Launching “True Saint Xavier”

This Thanksgiving, when the upheavals of our recent years still sting us and bring sadness, I find myself being thankful for an old colleague, gone now for several years. His spirit is needed. He harkens back to (what now seems to be) a make-believe time of hope and camaraderie.

A group of us is launching a new website, “,” as yet another effort to fight the good fight for the welfare of our students, our programs, our heritage, and our legacy. We think Saint Xavier has lost its way, (or has been hijacked), and we hold out hope that we still have time to right the balance, adjust our waywardness, and step into a more secure future.

In looking through my files for material to include at the new site, I came across an email from Richard Fritz from 2010. He shared his message with the “Faculty Only” listserv. It’s a response to the crisis of 2010, which led to the University’s reduction of its retirement match by 50%. SXU had had a rather generous match—10% (or was it 11%?)—but as a result of the financial crisis of the Dwyer-Piros administration, the University asked faculty to sacrifice—temporarily, as understood by many—so as to tide over the institution in a difficult time.

Richard died in 2017 after a devastating illness that gave him some time to prepare, but not enough, and not the right kind, and not with the right kind of leave taking. As if there could be such a thing.

Though Richard and I were colleagues for two decades, I really didn’t get to know him until his final years at SXU when we served together on the Faculty Affairs Committee. Richard had always intimidated me somewhat. He was tall, with a piercing intellect and passionate commitments, a good beard and sports coat, a born academic. He was one of those persons who seemed to stand for so much more than a single faculty colleague could stand for, and he was prone to lecturing (if I could say such a thing in a positive sense).

I thought I might break through in my intimidation after I found out he was close friends with one of my close friends from college days, Anne Marie. They were neighbors, and to hear Anne Marie speak of him as a friend and neighbor was disconcerting to me, and even when I worked with him on FAC, I only rarely mustered the courage to have one-on-ones with him. But we did have those conversations, and I grew to love him—both for himself, and for the way he epitomized for me the “long-term associate professor” who made it his mission to care for his students, above all else, as his “love language,” or more, his raison d’etre for being an academic. 

There was something stentorian about Richard—but often with a quaver in his voice in public speaking. Whatever it was, when he spoke, it was important. At faculty meetings, there would occasionally be a Richard speech. In elegant sentences, with rising emotion, he put the focus on students. No one could gainsay he was an excellent teacher. I had a little more—or different—insight to his teaching than most others at SXU, since my daughter Genevieve was a sociology major, and she had discovered that Dr. Fritz was “that professor” who was to be the influence, the guide for her academic journey, a mentor she could respect and appreciate her whole life. 

She had more Richard stories than I. And she had that kind of context that encapsulates, I would argue, the “true Saint Xavier.” When she would begin a sentence with “Dr. Fritz says…” we knew some insight … and a lot of heart would be shared. Richard always spoke highly of nurses and teachers, and so he scored points with both my wife (a nurse) and me in these moments when he was quoted back to us during family dinners, debates, and just being together.

So, as we launch “True Saint Xavier,” I want to invoke Richard’s spirit. But I have another layer to add on first. That additional layer is an email message I wrote and sent to a group of colleagues about 18 months ago, just after the SXU administration withdrew their recognition of the faculty union. That was when I first rediscovered Richard’s email of January 5, 2010:

