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What Will Your Legacy Be In 40 Years?

By Michael Watt

What Will Your Legacy Be in 40 Years?

By Michael Watt '81

There’s an old saying along the lines of, “When you drink from the well, be sure to honor those who dug the hole.”

If you’re reading this in The Aquinas then you owe a debt of gratitude to Patrick W. Foley, Class of 1979. Foley was The Aquinas’ managing editor from 1977 to 1979, and he went on to enjoy a distinguished career as an attorney and mediator in New Jersey. He is also the father of Meghan Foley, Class of 2020. He passed away this summer at the age of 62, but here’s why he should be honored.

After a spirited competition and rigorous screening process, John Weir, Class of 1979, was named editor and Foley managing editor. Other than both being natives of New Jersey they had little in common. Weir was a scholarly and reserved history major who went on to Harvard Law School. Foley was an English major who took just as much pride in his having seen Bruce Springsteen perform in the early days of his career at New Jersey’s famed Stone Pony pub as he was of his academic prowess, which was considerable.

Working in tandem from Day One, however, they set about laying the foundation for a student newspaper that by 1981 would earn the coveted “All American” award as a weekly newspaper from the Associated College Press. Starting from scratch, they recruited editors, writers, photographers, production, circulation and advertising sales representatives, secured office space, a darkroom and dependable printer and then set about establishing standards and practices that would last well beyond their stewardship.

During the course of the 1976-1977 academic year, The Aquinas was published only four times and the quality of the issues can most charitably be described as lacking. With a keen appreciation for the important role a vibrant student newspaper plays in campus life, then University President Rev. William Byron, S.J., announced an open competition in the spring of 1977 for the positions of editor in chief and managing editor in the ensuing academic year. The students selected would receive a half-tuition and quarter-tuition scholarship, respectively, with the one proviso being if the quality of the newspaper did not improve significantly the school would pull the plug on the newspaper and commit those resources elsewhere.

Once the Aquinas ship was righted in 1977-78, Weir and Foley challenged the all-volunteer staff, now numbering in the dozens, to commit to publishing a weekly newspaper in 1978-1979. Inspired and guided by their example, the subsequent Aquinas leadership team brought The Aquinas into the electronics era and secured the aforementioned national recognition.

In the ensuing decades, hundreds if not thousands of University of Scranton graduates have gone on to enjoy successful and productive careers based on what they learned working on The Aquinas. Consider, too, how many issues and ideas have been discussed and debated since 1977. The closing of Linden Street, for instance – a considerable, controversial step which led to the campus being so beautiful today - was an issue pursued with vigor on these pages in the late 1970s.

While no one can say for sure what would have happened had Weir and Foley not committed their considerable talents, time and energy to ensure the longevity of The Aquinas, their success begs the question: What are you doing today to create a legacy that endures 40-plus years later? What well will you dig so future generations of Scranton alumni can drink in 2061?

I first met Foley during my Freshman Orientation weekend in 1977. Since then he was a valued friend, mentor and inspiration. More times than I can count I found myself thinking, “what would Pat Foley do?” Going forward I will strive to honor his memory by continuing to do what I think he would have done, and I encourage current and future Scranton alumni and students to do the same.

Michael Watt, Class of 1981, was The Aquinas Editor in Chief from 1979 to 1981.