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 – where he graduated in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and a minor in finance – or in the World Trade Center, where he went to work at Cantor-Fitzgerald right out of college and became one of the youngest partners in the company’s history.
He perished with 2,995 others on September 11, 2001 – the only Clemson alumnus to die in the attacks. He was 34. Today only his name remains where the Twin Towers once stood – etched in bronze on panel N-39 of the 9/11 Memorial – but his memory and the joy he created make regular appearances in the lives of everyone who knew him and, through a scholarship endowment set up in his name, in the lives of many who didn’t.
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.
White had a life-long passion for tennis and was a state champion in high school. In addition to tennis, he loved Clemson football games, mountain biking, skiing, and had a penchant for playing good-natured practical jokes on his friends.
“Jim and I were pledge brothers in the fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega,” said friend and classmate Wes Few. “He was just loved by all and for good reason, he loved you first. He 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.”
White’s page in the ATO pledge book reads: “The real difference between men is energy. A strong, settled purpose and an invincible determination can accomplish almost anything and in this lies the distinction between great men and little men.” The statement fits him perfectly, said Few.
His fraternity brothers looked up to White as a leader, Few said. One brother wrote three lessons they learned from Jimmy about how you should treat people:
- Make people laugh. “Jimmy always put people at ease when he was with them.”
- Share. “Jimmy would share anything he had with anyone who was in need.”
- Look for the good in everyone. “Jimmy was open-minded and non-judgmental. He took the time to find common ground with everyone he met. He valued the opportunity to get to know people from different backgrounds and people with different interests and opinions.”
White went to work for Cantor-Fitzgerald right out of college and was working the day of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He had to walk down stairs from the 105th floor – an experience which rattled him, but didn’t deter him from his goals. He returned to the World Trade Center and worked there until that fateful day in 2001.
In the first hours after 9/11, message boards lit up with concern and then – as the truth of the attacks sunk in – 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 blog post. “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,” said Bolton. “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 all hell broke loose and 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 whatever 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 to run with the bulls at Pamplona over beers in a Hoboken, N.J. bar. Not surprisingly, they followed through on the idea:
“The night before the run they drank a lot of 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 lucky students at Clemson can lean a little on Jim White too.
To contribute to the James P. White Scholarship Endowment please go to this link: