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HARPER: Brian’s dinner party gets ‘Wild’

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Brian Harper

Dear Father Wild:

It’s me again — you know, your best friend.

Well, here’s to us. We finally pulled off the unthinkable: an exquisite Friday night between you and me, nine of my friends, two slabs of beef tenderloin and an ice cream/Oreo dessert.

Trust me, I know how hard it was aligning our schedules. You’re busy running a university. I’m busy managing 12 credits as a second semester senior. Tomato to-mahto.

Ours, however, is a classic story of friendship’s resilience. Were Lewis and Clarke deterred by the perilous wilderness stretching before them? No. Did Chewbacca ever stop believing Han Solo would be freed from Jabba the Hut’s clutches in “Return of the Jedi”? No. Similarly, we would not allow our spirits to collapse under packed schedules or an oven that refused to heat past 285 degrees an hour before your arrived at my house, the Mansion.

We pulled an audible and prepared the tenderloin at a friend’s apartment. When my fellow cooks and I finally entered the house to find you enjoying a Leinenkugel with some of my roommates in the Mansion’s sitting room, I knew our persistence paid off.

Our reunion was sweeter than I ever could have imagined. We bear hugged. You began a dramatic reading of the letter I wrote you last semester. We took a photo of the 11-man dinner party, which will definitely make the cut if I ever create a scrapbook chronicling the greatest moments of my life. You said grace. We chowed down.

If I’m being honest — which is a particularly good thing to be when a Jesuit is part of the conversation — I had my concerns that our two worlds would collide as messily as Miley Cyrus’ and Hannah Montana’s. Just as my friends and I have absolutely no familiarity meeting with a board of trustees, raising funds to build an engineering school, or delivering a homily, we couldn’t imagine your daily routine consisting of our regular activities, such as dumping cold water on friends who are taking a shower or playing a hunting video game on PlayStation 3.

Fortunately, I had no reason to fear, as all parties present adapted to the environment. Instead of asking questions like, “Why did Hegarty’s have to close?”, we gingerly inquired as to what is happening to the space Hegarty’s used to occupy.

You, too, rose to the occasion and spoke to us on our level. This included sharing personal stories about taking the donation call from the Ecksteins, who gave millions to build a new law school (awesome!), Marquette’s 2003 Final Four appearance (super awesome!) and meeting with Dwyane Wade whenever he returns to campus (totally awesome!).

Though the letter I wrote last semester attempted to present a cogent argument as to what you would get by having dinner at the Mansion, the simple reality is that the pleasure was completely ours. Besides the sudden cool factor we have adopted around campus since hanging out with you — which is, by the way, a very new experience for some of us — we gained some insight into what your work entails in both a positive and difficult sense. While any of us would gladly take the opportunity to drive Doc Rivers to the airport or travel to the Big East Tournament each year, we would also happily pass on having to deal with accusations that Marquette was behind Hegarty’s closing.

The point is that you did not have to spend three hours of your Friday night with ten seniors who are on their way out of Marquette with very little to offer back to the university, but you did anyway. More than any of the fascinating anecdotes you told us, I truly learned how much you care about Marquette and its students, whether they are meeting with you for their academic achievements or because someone foolishly gave one of them a column in the school newspaper. My friends and I are grateful that you had dinner with us, and we are grateful for all you have done for Marquette.

Always your best friend,

Brian Harper

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “HARPER: Brian’s dinner party gets ‘Wild’”

  1. Don Draper on March 10th, 2011 4:15 pm

    This is exactly what Fr. Pilarz needs to do when he takes the reins this summer. Being president of the University doesn’t only entail weathering the political crap and raising money, but also should also include being able to connect with the students in moments like these.

  2. Lillian Heffernan Leopold on March 10th, 2011 11:30 pm

    Brian, awesome story. As a former Tribune reporter (Jour ’84), this brought back so many memories: Leinies, Doc Rivers, and the many long, fun nights putting the paper together. Best of luck to you and Father Wild.
    Lillian

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