Among the many Jesuits I met in eight years of AMDG education, Fr. O'Malley was one of my favorites. He was a legend, a former president of two other Jesuit universities during his career and my freshmen seminar class professor. When he passed away a few years ago, several of my other classmates who shared that table with me and Fr. O'Malley were all saddened by the news and shared some of our favorite memories.
I had two. One was of course his complete recitation, in original Greek, of the passage in the Iliad from which BC copped its "Ever to Excel" motto:
He sent me to Troy, telling me repeatedly to strive ever to excel, to outdo other warriors, so I do not shame my father's family.
Among the other memorable readings and passages from a year of that class was the time we spent on all three parts of the Divine Comedy. The Inferno, with its levels of hell and images of Judas, Brutus and Cassius, is always easy to remember. Yet the whole Comedy, taken as the trio that it is, has greater meaning. The fact of the matter was that Dante must heed Vergil's advice to experience hell before making it to paradise; Fr. O'Malley was a tad less subtle when it came to telling some 18-year-olds that things weren't always going to be easy, but that rewards wait.
The Eagle outside the locker room does not say, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here". It says, "By touching this Eagle, you remember those who came before you and promise to set an example for those to come." We are Boston College. We quote Dante to make points about our football team. And we are going to come out the other side.