Echoes of ’58: The learning curve

Author: Jack Barthel '58, editor

Editor’s note: Of the 1,249 men in the Notre Dame Class of 1958, who are now at or approaching the age of 80, almost two-thirds are alive. Jack Barthel ’58 solicited reflections from the surviving members and received contributions from 90 of them. On each of the five Fridays in July, this magazine is presenting excerpts from the book he put together: Echoes of ’58: Recollections of the Notre Dame class of 1958.

John Hennedy

My first year academic experiences did not begin with what anyone would call a lot of promise. In my beginning history course, admirably taught by Bernard Norling, I thought I had done well on our first long essay exam by writing a detailed account of Julius Caesar’s accomplishments. What I didn’t realize was that the question asked us to discuss policies of Augustus Caesar, the first full-fledged Roman emperor. As I recall, Mr. Norling understood my major gaffe. Years later I used this experience to guide bright Honors freshmen I team-taught at Providence College. When they underachieved in an early exam, I told them about this freshman experience to show how first exam jitters could cause uncharacteristic problems.

One subject that came easily for me in my first year was Logic, taught by Professor Oesterle, using his book for our text. . . . Somehow, I even came to tutor a few football players who were using Professor Oesterle’s textbook.

In one case, tutoring a lineman, I don’t think I was very successful. I recall reviewing with him a multiple choice question, which he had gotten wrong: “Which is the most universal term? A. Danish B. French C. European D. Italian.” When I tried to explain the principle that a more encompassing term like “European” is more universal than one designating a specific nationality, he wasn’t convinced. He responded something like “I don’t care; I still think Italians [his nationality] are the best.”

Another time, when he saw me walking on campus, he shouted, “Hey, Hennedy, do you want to do some tutoring? I don’t need to know anything, but I thought that you could use the money.”

Emmett Whealan

I took an Ethics class from a Jesuit named O’Reilly in senior year. It was a fairly easy course and he didn’t take a head count, so I could cut at will.

It was necessary to read the book, as his exams were right out of the text. I hadn’t attended class for about a week, and when I showed up I was surprised to find out we had an exam which I had not anticipated nor prepared for.

O’Reilly passed out the exam, and when I examined it, I realized that it was rather basic if only I had bothered to read the text first. Rather than trying to blow some smoke at the text, I simply signed my name and handed it back to him. He looked puzzled, but I explained I had not read the text and had cut the last few classes and was caught unaware.

The good Jesuit took my signed, blank exam and marked a grade of 100 at the top and simply just said that this was a good example of Ethics. Honest truly pays off.

I was a professional trader at a major exchange throughout my career. That lesson was never forgotten.

Echoes of ’58, edited by Jack Barthel’58, is available as a paperback or ebook through It also can be found at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Net proceeds from sales of the book are being donated to Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, founded by Father Don McNeill, CSC, ’58.