St. Norbert College Magazine - Blessings taken at a walking pace St. Norbert College
 


Kunkel
 
Blessings taken at a walking pace
College President Thomas Kunkel

Not long ago a friend was heading to New York City. He and his wife planned to take in a Broadway show and have a nice dinner, but he didn’t know the city well and asked what kinds of “touristy” things I liked to do when I was there.

I started making a list and right away I realized how many of my suggestions involved little more than walking – across the Brooklyn Bridge on a beautiful day; through the rock outcroppings of Central Park; down amid the wonders of Fifth Avenue. Simple stuff.

But then, most of our true pleasures are simple ones. During the school year, when Deb and I get a rare free weekend and want to treat ourselves, we skip the fancy stuff in favor of a Bilotti’s pizza and a movie at the Bay Park Square mall. We love nothing more than visiting with our kids when we get the chance. Personally, I relish the opportunity to read anything that’s not a memo or a report. I get a kick out of playing golf (and talking smack) with good friends.

And I love to walk.

Should a half-hour open up in my schedule, I’ll just get up from my desk and go. Fortunately, the St. Norbert College campus is a walker’s delight. I usually head straight over to the river, maybe stopping for a while at the wooden bench just north of the Campus Center. I’ll loop around to the Shrine of St. Mary at the river’s bend and maybe head over to the Shakespeare Garden. Then I’ll cross campus to Burke Hall and the Townhouses before turning back, maybe stopping for a cup of coffee at Ed’s.

Thanks to God and Father Anselm Keefe, our campus is full of trees, which lend the grounds both majesty and a sense of peace. They are a big part of the reason visitors immediately feel at home here. And they are a constant reminder of how fortunate we are to work where we do.

The other reason I like to walk is because it’s almost impossible to stroll and be unreflective.

Making that New York list for my friend brought to mind one of my best memories of the city, which involved a very long walk on a Saturday morning. This was six or seven years ago when I was in Manhattan for a conference.

When you are in institutional administration, conferences are a kind of occupational hazard; I sometimes think purgatory will turn out to be one long panel session. Anyway, trapped in another of these soul-crushing situations that morning, I skipped out, put on my sneakers and headed north along Eighth Avenue, which forms the western border of Central Park. As I did so, it occurred to me that in all the years I’d been coming to New York I had yet to visit the spectacular Cathedral of St. John the Divine. So I just kept walking, past the bikers and dog walkers, past Strawberry Fields, past the American Museum of Natural History, all the way to Harlem’s edge on the Upper West Side – a mere 60 blocks from my midtown hotel.

Once at the great cathedral, still unfinished after 119 years, I took in the stillness – alone with my Lord, my soul and my thoughts, if only for one blissful hour.

Summer 2011

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