A Place Close to the Heart: Honoring an Alumnus’s Final Wishes
Before losing his battle to hypopharyngeal cancer on July 15, 2017 in San Leandro, CA., Thomas “Tom” Siu-Wing Watt ’68 made his spouse of more than 35 years, Carol-Anne Tucker-Watt, grant him two final wishes: One of them was to have Frank Sinatra’s version of “My Way” played at his funeral and another was “to fly.”
“He made it clear that he was fine with cremation, but he did not want his ashes buried, stuck in a niche or dumped over the side of a boat,” Tucker-Watt says. “He wished for his mortal remains to be ‘free like the wind.’”
Indeed, Watt was a free spirit, developing close friends while attending Saint Louis School where he experienced academic success and a penchant for mathematics and sciences. After high school, he aspired to be an engineer—one of three popular professions chosen among Chinese immigrants at the time—and enrolled in the engineering department at the University of Hawai‘i Mānoa.
Unfortunately, his first-year experience would mark his last.
“The professors of the introductory engineering classes assumed that the students were already familiar with the fundamentals of mechanical drawing, but Tom was not,” Tucker-Watt recalls. “It did not take long for him to decide that he and UH were not a good fit, and that he would need to pivot.”
Having attended Saint Louis, Watt was familiar with the Chaminade campus, and several of his Saint Louis classmates were already attending what was then Chaminade College. There was one problem: Chaminade did not have an engineering program, so he decided to pass on his engineering books, drafting board and T-square to his younger brother and switched to a business major where he could apply both his math and English skills.
“Chaminade always held a place close to his heart,” Tucker-Watt says. “After retirement from a long and successful career with the Social Security Administration, Tom was able to connect with fellow alumni living in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as students about to start at Chaminade.”
But having scattered Tom’s ashes in mid-air meant that there would be no headstone. “There would be nothing to mark his time on earth,” Tucker-Watt says. “And so it occurred to me that the best way to give him an ongoing legacy was to endow a scholarship at Chaminade.”
The scholarship has a single criterion: Students have to maintain a 3.5 grade point average, something that Tom successfully managed to do while studying at Chaminade.
“He would have been proud, and glad that he could help young Chaminade students,” Tucker-Watt says. “I miss him terribly, but I still feel his guiding hand. He still has my back.”