, Dr. Stanley said.
“Given the importance of this beautiful new 85,000-square-foot recreation center to fostering the physical and mental health of our students, it is only fitting that it be named in Walter Hawrys’ honor,” Dr. Stanley said.
About Walter J. Hawrys (1925-2014):
Walter J. Hawrys – with his generous heart and fearless mind – excelled in life. A survivor of cancer and of fierce war combat, Hawrys long credited his competitive mindset for getting him through his most difficult challenges.
Hawrys grew up in Brightwaters, New York where he wrestled in high school, was a captain on the school’s football team and developed a passion for golf. While still in school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Less than a year into his service, he was in the middle of the Normandy invasion, volunteering as an oarsman on a dinghy that landed on an enemy beach. For his heroism, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal within a year.
Hawrys married Violet Long in 1949. The couple raised three children, Marilyn, Walter, Jr. and Linda, in Brightwaters. Together with his wife’s brother, Hawrys owned South Shore Brick Masons, completing buildings at the 1964 World’s Fair, Stony Brook University, Southampton College and other structures across Long Island. Meanwhile, he honed his golf game, earning many club championships.
During his retirement years, race walking became a passion for Hawrys. He started walking at 65 while recovering from knee surgery and didn’t look back, competing in several Senior Olympics and many race walking events throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.
After months in the hospital recuperating from surgery to remove pancreatic cancer, Hawrys, at 75, got back on his feet, walking two miles a day. Incredibly, he lived a productive 13 and a half years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Hawrys’ “never give up” attitude always served him well, as well as all those whose lives he touched during his journey through life.