John Luth 74 came to
Holy Cross with help from his friend and mentor, John Flavan 53.
Now Luth is carrying on the philanthropic tradition.
Paul E. Kandarian
Flavan 53 is a man who believes in helping people help
themselves, so reaching out to assist an impressive young
employee in the early 1970s was simply second nature.
Flavan and his brother were running Noahs Ark, an
upscale St. Louis hotel and restaurant, when John Luth 74,
then a student at the University of Missouri, came looking
for a job.
Luth was mature beyond his years, with already thinning
hair and a substantially adult air about him. He landed a
job as maître d.
Flavan was impressed by Luths intellect and demeanor.
Learning that he wanted to transfer to another University
of Missouri branch to pursue engineering, Flavan, ever the
Holy Cross recruiter, touted his old school instead.
He took a shine to me, essentially started to promote
the idea that I should think about a broader liberal arts
education, Luth says. In spring the following
year, he finally convinced me to fill out an application
for Holy Cross.
Flavan even took Luth to Worcester and hastened a meeting
with Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J., 49, though it was already
past the admissions deadline.
One thing led to another, helped in no small way by Luths
impressive straight As. The next year Luth found himself
a Crusader, with Flavan footing part of the bill himself.
Luth is one of 10 children in a family that couldnt
afford much for education.
Bottom line: Kindness begets kindness.
Flavan consistently refused Luths offer of repayment,
so Luth and his wife recently made a gift of $500,000 to
the Collegearound the same time that Flavan, a longtime
donor himself, pledged $1 million dollars.
Ive always believed if you help people develop
themselves, theyll go that extra mile for you, Flavan
says. Thats not self-serving, but indicative
of what my father always believed inhelping people
The Flavan-Luth connection is one of ongoing friendship
and doing for others when theyve done rather well themselves.
Luth, former chief financial officer for Continental Airlines,
is now president and chief executive officer of The Seabury
Group, LLC, in New York City, an investment banking firm.
Flavan is now president of Sun Land Financial Corp. in Florida,
where he regularly hosts get-togethers for groups of traveling
Holy Cross people.
John has always been a very generous contributor to
Holy Cross, says Patrick McCarthy 63, director
of alumni relations and a longtime friend of Flavans,
with whom he has been on seven Holy Cross trips to Ireland. He
has been a cornerstone for Holy Cross wherever he is.
Fr. Brooks says of Luth and Flavan: Theyre both
very loyal alumni, deeply committed to the College and doing
whatever they can do to help.
Luth never figured to take advantage of Flavans beneficence;
it was simply not the way he was raised.
I have to admit, I was very resistant to Johns
overture, Luth laughs. I came from a middle-class,
blue-collar family, my father and mother were big believers
that you made your own way in life. They gave each of us
$200 a year for college. We learned at an early age to work
nights and weekends. If you wanted a car, you bought it yourself.
I started working at the local A&W at 13.
That work ethic personified a Midwestern parochial personality,
he says; of 122 students in his high school graduating class,
Luth says only three went on to college east of the Mississippi.
It was a stay-close-to-home mentality that Luth himself was
ready to follow, if not for Flavan.
But the visit to the Holy Cross campus clinched the deal
for Luth. He liked what he saw; the low faculty-to-student
ratio he didnt have at the University of Missouri,
where he would sit among 400 others in a freshmen lecture
hall. John also literally ran into an opportunity to play
soccer, a game he loves.
I got to Holy Cross, he recalls, and was
jogging around campus my first day. I spotted some guys on
the lower level playing soccer. I ran down and asked if I
He made the team and that got me, playing varsity
soccer for Holy Crossit was like a dream come true.
He stayed the following year and then, he says, the
College, to its credit, gave me a partial scholarship for
my junior and senior years.
Time was pressing when Flavan met with Fr. Brooks that day
for a quick, 15-minute chat. Flavan flashed Luths academic
credentials, and Fr. Brooks liked what he saw, making a call
to admissions. From then on, Luth carried the ball on his
own, with Flavan downplaying much of a part in it.
John earned it, believe me, Flavan says.
And Flavans generosity extended to the automotive
as well as the academic.
