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Alumni Newsletters

The alumni newsletters are written by Jeff Otterbein of the communications department. If you have an alumni note, email jotterbein@xavierhighschool.org.

JUNE EDITION

Magaziner '12 Tackles The Plastic Problem

In the 1967 film “The Graduate,” Dustin Hoffman plays a 21-year-old college grad looking to start his career. One word is uttered to him by a neighbor: “Plastics.”

Now, 52 years later the U.S. has a problem. Plastic might be convenient, but it ends up in landfills and takes hundreds of years to decompose. It ends up in our oceans and waterways.

It is the subject of much concern in the environmental world. Great minds are trying to figure out solutions.

Enter Sam Magaziner, a 2012 Xavier graduate.

He recently won first place in the 2019 George Washington University New Venture Competition for the product Plast-Ways, a spray that contains plastic-eating microbes designed to help plastic decompose quicker, expanding the lifespan of landfills.

Magaziner is co-founder, principal investigator, and chief scientific officer of Envirobe Inc. Growing up in Essex, Magaziner spent time in nature, whether it was fishing, boating or sailing. He saw the plastic bottles and other items in various waterways. When he moved to New York for college, he saw even more of the man-made pollution starting to choke the earth.

The other co-founder of Envirobe is Manyung Emma Hon, a rising senior at George Washington. She grew up in Hong Kong and witnessed China’s massive pollution issues. So they joined forces on Plast-Ways.

Magaziner holds a B.A. in Biochemistry from Columbia University, from which he graduated magna cum laude in 2016. His interest in environmental pollution led him in 2018 to receiving an MPhil in Biochemistry from the University of Cambridge.

Magaziner resides in Washington, D.C., and is a researcher for the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. He works as an Intramural Research Fellow in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In the fall, he will attend New York University School of Medicine, accepted into the NYU Langone’s Medical Scientist Training Program, which is a M.D.- Ph.D. degree program to educate future physician-scientists.

He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. James R. Magaziner of Essex and brother of Tyler, a 2010 Xavier graduate, and James II.

At Xavier, Magaziner wasn’t particularly interested in science. He thought he’d major in English and become a writer. The school did leave a lasting impression of “improve lives around you.”

“The sense to affect change around you, I think Xavier is pretty good at that, with service hours and involvement in the community,” Magaziner said. “The school also fosters a relationship with students that treats them as equals and not just as a bunch high school kids. That’s the vibe I always got, especially as you become a junior and a senior.”

In the back of the 2012 yearbook, his parents, Susan and Jim, wrote, “With love and respect for your amazing accomplishments, the greatest of these your resolve and passion in remaining true to yourself. May God bless your journey as you continue diligent preparation for a life of significance and servitude to others.”

Now, seven years later that is his path.

“I want to leave the world a better place than when I came into it, effect the most change for the better and impact people’s lives,” Magaziner said.

Sam’s mother Susan reflected on those words from the yearbook.

“Jim and I wrote these words in the yearbook because we believe that leading a significant life is one that reflects service, just as Sam and his brother Tyler were witness to each day at Xavier. From the time Sam was little he was always curious about the world around him. Forever asking questions we bought him the ‘Big Book of Why.’

“Sam’s curiosity and his thirst for knowledge passionately catapulted him into the life of a dedicated and diligent student who was continually preparing for whatever came next, both in school, on the lacrosse field, and in every aspect of his life.

“In writing these words in Sam’s yearbook it was clear that he had been and continued to be forever preparing for whatever was coming. At the time of his graduation from Xavier that path had not yet presented, but for certain it was clear Sam was a man on a mission, and for whatever that mission may be, it would undoubtedly include readiness and a life of service.”

MAY EDITION

Herlihy '16 Making Most Of Penn State

Dan Herlihy ’16 is a junior in the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Cybersecurity.

He’s already using that education in a big way.

Herlihy recently was named technology director for THON, the world’s largest student-run philanthropy that for more than 40 years has raised money for Four Diamonds at Penn State Children’s Hospital to help defeat childhood cancer. Herlihy is director for the 2020 Campaign that will culminate in February.

The Four Diamonds fund covers the cost of cancer care not covered by insurance and each year helps about 500 children, according to a THON fact sheet.

Herlihy, who grew up in Wallingford and was captain of the swimming team as a Xavier senior, recently took the time to send an email to Principal Brendan Donohue.

“I wanted to write to you about how my time at Xavier helped me recently,” Herlihy said. “In my position [as THON technology director], I have the opportunity to select [20] captains to serve under me and be leaders within our community.

“In all of their interviews, I asked them how they would embody the phrase to lead is to serve because this phrase has been a guiding principle for me in THON and my life in general, and I wanted the people I selected to be able to live up to my standards of a leader and help to create new leaders for the future.

“I would like to thank you and Xavier for not only teaching me how to be a leader, but also how to recognize leadership and foster it in others. These skills have been some of the most important and useful in my life since I graduated, and Xavier played a large role in developing them in me. Please continue the good work you do in shaping future leaders because it definitely pays off in the end.”

THON is now a yearlong effort with multiple events, culminating in a 46-hour, no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon with over 700 students. In the final four hours of that February weekend, family speakers tell of their experiences with THON.

In total, there are 16,500 students involved in THON and each year they dedicate about 5 million hours to the philanthropy.

“For THON 2019, we raised $10,621,683.76,” Herlihy said.

He said the money was equivalent to:

  • §424,868 hours of music therapy
  • §53,109 hours of nutritional therapy
  • §70,811 days of out-patient treatment
  • §14,162 lab experiments
  • §7,081 days for a team to manage all patient needs
  • §14,163 routine maintenance visits for treatment and therapy.

We recently caught up with Herlihy.

How does one get selected as the Technology Director for THON?

