Legends Never Die

In loving memory of alumnus and friend John Wilkins


Shaun Odnak

Late SNC student John Wilkins

Bekah Ashley and Jamie Wanzek


On Nov. 30, John Wilkins (A.K.A. Johnboy), a 2015 alumnus and treasured friend of the SNC community, passed away. John was an entrepreneurship major and was the team captain of the inaugural SNC waterski team. With John’s passing, students, faculty, and friends throughout the country mourn the loss of a dear friend, brother and colleague.

In 2011, John moved from his childhood home in Lake Placid, New York, to continue his passion for the mountains and snowboarding at Lake Tahoe and SNC. He was an accomplished snowboarder and skier although many people did not know that he could do both. He didn’t feel the need to talk about it; he was always humble. Scrolling through photos on his social media, the ratio looks like this: For each photo of John, there are five of his friends and family.

Elizabeth Thibodeau, SNC’s Director of Housing, remembers how John created a new home and lifelong friends at the college. “Johnboy had this incredible smile that truly lit up any room. He loved all and welcomed any new friendship. Many will remember his wild antics and the way he would do backflips off anything. I will remember his sweet soul and the way he made me smile. I will truly miss him,” she said.
Inside SNC’s classrooms, John had confidence, taking on leadership roles in class discussions and presentations, including an important role in the business plan competition. Lena Stroheker, SNC alumni, reflected on her time in class with John.

“I’ll never forget this presentation we had in a business class. John was talking about employee empowerment because he wanted everyone to be empowered by the world,” said Stroheker. “He slayed the presentation.”

Stroheker said that John was a ‘yes man’ not only for class projects, but for epic adventures, grilling for large groups of people, and back-flipping off anything and everything.

“It didn’t matter what the adventure was. If he knew his friends wanted to do it, he was going to be standing there beside them, ready to go,” Stroheker said. “He loved putting a smile on your face, and he’d go the extra mile to do so.”

In 2014, John, along with SNC alumn Cory Johnson, led the first collegiate water ski team. The team traveled across California competing in water ski competitions that included slalom, wakeboard and jumping competitions.

“During our second tournament, we declared John the captain and hypeman of the team. His role was to keep everyone excited about skiing and to support his teammates– because that is what he was best at, supporting his teammates,” said Cory Johnson, President and Founder of the SNC Waterski Team. “ John was always on the dock prepping his teammates for their run and then sprinting to the finishline to give them a highfive, hug and help carry their skis from the water.”

Francesca Curtolo, an SNC senior and water ski team member, said, “Johnboy was the smile of SNC. All of us water skiers have been infected by the energy and authenticity he brought to every event.”

For John, the water ski events were more about making memories with his teammates and less about the competition.

“Members from National Colligate Water Ski Association from across the country want to thank John for making those weekends so memerable,” Johnson said.

The weekends of water ski competitions were led by John’s enthusiasm and shared through long laughs. “His spectacular crashes will never be forgotten, and his free spirit will be held as a celebration of life,” Curtolo said.

Outside the walls of SNC, John loved to cook for his friends, especially jalapeño poppers. He insisted that all of his friends had a home-cooked meal during their time in college. Senior Jada Garcia recalled that John “was an unforgettable gentleman and scholar. He was one of my best friends and always put a smile on my face. I will love him forever.”

Adam Antonucci, a Lake Placid native and one of John’s Tahoe roommates, looked up to John as a snowboarder. The two became good friends in the summer of 2015 when Antonucci and a group of their New York friends came to Tahoe after a snowboard trip to Mt. Hood, Oregon.

“l was with a few other friends from New York who came up with the idea to go see Johnboy in Tahoe since he had just graduated,” Antonucci said. “I had never been to Tahoe, but I knew I was in for a good time if John would be there. So, after 17 hours in a car we arrived in Tahoe, stinky, tired and ready for a nap. But Johnboy yelled, ‘You’re not allowed to go to sleep until you’ve seen the lake.’ ’’

Since John passed away, we are reminded of how many lives he touched, with several gatherings taking place in celebration of his life both in Lake Tahoe and his hometown in Lake Placid. SNC alumni Spencer Fisch attended the Lake Placid gathering and said that John “did not ask to be a leader, but everyone followed, everyone listened. John’s game of life was making each and every person he encountered happy.”

It’s hard to find the words to sum up a remarkable life, but those who knew John, the words “welcoming, inclusive, warm hearted, genuine” are at the forefront of our memories of him.