Living a Legend

By: Mark Tarnacki

Dr. Francis White '45

Getting Here: Frank White says it's a miracle Saint Michael's accepted him, given his high school record. Not that the future radiologist from Georgetown medical school wasn't plenty smart, but his after-school job to help with family expenses during the Depression wore him down and put his studies on a back burner. Many Catholic-school guys from his hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts, went to St. Mike's in those days, but one of his teachers, a no-nonsense nun, laughed dismissively to learn Frank's aspirations. ("The first time I'd seen her smile," he says.) But he defied both of their expectations, was accepted and excelled.

"I owe St. Mike's a great deal of loyalty because it was there that I was able to turn things around," he says. "I don't feel I could have done better. We made the best of what was there, and had as much if not more fun than kids do today, because it was a close-knit school. Everyone knew everyone else and shared problems."

Residence life: In his time, every man (for it was all men) lived in Old Hall, now called Founders Hall. "There was always some room you could go in and have a bull session," he says, recalling the guidance he and others so valued from the youthful, wise and kind Rev. T. Donald Sullivan '34. Even the dining room, partly supplied by a working dairy farm across Route 15, was in the same building. "You didn't have to go far to do anything," he says. He and hockey club teammates would pile into cabs for games and once had to fix four flats on a trip to Quebec before they even got there.

Faculty/staff: Far more than the rudimentary facilities of his era, faculty and religious/staff personalities most impressed Frank at pre-war Saint Michael's, including John Hartnett, who taught science inspirationally while living with cerebral palsy, and the tough but fair discipline of Rev. John Stankiewicz, who was "the guy we all feared and who you had to get by on Saturday night."

"They were great men, dedicated men," he says. "I didn't learn how to study till I came to Saint Michael's— not just the material but how to retrieve and retain it."

Social life: "I remember preparing the hall for our prom upstairs in the gym. It was a hell of a job we did on that, with ornaments, multicolored lights," Frank recalls. "We'd date the girls from UVM or Trinity, though my wife (the late Alice Reilly White) and I were high school sweethearts. We dated lots of other people but in the end it stuck and we married some years later. She was the greatest gal ever." He remembers the elm trees of Burlington and its ice cream shop and Sugar House bar, both hot gathering spots. "No one had a car— we hitch-hiked or walked," he says.

Where it led: When the U.S. entered World War II, Uncle Sam put the promising and motivated Frank White on a track to be a Navy medical officer, first with officer training at Bates College in Maine, then dental school training at University of Detroit, duty at Chelsea Naval Hospital and back to Detroit after his 1946 discharge. But by then Frank aspired to medicine, not a dentist career. He got accepted at Georgetown, then interned in Worcester for one year in surgery and one in radiology, which became his specialty. "I enjoyed discussing X-rays with all the other specialties," he says. He got called back to duty for the Korean War, worked in Washington attached to Bethesda Naval Hospital and ran a traveling X-ray bus. He got a top residency at University of Pennsylvania in radiology before deciding to head back to Worcester and set up practice with some others in 1958, staying with it until 1994. He and his late wife, Alice, had seven children including Greg.

Life-changing moment: "I remember exactly how it was the day Pearl Harbor got attacked—it was on a Sunday and I was walking up the back stairs in Founders Hall from the first to second floor. I'd just come out of breakfast and there was a loud radio on.

That's where we heard about the bombing. Everyone went to one room, so we all heard about what they'd done, the announcers in tears, and every guy in that room was vowing to join the service that day—and 50 percent did. A lot of guys just left then and there. Others including me learned there was a way to get to the officer corps through the V-12 program and I got accepted." [Frank and many from this wartime generation proudly identify with the Class of '45 even though they did not get the chance to return and graduate].

Robert Donoghue '57

Getting Here: A combination of influences drew Bob to Saint Michael's: His parish priest in Worcester was an alumnus, his parents wanted him to attend a Catholic college, he wanted to go away to school, and an uncle lived in Burlington, meaning Bob knew and liked the area from visits (though the barracks buildings he saw on campus weren't too impressive). Bob's mother was a French-Canadian who liked the French heritage of St. Mike's, even trying out her French with then-President Rev. Gerald Dupont, a few times on visits.

