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Following my dad’s advice

Mike Gilloon | Monday, March 6, 2006

It was Christmas break freshman year when all of this started.

I had written for The Observer during the fall – covering interhall football – but didn’t feel like doing any writing after that finished. I was more interested in hanging around the dorm during my first semester at ND – doing a little homework, eating quarter dogs and heading over to TC with my buddies on the weekends. College was relaxing and free … but I wasn’t doing much.

It was on a run with my dad during that Christmas vacation that he gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received – get involved.

I’d waited my whole life to go to Notre Dame, he reminded me, and it would be a shame if I didn’t at least do something with my time there.

I went back to South Bend that January and signed up to work layout at the paper once a week. Today, after two years that sailed by in what feels like two minutes, I’m taking over as Editor in Chief of The Observer.

My dad never told me during that December jog that I should spend 30 hours a week below South Dining Hall checking pages and calling writers – he just recommended I do more with my four years at ND than simply play DDR and drink beer.

If I had known that this paper would take up more of my time than I would like, I might never have signed up to work in the first place.

But I’m lucky I did.

I am lucky to have made friends that I never would have known were it not for The Observer.

Some I see for 10 minutes a week. Some I say hi to every morning when I walk into the office with my lunch to work on a story. And some I talk to every day and spend Saturday nights in April with chatting at Nick’s Patio over eggs benedict.

I am also lucky to work with a staff of about 150 people who give at least a part of themselves to this paper.

Some work for just an hour or two writing one short article a week. Some dream up a new cartoon every day. Some sit in the back of The Observer’s office reading stories until two in the morning. Some go to Debartolo 101 on a Wednesday night to photograph a lecture.

No matter who they are, I know that everybody at The ‘O’ is proud when they walk into LaFortune on a Friday afternoon and see the paper in everyone’s hands.

The Observer has become a large part of Notre Dame since its beginning 40 years ago – and my biggest challenge over the next year will be to make sure it remains an integral piece of Notre Dame/Saint Mary’s campus life.

But with the people working here right now, I have no doubt the paper will be fine.

Growing up with two little sisters and no brother, I spent a lot of time with my dad – if for no other reason than we were the only people in my house who didn’t watch E.R.

The two of us talked about a lot over the last 21 years – with topics ranging from who should have won the 1995 Heisman Trophy (Tommie Frazer) to when I had to be home on New Year’s Eve as a high school sophomore (too early) to whether Paul Simon was better solo or with Garfunkel (solo).

But I never learned more from a conversation than I did on that jog over Christmas break.