The University of Portland: A Face of America Day of Teaching, Faith and Service

By Tony Mussari

The University of Portland is one of the gems in the crown of eight Congregation of Holy Cross colleges located in the United States.

Located on a site made famous by Lewis and Clark in 1806, this university and its collection of handsome red brick buildings and  lush fruit trees was bathed in the glow of radiant sunshine on this March day.  According to the people we met, this day was about as close to perfection as it gets in Portland.

When we arrived at 5000 Willamette Boulevard, the campus was alive with the sights and sounds of learning. Student volunteers were leading tours of the campus for high school seniors and their parents. A faculty member was working with a group of students on the steps of Franz Hall.  A number of people were making their way up and down the steps of the administration building, Waldschmidt Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus.  Others were congregating beneath the recently constructed bell tower located next to the Chapel of Christ the Teacher on the perimeter of a beautiful quad in the center of the campus.

Our hostess for the day, Jamie Powell, greeted us with a smile and after a brief introduction we began a whirlwind of activity that resulted in eight interviews and a very special group picture. Jamie is the Director of the Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture. She is a charming , competent, caring woman. Every college should have a Jamie Powell to welcome visitors and present the brand name of the school. Kitch and I knew from the moment we met Jamie that it would be a very good day. There is warmth, kindness and goodness in her eyes.

Our first Face of America interview took place at the Broken Wall, a memorial to  alumni who died in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.  Standing in front of the focal point of this special place, the Praying Hands, university archivist, Fr. Robert Antonelli, set the tone for the day.  Fr. Bob, as he is affectionate known, is a man who loves life, radiates goodness, and makes everyone he meets feel special. After his interview, we toured the subterranean office where he has carefully and effectively codified the historical artifacts and documents of the university.

Then it was off to lunch where we were joined by Cathy Kendall Johnson and` Doug Hansen. Cathy and Doug work in the development office. They talked positively about their work and their history with the university.  They made us feel comfortable and welcome.

Shortly before 1 p.m. we made our way to the Administration Building where three ROTC cadets were waiting for us.  In a twist of fate, the first cadet we met was Cadet Corporal Gregory Perez from Houston, Texas. He is an engaging and bright young man with a good heart and a million dollar smile. After his interview, he told me he intends to do some research to find out if he is related to the woman who inspired our Face of America project, 2d Lt. Emily Perez.

Army Cadet Major Trenton Conyers is a delightful young man from Newton, Kansas.  He said he never dreamed that he would attend the University of Portland, but fate lead him to the campus and he is glad it did. He loves the school, then people who teach here and his fellow cadets as much as he loves his country.

Cadet Corporal Andrew Riley is one of two brothers who are in ROTC at the university. Andrew is a very tall and athletic looking young man with a heart of gold. He spoke passionately about honor and service to country. He believes his service in the army will enable him to make a contribution to his country and the world.

LTC Lewis Doyle has served his country in uniform for 20 years. He has very strong feelings about the ROTC program and the students he teaches. During his interview, he emphasized the importance of leadership. He talked at great length about the qualities of a successful cadet. As he talked, I got the feeling that these students are in good hands with LTC Doyle. For him, this is more than a job, and these students are more than potential army officers. For LTC Doyle, this is about family.

Shortly before 3 p.m., we were joined by Rev. Gary Chamberland, the Director of Campus Ministry, and Colonel Terry Kono, Professor of Aerospace Studies. Colonel Kono is a man with a perpetual smile on his face, and Fr. Chamberland is a thoughtful man who seems perfectly suited for his position. Both Kono and Chamberland represent the university with dignity and class.

At the appointed hour, the students and faculty assembled in front the administration building for a presentation of the 9/11 National Remembrance Flag. Kitch and Jamie Powell joined the group. It was a very special moment on a very special day in a very special place.

As I snapped the picture, I thought to myself this is the Face of America. These people are not rich, famous or powerful.  They do not make headlines.  They are not celebrities. They go about their work of each day without noise or notice, but by doing what they do in the quiet ways they do it, our country is a better place today, and it will be better place tomorrow.

The stories we recorded were wonderful. The people we met were welcoming, the students who talked with us were focused, and impressive.

The Holy Cross priests we met were inspirational and healing in their warm and compassionate comments.

We came to Oregon in search of the Face of America. We found it here at the University of Portland on a glorious day. We found it in the hearts and minds of thoughtful people who believe in service, reconciliation, redemption and honor. It doesn’t get much better than that.  

Thank you Peg Hogan and Jamie Powell for making this day possible.

Thank you Cathy and Dan Cronen for making our visit to Portland possible.

Thank you Mary Elizabeth O’Connor for opening the door for us.

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

Please keep us in your prayers and always know of our gratitude for your help, kindness and support.

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