"My plan was to go for two years and switch to Worcester Tech as a math major," he says. But after two years, he liked it too much to leave. "It really was a great bunch and it grew on you. We were a really active class and did a lot of great things," he remembers. Long before the days of MOVE community service, Bob and some classmates who liked to sing, dance and entertain formed a musical group that visited local special needs schools and senior homes and put on shows on weekends.

Residential Life: "I lived in Founders Hall as a freshman and then moved into Joyce, which was brand new, with another quad dorm being built when I was there." Sometimes guys low on gas would "borrow" from construction vehicles there, he recalls. "I opted out of Air Force ROTC" (he wore glasses which precluded him from flight training) "but remember watching guys march on Tuesdays. It turned out that not joining was a big mistake because I ended up getting drafted in 1958: a six-month wonder with five years reserve duty in peacetime despite a few close calls with flare-ups around the world."

The arrival of 100 Hungarian refugees in 1956 for language studies exposed Bob and others to a whole new culture. "There was a lot of security in those times with concerns of Communist infiltration, but I got to know the guys really well. I remember driving in my little yellow Ford convertible with a guy named Martin who asked me just to take him for a ride. They would just sit in the car and smile. They were so happy just to be riding in a car. They were all university students and very bright in their studies." Bob got a job in the dining hall in order to eat better. Standard fare was "terrible," he remembers, with spaghetti and beets as a regular item, "and they'd ration out one glass of milk per guy. With the job, I got to work a lot of banquets that had steak and lots of good things. And lots of us ate in Winooski" at The Mill, enjoying "a steak for three dollars and a beer for a buck."

Proctor-priests lived in dorms with the students then. "One time my junior year some guys brought a cow into the dormitory at night" he says. After Fr. Stankiewicz encountered both the cow and the mess it had made, "we all were locked up for a week." Bob also remembers a buddy who would lie on his dorm room floor with a golf tee in his mouth and another pal would hit drives out the open window. He recalls how men mailed laundry home in special big boxes because the dorms had no washing machines then.

Sports: "I played mostly intramural, and after the varsity football ended, since it cost too much, we played interclass, and it was savage. Each class had a team," he says. Bob's class had a few leftover varsity players, but too many men got hurt so interclass football stopped. "I played linebacker and center at about 170 pounds," he recalls. Bob was golf team captain and got to know Doc Jacobs, the legendary coach and athletic director, who seemed to like him and invited him to "manage" the basketball team, made up largely of blue-chip Jacobs recruits of Polish heritage from New Jersey. That got him along on road trips with the other Big Men on Campus, including occasional free trips home to Worcester for games.

Socializing: As president of the junior class, Bob was instrumental in booking a great jazz concert on campus featuring a big-name Dixieland band, Wild Bill Davidson, followed by a big dance on Burlington's waterfront at an old club—a hearty party that kept dean of discipline "the Dagger" (Fr. Lorenzo D'Agostino, SSE) and his crew of enforcers on their toes, he recalls. The text beside Bob's senior yearbook photo calls him "Mr. Campus" and reveals his popularity: "…Bob had a finger in just about every pie on campus. A keen mind and a wonderful sense of humor, ranging from Donald Duck to Jerry Lewis, became Bob's collegiate trademark."

Faculty/Staff: As a business major, Bob thought professor Joe Amrhein was "fantastic," and Edmundite Fathers Moriarty, Dupont and Poirier were favorites too, as was Martin Donohue, a young language instructor at the time who became a diocesan priest in Worcester.

Where it led: Bob's father died his senior year, but he saw his education through and was the first in his family to graduate college. He married his high school sweetheart, Maureen, in 1958. "I was enthralled with a company called IBM which recruited on campus," he says, but IBM closed the office in Montpelier where Bob was to report and he didn't want to go to Boston and sell IBM typewriters (the alternative) so he ended up instead with Burroughs, an office equipment company, and then went to work for a sister and her husband who ran a country club resort outside Worcester. He made good connections there with Wyman Gordon executives who entertained at the club, and Bob joined the firm in 1961, working there until 1997 when he retired as VP of sales. He and his wife raised four daughters, including Beth, and a son. He and Frank White's family knew one another even before Greg and Beth married. Both were active in the community of families with special-needs children around Worcester.

