A Reflection from President McCulloh: Founder’s Day 2022

October 21, 2022

Dear Gonzaga Community:

This coming Monday at Gonzaga we observe Founder’s Day, which commemorates the birthdate, foundational work, and powerful impact of Íñigo López de Oñaz y Loyola, the man we call Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. This holiday weekend follows a week filled with sadness and mourning for the tragic death of our student, senior Colton Marcantel; and I want to acknowledge the tremendous impact his loss has had on many in our community. In a particular way, I wish once again to express my deepest condolences to Colton’s parents and family; their loss is an unimaginable tragedy, yet they have been present to, and with, our community in a deeply meaningful and generous way.

Recently, I had the opportunity to re-visit the tomb of St. Ignatius and the rooms within which he lived, worked, prayed and ultimately died (in 1556). During the course of his life, Ignatius had many experiences which made human mortality a familiar experience. He himself nearly lost his life in a battle near Pamplona; over time he experienced serious illnesses and experienced the loss of many of his friends and Jesuit brothers. Yet these experiences did not make Ignatius a sad, pessimistic man; instead, fully conscious of his own mortality, it inspired him to treasure life as a gift from God, filled with many graces. Chief among these graces was the imperative to care for those around him, especially those in need of healing and nurturing. In the spirituality of St. Ignatius, life IS love.

Even as we mourn for Colton, and others we have lost along the journey of our lives, the process of grieving helps us to see the gift that others are to us, and we to them. As a community, we develop deep and abiding relationships, work and play and live alongside one another, and come to more deeply appreciate the meaning of our lives as we journey together. Let us continue, in the days and weeks to come, to support one another and Colton’s family and friends in their grief. Let us commit to looking out for one another, to respond to each others’ emotions with grace and empathy, to seek out those who are struggling, and to support those who may be feeling alone or isolated. Let us commit to taking care of ourselves as well, reaching out for support if we find ourselves in need of it. Remember: this is a world that needs You. Each of You is a gift from God.

Sincerely yours,

Thayne M. McCulloh, D. Phil