Conrad “Connie” White, 80, Stage Manager, Colleague, Friend

Excerpts from the Boston Globe

conrad_white_1-9645-croppedAs the first African-American student admitted to the Cambridge School of Weston (MA), Virginia native Conrad White lived in two worlds.

A popular student at the private boarding school, he started the first campus radio station and was elected president of the class of 1954. “He was sort of the center of our class,” said his classmate and longtime friend Joan Walther.

Back home in Hampton, Va., however, Mr. White lived under Jim Crow laws and segregated public schools. When friends from boarding school gave him a ride home for winter break, they had to plot their trip carefully as an integrated group riding through the South.

“Once they got past a certain area, they couldn’t stop,” Walther recalled. The students made sure they had plenty of gas and plenty of food in their big old car, a former hearse nicknamed “Mehitable,” a Hebrew variant word for “God rejoices.”

At the 2000 WGBH Reunion with John MacKnight
At the 2000 WGBH Reunion with John McKnight

Mr. White, who often credited his experience at the Cambridge School as the foundation for his confidence and multimedia skills, worked at WGBH on popular public TV shows including Julia Child’s “The French Chef” and spent 27 years at Harvard University, where he retired from the Media Production Center.

A former longtime Cambridge resident, Mr. White died Nov. 9 in Miriam Hospital in Providence following a heart attack. He was 80 and lived in Providence….

Mr. White was in the studio audience for a WGBH show called “Folk Music USA” when he inquired about volunteer opportunities at the station and wound up with a new career. “I walked up to someone I knew who worked there, explained my background in television, and asked if they took volunteers,” he told Harvard Community Resource. “It was one of those ‘and the rest is history’ kind of jobs.”

He worked for WGBH for 15 years, holding various positions in production for shows including “Crockett’s Victory Garden,” “Say Brother,” and “The 10 O’Clock News.”

At the 2015 WGBH Reunion
At the 2015 WGBH Reunion, with Nancy Schuetz

 

After “The French Chef” ended, Mr. White gave a piece of Julia Child’s cutting board to his longtime friend Lou Greenstein, a culinary consultant and chef who appeared on the Boston television show “Good Day” for many years.

Mr. White and Greenstein first became acquainted as young men on the docks at Community Boating in Boston, where Mr. White was a longtime member.

“He was wonderful with people. He was a gentleman, as everybody should be a gentleman,” Greenstein said. He recalled that Mr. White was a favorite guest at the Greenstein family’s Thanksgiving table for several decades. Mr. White always brought deviled eggs to the party.

Sailing was one of Mr. White’s passions. He enjoyed skippering and sailing on what are known as Shields class boats in Newport, R.I., which he initially visited for the folk and jazz festivals…

“I wish I had 90 more years to do all the things I still want to do,” he said in the 1997 interview.

29 thoughts on “Conrad “Connie” White, 80, Stage Manager, Colleague, Friend

  1. From Jane Moulding, head of school, The Cambridge School of Weston:

    For us here at school we have lost an iconic figure; a man who watched over us all and made sure we kept the values of CSW front and center all the time.

    When I think of Connie, I think of civility; he was a gentleman through and through. When I think of Connie, I think of seriousness of purpose, deep inquiry and stick-to-it-ness.

    Connie interviewed me with a small group of alumni/ae in 2001 when I applied to be head; he made sure we trimmed the ivy from the side of the Kluchman Building so we could see the gryphon (and we re-painted it in his honor and sent him a picture to make sure he knew we had heard his wishes). Connie spoke with authority and he commanded our attention.

    We loved Conrad. He made us better human beings. Thank you Connie for being so integral to sustaining our school, for your generosity and for your beautiful, quiet influence on so many of us. Rest in peace.

  2. Connie was a GEM! He was one of those folks who come into your life only rarely, but make you better for having known him.

    Connie and I used to stay after the last shift in Studio A every night and have a race to see who could clean up the scene dock and get all the props upstairs and safely stored in the shortest time. I attribute to Connie my loss of perhaps 50 or 60 pounds, but my gain was of joy and good fellowship because Connie made a wonderful game of it all.

    I am deeply saddened that he is no longer of this world. The fact that his passing has evoked such an outpouring from so many of us co-workers speaks to how universally he was loved and appreciated.

    I am so pleased that so many of you mentioned that he was a true gentleman – he was.

