Welcome to ‘Nova Nation Conversations, a summer series that will feature a different VUhoops reader/Villanova fan each week. Interested in being featured? Let us know!
This week we share some Villanova stories from longtime fan (and VUhoops reader), The Liberal Art!
A ‘Nova Nation Conversation
with The Liberal Art
My father graduated from Merrimack College in 1952 in its first graduation class. Merrimack was founded by the Villanova Augustinians following World War II because they saw a need and promise for its future as a small, regional liberal arts college in Boston’s north shore suburbs after the war with so many veterans returning in need of higher education. He had returned from an extensive tour of duty in the US Navy’s Submarine Service in the Pacific Theater and took advantage of the GI benefits available to returning veterans. Little did he realize, as he later told me, that such an opportunity would shape everything he did in later life.
My Dad was, and became, an academic of sorts engrossing himself in history, literature and philosophy and often spoke with tremendous enthusiasm about such topics and his college professors to anyone that would listen. He was until his death in 1985 a voracious reader and in fact, later in life, attended law school part-time purely for the academic challenge and for fun. He unfortunately died very young and never finished law school but did live long enough to see me, his only child, finish my legal studies and embark on my professional career.
My Dad instilled in me an indelible appreciation for a liberal arts education (hence my handle) and that mark manifested itself in my pursuit of an undergraduate degree from Villanova. While I did not appreciate it at the time, it was clearly my Dad’s influence which sent me to Philadelphia to be shaped and taught, as he was, by the Augustinians. Not unlike him, I enjoyed most my liberal arts studies completing enough credits for a double major in economics and philosophy. It is without question that the Augustinian teaching Order has had a most significant impact on my family and now, I can boast that my eldest child is also a graduate earning his BA in 2009. We view our family as a three generation Augustinian educated one.
When I was young we were a sports enthusiast household. I played everything as a child and in high school and my Dad always coached me in my youth. He took me to literally hundreds of Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins games. I am an only child and he and I were inseparable. He was the greatest guy ever. Everyone loved him (not just saying this).
Boston is a pro town. We enjoyed, but were not feverishly interested in college hoops when I was in high school but once I went to Villanova that all changed. I had played in high school and soon told my Dad how huge the game was on campus and frankly, he morphed into a bigger fan than I was. He would buy tickets to Big East games in Providence, Storrs, Jamaica, NY and NJ and send me money to take the Amtrak with a buddy of choosing and I would meet him and my Mom at Nova games and go for dinner. I was very involved in the hoops scene on campus and a member of the “fan” club or whatever we called it so I could have access to good game tickets. I remember so many road trips to games.
After graduating in ‘81, I immediately went to law school back in Boston. I met my wife to be there. She had attended a small Catholic school in South Bend, they play football, and we worked together on law review. I was editor in chief and she my managing editor. She still doesn’t handle being subordinate very well but we have managed to last 33 years and have three adult children.
My oldest son is in VC and an ‘09 graduate of Villanova, the middle son went to St. Mike’s in VT and is in big data and my baby daughter just graduated from Vanderbilt and is in banking in Charlotte. All three and extended significant others are, and have no choice but to be, huge Nova fans. My wife has become a huge fan and loves Jay. Duh! We convene as a family for games, food and drink regularly. Now we have one grandson pictured here at one of our family game watches. He will, if I have any say, attend Nova in the class of 2037.
I have so many great Nova hoop stories I don’t know which is best. I guess, out of love and respect for my Dad it is this: In the fall of 1984 my Dad was diagnosed with aggressive cancer. It was Thanksgiving. I had just learned days prior I had passed the bar and was scheduled to be sworn in in January. I was also engaged and we were to be married in the fall of 1985. We had a family meeting. As an only child my Mom thought it best if we accelerated our plans with the hope that Dad would be OK and see me married off. Dad loved my wife to be.
We rescheduled our wedding for early June 1985 hoping he would last. Throughout the winter Dad was very sick and Nova was frankly good but not a national threat. Rollie was coaching his ass off but we all remember how the regular season and BE tournament ended. We were happy to make the tournament. Dad was super sick with chemo in March ‘85 and decided to stop treatments. Frankly, we were worried he wouldn’t make my wedding.
The tourney run was special and I sat by Dad’s side for every minute of every game. He would doze off during games. We joyously watched as the Cats romped through to the final four in Lexington. The Saturday semifinal was special. Mom made a huge Italian feast and Dad tried to taste it but really couldn’t eat. He was heavily medicated on morphine. He sure could talk about the upcoming Monday game though. I got home early on Monday. We set up Dad in his favorite chair with a blanket. He needed help with everything and was always cold. For two hours we screamed together at a small TV with what, by today’s standards, would be a shitty picture. For two hours you would never know Dad was sick. He had more life and color in him than any day the previous three months. He kept promising me we would win. The game was winding down and tense and the ball inbounded. The Nova player caught it, fell to the ground and we didn’t even know who it was. His arm raised up in victory as the clock expired.
Rollie was interviewed and said “nobody thought we could do it but I did.” My Dad cried. I cried. We embraced for what seemed like forever. He kissed me and said he loved me more than life. Dad died not long thereafter. I was married 8 weeks later in early June and Dad was not there of course. I felt bad for my Mom as she lost her husband and in essence lost her only child within weeks but we rejoiced because Dad got to see Villanova become national champions and passed peacefully with those memories intact for eternity.
I weep every time I tell or write this story. I’ve told it so many times. It is, perhaps why I am so passionate about Villanova basketball. It reminds me of my Dad. I mean my best friend.