Carol Bruess

Carol Bruess

So many cool humans at our fabulous university, and so little time to meet you all! A few weeks ago, I had a chance to more fully meet a student from one of my classes last semester – someone about whom, when I learned he was the president of the St. Thomas board game club, I jotted the quick mental note: “Contact him spring semester; I must know more!”

Did you know we have a rather large and thriving Table Top Game Club at UST? Neither did I. The 125-member-strong group meets every Wednesday night in MHC to, just as it sounds, sit face to face and play games. No, not computer nor the many open-source, online games; only games that can be spread out on a tabletop (hence the name) are allowed.

vito smile playing game

Vito Sauro

When I heard about Vito Sauro’s presidency of the board game club, admittedly I pictured Mouse Trap and Monopoly. Vito assured me all board games are worthy – but the games played in the club tend to be the latest and greatest, and often the most complicated. And there’s no shortage to choose from each week: The club owns approximately 70 games, frequently recycling lesser-played games with donations to local schools and churches. They never shy away from complexity: Most demand studying multiple pages of rules (30-plus pages printed in teeny-tiny fonts!), and some of the play stretches over weeks.

Of course, there’s much more to Vito than his intriguing fascination with building his personal collection of 80-plus board games and leading the thriving club. Per usual, below is a peek into the life and mind of senior Vito Sauro – the oldest of four brothers, member of a 20-person graduating class at a “small Christian high school,” a first-generation college student who chose St. Thomas because “the campus is amazing and gorgeous!” and a guy who still uses a floppy disk.

What brought you to St. Thomas? I looked at the big five in the area and I just liked this one. It had a good feel!

Anything you can’t live without: I can’t live without my close faith.

If you could just hop on a plane right now, where would you go? Venice. I want to go to Venice so bad. Seeing pictures – it looks beautiful. And obviously my family is from Italy.

The best teacher you’ve ever had? My dad definitely taught me how to be a good father, and I appreciate that more than I can say.

Tell us more about your family of six: I am the oldest of four brothers. I always wanted a sister a little bit, but it just never happened. There’s me, Tony, Rudy and Nico. It’s great! We’re all pretty close. Nico and I, actually over board games, have a special bond. He’s 15. Lately, let’s see, we’ve played a lot of Kingsburg.

Did you grow up playing board games? Growing up I played a lot of Monopoly and Scrabble – games that everybody’s heard of and are on every family game shelf. I enjoyed it a lot, but a lot of it is just rolling the dice and moving, and you don’t make a lot of decisions.

How did you become fascinated with the more complex world of board gaming? So, somebody in my later years at high school introduced me to Settlers of Catan. It is a very good segue … from those lightweight games that everyone has into some of the more interesting, intriguing, obscure games. When I got to campus my freshman year, a friend invited me to come to Table Top Gaming Club, and I did, and they had a ton of games.

Any life lessons learned by playing board games? Hard work and staying the course. Sticking it out when it looks bleak. Things can turn around for you! It’s a little bit of luck and a lot of skill, just like life!

If we came to a Wednesday club meeting, what kind of games might we see? Fantasy Flight Games is a company that’s based in Minnesota and some of its games are super, super heavy, like 34-page instructions. Then there’s Love Letter, which is super tiny. It comes in a little pouch and there are only eight cards in the game, 15 cards total. Basically, you’re a suitor to the princess and there are little red cubes, and whoever gets three cubes first wins!

Does the competition ever get heated? And be honest, are there cheaters?! First of all, cheaters never win. It doesn’t get very heated, and I love that about board games. It’s a way to get competitive in a social environment that doesn’t require hostility.

What’s your plan after graduation – your dream? I’ve given that a lot of thought lately! I think I want to work with high school students. I’d like to help students fill out FAFSA forms, college applications, that kind of thing. I’m a first-generation college student and that was a huge thing. I had to work through a lot of that myself, and there weren’t a whole lot of tools for me, and it worked! I’m here! But if I could help someone else who wasn’t sure about that … I mean, there are plenty of people who are still going to be first-generation college students.

On the best advice you’ve ever received? Two things come to mind: The first is from my dad, which is, “Don’t fill up on bread.” But the other is from the philosopher Heraclitus: “No man steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” You’re always changing as a person and as a part of the groups that you are in. Sometimes it takes time to realize that; slowing down and realizing, trying to reflect on who you are or who you were, that’s a good thing.

What’s something that really bugs you about other humans? People who cut in traffic. I’m a commuter so I drive a ton  and people are different when they get into cars!

Anything that you fear? Being alone. I can do public speaking. I don’t like spiders, but I can do spiders. But being alone. Yeah.

Have anything in your backpack right now that might tell us about Vito the human? I’ll show you this one … a floppy disc that I just carry with me because it has a living journal on it. How do you make it so that nobody will be able to read your journal? You put it on something that nobody knows how to use! I just write about daily life.

If you were to write a book, what would the title be? I had to write an autobiography for my senior year of high school and I called it, “Stories from the Second Mile.” It’s a reference to a verse in the Bible where Jesus says, if someone asks you to walk with them one mile, walk with them two. I like that title a lot.

Keep sending me your tips on people for future features in Humans of St. Thomas: cjbruess@stthomas.edu. Although the list is getting long, there’s always room for more. Stay tuned because in the coming weeks, you’re going to meet … ah, I’ll never disclose my next victim, although I will give you two hints: graduate student, Minneapolis campus. See you all soon!

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