Tower Editorial: Every Name Has a Story
September 30, 2011
Filed under Quill
Every day we all walk by buildings all over campus with strange names that we have never heard of. We never think twice about who McMahon or Shahan or McGivney might have been even though we use their names in frequent conversation throughout our day. How many times have we said, “Ugh, I hate the walk from O’Boyle to Pangborn,” or expressed our fear that Maloney Hall might blow up one day with all the strange Chemistry experiments that occur inside? But for most of us, we’ve never thought to remember that each one of these buildings is named after a real person, who had a life, a personality and a career worthy enough to have a building named after them.
Yesterday, Archbishop Phillip Hannan, after whom our familiar Hannan Hall was named, died at the age of 98. It turns out that he was a veteran of World War II and assisted soldiers on the front lines of the Battle of the Bulge. He participated in the liberation of concentration camps all over Germany and protected the great Cathedral in Cologne, Germany by naming himself temporary pastor and appointing guards to defend the Cathedral against looters who attempted to desecrate it.
He was the close friend of John F. Kennedy throughout his career as a congressman and later President. After JFK’s assassination, Hannan delivered the eulogy at his funeral Mass, especially requested by Jackie Kennedy.
He was also a man with a great sense of humor, always joking in the face of fear and danger.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Archbishop Hannan refused to evacuate in order to protect his beloved TV station. He sat in the studio as the storm was raging around him with only a case of water, peanut butter, crackers and a golf club to fend off looters. And he did it alone at the age of 92.
How differently we see Hannan Hall when we know a little bit about the man who is immortalized in its name.
But it is not the only building that has a story behind its name. We should make it a point to educate ourselves about the individuals who inspired the seemingly commonplace names of our campus buildings.
Until we do that, we may never realize that we have true heroes, like Archbishop Hannan, in our midst and that their memory lives on in the walls of our lecture halls.