Friday, June 20, 2008

Thanks, Tim Russert, from my father and his son

-- director of Student Services at St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami Gardens.

Luke Russert, son of Tim Russert, touches the empty chair that was his father's on the set of "Meet the Press" on June 15 at the NBC studios in Washington, D.C.
AP Photo/Meet The Press, Alex Wong

Luke Russert, son of Tim Russert, touches the empty chair that was his father's on the set of "Meet the Press" on June 15 at the NBC studios in Washington, D.C.

In the fall of 2005, during halftime of the Boston College-Florida State football game, I sought shelter underneath BC's Alumni Stadium. It was not an ideal autumn day for football in New England. The skies were overcast and there had been a steady rainfall throughout the first half. At halftime under the stands, I was a wet spectator among a sea of maroon ponchos and yellow raincoats.

A few feet away -- standing equally alone and wet, checking messages on his cellphone and caring little about his unkempt appearance -- stood a man who on first glance looked like someone I knew. It was Tim Russert -- whom of course I didn't know at all, but I felt like I did. Like so many others who watched Meet the Press religiously on Sundays, I felt some connection to Russert.

A fellow Irish-Catholic and unabashed BC supporter like Russert, I felt the urge to walk over to him and introduce myself. I figured I could tell him how much I enjoyed reading his recent book, Big Russ & Me. I figured I could tell him that I read his book in December 2004, a difficult period for my family -- the first holiday season since my mother succumbed to ALS in July 2004. Understandably, my father, a widower after almost 40 years of marriage, was still not dealing well with the loss of Mom. But Russert's book was helpful to both of us.

I distinctly remember reading aloud to Dad what Father John Sturn, prefect of discipline at Russert's Jesuit high school, said to the future host of Meet the Press: ''Russert, mercy is for God. I deliver justice.'' I figured Russert would enjoy hearing how hard my father, himself a product of a Jesuit education, laughed when he heard this line.

I figured I could tell Russert how helpful his chapter entitled ''Loss'' was to both my father and me. I could tell him that I had paraphrased his own words in asking my father, 'Dad, if God had come to you 40 years ago and said, `Bob, I'm going to make you an offer. I will give you a beautiful wife for 40 years, and together you will have a wonderful family and happy life, but then it will be time for Mary to come home.' You would have made that deal in a second, right?'' My father didn't need to respond; the answer was evident in his slight smile and watery eyes.

I could have taken the opportunity that day in September 2005 to relate to Russert my conversations with my own father. I could have thanked him for helping to be my father's counselor without even knowing it. I chose not to, however, because he seemed content in the moment, quietly texting messages on his phone. He was there, after all, simply as a football fan and a father -- for all I knew, he was exchanging notes on the first half with his son, Luke, then a Boston College sophomore.

With Russert's sudden passing on Friday, I thought again of my chance to meet and thank him. But I don't regret that I left Russert alone that day. Sometimes we all deserve the occasional quiet moments to ourselves.

According to published reports, a television reporter asked Russert at his son's graduation from BC last month whether he was interested in commenting on the recent news that Sen. Edward Kennedy had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The proud father declined, saying simply, ``Today I just want to be a dad.''

I'd like to send a belated thank you to a father whose words of wisdom helped two strangers at their time of loss. Thanks, Tim Russert, from my father and his son. May our gratitude be of some comfort to your family at their time of loss.

About the St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami Gardens:


The St. Thomas University School of Law is one of only three accredited Catholic law schools south of Georgetown University’s School of Law in Washington, DC. The School of Law at St. Thomas was fully accredited by the American Bar Association in February 1995, and offers the Juris Doctor degree (J.D.) as well as the Masters of Law (LL.M).

St. Thomas has given its graduates the confidence and skills necessary for success in a variety of fields. Among notable graduates are: Alex Penelas, the former Mayor of Miami-Dade County; Andy Elisburg, Vice President of Operations for the Miami Heat; Christina Fernandez, Chief Marshall for the Southern Region U.S. Marshals Service; and John Dooner, CEO of Interpublic Group of Companies.

St. Thomas has an enrollment of 2,520 students - 1,171 in the traditional undergraduate program, 731 in its graduate program and 618 in the law school. Students come to St. Thomas from 42 states and nearly 50 foreign countries. As of 2008 St. Thomas University has an endowment that stand at $23.4 million.[1]

St. Thomas' Sports Administration programs was one of the first in the country. The program has produced many of the leaders in the world of sports.

The college itself was established by the Augustinian Friars order.

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