Leadership with an easy smile, that was Dave. His brother, Dick Thorpe '60, fondly tells the high school story of Dave rounding up a handful of Mynderse Academy students to challenge the varsity basketball team to a full-fledged game. Dave player-coached his rag-tag squad to victory over the Varsity. After the improbable win, he grinned and softly said to the coach: "Boy was that fun, do you want to play again?" Coach, well, he declined.
Ralph Leyrer '64 was Dave's roommate at 426 Ostrom for three years. As Ralph puts it, they lived on the second floor with the "animals." Sure, they had more than their share of escapades in Dave's little white Triumph, but Ralph admits Dave gets the credit for keeping him in school. Ralph confides he wasn't much for the books. Dave would sit with Ralph and study next to him, making sure he was doing his work. Dave always led quietly by example.
Ralph remembers if the guys were together, say a group of 20, Dave would be in the middle, calm and strong, kind of like the stitches holding the tight-knit band of Brothers together. We see this in the photo above - Dave is front and center, sitting in the lawn chair there with the guys on the 426 Ostrom porch.
Ralph was probably one of the tougher guys in the House, coming to Syracuse on a wrestling scholarship. In one of his last conversations with Dave, Ralph tried to talk him out of going to Vietnam, warning the war had just started, safety measures for aircraft like radar weren't in place, and it was really dangerous. Dave brushed aside his concern, coolly responding that he was in Air Force ROTC, ready to fly and fight, and not backing down. Indeed, Dave was in the first group of airmen deployed to Vietnam.
Ray Piscitelli '62 was Dave's Big Brother. In Ray's words, they were as "thick as flies," or said another way, best friends. Two guys from Seneca Falls, and gosh did they have a ball together. Ray recounts their last road trip, thumbing the 47 miles from Syracuse back home, hitting every bar along the way. As best friends, Ray and Dave made a pact: When Dave returned from Vietnam, they would go into business together and develop Dave's family farm.
Air Force 1st Lt. David A. Thorpe never made it back. Dave's C-130E Hercules, with five men aboard including Dave as Navigator, failed to arrive at Nha Trang Air Base following its departure from Tan Son Nhut Air Base in South Vietnam. The cause of the crash is unknown. The incident file is blacklined - all we really know is the mission was top secret. Dave was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart for his last mission.
Four years ago, the Department of Defense informed Dick Thorpe his brother Dave's remains had been identified and would be returned to his family for burial with full military honors. At Dick's request, his grandson, an Air Force man who completed three tours in Iraq, escorted Great Uncle Dave's remains back from Honolulu. On June 23, 2011, more than 47 years after Dave last hung out with the guys on the porch at 426 Ostrom, eight of Dave's Syracuse DU Brothers from back in the day attended his service at Arlington Cemetery. Ralph Leyrer and Ray Piscitelli were there. Brotherhood really is forever.
Dave's life reminds us that truly powerful people have great humility. They do not try to impress, they do not try to be influential. They simply are. People are magnetically drawn to them. They are most often very quiet and focused, aware of their core selves. They listen. If there is anything they can offer to assist you, they offer it; if not, they are silent and lead by example.
In Dave's honor, The David A. Thorpe Class of 1964 Leadership Scholarship has been established. First and foremost, Dave's scholarship funds in perpetuity the participation of a Brother in the Delta Upsilon Leadership Institute. The Leadership Institute is an annual event designed to develop the next generation of officers and leaders of our Chapter.
To permanently endow Dave's scholarship, we're asking Brothers to join together to reach a total contribution of $20,000.
Donations in excess of the project goal will go towards the Syracuse Chapter Legacy Plan, forever funding the Brotherhood's participation in other DU educational programs, including the Regional Leadership Academy and Global Service Initiative.
Dave's scholarship is part of the Syracuse Chapter's return to SU in Fall 2016. Your donation is tax deductible.