The Monk Next Door

For a year and a half I lived next door to a Tibetan monk. While this might not be unusual in Tibet, it’s not what one expects in suburban Cincinnati. Still, it was an interesting—if not enlightening—experience.

Consider, for instance, the first time we met. After standing on the sidewalk and talking for about 15 minutes, he looked at me and nonchalantly summed me up:

“I can see you’re a good, average man,” he said.

“Thank you,” I said. “I think.”

He went by the name Gexe—pronounced Gee-she—which really isn’t as much of a name as it is a title. Gexe literally translates into “knowledgeable,” but it’s more like an academic title for someone who earned a religious doctorate. Kind of like calling someone with a Ph.D. a doctor.

Every day I would see Gexe in his burgundy and gold clothes walking to or from the library down the block. Sometimes I would see him outside snipping a bud from a row of wild flowers to take inside to symbolize nature for his prayers. When I would get up early in the morning to run, I would always see his light on and I could hear him ringing the bell that is part of the Buddhist prayer ritual.

“Why do you ring the bell?” I once asked.

“Oh,” he said with a laugh. “That’s just to keep me from falling asleep when I pray. Ah ha ha ha ha.”

We came to be neighbors when the elderly woman who lived next door died, and her son and daughter debated what to do with the house. It was the home they grew up in. He wanted to sell; she didn’t. So while their debate raged on, they agreed to at least have someone watch the house. Interestingly, she had heard at her parish of a Buddhist monk from Tibet who was in the area and needed a place to stay. A week later there was a monk next door.

Although he was outgoing, quick to laugh and as harmless as one would expect from a monk, people from the area would stare at him as he walked or carefully avoid making any kind of contact. Perhaps one of the reasons we got along so well while he was here was because I would take the time to say hi and talk.

When he found out I worked at a Catholic university, he would ask, “What’s the latest news from Rome?”

I would simply shrug my shoulders. “I don’t know. The pope didn’t call today.”

“Ah ha ha ha.”

Our proximity to the local library was ideal for him, as his life was about learning and enlightenment, particularly as it related to the Dalai Lama. Gexe was an ardent follower of the Dalai Lama and would search the Web daily to find out the latest news about the exiled Tibetan religious leader.

Once during a backyard conversation that had, inevitably, turned to the Dalai Lama, he ran back to his house and returned with one of his most prized—and only—possessions: a framed 3×5-inch photo. Those who earn the title of Gexe must defend their dissertations before a 16-member panel of high-ranking lamas, and the day he defended his, the Dalai Lama showed up. So there he was, this young monk in the middle of his defense, with the Dalai Lama seated a few feet away.

While our religious beliefs were vastly different, we never let that get in the way. I even felt somewhat privileged when he asked me to help him meet some of his Buddhist needs. The Buddhists have a tradition, for instance, of going to the highest ground on a certain holy day and spending time in prayer. He wanted to do this in Eden Park and asked if I would take him. I did. I later helped him e-mail a letter to a newspaper defending the Dalai Lama.

One other time he came over all upset. His hair clippers had broken and his hair was getting too long. Since most of the time when we saw each other I was outside trying to fix something on our old house, I guess he figured I might be able to fix his hair clippers as well. If nothing else, I had a lot of tools. So he brought the clippers over and, somehow, I managed to get them working again. He was most grateful.

Then, one day, Gexe was gone. The sister finally decided she was ready to sell the house, so he had to leave. I haven’t seen him since.

I was reminded of him, though, when I learned about the Brueggeman Center bringing Tibetan monks to campus from April 10-14. The monks are spending the week in the library creating a Mandala—a large, highly detailed picture made with millions of grains of colored sand—as well as teaching such arts as butter sculpture and sand painting.

Buddhist monks are not all the same, I once learned during one of our conversations. Some don’t follow the Dalai Lama. These particular monks do, though. They’re brothers in the cloth, sort of. So I’m wondering if Gexe will be there. I’m hoping so. It’s always nice to catch up with old neighbors.

