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Don Quigley and his book photo by Larry Burgess

Santa tales

1:31 PM  Feb 13th, 2013
by Audrey Starr

Forget the sleigh and reindeer — sometimes, Santa Claus needs to travel in an ’84 Chevy Caprice.

That was the original transportation of choice for Don Quigley ’63, a busy sales professional by day who, for the past 30 years, has transformed into the iconic Christmas character at night. What does it take to don the familiar costume?

“Someone who gets more joy from giving to others than from receiving,” Quigley said. “It also doesn’t hurt to love to dress in a warm, plush red velvet suit and instantly look like you’ve gained 50 pounds.”

In the beginning, Quigley snuck off to his basement, perfecting a hearty “ho ho ho” and belly laugh. “My wife worried I was having a midlife crisis,” he chuckled. He recounted this and other tales in his 2012 memoir, Santa’s Magic, which also features illustrations by Katie Kandrach ’10. The two joined forces after meeting as teacher and student while Quigley was a UD business professor, a later-in-life profession that Santa gets the credit for inspiring.

“My role as Santa gave me self-confidence and self-esteem that wouldn’t have been part of my personality otherwise,” Quigley explained. After two years of portraying the mythical man, he made a career move from a computer giant to an electronics manufacturer, returning to his alma mater in 1998 as an adjunct professor. “I started by listening to children as they told me their dreams, and now they are listening to me as I teach how to pursue them.”

After three decades of use, Quigley finally traded his original Santa uniform for an updated version, which he wore again this Christmas. “Santa, the legend, can never retire,” he pointed out.

Read more about Kandrach, whose current job keeps her in the holiday spirit; and, find out how long it took Quigley to compress nearly 40 years of memories into Santa’s Magic.

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