From: Angelo Bonadonna <>
Subject: A Voice and a Message, Both Lost
Date: July 24, 2020 at 11:46:48 AM CDT
To: ***
Dear Colleagues—Yesterday, when searching my records for the year of the retirement match reduction (it was 10 years ago(!)—in 2010), I came across this email from Richard Fritz. It’s Richard at his best, and in telling the story of past sacrifice, he captured a bit of the soul of the SXU faculty, administration, and community—all in a way that seems so other-worldly these days.
I’m not sure what can be done with a message like this one. It’s more than just nostalgia that prompts me to share it now and ask you to consider what might be done with it, as we move forward to mobilize our colleagues. Richard’s is one of the voices that has been silenced—not directly by this administration, of course. But I worked closely with Richard in his last years at SXU, and it was clear to me that the institution was breaking his heart. Much, I’m sure, can be said about current conditions and leadership approaches—how they make the attitude and rhetoric that came so readily and naturally to Richard ten years ago impossible to conceive today.
The video documentary that Genevieve will be distributing in draft form in a few days has, as one of its themes, “the silencing of faculty voice.” I’d like to ask Gen (who revered Dr. Fritz) to consider dedicating the video “to the memory and mission of Richard Fritz, and all the lost voices of SXU…”
In the meantime, this Friday afternoon, take a moment to be with Richard a bit!  —Angelo
From: Fritz, Richard B.
Sent: Tue 1/5/2010 3:42 PM
To: Appel, Florence A.; Faculty-Only List
Subject: Dire Circumstances Redux
Dear Colleagues:
In the early 1990s (I believe it was 1993), the university found itself with an unexpected debt.  We were between two to three million dollars short of the amount required to pay our bills.  The situation was serious.  Several staff members were laid off and the administration scrambled to find ways to fill the gap.  There was talk of the university folding.  They were very unsettled times.  Scary and disheartening.
Several faculty meetings were convened; all were very well attended.  Numerous faculty members spoke up to discuss our role in solving the problem.  Dozens and dozens of ideas were proposed, every single one of which involved financial sacrifices on our part.  It was clear that the faculty understood the gravity of the situation.  It was also apparent that each and every one of us loved the university and were willing to go to great lengths to save it.
A solution was found.  In consultation with the administration, the Board of Trustees, and their faculty colleagues, the Faculty Affairs Committee created a voluntary “give back” program in which faculty members could reduce their salary by a certain percentage (I think it was 7%, but I’m not sure) for the remainder of the year (roughly seven or eight months).  Those who accepted the voluntary reduction would have a matching amount added to their pay check the following year.  As I remember, over 70% of the faculty participated.  It is not an exaggeration to say that this simple remedy saved the university.  Everyone, including the administration and Board of Trustees, acknowledged that the salary reduction program was the key factor in returning to economic stability.
The beauty of the program was that it did not require opening up the contract.  The program was voluntary, and therefore was not a “collectively bargained” agreement in the formal meaning. It was, in a sense, a collective faculty offer to pitch in.  The program did not impose universal participation.  There was no praise for participating, no stigma for not participating.  In fact, most people didn’t know who participated and who did not.  People gave back because they thought it was necessary and because they thought it would help.
Here we are again.  We didn’t ask for this (we didn’t the first time, either).  But we will help.  There is absolutely no doubt of that.  We, the faculty, love Saint Xavier.  It is more than just a job.  It is a place that transforms our students lives and gives meaning to our careers.  You all know what I’m saying, and could probably say it better.  The point is, we will not let the university fail.  We will do our part.
But as in the past, we must make our contributions wisely.  We must know what we are doing so that we can ensure that it will  work.  We must know the extent of the problem and the exact nature of the salutary effects of our contribution.  Will it be enough?  Too much?  Will it stabilize the institution?  And what assurances will we have that this problem won’t happen again?
Also, anything we do must be done in full concert with the Board of Trustees.  They are responsible for the financial well being of the university. Any contribution we make is virtually meaningless unless it is coordinated with their master plan.
In the past, FAC generated a solution that saved the university.  The current Faculty Affairs Committee has members who are both experienced and creative.  One member, Brian McKenna, served as a faculty representative to the Board of Trustees for many, many years.  He knows how they think and how they function.  Others, including Flo Appel, Norm Boyer, Suzanne Kimble, and Peter Hilton were here the last time we went through this.  Their leadership, in collaboration with Interim President Durante and the Board of Trustees, is central to solving this problem. I don’t know what kind of solution will be offered.  Perhaps it will involve reductions in retirement contributions or perhaps salary paybacks.  Whatever they decide, I trust Interim President Durante and our Faculty leaders to guide us to a solution in a collaborative, equitable, and timely fashion.
Richard Fritz
Sociology Dept.

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