Remembering Bill White, FLCC’s ‘Swiss army knife’

FLCC retiree Jeff Adams made this remembrance video of images set to music.

Nursing professor Susan McCarthy is the first to admit her struggles with technology. Through the years at FLCC, she has relied on support from Information Technology staff, and in particular, Bill White.

“Bill always came to the rescue,” she said. “He never made you feel dumb – he always tried to teach.”

Bill had his limits, however. “The last time I called him for the same issue I usually called for, he brought a permanent marker with him to draw an arrow next to the button I needed to push.”

Problem solved – in Bill’s typical gentle and humorous style.

It’s one of many memories shared among faculty and staff following Bill’s death on Saturday, Oct. 17 after an automobile accident in the town of Seneca. He was 63 and is survived by his wife, Faith, and their daughter, Rebecca.

Photo of man with medallion
Bill White was honored with a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in 2014.

Bill joined FLCC in 1998 as the first full-time “audio-visual, TV, audio, cable TV, wiring and all around technical guru,” said Jeff Adams, who served as director of the former educational technology center until his retirement in 2010.

“He set a new standard for background knowledge, flexibility, collegiality, and willingness to tackle new technology projects,” said Jeff.  “From then on, those who came to know Bill relied on his expertise to solve problems and also respond with a smile.”

Bill Pealer, media production specialist, said Bill was a “Swiss army knife – a multi-talented everything guy.”

The pair often worked together providing audio-visual support for events, everything from in-house workshops and concerts to major community fundraisers.

Photo of Bill Pealer and Bill White in front of a lake
Bill Pealer and his late colleague, Bill White, posed for a photo during an out-of-town conference.

With the success of those events dependent on the technology, the pressure could be intense. Bill’s calm, laid-back demeanor helped keep his more worry-prone colleagues grounded. His one-liners helped, too.

“He told me, ‘Show business: Hours of boredom intertwined with moments of sheer terror,’” remembered Jeff Babcock ’16, who joined the IT department part-time in 2018. “That is the perfect description of an event because when something goes wrong, you’re like, oh no! The thing is, if Bill ever felt that sheer terror or boredom, he didn’t show it.”

Jeff got a job working as an aide for Bill while still a student. He soaked up the lessons on classroom technology and learned to provide audio-visual support in spaces like Stage 14. He also took note of what he calls “A/V antiquities” tucked away in spaces throughout the college – things like film projectors and turntables. “We all knew not to touch those things – Bill was saving them,” he laughed.

Jeff Kidd ’05 also regarded Bill as a mentor. He too worked alongside Bill as a student, taking particular interest in Bill’s then role representing FLCC as an engineer in a partnership at neighboring concert venue CMAC.

After Jeff graduated, he got word that Bill’s job had been reconceived and a new position was being created that would include the CMAC work. “I blew up Bill’s phone and email that whole summer asking about that job,” said Jeff. “He was very patient with me, answered all my questions.”

Jeff applied and was surprised – and a little worried – when he came for an interview and found Bill on the search committee. “I was like, oh no, what if I annoyed the very person who had a voice in whether I’d get the job.’”

Annoyed? Not in Bill’s vernacular. “He was just the easiest guy to talk to,” said Jeff. “You could talk to him about anything – work-related or personal. He was an encyclopedia.”

That encyclopedic knowledge was a highlight around the cafeteria lunch table, where most every weekday pre-pandemic, Bill enjoyed the company of colleagues like Jay Maitland, the recently retired director of campus police.

“You could describe the table as large, but it became The Big Table because Bill was there,” said Jay. “And because Bill was there, you wanted to be there, too.”

Jay said Bill maintained the social momentum of The Big Table through “casual, funny and important conversation” among  “a spectrum of people who worked at, studied at, or were passing through FLCC.”

There was no agenda or structure to lunch discussions, although an aversion to talking about work was universally understood and generally adhered to, “but never enforced,” said Jay.

Bill also took pleasure in his daily morning coffee with colleagues and in an off-campus tradition: birthday dinners with Jeff Adams and fellow retiree Randy Callin.

“Waitresses often looked at us about 7:30 p.m. and thought, ‘How long can you guys actually sit there and yap?’ We had a great time reminiscing about how things used to be, and how things were going for Bill,” said Jeff Adams.

Bill’s wealth of stories sometimes involved his pre-FLCC days working for TV stations and a large events center. Another frequent topic: his pride and joy, Faith and Rebecca.

Not one to boast, Bill made an exception when it came to his daughter. When she graduated at the top of her high school class, he kept a congratulatory poster on his office door – for the better part of a year.

Colleague Cheryl Ten Eyck enjoyed hearing Bill’s updates on his daughter’s success at Smith College in Massachusetts.  Bill had many trips on Interstate 90  – driving her back and forth, said Cheryl. “Those trips were always well planned and scheduled on his impeccably detailed calendar,” she added. “Bill would talk about the bond they shared with science-fiction, comics and a multitude of other topics. Many times, I had no idea what the subject matter was, but I drank my coffee and smiled.”

Those stories will be missed, along with Bill’s particular way of traversing the halls, often pushing an A/V cart, head down, keys bouncing off his pants’ pocket.

“We all know people who’ve worked a job for 25 or 30 years and there comes a point when they’re openly counting the days to retirement,” said Bill Pealer. “Bill never did that. It was a joy and privilege to work with someone who had such long tenure and that ‘can do’ attitude. To say we’re going to miss him doesn’t seem to cut it.”

Before opening a moment of silence at the start of a recent collegewide meeting, FLCC Chief Information Officer John Taylor remembered his employee as a “kind and gentle soul, a respected team member and a great friend to all of us.”

“His humor and his caring and supporting ways are things that will affect all that knew him forever and his spirit will live on in the halls, on the stages, in the classrooms, at the lunch table and on the virtual connections we have at FLCC,” he said.

FLCC has created a scholarship in Bill’s memory.  To contribute to the Bill White Memorial Scholarship, click here or contact Margaret Lorenzetti.

Author: Jessica Youngman

Jessica Youngman is the public relations and events coordinator for Community Affairs. Reach her at (585) 785-1221 or Jessica.Youngman@flcc.edu.

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