John had a Pontiac GTO in those days that was his
pride and joy, he just loved that car, Flavan says. Well,
it got stolen his first semester, and he was devastated.
I sent him out to get another car, a Mercury Capri, as I
recall, and after I dropped him off at the dealer and went
back to the restaurant, John called to say that because he
was only 20, they wouldnt let him sign for it.
So I went back and signed for it, Flavan says,
laughing at the recollection. But I signed it over
to John when he turned 21.
Flavan felt from the moment he met Luth that the young man
was postgraduate material, so when Luth graduated Holy Cross,
Flavan pushed for him to go to his postgrad school, Stanford.
But Luth had other ideas.
I wanted to go to Wharton, Luth says. But
John tried to do the same thing for me at Stanford as he
did at Holy Cross. He got letters from everyone, even Rockefeller.
I never applied to Stanford, he says. I
got a full ride to Wharton.
Yes, I had people working on it, but he never applied, Flavan
says, laughing. He didnt know how to tell me
he wanted to go to Wharton.
Helping young people wasnt limited to Luth. Flavan
estimates that he helped about 30 others through college
in those days, some going to restaurant and hotel colleges
and, eventually, careers. But Luth did stick out, he admits.
John was a very perceptive young man, very mature
for his age, Flavan says. I dont like to
say I have favorites, but John is a jewel.
Though Flavan paved the way for Luth to go to Holy Cross,
it was Luth who did the work once he got there, in particular
remembering one very difficult but very enlightening course.
It was Intellectual Social History of the United
States, a two-semester course, Luth says. It
was an astonishingly difficult course, the syllabus had 35
books. I love history, even though I was an economics major,
but it was unbelievably tough and unbelievably stimulating.
And it got me the lowest grade I ever got at Holy
Cross, a B-minus the first semester, a B the second, he
says. I put more work into that course than any other.
He also credits Professor John F. OConnell 64,
then head of the economics department, with instruction that
had an impact on his life.
But beyond the professors, as much as they had impact,
it was the small size of classes at Holy Cross, the personal
interest they took in you, Luth says. If you
showed any interest in learning the material, the professors
were prepared to take you as far as you were willing to take
For Flavan, Holy Cross was always his first choice for college,
stemming from his youth when his family would host visiting
Jesuits from the school who came for advanced studies at
the University of St. Louis.
I believe a Jesuit education is the finest education
going, Flavan says. I always wanted to go away
to school and Holy Cross was my first choice.
Other Flavan family members who are also Holy Cross alumni
are nephew Mark White 88, and cousins Andrew McNearney 48,
Tom Moloney 55 and Mark Moloney 73.
White opted for Holy Cross without ever seeing the place,
Flavan says: He said Uncle John said its
the place to go.
Flavans unofficial recruiting efforts are legendary
at Holy Cross, McCarthy says, adding it doesnt
matter where John is, hes like a magnet for Holy Cross.
As to the gifts Flavan and Luth have given the College,
Pat McCarthy says it speaks well of the institution
and the love that alumni have for itthe way they can
express it in the size of the gift, when they have it.
Flavan says what his gift will be used for is as yet undecided,
though hes leaning toward scholarships in his parents names.
Luth says his gift will establish a fund for aspiring journalists
in the name of his father-in-law, Edward Avery Wyatt IV,
who was editor of the Petersburg, Va., Progress-Index for
As to his gift, Luth says it likely would not have been
possible if not for Flavan.
I tried to pay him back, but hed say whatever
you want to pay me, pay the College, Luth says. He
made it possible for me to be in the position to make contributions
to the College. Hes a tremendously generous person
and a huge supporter of Holy Cross.
Flavan says its just a matter of carrying through
his fathers philosophy of helping others. His father
was a doctor who gave as much as a third of his practice
time to priests, nuns and others who couldnt afford
Theres nothing they can ask me (at Holy Cross)
to do for them that I would not do, Flavan says, and
that goes back to Rev. Raymond Swords, S.J., who was Father
Brooks predecessor. Theyve done so much for me,
Ill never be able to repay them.
Paul E. Kandarian is a free-lance journalist from Taunton,