Serving Others Fit to a T

When I was in high school, we had a “College T-shirt Day,” in which those who were going to college were encouraged to wear a T-shirt showing the school they were attending. The chosen day was around the same time as students on the yearbook staff were walking around the hallways and classrooms searching for anything and everything to take a picture of in order to fill the book’s pages.

All of this came flooding back to me not too long ago after I received an invitation for a class reunion. The event marked a certain milestone for our class year and was set to take place in a hotel ballroom not too far from the scene of the crime. .

For several days I kicked around the notion of attending the event—or not. My college of choice was located some 500 miles away, and upon packing my bags and stepping into the next level of my life, I never really returned to the area. Winter vacations were spent elsewhere and summers were typically spent on campus. And unlike today, when students keep in contact with their high school friends at other colleges via text messaging and cell phones, I quickly lost touch with the people I knew. They were, essentially, strangers now. So I debated. Would I remember everyone? Would I forget memories that were supposed to be burned into my brain? Did I really want to dig up those embarrassing moments of youthful stupidity? .

Eventually, sanity overruled fear, and I decided to go. It was great fun. Before I went, though, I went digging through the dusty locker where all of my yearbooks, pictures and assorted memory-joggers are stored. I pulled out my senior class yearbook and began thumbing through it, recalling names and faces and, just for the moment, reliving pieces of my past. .

It was then, while looking at the photos, the memories of “College T-shirt Day” came back to me. I’m sure the school’s administration came up with the idea in an effort to show a little pride in how many seniors decided to continue their education. As I looked at the photos, though, what I remember most was the pride each student showed on that particular day in his or her college choice. The college they chose became, in a way, a part of them. .

And in many ways, that never ends. We are, and will forever be, the college we attended. To some, the connection is stronger than with others. But it’s there. And it’s something that continues down through the generations. Last week I returned from vacation out West, and while sitting in the airport waiting to return home, I glanced up and noticed a family walking toward me. What caught my attention was the college-age son was wearing a Xavier T-shirt. .

With the offices of the national alumni association just down the hall, I hear stories regularly about people who run into Xavier grads all over the world—usually identifying them by a piece of clothing. I once got a letter from a gentleman who received a Burnes of Boston picture frame for Christmas, and the picture that came with the frame was of a young couple, one of whom was wearing a Xavier hat. .

One of the many things that make Xavier so special, though, is that it can take something as simple as a piece of clothing and turn it into something more. Last year some folks at the University bookstore came up with an idea to create an annual Xavier T-shirt contest. Students would submit design concepts, and the winning design would be made into a T-shirt, which would become the collector’s item of the year. .

The end result was the “Xavier Nation” T-shirt that featured a photo of the University’s first basketball team on the back. Students bought them in hordes. And wore them with pride. But the end result was also $6,400 in profits. Rather than keeping the money, though, it was given to Matthew 25: Ministries, a local non-profit organization. Suddenly a T-shirt wasn’t just a T-shirt. It was a T-shirt for the greater good. And that’s worth being proud about.

Returning With Love

In 1970, Thomas Murray spent many days in the back seat of an Army surveillance plane, ducking to avoid incoming rounds from the North Vietnamese as he radioed coordinates to American artillery troops. He remembers seeing the bombs explode and the burning craters they left behind. Today, nearly 40 years later, Murray has found a new purpose for those craters—and himself. The craters are filling with fish to feed the villagers whose lands he once bombed. And Murray, who’s loaning the money to buy the fish, is filled with gratitude for the opportunity to give back. “I don’t approach it as a veteran anymore but as an educator and how can I assist those people with educational opportunities,” Murray says. “That goes back to the Jesuits. My time at Xavier taught me about service and what to give back.”

