With the auction of St. Gregory's University's personal property, one of the News-Star staff reflects on her time at the university.
Walking down the hall of the DeGrasse dorm in the days before the auction of the St. Gregory’s University property, I saw a couple quietly discussing the campus.
“Graduate?” I asked, and the man answered that he was – 1992 for him, and 2005 for me.
We talked for a while about the campus and the changes through the years – both of us remembered when the locker rooms we were passing through had been study rooms. He spoke of a time when Mary Fowler taught fencing and when Mark Braun -- the dorm where I spent my freshman year -- was closed.
In some places, the campus has changed very little. Walking through the Rockwood Center and into the dorms, the smell alone transported me back 15 years. In the library, despite some of the shelves being arranged differently, it took me only a couple minutes to find my favorite book and spend a few seconds thumbing through it.
Other areas have changed in small ways. At some point, Mark Braun transformed into a medical training area, and the room where I spent my freshman year contained a hospital bed when I walked past it Tuesday. The chapel in the Duperou dorm has a wall dividing off a third of it. The bookstore migrated out of the Rockwood Center and, I think, into the basement of Benedictine Hall.
Despite any changes, the memories are fresh as ever.
I parked my car in almost the exact location where, on my tour of the school, my friend who was attending said, “You all have to meet Brother John!” I don’t know about my other friends on the tour, but I had never met a monk before. Standing in the middle of the parking lot, he told us all a dirty joke and shattered any preconceived notions I might have had about him.
The fieldhouse was where I voted in my first presidential election. It was also where, as a terrified freshman fresh from home, Brother John held my hand as I donated blood just days after 9/11.
Walking past the clock tower toward the cafeteria, I remembered looking for my friends at a hot dog roast just after I’d received word that my grandmother had passed away. And later, I stood in the third-floor hallway of the main building explaining the situation to Mrs. Marian Salwierak, who kindly said, “What’s something you remember about her?”
It was also on the third floor where my thesis advisor, Dr. Joe Eaton, gave me some advice that I’ve found is best applied in many other areas of life: “You’re going to be working on this for a long time. Don’t pick a topic if you don’t love it.”
I think I could tell a story of every professor I had while at the college, because all of them had an impact on me. That’s not even to mention the memories I made with my friends at St. Greg’s, many of whom I’m in contact with still today.
So passing through the hallways and buildings, looking at all the items up for auction, was bittersweet. Especially the library. As a serious bibliophile, I’ve always longed to see the treasure room inside the St. Greg’s library, but I’ve never had an excuse to ask. I never thought the opportunity would come during an open house just as the books are to be sold and removed from the university.
The loss of so much history breaks my heart. But then, so does the loss of the school in general.
When I was looking at colleges all those years ago, there were two serious contenders: OU and St. Greg’s. The person I am today might have chosen differently. But as a painfully shy girl from a tiny town in the panhandle, St. Greg’s was the only real choice. It gave me a place I could thrive and grow – not just academically, but emotionally as well. I am eternally grateful for the person SGU helped me become, and a little sad for others like me who would have benefited from a school like this one.
I saw Brother Damien while I was walking past the main entrance, and he told me (as he has told many on the alumni page) that the monks are still there and happy to have the alumni visit. It was good to hear. All the same, driving away from the university that day – and I say this without hyperbole – felt like leaving the funeral of a loved one.
So, to the faculty and staff who have served the school, and especially to the monks, thank you. You gave so many of us an experience we will never forget, and St. Greg’s will be in our hearts forever.