In Memoriam: A House Master’s Reflections

Courtesy OF Sarah m. seltzer

It is with the saddest of hearts that I write at this time, three days after the death of a truly beloved Eliot student, Paul F. Gilligan III ’05. His passing has come as the most tremendous shock, and it is almost impossible to comprehend that he is no longer with us, that his smile and quiet voice, his generous spirit, and his outstanding athleticism, will no longer grace the Dining Hall at Eliot or the dock at the Weld Boat House.

As House Master at Eliot, I not only came to know Paul well but had time to appreciate the extraordinary combination of skills and character embodied in such a fine young man. We were so fortunate to have known him. Paul was outwardly quiet, gentle, and unassuming, but he was nevertheless a tower of strength and determination. A central presence in Eliot from his first months as a sophomore, he worked tirelessly for the House through the end of his senior year. Though he contributed to all aspects of house life, his devotion to Eliot’s intramural athletic program was particularly outstanding. Paul himself was the finest of athletes, training at all hours of the day— from sunrise races on the Charles to evening basketball games at the MAC. But even more impressive than Paul’s own athletic prowess and dedication was his ability to rally his housemates out onto the field, river, or court. Indeed, in 2004 Paul’s efforts led Eliot to win the Straus Cup for Intramural Athletics for the first time since 1982 and the Agassiz Cup for House Crew for the first time since 1992. Paul’s record, as these accomplishments suggest, will be hard to match; his presence impossible to replace.

What was unique in Paul was that, despite his position in IM athletics and in Eliot House, he never sought to be the center of attention, rather he took genuine pleasure in contributing to the life of others around him in the House. In Paul one found true modesty and excellence, independence and reliability, gentleness and effectiveness. Among the many excellent young men who lived in Eliot in the past three years, Paul was one of the most agreeable, tolerant, and well-balanced. He set an example for us all and, while we are in a state of great sadness at the tragedy of losing him at such a young age, days after he graduated magna cum laude from the College, we celebrate the amount that he accomplished in such a short life. He will be greatly missed.

We will hold a Memorial Service for Paul Gilligan early in September when everyone in Eliot House will be back on campus.

Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Lino Pertile is Master of Eliot House.