An opportunity to return to Vietnam in 2005 to teach English to young Jesuits-in-training opened Murray’s eyes to the devastating effects of the war on the Vietnamese. But it also pointed him in a new direction—helping poor Vietnamese families send their children to school. After four visits, Murray created a non-profit corporation, Think About the Children, that has raised $25,000 and built a school and three libraries in villages on the western border.

But the goal of the foundation shifted when Murray, a 1969 political science graduate, realized that such projects can be self-defeating if the people can’t afford to maintain them. The preschool his foundation built last year is filled with children, but it will eventually have to start charging tuition to pay the teacher’s salary. He fears the children will stop coming. So his foundation added a micro-lending program, and now the villagers are digging out the bomb craters, pumping in water and filling them with catfish bought with their $150 micro-loan. In three months the fish are more than a foot long and worth $300.

The villagers repay their loans and plow the profits back into their businesses. Now Murray is turning the foundation’s management over to villagers. “We’re not trying to Americanize their way of life,” he says. “We’re trying to understand the dynamics of their lives and cultures. With our micro-loan program, we can adopt a village and do what they need.”

Loftier Dreams of Dorm Living

Early in my freshman year, my roommate, John, and I pooled together what little funds we had, trekked off to the local home improvement store and picked up some lumber, a handful of bolts and some wood stain. We had a plan.

The rooms in this particular residence hall were long and rectangular, with built-in closets at one end, built-in desks at the other and a couple of beds sandwiched in between. The room was cramped, sterile and barely left enough room to walk down the middle. What we were after with our collection of building materials was a little space. The way I saw it, the architect who drew up the blueprints for the residence hall was only interested in the economics of the building—squeezing in as many rooms and people as possible so the University could make as much money as possible. He had absolutely no interest designing for comfort or quality of life. And why not? After all, he didn’t have to live there.

We did, though. So we hauled our building materials back to our room and put our plan in motion. Our plan wasn’t original. It was one of those hand-me-down ideas from some previous generation of students that you hear about when you first move in and wonder how in the world you are ever going to live in such tiny, cramped quarters. Others in the hall built bunk beds to alleviate the limitations, which was fine. That freed up space in half the room. But our plan was more ambitious. Our plan was to build an A-frame-shaped loft that would raise both beds off the ground and free up all the space underneath.

So we found an old handsaw and an auger to drill the holes (power tools were out of our price range) and began construction. We moved our beds out into the hallway, laid out the wood and started building. Blueprints or any type of printed plans were, of course, nowhere to be found. We just winged it based on someone else’s description, making adjustments and alterations as we went along.

It took the better part of a day, but in the end it worked. We found a piece of carpeting, plugged in a mini-refrigerator, plopped down a couple of beanbag chairs and were living large.

That structure served us well. A lot of people commented on it. Some people copied it. Some really didn’t care, shaking their heads in disbelief and preferring to just live with what they got. For us, though, the loft made life in the dorms much more tolerable. Why suffer through the confines of what you’re given when a little ingenuity and effort can dramatically improve matters? Your home is your home, after all, no matter if it’s in a college dorm or a mansion on a hill.

And that’s one of the thoughts that led us to create the “Extreme Makeover: Dorm Edition” story in the summer issue of Xavier magazine. Xavier’s dorms are typically much nicer and accommodating to student life than they were back in the day—and they almost have to be since students today are used to a certain standard of living and will use the quality of their rooms as a factor in deciding where to go to school.

We had heard some stories about how students at other universities go to great lengths and expense to fix up their rooms. Some international students fixed theirs with a flair from their homeland. Others just brought in expensive accessories. We wondered if that was the case at Xavier, too, so we put out a call for dorm photos.

We also wondered what it would take to move a room from normal to nice, so we called a couple of Xavier grads who work in the home decorating business. We gave them $300—a reasonable expense account—and a list of regulations on what can and can’t be done with dorm rooms. “See what you can do,” we told them. They went to town and made over two dorm rooms, one for a pair of guys and one for a pair of girls. The end result? You’ll have to see for yourself. With photos from photographer Greg Rust and audio commentary from associate editor Caroline Purtell, we put together a slide show documenting the transformations. How did the rooms turn out? You be the judge. Click here to watch.

