Like so many wannabe politicos, I enrolled at Georgetown determined to study government, volunteer for national political efforts and make good “connections.” Four years later I left Georgetown having learned from a broad spectrum of the humanities departments, spent most of my energy focused on campus, and made some truly good and lifelong friends.
It was THE HOYA, more than anything else, that changed those emphases – and changed my heart as well.
THE HOYA office those days was in a dumpy room in the basement of Copley Hall, with an IBM Selectric typewriter and one or two old manual typewriters without spools for eraser tape. A couple of those two or three machines were consistently out of order because we tended to spill beer on them while arguing editorial stances or gesticulating too wildly in late-night bull sessions. When we finally did get a single computer, it tended to eat copy or turn it into bizarre gobbledygook as often as it actually recorded the words we meant to type.
Yet from those ratty accommodations grew a paper of extraordinary quality – regularly breaking important stories, spurring spirited campus dialogue, and providing a training ground for, in my four years alone, several full-time national journalists and the founder-proprietor (John K. Reagan) of the best fully independent, utterly free college-sports Web site in the country, hoyasaxa.com. It certainly didn’t hurt to be writing in 1984 when Georgetown won its only national basketball championship (I was sports editor for the fall start of that season), with national publications regularly perusing THE HOYA for tidbits about what was seen as a highly secretive and interesting program.
The real reason working for THE HOYA was life-changing, though, was that it provided front-row access, as it were, to a dynamic, stimulating, intellectually challenging university that had a real identity and soul. Unlike those at big state colleges, Georgetown’s professors actually did most of the teaching and engaged with their students, rather than dumping the task to teaching assistants. Georgetown’s student-athletes actually attended and participated in classes. Georgetown’s student organizations, of all sorts, had energy and spunk. And Georgetown’s traditions, its secret stairways and sometimes extravagant lore, infused the whole institution with a sense of permanence and importance that made a student journalist care – really care – about getting “the story” absolutely right.
That unique identity itself also provided fodder for some great hijinks that could not possibly have catalyzed the same reaction if the university’s personality were less distinctive. The best was one April Fools’ edition of THE HOYA that featured a photo of an obviously distressed Fr. Timothy Healy, university president, with his head in his hands, his hair askew and with the facial expression of a man who just received devastating news.
“Pope Orders Jesuits to Leave Georgetown” (or something very much like it) was the headline, with paragraph after paragraph of serious-sounding “reporting” with nary a giveaway joke line in the whole lead story. The caption under the photo provided a phone number for readers to call to learn more details. Calls were directed to a secret HOYA office back-line, manned by a rotating pool of HOYA editors pretending to be church officials (or somesuch). Students from all over campus called in – angry, horrified, some even weeping. They must not have read the other front-page “articles” full of pathetically sophomoric humor and the “This is an April Fools’ edition” notices that appeared at the bottom of the page in very, very small type.
But for serious news – such as when a campus official was charged with embezzlement – we at THE HOYA were there. When the economics department had an internal leadership fight, we were there. When U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick returned to teach on the Hilltop, we were there. And when Patrick Ewing and John Thompson Jr. won glory in Seattle, and the coach said when he died they should bury his body back at Georgetown – well, some of us were there in the front row for the game and literally lay flat-out in a rain-soaked gutter afterwards. Which is exactly where, to this day, many readers think we journalists figuratively spend our time.
By providing an open window into such a life-enriching school and lifelong home, THE HOYA taught the lesson that life is constantly to be explored, engaged and celebrated. Georgetown is both a place and an ideal to be treasured not for school, but for life. Hoya Saxa? Thanks to Georgetown, it’s life that rocks – that’s what.
Quin Hillyer (COL ’86), is a senior editorial writer for the Washington Times who has won awards for journalistic excellence at the local, state, regional and national levels.”