I owe any success I’ve had at Lewis to two people: Dr. Paul Kaiser and Br. Tom Dupre’. Last night, Br. Tom was honored for his fifty years as a De La Salle Christian Brother. It is amazing what Br. Tom has accomplished, because fifty years doing anything demonstrates an impressive level of commitment. However, what Br. Tom celebrated last night wasn’t a testament to longevity. Rather, it was a celebration of the person he is and what he represents.
If you want a sense of what Jesus must have been like, spend a few minutes with Br. Tom. I can’t think of anyone who is more giving of his time or energy. I’ve never met anyone more willing to help no matter how inconvenient it might be for him. If you’re in a bind, Br. Tom will help you work out of it. In those many cases where you’re short on volunteers, Br. Tom will step up, even though he volunteered last time, and the time before, and the time before that. And you know he doesn’t do these things to feel good about himself. It’s just who he is.
There is also this hard-to-explain and even harder-to-describe feeling you get when you talk with Br. Tom that everything will be alright. He seems to have some kind of magical comfort dispenser that he invisibly activates wherever unrest and anxiety appear. It’s comforting to talk with him. He somehow manages to bring the peace of his own world to yours, helping you put things into perspective, giving you confidence that the day’s annoyances are meaningless and aren’t worth pondering further.
I haven’t even begun to explain how good Br. Tom’s teaching is. Suffice it to say that I have never heard a student express anything but fondness and appreciation and gratitude for having Br. Tom teach them Math. I remember being told once by a colleague that our math faculty don’t use enough technology and that they aren’t up-to-speed on the latest teaching techniques. Evidently, that person hadn’t seen Br. Tom use a fishing rod and line to explain spherical coordinates. Take it from the Computer Scientist: technology doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of a CPU. Particularly today, when students spend at least eight hours per day staring at a glowing screen, lower-tech tools often get the point across more effectively. Br. Tom knows that, and he uses it to help students in ways less creative people like me can’t.
The De La Salle Christian Brothers have been teaching people from all socio-economic classes all over the world for three centuries. They are a Catholic religious order whose primary focus is to educate young people. They have had a tremendously positive impact on the world.
Br. Tom has had a tremendously positive impact on my world.