As we approach the beginning of the 136th school year on the campus of the original St. Ignatius College all are anticipating seeing old faces and welcoming new ones, both among the student body and the staffulty (neologism credited to Jerry Skoch ’77 during his tenure at Ignatius). What I never anticipated was the phone call last week from Connor Walters ’09 informing me of his imminent departure from Saint Ignatius to Syracuse University to join their highly regarded rowing program. At the time you could have knocked me over with a feather and for once in my life I was literally speechless.
Only a day prior to that phone call the Communications Department released the first video collaboration between Connor, Justin Lewis (director of cinematography), and myself. It was created to commemorate the closing of the Ignatian Year and to remind our community of the worldwide and local impact of the “cannonball moment” of Ignatius Loyola. Little did I know at the time that our first film would be our last.
Having had the the rug of “The Cannonball Moment II” pulled out from under me - and not because of legal issues with the Cannonball Run franchise, which was my hope - I wanted to use a medium with which I am much more comfortable to thank Connor for all that he has done for our Alma Mater and for me over these past eight years.
This blog was in its early days when Connor took over as my editor. The first installment that I sent for his approval was for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, 2015. Since that time Connor has read, edited, titled, and posted almost seven hundred issues of Lessons from Loyola Hall. To say that I couldn’t have done it without him would be a gross understatement.
I am not alone in this sentiment of debt and gratitude for all that Connor has done. As the Moderator of the St. Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry to the Homeless, with his partners in virtue Amanda Martin of the Theology Department and Campus Chaplain Fr. Dan Reim, S.J., Connor has carried on the work of his mentor and greatest influence Jim Skerl ’74 in a way that is certain to have brought a smile to the face of our beloved Number 34.
It goes without saying that Connor has had the same kind of success in his leadership of the crew program. An experienced rower himself, Connor has made our rowing team one of the most competitive in the nation, with this year’s Midwest Championship and medal-winning showing in the National Championships being only the most recent indicators of the quality of the program.
From my own selfish standpoint, and I know that I do not speak for myself alone, I wish that Connor had been a less successful rowing coach - not unsuccessful, just less successful. The fact that he was chosen to join the staff of a coach who has had such incredible success on the Division I collegiate level as well as on the international level speaks volumes about the respect that Connor has earned throughout the rowing community nationwide. Both the offer, and its acceptance, bring us joy for our great friend and sadness for ourselves.
For those who notice these kinds of things, after Connor’s name on his email signature are the letters M.S.J., which stand for Master of Science in Journalism, a degree Connor earned at Northwestern University after his graduation from Marietta College. But to my mind, those letters stand for Magis, Society of Jesus. Magis is a Latin word meaning “more”, and it was used by Ignatius to describe what he wanted for and from those who joined the Jesuits and for and from those educated and influenced by them.
Connor is a true son of Ignatius - the school and the man. He has always chosen to do more - for his colleagues, for the homeless, for his rowers, for all in the Ignatius community - and in so doing he has certainly earned the designation Magis, Society of Jesus.
Connor, you will be missed by all, but we know that you have - through Ignatian discernment with the saintly assistance of Fr. Reim - chosen the path that Jesus has set before you for you to travel. And so, beloved friend, as you travel, both now and always,
May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.