Moraga, California: A Night with Herb Brooks at St. Mary’s College

By Tony Mussari

Kitch and I came to California to deliver a guest lecture in Julie Marvel’s graduate course: Media and Public Relations in Sport Business.

Julie is an accomplished athlete.  She won a state PGA amateur championship when she was 14, and she won the North South amateur PGA event when she was 21. More important than her success on the golf course is her beautiful spirit, her caring way, and her thoughtful nature.

I met Julie in Lake Placid in 2005.  Julie was introducing her son to the magic of this place. Kitch and I were introducing the students in our last class to Herb Brooks and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team.

On a cold winter afternoon, our paths crossed in the Olympic Museum. We became fast friends, and our lives changed forever. Julie became an integral part of our Miracle at Lake Placid project. She helped us take the project to a level we never dreamed possible. She opened her home and her heart to our students. She shared her knowledge and expertise in ways that benefited everyone associated with the project.

For the past five years, Julie has been a blessing in our life.  She is a loyal friend, a trusted colleague, an understanding and supportive partner in everything we do. Her legacy in our life is all good, all helpful, all wise, and all kind.

Last evening we experienced a moment when friendship and partnership meet, and what a moment it was.

St. Mary’s College sits peacefully in a beautiful setting high above Moraga, California.  At the moment, the college is enjoying a good deal of national attention because of the success of its men’s basketball team. The St. Mary’s Gaels are doing very well in the annual rite of basketball mania affectionately know as March Madness.

On Monday evening, March 15, while Gloria Steinem was lecturing in one part of the campus, Kitch and I were working with Julie’s students in another part of the campus. Quite frankly, it was one of the best experiences of our Face of America journey.

Julie’s students were interested, engaged and willing to participate.  They wanted to learn everything we had to share.  From the opening exercise to the closing quote for the day, they were in the game and were taking advantage of every opportunity to learn about the 1980 Olympics, and the legendary coach who proved that  “impossible is just a degree of difficulty.”

It was one of the best classroom experiences of my life, and according to the students, it was an enjoyable learning experience for them.

We talked about Herb Brooks, his dream, his strategy, his coaching technique, his players, his contribution to hockey, his family, his life and his untimely death. There were special moments that every teacher hopes for, learning moments when you can actually see and feel the light of discovery going on.  It usually appears in the eyes of a student, and it reflects itself in a smile of satisfaction that records the joy of learning in a beautiful grin that stretches from ear to ear.

On this night, I was fortunate to see this on the face of a softball coach who was worried about her team. I saw it in the eyes of a young man named Andrew who dreams of becoming a coach.  It was recorded in the honest comments of Kevin Brady who talked about his discoveries and his passion for sports.  I felt it in the handshake of a welcoming student named Matt. I found it in a polite and professional response from a student named Brett. This young man set the tone for our class by responding to a requst I made with dignity and class.

During our one minute drill at the end of the class, it was recorded in a special way in the comments of a thoughtful young man named Wyatt, and the perceptive comments about America that came from an Australian named Sarah.  Another student named Kevin tied the bow as it were, when he summarized what he learned about Herb Brooks. “It’s all about hard work, participation and family,“ he said.

Kitch and I came to California to deliver a guest lecture in a graduate class at St. Mary’s College. On this night we experienced the joy of teaching in a way that is the dream of every teacher.

Five years after my last class, I experienced one of the best classes of my lifetime. It was a moment of learning, friendship, sharing and discovery. It was a moment of opportunity, a moment of peace and contentment that filled the damaged heart of an old teacher who experienced once again the joy of teaching.

Sometimes one finds the Face of America in a classroom where students want to learn. I can say this with confidence because of my experience at St. Mary’s College.

Sometimes one finds the face of America in the heart and soul of a caring friend. I know this face.  It belongs to Julie Marvel, and Kitch and I were willing to travel 6,000 miles in our Prius to see this face surrounded by the students in her first graduate class.

Herb Brooks often told his players; “ Write your own book instead of reading someone else’s book about success.”

Kitch and I came to California to help a friend teach her students how to write their own book. It produced a dream, a journey and an evening in a classroom at St Mary’s College that will never forget

Thank you Julie.

Until the next time, we hope that all of your stories have happy endings.

Please keep us in your prayers as we make our way to Oregon and the University of Portland, and always know of our gratitude for your help, kindness and support.

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