For as long as I can remember, I have been very particular about the vessel that holds my morning coffee. In other words, I always a have favorite mug. During the Christmas season, Starbucks' red cup has nothing on mine. I anticipate the first golf "major" of the year by using the distinctive white mug from The Masters for the week before and after the tourney. I hope that I will raise this glass again sooner than later. However, there is one mug that has found its way to pole position since it was given to me. A gift from the University of Notre Dame alumni association, it says: "Force for Good." I knew those three words were there, but it was as if I really noticed them for the first time today. And when I did, I smiled. Here's why.
Force for Good are the three words that I have used over and over to describe the late Curtis Mallegni '67. I knew Curt in my capacity as a teacher and coach at St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco. He was a member and later chair of both the Board of Regents and the Board of Trustees—leadership groups essential for school governance. A strong chair has the ability to make a good board, great and a good school even better. A school community benefits from their leadership more than they realize.
However, I was always aware of Curtis' leadership and impact. How? Why? When you are a force for good, it's hard not to. Curtis was a regular at Friday Morning Liturgies. He would sing loudly and he always had time to talk to faculty and students after mass. He knew my name early on and used it regularly. This was not unique to just me.
When I learned that he was going on a Kairos as a leader, I was surprised in the best way possible. Kairos is a four-day silent retreat for seniors. I have long believed this retreat is one of the most important formational opportunities that SI provides. It is profoundly counter-cultural and life giving. Kairos is demanding and yet it is essential. We must accompany young men and women as seekers. Pascal once said The one who seeks God has already found him. Curtis made sure they did not do that alone.
I will never forget seeing Curtis at the Westmoor cross country meet finish line. In a place that parents often stand, Curtis said hello to me and I was a little confused. Although it is not uncommon for school administrators to attend athletic contests, I realized Curtis was actually working, by assisting his friend who was the director of the meet. This Force for Good made what was one of the longest, coldest (or hottest—depending on the year) and least attractive cross country meets a little better by his presence, his care and his willingness to serve. NB: This was not a one-time gig, either. I coached XC for nine years and he was at most of those meets!
I believe the last time I saw Curtis was at the De Marillac Academy Scholarship Benefit. I have been blessed to attend the best fundraiser in all of San Francisco as the guest of Mike and Gloria Silvestri.
Mike aka "Sil" and I worked together for at least ten years and in that time I always knew of his deep affection for his beloved friend and classmate Curtis. Sil was the one who told me his "paisan" spoke Italian and played the drums. I also knew that another colleague, Michael Shaughnessy, in addition to Sil and Curtis had a tradition with their classmates: a lunch gathering on any month that has a Friday the 13th. I sat with Sil and with Shag at the De Marillac benefit on March 5; they were still missing Curtis and thinking about the impending Friday the 13th gathering without him. Curtis died on January 28, 2020. He left us too soon.
To be a force for good in the world means that you leave a powerful impact. It means the world is truly a better place because of your presence, your personality, the sharing of your gift and talents and your smile. It also means that when you leave, it's impossible not to grieve deeply and cry openly. When you are a force for good, you make others better. It's hard not to miss a force like that.
I wish the world had more forces for good and when I think of a worthy legacy, that one might be as fitting as it can be.
I would like Curtis, his wife and children and especially his dear friends--his classmates—to know that I now raise my coffee mug in the morning and think of how I might live a little more like what those words call me...call all of us to be.
Please read the Genesis tribute to Curtis Mallegni here. His obituary is included.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.