Killian Beeler & Isabel Dubert, Contributing Writers
“Our rock stars write songs about Crime and Punishment. I think that distills UD better than anything else.”
This is the illustration senior Daniel Orazio used to describe the character of the current Spring Romer seniors, a class that Dr. Hatlie, dean of the Rome campus and professor of history, christened “The Blessed Class” – referencing both the fact that the class was in Rome during the beatification of Blessed Pope John Paul II, and the kind, intelligent and welcoming spirit of the students as a collective. We couldn’t agree more with Dr. Hatlie. This class is the heart and soul of the University of Dallas. Their actions outside the classroom give a wonderful witness to what this university is supposed to be about: the pursuit of wisdom, truth and virtue. Their dedication to these ideals is how leaders are made. They vigorously practice what they preach, but in a loving, playful way, never taking themselves too seriously. They have inspired us both so much, and we feel like we have truly “found UD” because of them. So, as we leave for Rome in January and these seniors embark on their final semester at UD, and with no desire to neglect the rest of the seniors, with whom we are less familiar, we wish to pay tribute to “The Blessed Class.”
During Dr. Hatlie’s farewell address to the Spring 2011 Rome class, he reportedly claimed that they were currently one of the best Rome classes that he had seen. Mr. Ryan Reedy, assistant director of the Rome Campus, also is said to have told Dr. Moran that they were one of the best classes he had ever encountered. The class members are uniquely able to associate among themselves, being unified despite having distinct friend groups. They seem to possess a welcoming “philosophy of interaction.”
Orazio notes: “I ran into someone I barely knew my last night in Rome (the day before the second group flight), while walking through the Piazza Navona one final time, and ended up having my farewell dinner with eight or nine people I had barely ever talked to before and have barely talked to since. And you know what? If I had had dinner with eight of my closest friends it could not have been more meaningful; that’s how friendly and fun and interesting and thoughtful everybody was. And that’s UD at its best.” This best explains the warm welcoming sensation one feels when interacting with this class. Many times, in the last two years, we have run into seniors on the Mall, in the Cap Bar or in the cafeteria, whom we did not know at all, and ended up, after a wonderful 30-minute-or-so conversation, feeling so warm and happy inside, it seemed as if it were Christmas.
The “rock star” Orazio is specifically referring to in the beginning of the article is Danny Fitzpatrick, an individual who exemplifies the inspiring amount of intellectual curiosity in the class. Orazio notes that in Fitzpatrick you have a “great scholar, a 4.0 philosophy student and yet also, a great rock guitarist” who happens to write songs about Crime and Punishment. Deandra Lieberman further illustrated the class’s characteristic to use this curiosity for “awesome hare-brained ideas.” She mentioned specifically the time on the boat to Greece when, as the class sailed past Lepanto, Andrew Christman, Nick Harmon and Quinn Huston led a reading of Chesterton’s “Lepanto” followed by a rosary in commemoration of the Christian victory over the Ottoman Empire. They understand the true nature of UD as it is meant to be.
As sophomores we have seen this firsthand over the last two years through fun and intellectually stimulating talks led by members of this class, such as Matt deGrood’s The Hipster Phenomenon,
deGrood’s and Michael Walker’s The Meaning of Life, and Danny Fitzpatrick’s How To Be a Gentleman.
Faith is also important to the class of 2013 as a whole. Kimberly Read recalls one night during freshman year when a group of them wandered over to the Cistercian Abbey across the highway jungle and chanced upon the monks singing the Gregorian chant of the Vespers evening prayer service. Feeling slightly sheepish and not a little unsure of the protocol for such a situation, they waited it out huddled in a clump in the back of the church. Such whimsical and yet reverent adventures are not uncommon among this class of blessed ones. First Friday Mass is also acclaimed as an extremely significant part of the community life which cannot be lost or forgotten. The importance of faith in their experience at UD has left many graduating seniors – whether they went to Rome in spring, fall or not at all – concerned at the possible secularization of the university, that UD might lose many of the Roman Catholic ties which bind the school together into one unified entity.
Read has also voiced some reminiscent thoughts about how living as an RA in Theresa Hall has created a unique opportunity for her: She can meet and influence freshmen as they are experiencing UD for the first time, while she is experiencing it for the fourth and last time. And on further reflection, the much-loved RA commented/admitted, “I love all the freshman dorms – including Greg.”
New Hall RA Nate McCormick fondly remembers his own freshman year living in a Madonna Hall quad with fellow classmates and Spring Romers Anthony Nguyen, Jimmy Hesson and Rob Sherron.
“Freshman year was a wonderful experience,” he said emphatically. McCormick vividly recalls certain aspects of Madonna life: Danny Fitzpatrick rocking out on his electric guitar, Matt Romero perpetrating crazy experiments in the Madonna kitchen, endless ping-pong tournaments in the Madonna lounge, Anthony Nguyen’s famous rice-paper spring rolls, and waking up at 5:30 a.m. to hear Rob Sherron shuffling around in the dark under his bed and the “pshsht” as he opened an energy drink to start the new day.
No tribute to this class would be complete without mentioning the “Pontifex Maximus,” the great bridge-builder, Matt deGrood. He is known as such among my friends, because I, Killian Beeler, do not know of anyone else who has done more to create interclass community. As a scared freshman sitting with strangers at a lunch table on one of my first days at UD, I saw a peculiar-looking character in a Pink Floyd shirt walk by. I instinctively commented on the awesomeness of the T-shirt and was immediately befriended by “Matthew the Great.” Because of him, many of my friends and I have been able to interact with and learn from seniors we would never otherwise have known.
During his talk, The Meaning of Life, when asked about happiness, Matt said, “Talking with Daniel [Orazio] makes me happy.” Well, Matt, talking with you and your classmates makes Isabel and me happy. Thank you to “The Blessed Class.”