Professor giving a lecture to students in old main

Wofford Alumnus First WTC Victim Identified Through DNA

March 19, 2002

SPARTANBURG, SC—For the first time, DNA was used to positively identify the remains of a passenger--Wofford College graduate James A. Trentini (Class of 1959)—aboard one of the hijacked planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, according to an Associated Press report on March 19, 2002.

A hand found in the rubble at ground zero was matched through DNA testing to Trentini, a 65-year-old retired schoolteacher from Everett, Mass., it was reported. Trentini and his wife, Mary, 67, were flying to Los Angeles Sept. 11 on Flight 11 to visit their grandchildren. It is the first time DNA has been able to verify the identity of any victims aboard the two planes that were flown into the World Trade Center, according to the report. The fingerprints matched Trentini’s, and his college ring, believed to be his Wofford ring, was still on his finger, Trentini’s sister, Patricia Malatesta, said. The Trentinis were to leave on Sept. 10 but changed their plans because James had jury duty. His wife has not been found.

Trentini was a 1959 graduate of Wofford College in Spartanburg, where he was a lineman on the football team. He was a teammate of Jerry Richardson, owner of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

He was a beloved retired educator, teaching health and coaching football and track, at Burlington (Mass.) High School for about 20 years. Students called him “Mr. T,” according to former student and friend Peter McAnespie of Burlington.

The school has established the Trentini Spirit Award, and will hold a silent auction on April 12 to raise money for the fund. Wofford has provided several items for that auction. The fund has been set up by three former students and a former colleague of Trentini—McAnespie, a former student who also did painting and construction work with Trentini during the summers; Joe Levasseur, who taught with Trentini and also did painting and construction work with him; and former students Sue Minghella and Lisa McGonagle. Contributions may be mailed to “Trentini Spirit Award,” PO Box 1102, Burlington, MA 01803.

“It didn’t matter whether you played football or did track, or what you did, all the students were Jimmy’s kids,” McAnespie said. “He embodied school spirit; that’s why we are calling the scholarship the Trentini Spirit Award.”