By Gil Gerald
May you and your families have a great 2018! As I pause as President of DGT Alumni Association to reflect on the past and coming year, I can’t help but think of Brother Tom Wong (spring ’83, Engineering ’84). 2017 ended as it began with a bit of a crisis at the House that was again largely managed by an individual who embodies the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood, or as a newer generation prefers to say, ‘family.’ It is a spirit many of us came to know in our undergraduate life at 272 Clinton Ave.
This past Thursday, during the coldest weather so far this winter, it all began with a call from one of the tenants indicating that electricity was out in her unit. Bro. Fletcher (Fine Arts), our very able and caring Property Superintendent/House Manager, was out of town for the holidays. A contingency plan was in place for residents to notify me as President and Tom as Treasurer should a need arise. I could not easily get to the House because of recent foot surgery, and after a call to Bro. Kostas Gerakaris (fall ’90, Architecture ’95), who lives in the neighborhood and who was also away from Brooklyn at that hour, as well as a text message to Tom, who lives in River Edge, New Jersey, I gained an understanding of the location of circuit breaker boxes. I was then able to direct the tenant to the one on her floor where she might flip on the circuit breaker that may have tripped. It worked, her lights were back on. However, later that Thursday night, it became clear something else had happened, the heat was not on in the building. “Evening Gil, I’ve been home since 2:30 pm and the entire brownstone has been freezing since then,” said her 9:14 pm text message to me.
After communications with the tenant late that evening, our Bro. Tom Wong got into his Prius and drove from River Edge to Brooklyn. It was bitter cold, and yes, the boiler was down. Emergency plumbing and heating services were booked solid through Saturday at noon, the day before New Year's Eve, due to many calls. We kept all tenants appraised of the situation and Tom went back home. He then left work early, the next day, Friday, to pick up portable electric heaters for the tenants. These heaters were by then becoming harder to find in the City. Tom persisted and got them to the tenants.
On Saturday, two days after the first call, our Tom was again at the House to be there when the emergency plumbing and heating technicians arrived in the early afternoon. The tenants were beginning to think about making plans to spend the night elsewhere. They were very understanding and grateful to be kept informed but were beginning to indicate that they could not contemplate another night in the cold. The portable heaters did not do the trick.
Thankfully, heat was restored on Saturday afternoon, and Tom went home to spend New Year's Eve, the next day, with his family. At 5:39 pm, after six hours at the House, Tom texted “Boiler is running – House is slowly warming up and Patrick (roommate of Alexa Telano, a Gallery House Fellow who is a resident on the ground floor) will keep an eye on the boiler, (I’m) heading home.” In a response to a later text from Fletcher, “Thanks Tom, sounds like a long day,” Tom texted, “was cold, but the TV (newly installed) helped pass the time…”
So, a very special Happy Holiday and Happy New Year wishes and words of gratitude go to the whole Wong family, including Emily Wong and their daughter. We know how special one of our DGT members is, and we are very grateful for Bro. Tom Wong. Thirty three years after graduation from Pratt, he can find comfort watching TV in the bar room at 272 Clinton Ave. during a cold winter day, standing sentry for DGT.
Tom, I want to publicly thank you for embodying the Spirit of Hanna during this Holiday season, 2017. Indeed, you exemplified what it means to care as well as the phrase “It’s great to be DGT.” 2018 will be a great year as we continue to grow the number and connect with the many, far away and near, who also embody the Spirit of Hanna and contribute to the restoration, preservation and continuation of memorable undergraduate life at 272 Clinton Ave. Happy New Year, to everyone and a big hug to all of you, my DGT family!