Clemson to honor alumnus that was killed on 9/11

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courtesy - Clemson media relations
courtesy - Clemson media relations

CLEMSON — By all accounts, James Patrick White brought joy into any room he entered — whether that room was in his childhood home in Hightstown, New Jersey, or a classroom at Clemson University or in the World Trade Center, where he went to work at Cantor-Fitzgerald global financial services firm right out of college and at age 34 was one of the youngest partners in the company’s history.

White perished with 2,995 others on September 11, 2001, the only Clemson alumnus to die in the terrorist attacks. Today, only his name remains etched in bronze on panel N-39 of the 9/11 memorial where the Twin Towers once stood, but his memory and the joy live on in everyone who knew him and, through a scholarship endowment in his name, in many who didn’t.

Clemson University will commemorate the 15th anniversary of the nation’s deadliest terrorist attacks with a public memorial ceremony Sunday, Sept. 11, coordinated by the student organization Tiger Platoon, which promotes awareness of Clemson’s rich military heritage.

The memorial, at 3 p.m. in Tillman Hall auditorium, will honor the victims of 9/11 as well as local first responders and law enforcement. The university’s Jewish Student Association and Muslim Student Association will participate and Clemson President Emeritus James F. Barker will speak. There will be a tribute to alumnus White.

White’s close friends and family established the James P. White Scholarship Endowment in 2002 to provide need-based scholarships to deserving Clemson students. To date, 42 of the scholarships have been awarded.

Those who knew him agree that White would be thrilled to see Clemson students being helped in his name because he loved being a Clemson student so much himself.

“Jim and I were pledge brothers in the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity,” said friend and classmate Wes Few. “He was just loved by all and for good reason, he loved you first. His personality was infectious. He was undoubtedly loved by all. He had no enemies and in fact, I can’t recall anything even approaching an unpleasant moment when he was around.”

In the first hours after the reality of 9/11 set in, message boards lit up with concern and fond remembrances of White by his fellow Clemson alumni and co-workers at Cantor-Fitzgerald.

“Every photograph I’ve seen shows him smiling like he just got a great Christmas present,” said one blogger. “He could always be counted on to see the bright side of any situation. He had a warmth in his eyes and joy in his soul.”

Rich Bolton, a co-worker of White’s at Cantor-Fitzgerald, fondly recalled their first days together. “I met Jim when he first came to Cantor from Clemson,” he said. “He arrived with the thirst for knowledge and the enthusiasm of a kid in a toy store. Jimmy moved up the ranks quickly due to his work ethic and desire to be the best. In no time he was offered a position as a broker on the Ten Year desk.

“When the pressure was on, we all had our ways to cope. You would look over at Whitey and he’d be standing there, hair a mess, helping some other broker out of a position while covering one of the busiest customers in the room, logging his trades, typing in orders, yelling at the top of his lungs what was being said on trades that were going on so all could hear and never missing a beat. God, it was fun.”

That fun spirit is a big part of what defined his life. A profile of White published in The New York Times on Christmas day, 2001 describes the time he and two high school friends decided in a Hoboken, New Jersey, bar to run with the bulls at Pamplona.

“The night before the run, they drank beer and were so worried they would oversleep and miss the bulls that they slept on the street in their clothes. Somehow, they survived the stampede. ‘It was very scary,’ said Tom Kane, one of the friends. ‘We kind of leaned on each other to get the courage to do it.’”

Now, thanks to the efforts of those who knew and loved him, some fortunate students at Clemson can lean a little on Jim White too.

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