I remember our freshman year when Fr. Slavin came to address the pre-med class in the Albertus Magnus building, his pet project. I listened in awe, spellbound. A college President, my college’s President, articulate, refined, distinguished, there before me, wearing a pure white habit….“washed in milk,” was an oft heard refrain. And he spoke of our opportunities in this small Dominican school, our opportunities to get close to our professors and to each other, and our opportunities to become prepared for whatever was ahead.
He was the man who pushed the PC property line, the one who hired Coach Mullaney, the one who built Alumni Hall, the one who touted seven hundred years of Dominican education. But no one ever heard of us until we put “five kids on the floor” at Madison Square Garden. But it was not all happy. The Providence Journal story read, “Fr. Slavin’s efforts to promote the name of Providence College were fulfilled in 1961 when the Friars won their first NIT championship in New York. Fr Slavin died just weeks after that victory and was buried in the Dominican cemetery located on campus. The campus’s student union is now named in his honor.” Fr Dore took over as President of the College and gave us our diplomas, but I wanted Fr Slavin to give me mine.
I recently returned to Harkins Hall for a meeting, my first time in the building in almost 50 years. Nostalgia unexpectedly washed over me. I paused at the entrance, looked around at the granite that once seemed intimidating, looked up from the rotunda to the balcony, and down to the stairs that once led to the auditorium where I went for the twenty minute Mass between classes. It was the same auditorium used for a Class Rally, the Pyramid Players, The Brothers Four, mixers, the class roast, The Veridames Society meetings and once even basketball. The smell of aged wood, granite floors and the clacking sounds as students and faculty walked through, rekindled memories of my own student years. Disoriented for a brief moment I looked at my watch, thinking that I might be late for class. I walked each floor, ending on the fourth. What happened to the Art Museum? Where was the tuition office? What happened to the library? I could smell those musty books in stacks that once held me captive. Harkins was a trove of wonderful surprises. The memories linger.