Father and son share in same Stritch experience 40 years apart

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 3:55:00 PM

By Buddy Herberg

No parent will be more proud on May 19 than Stritch alumnus Rick Gonzalez, ’73, ’75, Trustee Emeritus, who, along with his wife Jan, will watch their son Jason walk across the stage at Stritch’s spring commencement ceremony to receive his Bachelor of Science in Management degree. Of even more pride is the fact that Jason is graduating with honors. Both Jason and his father say their experience at Stritch helped them to become stronger men, leaders in their professions, and grounded in faith.

As one of the first male students recruited by Stritch in 1969, Rick graduated in the first co-ed class when he crossed the stage in 1973. The set of moral standards Stritch emphasized heavily influenced his decision to enroll at Stritch.

“My first experience of Stritch came before I even enrolled in the college,” Rick said. “A man by the name of Mike Murphy was recruiting me to come to Stritch and it was his – then undefined – display of Franciscan values that drew me in.”

His experience at Stritch as both an undergraduate and graduate student led him down a path of higher education in both the academic sense and in moral identity.

“I loved that Stritch focused as much on the aspects of being a good person as it did on academics,” Rick said.

When given the opportunity as an alumnus to sit on committees that continued to build the foundation for the University, Rick seized every chance he could in developing the future Stritch. Rick was honored when he was asked to serve on the University’s Board of Trustees.

“I was incredibly privileged to participate on committees during a time when Stritch was being formed into the University it is today,” Rick said. “I knew Stritch would have a shining example of excellence in academic identity, but the primary focus was to embrace the Franciscan identity of the college.”

Rick’s efforts helped lead to the creation of the distinct set of Franciscan values known on campus today. His specific work as a Trustee on the Student and Academic Affairs sub-committee directly led to having each individual major incorporate those values into its curriculum. This values-based education coupled with his father’s positive experience compelled Jason to enroll.

“I knew Stritch would be a great fit for me because the University shares in the same set of values I have at home with my family,” Jason said. “My dad would always talk about how much Stritch epitomized the Franciscan way, but I quickly learned for myself that I was being educated in my business major as much as I was being taught about morality.”

While Jason is a firefighter who was recently promoted to a lieutenant and works in sales for a fire protection company and Rick is a retired educator, they arrived at these divergent career paths from the same background and credit Stritch for creating a foundation for their professional and personal lives.

“My education has advanced so many parts of my life,” Jason said. “I have developed a higher level of analytical thinking. I have become better at adapting and dealing with situations in the workplace. Stritch has given me the ability to interact with others so much more efficiently and respectfully. And the most astounding part of it is that there is an apparent difference between my fellow students and those who do not have a Stritch education.”

As Rick reflects on Jason’s college journey, he sees the same personal growth in his son that he saw in himself when he attended Stritch in the early 1970s.

“Jason always brings up the word ‘transformed’ when he speaks of his experience at Stritch and I could not put it better myself,” Rick said.

“Stritch is not just offering a better education; it’s offering the chance to make me a better person, and it has,” Jason said.

One of Rick’s most memorable experiences at Stritch was walking across the stage on his graduation day back in 1973. Certainly, in attendance was his wife who was eight months pregnant with daughter, Elizabeth (who also went on to attend Stritch).

“There was so much emotion, pride, and excitement going through me that day,” Rick said. “The knowledge I obtained at the college was so vast and the sacrifice it required for me to achieve that goal made it mean so much.”

“I can’t say that graduating is my most memorable experience yet,” Jason said. “But I have watched my classmates grow and develop as individuals, and if that is what my father sees in me, I can only imagine how incredible the experience will be for both of us come May 19.”