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Principal's Blog

In this blog, Principal Paul Hogan will regularly share with us his insights and observations during the school year. We hope you enjoy Paul's posts!

An Odyssey to Ithaca

As Odysseus could tell you, it ain't easy getting to Ithaca, but it sure is worth it once you arrive.

Last weekend I set out for Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, to celebrate Jesuit alum Ankith Harathi of the Class of 2011. Ankith was being honored as a Merrill Scholar, which means he is one of top Cornell's graduates as selected by faculty in consideration of his commitment to academics, activities, leadership, and service to others. Ankith told me he sees a direct connection between what he learned at Jesuit and the values he brought to his college experience. (The photo above is of myself, Ankith, and Cornell's VP Susan Murphy.)

But there is no direct way to get to Ithaca from Portland (you really can't get there from here). So I decided to spend Sunday in the Berkshires, at my alma mater Williams College, before heading to Cornell.

My journey back to college brought to mind our soon-to-be-graduated seniors. On April 1 of this year, I posted a blog called "Letting Go," encouraging seniors and their parents to prepare for the great uncoupling that comes with the college experience.

Today's blog could be entitled "Digging In." At both Williams and Cornell, I was reminded how tough the transition to college can be, and how important it is that freshmen possess fortitude and adventurousness.

The first year of college will test our graduates in all sorts of ways. As Ankith reminded me, "It is really important that a college freshman has a strong sense of who they are, because they are going to get hit with all sorts of temptations and all sorts of opportunities. If they know their values and have an idea of their interests, they will probably be able to navigate."

In talking with Ankith's friends, fraternity brothers, and fellow Merrill Scholars, it was clear that students who "dug in" were the ones who survived and thrived. They dug in and hung in against homesickness and demanding professors and the brutal cold of the New York winters. They dug in to new experiences and found gold--Ankith in his frat, but also as a leader of the Formula Series Auto Engineering team at Cornell.

Whenever I encounter college students, especially JHS alums, I ask them what Jesuit can do to better prepare high schoolers for college. If they think I am asking purely about academic preparation, they will give me tips on curriculum and teaching methods. But when they realize I also want to know how to prepare students for the multitude of social and spiritual challenges that college presents, the answer is usually similar to the ones that Ankith and two of his friends gave me: The most important thing both parents and high school can instill in students heading to college is a strong value system and a strong sense of self. One of Ankith's pals named Andrew put it this way: "It is really hard to replicate the social freedom we have in college for high schoolers, and I don't think you would want to. You just have to keep instilling in your kids a respect for themselves and for others, and trust that they will choose the right path."

That is an act of faith for sure, but faith built on the foundation of values. Clearly, Ankith's parents did their job, and he credits Jesuit with instilling in him a tenacious work ethic and a commitment to service.

In bestowing his Merrill Scholarship on Ankith, Cornell's President David Skorton said of him, "After graduating as a valedictorian from Jesuit High School in Portland, OR, Ankith was named a Cornell Meinig National Scholar. This weekend, Ankith graduates Summa Cum Laude. Ankith was the Cooling Team Leader of Cornell's Formula Racing team. He also held the position of Scholarship Chair in his fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, a position that reflects his commitment to service and scholarship."

Ankith introduced me to his fraternity brothers (as Scholarship Chair, he was responsible for keeping them focused on their studies). He also showed me the Formula Racing barn, where he and his teammates spent countless hours building and rebuilding innovative cars from scratch, using their engineering prowess to achieve lightweight, fuel-efficient cars that were fun to drive (see photo above). Ankith and his buddies certainly dug in to all that their school had to offer. Ankith is graduating with memories that will make him want to return to Ithaca years hence, just as I did in stopping by Williams on my odyssey to Ithaca.

Paul Hogan
Posted by etuenge on Friday May 22
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Lessons Learned From My Mom: Do Work. Watch for Doors. Trust the Path.

In honor of Mother's Day, we proudly present the first "Principal's Blog Guest Blogger," Konrad Reinhardt. Below is the recent National Honor Society address of Mr. Reinhardt, legendary teacher of freshmen and juniors, as well as golf coach, campus ministry team member, and mentor to students. I thought all moms and all JHS students would appreciate Mr. Reinhardt's story about his mom (dads and alums too!). Enjoy. PH

Trust the Path:

Konrad Reinhardt’s keynote speech to Jesuit High School's chapter of the National Honor Society (4/27/15)

On my first day as a freshman at Regis University in Denver, CO, we were missioned by the school’s president at that time, Fr. Michael Sheerin, SJ. It was his first year as president of the school, and he gave to us a question that has haunted me, inspired me, troubled me, and driven me since:

How best ought we to live?

For me, this is not a question that is easily answered. In fact, it is a question that I put to myself daily. What I would like to share with you tonight are three ways that my mom gave me to work toward answering this question, both daily and for the rest of my life.

