What Do These 50 Famous Men Have in Common? (That Would Make a Marquette Dean of Education Mention Them With Pride)

By Bill Henk – Most readers should  readily recognize many or all of the men listed below and know why they’re famous.  The list includes actors, directors, athletes, authors, politicians, journalists,  entertainers,  scientists, business leaders, coaches, sports executives, and even world leaders and popes.  But there is something special that binds each of them together.  Do you know what it is?

I promise to let you know the answer later in the post, but for the time being, look over the list, then  try to use the subtle clues in the title (and maybe the probably equally mysterious graphic to the left) to come up with some hunches.

Here’s the list:

  1. Alan Alda
  2. Robert Altman
  3. John Barrymore
  4. Elgin Baylor
  5. William Bennett
  6. William Peter Blatty
  7. Jerry Brown
  8. William F. Buckley
  9. Archbishop John Carroll
  10. Fidel Castro
  11. Tom Clancy
  12. President Bill Clinton
  13. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  14. Harry Connick, Jr.
  15. Pat Conroy
  16. Bob Cousy
  17. Bing Crosby
  18. Rene Descartes
  19. Senator Dick Durbin
  20. Patrick Ewing
  21. Doug Flutie
  22. John Paul Getty
  23. Bob Gibson
  24. Richard Harris
  25. Alfred Hitchcock
  26. James Joyce
  27. Senator John Kerry
  28. Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo)
  29. Vince Lombardi
  30. Peter Lynch
  31. Nathan Lane
  32. Bill Murray
  33. Steve Nash
  34. Representative Tip O’Neill
  35. Karl Rahner
  36. Al Roker
  37. Pete Rozzelle
  38. Bill Russell
  39. Vin Scully
  40. Don Shula
  41. John Stockton
  42. Spencer Tracy
  43. Pierre Trudeau
  44. Donald Trump
  45. Denzel Washington
  46. Pope Benedict XIV
  47. Pope John Paul I
  48. Pope Pius XI
  49. Pope Pius XII
  50. Pope Paul VI

So what is it that these men have in common?  Do you need some clues?

  • AMDG
  • social justice
  • cura personalis
  • magis
  • Manresa
  • men and women for others
  • Ratio Studiorum
  • Spiritual Exercises
  • Finding God in all things
  • St. Ignatius of Loyola

Still don’t have it?  What if I told you that IHS are the first three letters, in Greek, of the name Jesus?  Had enough?

The Envelope Please

Fact is, every one of these men attended a Jesuit high school, college, or university, and I could have listed A LOT more of these alumni.  For a much longer list courtesy of Wikipedia, click here.  I just chose the ones that jumped out at me who I believe actually graduated from the schools.  That’s why I left off Marquette’s own Dwayne Wade and Chris Farley.

And yes, the larger list includes some well known women as well.  Both “my” list and the larger one reflect the fact that Jesuit institutions often educated males only, though — like our own local Marquette University High School.

It turns out that St. Ignatius of Loyola and his companions (who founded the Society of Jesus in 1540) did not have establishing schools numbered among their initial priorities.  Still, fairly early on these Jesuits started colleges to serve young men wishing to join their religious order, and in 1547 they opened their first school for educating young lay men.

At the time of St. Ignatius’s passing in 1556 there were 35 colleges in existence that served the secondary school level as well as the first year or two of college.  That number swelled to over 800 by the time that the Jesuit order was suppressed by the Vatican in 1773.  Each school represented part of an integrated system of  humanities-centric education that produced many Jesuits who went on to distinguish themselves as “mathematicians, astronomers, physicists,  linguist, dramatists, painters, architects, philosophers, and theologians.”

As an education dean at a Jesuit university, I’d like to think that all of the men and women on the larger list exemplified the full range of Ignatian principles and teachings.  I just don’t know.  But no doubt some fell short of the mark.  After all, it’s no small feat to achieve personal and professional excellence while living a life of faith and leadership expressed in service to others — all done for “the greater glory of God and the common benefit of the human community.”  But there is no mistaking the fact that all of the alumni managed to achieve significant notoriety, and their Jesuit education almost certainly played an instrumental role in their formation as public figures.

What I can tell you to a certainty is that our College of Education at Marquette aspires to prepare all of our students to live up to these extraordinary standards.  In fact we pride ourselves on it.  Put differently, what we want our graduates to have in common is that, as education professionals, they qualify as uncommon.


To find out more about our academic focus in the College of Education, click here to  visit our website.

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