THON is broken into 16 committees that each handle a different aspect of running THON. Some examples are Finance, Donor Alumni Relations, Public Relations, and Technology. Each committee has a number of captains that have a specific area or job that they specialize in and run for the year. Typically, someone will be a captain for a year or two before applying to be a director, who leads one of the committees.

I was a technology captain for the past two years and decided I wanted to take on a larger role and help to lead others. I had to apply, there was an interview with last year’s directors and this year’s executive director, and then I was selected!

Tell us a little bit about what it means personally for you to be involved with the philanthropy of THON.

THON has completely shaped my college experience in a number of ways. Primarily, it has given me an amazing outlet to contribute my time, efforts, and talents to something greater than myself. I’m able to use my skills to have a tangible impact on thousands of people’s lives.

“I have had the incredible privilege to build relationships with families that THON helps, and I have seen the huge impact that THON has on their lives. On family visits and trips, I saw the kids’ faces light up when they saw us, and I saw the joy that THON weekend brings. Throughout the year, we receive letters, videos, and updates from our families. All the families I meet through THON inspire me to do more every day for this cause.”

How much time do you spend on THON?

I typically spend 20-30-plus hours a week on THON work.

As the technology director of THON, what will you be doing, what are your goals?

As the Technology Director, my job is mostly to work with the other 15 committees to help them accomplish their tasks. They ask us to design new tools or make changes to our existing tools to better suit their needs. Our software provides vital functionality that enables THON to spread its mission, raise funds, and host events at scale. This year, some of my overarching goals include improving communication channels within THON, improving documentation and information resources for the entire organization, and improving the scalability of our websites and services to facilitate future growth.

Managing 20 people is no easy task. How do you fit that in with school?

THON is a student-run philanthropy, which is something that we’re very proud of. To that end, we ask all of our volunteers to put school first before THON, and as a Director it’s no different. I’m still a part of the honors college, which requires us to maintain a certain GPA. A large part of my job is being able to prioritize tasks and responsibilities, not just within THON, but in all aspects of my life.

Class of ’69 Reunion

Mark the calendar. In October, Xavier will hold a special three-day 50th reunion to celebrate the Class of 1969.

As part of the reunion, there will be a pair of receptions, including one before the Homecoming football game, a prayer service to honor classmates who have passed, and a class brunch.

Please stay tuned for more information through the spring and summer. We will be positing updates on Facebook and XavierHighSchool.org.

If you have any questions or would like to help, please contact Associate Director of Advancement Greg Jaskot (gjaskot@xavierhigschool.org).

We look forward to seeing you this October!

APRIL EDITION

Brian Meskill '06 Serving The Country


There are snow-covered mountains as far as you can see. As Brian Meskill ’06 says, you’d think you were in Colorado or Vermont.

But he’s about 6,500 miles from Vermont, serving in Afghanistan as an Air Force Judge Advocate (JAG).

“I'm currently stationed at Bagram Air Field, one of the larger main operating bases here, in northern Afghanistan at the foothills of the Hindu Kush,” Meskill said recently by email. “It's actually quite a beautiful area. If it weren't for the occasional rocket or mortar round fired at the base, you'd think it could be Colorado or Vermont. It's located about 45 minutes north of the capital, Kabul.

“Though the base isn't much to look at [mainly concrete, gravel, sandbags, T-walls, containerized housing, and barbed wire], on clear days you can see these enormous snow-covered mountains which surround the base 360 degrees. Bagram Air Field was at one point in control of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and you can actually see some of the old ruins on base that were destroyed by mortars. The history of Afghanistan is fascinating.”

The Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, for which Meskill works, is operated by the 4th Infantry Division. He is embedded within the unit as an “individual augmentee.”

“We work every day, usually 12 hours, advising on issues such as fiscal law (making sure purchases to support the war effort comply with U.S. law), operational law (advising on rules of engagement and escalation of force), and administrative law (advising on investigations looming into what happened when something goes wrong or somebody does something wrong),” Meskill said.

“Many of the service members we brief and advise on ROE [rules of engagement] and EOF [escalation of force] are going out to train, advise, and assist Afghan forces out at forward operating bases under austere conditions and heightened danger. They are the ones doing the real work and who deserve the real credit.”

Meskill has been in Afghanistan for about three months and his orders have him there for seven months. He credits Xavier with skills he uses to this day. He was on the football and wrestling teams, and in his senior year he won the Ironman Award in wrestling.

“I'd say Xavier taught me the value of hard work, persistence, and critical thinking,” Meskill said. “In athletics, with wrestling and football, there was always a high value in a team effort to accomplish the mission. If you put less than 100 percent in a game/match/practice, that affected the team or your practice partner. It can be similar out here. There are a lot of people participating in a mission, and if one person in the chain lacks situational awareness, that can have serious consequences for the mission.

“In academics, most of my Xavier teachers placed value on creative thinking. That's required when something is standing in the way of a mission requirement, and we need to think outside the box and find a different, lawful way to get it done.”

Meskill said he misses his wife Ashley and family.

“It is certainly much easier to communicate back home than it was back when the war started so I’m thankful for that,” Meskill said. “There are some areas with OK Wi-Fi, and you can talk over the phone using certain phone apps. I also miss the freedom of movement. I’m mainly constricted to a small part of base for most of the time and it can get a little claustrophobic.”

He plans to separate from active duty by the end of 2019 or early 2020.

“I am ready to head back home to Connecticut,” Meskill said. “In Connecticut, I'd like to work for a law firm or as legal counsel within a corporation.”

Class of ‘69 Reunion

Planning is underway for a 50th reunion for the Class of ’69 in early October. The contact here at Xavier is Associate Director of Advancement Greg Jaskot at gjaskot@xavierhighschool.org

The History of Xavier

The history of Xavier started with a vision for a Catholic high school to serve those in Middlesex County, and 56 years later students come from many parts of the state, about 60 cities and towns, to attend the school.