Greg White '81

Getting Here: Greg heard good things about Saint Michael's all his life because of his dad's stories. He liked the campus on an informal tour, so he applied and enrolled when accepted but he never figured on the welcome he'd get from Mother Nature. "The first two months of freshman year in 1977 it rained nonstop, torrential and never-ending. I thought maybe this isn't the climate I thought it would be," he says. Then that winter, the epic blizzard of '78 buried the folks back home near Boston, but greater Burlington only saw a couple inches of snow. "Communication wasn't what it is today and we talked once a week on the payphone to home—no cell phones or internet or texting—so it wasn't till afterward I realized I'd dodged a huge bullet being in Burlington," he says.

Sports: A high school hockey player, Greg wanted to keep playing at college and Saint Michael's had an organized club team with coaches for his first three years, "but then with such limited budgets for club teams, they were going to stop it so me and another senior brought in a recent graduate to coach us and created our own schedule." Greg and his teammates showed their dedication by practicing in St. Albans at 9 p.m. every night when they could get ice time. "You had to be much more resourceful then," he says. Training for athletes was more self-directed, with no concept of nutrition.

Varied interests: "I had the bug for theater and McCarthy was a new building at the time I started," he says. "They had a fall and spring play and I was in all the productions including as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and all my hockey and rugby buddies showed up and gave me endless grief—but it was a lot of fun. I guess I was a Renaissance man back then."

Naturally, Don and Joanne Rathgeb were favorite professors of Greg from his theater work, and he did some summer stock with them between his junior and senior years, while another summer, he worked on the college grounds crew.

Academics: At first Greg thought he'd be pre-med but eventually he became a political science major with an eye to that career. He remembers a class discussion of the Watergate scandal led by Professor Wynn Kernstock, a retired military officer, who observed that only in America would there have been a peaceful transition without the tanks moving through streets when a disgraced leader was forced from power as Nixon was. It made an impression that motivated him with a sense of deep patriotism in his later state and national political work.

Social life: "Campus was great socially… the drinking age was 18 then, so downtown was much more active with college kids too, and we had the Ratskeller serving beer on campus starting my junior year. Of course I saw the flip side of all that when I became a prosecutor, but back in the day, happy hour at Last Chance or Finnegans or What Ales You was a big part of night life. As for music, a lot of St. Mike's kids were very 'crunchy granola' and big followers of the Grateful Dead… Bruce Springsteen was huge when I was there too, plus we had a lot of student bands, P-Day was huge and you'd have local bands in the quarries beyond Founders. A TV in your room was the exception and we'd all pile in that room to watch Monday Night Football. People were more active playing sports, studying, and going skiing was a big thing—spring and night skiing."

Headlines: Greg remembers the assassination attempt on President Reagan his junior year, and one on Pope John Paul II his senior year, which also saw the killing of John Lennon and the Iran hostage situation. The U.S. went from a depressing time politically to a time of national optimism under Reagan starting in 1980, says Greg. `Emblematic of that was the U.S. winning the hockey Olympic gold at nearby Lake Placid. "People were going wild on campus," he says.

Where it led: After law school at Suffolk in Boston, Greg was a prosecutor chiefly in homicide cases for 15 years and ran unsuccessfully for District Attorney, then became general counsel in the (Massachusetts) Department of Labor. That led to an invitation from the Bush Administration to work in the U.S. Labor Department in Washington, which Greg did for two years, flying home on weekends. Now, with an active St. Mike's alumni group in Boston, he's at a lot of events either with his own classmates, old teammates or contemporaries of his father , and he's enjoyed playing in alumni hockey games. He still plays hockey with the state police, runs marathons, teaches at Clark University in Worcester and has his own law practice. "It makes for interesting days," he says.

Christopher White '04

Getting Here: Given his roots, it was a natural decision for Chris to give St. Mike's a close look. After a visit to campus as a high school junior, "I knew that I was going there," says Chris, who applied early admission. "Just walking on campus I knew it was someplace I wanted to be. The people were so down-to-earth, friendly, had similar backgrounds and it just felt like the perfect fit," he says.

