That One Time . . . Roommates

Author: Notre Dame Magazine

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More Questions than Answers

We lived in Holy Cross Hall, an old, dilapidated seminary building which had been repurposed as a dormitory. The showers were cold, and the hallways were frequented by chipmunks by day and bats by night, but we loved it. We developed a friendship quickly and were roommates our junior year. Time was filled with pickup games and music. In the many moments of lightheartedness, we uttered our mantra, “Ahh . . . college.”               Late-night conversations gravitated toward life’s deeper questions as we shared a yearning for answers that eluded us. We hoped they’d arrive someday.

Following graduation, calls and visits tapered off. Families grew and careers progressed. Communication dwindled. Nevertheless, during difficult times, we would invariably reach out. Despite the distance, the soul connection remained. 

Last year, texts became more frequent, turning into calls, and eventually weekly video meetings. Our lives had changed. The questions about life’s meaning had resurfaced in the uncomfortable void left by waning careers and empty nests. In this quiet emptiness, we both ached for direction and sought reconnection.

Today we look forward to our scheduled chats. They provide comfort, insight, even laughter at the absurdity and fatality of life. We no longer expect to find complete answers to the great questions. As we have aged, we realize those answers are less important than the exploration of them with a trusted roommate. 

— Brad Couri ’85 and John West ’85


Shortstories Ransom Note Part 1 1

Give Us the Popcorn — or Tigger Gets It 

It was a mundane, midweek, midwinter evening. I had been the recipient of an oversized tin of green popcorn to celebrate the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day. In these days well before Amazon Prime, a package of any sort was coveted but particularly one that involved snacks. 

Having completed a study session in Walsh Hall’s basement lounge, I returned to my room, ready to unwind for the night. Maybe even have a snack. Instead, I discovered a grave absence from my bed and a ransom note. 


“We have Tigger. We want your green popcorn and beer left outside your room at midnight. If you don’t follow our orders, we’ll pull the trigger on Tigger!” 

Shortstories Ransom Note Part 2 1

Yes, an overly large, stuffed Disney creature resided on my bed. And now he was gone. After a quick consultation with my roommate, we managed to secure water guns, placed the popcorn and beer in the hall and waited. 

I’d like to say that either party to the kidnapping had a brilliant strategy for how this standoff would conclude, but what really happened was what almost always happen

ed for Walsh girls: We wound up playing euchre on the floor while we shared the popcorn and beer. 

 — Liz (Morlan) Seymour ’96

Monogram Man

In the early 1960s at Notre Dame, campus males could be easily divided into two groups: those who had monogram jackets and those who did not. I did not. We coveted those jackets, the navy blue wool with the navy blue leather sleeves and the gold ND monogram on the chest. For most, these jackets were unattainable — but not for my roommate, Bill. 

Bill predicted, in his confident and slightly haughty manner, that one of those jackets would be his. Sure, he was an excellent athlete, but at 5-foot-8 what chance did he have?

Bill tried to be a basketball walk-on but was cut before the season started. Undaunted as always, he somehow walked on to the fencing team, even though he had never fenced. In 1964, he became an All-American. When the monogram jackets arrived, Bill Ferrence ’65 brought his to our room. I tried it on. It was too short in the sleeves and too tight in the chest. It fit only Bill.

— John Clarke ’65

“I’m Keying In!”

It all ended with a sharp knock on the door of our room, 336 McGlinn Hall.

“I’m keying in!” a voice bellowed.

It was after parietals the night before fall break freshman year, and the RA thought she was going to find a boy in our room.

Instead, she found seven girls, circled around a snack spread that probably included pretzels with queso or Nutella (OK both, who am I kidding?), cozied up with blankets and pillows and a laptop. The male voice she heard was from a YouTube video.

My roommate Sarah — the ringleader, the friendship-builder, the plan-maker — had gathered us for what she dubbed “life story night.” So far, this fledgling group of friends had bonded over pep rallies, campus navigation and dining-hall froyo. Now, on that night in October 2007, she wanted to get to know all these new friends better and hear our life stories: who we were before Notre Dame, who we dreamed we might be in the future.

