Ralph McInerny is one of the greatest intellectuals of our time. Hands down, no questions. He is flat out amazing....even now at the vernerable age of 77. I am very blessed to have been a student in his very last class - which was taught between 3:00-4:15pm on this past Wednesday in case you cared to know. If not, I will also tell you the class was "Dante & Aquinas" and was one of the best classes I have ever taken. Not only was there Dante, and Aquinas, but there was McInerny.
I've actually been meaning to post on him for a very long time, but I haven't.
Tonight though is the night.
He's not retiring quite yet, and will get very defensive if you say so. He's not officially going emeritus until about 2009 or so. But he won't be teaching classes. He plans to finish up some projects before he "starts playing a harp" as he puts it.
Our fantastic TA who is worth a million himself, arranged for McInerny to join us students for drinks and dinner at Legends. Of course, the drink part didn't really work out well for those of us under 21. When the waitress came and the drinks were ordered McInerny's face grew dismayed as one after another we ordered water. "What's this? Just water? and you too? Oh my." "Well you see professor, some of us are still just kids - under 21." I responded. "Oh, yes, and we can't corrupt you here." he replied with a bit of sarcasm. He made fun of our water for the rest of the evening.
The evening was full of great little things like that - each one that would make a fantastic story in itself. But perhaps the best was when one of my friends asked how he planned to spend Christmas. He replied he'd be driving down to Sarasota - which he's apparently done since his wife's passed away. Her fiancee then asked him if he drove himself. Oh yes, he replied, he loves to drive. We were already slightly shocked that he drove himself to and from Florida at his age, but then he proceeded to awe us further by explaining last year on he way home he drove straight through. He hadn't intended too, but little 10 minute catnaps at truck stops were enough that when he reached Kentucky his "eyes were wide open" and he decided to keep driving. He explained of course he loves to listen to music and books on tape (or CD).
This man doesn't not brush technology aside lightly.
He loves to listen to music...on his iPod! He gave his daughter credit for getting it for him. But he explains how he loves the little thing "no bigger than a calling card. I just slip it in my pocket, jam those little things in my ears....you know, I can hear music better than ever before...I used to listen to all this stuff... you know the Irish Tenors?...well now I actually can hear the lyrics...it all suddenly became so different, you know?" Apparently he has a lot of Mozart, and was thrilled when we told him the Pope has an iPod as well.
Well, enough for the night. That man is amazing. But I will leave you here with the knowledge that one of the greatest Thomists ever owns and iPod and his college students are jealous of him because of that.
Perhaps I'll write more stories later.