The students liked them, though. And why not? After all, your home is still your home, even if it’s in a college dorm.

Redoing Reunion

Return to the scene of the fun. That’s the idea the National Alumni Association is sending out to alumni as they prepare for this year’s Reunion Weekend, which is set for Nov. 6-8. The Association has made some changes in the past year to make the event more fun and more interesting for those who return. 

The weekend was shortened to just three days and is now in the fall, at a time when students are on campus, in an effort to give alumni the chance to mingle with today’s students and get the feeling of being back at Xavier. Plus, more free time is in the offering to allow alumni to remember, recall and relive some of their glory days at Xavier. There will still be plenty of events to keep people entertained, though, including some that are unique to this year’s weekend.

  • Exclusive tour of the new Hoff Academic Quad: Attendees will be among the first to get a hardhat tour of the new Hoff Academic Quad and see how the Quad will transform the educational experience, providing students with an enriched learning environment unlike any other facility before.
  • 40 years of women at Xavier celebration: This year marks an important anniversary for our women students and alumnae. It’s the 40th anniversary of the first year when women were accepted as fulltime students at Xavier University. The Women of Excellence council plans to celebrate the anniversary with a special reception during Reunion Weekend.

This year’s Reunion Weekend is also more family friendly than ever. Students from the College of Social Sciences, Health, and Education are offering free babysitting for the weekend. Plus, additional fun activities are planned for the kids, including a Madcap puppet performance.

REGISTER and check out the list of people from your class year who are attending at www.xavier.edu/reunionweekend.

REUNITE with old friends from Xavier classes of 1954, 1959, 1964, 1969, 1974, 1979, 1984, 1989, 1994, 1999 and 2004, and Edgecliff classes of 1939, 1944, 1949, 1954, 1959, 1964, 1969, 1974 and 1979.

TWO WAYS TO REGISTER:
1. Go online to www.xavier.edu/reunionweekend.
2. Call 800-344-4698, option 5, 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES:
• Alumni art exhibit with wine and cheese reception
• Former and current faculty/alumni reception
• Campus tours and open houses
• Class cocktail party
• Basketball exhibition
• Edgecliff Mass and luncheon
• Volleyball game vs. Fordham
• Educational presentations
• Music performances

College, Then and Now

I suppose what I did was illegal. Still, considering the circumstances and the fact that it was 2:00 a.m., it seemed justifiable. Especially to a college student. When you’re 20 years old, logic and law don’t always exist in parallel universes.

What happened was this: Unlike some majors where the necessary knowledge and skills can be perfected in a classroom, when studying journalism—my chosen path—what’s needed is practice and experience. That’s practice and experience in reporting, practice and experience in writing, and practice and experience in working on deadline. And the only real way to teach this in the classroom is to make the students do it. So often classes would involve the professor standing up and saying, “This is going on right now. I want you to cover it and write a story about it by the end of class. You have 45 minutes. Go.”

One class in particular was structured to do nothing else but this. It took place once a week from, 3:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. in a basement classroom of the journalism building, which at the time was Lasher Hall. And it was taught by a professor whose grading style and unbending nature earned her the nickname “The Slasher from Lasher.” She would invite in a guest, we would collectively interview this person for two hours and then be required to have a rather lengthy feature story under her door by 8:00 a.m. the next day.

All of which was fine and offered great practical experience, except for two things: One, I had a job working at a local newspaper and had to report to work as soon as the class was over. And, two, I lived about as far away from Lasher Hall as anyone could and still be considered on campus. That meant that I couldn’t start writing the paper until my work duties were done, which on a good night was around midnight. That also meant that if I wanted to get the paper in on time, I had to get up early and trudge all the way across campus to be there by 8:00 a.m. Or, even worse, risk oversleeping and getting an “F” because I didn’t get the paper in on time.