It’s funny now to think of telling our life stories at 18, not quite realizing that the story had barely begun and the girls in that room would be along for the rest of the journey. We’d tell this story and quote “I’m keying in!” for years to come. All thanks to my extroverted best friend of a roommate coordinating the plan.

  — Maura Sullivan Hill ’11


A Tangled Situation

My first night on campus, I arrived later than anticipated after driving 12 hours from New Jersey. I was tired and nervous about meeting my new roommate. There was a colorful “Welcome Laura” sign on the door. I knocked, expecting to be greeted by an enthusiastic roommate, but found the room empty. The bottom bunk was already made — which meant I got the top. 

Tired and achy, I managed to monkey-climb into my new bed. Then the phone rang, and I climbed back down to answer. 

“Hello?” I asked groggily.

“Who is this? And where’s Beth?” came an angry male voice. 

“This is Laura, and Beth’s not here.”

He kept repeating, “I know she’s there,” and I kept denying it. 

Then he shouted, “Listen, bushy head! Put her on right now . . .” 

I shot back, “Who are you calling a bushy head? I don’t even know you! What are you, some kind of peeping Tom?” I hung up and climbed back into bed.

The next morning, I met my new roommate, Beth, and was relaying the story of her boyfriend calling me “bushy head.” A girl who lived across the hall overheard, walked over and said, “Hi! I’m Bushyhead — and that’s my real name. My first name is Laura, and I’m a Native American.”

Confused, I replied, “Hi! I’m Laura, and I’m a native New Jerseyan, and I was born with this curly head of bushy hair. My last name should be ‘Bushyhead.’”

— Laura Kernan ’85


Triple Threat

My socks lived in a milk crate freshman year.

When I arrived in 314 Farley Hall, the “good” drawers and beds were already claimed. I accepted the top bunk and the wobbly wardrobe with a smile. How can three girls, meeting each other for the first time, live in a space the size of a closet? The dreaded triple.

Was this Notre Dame’s not-so-subtle way of teaching tolerance, or penance for those lucky enough to grow up with their own bedrooms?

We made early attempts at bonding, but it was soon apparent that living in such close proximity was not going to make us best friends. (For reference, my sister and I shared a tiny bedroom as kids, and we were definitely not best friends.)

We had many late-night crying sessions with our RA. She told us Notre Dame “does not allow roommate switches.” Great. It was shaping up to be the kind of experience that my grandfather would say “builds character.”

We eventually agreed to split the two shoebox-sized rooms that made up our triple. Carolyn in one room, Anne and me in the other. We shared only the exit door and the touch-tone phone with the long twisty cord. And we made it through that year.

I wonder about the person I might be if I had been assigned to 414 Farley instead of 314. Would those roommates have influenced me to make different life decisions? More importantly, would my socks have lived in a real drawer?

—Patty Keegan ’88



Morrissey Manor was familiar territory when my mom dropped me off as a freshman in August 1983. My very responsible Manorite older brother had graduated that spring.

My roommate was a tall, lanky guy with long hair. We met his mom over a glass of celebratory champagne, his cigarette burning in the nearby ashtray. He said to call him “Freems” and I told him to call me “Bru”, a nickname I’d had through high school.

Freems was not a typical Notre Dame freshman. He was 21, son of an ND professor, joined the army after high school in South Bend, worked 20 hours a week at a pizzeria, smoked widely and often. He was also an easygoing storyteller, fun-loving, smart and interesting. He became the irresponsible older brother I’d never had. Freems came home late — often not at all — and shared his vinyl collection with me. He typed papers for a buck a page in front of the TV, a wooden board on his lap, a Hamm’s to his left, ashtray to his right.

After the fall semester, Freems moved to a single — a futile intervention to improve his academic performance. In the spring, without a bit of disappointment or regret, he told me ND wasn’t for him and he was moving on with life.

I saw him at a football game 10 years later. We spent the afternoon laughing and catching up. He had moved to Texas, started a family and worked in land surveying.

He was happy.

—Mike Bruen ’87


What Are the Odds?

