Stephen Rochon '84 Hosts Private Tour for Pharmacy Students and Faculty
It was a Saturday afternoon in mid-March and the nation’s capitol was a very dreary place dealing with record-breaking weekend rain totals.
That hardly mattered to a group of more than fifty Xavier students from the College of Pharmacy plus their Interim Dean, Dr. Kathleen Kennedy, and a handful of faculty who had traveled to Washington, DC to attend the American Pharmacists Association 2010 Annual Meeting and Exposition.
This group was happy to brave the inclement weather for a very special private tour of The White House – home of the President of the Unites States – conducted by none other than Rear Admiral Stephen Rochon (XU Class of ’84) whose formal title at The White House is “Director of the Executive Residence and Chief Usher.”
Rochon learned that the group from his HBCU alma mater was interested in a White House tour, and so he decided to conduct a private tour for the fairly large group that lasted much longer than the conventional “public tour” plus, they’d be allowed to bring personal cameras inside.
Admiral Rochon shared his own personal story of becoming the first African American to ever hold his position, having been hired during the previous administration of President George Bush. He also shared stories of welcoming the Obama family members into their new home and making adjustments to accommodate their desires and needs, while showing his tour guests so many of the famous White House rooms where so much history has been made.
Admiral Rochon’s job includes overseeing nearly 100 White House employees whose mission is to ensure that the First Family is always comfortable – and to further ensure that the world’s most famous residence is always ready for whatever historic and social events are scheduled there too.
Needless to say, the private White House tour resulted in very personal and special memories for the Xavier-ites who were fortunate enough to attend; many of whom were eager to share their reflections in writing. (see sidebar)
The private White House tour concluded with Admiral Rochon being presented with a special embroidered “Xavier University Alumni” sweatshirt for himself and another sweatshirt intended for President Obama, who received an honorary XU degree himself when he addressed the 2006 Commencement class, along with personal messages for each from the university’s president, Dr. Norman C. Francis.
“As I approached the entryway after clearing security to enter the White House, I instantly felt a lump form in my throat, my stomach was doing flips, and my eyes began to tear up. It was a humbling feeling to know that I now belong to a community, that of Xavier University, with connections that allowed me entry into the top house in the United States.”
LaKeasha R. Batiste (P-2)
“I particularly enjoyed all of Admiral Rochon's personal stories about the President and his family - the pizza parties, the new basketball court, the fact that the two little Obama girls are still required to make their own beds, etc. These are the sorts of things that remind me that even though the leader (and past leaders of our country) resides within those walls, it is still a place for someone to call home. It is a cool feeling to know that the man who runs the White House's daily operations is an alumnus as well as the
President being an honorary XU graduate!”
Ashley Lenfant (P-3)
“Meeting Admiral Stephen Rochon and his wife, and being personally escorted, made it a very special experience. The attention to detail, the enthusiasm, the warmth and the eagerness with which Admiral Rochon organized and conducted our private tour were underscored by our awareness of his pride at being a Xavierite!”
Professor Y. Pramar, Ph.D.
“Admiral Rochon will forever be in the story line of my life. He is a distinct reminder of what an XU alum should be and can be. It definitely made me proud to be a Xavierite. Being inside the White House with my colleagues/friends, professors, an d dean was an overwhelming feeling
that I hope I never lose touch of.”
Mia Incaprera (P-2)
“It was absolutely amazing. Almost an indescribable feeling to actually set foot inside the White House and be part of history.
A memory that will be part of my life forever.”
Chuong Van (P-4)
“While I've passed by the White House several times during prior trips to the nation’s capitol, it was only the exterior that I was able to view. It was indeed an honor and an awesome privilege to have been granted an invitation for a personal tour of the interior quarters”
Professor Conchetta W. Fulton, Pharm.D, FASCP
“I can not be any prouder as an American ... it has given me an insight as to what this country is built on by the great presidents of the past and present.”Minh-Tam Nguyen (P-3)
“This meant the WORLD to me! I truly felt at home & welcomed…it was an honor and privilege…if I never see the White House again, I will NEVER forget the experience… an emotional moment.”
Michelyn "Missy" Patton (P-2)
“This opportunity meant that I would be a part of history -- being able to tour the White House while the first African-American president is in office. I’ve been telling family and friends about the rich history present in the White House and how each presidential family customizes the house to their liking, but still keeps its rich traditions and history intact. I also show them my Barack Obama M&M's commemorative candy box!”
Kisha O'Neal Gant, BS, PharmD