Capt. Thomas French ’57: Delta Chi Opened the Door

We recently interviewed Capt. Thomas French ’57 about his time in Delta Chi, and how it impacted the rest of his life. Tom shared stories from his time in the house and provided us with detailed updates about his and his family’s very full lives. Read on to hear what Tom had to say, in his own words.

For more articles about Tom, click here, and here.

“Russell Jack, my first college roommate persuaded me to join the fraternity rush.  When rush was concluded, both of us were asked and agreed to join Delta Chi.  I credit many of the brothers for giving me the confidence to make something of my life.  I would likely not have committed to doing any international work were it not for the urging of brothers like the late Tom Michalski, who was engaged in city planning, but who spent many decades working in Saudi Arabia and eventually a member of the Cambridge faculty in Cambridge, England.

My favorite pastime at the fraternity house was playing bridge in the cardroom after dinner.  I enjoyed our unvarnished discussions about our respective areas of study, the professors, some good and some not so good, and how each of us decided which subjects for a major and why.

This funny story is coming out for the first time.  I was charged with preparing the hors d’ oeuvres for a dance we had at the fraternity house in my junior year.  I was looking for something unique, like whale meat, as an ingredient.  A brand of dog food was principally made up of whale meat.  I served it up on triangular crackers so I could identify it.  I received many compliments about that choice.

I would like to continue the tradition of exchanging sheep skins naming the winner and loser of football games with other Delta Chi chapters in the Big Ten.  

The competition [between fraternities] was not athletic, but a musical competition with other fraternities.  As I recall it, we received second place.”

Life after Michigan

“I graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1961. I applied for and received a commission as a First Lieutenant in the US Airforce, working as an Assistant Staff Judge Advocate, first at Hunter Air Force Base in Savannah, Georgia.  After one year and six months, I was transferred to Wiesbaden, Germany.  I met my future wife, Cecie, who was a translator and interpreter working directly for the base commander.  We got married in Switzerland.

We have two children, Danielle and Tom. Both attended local schools.  Danielle graduated from McGill University in Montreal with a BA in Anthropology.  Tom graduated in philosophy and economics from the University of Wisconsin.  He also spent his junior year abroad at the London School of Economics.

Danielle’s career began as a property manager for an organization that provided property managers for shopping centers throughout Canada.  She became the supervisor of all of the property managers throughout Ontario when she was offered the position of Director of Investor Relations for a German-Canadian real estate investment firm.  Shortly thereafter, her position was transformed into a Vice Presidency. She married the company’s President, and she has one stepdaughter and four daughters. 

Danielle made another major change in her life and became an entrepreneur. Some years before 2008, she and her husband bought a farm in rural Ontario about 80 miles northeast of Toronto.  She decided to make the farm into a destination wedding venue.  She had a small business on the side preparing and selling condiments.  She also had a food column in a Canadian magazine called Harrowsmith.  The wedding venue business turned out very well for her.  She sold it for nine times the asking price and has retired in a townhouse on the local lake in Peterborough, Ontario.

Her stepdaughter and all four of her daughters seem to be having very successful lives. Her stepdaughter, Devon, graduated second in her Harvard Law School on in Class.  After spending four years at a major London (England) law firm, she decided to go into investment banking. 

Her daughter Carlyle has degrees in Sustainable Management and Geographic Information Systems.  She is currently the General Manager for a company that offers a ‘wilderness experience’ to the extremely wealthy on its county-sized tracts of land in Ontario.  Carlyle will be entering a PhD program in Structured Geology this fall.

Her daughter Grace is working for the Royal Bank of Canada to determine how the concepts implicit in artificial intelligence can be applied to the banking industry.  She also has a business which designs women’s undergarments.   

Her daughter Olivia was recruited to a position on the Canadian Women’s Olympic team when she was 16 years old.  She played in the recent Tokyo Olympic Games.  At age 22, she was selected to be the team captain.  Recently at age 23, she was selected for the Rugby 7s ‘dream team,’ which means that she is considered the best player in the world at her position.

Danielle’s daughter Aubrey Rose just graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario with a degree in Global Development.  Aubrey Rose recently won a $40,000 fellowship grant to develop programs to integrate minority and other less privileged students into college programs.  She is also a jewelry designer and has a website in her name. Her plan is to receive a graduate degree in Genomics for Environmental Management. Ultimately, she plans on becoming a Canadian Foreign Ministry Officer. 

Our son, Tom, attended Vermont Law School and graduated in 1993. Tom is now a senior partner at Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, a 500-partner law firm based in New York City.  He manages the 12 lawyers in the Structured Finance Practice Group.  He lives in the Brooklyn Heights section of Brooklyn and manages all the firm’s computer activities.

Our daughter in-law, Jenny, graduated from Bank Street College with a master’s degree, taught reading both in public and private schools, has her own practice, and is presently studying for an advanced degree.

Tom and his wife live in Brooklyn, NY where their two children attended Packer Collegiate, a private grade school and high school. Our granddaughter, Claire, attends Barnard College and is spending a year at Oxford University studying political science and the history of philosophy. Our grandson, Joseph, finished his freshman year at Bowdoin College. He is a member of his college squash team, and coaches at public schools in Brooklyn.”

Professional History

“After I was discharged from the Air Force in December 1965, I entered the private practice of law in Brattleboro, Vermont.  Osmer C. Fitts, an attorney who practiced in Brattleboro, Vermont, two years before, had been Chairman of the House of Delegates, which is the second ranked person at the ABA. 

I opened my own law practice after about 1.5 years later.  I started to develop a law practice which included business development, partnership and corporate formations, family law including divorces, probate law product liability, and negligence cases.  I tried many ski liability cases which are unique to this part of the country. My niche was never criminal law. My general practice expanded to include local office for most European companies. I was given credit by the State Department for opening China to international trade.  My client was the catalyst for the first electronic scoreboards installation in China.

It was unexpected that my practice took a turn into a new field.

I was invited by the State Department to participate in the attempts to reform the legal and economic systems in Russia during the Gorbachev and Yeltsin regimes.  Congress had passed The Freedom for Russia and Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open Markets Act, called the FREEDOM Act, directing Congress to find ways to institute democratic governments and to introduce the concepts inherent in a free market economy.  One of the first steps in implementing the Freedom Act was to organize a conference of lawyers and economists from throughout both countries to be held at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow in September 1991. The majority of the delegates from both countries were academics, government employees, judges and practicing lawyers.  There were only a few small general practitioners like me.

My initial role was to be the facilitator at a seminar in Constitutional Law sponsored by the US State Department and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This conference took place in Moscow and was entitled ‘Law and Economic Relations at the Kremlin Palace’ in September of 1990. It featured constitutional scholars and economists from major universities, appellate judges, and lawyers from both countries.

The influence of this conference created a desire among the participants to gather information and work positively for the achievement of the goals outlined at that time.

A group of us decided to form a corporation, known as San Francisco World Trade Associates, Inc, (SFWTA) including a not-for-profit subsidiary corporation, called International Humanitarian Services (IHS). This not-for-profit corporation provided food and medicine to many areas of Russia, Kazakhstan, and to the Russian Far East.  

At the age of 80, I decided to retire from my law practice.  I then transferred my law license to pro bono emeritus status. After I learned that veterans have very often do not have legal representation when filing their disability claim, and were inadequately compensated for such claims, I applied for approved attorney status to practice before the VA.”