Mentored Tim Russert?
The late Tim
Russert was the award-winning managing editor and moderator
and political analyst for NBC
and NBC's Today
He anchored The
Tim Russert Show,
a weekly interview program on CNBC, and was a contributing
anchor for MSNBC as well.
the seventh grade at St. Bonaventure School in Buffalo,
New York, Sister Mary Lucille, a Sister of Mercy, was
both impressed and yet concerned by--shall we say--my
excessive energy in class. She expressed that in her
words, "We have to channel that energy, Timothy,"
because I was prone to mischief. One day she told me,
"I'm going to start a school newspaper and you're
going to be the editor. This means that you have to
give out assignments, you have to edit the copy, you
have to write your own articles, you have to go around
and interview students, teachers, and administrative
people, and publish the paper. You have to distribute
it. You have to decide whether you're going to charge
for it, or if you're going to have a fundraiser to underwrite
the cost." It became this extraordinary project
that I threw myself into and so did all my friends.
If left us little time to get in trouble because we
were so devoted to the paper, called The Bonette
after St. Bonaventure School. Then she said, "If
you don't keep up your grades we're not going to be
able to do the second edition of the newspaper."
That made us all committed to studying harder. It became
a real class project.
November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated.
We did a special edition of the paper and sent a copy
to the new president, President Johnson; to Mrs. Jacqueline
Kennedy; and to Robert Kennedy, the attorney general.
Some months later we received personal responses from
all of them, which changed our lives. Here we were,
only months ago with nothing and wondering whether or
not school was worth our while--whether school could
be fun, whether school was meaningful--and along came
this young nun who created this entity called a school
newspaper that we became deeply involved in. We learned
how to report, how to communicate, how to write; and
then, on top of all that, people we watched on television,
people who were so far removed from our ordinary lives,
suddenly acknowledged not only our existence, but our
work. From that day forward I was determined that I
would have a career in journalism/public service...
continued our newspaper in eighth grade. I was going
on to high school and Sister Lucille suggested I go
to Canisius High School, the Jesuit school in Buffalo.
I said, "Sister, it's downtown, where all the rich
kids go, sons of doctors and lawyers." My dad was
a truck driver and left school in tenth grade to fight
in World War II...Sister Lucille insisted that I take
the entrance exam, which I did. I won a partial scholarship
that helped with the tuition because we couldn't afford
person who became most important to me at Canisius High
School was Father John Sturm, the Prefect of Discipline.
He was a former Golden Gloves boxer who entered the
Jesuits, and he was tough. He would focus on the few
kids who came from the south side of the city--there
was only a handful of us from South Buffalo. Once when
I got in trouble I said, "Father don't you have
any mercy?" He grabbed me and replied, "Russert,
mercy's for God. I deliver justice." I remember
it like it was yesterday. Although I knew how to write,
how to report, how to observe, I learned that unless
one has discipline, all of it can be lost, and Father
Sturm taught me discipline.
now I have created the Sister Mary Lucille/Father Sturm
Award, a cash prize that is provided to a Buffalo Catholic
school teacher each year who has made a difference in
a child's life by acting as a mentor...
I know that if I had not had the intervention and support
of Sister Lucille and Father Sturm, I would not be the
moderator of Meet the Press.
from The Person Who Changed My Life: Prominent Americans
Recall Their Mentors.
Matilda Raffa Cuomo, Editor, with foreword by Sen. Hillary