Editor’s Note: The Sigma Phi Epsilon Citation is bestowed upon alumni who have achieved extraordinary success and stature in their chosen professions. Since the award was first presented in 1965, only 256 have received the honor. Among them are world leaders, titans of industry and commerce, renowned authors and artists, civil servants and military heroes, award-winning actors and all-star athletes.
Here, we share the story of one of the five brothers honored with this award at the 56th Grand Chapter Conclave in Houston.
When Gary Dudley, Sam Houston State ’69, joined SigEp with a couple of friends he’d known since grade school, he became part of an even larger network of friends and still keeps in touch with many of his chapter brothers to this day. He supported his new member class as secretary/treasurer.
After graduating with a business degree, he spent the first few years coaching track, swimming, football and basketball for the Houston school system. During this time, he was also a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.
In 1974, after he’d left coaching to work for a company that insured banks and credit unions, Dudley ran into his childhood friend, chapter brother and current SigEp National Director Charlie Amato, ’70, at a social event. They got to talking, and Dudley told Amato that his experience in the banking industry made him a good fit for the company he was working for. Amato followed up on that advice, and the two were soon working together.
Dudley was happy to be working with his friend, but both of them began to grow dissatisfied with the company after a while. They were inspired to start a business of their own after beginning to notice the company wasn’t acting in the best interests of its clients or its workers. To them, making a profit and being respectful weren’t mutually exclusive actions. So, they decided to build a company that made customer service a priority and treated employees well.
In 1976, the pair launched SWBC, primarily selling insurance to credit unions. They modeled the company’s culture on their experience as members of Texas Eta, citing the chapter as an environment where everyone was shown respect. “As a SigEp, I learned to truly value friendships and respect others’ opinions — especially when I didn’t agree with them,” Dudley explained. “It was all part of something bigger. This has helped me tremendously as the co-founder of SWBC.”
Clearly, the strategy has worked: SWBC is now an international diversified financial services company with 14 divisions and more than 2,600 employees. Dudley and Amato both oversee the operations of the company and are well regarded in the business community for continuing to live by the principles they maintained when starting SWBC over 43 years ago. Dudley is highly respected for his ability to build strong relationships with the company’s customers and partners and for creating a company culture where employees are valued.
Dudley is also committed to giving back to the local community and his alma mater. He was named a Distinguished Alumni of Sam Houston State University and inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame. Dudley currently serves on the board of the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Foundation and is a member of Sam Houston State’s College of Business Administration Advisory Board. He has also been an investor in the San Antonio Spurs basketball team for over 25 years and sits on the board of the team’s nonprofit organization.