Don't jump to early conclusions about what Saint Michael's meant to you," advises Churchill Hindes '69, who morphed from a self-described campus "nobody" and unsettled "academic wanderer" to notable success and fulfillment as a Vermont health administrator, public servant and family man.
Like many of his contemporaries, Hindes felt swept aboard the disquieting roller coaster of campus life in the turbulent late 1960s. Edmundite Father Dan Lyons had recruited him for Saint Michael's in 1965 from the Society's small St. Anne's Academy in Swanton, Vermont, the town where Hindes' career-military father was posted. At college he felt precariously balanced between friends who were ROTC drill team members and friends who were conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War. There are memories of unsettled times like the charged student confrontations in reaction to the planned continuation of P-Day celebrations the day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.
Drained from such experiences, Hindes was happy to start a more predictable routine after graduating from Saint Michael's as a University of Iowa graduate student for eight years.
Only much later in life, happily settled back in Vermont, did he also settle into what he calls "my contemporary Saint Michael's," experienced through his family and ministry at the chapel. And he reflects on how enriched his life has been all along by gifts from his "Saint Michael's back then."
"First, there are the practical arts like basic statistics and research methodology that I learned from Fred Maher, which I literally use that every single day of my work life," he says, referring to his position as CEO and president for the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties since 1999. "Then my economics and sociology courses, understanding populations and human behavior, which is fundamental to the work I do."
"The second part I would call lifelong appreciation," Hindes says. "Going to Henry Fairbanks' humanities course was like being in Disneyland for some of us: this love of all things art and all things literature. And then I was in Glee Club with Bill Tortolano, and to this day I almost pull over to the side of the road when I hear the Pilgrim's Chorus (from Wagner's Tannhauser), knowing what it was like singing it."
He credits the force of formidable personalities among his instructors for more education than textbooks ever could provide. "You took theology in [SSE Rev.] Moses Anderson's apartment and you'd talk about the issues of the day; then Ned Stapleton would teach English and a lot of other stuff besides, and Father Paulin and Father Lanoue were the same way. And my Russian course from Natalie Pomar was really a powerful humanities course," he says.
But, "My contemporary Saint Michael's is at the chromosomal level, it's that important," he says. "It's Campus Ministry, my ties to what goes on in the chapel as a regular reader and Eucharistic minister at Sunday Mass... it's going with Fr. Marcel Rainville (SSE '67) on the Pontigny Heritage Trip."
He and his wife, Marilyn, cherish the opportunity "to be part of today's St. Mike's and know students and today's faculty." His daughter-in-law, Kristin Hindes, has worked in the college's library for 17 years, his son earned a master's at Saint Michael's and his oldest granddaughter had her first communion in the chapel.
Hindes says he understands firsthand how alumni can lose touch or direct interest with the college for long stretches in their life, but that it's never too late to reflect and reconnect. His own busy career has included research administrator at UVM College of Medicine, state budget director for Vermont Governors Richard Snelling and Madeleine Kunin, Chief Financial Officer for University Health Center and vice president for finance and administrative director at Fletcher Allen Hospital in Burlington before settling into his position at the VNA, from which he retired this year. Often, his career and family demands allowed less involvement than he might have liked, he says, but through it all, the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel has been an assuring constant for him.
"It is the continuum for me because that's the center of our focus now," he says, "and in undergraduate days there were many evenings when things were wild and crazy and you'd just sneak over there, close the door, it was all quiet - just a couple lights on - and it was a source of succor and reassurance, comfort then—and it's still that."