Remembering Tim Russert
, Class of 1972
May 7, 1950 – June 13, 2008
June 13, 2008, John Carroll University lost one of its most loyal and committed
graduates, Timothy J. Russert, class of 1972, who always carried the John
Carroll banner proudly. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Maureen and Luke,
their family, and Tim’s friends, colleagues, and classmates.
hearing news of Tim’s tragic passing, I invited the University community to
come together for
A little after 4:30 p.m. on June 13, over 50 individuals joined me for a
liturgy at Schell House, the Jesuit residence.
the University created a tribute to Tim on our website (http://www.jcu.edu/breakingnews/russert.htm)
and provided alumni, friends, and others an opportunity to share their
remembrances of Tim’s life. Meanwhile, local media conducted numerous
interviews with University officials and alumni throughout the weekend.
June 17, crowds of individuals from across the country and from all walks of
life stood patiently in long lines at
to pay their respects to the man who had come into their homes each Sunday
morning as the moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press. Tim helped all of us
better understand our political process, the leaders representing our nation,
and the issues facing our country and our world. President Bush was among those
who came to pay their respects and offer condolences to Maureen and Luke.
Wednesday morning, June 18, Tim’s wife and son, politicians, journalists,
business leaders, and his closest friends and colleagues gathered together in
prayer to celebrate his life. Maureen invited me to concelebrate at the funeral
Mass at Holy Trinity Parish in
Some of Tim’s closest friends and classmates from John Carroll attended,
including: Marty Bergerson ’72, Bill Brown ’70, Dave Carden ’72, John Caulfield
’72, Bill Doyle ’72, Paul Gandillot ’70, Jack Hague ’72, Pat Hogan ’72, Frank
Maggio ’72, John Marcus ’72, Tim McMahon ’74, Mark Pacelli ’72, Dennis Quilty
’72, Larry Ray ’72, Craig Roach ’72, Tom Ryan ’72, and Chris Schuba ’74. To
’ reflections, go to http://www.jcu.edu/breakingnews/russert/russertclassmate.htm
Eminence, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, DC,
presided at the funeral Mass. Cardinal McCarrick said, “It is not easy to
preach a homily for Tim and to communicate the feelings we all share concerning
this remarkable man, for he was truly one of the great communicators in
American society." Yet Cardinal McCarrick delivered a remarkable homily.
He reminded us of God’s love for humanity. While Tim’s life here on earth is
now complete, he said, God has called Tim home to share in the promised eternal
life. It was a moving liturgy filled with examples of the many lives that Tim
touched, from the powerful to the ordinary. John McCain and Barack Obama sat
side by side. In his eulogy, Luke Russert described his father eloquently and
concluded, "Tim Russert led with his heart, his compassion, and, most of
all, his honor. I love you, Dad, and, in his words, ‘Let us all go get
As we left
the church, some of Tim’s friends from John Carroll invited us to join them for
lunch. What a privilege to sit down with his classmates – among his closest
friends for the last 40 or more years – and listen to their warm and loving
stories of him from their days together on campus and beyond. It was clear that
their bonds of friendship run deep and true.
back on campus, the
community gathered at noon in Saint Francis Chapel for a Mass to celebrate
Tim’s life. Rev. Jim Prehn, S.J., presided. The chapel was full of Tim’s
classmates, friends, and admirers. The local network television stations
covered the liturgy, with Channel 3, NBC’s affiliate, broadcasting it live and
Webcasting it as well.
that afternoon, we went to The Kennedy Center for a memorial service, broadcast
live on MSNBC. Once again, the people attending represented a cross-section of
the lives that Tim Russert touched and those who had profound respect for him.
Tim’s family, close friends, and classmates were well represented. In addition,
the crowd included Tim’s seventh-grade teacher, leading journalists and
colleagues, President Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, former House
Speaker Newt Gingrich, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and former
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. All came to pay tribute to the man who
often reminded those around him, “No exercise is better for the human heart
than reaching down to lift up another person.”
remembrances were delivered by Tom Brokaw, Betsy Fischer, Sister Lucille
Socciarelli, Al Hunt, Governor Mario Cuomo, Mike Barnicle, Maria Shriver, Brian
Williams, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Luke Russert. Tim’s brother-in-law, Tony
Scozzaro, delivered a musical tribute. He was followed by a surprise special
tribute from one of Tim’s favorite musicians, Bruce Springsteen, via satellite
, where he is on tour. Springsteen
and dedicated it to Luke Russert. When Luke finished his remarks, the crowd
stood in unison and delivered a rousing standing ovation. Nothing would have
made Tim more proud.
the memorial service, a reception was held at the Roof Terrace Restaurant of
The Kennedy Center. It was a beautiful summer day and an afternoon rainstorm
had just passed through. We looked out across
and a full double rainbow
extended over the city, reminding us that Tim’s spirit remains with us. He
exemplified our Jesuit Catholic mission. He lived by the simple philosophy that
there is a world beyond yourself.
In the last
50 days, we have lost two major advocates for the University – Father Joe
Schell, S.J., and Tim Russert. Our faith is strongest in times like these. In
the Catholic community we often refer to the Holy Spirit as the advocate. We
can find strength in knowing that Fr. Schell’s and Tim’s love for us and the
University is now joined with and put at the service of the perfect advocate –
the Holy Spirit.
with the sudden loss of a person whose heart was as big as Tim Russert’s, but
the celebration in
was a consolation. As I was sharing our sympathy with Maureen, she asked, “Are
you proud of him?” Not only are we proud of him, I told her, but we continue to
be inspired by Tim. We continue to hear stories about the joy, gentleness, and
care that he showered on so many people. This encourages each of us to do as
the Lord commanded and Tim lived: “Go and do the same.” Much as Tim would
encourage us, we can do this too.
will run a tribute ad in the Plain Dealer, remembering the life of Tim
Russert and the gift that he was to our University and our lives. You can view
the tribute at http://www.jcu.edu/breakingnews/russert/pdtribute.htm.
We have begun conversations about inviting Tim’s family, friends, and
classmates to campus to celebrate Tim’s life and contributions to our
University community. You will be hearing more about this in the coming months.
our deepest condolences to Maureen and Luke and will continue to remember them
in our thoughts and prayers. Our sympathies and prayers are with Tim’s
classmates, friends, and others who knew him and were inspired by him. On June
lost a dear friend and alumnus whose integrity and commitment to his faith and
justice embody the principles we value most as a Jesuit Catholic institution.
Tim Russert, class of 1972, leaves a lasting legacy of a truly honorable
L. Niehoff, S.J.