This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When I met Fr. Hagan, it was 1991. He wasn’t teaching anymore. He still ran the rifle room and Rifle Club, and he still knew everyone’s name.
In the fall of 1991, I was a freshman at SLUH. I had come from a small parochial school on the city’s south side with a graduating class of 15. Upon finding myself in a class of 250, well, let’s just say it took some adjustment: That many guys in a class wasn’t quite intimidating; it was exciting, though it was way beyond comfortable.
I participated in the school’s “work grant” program, which meant I stayed late quite a few nights dust-mopping floors and tidying up classrooms to defray the tuition. After wrapping up one particular evening, I gathered my things to head home, started toward the door, and stopped as Fr. Hagan rounded the corner, clipboard in hand.
He stopped, looked down at his paper for a moment, looked back up, said, “Hello, Andy, good to see you.”
I replied in kind and went on my way. I knew who he was, and was surprised, gladly, to find that he knew me, and knew to call me Andy rather than Andrew.
I didn’t really think much about it at that moment. From then on, whenever I saw Fr. Hagan around the halls – as I made my way to class, maneuvering through the crowded hallways – I’d say “hello,” and he’d reply, “Hi, Andy.”
Something about Fr. Hagan’s calm, welcoming hello, and the fact that he knew my name, knew who I was, gave me not only a personal connection with him, but also made me feel comfortable among the din and ruckus of that big high school. Because, and I know it seems like a small thing, when you’re a new fish in a big pond, little things are what sustain you. It felt good to have an adult, a superior, know who you were.
None of the other faculty or staff, except possibly the homeroom teacher, really knew who I was yet, but, in my first week at school, Fr. Hagan, with whom I barely had any other connection, already knew my name. It was a small gesture on his part, but it meant something to me, and I’m sure that, when he did the same thing for my fellow classmates, it meant something to them as well.
Throughout his tenure at SLUH, Fr. Hagan did a lot more, teaching classes, running the rec room, and coaching five national-champion rifle teams. But this is how I remember him: as the kind man who went out of his way to personally welcome each and every freshman to SLUH, and who never forgot a name or a face.
I’m sure his memory is cherished by many other SLUH alumni, family, and friends, for this memory and many others.