The Power of One Good Man

Author: John Monczunski

It’s a pleasant September Indiana evening, and Notre Dame’s Fall Banquet Season, which roughly coincides with the football season, is in full swing. About 150 of us have gathered beneath the white big top that rests behind the Morris Inn like a huge dollop of whipped cream. We are here to celebrate a good idea, the Andrews Scholars Program, and to remember a good man, Jim Andrews ’61, a co-founder of Universal Press Syndicate with his friend and business partner, John McMeel ’57, and the namesake of the program that provides scholarship funds to Notre Dame students engaged in summer service projects.

Shortly after the publishing executive’s death in 1980 at age 44, his widow, Kathy Andrews ’63M.A., and McMeel established the unique scholarship designed to free students of the need for summer jobs so they might engage instead in volunteer service.

The ripple from that good idea continues. In the program’s 21-year history 1,100 students have received Andrews scholarships, working in homeless centers, medical clinics, sports camps for disadvantaged children, preschools and eldercare centers. In a 1997 survey of Andrews scholars, 92 percent said they had committed to or were seriously thinking about engaging in such postgraduation service as the Peace Corps or Holy Cross Associates. For most, some form of volunteer service becomes a lifelong commitment.

The Andrews Scholars program certainly is worth celebrating. But celebration is a chore tonight. Like everything, the festivities have been singed by September 11, edged in black. Earlier in the evening, many of us had attended a commemorative Mass in the Dillon Hall chapel. There, one of the scripture readings had counseled the faithful to turn the desire for vengeance into love, which, even in the best of times, is no easy task. At this moment, as unChristian as the sentiment may be, the wish for vengeance is sweetly seductive.

My mind drifts as Father Dave Schlaver ‘64, ’69M.A., a onetime colleague of Jim Andrews and now associate director of the Holy Cross Mission Center, reminisces about his friend. The priest’s voice falls to a murmur in my consciousness while in my mind’s eye I rerun a CNN newsclip of some Pakistani teens, students in one of the country’s finest secondary schools. They are vibrant, intelligent and earnest.

“Osama is a hero,” a bright girl says, her eyes flashing. “He advances our religion.” An articulate boy adds, “If they kill him, two more will raise up. We are mujaheadeen, sir. Jihad is why we were born.” His classmates nod approval in the background. Their imagination has been seized, and they are ablaze with inspiration. In Osama bin Laden, they see a romantic champion, not someone who causes other children to weep for mothers and fathers never to return. In the United States, they see a demon enemy, not one composed of children of God, like them.

Schlaver’s voice brings me back to the present. "Jim spent his best years trying to figure out what we Christians could do to overcome the perplexity caused by injustice and greed, evil, war and violence, in short to determine where we could find hope and discover the God of peace.

“He had a real knack of making everyone welcome and helping you to feel good about yourself,” the priest continues. “He genuinely loved people, enjoyed being with them, learned all he could from them, and brought the best out of them.”

John Twohey ’66, a Chicago Tribune editor and another friend of Andrews, once said, “Jim had an abiding belief in the obligation of the Christian to address the needs of the disadvantaged — getting involved where others seldom went, rocking the boat, taking the side of the underdog.”

The evening comes to a close, and we shuffle out of the enfolding tent. As we depart, I think about heroes, inspiration and the ripple effect of ideas. I think about Pakistani teens and Notre Dame students, about our common future . . . and then, as darkness falls, I pray for more Christians and Muslims like Jim Andrews.

John Monczunski is an associate editor of Notre Dame Magazine.