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Administrator shares lessons

Christian Myers | Friday, February 8, 2013


As part of the Last Lecture series, Lou Nanni, vice president for University Relations, outlined five life lessons in the Hammes Lounge of the Coleman-Morse Center on Thursday.

Nanni said he has learned to seek to be faithful and not successful, to surround himself with great people, to keep the sense of being a beginner, to give abundantly and to develop a long-term vision.

“Leadership is best when it is given, not sought after,” he said. “Be a person of integrity and let faithfulness guide you. Success will follow.”

Part of seeking to be faithful is pursuing one’s passions regardless of what others think or the money to be made, Nanni said.

“The toughest thing in life is having the courage to follow your passions,” he said. “If it is playing the flute that you love, play the flute day and night.”

The second lesson is to find the best, most inspiring people and get to know them, Nanni said.

“Find people whose lives you want to model your lives after, then emulate, imitate and find out what makes them tick,” he said.

Nanni said the third lesson is expressed by a statement of St. Benedict to the effect of “If you think you’ve gotten ahead, it’s a sign you’ve fallen behind.”

Nanni said he was at his best in his work with the South Bend Center for the Homeless when he first began and worked especially hard because he was aware of the knowledge he lacked. He also said it is important to remember where you came from.

“Never forget where you came from, never forget your hometown and never forget childhood friends,” he said.

Nanni said he has met people who regret not giving more, but has never met anyone who felt he gave to excess.

“No one has ever said to me: ‘I’ve given too much’,” he said.

Nanni’s fifth and final lesson was the need to have a long-term vision for one’s life.

“You should be able to say in one sentence your vision for your life,” he said. “When I was 27, I came up with my vision to be the best Christian I could be, and have my identifying roles be husband and father.”

Nanni said people need to overcome the tendency to think in small time increments and to think about the distant future and the end goals of their lives.

A 1984 alumnus of Notre Dame, Nanni said he spent two years after graduating in Santiago, Chile, with the Holy Cross Associates, teaching school and meeting with female political prisoners.

He said he fell in love with the poetry of Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti while learning Spanish. Nanni quoted a poem by Benedetti in which a dying woman writes: “To live means this: to be close.”

Nanni said his father’s death after battling bone cancer taught him this lesson.

“Death means separation,” Nanni said. “Death is loneliness, to be apart. I realized this wasn’t just a metaphor when my father died.” 

Nanni said he completed Notre Dame’s one-year Peace Studies master’s program after returning from Chile. He then worked on Catholic and economic issues in the Dominican Republic for three years. 

He spent the next eight years as executive director of the South Bend Center for the Homeless.

Nanni said he was the fifth executive director in two years and that when he started, the Center was $100,000 in debt.

“After working harder than I ever had before, we were no longer $100,000 in debt, we were $140,000 in debt,” he said.

The Center eventually became a very successful national model, Nanni said.

Nanne has been an administrator at the University for 13 years.

“What brought me back to Notre Dame was that I wanted the energy to be present for my kids,” he said.

To conclude, Nanni read from the end of Canadian writer Edmund Vance Cooke’s poem “How did you die.”

 “It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,” he quoted, But only how did you die?”