And now, 23 chapters later, the history of Xavier is in the books, or we should say, on the website. So many memorable moments, so many passionate people, so much to write about.

From how Xavier got its school colors and nickname to how the closing school prayer came to be, from our sports version of Mount Rushmore to what then-Gov. John Dempsey said at the dedication of the school, it's all there. Yet, we also know we'll add more chapters as time goes on.

A navigation bar lists all the chapters no matter which page you're on. Go to https://www.xavierhighschool.org/about-us/xavier-history-tradition


MARCH EDITION

Xavier-Mercy Roots Run Deep

Left to right, Emma Cahill, Chris Cahill, Kelly Cahill, Owen Cahill, Rob Davis (back), Alex Davis (front), Kyle Davis (back), Melissa Davis (front), Rick Riordan (back), Patrick Cahill (front), Nolan Proulx, Jay Proulx (back), Addy Proulx (front), Shana Proulx, Jeanie Riordan


Having been in existence for more than 50 years each, Xavier and Mercy roots run deep in many families.

Such is the case with the Riordans. Rick Riordan ’69 is coming up on his 50th class reunion. He has two sons-in-law who are Xavier grads. His grandson is a junior at Xavier. His first wife is a Mercy grad, and their three daughters are Mercy grads. A granddaughter also goes to Mercy.

That is nine and more could be on the way. Three other grandchildren live locally.

Riordan played a lot of sports at Xavier and was on the 1969 basketball team that went to the state semifinals before losing to Wilbur Cross and Super John Williamson, who went on to a professional career in the ABA and NBA.

Riordan says he got a lot out of sports and a lot out of Xavier.

“Sports were a main outlet,” Riordan said. “If it were not for baseball and basketball, bowling, golf, tennis, whatever the sport, my sense of what it means to win and lose, try and fail, overachieve and underachieve, compete, focus, pay attention to details would not be developed to the extent they are today. I would not have had the experiences to pass on to my kids and grandkids, specifically as they relate to business and life. Because of sports, I competed in business and life.”

Riordan also is emphatic about what Xavier as a whole meant to him.

“I would not be the person I am today were it not for Xavier. Period. Xavier was there when I needed it most, although I didn't realize it at the time,” Riordan said. “It became the father figure I never had, a brother figure even though I had three brothers."

“The sense I have is not something you can directly point to, or an event that happened, or a specific teacher, or a defined circumstance. But I have never forgotten Xavier. It provided learning when I needed it, discipline when I needed it, the sanctity I needed, fellowships, friendships. It helped me start to ‘Be A Man.’ ”

Riordan had to overcome two things early in life that no child should have to face.

“My father died before I was two years old,” Riordan said. “I never knew him as I spent most of my first two years in Waterford at the Seaside Sanatorium, a facility for children with exposure to tuberculosis (never confirmed)."

His mother never remarried, raised five children, was a “devout Catholic,” and instrumental in his life.

“After the first year I am sure I would have left were it not for my mom, her prayers, her support, her guidance, and Xavier's acceptance of me for who I was,” Riordan said.

He credits others at Xavier, from Pat Ingellis in guidance to Bill McKenna in administration to many of his coaches, including Pete Sipples, Terry Garstka, and Artie Kohs.

“I remember Coach Kohs not only as the basketball coach, but for his insistence on playing team pressure, full court, and all game,” Riordan said. “I remember having to run half-court and full-court drills. I remember him challenging me to do better, and then do better. And not thanking him enough for finding me during an intramural basketball game my freshman year, and having me join the team.”

Riordan said he made a personal decision not to play baseball as a junior, concentrating on grades, which helped get him into college.

He remembers that the 1969 basketball team, which finished 20-4, was a “great group of players.” He said personally he felt he could have done better that season, yet “when I consider where I started, playing intramural basketball as a freshman, to where that senior season ended, there was nothing that took away from the joy of that season.”

During his time at Xavier, Riordan played a lot of basketball and baseball with Rich Magner and Tony Jaskot, each ’69 grads and each working here now, though Jaskot will retire as athletic director at the end of the school year. Magner is the director of guidance.

They also played together in American Legion ball on some great teams. Middletown was state champion in 1968 and state runners-up in 1969 and 1970.

“Those teams also included at various times other Xavier athletes Scott Cichon, Ed Mann, Joe McCabe, PJ Daniels, Joe Jaskot,” Riordan said.

Riordan once faced pitcher Mike Flanagan of the Manchester, N.H., team in an American Legion New England Regional game. Flanagan would go on to win 167 Major League Baseball games primarily with the Baltimore Orioles.

“Like with Super John at Wilbur Cross, I will never forget how good Mike Flanagan was, especially since he was a lefty and I batted left-handed,” Riordan said. “I seem to remember I tried to bunt once to get on base - to no avail. No match!”

Riordan initially went to Northeastern University in Boston, but it didn't work out. He got an associate’s degree in accounting from Middlesex Community College before eventually getting a bachelor’s degree and a Masters. He worked for various United Technologies Companies for 30 years before taking an early retirement, but went back to work a few more times. As he says he has “retired” three times and now lives in North Carolina.

