Many years ago an associate vice president, who routinely critiqued each issue of the magazine with thoughtful, handwritten graffiti scribbled into the margins, wrote on the cover: “One of your best eclectic issues ever.” I had to look it up. “Eclectic” means coming from a broad and diverse range of sources. I took it as a compliment. It underscored the magazine’s charge to reflect the kaleidoscopic experience of a Notre Dame education — the one that continues long after you leave campus.
I also assumed he was differentiating it from a theme issue. We are often asked what the theme of our next issue is, and we often have an answer — because many editions are wrapped around a theme. But not always. It just depends on what we’re up to, what’s on our minds, what we’re working with.
One of the most fun parts of being here is collecting the season’s harvest of stories — the writers coming through, the assembly of parts that we share with you. The poignant juxtapositions. Like the parish priest, a Notre Dame alumnus, who built a miniature Vatican out of Legos, just a few pages away from a very different treatment of art and the Catholic vision — a thoughtful appraisal of Martin Scorsese’s work in film, violence, grace, sin and redemption.
There’s a place for each here. Just as campus once offered teenage boys a manual labor program and decades later erupted in anti-war protests, where today faculty and graduate students combat schistosomiasis, a disease that kills 200,000 people a year.
Notre Dame is many things.
On these pages you’ll also meet Tazbah Shortey Yazzie ’10, who returned home to the Navajo reservation where she grew up and is now a school principal there, as well as Joan and Tom Fenzl ’74 with a tragic, deeply personal story bravely told. And you’ll hear from Beth Ann Fennelly ’93, a poet and professor at Ole Miss, writing about empathy and how important it is to read.
All these pieces get placed alongside others in a jigsaw puzzle of an issue whose unifying image is a portrait of Notre Dame and its people. What may seem eclectic, diverse and dissimilar reflects the beauty, richness and common humanity of us all. It seems to me that if there is a collection of individuals capable of tolerance and forbearance, of listening and reaching a consensus of mutual respect, it is the Notre Dame family. I do not think I am being naïve in believing this.
Finally, each edition needs an article that has cover weight, heft, presence, stature — the one to build an issue around. Anthony DePalma has written other cover stories for us, one about Notre Dame’s soul, the other about California’s bristlecone pines. So when we talked about his using his longshoreman father and his own career in newspapers as case studies to explore change in America, we knew we had the issue’s anchor and cornerstone. It’s a story I’ve continued to think about when I hit the ATM or do my banking online, or when I choose to self-scan my way out of a Target or Walmart — how my convenience has eliminated the need for people to work there. And what that means.
That’s another aim of what we do — getting people to read, and also to think about what’s going on, even beyond the realm that is Notre Dame.
Kerry Temple is editor of this magazine.