What was needed was another plan. What I needed was to drop off the paper before I went home from my job that night. The problem was, by that hour—usually around 2:00 a.m.—the building was locked. This is where the waters of legality became somewhat murky.

While I consider myself a legally, ethically and morally responsible person, apparently not all of my youth was productively spent. That is to say, somewhere along the trail of my boyhood I learned how to open locked doors. This was not a skill I ever put to any real use—or even thought about—but combining the circumstances of the moment with what were probably too many philosophy classes, I reasoned that no harm would come if I just slipped in, dropped off the paper and slipped out.

So I did.

Each week.

For a semester.

I never said anything to anyone except one of my co-workers at the newspaper who was also a student and who also had the same class—and the same problem—the next semester. She asked how I dealt with the issue and I fessed up.

“Can you teach me?” she said. I was reminded of this sordid piece of my past recently while editing a story about the new Learning Commons and how it’s going to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While college has always been a place of odd hours for students—study when you can, sleep when you have to—that hasn’t always been the case for the facilities. Until recently. We’re living in a non-stop world, and the University is following that trend. The library now offers access to a librarian 24/7. The Gallagher Student Center recently began staying open 24/7 after much student clamoring for a place to go late at night.

It’s all part of college in the 21st century, which seems to be becoming more and more a distant relative of the college I went to. Oh, the concept is the same—teaching people to think—but the ways and places that gets done are barely recognizable. Students want to learn in groups instead of individually. They want to sit around in café-like environments with their computers instead of holing up in the library with a stack of books. Classes are interdisciplinary. Classrooms are flexible. Technology is everywhere.

If that’s what it takes for students to learn, though, that’s OK. If nothing else, at least they won’t have to worry about how they’re going to have to turn in their papers at 2:00 a.m.

The Art of Living

My freshman year of college, I was walking down the main street that served as a connector/demilitarized zone between the campus and the city where it was located when I was stopped by a homeless person. By that point in my still-young life I was already accustomed to homeless people asking for money—quarter beggars, we called them in that era of political incorrectness—and usually brushed past them. I was paying tuition and, literally, didn’t have a spare quarter. But this particular moment was different. First, the man wasn’t asking me for money. And, second, the man was Art.

Art was a bit of a local legend in town. He was homeless, yes, and had all of the characteristics one would expect of someone in his position—unkempt, somewhat malodorous, kind of scary. He would throw beer cans at cars and curse at people when they stared. But Art also stuck around through the bitterly cold winters, unlike many of his fellow homeless people who would catch a boxcar south for the winter and then return in flocks during the pleasant summer months. And Art was also somewhat enterprising, which played well with the city’s blue-collar crowd. Somewhere along the way he picked up a bucket and squeegee and traveled up and down State Street washing the windows of the record shops and T-shirt stores in exchange for a few dollars.

He became well-known enough that one entrepreneurial person even had T-shirts made up that posed the question: “What is Art?” Right below that was a photo of Art, holding his squeegee in an American Gothic-like pose, and the answer: “A window washer on State Street.”

My lone brush with Art came outside of a liquor store. It was a Friday night and Art wanted to start his weekend with something to drink. The store’s owner refused to sell him anything, however, because it was rumored Art’s health was deteriorating and he didn’t want to contribute to his demise. Such is the price of being a cultural icon, I suppose. So Art flagged me down and asked if I would go inside and buy something for him. He pulled out a couple of crinkled bills and a handful of coins, placed them in my hand with detailed instructions on what he wanted and even where it was located.

In some ways, I felt a bizarre sense of honor for being asked by Art to buy his booze. I reasoned that it was quite a leap of faith for a homeless person to hand over his money to a total stranger, and I was that person. But why me? Did I look honest enough? Did he think he could catch me if I took off with his cash? No matter, I walked into the store and grabbed a bottle of his desired drink.