“Throughout this time, I have been forever thankful for the support and stability my current wife of 40 years (Jeanie) and my ex-wife (Paula, Mercy Class of '69) have provided our children and their families, which has allowed me to move forward and finally ‘Be A Man.’ ”

The Riordan Xavier-Mercy Family Tree

Xavier

  • Richard Riordan: Third Xavier graduating class, Class of '69
  • Christopher Cahill: Son-in-law; married to oldest daughter Kelly; Class of '90
  • Jay Proulx: Son-in-law; married to youngest daughter Shana; Class of '96
  • Owen Cahill: Grandson; son to Chris and Kelly Cahill; Class of '20
  • Mercy

  • Paula (Dunn) Tranchina: mother of daughters Kelly, Melissa and Shana Riordan, Class of '69
  • Kelly Riordan Cahill: daughter; Class of '90
  • Melissa Riordan Davis: daughter, Class of '93
  • Shana Riordan Proulx : daughter, graduate Class of '95
  • Emma Cahill: granddaughter; daughter of Chris and Kelly Cahill; Class of '20

  • Looking For A Night Out

    March 9-10: Sister Act, the musical comedy, is being performed by Mercy and Xavier students at Mercy. The March 9 show is at 7 p.m.; the March 10 performance is at 2 p.m. Admission is $10 for students and $15 for adults. Tickets can be purchased online at www.mercyhigh.com and at the door,

    March 23: The 27th annual auction, “A Night Under The Stars,” is March 23 at Xavier.



    FEBRUARY EDITION

    “I’ve become convinced that God somehow finds beauty in people who have managed to glue themselves back together after having been shattered by life, and then calls those people to reach out to others in need of healing.”

    – Greg Masztal ‘76, shown below with his wife Linda

    Who Could Have Predicted This?

    Greg Masztal was ordained as a Deacon in the Episcopal Church on Dec. 1.

    It was a calling too powerful to ignore but one that he could not have predicted when he was a student at Xavier.

    It would not be an easy road, leading up to his ordination.

    “I didn’t see how I would make it through the discernment process, and three years of full-time school, all while working a full-time job and supporting a family,” Masztal said. “I thought at some point I would hit an exit point and be relieved to be out of the process, but I decided to trust that somehow the Spirit was leading me along this path.

    “This past June I graduated from the School for Deacons in Berkeley, Cal., with a Bachelor’s Degree in Diaconal Studies, and was ordained a Deacon in the Diocese of San Joaquin, Cal.”

    Most deacons are not paid, so he still works as an auditor for the Machinists Union while also serving as a deacon.

    “That’s the interesting quality of Deacons: They bring a lifetime of secular skills into the Church, which results in some surprising combinations, and they live their faith out in the world, which also brings some surprising encounters,” Masztal said.

    The word deacon means servant, so that means a deacon will serve the church and the community in many ways.

    Masztal recently filled out an alumni update form on the Xavier web site, on which he listed these as favorite memories at Xavier: “Studying Jesus Christ Superstar in Brother Collins’ class; Sophomore Weekend; I was unreceptive to both at the time, but they echoed in my mind years later!”

    We asked him to expand on that.

    “I arrived at Xavier in my freshman year as a child devoid of faith, hope, and love. Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J., head of Homeboy Industries, says ‘No child who has hope joins a gang,’ and I can testify that living without hope is a dark place to be,” Masztal said.

    “ ‘Survive one more day’ was my mantra for all of my high school years, although at times it morphed into a serious question. From that dark place, class standing, choice of college — anything past a future of just tomorrow is meaningless. Looking back I wonder how many others in my class were stuck in that darkness.

    “I attended Religion classes as a person who wasn’t sure if I was angry at God, or skeptical of God’s existence. In one of my freshman classes Br. Collins used the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar to compare it to the Gospel. I became fascinated that the film could actually correlate to the Gospel in some way. Since we weren’t focusing on belief — which I would have stridently disputed — I instead became enamored of the music, and can still remember many of the lyrics.

    “In sophomore year we were required to attend the Sophomore Weekend Retreat. None of the discussions or talks could reach me, but sitting in the chapel that weekend watching the sunlight streaming through the stained glass while listening to Morning Has Broken,’ ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’, ‘Let It Be,’ was a visual and auditory experience that imprinted in my mind, and then sank deep.”

    Still, what was coming next would change his life even more.

    “In the last month of my senior year I met a girl (Linda Wolff, Mercy ’76) who decided I was a worthwhile, lifetime project,” Masztal said. “It took her seven years to make me realize that there really was something called unconditional love, that hope for the future was not filled with fear, and that faith was something that was up to me.

    “My first steps at the rekindling of faith included rereading ‘Good News for Modern Man,’ which I had received freshman year. The memory of the songs and stained glass of the chapel from Sophomore Weekend resurfaced then and continues to echo in my mind.

    “It took a long time to bury the ghosts of a broken childhood, but they were replaced with the reality of the Spirit. Linda and I have been married 35 years, have two daughters, teachers in high school (English Lit and Music), and I’d say her project turned out OK, thanks to some help from the Spirit.

    “In some ways I feel like I’m living life backwards. Who waits to the end of their working career to finally finish college? Who chooses to commit themselves to a religious path just as a secure retirement comes into sight? Some people start life with all the best things of life, and end it in sheer misery, but somehow I’ve been blessed with living life the other way around.

    “I’ve become convinced that God somehow finds beauty in people who have managed to glue themselves back together after having been shattered by life, and then calls those people to reach out to others in need of healing.”

    Masztal hopes to make a difference among those who might be disenfranchised.

    “In my theology classes at the School for Deacons I learned there was a time when workers’ rights, women’s rights, civil rights, religious rights, environmental concern — and yes, even gay rights — were all interwoven in a cable of faith through the Social Gospel Movement.”

    He said things have changed and “we find ourselves in a society centered solely on materialism and the acquisition of wealth, with no concern for the common good.”

    His dreams, his hopes: be a voice of faith for all.

    Hittin’ The Road: Boston Alumni Social

    The Xavier Traveling Road Show stopped in Boston Jan. 30.

    Headmaster Dave Eustis and a contingent of other Xavier staff members headed to Beantown to meet and greet alumni from the area.

    By all accounts, it was a fun night for all. It is part of an effort by Eustis and the advancement office, headed by director Liz Whitty and associate director Greg Jaskot (’00), to travel around and spend time with the Falcon Faithful.

