Thirty-three years ago, I was walking past the Damen Hall student center on Loyola University of Chicago’s Lake Shore campus during my Junior year there. I know it was sunny. And I’m guessing it was cold, because, well, it was March and it was the Lake Shore, and Chicago tends to do cold when those two things come together.
The stairs and ramps to the center were packed with smiling and cheering students, many holding banners. The paths just outside Alumni Gym, where the basketball team played at the time, were also filled. Energy rippled across the campus as we celebrated.
We were going to the Sweet Sixteen.
It was 1985.
Thirty-three years later, we’re going to the Final Four.
Now, guilty disclaimer alert, I have to admit that I haven’t really followed Loyola basketball since I graduated, but you’d better believe I’ve been following it recently. Of course, I feel a bit hypocritical, like many a bandwagon jumper. But the guilt quickly passes.
It passes, first of all, because there were a lot of other things going on in my life between 1985 and now. Little things like starting a career, getting married, raising children, writing books, hanging pictures and then rehanging them cause I messed up the first time, and, oh yeah, mowing the lawn. Oh, and don’t forget that whole Cubs winning the World Series thing. That took up a lot of my time and most of my energy in 2016.
There’s another reason the guilt passes. That’s because, though I graduated, I never really left Loyola – and it never really left me. You see, something happened to me there, a continuation of what began at Loyola Academy High School. A preparation to see the world with better eyes, touch it with a better heart, and basically do everything I could to, as Loyola’s Promise says, lead an extraordinary life.
Am I leading that life? Well, that’s not for me to say. But, with apologies to Yoda, I’m trying.
And every time I go back, whether physically to the actual campuses, or just in my memory, I feel proud.
A pride I felt again this past weekend, when my wife, daughter and I were downtown. As they shopped, I walked to Loyola’s nearby Water Tower Campus, where I also attended classes, to take photos of the “Go Ramblers” signs on the light posts. Then I walked into the campus bookstore to buy a Loyola hat.
Now, you may ask, why was I, an alum who graduated in 1986, someone who had barely thought about my college’s basketball team since those exciting days during my Junior year, standing in that bookstore?
One word. Pride.
Pride in my school. Proud of what they taught me. Of what they’re still teaching me. Of what our Ramblers are demonstrating to the country.
That you can do it right. And well. And bring people together. And have fun along the way.
An important lesson desperately needed in this world right now.
Actually, forget “important.” How about “crucial”?
So, Go Ramblers!
I won’t say, “Make me proud.”
Because, like Loyola itself, you already have.
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