Loyola College conferred an honorary degree on political commentator Christopher J. Matthews at commencement exercises yesterday and asked that he deliver a few of his famous hardballs to its graduates.
The author, host of "Hardball with Chris Matthews" on MSNBC and a commentator on NBC's "Today," congratulated the 771 undergraduates and nearly 1,000 others who received advanced degrees from the North Charles Street institution. Loyola's faculty took seats on the stage of the Baltimore Arena with the college's seal and motto "Strong Truths Well Lived" in the background.
Matthews, introduced as someone who helped engage a new generation of Americans in political life, praised the hard work that leads to the donning of the cap and gown with Loyola's traditional dark green and gray hood. Then, he earned a loud laugh when he said it took him only a half-hour to get his degree yesterday.
In forceful, rapid-fire oratory, he promised the Class of 2001 his remarks would be brief, useful and cautionary. He urged them to be aggressive, assertive and idealistic.
"Here's my hardball: To win the game, you first must get a seat at the table," Matthews said. "It is not who you know but who you get to know."
In a career that spans more than three decades, Matthews has worked for such politicians as former President Jimmy Carter and Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, longtime speaker of the House. The man who reported on the fall of communism in Europe and the end of apartheid in South Africa said he started in journalism "just by hanging around" the halls of Congress and doggedly asking for a job.
"You have to be where lightning strikes," he said. "The world will not be checking with you every day. Go where you have to go and ask. And, get used to the 'no's. They come with the job search."
As a 1967 graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., Matthews shares the Jesuit tradition of education with the Loyola graduates.
"What you believe in about yourself, God and mankind is what gets you through," he said. "Ideas move this country and ideals carry it through its worst times."
Commencement is an occasion to "honor individuals and institutions that are examples of all that is noble in our society," said David C. Haddad, Loyola's vice president for academic affairs. Among the other honorees were the Caroline Center, a job training and education program for women in East Baltimore, and Robert H. Garvey, a 1966 Loyola graduate and professor of physics at the College of the Holy Cross, who received the outstanding alumni medal.
The longest applause went to Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell. He received the President's Medal for outstanding service to the community.
"He brought the Super Bowl trophy to Baltimore and brought Baltimore together," Haddad said.