    More than 20 people came out for the event, hosted by Doug Farrington, father of Bryan ’05 and Kevin ’07. The gathering was at Marcum LLP, on the 17th floor at 53 State Street.

    Special guest was former Xavier quarterback Tim Boyle, who was in the Connecticut area for about a week before heading back to Green Bay. Boyle is a quarterback with the Packers, learning under Aaron Rodgers, one of the best.

    Neither snow nor sleet nor rain can stop the Xavier Traveling Road Show. After all, what’s a little snow squall in New England.

    Xavier would like to thank Farrington, Boyle and all who came out for the event.

    Boyle also visited the school while he was here, visiting with former teachers and coaches.

    Save The Date: Auction Is March 23

    Xavier’s 27th annual auction is March 23, so save that date … lots of great auction items every year … a fun night … all for a good cause.

    Last year’s auction was attended by over 300 parents, alumni, staff and friends. And they helped raise over $50,000, which was used to support financial aid, scholarships, and operating expenses. A portion also went toward the stadium bleacher project.

    Xavier’s Hall of Famers

    Matt Moravek (’88, football at Xavier and Wesleyan) was one of three Xavier athletes and one team to enter the Middletown Hall of Fame this year.

    Hugh O’Gorman (’83, an outstanding Xavier soccer goalie) and Nick Puorro (’03, a baseball captain at Xavier who is now a competitive weightlifter with numerous honors) also were honored, as was the 1978 Xavier track team, Class L state champs. Supporting them were former track assistant coaches Rich Feitel and John Chesnes.

    Former football coach and current athletic director Tony Jaskot was there to see his former athletes get honored. So, too, was guidance director Rich Magner, a former Falcons’ basketball and baseball coach. Jaskot and Magner, also outstanding athletes at Xavier in the early days, are each in the Middletown Hall of Fame.

    Larry McHugh, president of the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, was in the crowd as usual. McHugh, the former Xavier football coach, was inducted in the first class, in 1994. Xavier has been well-represented over the years.

    JANUARY EDITION

    McKenna Turned Boys Into Men

    Few people left their mark on this school like Bill McKenna: teacher, coach, driver’s ed instructor, administrator, mentor, friend, confidant. You name it, he was that person who touched so many.

    Bill McKenna, longtime Xavier teacher, coach and administrator

    The Xavier man, in all that the label means, died Dec. 28. McKenna was 82 years old. His funeral was at St. John’s Church in Old Saybrook before an overflowing crowd; his son Bill ’88 gave an emotional eulogy describing what he meant to family and friends.

    Xavier Athletic Director Tony Jaskot wrote on Twitter: “I've had the honor of being coached by Bill back in the ‘60s, coaching with Bill when he was my backfield coach in the ‘80s, working with him for many years at X and, most of all, being a friend of Bill's for so many years. Truly a Great Gentleman and Family Man. Rest in peace.”

    Guidance director and former basketball and baseball coach Rich Magner called him a great man and said he was respected by everyone. Separately, former athletic director Artie Kohs used those same words, a testament to the characteristics that made McKenna who he was. So many people thought of him in those terms.

    A story on McKenna on the Xavier Facebook page had nearly 10,000 views and nearly 80 comments. Again a testament to what people felt about the man.

    McKenna was at Xavier for 35 years before retiring, but then taught at Mercy, finally spending five years at St. Bernard in Uncasville as headmaster.

    He leaves his wife of 55 years, Patricia, and their four children and 12 grandchildren. Memorial donations can be made to Mercy and Xavier High Schools of Middletown.

    His obituary also said that he will be remembered as a gentleman, family man and man of faith. That said it all.

    Well, there actually was one more thing: his love of ice cream, known to family and friends, and especially those grandkids. His son mentioned ice cream in the eulogy, noting that he likely was eating Heavenly Hash.

    Holiday Sightings

    Ryan Ranney ’18 was back in Middletown over the holidays.

    He’s in the Army Reserves, stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, and loving it. He didn’t even mind the nine weeks of boot camp.

    Ryan Ranney, Xavier Class of 2018

    “It was long, vigorous and hot,” he said of the time spent at Fort Sill in Oklahoma for boot camp, which consisted of a lot of running and push-ups, rifle marksmanship and combative training. And some very longs days, basically 5 a.m. until 9 p.m.

    He was prepared, though, both mentally and physically.

    “I watched a lot of videos and did a lot of research,” Ranney said. “And our recruiters had training workouts for six months before we entered.”

    Ranney is studying nursing, and his unit is a forward surgical team. His ultimate goal is to become a police officer. The Army is something he has always wanted.

    “It’s been a lifelong dream,” Ranney said. “I’ve always looked up to the military.”

    It is the time of year when a lot of Xavier grads and members of the Xavier community stop in for a visit.

    On a recent day, Dr. Bill Longo ’68 was in athletic director Tony Jaskot’s office chatting and not far away six former Xavier football players -- Will Levis ’18 Kyle MacGillis ’18, Ryan Cartelli ’18, Peter Bencivengo ’18, Kevin Lawrence ’16, and Shorney Doucet ’15 - were in the weight room.

    Former Xavier teacher Peter Belmonte was back at the school a few days before Christmas. At the Opening of School Mass, Belmonte was called to the stage by Bishop Michael R. Cote for a special blessing as he started a new journey.

    On that same day he left Xavier for Washington to begin his formation to join the Xaverian Brothers. On a Xavier Instagram post noting the day, Belmonte thanked those who wished him the best and added: “The Bishop really said it best: what an incredible opportunity to work in the vineyard, and to follow Christ’s Spirit wherever it unfolds!!”

