The first place ribbon your freshman homeroom won at Ranger Day. The homecoming garter you kept from your sophomore and junior homecoming dances. The smooth rock from your Senior Kairos retreat, symbolizing the steadfast foundation Jesuit has provided the past four years. The Letterman jacket proudly displaying all your proudest achievements on a simple blue and gold textile. These mementos and many others serve as constant reminders of the experiences shared with your fellow Jesuit brothers.
Relishing these and countless other analogous items, Jesuit’s Archives promote the discovery, collection, preservation and displaying of materials relating to the history of Jesuit. One of the areas in which the archives play a significant role is within the communications department. Mr. James Kramer helps publish press releases, complete magazines such as the Jesuit Today, and act as the school’s publicist, Jesuit’s impressive archival system helping “utilize past information so future generations can enjoy and learn from it.” Publications by Jesuit especially the Jesuit Today would not be possible without access to this extensive history, Kramer “[leveraging] archives to successfully tell a story.” Maintaining a strong connection to history preserves the virtuous actions of our school community, “documents the achievements of all of our students, and allows us to document the evolution of our programs, and the commitments of our donors.” Acknowledgment of the archives requires “perspective in order to truly value and appreciate the archives’ value and unfortunately that comes with time,” despite the magnitude of these realizations we often “don’t realize how important archives are until we need them.” Only through intentional education and outreach can support for the archival history increase. Kramer finally encourages students to “be cognizant that everything you do is becoming a part of history,” to hold onto the mementos and memorabilia which will eventually become the cornerstones of the school’s traditions and culture.
Jesuit’s President Mr. Mike Earsing emphasized the importance of each community member’s personal story: “Our lives as we get older expand and contract…looking back on the past lets your world become bigger.” A man who has witnessed many changes at Jesuit throughout the school’s history, Earsing underscored the importance of each piece of memorabilia, how each piece preserves life at Jesuit, “You won’t have another community days, you won’t have another sophomore or Junior retreat, you won’t have another chariot race, you only do each once.” The fleeting nature of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences forces students and faculty members alike to appreciate their time at this school, for “It won’t be until you have a son come back to Jesuit that you’ll be reconnected at that same level.” Yet, it’s not that Jesuit successfully remodels and re-shapes its values every year; in fact, Mr. Earsing reaffirmed “Jesuit actually hasn’t changed very much. The basics are the same…the school [only] changes to the needs of students.” For example, the implementation of iPads and newer technology have helped augment the academic learning experience for students. Likewise, the simple task of taking and developing pictures became “a long and expensive process…but as we’ve gone to electronic storage, we can keep a lot more.” Now, thousands of pictures from decades ago are able to be saved more cost effectively, expanding the Jesuit’s Archives expansive picture collection. The Archives hold a treasure trove of information about the proud history of Jesuit, and it is Jesuit’s goal to promote “the paradigm shift for the…notion of an archive,” a place of remembrance for our past’s cherished moments.
None of these outstanding accomplishments would be possible without Ms. Sheryl Row, the faculty administrator responsible for compiling and organizing the school’s entire history. Beginning her work in the archives around 2004, Ms. Row currently balances time both teaching senior level English and maintaining the archives. Rather than library or historical work, her job is more like “being a detective, you’re looking at a picture or some object and trying to get clues from it.” She not only maintains the physical records in the archives room but also moderates its online website. Combining personal experiences, digitally imported media, and an interactive timeline, the archives site brings decades of history into modernity. Row receives donations from generous alumni year round, but one artifact, in particular, stood out to her, a pair of baseball shoes from the 1940s. A senior Donald Schmidt graduated early from Jesuit to fight in WW2 and generously gave his baseball shoes to another less affluent player. Row compiled many similarly meaningful pieces to create the exhibitions throughout the counseling wing, “out of these exhibits came the idea that there were people who appreciated and noticed the archives.” However, this appreciation often takes a lengthy period of time to take full effect, the archives only truly becoming a part of an alumnus’ life during the latter half of his life. Interaction with the archives is so far detached from Jesuit’s everyday lives “it would be like asking [a current student] ‘have you written a will?’ It’s just not on your radar even though it’s out there.” The archives are absent not only emotionally but also physically from everyday life, the entrance to the archival room passed by nearly every Jesuit student daily. Ms. Row hopes future archives could showcase these pieces of history more readily, the ideal design “a larger room with a big plate glass window so people could look in on it.”
Despite the strength of our high school memories, families, college, time, and careers leave Jesuit faded in the outskirts of the alumnus’ life. No matter how hard we try, we will forget. Human nature condemns us to lose memory and the tangible attachment to our memories we once cherished. Resources like the Jesuit Archives breathe life again into these distant lives, bringing some of the happiest moments of our lives onto the center stage once again.