The following letter to the editor was sent by Manhattan College alum Scott Weikel, class of 1994. It has been lightly edited for publication.
I was one of the first students to move in to a brand new co-ed dorm named East Hill in 1990 (now known as Lee Hall). I was fortunate to receive a track scholarship and it was a requirement that I arrive a couple weeks early before school officially started for the year. As I was moving in to my 7th floor quad room, a large man peaked through my doorway and asked how I liked the room. I told him that it was great… however, the bathroom was missing a shower head. I assumed he was a maintenance guy and within minutes another guy was screwing in a brand new shower head. Wow, that was quick! This place is amazing! It wasn’t until Freshman orientation when I realized that I told the President of the college to go fetch me a new shower head.
Brother Thomas [Scanlan] told that story during the freshman orientation and mentioned that this was a sign that this freshman class was going to be trouble. Brother wanted to experience the 90’s student dorm life and actually lived on the 7th floor as well. At first many of the students were not happy that the president of the college was living on their floor (especially if their dorm room was right next to him). Nevertheless, quickly into the first semester, everyone seemed to enjoy Brother’s company and he shared many nights with the students in the 7th Floor Lounge watching sports and television shows on the big screened boxed TVs.
Throughout my years at Manhattan College, my relationship with Brother grew stronger as we shared many ideas back and forth. Many thought it was a bit strange that I went to dinner with Brother or caught a movie with him every so often. What they did not understand was the fact that I enjoyed his interesting perspective on life and our great conversations. We discussed everything from Sports, to politics, to campus life. He even had an idea to start an on campus bar/pub for the “of age” seniors to hang out and always have a place to come back to for years to come.
One thing I did notice years later after graduating is that when you are a prominent figure like the president of a college, combined with a vow of celibacy, it can be very lonely at the top. You also become a political target or a leverage to better things. I only saw Brother as a friend. And even though I felt like I greatly benefited more from our relationship, I now understand that my company was just as important to him as it was to me.
Brother Thomas was a huge Giants fan and I am a lifelong Eagles fan. We went to many games together over the years at Giants Stadium. He couldn’t stand the Eagles. And I have no love for the Giants. During one of our spirited conversations at a game, we talked about the reasons why I stopped going to church. I rattled on about how I disliked the local politics around the Roman Catholic church and decided to stop attending as I “lost my faith” in the church. After hearing my side of the story, he explained the importance of church and faith. He talked about how your time in church is a time to reflect, a time to think of others, and a time to plan how you were going to be better than you were yesterday at not just improving yourself, but with helping others.
He then decided to make a wager with me… one that I will never forget.
I was running cross country for our school and Brother wagered that if I placed in the top five within my team in five races at Van Cortlandt Park, along with running faster than a set time that we agreed on, I would be able to use his private dining room with 8 guests for one night. If I failed to place in that top five and not finish faster than the time we established…
I would have to go back to Church on Sundays.
I accomplished 80 percent of my goal in the first four races and needed one more race to win the bet. I became extremely confident in my ability to win this wager and started picking out the menu and generating my guest list for my big dinner in Brother’s private dining room.
Things can change so quickly… I got injured.
After many weeks of resting and healing, there was one race left. I was still very confident that I would win and egging Brother on to make sure he was at the finish line to watch me win.
The night before final race, it rained like it’s never rained in the Bronx… and the rain continued all morning and into the afternoon up until race-time, and then it came down harder.
I finished in the top 5 for my team. But it was a muddy race course for that day and times were very slow. As I came across the finish line, Brother Thomas was there waiting… with the biggest smile on his face. I pleaded with brother that the weather was outrageous and there’s no way anyone could have run a fast time on this day. He simply smiled and said, “Scott, the Big Guy upstairs wanted you back in church, so he made it rain… and He made it so.”
So I went back to church.
Brother and I remained friends and after college, he became a huge mentor to me. He helped me through a couple of rough times and tough decisions that shaped the future of my life. He always gave me the confidence that even though I might not be the smartest guy in the room, the strongest guy in the room, or the fastest guy in the room….but that I had the ability, confidence, and thoughtfulness to be able to rise above any challenge that came my way.
I can’t say I’m the most religious person in the world, but Brother reminded me that having faith and going to church was an important way of keeping yourself focused on the important things in life such as your family, your friends and helping others that are less fortunate than you. I now say prayers every night with my wife and our two children. A large reason for this nightly ritual is because of my wife and her family’s influence on the importance of religion. Brother was not surprised by any of this. He joked about how even though he stressed this importance over the years, it was obvious that it would take the love of a woman for me to finally listen and follow through.
During our last dinner that we had together, I asked him how often the College calls him up for advice and suggestions. Brother Thomas shared with me that he never received those calls and I was shocked that the current administration wouldn’t reach out for his opinion. If anything, Brother always sought out the opinions of others before making any decisions and he made some very unpopular ones… but it was always for the benefit of the school. He was one of the smartest men I’ve ever known, and I wish others took more time to benefit from his experience and knowledge.
He passed on SuperBowl Sunday and the Eagles won their first Super Bowl. I’m not sure if he watched the game, but I do know the Eagles winning definitely may have had a part in his passing. I do believe he was able to leave this world knowing that I am finally okay now that the Eagles were finally able to win the big one.
I will miss you my friend. Thank you for always being there for me.