WORDS OF REMEMBRANCE FOR BROTHER WILLIAM BATT, FSC
Given by Barbara Geary Reynolds and Marybeth Reynolds Radics
May 10, 2014
Mass of Christian Burial
Cullen Center for the Arts, St. Joseph Collegiate Institute, Buffalo, NY
Brother William Batt was, for me, literally the first face of Manhattan College. No doubt, Bill would narrate this first encounter differently. However, this is how I recall it. Gentleman that he was, Brother William offered my friend, Sister Geraldine, and me a lift to Sullivan Hall as we emerged with too much luggage from the No. 1 train at Broadway and 242nd St. and began the trek up the hill. Geraldine and I were starting grad school in the Religious Studies program in the summer of 1970. This chance encounter was a godsend for us as the schlep to West Hill was a bit of a challenge. In the cordial exchange of conversation, Bill told us that he was from Buffalo. So were we! That’s all it took. Gerry and I were excited anyway, made more so by that famous Buffalo connection. I recall Bill being very dignified, somewhat subdued, and in speaking about that first encounter years later, he confessed to being a little taken aback by our chatty exuberance. Bill offered to help us all the way to the residence, but he first detoured before engaging in this work of charity to pick up his very, very good friend and colleague, Brother Joseph Reynolds, to assist in getting rid of Geraldine, the luggage, and me. But in reality, personal histories began to re-write themselves on that lovely summer day in the Bronx.
The friendship between Bill Batt and Joe Reynolds existed longer than half a century. Bill’s loyalty and support for Joe were steadfast. And it worked both ways. Scholars, both of them, education was their passion. Skiing was their passion, too. (That bond is a “winter’s tale” worth telling at another time, anecdote by anecdote.) Quoting Matthew Reynolds, Joe’s younger brother and a Manhattan College engineer, “It’s easy to know someone’s values and character when you join them in frightful death-defying rides on flimsy plastic skis down steep ice-covered terrain. I soon learned then that Bill was a class act. Some people are just flickers of light during a long life, while others are a consistent glow for years. For me, Bill was a consistent glow.”
The diversity of Brother William’s contribution to Manhattan College was amazing and that overworked word is aptly chosen. And he was respected and sought after from way beyond the confines of campus. The list of achievements is readily available. What lives between those lines is the stuff of stories from countless students and colleagues, many of whom continued to write to him during his four years at Lincroft. According to Annalisa Challender of the Lincroft staff, many of those cards and letters are so moving, that she asked that they not be destroyed, but rather put into Bill’s file.
Bill transitioned from bio-chemical research to Chemistry professor to Chemistry chair, to an MBA and then back to the classroom in the School of Business. All, by the way, with a theology degree that he had earned along the way, and cited for an advantage during heated discussions on religion (and politics). His was the challenge of outreach as long-time Director of Admissions. In a tribute to Bill, Tom Smith, friend and Math department professor, explains that, “many years ago the College was in a precarious position because the Office of Admissions was almost totally dysfunctional. Bill took over as Director, reorganized the office, strengthened it, made it successful. Had he not done what he did then, we might not be here today. The College owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Brother William Batt.”
Bill was asked to be manager and chair of the New York State section of the American Chemical Society. He created and hosted the AP workshops for teachers and sponsored elegant dinners for local high school counselors. Bill knew how to host a party! When organizing the annual Sigma Xi dinner, Bill himself would make the run to Pisacano’s fish market for the biggest shrimp available. John Wasacz, Bill’s colleague and friend from the Chemistry Department, attests to the popularity of this gala, as one who assisted Bill in at least one trip to the now-obsolete Yonkers market.
Finally, who was Brother William Batt for the Reynolds family? He was best man at our wedding, the declared favorite “uncle” to Megan and Marybeth, godfather to Marybeth, friend to our extended families, Buffalo born and loyal, world traveler and fellow traveler, opera lover, generous host, adviser-when-asked, homilist at Joe’s funeral, and dignified patient until the end of his own life. And, in our view, with his variety of careers there and with the integrity of his stewardship, Brother William Batt remains one of the authentic faces of Manhattan College. Some things never change. Peace, Bill!
Barbara Geary Reynolds[divider scroll_text=”Top”]
Brother William – our Uncle Bill – is so much a part of our family and our growing up. He was there for all the milestones, and for so many regular moments. He was there when my parents met, at their wedding, and at our baptisms. Uncle Bill offered me my first Communion, and took some of the best pictures at my wedding. He was there, unshakeable, when my father was dying, offering a perspective on their long friendship that I had not fully appreciated before.
