Q & A with Dr. Michael FayJun 29, 2022 11:48AM ● By Tricia Hoadley
For several decades, Dr Michael Fay was a respected dentist in the Wilmington area, but prior to starting his career, he was a standout football player at Archmere Academy and the University of Delaware. Recently, Greenville & Hockessin Life met with the Hockessin resident to talk about his life in dentistry, his love of family and a former teammate and classmate who went on to become the 46th President of the United States.
Greenville & Hockessin Life: You were raised during the 1950s in the Wilmington area, decades before the city began to experience exceptional growth in its economy, before the construction of I-95 and before the real expansion of its suburbs. Give the readers of Greenville & Hockessin Life a glimpse into what life was like when you were growing up.
Michael Fay: Life was a lot simpler then, and I am so glad I was a teenager when I was. It was just a different world. After I was born, my parents lived near St. Agnes Church north of downtown, and then they moved to Deerhurst and we lived there until 1947. From then until 1953, we lived in Newport, and at the time, my siblings and friends and I thought nothing of hopping aboard a bus and going to downtown Wilmington to a Saturday matinee. I’m not sure that children today have that freedom and sense of safety that we once enjoyed.
On the other hand, I think the country has evolved in many ways since then and become a fairer place to live for everyone.
You enrolled at Archmere Academy in Claymont in 1957 and you were a halfback on its football there for four years. Were those teams competitive?
In 1957, our freshman team was 2-2-1. In 1958, we were 2-5, and I have to blame our record on the poor coaching that we received. The next year, my junior year, we were 1-6 and I again blame that on the coaching.
One of your teammates on those Archmere football teams was a scholarship student by the name of Joe Biden.
Joe and I played together our sophomore, junior and senior years together. We were both scrubs as sophomores, and then as juniors, we were not a very good team, but in our last game of the season, we played Friends Central from Philadelphia and were losing 30-0 in the second half. Joe then caught three touchdown passes and made all of the two-point conversions. We still lost 30-24, but the News Journal predicted that we would do well the following year, because we had a good quarterback and Joe was a good pass catcher. It turned out we were the only undefeated high school team in Delaware, in large part because we were not only talented, we also had a new football coach by the name of John Walsh, who really believed in all of us.
You not only played with Joe Biden during Archmere but at the University of Delaware, where your paths crossed again on the gridiron after you transferred from the University of Notre Dame after your freshman year. Assess Joe Biden as a football player.
Joe didn’t have a sprinter’s speed, but when he caught a pass, he didn’t get caught too often. He was over six feet tall and back then, that was a good-size receiver, but he was as skinny as a rail at about 160 pounds.
Did you keep in touch with Joe after college, at Archmere football reunions, for instance?
Sure! I used to drive right up his driveway at his house in Greenville when he was Vice President and he would very often answer the door himself. We have a group that has planned several reunions over the past several years, and Joe has hosted every one of them. Many years ago, we held a 40-year reunion, because one of my teammates told me that he was suffering from blood cancer and that he may not be able to make the 50-year reunion. Joe was kind enough to host that event at his Greenville home.
The most recent reunion was held at the Vice President’s home at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., when Joe was Vice President to President Obama.
Would you care to share any memories of the 46th President of the United States as a classmate, teammate and friend?
There was one time when a bunch of us from the football team walked into the Charcoal Pit on Concord Pike for lunch. At the time, the restaurant was segregated, so one of the waiters came over and told us that he wouldn’t serve our teammate Frank Hutchins, who was African-American. He told us that he would serve Fred but that he would have to eat his lunch outside. So Joe got all of us together and we walked out.
When you see your high school football teammate now as the leader of the free world, what goes through your mind?
I feel that what Joe has been able to do with his life shines great light on all of us. I remember once, one of our headmasters told a group of us, ‘I have never seen a group of classmates as close as you guys are to each other.’ When we get together now, we rip each other to shreds verbally, but it’s all for fun. We came together through sports, and we remain together out of a respect for one another.
Following your graduation from the Temple University Dental School in 1970 to the time a hand injury sidelined you in 1996, you were a prominent dentist in the Wilmington area. What led you to pursue a career in dentistry?
When I was graduating from the University of Delaware in 1966, I signed a contract to coach football and track and teach chemistry at St. Joseph’s in Chester. I signed the contract and after I graduated, I got a notice that I was eligible for the draft. They told me, “We don’t defer you in Delaware for teaching. If you lived in Pennsylvania, you would have been deferred.’ I asked them, ‘What will get me deferred?’ They told me I would get a deferment if I attended either medical or dental school
hopped in my car and drove to Temple University, and ended up in
their dental school that September.
What would consider the greatest accomplishments of your life?
I guess I am most proud of my three sons. The baby of the family is now a dentist in Dover, my second oldest is an attorney in Washington, D.C., and my oldest son, who unfortunately passed away from glioblastoma – ironically the same type of cancer that took Beau Biden away from us -- received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware and after a brief time at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, received an MBA and worked for JP Morgan Chase.
I am just so proud of all of them.
What is your favorite spot in Greenville and Hockessin?
Quinn’s Café in Hockessin is probably my favorite spot. I go there a lot for breakfast and lunch.
You throw a dinner party and can invite anyone you wish -- famous or not, living or not. Who would you want to see around that table?
My first choice would be my parents, because they’re not here anymore and I would love to see them. I also have one living brother and sister, and I would love them to be there. I would also invite my wife, my two grandchildren and my two surviving children.
Once I get past my immediate family, then I would invite all of my extended family. Having dinner with famous people never really interested me. To me, there is nothing more important than family.
What food or items can always be found in your refrigerator?
I would say that there is always fruit and fruit juice in the refrigerator.
- Richard L. Gaw