Friends for a Lifetime Sam Hollis ’51 and Jimmy Gallivan ’51 met at W&L, sparking a friendship spanning 75 years.
Washington and Lee University alumni often cite lifelong friendship as one of the benefits of attending W&L, and Sam Hollis ’51 and Jimmy Gallivan ’51 offer certain proof.
When Gallivan and Hollis met in the fall of 1947 during rush week for Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) at Washington and Lee, the two could not possibly have guessed that 75 years later, they would chat daily, having gone through life sharing in each other’s major milestones. Their paths crossed so much at W&L, and yet those intersections continued long after they had graduated.
Both Hollis and Gallivan earned a Bachelor of Science in commerce, and were SAEs and members of W&L’s swimming and diving team. After living one floor apart in the freshman dormitory, the two roomed together in the fraternity house for the following three years. Brought together by their W&L experience, they became the best of friends.
“We have been speaking nearly every day for as long as I can remember.”
~ Sam Hollis ’51
“We just realized we had the same chemistry, and we never had a major disagreement,” Gallivan said. “And we still haven’t,” Hollis added.
Hollis attended W&L after Dean Frank Gilliam recruited him from McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Gallivan’s hometown was Greenville, South Carolina, and coming to W&L was quite apart from what he had planned.
“I applied to the University of Georgia, but at that time, the school was not accepting students from out of state,” he explained. “It was 1946, and people were returning from the war.”
His sister-in-law was a Hollins graduate and recommended that he consider W&L, so he applied. “I knew only one person who attended W&L, and so I went in totally blind,” he said.
“When we were at W&L, there was so much going on that there wasn’t much time to ponder questions about why we were there when the more pressing issue was trying to get a date at Sweet Briar,” Gallivan joked. “We did a lot of double-dating,” Hollis said, with Gallivan adding that they fortunately never wanted to date the same young woman.
Hollis was president of the student Executive Committee, president of the student body, and president of Fancy Dress Committee at W&L. Gallivan played football and was a member of the track and field team in addition to being a diver on the swim team.
“Jimmy was a walk-on to the football team at W&L,” Hollis said. “I think the announcer called him pure gold.” The two men chuckled at the memory.
“During a tackle, when I broke my hand and dislocated my collar bone, Sam took me home from the game at the University of Virginia, and one of the fellows who fell on me went on to play pro ball,” Gallivan said.
After leaving W&L, both men went on to marry women from Atlanta who happened to know one another. They were in each other’s weddings and had children around the same ages. Hollis asked Gallivan to be godfather to his son Lee Hollis ’86.
“I can’t remember a time when Jimmy wasn’t in our lives,” recalled Lee Hollis ’86. “We took family vacations together when we were children, and Jimmy and his wife Joan spent many summers in Highlands, North Carolina, where my parents had a home.”
Older brother Sam Hollis Jr. ’83 agreed. “Jimmy connected with all of us, as he has with our father. I remember several occasions when we answered a knock on our door and there was Jimmy, who was in town and just stopped by to say hello,” he said.
Gallivan’s son Jimmy and Hollis’ daughter Suzanne are still close friends, having graduated from Southern Methodist University together.
“Sam and I would go duck hunting together every year for his birthday,” Gallivan said. “We spent many trips fishing and camping with the kids, and one night while on the lake in Nashville, we almost rolled into the water,” he laughed. Hollis piped in that he was just about to say the same thing, remembering it just as Gallivan voiced it. They even traveled to Europe together.
“It’s simple — Sam and I were friends and just wanted to be with each other. Now, we have to have a morning check-in because I want to see if Sam has had his coffee before I have.”
~ Jimmy Gallivan ’51
Both Hollis and Gallivan spent a short time in the U.S. Navy, stationed in different parts of the country. Gallivan spent the bulk of his professional career in investment banking and brokerage services at J.C. Bradford & Co., retiring as partner. Hollis was chairman of the Federal Compress & Warehouse Company and L.P. Brown Company until his retirement.
Both have been engaged volunteers and loyal donors to W&L. They served terms on the Board of Trustees, overlapping by one year, and both served on the Alumni Board, Gallivan as president. Gallivan also worked as a class agent for more than a decade. Through the years, they assisted the university with fundraising efforts.
W&L Vice President for University Advancement Tom Jennings credits the duo for helping to unofficially train him as a young development officer when he first came to work for Washington and Lee. Hollis chaired the Mid-South area capital campaign in the 1990s and traveled with Jennings to visit alumni in Memphis and nearby communities. Gallivan and Jennings visited alumni in the Nashville area during the same W&L campaign.
“It was a privilege for me to learn about W&L, Memphis and Nashville from such giants in their respective communities,” Jennings said. “That their friendship has endured all these years is not surprising to me, as both of them have such individual strengths and a shared bond through W&L.”
“We have been speaking nearly every day for as long as I can remember,” Hollis said.
Both men are now 92 years old. Many would deem a friendship so long-lasting and with such sustained connection as nothing short of extraordinary. When asked whether there was a defining moment they could recall that cemented their friendship, neither could say. Rather, it seemed like a natural occurrence much like how layers of sediment form solid rock over time.
“It’s simple — Sam and I were friends and just wanted to be with each other,” Gallivan said. “Now, we have to have a morning check-in because I want to see if Sam has had his coffee before I have.”
“Dad and Jimmy’s bond is a great example of steadfast friendship, and it all began at W&L,” Lee Hollis said.