Academic Read #1: Letter to My First-Year Self

From our Mission Statement: “Gonzaga University intentionally develops the whole person — intellectually, spiritually, physically, and emotionally.”

Dear Will-I-Am (See What I did there?!),

When I was first asked to address this letter to you, my freshman self, I must admit that I was surprised at my own knee-jerk reaction as a current Senior.  I’m not sure I would want my former self to know any of this information in advance, I thought.  Because I know my former self.  And the great expectations I would chain myself to, if granted such foreknowledge.  The truth that I would not only find, but embrace my most authentic self here at Gonzaga.  That I would meet the love of my life.  That my younger brother would join me as a Zag.  And the greatest truth of all… that the best is ALWAYS yet to come.

For to expect such things, would be to deny their wonder.  And what growth, what faith is there, when you know exactly what is coming next?

No.  I have steadfastly come to believe that what it means, what it feels like to be a Zag, to be a man or woman for and with others, and to be a beloved child of God is not something that can be learned by simply reading.  Such are the kind of revelations that must be experienced.

I remember how paralyzing frightened you were getting out of that car for Orientation, Will.  And how you consciously denied it and instead buried such anxieties through that combination of forced extroversion and obsessive academic productivity.  But as you will come to learn, as you will soon beautifully experience, no one can wear their masks of feigned security forever.  And freedom only comes only once your walls come crashing down.  You tried so very hard to fit into that mold of conceived perfection, but it is in our vulnerability that belonging, and community are born.

Your time at Gonzaga will not be without times of rejection, failure, solitude, or loss.  But even more so, it will contain friendship of greater depth than you could ask for, mysteries that only faith can answer, opportunities that will change your life, and that one, life-changing thing that remains through every trial and tribulation.  Love.  For you, Will, are more completely and unconditionally loved than I know your eighteen-year-old self will ever dare to imagine.  Your family would, and will, put their own lives on pause to be present when you need them most.  Your friends would, and will, talk the whole night through to make certain you believe it.  This community would, and will, remind you of it time and again.  God, would, and did, love you enough to sacrifice His only Son.  And so it follows, Will, that you too must be enough.  And not because of your high school GPA, nor your extra-curricular involvements, or recommendations, but because of the love you dare to pour into this world with self-abandon.

This, Will, is what Gonzaga University will teach you.  That the precious gift of each novel daybreak is a chance to better our world, through the betterment of yourself.  That we find ourselves, in giving ourselves away to others.  And that the only people who truly change the world, as those with enough love and courage to believe that they can do so.  You will be inspired.  And you can light the world on fire.

Gonzaga will merely provide you the match.  It is up to you to ignite yOUR spirit.


Yours truly and in Him,


Gonzaga University


Will Wilde graduated from Gonzaga this past week with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in German. He is from Butte, Montana and his favorite place on campus is the community of Gonzaga’s student chapel in third floor College Hall.

IGNITE Question: How will you allow Gonzaga  to teach you? Challenge you? Shape you? When you graduate from GU, what do you hope your letter would say?

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