It was a hot June 8 evening, as I remember, 1955, 8:15 p.m. to be exact, when the Class of 1955 strolled anxiously into our fabled Fieldhouse across Victory Parkway to the sounds of the processional pumped in celebration by the organist.
We were graduates at Xavier’s 117th Commencement exercise. The evening program reflected that 13 various kinds of degrees were being conferred. ROTC artillery commissions were being awarded as well.
Each of the Class of ’55 closed one of life’s doors and opened another in our life’s journey. Many were marching on to military duty—an interlude. Our ultimate paths and choices were multitude.
Naturally, there were imponderables. What will I become? What will I do? Where will I be? Am I ready? Prepared? When, if ever, will I see some of my classmates again?
Each of us sought and summoned an adequate level of confidence. Yet, there was that natural concern, ambivalence: Am I ready of the next step? Xavier had done its job. It prepared me to move forward.
It was an exciting evening—the successful culmination of effort by teacher and student. Yet, it was a sobering celebration—a mixed reaction and reflection on fun-filled undergraduate college days forever gone and a peering into an unknown yet to be explored.
Earlier this year I hunted feverishly for my ’55 yearbook. It was too safely stored away with my ’49 Elder High Annual and my 1954 RSOP Annual commemorating summer camp, Fort Sill, Ok. What a hot summer 1954 was. How could we ever forget our salt-baked fatigues, hot pillows in the over-like barracks, canteens of hot water, the Block House on Signal Mountain and the dreaded “Your mission, Mr. Murdock.”
But there were still the memories that didn’t require a yearbook:
- South Hall: Everyone’s hangout. That cozy, simple, unpretentious place to meet, have a bite, skip a class, share time and talk.
- The Old Barracks: Housing out-of-towners, athletes and ex-GIs.
- Dances at the Mount and OLC: Chaperoned yet.
- The Super Econ Twins: Messers Hailstones and Harriman.
- Beloved Father O’Connor: Our President. A gentle, real man’s man.
- The Bunny Hop and Turkey Trot: Castle Farms, Old Moonlight Gardens.
- The Campus Super Cop: Father Buschman.
- The Marvelous Humor and Ever Ebullient Father McCummisky: Never felt like class.
- Our Freshman Year: XU 26-UC 0. Jackie Hahn covered at least 150 yards in his 98-yard interception. Our freshman classmates, Mike Conaton and Chuck Kirkhoff, now departed, both played in that game.
- Those Remind Us of Our “Then”: Today is our “Now.”
During Reunion Weekend in June, we came, once again in ceremony, appropriately less formal, to our beloved alma mater, Xavier University. There, the University conferred upon us the honorary degree Doctor of Durability. Surely, those of us able to be there relished our good fortune. We came together, from all directions, by the Grace of God. It was proper also that we remembered our dear departed classmates who we wished were there to share the celebration. Others, too, were unable to join us. We celebrated, though, joined in spirit with all those not there.
We also contemplated and expressed our collective “thank you” to Xavier for what it did for me, for us, for our community and our nation:
- Xavier taught us not how to make a living but how to live.
- Xavier taught us that it is not about me or I but that we are one for all and all for one.
- Xavier taught us that values of Christian living not just living bare.
- Xavier taught us to seek that higher order, nurturing our hope and faith, reassuring and reminding us of life after death and not to be suffocated in any empty, utter, futile, finite existence.
- Xavier taught us about character—how to achieve and build it, hold it fast; to understand when we failed character, and to believe we could reclaim it is we tried. That God forgives and loves boundlessly.
- Xavier taught us a philosophy (a required minor) to think and live by the beacon of reason—not by comfortable rationalization. The end does not justify the means. A durable mantra.
- Xavier taught us to think, care, love and give. Morality and ethics were emphasized.
These are the durables of Xavier. They are the truths on which we live. We are their vessels. Durable Xavier our mentor. The campus is bigger, magnificent, more beautiful, it has changed for the better. But, the traditions, message and mission have not changed. They are durable and can never get better.
God willing, we have carried on, done our best, as taught. It is not that we are so durable—for whatever our durability, it is not all of our own doing, or not ours alone.
It is the Xavier values and teaching that are durable. They come from God, our creator and benefactor. We all love Xavier, and it has loved and nourished us and our communities. Xavier is us; We are it.
We are grateful for its annual bounty of graduates. And, we are most grateful for those who generously support Xavier. For those gifts and fruits become ours and the world’s as well.
Every so many pages, in our ’55 yearbook, one finds the motto: Xavier through its administration, faculty and students “with Christ as their model will contribute to the building of better communities, a finer nation, a peaceful world.”
So it was in 1955. Can it be better said now? I think not.