Photo by Manny Mata-Flores ’19 | Willie Gerkensmeyer ’17 speaks to a group of Xavier students at break April 24. Willie was voted as a Man of the Year finalist.
By Anthony Cardellini ’17
In early April Willie Gerkensmeyer ‘17 sat by the Bronco fountain in the mall.
A young student walked up to Gerkensmeyer, gave him a fist bump and walked away.
Gerkensmeyer is in the middle of talking about his career goals, but this student makes him lose his train of thought. He looks up and says he has so many conversations with Brophy students that he often forgets their names.
“I feel awful for doing it,” he said. “But apparently I did something to him that he understood.”
Gerkensmeyer said that having conversations with all kinds of people at Brophy is key to getting the most out of four years here.
“The biggest thing that Brophy gives is people,” he said. “I’ve always seen people as amazing, and I’ve seen the things we’re capable of. Having so many different people from different backgrounds creates these opportunities and opens doors some people can’t even fathom.”
He said that the people at Brophy keep us guessing as to what each day at the school will bring.
“Brophy has blessed me with the chance to walk in every day with a question mark as to what’s going to happen,” he said. “Everyone’s got their routines, but at the same time, one day there are kids walking around in robes, the next day something else is going on.”
He also said that the teachers at the school are “outstanding.” He said that if given the chance to speak to the faculty and staff he’d say a simple “thanks.”
Chief Financial Officer Mrs. Carol Ford said that she has gotten to know Gerkensmeyer through her daughter Taylor Ford ’18’s participation in track and field.
She said that he often stops by the business office to talk to her and other staff members that don’t usually interact with students.
“He is always generous,” she said. “He makes homemade cookies and brings them to the business office.”
She said this is especially meaningful because business office staff often seems disconnected from the rest of campus.
“We don’t interact with the students as much, so that’s kind of nice for Willie to bring the business office a little more into the school atmosphere,” she said.
Gerkensmeyer said he spent his time at Brophy involved in a wide range of activities.
Freshman year, he played football, wrestled and ran track. He tore his ACL sophomore year and returned to football and track for his junior and senior years.
He said he values his ability to know what to say and when.
“What I try to do isn’t necessarily to be the best guy, but to be the right guy,” he said. “It’s always something that’s amazed me: the ability to say the right thing at the right time, or to be silent and be in the right state of mind.”
He said he plans to attend Northern Arizona University and study hotel and restaurant management.
“The one thing that I love is seeing other people in love,” Gerkensmeyer said.
He said his advice to underclassmen is “talk to people.”
“Throughout the next four years, three years, talk to some of these people that you see,” he said. “Instead of a little head nod between classes, talk to people. Especially teachers and stuff.”