Former UND goalie Andy Kollar remembers his first sociology class with assistant professor Frank White more than 12 years ago.
In describing a theory called phenomenology – how people experience the world through their senses and emotions – White told a story about baseball great Ted Williams, who once remarked that he could smell burning twine after taking a powerful swing and grazing the ball with his bat.
As Kollar (1998-2002) recalled, “I put up my hand and said, ‘I’m a goalie, and when I get hit in the mask by a puck, I smell burning rubber for five minutes.’ I immediately connected with Frank the first class I ever had with him.”
As it turned out, Kollar connected with White, too. He still uses Kollar’s story to help students understand phenomenology because they can relate better to hockey and the experience of a UND student-athlete.
“If you’re going to keep students committed, they need to get something of value and substance out of a class,” White said. “It can’t just be jokes; it has to be applicable content. You have to make your class important, not by making it easy, but by making the knowledge as important, relevant and applicable as biology or any other class they take. You have to show them how what they’re learning is utilized.”
When it comes to connecting with students and developing lasting relationships, White is practically in a league of his own. So it was no coincidence that when he asked some of his former hockey playing students to participate in a charity golf tournament July 14 in his hometown of Walhalla, N.D., 10 of them showed up along with UND men’s hockey coach Dave Hakstol.
“It speaks for itself in terms of the impact Frank White has had on the lives of these young guys,” Hakstol said. “I don’t think anybody gave it a second thought when the invitation was put out. They just knew it would be a good day for the importance of what Frank meant to them, and that’s why a lot of people are here.”
Among the tournament participants was Matt Greene, former UND defenseman (2002-2005) and now assistant captain of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, which won the Stanley Cup in June. He brought his father, Jim, with him.
“Matt talked about Frank White from the very first class he took from him,” Jim Greene recalled. “He said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to meet this guy someday. He’s just an awesome professor.’ Matt didn’t realize he was learning as much as he was because it was so enjoyable.”
Greene remembers White’s Introduction to Sociology classes, which he took with teammates Zach Parise and Lee Marvin.
“The most telling lecture that he ever gave us was about how men and women see commitment differently,” Greene recounted. “Women see it as the diamond ring and everything like that. To show how men see commitment, Frank got up on top of his desk, laid down on his back and hog-tied himself. That’s how men see commitment: being hog-tied in front of 300 people.”
Kollar, who came from Winnipeg to be in the tournament, noted that when former UND defenseman Mike Commodore won the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, he brought the trophy to Grand Forks and into one of White’s classes without White even asking.
“A guy like Matt Greene who just won the Stanley Cup could be in any city right now, and he comes back to North Dakota,” Kollar said. “It says a lot about how respected Frank is.”
Greene, who brought an autographed Kings jersey with him to auction off to raise money for scholarships, was right at home. He golfed barefoot against the backdrop of the scenic Pembina Gorge while exchanging pleasantries, barbs and jokes with golfers and former teammates alike.
“Matthew is exactly where he wants to be,” Jim Greene said. “There’s no place he’d rather be than here, today.”
Former UND captain and defenseman Chay Genoway (2006-2011) who recently signed a contract with the Minnesota Wild, said, “I was always excited to go to Frank’s class because of the way he related the material, the real-life stuff. The way he presents it, he’s really charismatic.
“It was a tough class, too,” he added. “I remember the tests being tough.”
That’s something coming from one of only three players to earn Western Collegiate Hockey Association Scholar-Athlete honors four times and was named the league’s Outstanding Student Athlete of the Year in 2011.
Marty Gottschalk, associate professor and chair of UND’s criminal justice program, has known White for more than 10 years. He notes that the student athletes who maintain connections with White are really no different from other students he’s taught during his 24 years at the University.
“Frank has the same type of relationships with all students,” Gottschalk explained. “He makes the effort to get know them, learn something about them and know their names. It makes them feel like a complete person, not someone occupying a seat in a lecture hall. He’s able to maintain those relationships because he takes time to make them.”
White hopes the success of the first-ever Frank White-Roger Snortland Scholarship Golf Tournament will become an annual event in Walhalla involving even more UND student athletes. The tournament is named for White and Snortland, a longtime teacher in Langdon, N.D.
Snortland’s son, Chris, helped come up with the idea for the tournament and was one of its organizers.
White said the event raised enough money for three years of scholarships at UND and Mayville State University, White’s and Snortland’s alma mater.
“The weekend exceeded all our expectations,” White said. “The community really supported us with volunteers, facilities, sponsorships and food donated by local merchants and farmers. Everybody pitched in and the golf course looked great. Everybody I talked to said it was a perfect tournament.”
If White’s former students have anything to say about it, the golf tournament will continue with their participation.
“If he asks again, I’d probably pretty much be guaranteed to be in it,” said Robbie Bina, a Grand Forks native who played at UND from 2003-2008.
“When Frank asks, I try to do whatever’s possible because I know he would do the same for me,” Kollar said. “If I asked him for something, he would do what he could for me.”
Other former players who participated in the tournament were: Jay Panzer (1995-1999), Andy Schneider (2001-2005), Nick Fuher (2001-2005), Lee Marvin (2002-2006), Matt Watkins (2005-2009) and Jake Marto (2007-2011).