Marquette's one-week dip into precious metals
Many a glowing thing will be said about outgoing Marquette President, Father Robert Wild, in the days and weeks ahead.
It began this week with news that $43 million in scholarship money had been raised in his honor as he prepares to leave his post this summer.
What happened on campus during his 15 year watch is truly astounding: the new construction, including a dentistry school and the signature Eckstein Hall law school, as well as the Al McGuire Center. There are redone dorms, two of which my son lived in during his first couple of years at Marquette, not to mention the five million bucks MU spent to trick up the rest of the campus.
What I remember most about Father Wild won't be the signature brick-and-mortar projects, the millions raised and the other accomplishments. One of his finest hours lasted about a week, when he and the rest of the Marquette administration thought it would be a good idea to change the school's nickname from Golden Eagles to "The Gold".
It became one of the largest marketing gaffes in local history, earning the school a good share of ridicule and a degree of national scrutiny. ESPN broke the news of the change to hoop standout Duane Wade who wasn't buying what his alma matter was selling.
Marquette changed from "Warriors" to "Golden Eagles" in the mid 90's on the watch of Wild's predecessor, Father Albert Diulio amid worries about the nickname offending Native Americans. The alum grumbled, a cottage industry of Warrior t-shirts arose and the occasional "Let's Go Warriors" could be heard during games at the Bradley Center.
Then game the spring commencement of 2004 . A Marquette grad turned Kimberly Clark exec told graduating students that he and another trustee would give MU $2 million if the nickname was switched back to Warriors.
Father Wild turned the cash down but commissioned polls and surveys to see which way the nickname winds were blowing. He and the others ruled out Warriors. saying there was no way to revisit the moniker without conjuring up images of Willie Wampum.
What he served up instead was "The Gold" and the rest, as they say, is history.
I don't revisit this to embarrass Father Wild, or bring back an episode I'm sure he and other Marquette brass would rather forget. I bring it back because I consider it among his finest hours, teaching us all one of the biggest lessons anyone can absorb: we all make mistakes, but the smart ones among us know when to own them and quickly fix them. It took Father Wild all of a week to admit that the customers weren't buying, and a new study was done. Marquette returned to Golden Eagles, and life went on.
I have no dog in the Marquette nickname fight--I went to Stevens Point, and we've been "Pointers" ever since the school joined the UW system. My son, entering his junior year next fall at MU, considers himself a Golden Eagle. There's a whole generation out there who think the same, who know nothing of Warriors and who've only seen Al McGuire in grainy films or as Billy Packer's sidekick on NBC hoop broadcasts as they were growing up.
As Father Wild leaves, it's easy to see the architectural and structural mark he's made during his decade and a half at Marquette. To me, I remember him every time I make a bad call or poor decision, and see it as a "Golden" opportunity to follow his example: own your mistake, and fix it right away.
How easy life would be if we could all remember that.