Passionate Pursuits

Jonathon Whitelaw

Jon Whitelaw ’13 M’18

Adolescence Education Social Studies, Athletic Coaching and History Minors

Hometown: Huntsville, Ontario, Canada

Role: Festa Graduate Assistantship Award for Men’s Hockey recipient

Fueling the flame: Fred ’81 and MaryLynn Barbero Festa ’82

“Accepting the Festa Assistantship is a tremendous honor, one that I am flattered and fortunate to receive. It will allow me the opportunity to continue to follow my dreams as both an educator and elite-level coach.”

Hockey has taken Canadian Jon Whitelaw ’13 M’18 from his home in northern Ontario to the shores of Lake Ontario in Oswego and on to professional leagues in Utah and France.  

“To be able to live in the Alps and play professional hockey was a phenomenal experience and one that I was fortunate to have,” said Whitelaw, the former Laker team captain and forward who won the SUNYAC Championship twice and played in the Frozen Four every season during his four-year college career at Oswego. “But for me to have the opportunity to return to Oswego, well, I just couldn’t say no. I enjoyed my time here so much, and to be able to come back on the coaching side of things was something I wanted to do before I even graduated the first time.”

Whitelaw accepted the Festa Graduate Assistantship Award for Men’s Hockey and will work toward his master’s degree in adolescence education as he serves as a graduate assistant for the men’s ice hockey team. The award was established by Fred Festa ’81, owner of the NHL’s N.Y. Rangers minor league affiliate, the Greenville (S.C.) Road Warriors hockey team, and chairman and chief executive officer of W.R. Grace & Co., and his wife, MaryLynn Barbero Festa ’82.

“I have a deep passion for both coaching and teaching,” he said. “The two are very connected. When I think about the people in my life who helped shape me the most—my mentors—I think of my parents and family, and right close behind them are my coaches and teachers. I want to be able to have that kind of impact on people’s lives. Being able to combine the two together is kind of the perfect scenario for me.”

Whitelaw is the second recipient of this new award, established to combine a hands-on experience for coaching and mentorship. The first recipient, Kyle Laughlin M’16 of Gambrills, Md., played with the Huntsville Havoc hockey team and the Providence College Friars before coming to learn from “some of the best coaches in the country,” including head coach Ed Gosek ’83 M’01, he said.

For Laughlin, the assistantship also enabled him to combine two passions: hockey and business. He accepted a full-time position with the Financial Leadership Program at W.R. Grace after a successful internship in summer 2015. He also accepted a position as associate head coach with a Junior A hockey team, the Potomac Patriots.

“My assistantship with the hockey program in addition to the education I received at Oswego have helped me tremendously,” Laughlin said. “I’m very fortunate in that I will have the opportunity to pursue multiple career paths in all of my interests. The gifts made to the college provided me with these opportunities, and I think those who can call themselves Lakers are quite lucky.”

Whitelaw hopes that the assistantship also sets him on the path toward his future goal of becoming a collegiate hockey coach.

Earning the master’s degree is certainly a first step on that path, and he is grateful to the Festas for assisting him with the costs of graduate school, he said.

“I’m going to do everything in my powers to represent the Festas, the school and the program well,” Whitelaw said. “And I hope that one day I am fortunate enough to be able to give back to this place like they have.”