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I love you too, Scott Opperman

Dan Brombach | Sunday, September 15, 2013

Editor’s note: Dan Brombach is the editor of The Observer’s Viewpoint section. He can be contacted at dbrombac@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

“You know I love you. You know I’ll always love you guys.”

During my time in Zahm House, this was the signature phrase of my rector, Scott Opperman. After seemingly every conversation I had with Scott, he would sling his arm around my shoulder, look me dead in the eyes and tell me he loved and cared about me as a person and as a member of the dorm community.
I’ll admit, I made my fair share of jokes about this. I laughed it off, parodied it to my friends and harbored my suspicions. How can a person claim to love and care about me when they barely know me? In my mind, when a person is that nice to you, it must mean they’re trying to trick you or make you buy something.
As of last week, Scott left his post as rector of Zahm. I used to joke about his kind words, but I’m not laughing anymore. In fact, I cried when I heard the news. The man who had become a mentor, coach, advocate and father to me and countless others had departed our lives as abruptly as he entered them.
This column is not about why Scott left. It is about paying tribute to a man who made me proud to live in Zahm. It is about a man who unceasingly went to bat for those who needed him. It is about a man who treated us like family instead of as hall residents. If Scott was in your corner, it didn’t matter who was against you.
There could not have been a more fitting tribute to the impact of Scott Opperman on Zahm than the events of last Thursday night. When the news broke, Zahm upperclassmen, many of them no longer even living in the dorm, rushed around like a bomb had just gone off. From all over South Bend, we rushed back to campus, hoping to talk to Scott, to have him throw his arm around our shoulders and tell us everything was fine, that it was a misunderstanding, that he wasn’t going anywhere.
By the time we returned to campus, Scott was already gone. A group of Zahm men stood outside the darkened window of his old room, some silent, some comforting others, some literally shaking with grief. How could he leave us without saying goodbye? Would we ever see him again?

Zahm will go on. Things won’t crumble or devolve into chaos now that Scott is gone, because as cliché as it sounds, his presence will continue through the example he set for all of us. In fact, falling apart would be the ultimate insult to Scott. Through our example, through the way Zahm treats its underclassmen, by the way we conduct ourselves and look out for one another, we can show Scott how much he impacted our lives. We can show Scott how much he truly meant to us.
I never really told Scott how much I admired and respected him. Every time he uttered his signature phrase, I wouldn’t reciprocate. I would laugh nervously or look at the floor. This is as good a place as any to change that. So, here it goes.
Scott, know that I love you too. Know that I’ll always love you too.

Dan Brombach
Viewpoint Editor
Sept. 16