William Monahan ’72 learned how to drive a stick shift, plant trees and lead with kindness—thanks to groundskeeper Don Porter.
Assigned to the Buildings and Grounds Department under the College's work-study program, I had the pleasure of getting to know lead groundskeeper Don Porter, who served Stonehill for 33 years. Learning of his passing last year, I recalled my time working with him and the impact that he had on my education and preparation for life after college.
Don taught me how to drive a stick shift on an old red pickup truck, where even I could not strip the gears. Then he let me drive a more modern green Chevy with the shift on the column. I would never have learned to drive a standard if not for him.
My fondest memory is of him dropping me off at my building for class and then picking me up after so that I could resume my work—cleaning up trash, tending to trees or clearing snow from walkways. I was able to log more hours because of his kindness and willingness to work with my class schedule.
But the memory that remains most vivid in my mind is watering the new trees that Don had planted lovingly around the quad. I poured water onto the base of each tree so that it would have a chance to take root and flourish. That was around the summer of 1970.
Having moved to Oregon in 1982, I try to get back to Stonehill and drive around campus whenever I can. When I do, I marvel at the beauty of Don’s handiwork and how those trees have prospered. Of course, he was responsible for planting and maintaining many areas of the campus that would not be as cherished by students and alumni if Don had not cared so much. Those trees seem to be among Stonehill’s most recognizable features.
Allowing students like me to enhance their college experience by learning valuable lessons in how to work as a member of a team was an added bonus of attending Stonehill. Along the way, I also learned to appreciate nature and lead with kindness.
William Monahan ’72 is a city attorney in Oregon.