As I began high school, my dad wanted our family to move across town, from the South Hills of Pittsburgh to the North Hills. None of us wanted to move except him — he had a tedious commute to his new job from our South Hills home. “Someone” even caused the For Sale sign in front of our house to repeatedly fall down after he left for work each day.

My father insisted on a number of Sunday trips to look at houses, eventually settling on one he wanted. But the move never happened. Our family and friends were not part of that foreign land to the north. The For Sale sign kept falling.

When I entered Notre Dame in the fall of 1969, my parents and I were sitting in my new room in brand-new Flanner Hall. The small talk, nervous yet excited, mostly centered on who, in all of God’s green Earth, might be my roommate.

He and his parents soon arrived. Where are you from? Pittsburgh. Whereabouts? North Hills. We shared the same birthday.

And the clincher: we would have been next-door neighbors had that For Sale sign been sturdier.

Destiny can take some really interesting turns, don’t you think?

—Ed Young ’73


It Takes All Kinds

I was a junior transfer student, living in the basement of a house at the bottom of the hill on Angela Boulevard. My roommate was a first-year law student. He was a great, but I longed to live on campus. I finally reached the top of the waitlist and moved into Keenan. My roommate there was, well, unique.

For whatever reasons, he wasn’t well liked by my Keenan neighbors. And he was nocturnal. I had to make it clear that he couldn’t turn on every light in the room when he came in at 3 or 4 a.m. I’m not sure he ever went to classes.

I benefited from a great rector, Father Rich Conyers. He got me involved in a singing ensemble in the Keenan Revue. And, as he also knew that my roommate was “unique,” he let me move into a vacant room.

For senior year, I needed a roommate. Father Rich came to my rescue again, suggesting a rising sophomore who also needed a roommate. He was great, except every morning he appeared to be catatonic, as if he was sleepwalking. If I happened to see him at lunch, he was back to normal — friendly, conversational.

In retrospect, I learned things from each roommate, primarily the realization that not everyone was like me.

John Lacey ’83


239 Alumni

During our senior year, 239 Alumni was definitely the place to be. We were the hall’s hub. Perhaps it was our choice location, with the forbidden balcony overlooking the South Quad. I prefer to think it was us — me and my roommates. We were the perfect hosts, and if any Dawg needed shampoo, a textbook, a typewriter or just a few laughs, they knew where to go.

One of my roommates, Don “Dancing Bear” Smail, was very handy — from fixing Alumni’s water fountain to repairing the custodians’ vacuum cleaners. Senior year he outdid himself. Don built a bar with a Formica top and red tufted leather around the edge. The front even held all our record albums. It was beautiful — and so functional. Many nights of sing-a-longs happened in that spot.

Bill “Beefsteak” Reifsteck only roomed with us senior year, but we became fast friends and remain so today. An excellent photographer, Bill captured countless moments that year. There was a tradition Bill and I started that year, an indication — looking back on it — that we were no longer the unpolished freshmen who entered Alumni in 1974. Every night at 5:30, Bill and I would make a pre-dinner Manhattan, sit on our denim-covered couch, and watch the network news.

—Jim Coyne ’78


The Way the Cookie Crumbles

My first Notre Dame visit was at age 17 as a California freshman in August 1966. I was the last to arrive and my two roommates, from Pennsylvania and Arizona, left me the last bed (top bunk) and last desk (far corner).

The PA roommate had a loving mom who baked wonderful cookies. One day AR and I got the notice of a cookie package available for pick up and we ate all the cookies before PA got back from classes. We left the empty box so he could write to his mom for a refill!

Later the AR roommate wrote to his girlfriend back home about the cookie heist. She sent a homemade batch for all of us. They were the worst cookies ever. AR wrote to thank her, saying the cookies were too hard to eat, but the popcorn was great. She called him and said the popcorn was for packing so the cookies wouldn’t crumble (he said they could never crumble) and she hoped we all got sick.

I stayed for summer school. I asked why my roommate was there for the summer. “I got four As and two Fs in spring semester because I will be an astronaut someday,” he said, “so I took an F in theology and English lit because there is no time to discuss the bible or Shakespeare when flying to the moon.”

—Dave Mulvehill ’70

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