“A Tribute to Eddie”

REMARKS AT THE DEDICATION OF

THE EDWARD J. PRYZBYLA UNIVERSITY CENTER

Susan D. Pervi

Vice President for Student Life

April 10, 2003

 

Welcome to “The Pryz,” and a special welcome to members of the Pryzbyla family and our local community.

 

For my first five years at CUA, I heard all about a generous alumnus, Edward J. Pryzbyla. Then, in the fall of 1987, as a newly appointed Vice President, I met Eddie, personally, for the first time.

 

Eddie had arrived at the steps of McMahon Hall about 40 minutes ahead of schedule for his traditional fall walking tour of campus. When I greeted him as Mr. Pryzbyla he promptly replied, “Oh heck, call me Eddie! But here’s your first test of the morning: spell my last name correctly.” Thankfully, I got it right.

 

He went on (and I quote from a small slip of paper I recovered from my old Daytimer calendar): “While we’re waiting for the others, I want you to promise to help me show students and staff how to love and care for this university as much as I do.”

 

Eddie cherished his campus visits, which usually occurred twice a year. We all had a hard time keeping up with him, as he engaged the campus community at every step. And he never missed a detail. In one moment he would identify a tree he donated, complete with a briefing about the history of its acquisition. The next moment, he would make suggestions about improving a place after observing students moving between classes. He would speak, with great fondness, about his athletic and campus life experiences. Eddie was determined to build special places, large and small, for students to be able to gather together.

 

Eddie called the university regularly through the 1-800 alumni relations line and, to speak with friends all around campus, simply asked us to transfer him from person to person. To this day, I have not met anyone else so grateful to be transferred around university.

 

Eddie used these occasions to teach us, by example, how to be better role models for students and alumni.

 

In a voice just bursting with pride, he would share what he had done recently to recruit new students and to promote The Catholic University of America. 

 

When we spoke, usually after many had their turn, he was still eager to hear more.

 

I remember the pride he felt when I shared a story about how CUA students were easily spotted at a Six Flags Amusement Park because they had worn their bright red “Thank You, Eddie” T-shirts from The Pryzbyla Center groundbreaking.

 

I remember the deep appreciation he felt when I informed him that DC zoning boards were eager to learn more about him as we made our presentations to make this facility a reality.

 

We also received special assignments from Eddie during these conversations. “Sue, would you mind going with a colleague to a nursery to tag several hundred trees I would like to have planted where students could enjoy them?”

 

“Of course, Eddie” — and many of us were honored to be able to respond to his modest requests.

 

Eddie was so proud to be a CUA student and alumnus. He loved this institution unconditionally, and his generosity touched the entire community, but especially students.

 

Eddie was a man of commitment and action, for the large and small things that continue to make a difference for the Catholic University community he loved so dearly.

 

In return for his many contributions and a lifelong commitment to CUA, he asked for little: "Respect the environment, love and care for this university.”

 

In my last conversation with Eddie, just before he passed away, we spoke for a long time. He wanted to know as much as possible about the activities on campus.

 

I remember scrambling through notes and campus Web sites, but pausing to look out my office window to describe to Eddie scenes of students gathering — some exchanging class notes, some engaged in heavy conversation, and one group tending to an evergreen tree that had been planted in the fall.  It was a cold, beautiful day.

 

Eddie remarked, “I would love to be there to remind them a warmer place to gather is coming.”

 

Through his colorful interactions and spirited homecomings, Eddie taught us to pause from our everyday responsibilities to appreciate and respect what we have as a campus; to come together as a community; to make a difference in people's lives and to strive for excellence when doing so; and to always approach life with a spirit of confidence and hope.

 

Thank you, Eddie!