High school hockey stars Matt (seated) and Justin Greene have continued their athletic and academic achievements at BC. Says one faculty member: "They sit next to one another in class and work hard. They are great kids." (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Brothers At Work and Play
The Greenes take their hockey - but also their Latin - seriously
By Jack Dunn
Director of Public Affairs
Boston College student-athletes Justin '07 and Matt '08 Greene are used to doing things together.
Whether it was the many youth hockey teams on which they played growing up, or the long, early-morning commutes from their Plymouth home to Boston College High School, or the joint decision to come to the Heights to play hockey under coaching legend Jerry York, the duo has demonstrated a willingness to take on any challenge, as long as they are facing it together.
That brotherly bond has grown even stronger of late, passing beyond the locker room in Conte Forum to the classroom of Carney Hall where the brothers meet three mornings each week to study second-year Latin.
Wait a minute. Hockey players studying Latin?
At a university that prides itself on debunking stereotypes, the thought of two talented student-athletes opting for the rigorous challenges of a classical language should come as no big surprise. Yet, by all accounts, there are easier tasks for most students than translating Apuleius' Cupid and Psyche in Latin, especially students who face the physical and mental demands of a grueling Division I hockey schedule.
"When we tell our teammates that we are studying Latin, the response generally is, 'Why are you doing that?'" says Justin. "Our response is that we find it challenging and we enjoy doing it together."
No surprise there.
In addition to the class that meets three days a week under the guidance of veteran Classical Studies faculty member John Shea, the Greene brothers generally spend between 45 and 90 minutes per evening preparing for the next class' translations.
"Not being as strong at Latin as my younger brother, it takes me longer to do my homework and prepare my translations," says Justin. "Whenever I struggle I seek his help. Given that we are with each other every day, it makes it easier."
Adds Matt, "I am fortunate because I have a knack for Latin; it has always come easy to me and great teachers at BC High and BC have made it all the more enjoyable. It is not a stressful subject for me."
Both Greenes studied Latin all four years at BC High, though the year's difference in age kept them apart in the classroom. So having the opportunity to study a challenging subject together in college that their parents had encouraged them to pursue since their early teens was an offer they could not refuse.
"We shared a bedroom in our house in Plymouth, and were together from 6 a.m. until bedtime while in high school, and now we spend six days a week together with hockey, so spending an additional three days and nights a week together studying Latin is easy," says Justin. "We consider each other friends."
Both students have caught the eye of Shea, who has been teaching classics at BC for more than 25 years. "Justin and Matt are inseparable," says Shea. "They sit next to one another in class and work hard. They are great kids."
Shea has had fencers and rowers in class, but rarely students from the major sports. In fact, he says, the Greenes may be the first hockey players he has ever taught. "It is a demanding class, but they are definitely holding their own."
Holding their own has been a part of the Greene brothers' experience from day one.
Both came to the Heights as 18-year-old freshmen, bucking the current trend of older, more experienced freshmen recruits who prep for a year or play junior hockey in the United States or Canada.
Both captained their senior year teams in high school, with Matt - the more heralded player - choosing BC over Boston University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Northeastern University and the University of New Hampshire. "BC was where I always wanted to go to school," says Matt. "It is a wonderful opportunity to be here. There is no better place to be to go farther in life than Boston College."
Justin says, "BC has tremendous academics and provides great opportunities for its students, plus the chance to play for Jerry York. It has been a lifelong dream to play at Boston College."
Outside of the classroom, a typical day for the brothers Greene involves arriving at Conte Forum at 2:30 p.m. for chalkboard sessions and discussions with the coaching staff before taking the ice at 3:15. Practice can vary from one to two hours, with the team playing an average of two games per week, mostly on Friday and Saturday evenings. Playing in college hockey's most competitive league, coupled with away games at Michigan, Bowling Green, Denver and Maine during a season that stretches from October until April, the prospect of two siblings getting on each other's nerves looms large. Yet, to their and their parents' credit, the two never grow tired of one another.
"Matt and I have never fought," says Justin. "We occasionally get into minor arguments, which he always wins, but we have always gotten along." Adds Matt, "It is a very comfortable experience for us to play and study together. We have never really been apart."
The brothers credit their hardworking parents, John and Grace Greene, with their sports successes as well as their loving friendship.
"I don't know how our parents did it," says Justin. "They worked two jobs each to send my sister Amanda and us to the best schools and to allow us to play sports. Their time commitment was incredible, not to mention the financial burden."
Adds Matt, "Even when my father coached us, our parents always cared about academics first. If we did not do our homework, we did not go to the games. They tell us every day how proud they are of us, but we are so proud of them. They have done more for our benefit than we could ever have asked."
Looking ahead to life after BC, both brothers have already charted a course for themselves that may finally put an end to their inseparability. Justin hopes to become a referee for the National Hockey League, while Matt plans to pursue professional hockey in Europe before studying to become an orthodontist.
"Even when we graduate and go our separate ways, we know we will always be close," says Justin. "I just can't imagine it any other way."