Portrait of Friendship

How do buddies from college create a lifelong connection? Like this.

Author: David Korzeniowski ’20

Editor’s Note: Members of the Class of 2020 should be celebrating together this week, but the coronavirus pandemic canceled their pomp and circumstance. Last month, Margaret Duncan ’17 encouraged graduates to “say the things that catch in your throat,” to express their gratitude to the people who meant a lot to them in college. We invited a few to share those feelings on our website to bring a touch of virtual celebration and appreciation to this dispersed senior week.

To my best friend, Kevin Coyle,

For as long as I can remember watching Notre Dame football games with my dad, Paul Korzeniowski ’78, I’ve known about his friendship with my godfather, David Bender ’78, my “Uncle Dave.” They would call each other during halftime and after every game, their emotions ranging from excitement to frustration. My dad told me they had met at Notre Dame and had been best friends since. For a long time, I didn’t know what that meant. I do now.


Over four years, Kevin, we have both grown so much. From two eager and clueless freshman who thought they were ready for life on their own, to a first-year dental student and a play-by-play broadcaster, I’m not sure anyone could have predicted our transformation. But then again, we did.

I’ve always admired your work ethic. Your goal for the first 18 years of your life was to get into Notre Dame. Once you did, you found new goals. You wanted to push yourself in the classroom and rebound from tough semesters. You wanted to grow physically. You wanted to score well on the admissions test to get into dental school. You did all of that and more. Mediocrity isn’t an option for you, and you inspire me and so many others.

“What if we dressed up as nuns?” wondered Kevin Coyle ’20, hands clasped at center next to the pointing author.

Socially, you’re the most effortlessly personable guy I know. Everyone who knows the two of us asks me about you. When I tell a story about you, they light up with a smile and say, “I love Kevin.” You make an impression with your humor, energy and friendliness. You make people feel important, cared for, loved.

I also credit you with always being willing to take the lead with me. Our road trips to Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Northwestern, Georgia and Michigan wouldn’t have happened without you. I still remember calling you the summer before junior year to brainstorm ideas to get us on TV for College GameDay before the Notre Dame-Michigan game.

You said, “What if we all dressed up as nuns?”  

Two months later, we had 30 people dressed in habits and made the front page of ESPN.com. In December 2018, we organized a party to celebrate Notre Dame’s first ever College Football Playoff appearance — on a Sunday afternoon. Before our senior year, we exchanged ideas about what could make our off-campus house stand out.

I wondered, “Can we get a portrait done of us?”

You called your friend from high school who goes to art school in New York City and we had an absurd painting proudly displayed for all our guests to see. Although some of our more poorly thought-out ideas got us in trouble, we were always there to bail each other out. I can’t thank you enough for making college as fun as it was.

Patrons of the arts, left to right, seniors Pat Kearney, Kevin Coyle, Tyler Mundell and the author in their home gallery

More than anything, though, I’m thankful that you are a true friend. At the end of the day, our grades, our jobs, our parties, they’re not the most important things. What’s most important, to quote my high school headmaster, is “God and the people of goodwill through whom God works.” You’ve shown me both. When I came to Notre Dame, I was seriously struggling spiritually. I felt alone. You showed me what faith in action meant — how to live a meaningful life and have fun while doing it.

When the COVID-19 news broke, I couldn’t help but think of the moments we seniors would miss. Our final formal, senior week, Commencement, the list goes on. But most of all I knew I would miss those last two months with you and our friends.

I miss you already. I miss living under the same roof. I miss the dining hall meals filled with laughs and stories. I miss the 7 a.m. workouts in Duncan. I miss the weekend nights that lasted until 3 a.m. I miss the quick conversations that would turn into long ones about life, love and the future.

At first, the relationship between my dad and my Uncle Dave didn’t make sense. How could two people become so close over four years? How could they stay even closer with hundreds of miles, family and jobs in the way?

Now I know. I’ll call you at halftime.


David Korzeniowski, a student broadcaster and managing editor of Scholastic, received the University’s Denny Moore Award for Excellence in Journalism.