Steve Whitley, former upper school principal at George Walton Academy, died last week after an extended battle with cancer.
Steven Edward Whitley, 67, had served at GWA for 25 years in a variety of roles and was beloved by many at the private school he had called home for so long.
“Mr. Whitley’s love and devotion for GWA’s students, faculty and staff will always be unparalleled,” faculty member Sandra Richardson said. “His acts of kindness and service to us all are his legacy. I will remember his sense of honor and his compassion for everyone, especially teenagers. A man of profound faith, Mr. Whitley had the gentlest of hearts.”
Whitley grew up in Walton County on the family farm just outside Social Circle. He graduated from Social Circle High School and entered the education field after earning degrees from both Truett-McConnell College and Valdosta State University.
After teaching and leading several public and private schools around the state, Whitley returned to GWA as associate headmaster, upper school principal and athletic director, where he remained until his retirement in 2016.
Whitley was dedicated to GWA, his former colleagues and students.
“Mr. Whitley was my principal for all 14 years I was a student at GWA,” alumna Macall Brown said. “He helped mold me into the person I am today. I will forever be grateful for this man and he will always hold a special place in my heart. I’ll never forget when he and our headmaster came to the hospital when I couldn’t make it for graduation.”
Whitley is survived by his brothers and sisters-in-law, retired Col. Milton and Gail Whitley Jr. and Bruce A. and Kristal Whitley, all of Walton County; nephews, Milton A. Whitley III, of Atlanta, and Capt. Matthew D. Whitley serving with the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division; and niece, Ashley Whitley and Scott Rawls of Matthews, North Carolina.
The funeral was held Sunday at the First Christian Church in Monroe. Burial followed at the Social Circle City Cemetery.
Donations may be made to the USO at www.uso.org/donate or to the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory Hospital in Atlanta toward childrens cancer research. Checks may be mailed to Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, attention: Development Office 1762 Clifton Road, Suite 1400 Atlanta, GA 30322 or visit winshipcancer.
GWA counselor Linda Smith said he would be greatly missed.
“Mr. Whitley was one of God’s servants who lived his Christian beliefs and showed his love for George Walton’s students on a daily basis,” Smith said. “As he stated many times, these students were his family. The small gestures that he made resulted in mountains of influence for generations of students. From stopping students in the hall to chat to attending sports and literary events and band and drama performances, the students would always see his face in the audience.
“As much as we mourn his passing, his own words may sum up his life the best: ‘I have lived a good and healthy life and no matter what happens I am at peace with God.’ God’s servant has gone home, and he will be missed by all of us.”