Graduation is less than three weeks away and I am willing to bet hundreds of seniors can’t wait to “get out in the real world” and get on with their lives – minus early-morning classes, late-night study binges and 20-page term papers.

I have a cautionary note: Don’t be too hasty. And whatever you do, take some of St. Thomas along, especially the part involving a life of the mind.

Life’s more than a two-car garage, a long weekend and an office on the top floor. I came back to a university environment (St. Thomas) after more than 25 years in the world of bylines, live shots and weekly paychecks. What I lost in money I gained in exposure to new books, fresh ideas and challenging discussions.

The undergraduate core of St. Thomas is as relevant to living a good life as developing job skills and technology savvy. For instance, if you took Economics 251, Principles of Macroeconomics, you have more tools than I do to examine the “national income, unemployment, price stability and growth, monetary and fiscal policies, international trade and finance and (the) application of economic theory to current problems.”

That’s as timely and relevant to life in this recession and recovery as today’s New York Times website.

And if you had an elective and chose Music 130, Introduction to World Music, you explored “the phenomenon of music as an activity in people’s lives … a context in which music serves as part of larger social rituals” in such places as Africa, the Middle East, China, India, Japan and the United States.

That’s in addition to learning more about European classical music. I’m trying to do that at the age of 69 by listening to Osmo Vanska and his Minnesota Orchestra playing Beethoven’s symphonies.

If one of your three required Theology classes was 215, Christian Morality, you, your classmates and professor Bernie Brady would have spent last semester discussing and writing about subjects in the book Modern Spiritual Masters, 12 people whose lives “served as witnesses to the challenges of living the contemporary Christian life.”

My old newsroom buddies talk about those very challenges at our weekly coffee klatches, as we spend more and more time over how we acted rather than what we accomplished.

And, if you were a freshman at St. Thomas when the common text was Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, you came away with an antidote for the helplessness we sometimes feel in the face of global (and universal) problems:

“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folks may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither a god nor poet; one need only a good shovel. By virtue of this curious loophole in the rules, any clodhopper may say: Let there be a tree – and there will be one.

“If his back be strong and his shovel sharp, there may eventually be ten thousand. And in the seventh year he may lean on his shovel, and look upon his trees, and find them good.”

Now, I ask you: Why would you ever want to leave all of this behind?

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4 Responses

  1. Thomas Engrav, Farmington

    I’m a senior with a few weeks to go, and I’ve been trying to cherish every moment I’ve had on campus. Thinking of all the different classes I’ve had at St. Thomas, it’s truly been an incredible experience receiving this liberal arts education, and I can’t wait to see how my future is impacted because of it. Even with the debt I’ll have to pay in the future, I’m truly glad I received my college education at St. Thomas.

  2. Dave Nimmer

    Beefy in St. Paul,

    From the tone of your response, I not only hit a nerve, I poked at a gaping wound in your mind and memory.

    First of all, if you had an instructor who only showed up two thirds of the time for class, you have every right to be angry. I assume you passed this information on to the department chair, and I am wondering what she or he told you.

    Second, that person you sat next to in class who went to school on a scholarship might increasingly be a student just like you. More than 80 percent of St. Thomas undergraduate students receive financial aid, including scholarships, grants and work-study awards.

    Third, I’m told the student activity fee this year is only $204, not $500. It pays for guest speakers, concerts, dances and other events, and provides funds for more than 100 student clubs and organizations to run their own activities.

    Finally, my friend, I have never seen a faculty member I knew well “mail it in;” they teach with passion, they care deeply and they gave a damn about their students.

  3. Michael Blissenbach, St. Paul

    A love of learning is important, and I indeed took that with me when I graduated from St. Thomas last year. However, what I cherish the most from my four years at St. Thomas was the strengthening of my knowledge of how to live as a Catholic in a secular world, and how to see the world through Catholic eyes. Any educational institution can bestow upon its students a love of learning, but how many institutions can show its students how to look at the world through Catholic eyes? Not many, and this is an aspect of St. Thomas that I feel is undervalued and under-appreciated by the vast majority of students and faculty.

  4. Beefey, St Paul

    Trust me, Dave, we won’t soon forget the $100,000 in debt that is all but promised. All the useless spending at this school will also not be dismissed. When St. Thomas calls us all in the coming months, hang onto that information.

    Remember that $500 student activity fee (editor’s note: the fee this year is $204) that you never saw any of? How about the $3,600 course that the instructor only showed up to two thirds of the time? How about the sports team that you sent on spring break for free? That person who sat next to you in class and said he went to school for free in passing? Do you remember him? Sure you do.

    Yes, these events will not be forgotten!