People who are humble, pt. II

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Again with the random photo… Can’t stop, won’t stop.

My college mentor. He’s a priest. Let me back up. I attended St. Bonaventure University. It’s a Franciscan school in the woods of Western New York State. If you aren’t from that area, but have heard of the school, you may follow college basketball. It’s a D1 school, but very small. SBU makes the NCAA tourney about every 10 years. When I was there, our team went, played Kentucky into double overtime, then lost when Tayshaun Prince hit a last second jumper. Kentucky, sorry, you are dead to me.

Anyway, SBU isn’t like other schools. They’re kinda hippie liberal as far as Catholics go. The social justice-y kind. The protest-y kind. So, while there are brothers and friars and nuns all over, they aren’t exactly carrying rulers.

My mentor got me interested in the why behind art and opened my mind to using theological concepts as a lens through which to view things in the world, especially art. He also introduced me to wine, fine (and I mean damn fine) food, and all manner of amazing art.

I will never look at art, or the world, in the same way. He took one of his summer classes that I was auditing on a field trip to the Albright-Knox art gallery in Buffalo. It’s home to one of the finest collections of modern art in the United States (or was at the time, probably still is). It also has a full room of Clyfford Still’s artworks. Prior to the opening of the Still museum in Denver it was one of the very few places you could see a bunch of Still’s work at once.

He advised me on my thesis project. He also advised me what to do about coming out to my parents. It wasn’t easy. I was 24, had just completed my first graduate school degree in Boston and was, of course, living with my then girlfriend. Mom and Dad were considering coming to visit, and I knew I needed to tell them before they showed up and figured it out on their own. I emailed my mentor and asked him for his advice.

His simple, clear answer: write them a letter. His reasoning being that they couldn’t hang up on a letter, and it’d give them time to think about how they wanted to respond. And he also said I should write because that’s my strength, my gift. So I did.

It’s that simple, direct, no waffling, no BS, kindness toward my naivete in all cases and willingness to take me under his intellectual wing and blow my mind that really makes the whole experience something special.


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