2012-Jeannette Curry and Brianna Jackson
2011- Richard Bramel and Richard Meagher
2010-Sara Heinlein and Brittany Urse
TRIBUTE TO PAUL SCIULLO
DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY MEMORIAL MASS
APRIL 28, 2009
Memorial located in front of St. Joseph's Church in Bloomfield
For a 63 year old professor who has taught full time since he was 28, few students stand out as time goes by. Paul is one who does. I ask myself what these students have in common. Not the ones with the best test scores. Not the ones who talk the most. Not the ones who use 10 syllable words. What I remember is attitude.
I looked at that portrait in the April 5th Post Gazette. From the slight smile I immediately remembered the attitude, even though the face had become way more chiseled, the haircut shorter, and 15 years had passed, still the attitude was there, just in that slight smile.
For Duquesne attitude is reflected in 3 parts. At some schools, notable ones, the 3 parts are mind, mind and mind. Duquesne is different: mind, heart and spirit. Like a stool with three legs, each is necessary to complement and make sense out of the other. Paul was the package deal, a gift to our university. We owe his family a great thanks.
I’d like to talk about how I saw Paul’s attitudes in those three realms when I knew him as his teacher and advisor.
Mind. Paul was a focused and interested student. I had him in class. Before a class started he would be carousing with his buddies who all sat together. When class began the buddies weren’t always ready to shift from carousing to learning psychology. Paul was ready. He would shift gears, becoming focused and wanted to learn. He wasn’t a straight A student at the university, but oddly he was in my class. The material in this course, required of majors and considered the toughest in the department, fascinated Paul. Maybe he liked a challenge. When I started talking he started listening and once I even remember him coming to my rescue: “quiet down guys.” In general Paul did not take a university education for granted. He appreciated it and wanted to take full advantage. Having a college degree meant a lot to him and not just for the prestige.
Heart. Because my class was so data and fact oriented, I regularly instituted discussions of value questions in connection with the course, often controversial issues. They included discussions of why prisons don’t seem to deter crime, embryonic stem cell research, all sorts of things, generally controversial. For guy students in the early 90’s talking about that kind of thing in class was not necessarily cool. Not that talking was uncool, plenty of that before class, just not in class. Rule of thumb was that women students did most of the talking in those discussions. Paul was an exception. He did speak up because he cared about the issues, most often issues of human safety and human dignity. He was not long winded, believe me, but when he spoke the class listened. They listened because what he said was real, and came from his heart. His friends seemed to know that.
Spirit. Surprisingly in my class we did discuss some spiritual issues, like the right to end a suffering life. And, as I said, Paul was always engaged and cared. But I saw his spiritual presence much more in observing from a distance how he affected his friends. I saw him as a spiritual calm at the center of an undergraduate storm. It’s not that he didn’t appreciate the antics, in fact sometimes I thought his friends were in a competition to see who could make him smile the widest. But what I noticed were those times, in class and also in the dining room, when he reacted with a slight smile, enjoying but at the same time shaking his head back and forth, like: ”you guys.” He definitely enjoyed play, with friends and in also in competitive sports, but Paul had a way of putting things in perspective. He enjoyed the play but it was so evident that he discerned more to life. He brought a very wide context for his Duquesne experience, and that context can only be called spiritual. Further, his palpable humility, in spite of his talents, was the embodiment of spirituality.
He was solid in mind heart and spirit, but he spoke to me most about what he was unsure about, and that was his career. He felt afloat, pulled in various directions, and we talked about multiple possibilities. I never knew what route he had taken until reading recent articles. I was not surprised to see Paul in a police uniform in that Sunday morning portrait. I was surprised to learn that he had spent many years working in industry. I could never have envisioned Paul in anything but a helping profession, and apparently he came to that realization too. So Paul died being Paul.
I know from hearing accounts, reading web tributes, that many, many Duquesne classmates along with his entire family have been strongly influenced by Paul’s positive presence. Today thinking about his smile makes us cry but one day we will remember Paul with a smile, and remember that he always smiled. Friends, family, children, will see that smile and they will pass it on and it will go on and on. It was a smile of peace, and that will be his eternal life on this earth. A sentence from Matthew’s account of the sermon on the mount makes me think of Paul. “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” It is important to remember that his mission on that day was to help a distressed family, to make peace. Paul’s last earthly intention was to make peace.