Joy, sadness mark Rockhurst ceremonies
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY - What kind of young man attends Rockhurst High School? When 14-year-old Tyler Bradley Hansen was asked on his entrance application what person in all of history he would trade places with, he said he would choose to be himself.
Kevin Kelly/Key photo
Bishop Raymond J. Boland blesses the new Barry Commons at Rockhurst High School as alumni and students pray.
"Being yourself allows you to develop your strengths and improve your weaknesses," wrote Hansen of Leawood, Kan. "The strengths I would strive to acquire would include respectfulness, responsibility, cooperation, communication and compassion. These would guide me around the pitfalls of life."
In a ceremony marked by both joy and sadness Oct. 11, Bishop Raymond J. Boland joined the Rockhurst High School community in blessing and celebrating a $15 million building renovation and in remembering Hansen, who died suddenly at the school just two days earlier.
Hansen was participating in a physical education class softball game when he collapsed while running the bases. Teachers performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, to no avail, until an ambulance arrived. Hansen had been a Rockhurst student for only four weeks, but he had left his mark, said Jesuit Father Thomas Pesci, Rockhurst High School president.
"His mother and father told me Friday that he had never been happier in his life than on the day when he received his letter of acceptance to Rockhurst," Father Pesci said.
"He was a young man full of life, and he would want us to relish his life, all 14 years of it," Father Pesci said to nearly 500 people attending the Oct. 11 rededication ceremony.
Father Pesci placed Tyler's entrance application essay into the cornerstone of the new building, along with other school mementos.
"Tyler has been on the fast track. He has taken the high road," said Bishop Boland. "His name is not just written in the cornerstone of this building. It is written in the very heart of God."
The dedication ceremony began with a procession led by Rockhurst students and alumni through every corner of the remodeled school at 9301 State Line Road. At each stop and with his voice transmitted to the crowd waiting in the school gymnasium, Bishop Boland prayed with the Rockhurst community and blessed the building with holy water.
Once inside the gymnasium after the procession, Bishop Boland joked to the assembly that the devil doesn't stand a chance at Rockhurst High School.
"There is no place for any devil to reside. Every nook and cranny has been blessed," he said. "Not even St. Peter's Basilica (at the Vatican) has received so many blessings."
The project added 16,500 square feet to the school building, which was originally dedicated in 1962 when Rockhurst High School was moved away from the Rockhurst College campus in midtown.
Included in the new space are a science laboratory, lecture and seminar rooms, a new student commons and a new chapel.
Still to be completed is another 10,000-square-foot addition for fine arts, including studios and space for graphic arts and architecture. Also on the drawing boards are upgrades in computer technology, and construction of a gym annex, a baseball and soccer field, and renovation the school's football stadium.
During the assembly Father Pesci presented two Ignatian Awards and two President's Medals to people who played key roles in the project.
The Ignatian awards went to Walton Construction Co., which worked double shifts throughout the summer to squeeze a 15-month construction project into five months, and to the architectural firm of Gould, Evans, Goodman & Associates.
The President's Medal went to 1967 alumnus Kerry Reardon, well-known in Kansas City for his years as a defensive back with the Chiefs, for serving as project manager; and to 1935 alumnus John L. Sullivan Jr., a Kansas City philanthropist who donated the funds for the new chapel to be named the John and Laura Sullivan Chapel of the Sacred Heart in honor of Sullivan's parents.
In his remarks to the assembly, Jesuit Father Frank Reale, provincial for the Missouri Province of the Society of Jesus, said the few years he had spent earlier this decade as a teacher at Rockhurst High School had changed his life.
"My sense of being an educator and being a Jesuit priest was very much formed by my two and one-half years here," he said. "What we are ultimately about is not about a building, not even about education. We are about the formation of people, and the fact is, we are better for having been associated with this place."
In a videotaped statement recorded at the Vatican, Jesuit Superior General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach also congratulated the Rockhurst High School community.
"It is my prayer that you will utilize these new facilities creatively to educate new generations of men for others," Father Kolvenbach said.
Directing his closing remarks to Rockhurst students, Bishop Boland reminded them that the "Jesuit system of education is second to none."
"Seize this opportunity," he instructed them. "There is only a tiny percentage of young men in this world who are given the privilege of a Jesuit education."
Calling to mind the death of Tyler Hansen once again, Bishop Boland asked people to pray every time they pass by the school.
"Say a little prayer for Tyler, and for all those will follow in his footsteps here as we all go on our pilgrimage to God," he said.