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A Flipped Farewell - Fr. O’Brien Interviews Gavin

Fr. Kevin O’Brien is the president of Santa Clara University, and was a guest on episode 56. As host Gavin Cosgrave transitions out of his role leading the Voices of Santa Clara podcast, Fr. O’Brien flips the traditional script and asks Gavin some questions about his upbringing, Santa Clara experience, and future.

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Interview Highlights

2:10 – What was it like growing up?

4:35 – What was High School Gavin like?

7:30 – Why Santa Clara?

8:35 – How was your first year in college? What was most significant?

11:00 – Tell us about the Global Social Benefit Fellowship.

13:18 – What have been your impactful classes?

15:00 – What has been your most formational commitment off campus?

17:00 – What have been your biggest mistakes that you’ve learned from?

20:10 – What is a trait that you’re proud of? A “eulogy virtue” that people will talk about at your funeral…

33:00 – What’s a question you’re grappling with regarding your faith?

KOB: I often say that Jesuit education works when not only is the mind expanded through the questions and inquiry inside and outside of class, but that we learn how our heart breaks. Or better, how our heart breaks open, which is that stance of compassion and love. It’s an act of compassion to say you want to do something for others. It’s not just broken for a sake of pain, but broken out for something else. Has your heart been broken here during your four years?

GC: I definitely think it has, especially within the past 12 months more than ever. There were a lot of challenging experiences in India. A lot of beauty and beautiful humans, but it’s difficult to see poverty. The way I was viewed as a white person was often sad angering as well, that it’s so ingrained into many people that they’re inferior to Western Americans.

Even just in the past couple months and weeks, with the pandemic, police killings and protests, I think my heart is being broken open, and I want that to continue. I want to grow to become more compassionate and walking with people who are suffering. Especially given that I’ll be working in consulting in a corporation, I want to think through what it looks like to marry social justice, sustainability and compassion in the business world. Is that possible? Can we create companies that do that?

But I do think the first step is heart thing. Grappling with graduating at this time, and there is a lot of very real suffering and I don’t know what to do with a lot of it.

KOB: I think it’s ok to not know what to do with it besides feeling at all, and finding something to do. Our thinking refines our feeling and makes sure that any response out of that opening up of the heart will be helpful and other-directed in a sense.

I like to think about Jesuit education as depth. Nicholas Carr in his book “The Shallows: how the Internet is Changing our Brains.” Paraphrasing his intro: “I used to scuba dive in a sea of words, now I only jet ski.” And I think where Jesuit education is about scuba diving. A depth of thinking, a depth of feeling, a depth of loving, a depth of serving. Going back to resume’s, I always say: “You don’t need to pack your resume at Santa Clara, just go deep. In a relationship, in a club or commitment, in a discipline or in nature.” I think we all feel the pull of superficiality.

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