Jesuit education, and in particular the commitment and lessons of Jesuit educators, have deeply affected me. Most particularly, in adult life, Father Tom Cummings, S.J., who as President of Rockhurst High School in Kansas City (where my sons attended high school), challenged me when he spoke to the students and parents emphatically stating that “a talent is not a gift until it is given away.” I always felt that he was talking directly to me, and strangely I think everyone else did as well. Father Tom challenged me to put the tradition of my Jesuit education to work daily.
My parents and grandparents encouraged an environment in which every human being was respected for who he or she was and that all, regardless of any superficial differences, were equal in God’s eyes. From my earliest years my parents and grandparents provided an example of what they called “giving back.” For years, Dad was the chair of the St. Vincent DePaul Society in our parish, and in various fundraising capacities to continue free Catholic School tuition in the parish. Mom served as president of the Mother’s Club raising money to support a constantly updated and modern textbook program for the school. Dad served as the parish athletic director for the nearly one hundred sports teams fielded by the school in nearly every sport imaginable. He also coached youth soccer for years even after I and my siblings had graduated. Mom and Dad were always “giving back.”
With that background at home and the influence of Jesuit education, I was drawn to volunteerism while in school and after, and eventually into public service and non-profit work. Whether it was tutoring students in inner-city schools, taking theater productions to hospitals, nursing homes, prisons or other detention facilities, or coaching youth sports, “giving back” became a part of my person. My earliest professional employment was as a teacher and various work experiences in what was known as the “War on Poverty.” Skills learned there and in graduate studies led me to a career in business but always supplemented by volunteer work as a School Board Member for parish schools, a youth coach, and a Boy Scout leader.
Twenty-five years ago I lost my only daughter to the thoughtlessness of a drunk driver. In an effort to find peace for myself I was drawn to a support group for bereaved parents and later served as a convener for the group. I sought counsel from several Jesuit friends. That counsel and meditation led me to volunteer in a diversion program for first time DUI offenders. The experience led me to a life changing decision to sell my business accounts and to return to public service and non-profit work, which I see as an extension of the Jesuit philosophy of men and women for others. Besides professional work in the public service arena and in non-profit work, I have found great joy in participation in my community as a board member for a number of non-profits, primarily interested in sheltering people with low and very low incomes.
Saint Louis University '67, '72