Tonight I was inducted into Gonzaga Preparatory High School’s hall of fame. I chose not to go because I wanted to stay close to Rivers and Michel. ‘Prep’ has had a huge influence on my life and I tried to capture that with this letter that my father read in my absence:
Thank You all for this honor. I am sorry AND excited that I cannot be here tonight. I’m sorry because I would love to be here to fellowship with you all, but I’m excited because, instead, I am with my five-day-old son, Rivers and my wife, Michel.
As I sit here looking at Rivers, I see my own image and this image inspires reflection. I reflect on all the moments between myself as a newborn and myself today. I say to you with no doubt that some of the most glorious of those moments were from my time at gonzaga prep. Furthermore, the glorious moments I have had since my time at Gonzaga Prep have been mostly BECAUSE of my time AT Gonzaga Prep. In so many ways, my time here shaped my boyhood and formed me into a man. And make no mistake, I was mostly formless before gonzaga prep. I recall freshman orientation in the fall of 1990. My dad helped explain how the locker combination worked over and over and over again. A formless boy beginning to take shape.
What did I learn during my time at Gonzaga Prep? Yes, I learned how to define a quadratic, and I learned how to tackle running backs… But more importantly, I learned what football coaches call the intangibles; the tools that really matter in life. I learned how to think for myself: I recall a moment in AP history class with Mr. Macione where I was passionately debating the pros and cons of capitalism versus communism. A teenager forging his thoughts with the wisdom of his peers.
I learned how to work with others. I learned how to live my life with purpose, as God intended. I learned how to listen. I learned to be open minded from an example set by Mr Cossette, my English teacher and the schools debate coach… In a junior English class Mr. Cossette would often gush about his love for baseball. After several these anecdotes, I asked him if he attended prep baseball games. He replied that prep baseball players don’t attend his debate matches so he didn’t attend prep baseball games. The next week Tony Hazel, a classmate of mine who is in attendance tonight, and I attended our first debate match! After that, I often saw Mr. Cossette in the crowd during my baseball games. To have an authority figure actually be open minded enough to HEAR ME helped form me into the man I am today.
At Prep, I learned what Jesus meant when he said, “You will love your neighbor as yourself.” When I was assigned to the Venessa Beahan crisis nursery for (Junior Class) community service, what I expected to be my burden turned out to be my joy. After a semester playing with these kids who, despite their family circumstances, are able to play and dream and imagine a jungle gym right into a pirate ship and a plastic bucket of pebbles into a treasure chest, I was able to experience Jesus’ words first hand.
The friendships I found and created at Gonzaga Prep also shaped the mold for the rest of my life. More importantly, I am blessed by how these relationships have grown and blossomed. I already mentioned one of my best friends, Tony. We continue to dream and debate and discuss the same way we did as goofy, inquisitive freshmen.
This weekend, two alumni, Matt Shaw and JD Ward, will be visiting my family in New Orleans. When I was married in 2008 there were five prep alumni in my wedding. 13 years after graduation, my groomsmen were men formed and fashioned here at this school.
I certainly did not emerge from Gonzaga Prep spotless. I was caught cheating in Dzwinel’s Biology class. Once, as our basketball team’s mascot, I got ejected and watched the second half of our district finals from the top row of the Spokane Coliseum. Who knew you could be ejected for stealing the other mascot’s head and tossing it to your student body!! I also may have tried to stuff a freshman or two into a garbage can.
I mention these ‘spots’ because there may be a future Hall of Famer listening now, and I want them to understand that despite their shortcomings they can accomplish anything. No I am not spotless… And it was here at Gonzaga Prep, that I learned God loved us WITH our spots.
I recently made a statement that there is no thing that can defeat the love of a strong family. Well, for me, I first learned that concept here. Gonzaga Prep. I hope I have been able to express how influential Prep has been in my life. Determining which stories and memories to include was quite a challenge.
Speaking of challenge, most would say I am facing a doozey right now. As most of you know, earlier this year I was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It’s a terrible disease that destroys motor neurons which, in turn, destroy muscle. Eventually, ALS patients are effectively paralyzed needing a ventilator to breathe. 5 years ago I was playing football against ‘super human’ humans. Exactly one year ago I was crushing ‘normal human’ humans in a 35 mile bicycle race in Alabama. Last night, I struggled to put fork to mouth during dinner and Michel buttoned my pants for me this morning.
As I write this, my son, Rivers is fast asleep. A reflection of him, I sit here with a quiet peace in my heart knowing that my life has, and will, continue to unfold as God plans. I found this quiet peace during my time at Gonzaga Prep as I learned to live with purpose, listen to others, and love others as I love myself. Thank you to my classmates and teachers, and the staff and clergy at Gonzaga Prep for teaching me these things.
I love you and I am so grateful for your love.
I type using Dragon Dictation. Please excuse any typos.