When Derek Jeter, one of the New York Yankees’ all-time greats, announced in February that he would retire after this season, I couldn’t shake one question:
What, exactly, is the game of baseball without Derek Jeter?
I find myself thinking these days along similar lines about Dave Nimmer, who is nearing the end of his time at the University of St. Thomas. For those of you unfamiliar with “Nim,” he is the voice of those UST videos and the writer of those blogs in The Scroll. He is an avid supporter of ThreeSixty Journalism, a nonprofit on campus that teaches high school students about journalism. I could talk all day about Nim’s achievements and influence in the world of journalism – former newspaper reporter and editor at the Minneapolis Star, former reporter and associate news director at WCCO-TV, former assistant professor of journalism at St. Thomas for more than a decade – but that’s not my goal.
Life is so much more than a career and awards. More important, I believe, are the people with whom you develop a relationship along the way. My relationship with Nimmer, a man 48 years my senior, has been one of the great blessings of my life.
What, exactly, is the University of St. Thomas without Dave Nimmer?
I met Nim during my junior year at St. Thomas when I applied for a summer job as a video editor at ThreeSixty. I had less experience than other candidates when I “interviewed” with Nim for the job, so he hired someone else.
The end. Right?
Except, Nim didn’t quit on me. He introduced me to ThreeSixty executive director Lynda McDonnell, who hired me in a different capacity, and to St. Thomas videographer Brad Jacobsen, who brought me on as a video production assistant.
More doors opened for me in the next year than I could have predicted. Nim built the foundation. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. I am sure of it.
Nim once wrote that I give more to him than he can give to me. That can’t be true. I worked next to Brad and Dave as they traversed campus, the metro area and greater Minnesota to shoot video projects. As an aspiring journalist, I picked up more watching the two of them work than I could have anywhere else on campus. If you have seen Nimmer interview someone, then you know what I mean: He has this magical ability to get people to talk. In the midst of a 10-minute conversation, he makes you feel both special and important.
But as a young man, I have learned from Dave more about life than about journalism. Our conversations have spanned everything from the human condition, for which Nim has an uncanny sense of empathy, to our loved ones and our futures. He has showed me in subtle ways what it means to be a compassionate man in this world, to become a lifelong learner, to relate to other people.
I would be lying if I said I have never doubted myself and my journalistic career. As a mentor, Dave always has believed in me – and told me as much – even at times when I fail to believe in myself. He’s willing to help me along the way. He cares when he doesn’t have to.
That’s just one of many reasons why it’s so difficult for me to imagine St. Thomas without Nimmer tucked away in his OEC basement office, reclined in his chair while he shoots the breeze on the phone. Or walking the halls of campus, newspaper in hand, on his way to grab a bite to eat. Or using “How ya doin?” for a conversation starter as he offers up a chair. Or perching on a stool next to Brad’s camera, keeping the person across from the lens calm and loose before Brad hits “record.”
Dave knows the time is approaching for him to move on to the next step in his journey. But the question remains: What, exactly, is the University of St. Thomas without Dave Nimmer?
I don’t know. Like Derek Jeter and baseball, I know I won’t be able to ever separate the two.