By Julia Straka, ’21

Greg Mays, C’14, GC’18, is a man of many talents: He has over 34 years of experience in the real estate industry, has a private pilot’s license, and is the drone operator of his own aerial photography business. He has served as an expert court witness, providing testimony in trials regarding property matters, and his work on the impact of drones on the real estate industry has been published. 

Mays was introduced to the legal field as an undergraduate student in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies; he graduated first with a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies, and later with a Master of Liberal Arts, focusing on how “Laws Shape and Alter the Foundations of Society.” Because of his long-time relationship with SPCS as an alumnus, Mays earned the 2019 Gibb Family Distinguished Alumni Award and spoke at SPCS Commencement Exercises on May 11, 2019.

Mays began his speech by thanking his former professors for challenging him and helping him grow: “I can still see their faces in my mind, still hear their voices and remember much of what they said to me.  Occasionally it was more than just, ‘Greg, you are beginning to get on my last nerve,’” he joked. 

Mays also spoke about the real-world knowledge and experience he gained that is central to most SPCS programs. He thanked the attorneys he interned and worked for during his undergraduate career: “I obtained my undergraduate degree in Paralegal Studies and because I did, I was able to meet incredible attorneys that taught me almost as much as I learned on campus,” he said. 

Mays then asked the audience to each consider “that one person that pushed you when you needed it — supported you when you wondered, “Am I smart enough to keep up?” — took care of the day-to-day minutia that so often gets in our way.” For Mays, that person is his wife, Lynn. 

However, her support began long before his studies. The pair launched Greg B. Mays & Associates together, their own real estate appraisal and consulting company. He credits her for “dealing with clients, often in a much more eloquent way than [he] could,” all while proofreading his edited and re-edited essays, timing his presentations and taking care of their two children. 

Mays emphasized his wife’s patience and altruism: “Without hesitation, without applause, often without any gratitude, this person allowed me to do what I have done,” he says. Mays introduced her as the “real recipient of the Gibb Family Distinguished Alumni Award” as his son presented Lynn with a bouquet of fresh flowers.

Mays then turned to the question that many graduates ponder: What next? The first thing Mays did after he graduated was buy an Alumni Association T-shirt at the campus bookstore. Beyond simply buying a T-shirt, Mays served as the SPCS Alumni Association Board’s Events Committee Chair for five years and encouraged the graduates to stay engaged in UR as an alumni: ”Join the Alumni Association and work with other dedicated individuals to improve the experience of current students and the continued involvement of those who have stood where you are today,” he encouraged. 

Mays also encouraged graduates to return to SPCS as a Think Again Series or Osher course teacher, as he did. Mays not only instructed, but developed a course called “Drones, Practical Applications, and Laws that Impact Use” in which he taught about aerodynamics and legal issues and provided hands-on flight training to Osher members at SPCS. 

Mays explained why he is so compelled to keep giving back to his alma mater: “I grew up in Richmond, and the thought of ever attending UR was beyond comprehension for me.... I was not expecting to be selected for the Gibb Family Distinguished Alumni Award, but I am honored. I do not do what I do hoping to be recognized. I do it because I have a passion for the university I never thought I would attend. That others would recognize me for that and select me for this award makes me very happy and grateful,” he said. 

Besides urging new graduates to remain involved in the UR and SPCS communities through volunteering, teaching courses and becoming members of boards like the SPCS Alumni Association, he finished his speech with one last piece of advice: “You are all now alumni and I welcome you to the light at the end of the tunnel. Go buy a T-shirt,” he concluded.