President and professor: St. Andrew parishioner mastered lessons from George H.W. Bush
FORT WORTH — As a graduate student at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University from 2001-2003, Loretta Bernardy Endres relished an extraordinary classroom experience.
One of her professors was former U.S. President George H.W. Bush who considered public service “a noble calling.” To underscore the point with students, he invited world leaders like Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev to speak with them.
“But he also shared many stories from his own career,” Endres said, remembering the late president who died Nov. 30 in Houston at the age of 94.
During one lecture, the 41st president of the United States talked about his appointment as Chief of the Liaison Office (now known as ambassador) to China in 1974. It was considered a career-ending assignment but he answered the call to service anyway.
“In sharing this story with his students, he emphasized that no job is a career ender and we can’t know the journey or opportunities that lie ahead,” reasoned the St. Andrew Catholic School and Nolan Catholic High School alumna.
Bush would go on to become CIA director and served two terms as U.S. vice president and one term as president.
“Knowing 41’s story allows me to accept more easily changes in my own life,” continued Endres, the mother of five and wife to a retired Army veteran. “Tomorrow holds any number of opportunities when we allow God to guide us.”
Although the majority of the 25 students in her class were politically conservative, a few liberals challenged the former president’s views and questioned the ramifications of a Bush dynasty. His son, George W. Bush, was president at the time.
“Regardless of our political leanings, President Bush 41 was warm and welcoming,” she said, recalling how he played horseshoes or joined students for barbecue. Today, many of her Bush School classmates work at the local, state, and federal levels of government.
“Some are staying home to raise their families but all have shared that 41 continues to inspire the work they are doing each day.”
When Endres graduated in 2003, she helped create a scrapbook of photos, speaker programs, and other mementos for the former president turned college professor. Each student included a message to Bush and his wife, Barbara, thanking them for the opportunity to attend the Bush School on scholarship.
“It was a way to share who we were and show our appreciation to them,” said the Fort Worth native who focused her graduate studies on public policy affecting non-profits.
At commencement, Endres’ parents, Teacy and Paul Bernardy, also received an unexpected gift. As graduates milled around the courtyard with their diplomas, President Bush graciously posed for pictures with their families.
Approaching the former president a bit hesitantly for a photo, Paul Bernardy complimented Bush’s maroon Texas A&M tie. After the picture was snapped and pleasantries exchanged, President Bush turned to Bernardy and declared, “You like my tie? Well, it’s yours!”
“He took it off right then and there and tossed it to me. We were all flabbergasted,” the surprised recipient recalled.
Bernardy wears the necktie occasionally and likes telling people where it came from.
“In those few moments I could tell more than anything he loved life,” he said. “He wanted to do something a little different for Loretta’s parents so he gave us a lasting memory.”
Looking back at her time in President Bush’s classroom, Endres paid tribute to a mentor who struggled through personal and wartime tragedies but still found peace in his life thanks to strong faith in God.
“What I will remember about 41 is his warmth, genuine joy in life, and good humor,” she said. “I think he accepted suffering with grace and chose to make the world a better place each day. That certainly continues to inspire me.”