“Nope,” the owner said. “You’re buying this for Art, and I won’t sell it to you, either.” It was his store and he could do what he wanted, so I walked out empty-handed. I gave the money back to Art and explained what happened. “Sorry,” I said. “Thanks,” he said. We went our separate ways.

That was all I saw or heard about Art until my sophomore year when a front-page story carried the news: Art died. The alcohol and years of exposure finally took their toll. After a brief chronicle of his life and comments from those around town, the story ended by noting that he died with only one possession: a wallet. Brushing passed the irony of a homeless man owning nothing but a wallet, the story simply noted what was inside: no money, no photos, no ID, just a card that read “Jesus loves Arthur.”

I’ve often thought about that. Who gave him that card? Why did he keep that and nothing else? Among the destitute conditions, loneliness and daily struggles of his life, did he find a ray of hope in the love of Jesus?

I was reminded of all of this again while editing the story in the Summer 2006 issue of Xavier magazine about Ben Urmston, S.J., the founder and, for now, lone leader of the University’s peace and justice programs. Urmston is retiring, but one of the many efforts he created in his 25 years on the job was Shantytown, the annual event in which students learn and raise awareness about homelessness by building cardboard tents in the middle of the academic mall and living in them for a week. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it snows. It’s a hard lesson that generally leaves an imprint on the memories of those who participate.

Seeing a city of unstable cardboard lean-tos and plastic tarps on the academic mall isn’t a pretty site, but that’s one of the great things about college and, in particular, Xavier. There’s more to an education than what’s in a book, and most lessons usually aren’t wrapped up in nice, neat, easily understood packages. Life is messy. Teaching in the untidy realm outside of the academic arena is a focus at this University, though, including—if not particularly—the peace and justice programs.

Academic service-learning semesters, alternative break, Habitat for Humanity—many of the programs designed to educate students on how to live as men and women for others fall under the guidance of the peace and justice programs. They are the kinds of programs that make Xavier different, and the kinds of programs I wish were available to me when I was in school. The University is still searching for someone to replace Urmston, although that’s proving to be a difficult task. Filling the position may be easy; replacing the passion is another. But it’s worth it to try, because the program and the efforts are vital. It’s what St. Ignatius had in mind. It’s what St. Francis Xavier went to the Far East to do. Not everyone can be saints in the Catholic Church, but we can do our little part. Even if it’s just giving a homeless person a card telling them that Jesus loves them.

Priestly Life

Kevin Scalf was teaching religion at Summit Country Day School in Cincinnati when he decided to further his education. “I was ready to seriously search out life’s most complex questions,” he says. Fast-forward 10 years and Scalf finds himself not only more educated, but also teaching in a setting far different than the one he was in a decade ago. As he prepares to be ordained in the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Scalf’s classroom is now in Tanzania, Africa, and his students are priests in a Catholic graduate seminary.

Although Scalf began considering joining the priesthood during his early teaching days, it wasn’t until later he realized God was calling him to continue what he already enjoyed doing, which was teaching, retreat work and inspiring people to embark on religious lives. After earning his Master of Arts in theology in 2001, he went on to gain two additional degrees from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati and then the Divinity at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. He joined the Missionaries for the Precious Blood for a variety of reasons, but mostly because of its founder, St. Gaspar, who in the 19th century founded a community dedicated to the mission of reconciliation and preaching. “Reconciliation is at the heart of Jesus’ ministry and a virtue that animates my spiritual life,” Scalf says.

Scalf plans to return to a more traditional classroom setting later this summer, joining the faculty at St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, Ind., where he’s also serving as college chaplain. From there, he’s planning to pursue doctoral studies in either theology or higher education administration because there are always more of life’s complex questions to search out.

Personality Profiling

A number of years ago I lived in a large apartment complex in the suburbs—a residence that, how should I say, sometimes made sleeping a challenge. People would come and go at all hours of the night, doors would slam, parties would linger into the wee hours. One particular night, around 3:00 a.m., I was awakened by the terrifying sounds of a woman screaming hysterically: “No. Stop it. Stop it. Put me down. Put me down.”

