Wherever the Next Road May Lead

After being injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, an Owen alumnus takes stock.

From the Winter 2013 edition of Vanderbilt Business

What would you do if you were out with your family one day and suddenly you found yourself in the middle of a personal horror and an international news story? Where would you be, physically and reflectively, nine months later?

Kevin White, MBA’10, can tell you.

Kevin and his parents were enjoying the day at the Boston Marathon on April 15 when bombs exploded and 264 people were severely injured—tragically, some fatally. All three Whites were injured and hospitalized. Kevin’s father, 72-year-old Bill White, ended up losing his right leg. In the days to come, they experienced media attention, interviews and even a visit from President Barack Obama.

White Family
Kevin White with his parents, Mary Jo and Bill, outside their Massachusetts home. Nine months after being injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, the three are focused on the future and the other survivors.

Today, the family—with the support of their neighbors and friends, the people of Boston and the Owen and Vanderbilt communities—is moving forward. Kevin White says they believe that this year’s events have put their lives in different perspective. While they are still adjusting to challenges, they are positive about their future and are making great steps in recovery.

“This experience has given me the opportunity to step back from what I was doing, and ask if this is what I want to continue doing,” he says. “It’s like someone asking you, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’

“If we were five feet in another direction that day, we might not be here. If we were five minutes earlier or later, none of this would have happened,” he says. “But you can’t dwell on all the ifs in your life.”

Healing and reassessment

“If we were five feet in another direction that day, we might not be here. If we were five minutes earlier or later, none of this would have happened.”

Recognizing that other families have been devastated by the event, that lives were lost, and the best must be made out of a terrible situation, Kevin says, “we have to reassess our goals and priorities and who we are as people going forward.”

Prior to the bombing, Kevin worked for a private equity firm in Chicago (focused, ironically enough, on distress situations). Feeling the need for a change, he left the firm in late 2012, and returned to Massachusetts, where he grew up. In the days leading up to April 15, he had been doing some private equity consulting work.

Kevin, who was the least injured of the family, sustained damage to his arms, shins and thighs. He tore ligaments in his hips, and still has pieces of metal in his system that will work their way out over time. His mother, Mary Jo, broke a wrist and rib, and also sustained damage to her legs, but her main injuries have healed.

As for his father, Kevin says, “he’s walking around pretty good right now” with a new prosthetic leg. “His progress is pretty astounding, in terms of getting comfortable with it. He’s getting to know his limits and boundaries and navigating walking again. Mentally, he’s very sharp,” the younger White says. “I wouldn’t say he’s excited, but he’s very happy to be home from the hospital. He was getting very tired of the food … He’s very engaged in starting ‘Life 2.0.’”

Now after his own recovery and helping his parents regain their health, Kevin is re-evaluating. “I’ve kind of had to reassess my career, and think about, ‘What makes you happy?’ contrasted to, ‘What are you good at?’” he says. Those are questions he’s still considering.

Focused on positive outcomes

Kevin won’t say much about the media coverage of the event or the bombers, stating only that his family is more focused on the future and the other survivors. When he thinks of positive experiences, he notes a few that stand out.

First is the way his parents’ community of about 2,500 people sponsored a 5K fundraising run to help with medical expenses for those injured. “It was a way for the town to express its support, not just for our family but for those who have been impacted by any type of hardship. The community realized it was one of them that was hurt. My father used to coach soccer in town, and all the people my age knew him because he had coached them,” Kevin says. “I think it was a way for people to understand that this could happen to any of us.”

Second, he says, was a realization of how truly special the Owen community is. Of all the well wishes and donations, Kevin was particularly floored by the response from those connected to Owen and his time here.

“One of the things Owen really fosters is the sense of community,” he says. “While that phrase can sometimes be a cliché, I can be a testament to the reality. The outreach from my class, the class above me, the class below me, from people connected to Owen and Vanderbilt I’d never even met was remarkable.”

Vanderbilt taught Kevin White much about working with others in pursuit of the same goal, he says—but also about options, responsibility and looking ahead, wherever the next road may lead.

“I’ve learned that there’s more to life than what you think there is,” he says. “But sometimes you have to go out and find it. And if you’re given the chance to find it, you should.”