Saint Michael's Value Grows in Hindes' Sight
By Mark Tarnacki
"Don't jump to early conclusions about what Saint Michael's meant to you," advises Churchill Hindes '69.
As an undergraduate, Church morphed from a self-described campus "nobody" and unsettled "academic wanderer," to notable success and fulfillment as a Vermont health care administrator, faculty member, public servant and family man.
The prospect that he might one day be a serious benefactor of the College through an estate gift of $20,000—a big step that Church and his wife, Marilyn, recently decided to take—would have seemed remote to the new graduate and his UVM future wife in 1969.
Finding an Identity
Church says, like many of his contemporaries, he felt swept aboard the disquieting roller coaster of campus life in the turbulent late 1960s. Edmundite Fr. Dan Lyons recruited him for Saint Mike's in 1965 from the Society's St. Anne's Academy in Swanton, the town where Church's career-military dad had retired.
At college he felt precariously balanced between good friends who were ROTC drill team members and other close pals who were Vietnam War conscientious objectors. He'll also never forget how P-Day fell a day or so after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, sparking charged student confrontations over the sensitivity of planned celebrations in light of the disturbing news.
Drained from such experiences by graduation, Church frankly admits that he wasn't sorry to start a more predictable routine as a University of Iowa doctoral student after completing his Saint Michael's sociology degree. Only much later in life, happily settled back in Vermont, into what he calls "my contemporary Saint Michael's" — experienced through family and ministry at the chapel — did it fully dawn on him how enriched his life had been all along by gifts from his "Saint Michael's back then."
Speaking recently about his "two Saint Michael's" (then and now) in the Colchester office where he's been CEO and president for the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties since 1999, Church recounted some of the most lasting of those gifts.
"First, there are the practical arts—stuff I use every single day like basic statistics and research methodology that I learned from Fred Maher," he says. "I literally use that every day of my work life, since so much is quantitative, and then my economics and sociology courses, understanding populations and human behavior it's fundamental to the work I do.
"The second part I would call lifelong appreciation," Church continued. "Going to Henry Fairbanks' humanities course was like being in Disneyland for some of us-this love of all things art and literature. And then I was in Glee Club with Bill Tortolano, and to this day I almost pull over to the side of the road when I hear the Pilgrim's Chorus (from Wagner's Tannhauser), knowing what it was like singing it."
He credits the force of formidable personalities among his instructors for more education than textbooks ever could provide. "You took theology in [SSE Rev.] Moses Anderson's apartment and you'd talk about the issues of the day; then Ned Stapleton would teach English and a lot of other stuff besides, and Fathers Paulin and Lanoue were the same way. My Russian courses from Natalie Pomar were more like powerful humanities courses," he says.
Church says another of his favorite Saint Michael's personalities, Fr. Ray Doherty, connects his "two Saint Michael's" — "My contemporary Saint Michael's is at the chromosomal level. SMC is that important," he says. "Its campus ministry, my ties to what goes on in the chapel as a regular reader and Eucharistic minister at Sunday Mass ... it's going with Marcel Rainville on the Pontigny Heritage Trip."
He and Marilyn cherish the opportunity to be part of today's Saint Mike's. His daughter-in-law, Kristen Hindes, has been one of the College librarians for 17 years, his son Jeffrey earned a Saint Michael's Master's and his oldest granddaughter had her first communion in the chapel.
Showing His Values Through His Estate Plans
Those were a few impressions of Saint Michael's past and present that Churchill carried with him when he and Marilyn began a more purposeful phase of estate planning and looking to the future a few years ago.
As chief of a large health organization that includes a hospice caring for 100 dying people on a given day, Hindes notes, he and Marilyn probably had more clarity than many people about the most advisable forward-looking actions to take.
"On our 60th birthdays we said, ‘we're not going to do everything, but we're going to do three things: buy a cemetery plot, do our advance directives and put our estate in order," Church recalls. After checking off the first two, they had a discussion with their attorney that helped them think in a fresh way about supporting the College.
"She asked, ‘are you going to give anybody any money?' and we said, you know, the kids, and she said, ‘what else is important in your life?' She encouraged us to make what I would call ‘place holder' amounts, saying to ‘just put it there for now, for things that are really near and dear to your heart. Think of it as a fourth child—you're leaving money to your three sons, but you've lived a life, you've developed relationships and things that are important, so think, if you had a fourth child, what would you leave to this fourth whose name might be ‘passion' or ‘interest?'"
Church says once they looked at it that way, it was pretty easy to choose certain VNA programs and then Saint Michael's, particularly Campus Ministry since he and Marilyn equally share that passion.
Church understands first-hand how alumni can lose touch with the college for long stretches in their life, but emphasizes that it's never too late to reflect and reconnect. His own busy career has included research administrator at UVM College of Medicine (he is still on the faculty there), state budget director for Vermont Governors Snelling and Kunin, CFO for the University Health Center and vice president for finance and administrative director at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington before settling into his present job at VNA.
Often his career and family demands allowed less involvement than he might have liked, he says, but through it all, the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel has been an assuring constant for him.
"It is the continuum for me because that's the center of our SMC focus now," he says, "and in undergraduate days, there were many evenings when things were wild and crazy and you'd just sneak over there, close the door, it was all quiet—just a couple of lights on—and it was a source of succor and reassurance, comfort then, and it's still that."
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