Summer 2013 Letters to the Editor

Touching Viewpoint

Please extend my thanks to Mr. Amendt for his article (Viewpoint). I was touched by it. Thank you again.

-Jim Donovan '77, Grass Valley, California

A Passionate Professor

I have three points to make on your fine article on James Hagerty, the founding of the Great Books program at Saint Mary's and his endorsement of the plan for Catholic Action.

1. Your article mentions Dorothy Day but neglects to include the contribution of Peter Maurin in the founding of that excellent program.

2. Catholic Action was a strong theme among the Christian Brothers all the way through the 60's. I recall that one interesting and humorous definition of Catholic Action was "the interference of the laity in the inactivity of the hierarchy." I am sure that frosted a few Bishops for it was the laity who did something for the poor and homeless rather than just making speeches.

3. With regard to Dr Hagerty, I had him for a Great Books course (or was in philosophy? No matter. They were both taught the same way) in the fall of 1954.

It was in Dante 205, a great room for discussion, with students sitting around a large table. Dr. Hagerty was all that your article says. Toward the end of the semester in class, he surprised us by asking each student to summarize what we had been discussing that semester and give our own assessment. Many students weren't prepared for that task and fumbled in trying to put their ideas together. One student, the wily Jim Winchell '55, impressed me (and Hagerty) with his summary and response. In one or two succinct sentences, Jim summarized the points beautifully and included his insightful assessment. Hagerty 's smile revealed his pleasure at that response. Jim was the valedictorian of the class and later attended law school at Catholic University and became a top lawyer in Sacramento, his hometown, until, unfortunately, he died a few years ago.

I left Saint Mary's in January of 1955 after 3 1/2 years at the College; student Brothers in those days completed their college in seven semesters. I was a Christian Brother and was assigned to Cathedral High in Los Angeles. I returned for graduation of our class of 37, which included 11 student Brothers, probably the smallest graduating class since the end of World War II.

At the Commencing Day breakfast on June 11, a half dozen speakers talked, but none was as inspiring as James Hagerty. He told the story of the building of a cathedral, Chartres, and emphasized the dedication and time it took for the workers to put the dream together— more than 100 years. He discussed the foundations, the planning, the dedicated craftsmen, the magnificent stained-glass windows and the unique circular labyrinth which symbolizes the Christian 's journey to Jerusalem. His point was that a cathedral is a symbol of our life journey.

I had never heard Jim Hagerty give a talk or lecture before, but this one has stayed with me because of the passion with which he spoke. Since then, though I believed a trip to Europe was impossible, I still wished to see what Jim was talking about. In 2000, I had my chance when I visited Paris. I took the train to the little town of Chartres, past the glory of gaudy Versailles, where most people had disembarked. A few steps and I was at the cathedral. It was remarkable that the offiffifficial guide at the cathedral, Malcolm Miller, was a delightful Englishman who looked like Jim and sounded a lot like him, too, in his explanations of the cathedral and how to "read " a stained-glass window. At the end of the tour, I told him I was from California and taught in the Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento. "Ah, yes, " he said, in a style that reminded me of Jim, "I had dinner at the Christian Brothers Retreat House in St. Helena, and it was delightful. " With this coincidence, I felt that Jim was saying, "I am happy you made the journey. "

-Patrick O'Brien '55, Sacramento, California

On Slip, Hagerty and Henning

Thank you for printing the two articles about Edward Patrick "Slip" Madigan. Unfortunately, the stories provided almost no specific information regarding his remarkable 19-year tenure as football coach. Sad to say, the overwhelming majority of alumni remain uneducated about the Galloping Gaels.

For the record, every good Gael deserves to be told that Madigan was hired on Christmas Eve, 1920. He was 25 years old. The school enrolled a grand total of 71 students. Not 71 football players, 71 students. The team failed to score a point during the 1920 season. It lost 41-0 to Stanford and 127-0 to California. Obviously, there was work to be done. Slip initially coached not only football, but basketball and baseball. He also taught several classes. He sold tickets, did the laundry, and cut the grass. His starting pay was $1,200.

It was a privilege to be quoted in the article about James Hagerty, John Henning, and Sylvester Andriano. I am mindful of the comment by Brother Dominic that Dr. Hagerty was famous for asking questions. Allow me to pose some inquiries that Dr. Hagerty would undoubtedly make if he alighted from the Sacramento Northern, returned to the white-walled academic city he so loved, and read the recent edition of the alumni magazine.

  1. Why does SMC praise me for my advocacy of the Great Books, but proudly proclaim the recent reduction in the use of those books in the Seminar program that I established?
  2. The current provost describes the goal of an SMC education on page 17. Why is the goal so different from that which Brother Leo and I and many others advocated?
  3. If SMC proudly proclaims the importance of the philosophy classes that I taught for some forty years, then why is there no requirement that today's students take even one such class?
  4. The magazine states on page 31 that today's students are "...the most academically qualified [school] history." What objective criteria are used to arrive at that conclusion?
  5. If SMC still provides a Catholic education, then how is that specifically accomplished if the faculty is minimally Catholic and largely secular?

-J. Randall Andrada, Oakland, California

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