  3. I was a snotty nosed high school kid soon-to-be grad volunteering at the station in the spring/summer of 1972 and hanging out with the studio crew trying to learn everything i could from them. Connie, who was a crew chief then, not only indulged me, but mentored me – allowing the other guys on the crew to show me their craft (well, lets be honest, let me actually hang lights, set up and strike sets, operate cameras, etc.) — and shared his his own craft with me, modeling for me what it meant to lead a crew and to manage a floor during a production. He was always as a gentleman, always as a professional, always treated me with respect and dignity (none of which, looking back, I particularly earned or deserved), and made me feel valued.

    The following summer, after my freshman year in college, I was hired full-time as an 18yo summer replacement on the studio crew. Connie had taken on a position as a director by then. But every time I was assigned to be floor manager for a show during that summer, I’d try to channel Connie, saying to myself, “Just be Connie out there, do what Connie would do, look like Connie, and you’ll be fine.”

    It was the best job I ever had, with the best people I ever worked with. Thank you Connie.

  4. Connie and I were in the same USAF Reserve unit out at Hanscom and he had a car so I rode regularly to meetings and back to Cambridge with him. WGBH was broadcasting Folk Music USA from the studio at the Science Museum in those days. I was writing scripts for the show and mentioned it to Connie during one such trip. When he asked if there were other volunteers working on the show, I invited him to come along with me and I would introduce him. He did and I did and before long he became a fixture there. One of the best things I ever did…
    I lost touch with him after he left the station, and am saddened to know we will never meet again.

  5. Connie was an amazing force. His gentle manner complimented his extraordinary strength. He always seemed to know what to do next.

  6. I wonder if he had any idea what he brought to us. A saint, a master, a mentor, an example to all of us on how to be — and so, so much more. Thank you, Connie White.

  7. I was really saddened to hear of Connie’s death. To me he was a splendid human being, a true professional in every respect, a gentleman and caring person. To have seen and talked with him at this past May’s reunion is something I will hold dear to me. You are gone for now but not forgotten, in the end hopefully we will all see each other again. Your a good man.

    Benny Krol

    • Hey Benny! Nice comment on Connie. I hope you are well, retired now? I am retired and happy in Buffalo, NY. Friend me on Facebook or on LinkedIn if you do those or give me a shout so we can catch up. Cheers, Alex

  8. My memories of Connie White were with the days of Auction. His quiet presence always guaranteed a calming moment. And Auction was never very calm. Wish I could have seen him as recently as you on the staff do. If there is a memorial at GBH do let me know.

    Pat

  9. Connie. . . .

    I guess I just took it for granted he’d always be there. . .

    Like, when we needed him for—whatever.

    A Real Presence (I was thinking “mensch”. . . ), that guy!

    RAH

  10. Conrad introduced me to the wonders of TV production. He was an effective teacher and a true friend. I, too, am glad for the re-unions that keep us connected.

    Farewell, dear friend.

  11. So many fond memories of Connie and those special years at WGBH. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to attend the reunion this year and missed the opportunity to see him and all of you.

  12. Feels like yesterday he offered us an easy friendship and a warm, sincere smile. We all have benefited from knowing him. A kind soul.

  13. A “gentle-man”, indeed. Always there, always helpful…no matter what the challenges were. I worked with him on CROCKETT’S VICTORY GARDEN. I also remember a delicious dinner he cooked one evening, and I think I took notes – it was that good. He was a great photographer too…capturing many of us ‘GBHers in the moment including me in pigtails working on the “strip” for another favorite and gone too soon gentleman, Mark Stevens. Connie, we all love you!

  14. It was such a treat to reconnect with the ever-affable Connie White at the reunion in May. While my time on the WGBH studio crew was short, folks like Connie are a big part of happy memories of my first years in broadcasting. I can only for less eloquently echo what so many others have already written. He was just one really nice person!

    I’m not sure which surprised me more in reading the story…that Connie had passed away, that he was eighty years young, or scrolling down and finding the picture of him and my wife Nancy. (I’d asked Nancy to take a photo of Connie and me but she doesn’t like going behind the lens so I took one of Connie and her instead. That would not be her favorite photo, but it’s a good one of him.) Anyway, that brought a smile to my face on an otherwise sad day.

    As Janie Arsham has already noted, the years pass quickly and the WGBH reunions are special events indeed for reconnecting with old friends. It’s been such a treat to get back for at least three (and maybe four) of them and to stay connected between times. Thanks Jay. But a few less obituaries, please!