Fearing someone was being attacked, I jumped from my bed and ran to the window to investigate and, if possible, help. I discovered, though, that the screaming woman wasn’t being assaulted. Rather, she was being repossessed. Or at least her car was. She made the discovery in mid-repo and ran outside in her bare feet to try to keep her car from being hauled away. She jumped on the hood just as the tow truck driver was lifting it off the ground and straddled the hood ornament with her feet on the front bumper.

“No. Stop. Put me down.”

“Lady,” the tow truck operator said, “I have a letter here from the bank that says you haven’t made your payments and they want their car back.”

“Stop it. You can’t. Put me down.”

“Lady, if you don’t get down off that car right now I’m going to drive away.”

“Put me down.”

“This is your last chance, lady.”

“Stop. Stop.”

“OK, lady.”

A man of his word, the tow truck driver got in his truck, threw it in gear and drove away with this forlorn woman riding the hood of the car like a rodeo rider on a bull, screaming non-stop as he drove away: “No. Stop. Put me dowwwwwwwwwn.”

Being repossessed notwithstanding, the attachment people have with their cars is a funny thing. We spend so much time in them that, in many ways, we become a part of them and they become a part of us. We pick the color and the style to match who we are or who we think we are. Some are small and sporty, some are giant wheeled barges. Some are open so the wind can blow through our hair, some are buttoned-up and appointed with bells and whistles. People talk to their cars, give them names, curse them when they break down. I’m sure Freud found cars to be an extension of our personalities or something. “We are what we drive,” he might say.

All of this was brought to the forefront of my thinking recently for two reasons. One, because I just bought a new car after nearly 13 years in my old one. It was tough parting with that old car. There was definitely a bond between us. We shared a lot of memories and, literally, went down a lot of roads together. When I left that car at the dealership, I must admit that I looked in my mirror and became a bit misty-eyed. I bought that particular car because I felt it seemed to best fit my personality—outdoorsy, open, four-wheel-drive so I could get out of trouble just as easily as I seemed to get into it. My new one—a truck, actually—has four doors and room to haul my regular purchases from Lowe’s. It’s more family friendly and more utilitarian. Then again, so am I now.

The second reason I was thinking about the bond between people and their cars has to do with two incoming freshmen—Monica Laco of Lakewood, Ohio, and Nora Tighe of Toledo, Ohio. They are, whether they realize it or not, the beneficiaries of this odd attachment between people and their cars.

In mid-July, the national alumni association announced that Laco and Tighe were the first two winners of its newly created legacy scholarship program. Each year, starting this year, two students who are lineal descendants of a Xavier graduate each receive a $3,000 scholarship. What makes it relevant here is the money to fund such scholarships comes from people and their cars.

The state of Ohio has a special program in which the University receives $25 for each specialized Xavier license plate someone buys for his or her car. This program began a few years back, and so many people have purchased these Xavier license plates since then that the national alumni association was able to set up a special scholarship fund with the money.

Really, the two concepts were bound to be joined because about the only thing that can be equated to the bond between people and their cars is the bond between people and their college. The effort they go through to pick a college is much like a car—they research their options, consider the cost, read the reviews. They visit campuses to give the schools a metaphorical test drive and tire kick. And, ultimately, their final choice speaks directly of their personalities. “We are where we attend college,” Freud might say.

And that decision is something people carry with them throughout life—not to mention proudly display on, of course, their cars. Witness the number of people who adorn their car windows with college stickers. Or their license plate frames. Or key chains. Or front license plates. Or window flags. Or antenna toppers. The Xavier bookstore’s web site has a whole category just for auto accessories.

So it’s only natural that cars and colleges would form this bond. The attachment people have for both of them is a funny thing. And two incoming freshmen each year are laughing all the way to the bank.