A Sioux City, Iowa, native, Fr. Neenan has tried throughout his more than two decades at BC to ensure a piece of the Heights remains ever Iowa.
As academic vice president, Fr. Neenan instituted the tradition, still carried on to this day at BC, of reading out the number of all Iowans in the entering freshman class. He also established the "Iowa-Nebraska Lunch" series, the oldest and most venerable of the dozen luncheon clubs Fr. Neenan hosts for BC students from the heartland.
He also took great pleasure in the appointment of another Jesuit from his home state, Rev. William Leahy, SJ, of Imogene, as president of Boston College in 1996.
So when a goalie from Iowa - of all places - helped lead BC to the national hockey title earlier this month, Fr. Neenan had every reason to exult.
Scott Clemmensen, a senior goalie from the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale, and the only player from Iowa in all of Division I college hockey, was in net April 7 when the Eagles downed North Dakota to capture the NCAA hockey title.
Clemmensen, now the winningest goalie in NCAA tournament history, is Boston College's all-time leading netminder in wins and shutouts - and Fr. Neenan had a hand in bringing him to Chestnut Hill. "I helped recruit him," the Jesuit said, with a chuckle.
When Clemmensen visited campus the summer before his freshman year, BC hockey coach Jerry York asked the priest from Iowa to meet the young prospect and his parents. "'You could act as translator,'" Fr. Neenan recalled York saying. "'You translate my Boston dialect into Iowese, and vice-versa.'"
The rest is history, said Fr. Neenan, who attended both the semi-final and final games of the NCAA tournament in Albany.
Clemmensen's sparkling play was instrumental to the BC win, but no more so than the inspirational speech the goalie made to his teammates in the locker-room before the decisive overtime against North Dakota.
The Eagles were lagging after the Fighting Sioux rallied to tie BC late in regulation. But Clemmensen's speech - followed by a couple of high-pressure saves in OT - instilled new life in the Eagles.
"Iowans are the strong, silent type," observed Fr. Neenan. "When they do say something, the words have some impact."
Champion Eagles Are Basking in the Glow
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