Has William McIntosh IV ’95 cracked the secret to living an extraordinary life? In his quest to serve others, the former pro hockey player has skated from California to Florida, helped train Navy SEAL candidates, and joined the search for missing persons
BY BETH LUBERECKI
NORWICH RECORD | Winter 2023
William McIntosh IV ’95 had a feeling that a black hole in the ice on the Winooski River contained answers long sought by the community of Duxbury, Vermont. McIntosh and his daughter noticed it while driving by, and he believed it could be key to solving the mystery surrounding Donald Messier, who has been missing since 2006.
McIntosh had been serving as a volunteer investigator in the search for information about Messier, just one of nine missing persons cases for which the Rhode Island resident and founder of his own search, rescue, and recovery company has volunteered his time.
After spotting the anomaly in the ice, McIntosh sent photos and a search plan to others working on the case. This fall an underwater sonar dive recovery team investigated the area, and McIntosh’s hunch proved correct: The team found Messier’s truck beneath the water.
The discovery didn’t answer every question that remains, but it did help Messier’s family and friends get one step closer to learning what happened to their loved one. And McIntosh has been continuing the hunt for evidence.
He says helping people find some kind of closure, whatever the outcome may be, is one reason why he gets involved in these searches.
“We all hold our breath in life when there is a feeling of unfinished business,” he says. “We have this heaviness on our hearts. I find that the sense of closure allows people to take a deep breath … . They’re not stuck in neutral. They’re now able to move on with their lives and focus on their next chapter.”
That idea of turning the page in one’s life and moving on to the next chapter is a concept McIntosh has been exploring ever since he decided to major in English at Norwich. Exposure to great works of literature “changed a lot of the way that I was living my life,” he says. “I started looking at life a little bit more as the story that we write of our lives is dictated by our actions.”
“We’re writing the book of our life every day,” he reflects. “Every day that you get up in the morning, what you make a decision to do and the plan that you have for that day or that week or that month, is the story of your life. That’s just kind of how I’ve always thought since Norwich.”
In high school, McIntosh originally set his sights on the Air Force Academy. But he wound up following in the footsteps of his father, William McIntosh III ’67, and enrolled at Norwich, where he played hockey, rugby, golf, football, and lacrosse.
“The first impression I had of him was, here was a kid who wanted to do everything,” says Anthony Mariano, the longtime former director of athletics at Norwich, who knew McIntosh’s father and coached the younger McIntosh as a Cadet.
“And when I say everything, he wanted to be an athlete. He wanted to be as good of a student as he could possibly be. He wanted to have rank in the Corps of Cadets. The sky was the limit with Bill, and that was kind of the attitude that he took while he was at Norwich.”
Hard work and determination were key to McIntosh’s success. “I was a good athlete,” he says. “I wasn’t the greatest athlete, but I was one of those guys who gave you everything I had until I was broken.”
McIntosh’s dad was usually in the stands, and when things started getting hard on the field or the ice, he would point at his heart. “He would just look at me and keep pointing at his heart, and that meant dig deep,” McIntosh says. “Go deep inside of yourself right now, because your team needs you. It would automatically trigger me to take it to the next level, to take a deep breath and go after it.”
McIntosh also began laying the ground¬work for a life that would be filled with volunteer service. During his senior year, he founded the Dog River Cleanup as well as the Students Against Drunk Driving car crushing fundraising and awareness events.
At graduation, when NU’s then-president Richard W. Schneider, RADM USCGR (Ret), challenged him to do something that would make a difference for Norwich and the world, McIntosh dreamed up a seemingly impossible adventure: Used to skating hours a day for hockey, the superfit athlete set himself the quest of rollerblading from California to Florida to raise awareness and funds to support literacy programs and the Special Olympics.
McIntosh skated a total of 2,981 miles over 35 days. Along the way, he was sup¬ported by people such as former professional baseball player Jeffery Kittler, who served as trainer and skated 500 miles of the route, and John Cullen, another skater from Rhode Island. “He was with me every inch of every mile, and we are still friends today,” McIntosh says. His cousin, Andrew Newman, drove the support vehicle.
That experience, McIntosh says, taught him life lessons that he still draws upon today. To remember, for example, that for every hill or mountain you must climb, there’s always a downhill on the other side, and that when the road you’re traveling seems long, “take it one pole at a time, one town at a time, one state at a time, one hill at a time.”
“The skate taught me that you can do anything in life if you set your mind to it,” he says. As he skated across the country, McIntosh often thought about a poem by Walter D. Wintle. Titled “The Man Who Thinks He Can,” it was one the 23-year-old had read to become prefect in high school and also used to recite to himself before hockey games:
If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you don’t,
If you like to win, but you think you can’t
It is almost certain you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will
It’s all in the state of mind.
If you think you are outclassed, you are
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.
“I always revert to that poem,” McIntosh says today. “That poem is what pushes me to do the things I do. I don’t know why. It was meant to come into my life; it was meant to push me.”
McIntosh’s life has been full of extraordinary chapters. Shortly after his cross-country skate, the Cadet had a brief turn as a professional hockey player in Tennessee and Oregon. McIntosh says his career playing at a high level, though short-lived, taught him that “the game” was bigger than he was. “It was more about the kids coming to the game, who had a dream of playing at a high level. It was about the child in a wheelchair who would never be able to skate,” he says. “It was about a lot more than hockey.”
