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Serving Others Fit to a T

By Skip Tate

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.

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