Creative urges are great things to have around, whether in cultures or in colleges. And it’s a good thing, too, since our very English word “create” has etymological roots in the Latin verb “to grow.” While diminishments also at times have their places in human life, growth is most often seen as a sign of life, and intense life at that.
A great deal of this issue of Bellarmine Magazine has focused on creativity in its higher reaches. I thought we might take a few moments to recall some of the less conventional examples of that creative urge as it has shown up on the Bellarmine grounds over the years.
Take the time several years ago when two students were hauled into the dean’s office for cheating on a final. They readily admitted what they had done, but forcefully maintained they were not at fault. And who then was to be blamed, the dean wished to know. Why, the professor, one of the students insisted. He was reading the Courier-Journal at times during the test. If he had been watching us all the time, we wouldn’t have cheated. Not an exemplary moment, but one that was at least moderately creative.
I also can cite a time in my own teaching experience when I suspected some academic dishonesty was underway during a test. My suspicions were confirmed when I compared the papers of the pupils who were sitting side by side. The one I suspected, sad to say, had not only copied answers from the other, but had copied the student’s name from the paper as well!
Then there are the lists that seasoned professors, at just about every college and university in the country, keep over the years. I mean the catalog of bizarre sentences that find their way into student exams and term papers. Here are few from my own listing:
- Martin Luther is that man who posted those 95 Thesis.
- William James’ 1902 religious classic was titled East of Winter.
- Luke’s Gospel was intended primarily for Jesus.
- The Trinity is made up mostly of God.
- St. Augustine was from South Africa.
- St. Augustine had a son and then moved to Europe. He was party animal number one. When his son died, he felt funky.
- One dark side of the 19th Century’s sense of progress was that it couldn’t be watched all the time. This is true because we didn’t have television at that time, only radio.
Even in the years before Bellarmine came to these grounds, the unconventional was known to occur. On July 7, 1935, St. Thomas Orphanage stood on this Newburg hill. It was staffed by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, with Sister Mary Gretchen as house superior. One day, Sister Superior had the misfortune of locking her keys in the office. Not to worry. Also on the staff was Sister Regis, apparently slight of build and a creative woman to be sure. She simply climbed through the transom atop the office door and retrieved the lost keys—all the while, of course, in the full habit and veil then worn by the community. The written annals kept by the sisters refer to this acrobatic moment as “The Human Fly Stunt.”
And here’s a clever and creative touch from the boys of the orphanage as well: In 1938, a benefactor made it possible for a group of the residents to go downtown to the Loew’s Theater on Fourth Street and see Spencer Tracy as Fr. Flanagan in Boy’s Town. In the film, the residents of the Nebraska facility set up a government, elect a mayor and take part in some decisions at the home. Back on Newburg Road, the St. Thomas boys quickly decided to follow suit, worked on a government and gained the ready support of the sisters.
Nor were college administrators outside the circle of the creative event. Near where the Siena residence halls are now situated once stood Lenihan Hall, home to the priests on the Bellarmine staff. In charge of the hall was Msgr. Raymond Treece, Bellarmine’s vice president. When a college official had a door installed inside Lenihan without consulting Treece, he simply got hold of a hatchet and chopped the door down. It did not soon re-appear.
To end these “alternate creativity” instances, I report on some verbal quick-thinking on the part of Louisville Archbishop Thomas Kelly, who long bore the title of Chancellor at Bellarmine. Many years ago, I was something of a very informal chaplain to the Louisville Redbirds at the old Cardinal Stadium. There I became friends with one of the umpires, a Catholic from down South who told me one day that he would really like to meet an archbishop. I arranged an appointment with Kelly at the Chancery. “Well,” the sometime diplomatic archbishop said to the umpire, “I suppose Clyde has told you that I’m not a great baseball fan.”
You could see the disappointment in the visitor’s face. And then our resourceful and creative Bellarmine Chancellor saved the day. “But I think umpires are terrific,” the archbishop said. “You guys dish out justice every day.”
By Fr. Clyde F. Crews | firstname.lastname@example.org