The accounting alumnus credits Haslam for his solid financial understanding, which has supported his successful business career.
For Haslam College of Business alumnus Steve Birdwell (’81), summer is everlasting. As president of The Sea Pines Resort, Birdwell oversees operations of the family beach and golf resort on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.
While families visit for a vacation retreat, Birdwell enjoys the diversity and energy involved in a large-scale resort operating within a 5,000-acre residential community. For more than 50 years, Sea Pines has offered visitors natural beaches, championship golf, tennis, biking trails and other vacation activities.
“Every day is a little different for me,” Birdwell says. “We are continually considering improvements to the resort and adding new facilities, so many days are spent reviewing and discussing strategic decisions with our management team. I also enjoy spending time throughout the resort working with our team and visiting with guests.”
On Saturdays during the peak summer season, visitors can often find Birdwell at the Sea Pines Welcome Center, thanking departing guests and greeting arriving guests. While summer is busy, Birdwell finds it satisfying to see the excitement in the families that vacation at the resort. This attentiveness to guest experience is a key for Birdwell and his team.
“Our business is built on guest service, which requires constant teamwork to make the resort operate seamlessly,” says Birdwell. “I am energized every day by working as part of our team.”
The effort pays off. Birdwell regularly receives compliments from guests, recognizing team members who have gone over and above to create a memorable and enjoyable vacation experience. Birdwell calls this positive guest feedback and the recognition of team members “the most satisfying and enjoyable aspect of my role.”
Birdwell’s work is part of the resort’s continued success as well as its history. He says it is fortunate that the resort is owned by the Goodwin family and their company, The Riverstone Group, noting that the Goodwins’ involvement has transformed Sea Pines in recent years, building on the resort’s rich history by replacing aged facilities and expanding resort offerings.
“I am very proud of our resort operations today and the lifelong memories our guests and property owners make every day,” says Birdwell.
As an accounting alumnus, Birdwell credits Haslam for building his solid financial understanding, which has proved critical to his successful business career. His financial experience led him to Sea Pines, where he served as the chief financial officer for many years prior to becoming president.
“The education I obtained was transformational, and with the contacts I made through the University of Tennessee, I was fortunate to work for some of the largest and most respected accounting firms in the nation,” says Birdwell.
A self-described VFL, Birdwell’s interest in UT began at an early age, attending football games in Neyland Stadium. When the time came to choose a college, Birdwell had no doubt he would attend UT.
“My older brothers attended the Haslam College of Business, and I knew I wanted to follow in their footsteps,” says Birdwell. “The great reputation of Haslam and its leading accounting program made it a clear choice for my college experience.”
As the busy summer season slows, Birdwell enjoys spending Saturdays in a favorite fall location – Knoxville.
“My favorite memories were cheering on the Vols in Neyland Stadium with my friends on crisp fall afternoons,” says Birdwell. “Now I look forward to beginning a new era this fall with Coach Heupel and meeting our friends for fun-filled weekends in Knoxville.”
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