The school’s new Chair of the Board of Trustees continues his work of giving back
John White had already decided on a secondary school, but a chance meeting with Williston changed the trajectory of his life. He went on to earn a B.A. in English from the College of Wooster, then joined his father at their third-generation, family-run heating and cooling equipment business, now the international manufacturer The Taco Group. In 1992, he opened the Taco Learning Center, where employees and their families have the opportunity to enroll in a variety of classes. In 2013, White received the Ward Medal, one of Williston’s most prestigious alumni awards. And in May 2016, he was elected Chairman of the school’s Board of Trustees. He lives in Providence, R.I., with his wife, and he has two grown sons.
What brought you to Williston?
My dad’s best friend, John Reed, of the Reed Center, asked my parents to bring me here. I fought that tooth and nail because I already wanted to go to another school. Then the classic thing happened: we pulled up in front of the Homestead, my feet hit the ground, and I said, “Whoa, this is it.” I had to talk myself in here because I had poor test scores.
How did you do that?
I walked into the admission office and said to Tom Evans, “My test scores won’t get me admitted, but I have to come here. You let me in, and I will make a difference to this school forever.” And I’m still living up to my end of that deal.
How did your experience here impact your career?
Everything you’re looking at with me is because of this place, mainly because Williston gave me a chance to be myself. I didn’t come here and have to wear a coat and tie and act prim and proper. You came to
Williston back then, and you defined yourself and learned to think independently. And some made it, and some didn’t. At one point in my senior year, my father thought it would be better if I went to the Kent School, but I tapped into that skill of thinking for myself and said I knew I had to stay. That was perhaps the most profound decision in my life. It would have changed everything had I gone somewhere else.
As Board Chair, where do you see Williston headed?
Williston is in a great position right now. It has so much history, so much talent, so much momentum, but it also has something truly unique and valuable: the ability to help students be themselves and think for themselves. That’s always been an incredible skill, but it’s even more important to students in the complex world today. As Chair, I am committed to making sure this school goes on forever doing for others what it did for me.
What is exciting to you about your life right now?
I love life. Every moment of it. At 58 years old, I’ve learned that every day is a blessing. If you can enjoy life and treat others well too, that’s what it’s all about.