Sunday, September 6, 2009

Reunion with a wonderful friend

He stood at the end of the hallway, hands folded, deep in thought. I took a deep breath.
"Are you Father Schall? I think I'm signed up to sit in on your next class."
And thus was born our friendship. It was my junior year of high school, and I was visiting colleges. It was his forty-third year of teaching, and he was waiting for his next class to begin.
James V. Schall isn't just one of the most prolific Catholic writers in the country. He's a Jesuit priest with an award named after him. He's both wonderfully optimistic and hilariously cynical. He knows sports, literature, and political theory like the back of his hand. He is on a lifelong search for the perfect croissant. He's a favorite professor of Georgetown students.

But of course I had no clue I was introducing myself to one of Georgetown's legends. Heck, I was sure I had this college visitation thing down pat: attend the info session, go on a campus tour, and (time permitting), sit in on a class.

Fr. Schall arched an eyebrow as I explained my trip back east. "So you fly out here, maybe visit one school a day? How do you know if you like it or not?" I confidently explained my theory about getting a 'vibe' from the people at each place and getting to know the student body.
"So you meet one person you like and you decide you'll apply to the school. You meet one person you don't like and the school's out?" He began to smile. "Seems like a waste of your parents' money."
We talked for the next fifteen minutes or so before class started: it turned out he had grown up in the Bay Area as well, and my parents had attended his alma mater.
I sent him an email a few days later thanking him for letting me attend his class - I think I wrote that something he said had reminded me of Huxley's Brave New World. Fr. Schall jumped all over the reference and wrote back asking me for my opinion on various literary themes. And so we quickly became pen pals.
When he told me he would be in the Bay Area to attend a bash at Santa Clara University this summer, I insisted we meet up for lunch. Fr. Schall is such a fascinating person. Seeing him again was wonderful!

What mentors or teachers have shaped your life?


  1. Have a great time at school! I have a friend at Dartmouth who's on the football team, (but you probably wouldn't be interested, he's a stereotypical asshole jock haha)...

    I'm a senior at American University in DC. My recommendations for college: bring a hammer & ducktape, embrace everything new and get involved in some sort of club. Follow those few rules and you'll thrive!

  2. I'm deciding that you are a special kid and your parents should be proud. Thank you notes, luncheons...manners, I'm impressed. My daughter is similar, and had a very successful college career. You might want to add a small fan to the list of things to have. Even the air-conditioned dorms get hot and stuffy.

  3. he sounds interesting. i think he would find paris home. hehe... it very hard to find someone who can converse and have interesting ideas these days and are acommodating to new ones. especially among old folks. wont you miss all this when you goto college. but ofcourse you will mail him once in a while right...

  4. This is honestly one of the best posts I've read in a long time. It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Red. Thank you for visiting my little blog, and I will definitely be back here. I hope school starts out beautifully for you!!

  5. I love this little old man in blue!

    Lately I've been remembering Mrs. Mahoney, who taught me Bible Verses and how to love cauliflower!

  6. That's fantastic! One of my most influential teachers was an English Prof that I had during my senior year who encouraged me to go to grad school. It was the extra push I needed!

  7. what a wonderful man! reading through your posts is interesting, and reminds me of going off to college (not too terribly long ago!). reading about georgetown made me curious to see what school you landed on, and from reading back through your posts, it looks like you have a great head on your shoulders and a great heart. enjoy college! i don't know what i was thinking when i was eighteen, but i know i did not have it together. the only thing that comes to mind is that i wish i had slept and exercised more--haha!
    i did have a great mentor--a woman who became like a second mother to me and taught me so much about printmaking and about life. ooh, maybe the best advice i got was this: at the end of my freshman year, i approached the dept. head and asked if there would be any student jobs open the next fall--which led to me working in my dept. for the next three years--it was a really great experience and i learned a ton.

  8. Looks like a wise man to me!

    A former boss remains one of the most profound mentors.

  9. Oh yeah, and great post! It was interesting to hear a little more of the back-story of how you met Fr. Schall!

  10. I would say no one, ive only had som terrible teachers :(

  11. Missred,
    You left for college this morning, and the house is suddenly more quiet than ever before. A new chapter of your life has begun and we know you will flourish in whichever paths choose to create or those you simply follow. Just keep us all abreast of your adventures along the way ;-) We love

  12. He looks adorable really :P And it sounds like he's full of wise gems.
    I wish you the best of luck, and thank you for the kinds words on my blog =) x

  13. I've had a lecturer who went out of her way to become my project supervisor during my last year at university doing Honours. She was ambitious, inspirational and full of wise words. I wish I had more time to spend with her this year, but it was time I moved on in life and left uni.

    Fr. Schall looks like someone people will automatically take a liking too. You should now tell him he has fans.