Who Is John J. Degnan ’62?


John Degnan served as the Master of Ceremonies at the Saint Benedict’s Dinner in 2005. He is a member of the Board of Trustees.

Dominick Silva, Staff Writer

John Degnan ‘62 was only 5´3 and a little overweight when he arrived at Benedict’s as a freshman in 1958. He remembers his dad saying, “You’re not going to win any fights; you better talk your way out of it. Why don’t you join the debate club?” He did. And learned a lot. “I can’t tell you how many times that has paid off in my career as a lawyer, politician, government official, and corporate executive,” Mr. Degnan said.

“This might sound nerdy but, the single best preparation I had for my later career was debating here and at St. Vincent College.”

Mr. Degnan said “the art of debating” teaches people how to think about a question on either side of a proposition, then to articulate their thoughts concisely, and rebut what the other side is saying.

“In a room where an important point is being decided, you can articulate your position better than other people,” he said. “You have an advantage over others.”

Mr. Degnan was also a member of the Drama Guild. “To be effective in communications, you need not only to speak well but you need to present yourself credibly, project yourself well, and learn how to combine your words with your facial expressions and gestures,” he said.

His father, James A. Degnan ‘25, and three brothers all attended St. Benedict’s so “there was no question where I would be going,” he said. He was not sure what attracted his father to come here. Mr. Degnan’s father was the youngest of six siblings, whose mother and father were Irish immigrants, and his grandfather could not read or write. Since his dad was the youngest in his family, they invested in his education. James went to Benedict’s, became a lawyer, and valued what Benedict’s allowed him to do later in his life. According to Mr. Degnan, James was very loyal champion runner who broke many state records while here.

After graduation here, Mr. Degnan thought about becoming a Benedictine. His father, being a wise man, told him that if he wanted to be a Benedictine he would be happy to support him but that he should go to college for a couple of years. His father knew he was a “relatively immature 17-year-old and probably wasn’t ready to make a decision of that magnitude.” However, Mr. Degnan mentioned that other students also participated in three- day religious retreats during that time, and many returned thinking about a vocation.

One of the monks who taught Mr. Degnan, Fr. Boniface Treanor, O.S.B., is still here. Mr. Degnan said that Fr. Boniface was a role model who gave back to the school with his vocation.  Fr. Boniface remembers Mr. Degnan doing a good job in the Drama Guild.  “I think he [mentioned me] because I am the only one who is still around,” Fr. Boniface said with a smile. “He was a very quiet, polite, and respectful boy who was no trouble at all.”

Check out the latest The Benedict News magazine to read a thorough sit-down interview with John J. Degnan ’62.