Leaping from Past to Present

December 18, 2006

In this season of impending holiday celebrations, I found myself last Saturday in Baltimore at Alumni Memorial Chapel on the campus of Loyola College. I was there to attend the funeral Mass of Fr. J. Donald Freeze, SJ, longtime Georgetown administrator.

There was a flock of GU faithful, past and present, assembled in Fr. Freeze's native city: former VP's on the Hilltop: George Houston '61 and Joseph Pettit '64; others who worked directly under him: Laurea DiJoseph, Marie Helene Gibney, Greg Stahl '81, Maura Fay '81, and Paul O'Neill '86.

Many, many Jesuits were there, including Fr. Charles Currie, SJ, Fr. Frank Haig, SJ, Fr. James Connor, SJ, and current Jesuit provincial of the Maryland province, Fr. Tim Brown, SJ '74. GU faculty and academic administrators were represented: Paul Betz, Michael Collins, and Hugh Cloke. Former students that he taught, counseled, and nurtured: Caroline Scullin '81, Frank Mita '76, Tim Naughton '77, Jeff Craven '81, and Mary Prahinski '85. My own classmates attending included Gary and Carla Lanzara, Mary Pat Michel, and University Registrar John Pierce. Arriving from Boston to say goodbye to their trusted friend were alumni and devoted supporters Charlie Sarkis '62 and son Patrick '93.


Fr. A. Kelley, SJ, one-time GU classics prof and provost and former president of Fairfield University

Fr. Freeze's dearest compadre of 56 years, Fr. Aloysius Kelley, SJ, presided at the Mass. His opening words reminded all of us of the playful nature of their friendship. "This is a Jesuit liturgy," he intoned with a straight face. "The definition of a Jesuit liturgy is a liturgy in which no one gets hurt." His homily was filled with personal tales, all evincing the wit and wisdom of the essential Don Freeze. For me, it took me back three-plus decades as I listened to my former Latin/Greek professor and academic advisor hold the congregation spellbound with his mirthful stories of a beautiful life.

As noted by Fr. Kelley, funeral Masses were once solemn rituals draped in black. Today, funerals are all about celebrating a life. This was certainly not hard to do for Fr. Freeze because, throughout his 74 years, he was quite simply a walking celebration of life.

Rarely is Fr. Freeze remembered without a mention of his well-attended 10 pm Sunday night Mass in St. William's Chapel, a service known for its brevity and affectionately dubbed by students as "Freeze's Breeze." Greg Stahl reminded a few of us of one occasion when Fr. Kelley filled in for an absent Fr. Freeze. That night, Fr. Kelley advised the young congregation at Mass that "you may be exposed to parts of the liturgy that you have never heard before."


As provost at Georgetown University, all things affecting the main campus fell under Fr. Freeze's watchful eye. In 1980, he skeptically approved an experimental change in the paradigm for fund raising on behalf of Hoya sports and, little did I know at the time, my life was about to change with it.

Following ten years of volunteers promoting Georgetown's athletic programs by seeking annual dues of $10, Hoyas Unlimited had hit the proverbial wall. Its ability to assist the athletic department was severely hampered by a cap on individual giving and the lack of professional staff. As a volunteer and former president of the organization, I worked with a task force to author a proposal to centralize all annual giving to athletics within Hoyas Unlimited, to integrate the functions of Hoyas Unlimited into the mechanisms of the University annual fund, and to hire a full-time director for athletic fund raising. The whole proposal would have gone nowhere had not J. Donald Freeze taken a leap of faith with us that it could work and would not undercut other fund raising priorities.

One year later, taking what I thought would be a temporary diversion from a career in law, I found myself in that Hoyas director role. From a base of $20,000 in giving, we doubled the total raised from the previous year in each of the first three years of the restructured organization. The giving totals to Hoyas continued to grow long after I departed for other positions within the University, as did overall giving to the University. The experiment proved to be an overwhelming success.

Fr. Freeze (right) in 1979 at the dedication of the field house named in honor of Fr. Yates (left)


Last year, Hoyas Unlimited brought in more than $2 million in annual support. That's what you call a big leap. And for that, we can thank Fr. J. Donald Freeze.

Requiescat in pace. A memorial Mass is being planned for January 2007 in Dahlgren Chapel.

Last October, past president Maura Devaney and current president David Don turned over to athletic director Bernard Muir the largest check ever presented by Hoyas Unlimited



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