The Lawson Companies has a policy of giving employees two days off each year to perform community service, and a history of positively serving the Hampton Roads community through its housing and development projects. That devotion to service started when Bob Lawson, a former Norfolk Academy trustee, founded The Lawson Companies in 1972. It has continued with Bob’s son, Steve Lawson ’83, at the helm.
Steve Lawson became the companies’ President in 1999 and is now Chairman of the Board. For following his father’s model of improving the housing industry by doing what is fair and right, he this year received the Community Leaders Award from the Urban League of Hampton Roads at its annual Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. Day breakfast.
During the breakfast, held virtually, Lawson thanked the entire Lawson Companies team. “We are an honest, hard-working group sharing a strong set of core values and believe in our purpose — to positively impact people,” he said.
After graduating from Norfolk Academy, Lawson earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Duke University. He didn’t intend to join the family business; he studied engineering in school and thought his future was in mechanical engineering. But as he weighed the pros and cons of his next steps, he decided following in his father’s footsteps was his best move.
Both Lawson’s parents instilled in him the values of service. His mom, who sadly passed away in 1996, volunteered at the Virginia Beach Correctional Center, teaching inmates. While running The Lawson Companies, his dad became heavily involved in housing policy at the state and even national levels; his motto was to strengthen the industry by acting ethically and helping the communities in which he built.
While his parents played an instrumental role in his character development, Lawson also credits his studies at NA. “The Academy really encourages students to get involved in the community,” he said. The rigors of student life at NA also benefited him, he said. Even though math and science were his strengths, he learned to write at a high level and gained public speaking confidence, both skills that remain crucial. He also developed time management by balancing academics and extracurriculars, including playing varsity lacrosse.
“I learned a lot from the challenge that the Academy offers its students, and I think that is truly formative in a lot of different ways,” he said.
The Urban League’s Community Leaders Award goes to individuals or groups who exemplify service, demonstrate the values modeled by Dr. King, and make significant contributions to Hampton Roads. In receiving the award, Lawson noted his father’s early adoption of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, which he has built upon.
“My father instilled in us a duty to make a positive impact in the community,” Lawson said. “We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to do that through the creation of affordable housing throughout Virginia."
This article appeared in the Summer 2023 Academy Magazine.