Message from the President: What Presidents Do on Spring Break

March 24, 2014

To our alumni friends: 

For many college students, spring break equals travel. That’s true for many college presidents too, but this one at least wasn’t bound for Cozumel or Cancun or even Cucamonga. 

Early on a Sunday morning, a week ago, I was at Austin Straubel with faculty member Kent Paulsen and the 10 members of his Knights on Broadway revue. We were ostensibly bound for Tucson and the first of what would be three reception-performances for our alumni who live or winter in Arizona. 

We were more than ready to leave behind the Wisconsin winter. Our plane, alas, wasn’t – mechanical trouble – and that meant we were going to miss our connecting flight in Minneapolis. In fact, the KOB troupe spent that afternoon with yours truly and Deb, eating Erbert and Gerbert’s and homemade brownies and crashing on couches in the presidential basement while we all waited for a later flight west. 

We never did get to Tucson that day, but we did stagger into Phoenix about midnight. However, thanks to the resourcefulness of our wonderful hosts, Ron and Colleen Weyers, the Knights’ Tucson show DID go on, albeit 24 hours later. Kent and I, multi-tasking, chauffeured our students in vans from Phoenix down to Tucson and back. Miraculously, everybody who’d planned to attend the Sunday night reception came back on Monday. The performers, given the reprieve, sang their hearts out. A fine time was had by all. 

Two more shows in Phoenix and plenty of pool time later – it was sunny and in the 80s every day, praise the Lord! – and the talented young KOBers were ready to head back to Green Bay. But not me. I had a 6 a.m. flight Thursday for Detroit and then on to Portland, destined ultimately for Lewiston, Maine. 

I can safely say the only other spring breakers in Lewiston, Maine, last week were the players from the four teams in the NCAA Division III Frozen Four tournament, including our own Green Knights, who were ranked No. 1 in the nation going into the national championships. 

Coach Tim Coghlin’s teams have become such a regular presence at the Frozen Four that, as one local columnist wrote, “St. Norbert ... pretty much has a standing hotel reservation on the next-to-last weekend every March.” 

That’s a nice sentiment, but even powerhouses have to earn the right to be there. In Lewiston, the Green Knights showed how. 

In Friday’s semi against SUNY-Geneseo, the guys started a little tight and saw their worthy opponents pull even at 2-2 midway through the second period. I was at the top of the bleachers with about 40 other SNC stalwarts, and the presidential heart started palpitating a bit. But then Michael Hill stuffed in two quick goals and my anxiety passed. 

That put us in the final game against UW-Stevens Point. Odd as it was to travel 900 miles to play another Wisconsin team, when the puck dropped we might as well have been back at the Cornerstone. Two old rivals fell right into some good old-fashioned, smash-mouth hockey. 

The final was nip and tuck until early in the third period when defenseman Marian Fiala ripped an NHL-style laser from beyond the right circle, smack into the corner of the Pointer net. I imagine their poor goalie is STILL looking for it. That made it 3-1, and with all-world David Jacobson having another great game in the SNC net – two nights earlier he was fittingly named the D-III National Player of the Year – the trophy was as good as secure. 

This was the fourth national championship for Coach Coghlin’s program, three coming in the past four years alone. The Knights started their party at center ice as soon as the final horn blasted, and as I type this, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, the raucous exuberance out in the hallway of our hotel suggests that the celebration is still going strong. 

It seems winning, like travel, never really gets old. 

Tom