At about 10 a.m. last Sunday, a Cistercian priest at the abbey soberly announced the funeral details for Reverend Ralph March, O. Cist., who died on Feb. 6. I admit I didn’t think much of it. I assumed he was an elderly monk who made a difference in the lives of a few students before departing for his celestial reward.
But, in reading his obituary, I learned that, while those things were certainly true, his life was much more significant than that.
He was ordained on the day World War II ended in Europe. He studied at the University of Budapest at the Franz Liszt music conservatory and received a master’s in Chant at the Sorbonne.
He was forced to immigrate to the U.S. because of the communist regime in his native Hungary.
He was a member of the University of Dallas’ first faculty and was one of the first residents of the Cistercian Abbey.
He was asked to return to Europe by the archbishop of Cologne to be the director of music at the Cologne Cathedral.
He taught at the University of Innsbruck and then returned to Dallas, where he taught part-time at UD until his retirement. And those are just a few of his accomplishments.
Often at UD there is a fear that the proverbial grass really is greener on the other side. Some fear that the neighboring universities, with their massive endowments and their beautiful campuses, are somehow ‘better’ academically than our beloved grey-and-brown campus surrounded by freeways.
Those of us worried to be UD students should be reassured by the life of Rev. March. At the very least, his legacy should be a comfort. This man, who so few of us really knew, was among the most respected academics in Texas universities.
However, his legacy should also remind us of the beauty around us. Rev. March’s passing, though I never knew him, raises unsettling questions. How often have I ignored opportunities to experience the beauty that UD offers? How often have I accused the university of lacking beauty, but ignored an email from the music department announcing the recital of a concert pianist on campus?
Rev. March’s death should remind us to appreciate the unseen and unheard beauty that does exist on campus. It should dispel the illogical, implicit fears that our campus does not provide us with an outstanding, well-rounded education.
How many more hidden gems are we missing?