  15. Connie was a thoroughly lovely man. A scholar and a gentleman. A Zen focused professional. I only knew him on the studio floor, but I looked forward every week to his charm and his skill and his humor. He put everyone at their ease and made everything run smoothly. Sad day for all of us who knew him a little. Sail on, Connie, smoothly and with the wind at your back forever.

  16. Conrad – Connie – was one of the gentlest people I’ve ever worked with. Yet he was Zen perfect in hhis directions, his cue giving, everything. For the hour or two I spent with him every week, he exhibited charm, humor, exactitude, empathy. And that was just on the studio floor. I’m sure he was a delight and a friendly, smart presence in his own everyday life. What a guy! I know people always say complimentary things about people when they pass from this planet, but in this case, I cannot say enough. Smooth sailing, Connie – many of us were so happy to be a little part of your life.

  17. So sad to hear about the passing of Connie White. Every year we would share holiday greetings. How ironic that I sent his card just yesterday. We shared a mutual love for jazz, and he would always send me a yearly jazz calendar. They didn’t come any better than Connie! A sweet and gentle spirit, always with a smile and ready to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. I like to think of him up in heaven sharing good times with Lady Day, Louie Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and all the other Jazz legends he admired. I’m so glad I had a chance to chat with him at the last ‘ GBH reunion about the good times we shared together.
    RIP dear friend. Gone but never forgotten by those who knew and loved your presence.

  18. Connie was just an extraordinary human being. This company was privileged to employ him. There was no better stage manager anywhere.

    In 1979, when the Pope came to Boston we were doing the arrival pooI feed at airport. I was clowning with the state police marching in formation. They pulled me over and before I knew it, Connie was there to save my ass. I shall never forget him for that.

  19. All these reflections resonate strongly with me. I was also shocked to see the notice first thing this morning and to learn that Connie was 80. A short add–in my years at ‘GBH, there was never a day when I wasn’t asking someone on the crew or in the Engineer department to accept a change in their schedule, pitch in to help make a production happen, or for a favor of some sort or other. In my recollection, Connie never said No– can’t do. I just don’t think that word was in his vocabulary.

    Reading these comments makes me realize how much I appreciate the work that Fred, Michael, Olivia, Sheila, Emily and others have done to make these reunions happen and to Jay for keeping us connected. I had totally lost touch with all but one or two of my GBH friends and am so happy to have reconnected.

  20. Connie was a true and loyal friend, and a truly gentle-man. I am now 61 and we met when I was 17 and working as a gaffer and a grip in the studios.

    He never lost touch; never missed a Christmas card; always looked me up when he came to town; always stayed in touch with my best friend Julie to whom I introduced him and for whom he fell like an oak tree.

    I am so, so sad to have lost him, and particularly sad to think of him dying in a Rhode Island hospital without all of us being able to say goodbye. Little did he know how many were his admirers; his natural shyness and self-effacing manner prevented him from truly realizing.

    But Connie – he was an institution and a true gentleman, and one I will miss very much having in this world.

    His wonderful warmth and sense of humor, his fine mind, his gentle smile — all of these things we will miss. Goodbye Connie – I hope you are boogeying away up there.

    Anne Warner

  21. Conrad “Connie” White was always the calm voice of reason and understanding on the many, many shows he floor directed for me. No matter what threatened crisis promised to sink the show we trying to air or tape, he found solutions, was great with the talent, and was a leader to the crew. I’m so glad I got to see and talk with him at the reunion.

  22. I really can’t think of another person who made such consistent positive contact with so many people as Connie White did. Nor can I think of anyone who wasn’t happy seeing Connie enter the room. He had a good smile, and an affable manner, which served him well as a stage manager. He was gentle while getting difficult things done; truly a man of many skills. It was wonderful to see him at reunions, and I swear, it’s a shock to read that he was 80 years old(!); he was perennially youthful.

    He never changed, and what a good thing that was.

  23. Sad news.  Glad to have seen Connie at the recent reunions.

    He was a fine, fine man.  Always a pleasure to have on any project.

    Let’s do get together and offer him our remembrance.

    RIP.

  24. Sad indeed.

    It was good to talk to him at the reunion.

    He was an amazing as he chronicled all our work with his medium format film camera.

    I stand in awe of all his achievements.

    RIP …….Conrad Jason.

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