    The Artie Kohs Classic, a basketball tournament that was in its 15th year, took place Dec. 27-28, bringing out good crowds each night. Seated in his usual spot next to the Xavier bench was Artie. Especially touching was watching all the people come up to him to say hello.

    And hours before the first game of the tournament the Lenehans (Pat ’11) and Kevin (’08) were in the gym for some brotherly pickup action.

    Upcoming Events

    There is a Coaches vs. Cancer benefit doubleheader at Xavier Jan. 11. This also is the second time this season Xavier and Mercy have had a basketball doubleheader. Mercy will play Branford at 5:15 p.m., followed Xavier-Branford at 7. The Xavier pep band will be at the game to put a little pep in your step. …The Colter Abely Mid-Season Classic is Jan. 19 at Mercy, one of the premier events for Xavier wrestling. … Xavier Headmaster Dave Eustis and others from the school has been out and about greeting alumni at various events, including a trip to New York City Dec. 12 at the Princeton Club of New York. That was hosted by Brian Hetherington ’81. Next up is Boston Jan. 30 at Marcum Accountants at 53 State Street. That will be hosted by Douglas Farrington, p ’05 and ’07.

    Blast From The Past

    The April 1967 school newspaper carried this headline: “Xavier
    Boasts First Grandmother.” Mrs. John English, from the Xavier guidance office, was the grandma to a baby girl.

    DECEMBER EDITION

    The Xavier Alumni Magazine is in mailboxes this month and will appear on line. It is filled with many stories, including several on fathers and sons. One of the stories is the Kohs family history. Another is the Jaskot family history. Those names are such a big part of school history.

    This hit the cutting room floor, but we wanted to share what former basketball coach and athletic director Artie Kohs had to say on these topics.

    How he found Larry McHugh: Wally Camp, a legendary state high school basketball coach, told Kohs that he had someone teaching eighth graders in Durham who would be a good football coach, someone who had played in college, had a tryout with the New York Titans of the American Football League. And that was Larry McHugh. “We met and hit it off,” remembers Kohs. Now, all these years later, the football field is named after McHugh and the basketball gym after Kohs.

    Remembering the legends: Kohs recalls current AD Tony Jaskot and current guidance department director Rich Magner with nothing but fondness. He remembers telling the principal to get Jaskot in here; he’ll do anything. And now Jaskot has done anything and everything and will retire at the end of the year. “He spent his whole life here,” Kohs said, which of course is what Artie did. Magner took over for Kohs as basketball coach in 1979 and was a longtime baseball coach who played nine seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ system. He says Magner “forgot more about baseball than anyone in Middletown ever knew.”

    ‘My Adventures With Santa’

    Greg Bereski is working on a movie called “My Adventures With Santa,” to be released in December 2019. It’s starring Denise Richards (“Wild Things”), Barbara Eden (“I Dream Of Jeannie”), and Patrick Muldoon (“Starship Troopers”).

    Filming in Middletown, Cromwell and Meriden wrapped up at the end of October.

    Bereski, a 2003 graduate, recently asked a former teacher, David Applegate, if the Xavier community could collect paper. He came in and hauled it away.

    “I needed the paper for a scene in which Santa has a large stack of Christmas lists from kids across the world,” Bereski said. “He is very backed up on checking the lists so it is stacked high near his desk.”

    Bereski said he has been working on films for about eight years.

    “I started off doing background work as an extra in movies,” he said, listing “Heat” (Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy), “Great Hope Springs” (Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep), and “Grown Ups 2” (Adam Sandler and Kevin James).

    He then moved to the crew side of things and has worked as a production assistant, set dresser, but now “has spent most of my time on set as a prop master, creating, fabricating and managing props needed in the movie.”

    Time To Be Thankful

    A Thanksgiving Mass was held at Xavier Nov. 24. After the Mass, there was a special presentation.

    For the past three decades, Xavier has honored legacy families at each commencement. As part of a powerful presentation, alumni fathers receive a legacy medal from their graduating sons. The medal represents the shared values between generations of Xavier men and the passing of the torch to a new group of leaders.

    Four families that had not been honored because the tradition had not yet been established were recognized at the Mass:

    Matthew Natalie ’67 and son Matthew Natale ’88.
    Jeffrey Mefferd ’68 and son Christopher Mefferd ‘88.
    Charles Rayner ’68 and Geoffrey Rayner ‘89.
    Steven Perruccio ’69 and Todd Perruccio ’89.

    Two were present.

    Matt Natale gave the medal to his uncle Martin Natale. Martin was standing in for his brother, Matt’s late father.

    Steve Perruccio’s son Todd, living in California, could not be present so the medal was place on Steve by Xavier Headmaster Dave Eustis.

    Rev. David Choquette ’90 was the celebrant for the Mass, assisted by Rev. Frank Gilbert ’74.

    More Xavier family to be thankful for.

    Ryken Award Winner

    The Mass of the Feast of St. Francis Xavier was celebrated Dec. 3 at the school, with a special announcement at the end.

    Headmaster Dave Eustis announced this year’s winner of the Ryken Award, the highest award an adult can receive at Xavier. Director of Admissions Nick Grasso, a 2005 graduate, was the recipient in a vote by his peers.

    “My heart was racing [when I heard my name],” Grasso said.

    Grasso received thunderous applause with members of his family present.

    “It was amazing to have my family here,” Grasso said. “That was really special. It was a surprise to celebrate with them. My parents supported me through Xavier and college. They allowed me to go here, and made sacrifices for me to go to private schools and Catholic schools my whole life.”

    Part of the criteria for winning the award is to participate in the school’s community of faith, nurture students and recognize the importance of educating the whole person.