Sports: Chris wasn't focused much on sports at first beyond being "psyched" at the proximity of good skiing. But then he met a rugby player who invited Chris to join one of the club's practices in the snow on the 300s field. "I liked backyard football so I thought I'd come by. I ended up eating with them afterward and from then on I was on the rugby team for the rest of my time at St. Mike's and absolutely loved it," he says. "It was a transforming experience for me, a true highlight, and I ended up being team president as a senior," says Chris. "You're responsible for booking the bus and hotels, lining up games, using leadership skills, and it really helped me understand how I wanted to go forward in business someday," he says.

Residence Life: Between his rugby friends and freshman-year neighbors, Chris found a core of friends for life. "My friends from fourth floor Ryan freshman year are the best friends I've ever had. We all stayed really close. We were tight from the beginning, based on shared experiences like playing soccer in the halls at night, knee hockey, snowball fights after fire alarms at 2 a.m." His class may have been one of the last to still use the land line phones in the dorms.

Headlines: "I had a journalism class the morning of September 11, 2001. I remember walking into a class with computers in the room and seeing something on CNN. The professor came in soon and said, "There's been what looks like a terrorist attack so we're going to cancel classes, go back and call family in New York if you have them." Chris recalls how empty the normally-bustling quad was walking back to his room, where he watched reports unfolding along with some friends who had family in New York, creating "a sense of worry, people wondering 'is my family safe?' Everyone just sat in the room somber and in shock wondering what was going on and no one went out on such a bright and sunny day."

Academics: Chris majored in journalism, logging countless hours in Bergeron putting out the online magazine The Echo and developing communications skills that he uses now in sales. He enjoyed Professor David Mindich's interactive style in leading class discussions, and business classes with Eric Nelson, who was also the rugby coach, who got Chris thinking of a sales career as a possibility. Nelson also helped him land a marketing internship with the Vermont Expos baseball team. As a final project for his journalism degree, Chris produced an online magazine, For the Love of the Game, about athletes who compete just because of their passion.

Spiritual life: "I did a lot with Campus Ministry. I love Father Mike (SSE Superior General Rev. Michael Cronogue). My freshman year, I took a seminar with him and he had us to go to schools in Winooski and do big-brother type stuff which I ended up doing all four years." Where it led: After applying for some journalism jobs, he decided to try sales like his mother and "just got lucky" to land with EmC, a large Fortune 500 company that was building a sales program at the time. "I lived in Boston five years, moved to Manhattan two years (courting Sunny in Philadelphia long-distance over that period), then moved to Philadelphia working for SAP Global where I do similar sales work as with EmC." He and Sunny married in 2010 and all the St. Mike's family generations were there, along with scores of alumni who are family friends.

Sunny's story parallels Chris's in some general aspects of campus life during the same years, but was quite different in other ways. She applied to colleges across the U.S., but some friends in her small Pennsylvania hometown told her St. Mike's would be perfect for her. She knew it was for her as soon as she stepped on campus. Sunny moved quickly to declare her major. Like Chris, she loved her marketing class with professor Eric Nelson, who helped her find an internship with Wachovia Bank.

Connections from her internship directly led to her first job out of college with Nuveen Investments near Philadelphia. From there she became a trader/ investment adviser for PNC Bank, then she took on advanced business study at St. Joseph's College. Recently she joined an insurance brokerage company for the medical industry, helping launch a company, which is the type of challenge she loves.

Sunny lived her first St. Mike's year in Lyons before living on North Campus in Linnehan as a sophomore. Next, she lived off-campus in an apartment near Church Street. She loved listening to Burlington blues legend Big Joe Burrell play at Halverson's on Thursday's, and the active club scene. "Chris never moved off-campus so we had totally different experiences, which is maybe another reason we didn't run into each other so much as students."

Now they say they get together with the old St. Mike's gang as much as they can. "I'll have the exact same group of friends in 20 years," Chris says. "It's a special thing to know that my grandfather had some similar experiences in similar place that we all love. It's a common bond that we all had and shared, and I take a lot of pride in it. When my high school or work friends meet my St. Mike's friends, they say, 'St. Mike's people are good people.' That's what you always hear, in relationships across generations."

Greg shares the feeling, and recalls how Chris told his parents even before he applied, "I'm going to St. Mike's—I'm destined to!" Greg says, "He kind of knew from early on that's where he was going to end up, and it wouldn't shock me, if and when we have grandkids, it will happen again."

Learn What Matters