NOTE: I tossed around whether to write my own missive about my alma mater’s appearance in the NCAA basketball tournaments and why people can’t quite understand the cult of St. Bonaventure. So many have offered tributes — Brian Moritz, Todd Lewandowski, and CJ Maurer and Mike Vaccaro — that I didn’t want to seem like a copycat.
I’ve had more than one discussion this week with people who did not go to St. Bonaventure University and they ask why our alumni base is so rabid, so passionate, so…annoying. The best explanation I’ve ever come up with is this: You went to college; I went to St. Bonaventure. I may have a (master’s) degree from Syracuse University, but I went to St. Bonaventure.
It’s not a good explanation and I’m still working on one that is better.
A quick story. I graduated from St. Bonaventure University ready to enter the world of college sports communications. I had three really rewarding years working 70-hour weeks for free as a student intern at SBU. After two years at Syracuse University, I walked away from the profession. It wasn’t the hours, the low pay or the lack of respect for the industry. It was because I needed to work for a cause I believed in. I found out, the hard way, that I couldn’t just become a corporate drone. I believed in St. Bonaventure University. I didn’t believe in Syracuse University. I firmly believe that I’m in the nonprofit world because of this fact.
Below is my senior farewell column that was printed in the April 30, 1999 edition of The BonaVenture, SBU’s award-winning student newspaper. I can’t explain it any better other than to say this…you went to college…I went to St. Bonaventure.
Sunday afternoon, during a conversation with my roommate, lightning struck me. My roommate, an evil person, had the audacity to tell me today’s issue of The Bona Venture is the final one of our collegiate careers.
The effect of this conversation was twofold. One, I realized I had a column due and two, and most importantly, reality’s ugly hand has settled into my life once more.
You see, I’m graduating in three weeks.
Thinking about what I would write in my last diatribe, I decided to reflect on my college experience. So, sit down, grab something to drink and let me see if I can tell you what St. Bonaventure means to me.
Reality’s ugly hand thrust me on this campus four years ago. At 17, I was rudely ripped from my cozy bedroom in Liverpool and dropped in the middle of nowhere. It’s been four years since my family drove away, leaving me in my seafoam-colored box in Shay Hall. Uneasy about coming here in the first place, I decided that day I would spend my freshman year in the sticks and transfer out the next fall.
In case you haven’t noticed, which is possible for many of you 94 percenters out there, I managed to stay. It took less than a month for me to change my mind.
That night, I participated in my first social gathering in Allegany, when I met four people who would shape my existence for the three years. Together we would celebrate birthdays, mourn deaths, and share all too many facets of our lives.
They would watch me get thrown out of parties, laugh at me for having my e-mail revoked and we would forge a bulletproof bond. Most importantly, they taught me about loyalty, friendship and instilled the knowledge that a phone call, not interstates, would separate us after graduation. Without them, I surely would have checked into the transfer process.
During my first day of classes, I met another person who has changed my life. After stealing a oversized ball from the opening day picnic, we found out we probably met in church some years ago before she moved.
In her, I found a person almost as brutally cynical and pessimistic as me a most endearing quality in my eyes.
And through the years as we grew closer, I learned one could have a stable friendship with a female without any other expectations but honesty and trust. I learned loving her as a friend did not mean having her baggage, what little there is, forced on me. Quite refreshing, considering some of the nutburgers I once called “friend.” She has shown me a friend is someone who truly cares about another person. During my first month on campus, my life reached an epiphany. One person managed to teach me the meaning and power of three words – “I,” “love” and “you.” Learning these words came with additional irony – our grandparents know each other, our parents went to grade school together and other twisted connections.
The meaning has also come with the intrigue of turning new corners in life and sharing them with her. Together, we have danced (not as often as she would like), laughed and taught me the importance of faith – in myself, in other people and in each other. She’s washed my hair when an untimely ice ball split my skull. She held me and cried for me when an untimely cancer split my family. Her patience for me is worthy of sainthood. Without this patience, this love and this person, I’d be at Syracuse University. Graduating. Unhappily.
When high school students ask me about St. Bonaventure, I caution them. I warn them about Clare College, the acceptance rate and some of the residence halls. But, I also tell them about how the people make the smell of second Falconio fade, “Inquiry into the Social World” livable and administrative lunacy acceptable.
Hey, if nothing else, it was the people who kept me here.