To My Newly-Married Friend, Tom: May You and Kris-Stella Together Contribute to the Betterment of the World

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Dear Tom,

You and I will forever be bound by the bond we formed during our days at Boston College, so it’s hardly a surprise that, as I attended your celebration of matrimony with Kris-Stella last month, I looked back on our time together at BC.

In particular, I thought about what it means to be a BC graduate.

The values of Boston College were introduced to us at the very beginning of our collegiate experience when, during orientation, Father Michael Himes informed us that the purpose of a Boston College education was to mold each of us into a person who contributes our unique skills to the betterment of society as a whole, to improve the lives of others for the better.

It is the lesson that was instilled in us through the very end of our BC education, which concluded with the late Tim Russert reminding us at Commencement that “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

As Russert noted, you are very much blessed.

You are blessed with amazing parents, of whom I have always been tremendously fond.

You are blessed with amazing circle of friends, of which I am privileged to form a part.

You are blessed with amazing talent and skills, which have brought you many opportunities only a handful ever get to experience.

But above all, you are blessed with having found an amazing bride.

Kris-Stella is perfect for you, not just because she’s beautiful and gifted, but because, together with her, you are uniquely positioned to answer Tim Russert’s calling.

For starters, you, like your parents, are a scientist, in a position to contribute to the ever-expanding boundaries of human knowledge.

And what a fascinating time in human history to be in that position.

The most memorable scientific event for the generation before us was the moon landing, yet there is far more computing power in our smart phones today than there was on that Apollo 11.  The story is similar in the field of mathematics, where mathematicians have made more advancement in the last hundred years than in the prior thousand years combined.

In this period of pinnacle of human knowledge, you get to play a part in advancing humanity even further.  I envy the fact that you’re able to use your talents to contribute to an endeavor of such grand scale.

But the impact of the world of science, while lasting, is also far removed.  For most of us non-scientists, it will take years, if not decades, before new scientific discoveries come to affect our everyday lives.

So it is that there may come a day when someone wholly ignorant in science, like yours truly, come asking, “what discernible thing have you done for humanity lately?”

To such person you can now confidently respond, “that’s my wife’s job,” for I have believed in college and still idealistically believe now, the most effective way to make an immediate impact in the lives of the greatest number of people is by being in government.

But as valuable as I find your work as a scientist and Kris-Stella’s in government, I find the greatest inspiration in your work as an educator.

It’s easy to forget that even the greatest of amongst us are limited by our mortality in what we can accomplish.  A fruitful professional career that spans a lofty 50 years still comprises less than 500 thousand total hours.  In a world in which there is so much more to explore, to discover and to learn, that is far too little time.

The great thing about being an educator, though, is that a life’s work is not constrained by the law of mortality.  Consider:  if you persuade one gifted student every three years–that’s just one student in a single class once every six semesters–to make science his or her own profession, that’s a dozen students from your entire career following you in your footsteps. And if each of those dozen similarly persuade a dozen others to follow the same path, and those who are so persuaded further persuade a dozen others…

The passion that started with you alone swells to a passion of 1,728.  That’s nearly 380 million hours of contribution to human knowledge, even assuming that each person is only half as productive as your 50 years. I can think of no greater contribution to humanity.

Congratulations, my friend, for finding in Kris-Stella someone who not only shares your values in making a lasting impact in this world, but someone who can be right there with you in that ever-important journey.

I wish you and Kris-Stella a life full of happiness and achievement, not just for your sake, but for the sake of the rest of us.




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