Surely that friendship formed through the more ordinary moments, many long before I was around, but others that are my treasured childhood memories. Uncle Bill was there grilling steaks and helping us make Shirley Temples on summer afternoons at West Hill. It was Uncle Bill holding me just before I got stitches in a cut on my leg. He was on hand for dance recitals and bell choir concerts, brought us to the circus, to see Pinocchio at the movies and The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. Uncle Bill forgave us when we left crayons to melt in the back of the Brothers’ station wagon, and he gave Megan and me our first gainful employment with Manhattan’s AP workshops. He was there for dozens of long car trips to Buffalo and to Mount Snow, Vermont, for Manhattan’s annual ski trip.
One day’s snapshot from those familiar slopes of Mount Snow typifies Uncle Bill’s presence very well. I am maybe 10 or 12 years old, and we’re at the top of a steep run. My father confidently proclaims to my sister and me, “Of course you can do it! Let’s go!” And off he skis, grinning from ear to ear, in perfect form and at lightning speed. Megan shares his fearlessness on the snow and follows right behind, and soon I am looking down the mountain at two shrinking dots and a spray of white.
Still not quite sure I should be standing at the top of this particular slope, I am frozen, afraid that shifting either ski even an inch will lead to disaster. I turn to look back up the mountain, and there is Uncle Bill, standing as still as I am, but tall and stoic. He manages to stand ramrod-straight and look completely relaxed at the same time, which is tricky to do on skis. He smiles and reassures me: “Take your time. You’ll do fine.”
I turn back to face the slope and start to move across the trail at what must have been a painfully slow pace. My crawl continues, back and forth, and slowly down. I have spurts of speed where I feel like I might be okay. But whenever I bobble and nearly fall, whenever I stop to take a breath and a careful look down again, Uncle Bill is there, just behind me, giving me space to move when I’m ready, but close enough that I know, and never doubt, that he’s with me. He doesn’t say a thing, and doesn’t have to.
When we finally catch up, my father and Uncle Bill marvel very briefly at the great conditions and beautiful weather. Then we head right back to the lift to do it all over again. While my father’s delight in this repeated ritual is quite evident, Uncle Bill is more reserved, though equally happy, I think. We hop back onto the lift, lower the safety bar, and Uncle Bill settles in. “Good,” he says.
That night, back at the lodge, it won’t be the Manhattan students occupying the proverbial “party room”. That room belongs to Uncle Bill, who has imported an impressive spread of appetizers and spirits from the Bronx, and the overflow crowd of grown-ups is milling around the hallway just outside the door. My parents, each with a Scotch in one hand and a broad smile, are deep in conversation with various people, my father most definitely staying close to the shrimp cocktail. Merriment is the only way to describe this atmosphere. And in the middle of it all, a now slightly-less-stoic and very-jovial Uncle Bill is holding court, recounting one of his stories to a rapt audience, with his familiar guffaw echoing down the hall as he gets to his punchline.
That moment, it seems to me now, is a little slice of Heaven.
Marybeth Reynolds Radics
Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of Br. William Batt, FSC
Born William Edward Batt in Buffalo, NY, on May 25, 1931
Entered the Barrytown, NY, Novitiate on June 30, 1949
Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother Conrad William, on September 7, 1949
Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Barrytown, NY, in 1956
Br. William died at De La Salle Hall, Lincroft, NJ, on April 28, 2014
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Viewing from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
De La Salle Hall
810 Newman Springs Road
Lincroft, NJ 07738-1608
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Viewing from 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm
De La Salle Hall
810 Newman Springs Road
Lincroft, NJ 07738-1608
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Viewing from 12:00 pm (noon) – 1:00 pm
Mass of Christian Burial at 1:00 pm
St. Joseph Collegiate Institute (Cullen Center for the Arts)
845 Kenmore Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14223-3195
Burial at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Kenmore, NY
SUFFRAGES FOR OUR DECEASED BROTHER WILLIAM
District: 50 masses
De La Salle Hall community: 30 masses
Each community in the District: 1 mass
Brother William died peacefully in the early morning at De La Salle Hall. May he rest in peace.
La Salle Academy
De La Salle College
director of admissions
St. Joseph Collegiate Institute
De La Salle Hall