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Fr. Naus still clowning around campus

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His three favorite things are Jesus, smiles and friends. He loves Marquette University because of the students and has been a faculty member for 48 years — 28 of which he was a hall minister in Schroeder Hall.

Who is this week’s Jesuit? None other than the lively and humorous the Rev. John Naus.

Fr. Naus, most recognized for his speedy wheelchair, sat in his Marquette wind pants, black shirt and white collar, peering out of a zipped blue and gold wind jacket. A hat topped off the ensemble.

With a smile on his face he gave his full background. No breaths. No pauses.

“Are you ready for some information?” Naus asked. There was no time to answer — he dove right in.

Naus was born Aug. 28, 1924. He graduated from Marquette University High School in 1942, entered the Jesuit life in the same year in St. Louis, Mo., and was ordained as a priest in 1955. He received his doctorate in philosophy from Gregorian University in Rome, Italy in 1955.

He taught ethics at St. Louis University from 1959 to 1963 and then, finally, ended up at Marquette.

Over the course of his teaching career at Marquette, Naus taught ethics, Chinese and Indian philosophy, and philosophy of humor. He was also dean of students and director of Campus Ministry.

“It shows the importance of a positive environment, friendly outlook on life and a positive attitude,” he said.  “Some of my best moments came from teaching because it’s engaging with students.”

As much as he loves teaching, Naus said his favorite thing is counseling and advising.

Besides being a serious fellow who likes to get down to business, Naus enjoys making people laugh.

Throughout his life, he has loved to play the role of “Tumbleweed the Clown.” Photos of him in costume, as well as paintings of him as Tumbleweed done by former students, cover his office walls. He once even appeared as the clown on a CBS News special for Dan Rather.

“Oh, that was real exciting,” Naus said. “Making people laugh is what I enjoy doing.”

When Naus and seven others contracted polio in 1944 from a polluted swimming pool, he needed an outlet to maintain his happy demeanor, and being the class clown helped him stay positive.

In 2004, he had a stroke, which resulted in his requiring a wheelchair, but he still kept in good humor and played the role of Tumbleweed.

“Everyone enjoys to be happy, and everyone needs some laughs,” Naus said.

For Naus, the happiest hour of his week is the 10 p.m. Mass on Tuesday at the Joan of Arc Chapel. He has celebrated the Mass for 26 years.

“I see (students) praying and hear them praying, and it just brings such joy to my heart,” he said.

Thomas Tulp, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, sings at the Tuesday Mass and has lunch once a semester with Naus at Subway. The first time they had lunch, Naus made Tulp sing “Hallelujah” in front of the patrons.

“I sang for him, and he laughed the entire time,” Tulp said. “The customers laughed, but the employees knew what was going on.”

Tulp said that Naus epitomizes a Jesuit.

“He is one of the rare people who can combine human and genuine care in a conversation,” he said. “He is very open and patient … we stop for chats, but he gets distracted by the number of people he tries to say hello to.”

Meghan Pirics, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, met Naus her freshman year after he approached her and her friends at lunch, sharing why he loved Marquette so much.

Last year, one of Pirics’ friends passed away and she asked Naus to dedicate a Tuesday Mass to her.

“That meant so much to me,” she said. “It is something that I will never forget.”

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