    Upcoming Events

    The annual Arthur Kohs Basketball Classic is Dec. 27 and 28 at the Xavier Gym, aptly named after Art Kohs. The schedule: Dec. 27: Waterford plays Glastonbury at 5:30 followed by Cheshire vs. Xavier at 7:15 p.m. Dec. 28: consolation game 5:30 p.m., championship game, 7:15 p.m. … The Christmas concert at Xavier is Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. The snow date is Dec. 12. … There is a Mercy-Xavier doubleheader to open the basketball season. Both games are against Norwich Free Academy Dec. 15 at Mercy. The Xavier boys play at 2 followed by the Mercy girls at 4. The Xavier hockey team starts its season that night against one of the best teams in the state, Ridgefield, at Wesleyan at 7 p.m.

    Fun Fact

    Brendan Bell ’05, assistant director of admissions and international student coordinator among other things here at Xavier, dug out these great statistics: there are 15 alumni working here and 15 parents of alumni working here. That represents tradition and the desire to come back … and give back.


    NOVEMBER EDITION

    Barry McCarthy ’69 is a retired minister. Well, sort of. When you’re a minister you never know when the call will come, retired or not.

    For the past 25 years he was the pastor of Congregational churches in New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

    Now he is the bridge interim minister at First Congregational Church in Coventry.

    “A calling to the work of Christ is a strange and wonderful thing that is also dangerous to the comfortable expectations of life,” McCarthy said. “Though I felt a call early in life, I didn’t respond to ministry until midlife. After working for many years in the advertising department at the Record Journal in Meriden I entered Lancaster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1992 and was ordained in the United Church of Christ as a Protestant minister three years later.

    “My original plan was to become a hospital chaplain, but God again had other plans and parish ministry became my focus for the past 25 years.”

    McCarthy said Xavier had an effect on what he eventually would do in life.

    “My time at Xavier from 1965 to 1969 was a defining part of that call to ministry. Many facets of my spiritual journey began there,” McCarthy said.

    “I still recall the freshman retreat and the guest preacher’s message titled What A Difference A Day Makes. More than 50 years later that message still reminds me to take each day as a gift and try to make a positive difference in someone’s life.

    “Each morning, before homeroom began, I would slip into the empty chapel to begin my day with silent prayer. That practice remains a part of my daily life. Religion classes helped me hone my personal theological beliefs.

    “However, those protestant railings did at times get me into trouble. My one and only trip to “Jug” (Is detention still called that?) came when I debated the finer points of Communion with Brother John Collins (Mark) in class.”

    Yes, Xavier still has “jug,” justice under God.

    McCarthy and his wife recently moved into a new home in Colchester.

    “Xavier also helped me developed an appreciation for Christian community that values compassion and love for itself and its neighbors.”

    Since he moved back to Connecticut, he has been back to campus.

    “As a part of our homecoming, we’ve attended a couple of events at Xavier,” McCarthy said. “I was struck by how much the campus had changed and yet the fundamental underpinnings of faith were still very much on display.”

    Remembering Phil Murphy

    Phil Murphy, who played football at Xavier, South Carolina State and then in the NFL, died at age 61 on Oct. 10. Murphy graduated in 1975. One of his teammates, Jack Gastler ’74, remembers Murphy:

    “He was both a great athlete and a great intellect. On the athletic side, he was the only football player of our era to make it to the pros (and there were some pretty good athletes during that era). But none had the combination of size, power and athleticism that Phil possessed.”

    Gastler also says that Murphy “had a great mind and put it to good use in his business/entrepreneurial efforts.”

    Gastler recalled a few stories about Murphy.

    “I have a very fond memory of going up to a night game at the old Patriots stadium with Coach Larry McHugh, Tom Tokarz, Matt Hoey, Steve Murphy and a number of other Xavier people, to watch Phil’s Los Angeles Rams play the Patriots. … Phil was tremendously gracious and even got a few of us into the locker room after the game. I think he was as thrilled to have us all there as we were to be there.”

    Then there was this side of Murphy.

    “One time in particular, he showed up at our house on Chauncey Road in Middletown and I will never forget my then very small (6, 3, and 1-year old) children running to tell me there was this huge giant at the door. It was Phil and he filled the front door jam.

    “My kids were in awe, just staring, and Phil immediately made them comfortable and won them over with his personality and wit.

    “My sister-in-law still tells the story of Phil popping finger sandwiches into his mouth like they were gum balls at a going away party for my wife Deb and I when we moved to Houston in 1980.

    “Phil was truly a big man in every sense of the word: big in stature, big in presence, big in intellect, big in living life, big in heart and big in soul. … He will be missed.”

    Frank Sposato ’09 Promoted In Navy

    Frank Sposato, a Colchester native who graduated from Xavier in 2009, is now a Petty Officer 3rd Class in the U.S. Navy. He is an information systems technician with Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 11. He serves aboard Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

    Anyone For Italy?

    If you are thinking about traveling to Italy in 2019, join Miss Vitale’s Tour of Italy scheduled for April 12-20, 2019.

    This is an all-inclusive tour package that includes sights that other tour programs do not offer.

    Contact Miss Vitale at jvitale@xavierhighschool.org for more information.

    Alumni Calendar

    Nov. 23: Alumni soccer/hockey/basketball games.

    Nov. 24: Thanksgiving Mass, 10 a.m. Legacy families honored. Reception in dining hall after Mass.

    Dec. 6: Saint Francis Xavier/Heritage Society reception, Griswold Inn, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

    Dec. 27-28: Annual Arthur Kohs Basketball tournament. Kohs was Xavier’s first basketball coach and first athletic director. The gym is named after him.

    Stay In Touch

    Go to xavierhighschool.org, click in Alumni & Giving and check out the various pages.

    Alumni Update Form: This gives us your contact information and tells us a bit about you.

    How To Submit A Class Note: Proud of something? Let us know.

    In Memoriam: We list deceased alumni, staff and faculty.

    Stories Of Giving: The story behind someone’s gift.


