There are few school events that I look forward to more than the Wildcat Roar and Athletic Hall of Fame Inductions. Last Saturday evening my wife Ann and I were able to catch up with some old friends, enjoy an evening under the stars on the Mall, and bask in the incredible glow of Ignatian tradition viewed through the magnificent lens of Wildcat athletics.
Our school is certainly more than athletics, but we are indebted to all of those people who have made our sports programs such an integral part of not just what we do, but of who we are. At their best, sports are a way to feel a part of something bigger than yourself, to learn how to be a good teammate, and to gain a sense of perspective by being a humble winner and gracious loser.
We have been so blessed at Saint Ignatius with administrators, faculty and staff, coaches and trainers, students and alumni, parents and friends who all have the same vision of what it means to be an Ignatius athlete. The designation of not just captains but of young men chosen to wear the number 34 in honor of Jim Skerl '74 is one of many ways that we show the outside world what sports at their finest can be.
The Wildcat Roar gives a wonderful glimpse into the Ignatian vision of athletics as so many people gather to celebrate much more than Hall of Fame inductions or upcoming seasons - they make their way back to campus to reconnect with those who have been a part of their journey. Sometimes those reconnecting moments are with classmates like Marty Berry, Dan Stefancin, and Jim Lentz; sometimes with beloved families like the Haddads, the Fitzpatricks, and the Leitches; sometimes with favorite former students like Sean Stefancin '08, Dan O’Leary '96, and Justin Morrow '06; and sometimes with those whom you see often, but not often enough, like the Kyles, the Cooks, and the Martins.
The most special of such reconnections are with honorees, as with Hall of Fame inductee Tom Fox ’95. Since he left us to become a scholar athlete at St. Francis College in Loretto, PA, Tom has grown (all 6’7” of him) into a tremendous father, teacher, writer, and coach. He has been a loyal supporter of this blog, and has done great things with his own contribution to the field with his blog “The Empathetic Fox” (https://tommyosionnach.substack.com/) and his wonderfully creative and insightful A Penny’s Thoughts, a fascinating experiment in what we could call inanimate autobiography. For both the blog and the book Tom honors his family and their roots with the “non-pseudonym” pseudonym Tommy O’Sionnnach - until the occupying English forces changed the family name to Fox the Gaelic speaking folk of Ireland knew Tom’s clan as O’Sionnnach, or Sons of the Fox.
Typical of Tom’s deep humility, the blog entry announcing his induction into the Wildcat Hall of Fame was only a pretense so he could thank all of those who have been important players on his team. There are exactly 49 people named and thanked in this blog entry and the topic of “induction into the St. Ignatius High School Athletics Hall of Fame” is alluded to only twice in the article and is explicitly named once, five sentences from the article’s conclusion.
The title of this blog entry is “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, All for the Greater Glory of God”. In this title Tom shows his readers why he is so much more than just a guy who had a great high school basketball and track career. And in his final words of what he called “A Letter of Thanks” he expresses, with the clarity of a writer and the insight of a man who does his best to fight the good fight, the formula for life that he took from these hallowed halls:
St. Ignatius High School has and always will be a part of who I am. The lessons I learned during my four years go far beyond the classroom and athletic courts or fields. A Jesuit Education teaches many things. Most importantly, that Christ should be at the center of all we are and all we do. A.M.D.G.
Because of Tom and all of those who have learned this lesson there is a sense of great pride every time the Wildcat roars.