On Wednesday April 19, coach Jerry York spoke to a room of BC students about the role of Jesuit education in his life. York is college hockey’s winningest coach, with over 1,000 wins over the course of his career. He is a triple Eagle, having graduated from Boston College High School in 1963, from Boston College in 1967, and from Boston College’s masters program in counseling psychology a few years later. He has won the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey title five times in his career, four as a coach at BC.
He began his talk by emphasizing the role of the Jesuits in his life, starting when he was young. His father would host Jesuits at their house, which also functioned as a doctor’s office. His father, a doctor, sometimes treated these Jesuits. He mostly had Jesuit teachers in high school and said this was a formative experience, describing the focus on the classics and strong academics. During his first year at BC, his father died and one of his Jesuit teachers broke the news to him, making arrangements for him to get home. He said that he has always looked up to the Jesuits and their commitment to educating people to be men and women for others. After he graduated and failed to make the Olympic hockey team, BC invited him to pursue a masters degree in guidance and counseling and help with the freshmen hockey team.
When talking about important personal qualities, he cited coach of the New England Patriots Bill Belichick’s point that it is more important to be dependable than to have extraordinary ability, and to be able to step into your role and perform it as well as you can. This not only applies to hockey but to work, school, and relationships. If you want to have great faith, you have to work at it, he emphasized -just as if you want to be physically strong you must exercise. Faith takes practice and commitment to activities like attending Mass, praying, and taking the time to be there for other people.
His advice was to “be a walking billboard for BC” in everything you do, after pointing out the unique and palpable spirit at BC where everyone seems to be proud of their school and eager to make a good impression: There is a particular “ethos” on campus. When asked how his Catholic faith influences his coaching, he said that he reminds his players not to forget about academics, and to be humble, even in small ways like opening doors for people and “not walking around like they own the place.” He said he encourages them to simply “be good people” and have a certain level of respect for others.