Skating at right wing for the Nashville Knights and center for the Eugene Snowcats, McIntosh played games with the same intensity he did in high school and college. “I gave 110% for my team,” he says. McIntosh brought his trademark tenacity, looking to apply the “two percent rule” popularized by a Florida college football coach.
“I went to practice and into every game trying to make myself two percent better every day,” he says. While relatively short, McIntosh’s pro hockey career was long enough that his speech is still pattered occasionally with the bromides favored by professional athletes. A favorite: “Hard work outweighs talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
For the past decade, McIntosh has brought that same kind of mindset to his work as a volunteer instructor for Navy SEAL candidates. He works with candidates for Naval Special Warfare through a private mentoring program called SEAL RDAC (Recruiting District Assistance Council) and has helped train more than 500 candidates in undisclosed locations all over New England. He learned about the program through his involvement with the Brian Bill Memorial Golf Tournament.
“Those lessons that I learned in my life through sports and the skate across America resonate with my guys,” he says. “Though I didn’t go into the military, they see that I’ve gone through some very difficult situations that a lot of people haven’t taken on. They respect the fact that I’m in the trenches with them, running with them, diving with them, jumping with them. I’m in the pool with them; I do everything with those guys. I’m able to serve my country in a different way.
“And that’s what I’ve been doing all my life,” says McIntosh, the recipient of the 2020 Norwich University Alumni Association Sustained Service Award. “I try to serve. I think it was our Rook book that said serve your fellow man, and that’s what being a citizen soldier is all about. You’re serving your fellow man, whether it be in the community that you’re in, a team that you’re on, or within your country. I kind of live by that.”
McIntosh has created a career for him¬self that allows him to spend much of his time volunteering, including coaching sports teams for his three teenage children. Early on he dabbled for several years in home renovation and land development, experiences that helped him land a job with Toll Brothers, serving as an assistant project manager for a 185-house subdivision in Massachusetts in the early 2000s.
“That taught me that business, so I created my job title of land developer, because it allowed me the freedom to do what I wanted to do in my life.”
He’s since gone on to develop several properties in Rhode Island, including a nearly 13-acre subdivision, known as McIntosh Farms, and a 4.6-acre subdivision called Highland Farms. “I built a job that allowed me to have the freedom to do what I love, which is coach my kids and mentor young men and help,” he says. When taking on a subdivision project, McIntosh says his approach is to build a great team—engineer, surveyor, designer, and renovation group. “I have hands that are literally not doing anything, because my team’s doing it all,” he says. “So I go and do these other things.”
That includes years of involvement with the Brian Bill Memorial Golf Tournament that supports the Brian Bill ’01 Memorial Scholarship at Norwich, established in memory of the Norwich graduate and Navy SEAL who lost his life in Afghanistan in 2011. “When President Schneider asked me to help build the tournament I said, ‘I am in sir,’” McIntosh recalls. “These four words led me down a path that I will never have a single regret [about]. I have met some of the most amazing people.”
“From the very beginning, he has been fantastic,” says Patricia Parry, Brian’s mother. “And he has been there every year since. He’s been a big, big supporter and has become involved with young men who would like to be SEALS because of this … . It means the world to us, because this is Brian’s legacy. He wasn’t married. He didn’t have children, and we want his legacy to live forever. We want people to know who he was.”
McIntosh has become someone Parry can turn to for help or advice. “He’s a very kind and generous man and is always very positive and encouraging,” she says. “He loved and still loves Norwich University and is just proud to do what he can to support not only Brian but also Norwich.”
The arc of McIntosh’s life story seems like a series of stepping stones that have led him higher and higher, where his intense drive to help others benefits from skills that allow him to make an impact in so many different areas, from coaching and mentoring to search and rescue. His knowledge of topography and land development, for example, also informs his work as an instructor for Navy SEAL candidates and his efforts to find missing persons. His years on hockey rinks and sports fields now come into play as he coaches and mentors the next generation of athletes.
What has inspired his lifetime of giving back to others? McIntosh says it’s the honor and pride of serving your fellow man.
Mariano, his former coach, says he’s not surprised at McIntosh’s trajectory post-Norwich. “I think his time at Norwich really helped build the character that he has, and he kind of already had that going in,” Mariano says. “He came in with the attitude of I’m going to do whatever I would like to do in these different situations. And if say I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it. That’s what he’s done his whole life, and you’ve got to be impressed with that.”
McIntosh is a firm believer in visualizing your dreams. It’s something he’s done for himself and something he espouses in his coaching, mentoring, and while working with potential SEAL candidates.
“Whether you want to be a ballerina or you want to be a Navy SEAL, you have to visualize that you’re standing on the great¬est stage and that you’re getting that award for being the ballerina or the Navy SEAL trident,” he says. “If that’s what your goal is, set it. Shoot for the stars. Go for it. If you only shoot for being on the tree line, you’re going to end up on the ground still. You really have to shoot for the stars.”
To McIntosh, all things are possible. “To anyone who reads this article,” he says, “I want them to come across with the idea that you can do anything if you set your mind to it, if you set your dreams right, and if you go for it and put the effort in.”