Hard Work – Our University


Work is a four letter word.   Unfortunately.


Our sons, while attending university worked long hours in various jobs, sometimes two or three simultaneously, to make it “on their own.’ It may have come from my constant talk about how hard I had it when I was a college student.  Mary and I fretted some times over their long hours of work, but generally concluded we would never see a headline in any local newspaper that reads “COLLEGE STUDENT DIES FROM HARD WORK.”

When universities in this nation were associated with a faith tradition, and almost every one of them initially was associated with or responded directly to the teachings of one or more of the great faith movements on which the country was founded, there was a deep and abiding sense that hard work was part of university life.

Hard work was a natural extension of a life of faith.  Not because of the Calvinist view that hard work earned an individual access to heaven or the Catholic view that good works are proofs of salvation.  Rather, hard work was part of university life because it was part of the fabric of our nation, like faith, and the weaving of hard work and success is the strongest manifestation of a free society.

The fabric may be torn.

Universities should always find ways to model hard work for students and teach them to recognize it by its firstborn, results.  We need to teach hard work as a necessary discipline to becoming educated.  Taking courses only provides the opportunity to work with diligence and joy, it does not guarantee it.  Moreover, taking courses, even doing well in them, does not always require hard work.   And finally success in course work measured by simple grades will rarely guarantee achievement in the professions and pursuits of life.   On the other hand hard work almost always guarantees it, if not immediately, in the long run.

Success is a fleeting concept for all of us.

People can gain success by claiming the work of others, by tomfoolery and trickery, but it is not the same thing as success achieved by hard work.  Say what you might about Tiger Woods, St. Thomas Aquinas, Rick Warren, my father, Jim the Building Service worker in Quigley Hall, Derek Bok, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Dale Earnhardt, Frank Lloyd Wright, Janus Salk, John D. Rockefeller and anyone who toils tirelessly and gets results from the work of their hands and mind, hard work is always near the center of true success.

We don’t teach work as well as we should.

We may be teaching a form of entitlement suggesting that passing through a series of traps, hurdles, or other challenges, will insure success.  It may, but there is no guarantee.  The glory of labor and its result, work of back or brain, when left out of the equation creates inconsequential success.

President Calvin Coolidge crystallized it:


Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.


Our university must always find ways to lift up student’s who work diligently, and couple with diligence determination, to do well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.