On Friday The Skating Club of Boston hosted Celebrating an Icon about “the life and extraordinary achievements” of Thomas J. McGinnis. Indeed, it was a night to remember.
When my friend, business partner and mentor passed away in July, many of us in the skating world and beyond were mourning in our own way. While I knew Tom’s life was filled with decades of accomplishments, he was relatively humble in what he achieved for himself while steadfastly promoting others. As the consummate coach, Tom was always imparting his knowledge and insight to those of us in his world.
Shortly after the invitation to attend the event, I was asked to announce and commentate. Of course, I was happy to oblige. I heard during the weeks leading up to the event who would be attending and generally what the evening would entail. There was going to be an on-ice tribute followed by a video presentation.
When I was practicing the script during the day, it was impossible to not be filled with emotion. I took a break and went into some of my archives and looked at old issues of the magazine that we used to publish. Seeing Tom’s name on the masthead and looking at select pictures of us at events I remember stopping to reflect on what those years were like. Tom loved the glamour of the sport, the stars that it created. Throughout our years of publication, I always strived to create a sense of glamour, particularly with the events we produced. He loved the reception we had in New York City when the magazine named The 25 Most Influential Names in Figure Skating.
But it was Friday night that brought us all home to celebrate Tom’s life and to share our memories. The skating world is like a family of many relatives, close and distant. But Friday marked a family reunion, one that Tom would have loved.
I know it was hard for many of us to keep our emotions in check on Friday. For me, there was a moment during the commentary when I almost lost it. The final performance was by coach Stephanie Cooke who was once a student of Tom’s. Before her performance she asked that I read her tribute to Tom. I didn’t make eye contact with her until the passage, “I hope to make him very proud.” When we looked at each other the emotion of the moment caught us both. I said to myself OMG she has to skate and I need to talk…get it together! I swear in that moment, I heard Tom say “breathe.” Of course I took his direction!
After the on-ice tribute we retreated upstairs to a video presentation (click this link to watch on YouTube). After the video many offered their personal stories of Tom throughout the years. They were all different, interesting and came from the heart. They painted a picture of someone who was larger than life. We were all proud to be part of his canvas.
The takeaway from the evening was obvious. All of us are now imparting Tom’s coaching and words of wisdom to others, as it should be. Tom left this world a better place, and we are all better off for knowing him.
My thanks to The Skating Club of Boston for producing Celebrating an Icon.
Thomas J. McGinnis