    OCTOBER EDITION

    Sean O'Rourke, left, and Jay Leno.

    Sean O’Rourke, who graduated in 1998, works for “Access Hollywood” after having had a couple of stints on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” until Leno retired … Barry McCarthy ’69 is a retired minister who answered another call; he is an interim minister in Coventry. … Kevin Loney ’95 is an assistant football coach at Bowdoin.

    We found that out because they responded to our call on our web site. We are interested in your stories and want you to stay connected to Xavier. Here’s how: Go to our website, xavierhighschool.org and under the Alumni & Giving area, there are ways to give us your information. There is an “Alumni Update Form” as well as a “How To Submit Class Notes” form. We’d love to hear what you’re up to.

    We’re up to a lot here. We have nearly 1,300 solar panels and are the first Catholic high school in the state to produce all of its energy. There are now visiting bleachers at Larry McHugh Field on campus, completing that project. Our annual alumni magazine will be in mailboxes in December with many stories highlighting fathers and sons, including the Jaskot and Kohs families that are as much a part of the Xavier legacy as anything we can imagine.

    As I write this, I am proud to say I am a 1972 graduate of Xavier, working here in the communications department as associate communications director after a 32-year career at The Hartford Courant, 28 as sports editor. It is great being back, reunited with Matt Conyers, Xavier’s director of communications and former Courant sportswriter.

    Everywhere you turn here, there is a story. One of my charges is to engage alumni more, tell their stories, share their memories. So when you get a chance, fill out the alumni update form, submit a class note.

    We will have a monthly alumni newsletter. This is the first edition.

    Also, you can stay connected by going to our web site for news stories or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We’re trying to be everywhere you might be.

    I can be reached at jotterbein@xavierhighschool.org. Don’t hesitate to ask a question, share an idea.

    Now back to O’Rourke.

    O’Rourke works in a department at "Access Hollywood" that gathers content that the show did not produce such as a photo or video. That might mean buying it; it might mean it is fair game. “It's half lawyer job and half a news producer,” O’Rourke said.

    O’Rourke graduated from California State University Northridge and started at NBC as a page in Burbank, Calif.

    “That was a great gig because I worked behind the scenes of all the shows that were taped there,” O’Rourke said. “Standing in the hallway backstage at Leno, bringing Harrison Ford to his dressing room, great memories.”

    After that he had a few other producing jobs until landing back with Leno until the show ended in 2014. As the show was ending he had a photo taken of him and Leno on the set, just as if he were a guest.

    “This is something a few of us set up with Jay before the show ended,” O’Rourke said. “During my time at ‘Tonight,’ part of my job entailed sitting in Jay's office with a few other writers and preparing the video joke segments that would air in the monologue that day. My team of researchers were responsible for producing the segments that were generated in that meeting.

    “In those meetings I got to know Jay very well and developed a rapport with him … In fact, a year or so ago my wife and I went to Vegas to see Jay's show and he invited us to his dressing room and just chatted with us for 20 minutes before the show. He even invited us home on his jet, but we still had plans in Vegas that weekend."

    Alumni golfers giving back: The Xavier Alumni Charity Golf Classic, held at Portland Golf Course, Sept. 14, raised more than $57,000 for financial aid. Save the date for next year: The tournament is Friday, Sept. 13.

    Someone’s knocking on the door: The yearly AD Drive is on. Students sell all the ads and a book is printed. The goal this year is $100,000. Those proceeds go to financial aid. The drive ends Oct. 31. For more information, to take a business ad or a personal message, contact associate advancement director Greg Jaskot at gjaskot@xavierhighschool.org.

    Get to know us: Check out Xavier’s Instagram account throughout the year for teacher and staff profiles. For instance, we asked Andy Mule this: Red Sox or Yankees. His response: “Yankees (but born and raised Red Sox; my Dad is not happy).” Lisa Keereweer, administrative assistant in the main office, tells us that one person she’d invite to dinner is James Taylor and her dream vacation is Italy. Look for those on our Instagram account. … Come to our Facebook page each Thursday for “Throwback Thursday” when we post a photo from the archives. Who knows, you might be in it one day.

    In case you did not know: Jaskot started as associate advancement director in the summer, leaving behind teaching. But he still is the offensive coordinator of the football team. He is one of three Jaskots in the building. His father Tony is the longtime athletic director who will retire at the end of the school year. His mother Donna is assistant to Headmaster Dave Eustis and Principal Brendan Donohue.

    Be A Man, Bring A Can: That announcement comes over the intercom as the first Friday of the month approaches. The can drive benefits The Amazing Grace Food Pantry in Middletown. There were 10,646 canned goods collected during the 2017-2018 school year.

    By The Numbers

    18/88: Number of varsity sports offered at Xavier/number of state and New England championships

    19.8: Average class size

    632: Number of college acceptances for the Class of 2018.

    63: Number of towns Xavier draws from.

    14: Number of faculty and staff that are Xavier graduates.

    Upcoming Alumni Events

    Oct. 20: Homecoming football game vs. Fairfield Prep at 7 p.m. at Larry McHugh Field on campus. Reception (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.) site TBA.

    Oct. 21: Open house, 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

    Nov. 23: Alumni soccer/hockey/basketball games.

    Nov. 24: Thanksgiving Mass, 10 a.m. Legacy families honored. Reception in dining hall after Mass.

    Dec. 6: Saint Francis Xavier/Heritage Society reception, Griswold Inn, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

    Dec. 27-28: Annual Arthur Kohs Basketball tournament. Kohs was Xavier’s first basketball coach and first athletic director. The gym is named after him.

    Contact Advancement

    (860) 346-7735

    Elizabeth Whitty

    E-mail

    Director of Advancement

    Greg Jaskot

    E-mail

    Associate Director of Advancement

    Calendar