  • Do Work
  • Watch for Doors
  • Trust the Path

First: Do work.

My mom was born and raised in Dunbartonshire of Glasgow, Scotland in the middle of the Second World War, the youngest daughter and the ninth of ten kids. Her father was a welder on the harbor, mostly working to repair various military ships.

Her mother, well, she did odd jobs like ironing and cleaning, but mostly she raised her brood of kids. My mom learned the value of hard work and of doing good work at a young age.

When it came time for college, my mom felt she had two callings: the first was to be a nurse and the second was to God. So she decided to join a convent that trained novice nuns to be nurses, believing that this was a marrying of both her passions.

She was like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, a novice not haven taken final vows.

Now the hospitals in Glasgow at that time were mostly run by Protestants. For that time, Protestants and Catholics were not always on the best of terms, so she would be called up to perform menial and difficult tasks. My mom recounted stories of fixing-up the guy who had lost a bar fight but who was too inebriated to use lidocaine, so his buddies would hold him down as my mom stitched him up.

However, my mom saw in each trivial and trite task the opportunity to learn. And she knew that through the work she did, the patients would be served, so she had better do her best. She learned not to hide from nor neglect the task before her. She learned to Do Work.

Second: Watch for Doors.

One of my mom’s closest friends, Belle, was a bit of a wild child, so to speak. Though Belle was not in the convent, she did work with my mom at the hospital.

Well, Belle found out that they could free tickets to a concert if they worked at the first aid stand during the opening band. My mom was not that into music, but she wanted to support her friend, so she decided to help. Belle told my mom it was for some up-and-coming band that might be big someday, called the Rolling Stones.

It just so happened that at this specific concert, in between the two bands, a demur nun had asked for the opportunity to address the audience and ask for some support for her work in Calcutta, India. As Mother Teresa stepped up the mic, she struggled to gain the attention of the young, rowdy, anxious audience.

As lore has it, Mick Jagger comes out on stage and yells, “Aye, listen to her!” And they all did.

After her address, Mother Teresa met with all the nurses working at the first aid stand since she had a special affinity for nursing. The young ladies all lines up wearing their properly starched bright white uniforms and towering over Mother Teresa, who stood only five feet tall.

She walked down the line shaking the hands of each and thanking them for their contribution. But when she got to my mom, she paused, broke from her standard routine, looked into my mom’s eyes and said, “Go do something important with your life.” She then continued down the line.

My mom was stunned, to say the least. Though Mother Teresa had not yet inspired the world as we now know, my mom knew that she had been offered something. Here was my mom, 20 years of age, and she had been challenged to seek out a greater path in her life. She realized that here was a door, though she did not know to where it led. Watch for Doors.

Finally: Trust the Path.

My mom discerned on this moment, then made a life path choice. She had known for some time that she was a better nurse than nun, but she also felt a new calling to the world away from the safety of Scotland. So she chose a door and trusted that this new path would lead her to where she needed to be.

That path led her to join the Royal Volunteer Corps, sort of like the British Peace Corps, and she found herself in Guatemala working with indigenous tribes on modern, for the time, midwifery techniques. She had chosen a door and trusted the path that led from it.

It was very difficult work with the language barrier, the cultural barriers, and the tension of the mid-1960’s in Central America. She was doing very challenging work.

But here is where the path she chose paid off. My mom met my dad in Guatemala, something for which I am eternally grateful.

They moved to Colorado Springs, CO, where, after some time, my mom founded one of the first hospices in the United States.

She worked to become President of the National Hospice Organization and brought forth legislation that established that Medicare would pay for all medical services for any person in hospice in the last weeks of their lives.

She also founded Namaste, the second Special Care Alzheimer’s hospital in the world by which most memory care units are now modeled. She did the work. She watched for doors to opportunities. And she trusted the path set before her.

So why share all this with you tonight? I have been blessed with this woman as my model for answering the question How Best Ought I to Live.

So I put it to you: How Best Ought you to live?

Seniors, as you prepare yourselves to take that next step in your life, possibly the first significant step purposefully and intentionally of your own, have you considered how you will trust the path?

And juniors, as you ascend to the leadership role of being the senior class and the role models of the school, do you see the door of responsibility that is open to you?

For you all, do you see the work to come that you can take on to best live out your life?

How best ought we to live? As I said, I have not found the answer to this question that has ruled my actions for the past 24 years and will continue to guide me as long as I have breathe in my body, but I know this.

If I do the work, if I watch for doors, and if I trust the path set before me, I might live, as my mom would say, a proper life. My greatest hope is for each of you to find your own answer to this question, then get busy living out that answer.

- Konrad Reinhardt

Posted by etuenge on Friday May 8
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