Brad Bates, Boston College’s director of athletics since 2012, began his Agape Latte talk Tuesday evening by telling the audience that he was raised in Port Huron, Mich., where has was educated by the same school district that expelled Thomas Edison. His parents, who were both educators, contributed to the importance and value that education carries for him.
Bates’ talk followed a performance by the Heightsmen of Boston College. Through three stories, Bates explained living in the present, God’s presence, and the magnitude of different ideas that students are given access to through the University.
He was raised with exposure to many different religious perspectives—Methodist, First Congregationalist, and Catholic. The minister at the Bates family’s church would invite the local rabbi and the local priest to give homilies. From his childhood, he engaged difference as a source of growth, especially in a religious sense. His faith in God, Jesus, and the afterlife was solidified and validated—at least, until Mr. Miller’s 10th-grade English class.
After reading the book No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain in this class, Bates’ faith was shaken. He doubted the existence of an afterlife, he said. He researched everything he could about the afterlife, out-of-body experiences, doctors reviving flat-lined patients, and anything else he could think of.
“Don’t overanalyze life. It’ll come to you. God’s presence will take care of it.”
Then, when he was a sophomore in college, he took a course called Cadaver Anatomy, where he saw his first dead body.
“One of the most powerful ‘a-ha’ moments of my life was when I walked into that room, and I saw that body, and I realized that [the body] is not soul, that [the body] is just a container,” Bates said. “It’s a way we visually and optically relate to one another, and envision one another.”
After this realization, Bates decided to stop worrying about the afterlife, or whether there was an afterlife, and focus on his current life. He now sees life as a series of “afterlives,” explaining that the afterlife of high school for the audience was BC, and the afterlife of BC would be the real world.
“Live in the moment,” he urged students.
Bates called the next story he told “God’s presence.”
He recalled the first time he was introduced to his wife, Michele, who had attended the University of Michigan with him, and was also from Michigan, and how he, regretfully, did not get her number before summer break. That summer, Michele suffered serious injuries from a car accident. She spent four days in a coma with a fractured neck. For the two years following the accident, Michele had to learn how to talk and walk over again.
When she finally returned to school, on her first day, Bates recalled that he ran into her, almost literally, as he was biking to class. Thankfully, Bates left this encounter with her number.
Pausing to reflect, Bates explained how, had Michele not experienced the arduous journey of recovering from her accident, Bates never would have met her.
“Don’t overanalyze life,” Bates said. “It’ll come to you. God’s presence will take care of it.”
His final story was about how the world outside of football opened up to him during his junior year of college. His friends dragged him to a talk that Noam Chomsky was giving on campus one day, despite having no interest in anything besides football at the time.
He entered the room, sat down, and, suddenly, he felt the world open up to him. Renowned speakers from across the globe, he realized, were coming to college campuses to teach students about their experiences, opinions, hardships, and successes.
“And I only get four years of this?” Bates said.