Walking into the South Burlington apartment of Jules Pequignot ‘42, the first thing you see is a purple and gold number 42 St. Michael’s jersey. It was presented to him by Angela Armour, Director of Alumni Relations, for the 75th anniversary of his graduation. While Pequignot hasn’t been a St. Michael’s student since World War II, his love for the school is still reflected in his life today.
Pequignot, 99, Saint Michael’s oldest living alumnus, will turn 100 this month. He was born in Winsted, Conn. on March 27, 1919. Growing up, he enjoyed playing baseball and basketball, facing stars in High School such as Francis Joseph “Spec” Shea, who went on to be an all-star and World Series winning pitcher for the New York Yankees.
Pequignot was on track to attend a military school to play two years of baseball and basketball. But a recruiter from St. Michael’s came to visit him, suggesting he attend the school. So, Pequignot, his parents, his sister and her husband made the long trek up route 7 to campus. There, Fr. Lyons offered him a ride if he were to attend.
When Pequignot arrived on campus, he moved into Old Hall for his first semester, where his roommate, from St. Albans, came early to get them the best furniture for the room. Early memories of his time as a Knight includes a class with Dr. Jeremiah Durick, for whom today’s library is named. Pequignot remembered him as a “poetic” professor who always smelled like cough drops.
Pequignot continued to play his two favorite childhood sports in college, but basketball was his favorite. A four-year starter on the basketball team and a captain his senior year, Pequignot was a three time All-State selection, won the state scoring title as a junior with 204 points, and broke the state free throw record as a senior with 30 free-throws.
“I made the baskets then pretty good. I was fast, I was very fast,” Pequignot said. Fast enough to be dubbed “The Flying Frenchman”.
On the diamond, Pequignot played third base and pitched. A two-time All-State selection and a captain senior year, he hit for a career .333 average and was 4-2 on the mound. He was part of the 1940 Green Mountain Conference Co-Champion season, one of the best teams in St. Michael’s history.
Pequignot graduated in 1942 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, a path he can’t remember choosing.
“That’s the class they put us in, the most of us, I think,” he said.
Pequignot met his wife, Doris, through a mutual friend. Their first date included a trip to Henry’s Diner, a venue still popular to St. Michael’s students. More than seventy years later, he and Doris have four children, along with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
After graduation, Pequignot spent a year as an assistant basketball coach at Mount St. Joseph’s High School in Rutland, later moving to Cathedral High School in Burlington. He then took an abrupt change, interviewing to work as a Nationwide Insurance claims adjustor.
“They gave you big money, they gave you a brand-new car. Every time the car became 50,000 miles you got a new car. They paid for oil, gas, tires, anything,” Pequignot said.
He ended up working at Nationwide until his retirement.
Pequignot also became an avid golfer, shooting three hole-in-ones, two at the Burlington Country Club. He served as the president of the Vermont Basketball Association, on the St. Michael’s Alumni Board, and was an active member of the Knights of Columbus.
Until recently, Pequignot regularly attended St. Michael’s basketball games, sitting in the bleachers and talking with Athletic Director Chris Kenny ’86. He would go to Kenny’s office every Monday when Doris had her friends over to play bridge.
“He’s a great guy. I just feel sorry for him because he’s Athletic Director and they’re losing basketball games,” Pequignot remarked.
Kenny, who met Pequignot in 1988 at his Hall of Fame celebration, sees him as an ambassador for the college.
“He’s a guy who exhibits a real joy for life…He’s a St. Michael’s treasure,” said Kenny.
While he has trouble walking and has had recent hand injuries, Pequignot tries not to let his age slow him down.
“I never thought I’d live that long…Doris and I have lived a happy life,” he said.
When asked what he still plans to do with life, his response was simple.
“Die! I only have probably four more years if I’m lucky,” he said with a chuckle.