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The Aquilian

The Aquilian

Remembering my family’s legacy

Longtime+teacher+Rick+Cannon+with+his+son+Billy+Cannon+94+%28right%29+and+grandson+Billy+Cannon+24+%28middle%29
Longtime teacher Rick Cannon with his son Billy Cannon ’94 (right) and grandson Billy Cannon ’24 (middle)
By Billy Cannon—

From the time I first stepped onto Gonzaga’s campus as a student, I shouldered a legacy due to the indelible mark my family had left on the school. My grandfather, revered as one of the school’s greatest teachers ever, had just retired after forty-four years teaching English and writing. My father had followed in his footsteps, also teaching English for eight years after attending for four. I can’t even remember the first time I stepped on campus because I was so little. The 2024-25 school year will be the first since 1975 in which someone with the name William Cannon will not be on Gonzaga’s campus. 

As a freshman trying to make friends and navigate the maze that is high school in the midst of a global pandemic, I was keenly aware of all of this. I wrote my college essay about the process through which I was able to both embrace my family legacy while simultaneously not letting it define my Gonzaga journey.

First and foremost, my experience at Gonzaga taught me to be open to trying new activities, even if they seemed challenging. Outside the classroom, I filled my time with extracurriculars that I was familiar with like The Aquilian but also others that I wasn’t so familiar with, like Toastmasters and the football team. Football was something I never would have expected of myself as an eighth grader. Growing up, baseball was my main sport, and the thought of playing football never even crossed my mind. Ahead of my freshman year, however my parents encouraged me to sign up for the freshman football team as a way to make new friends. I did, and ended up becoming a four-year member of Gonzaga’s football program. As a football player, I learned the importance of discipline, both academically and physically. With a grueling, almost year-round schedule, I had little free time, which was both a blessing and a curse. While I missed out on time I could have spent with my friends because of my football schedule, I made memories that I will cherish forever playing football. 

Gonzaga was also instrumental in helping me find my faith, especially through the Kairos retreat. I learned how to create a healthy balance between my relationship with God and my life, something that I had only really been going through the motions of before. My experiences, both as a retreatant and as a leader, were foundational in what ultimately became my Gonzaga experience. 

Gonzaga’s standing as a Jesuit institution helped me further forge my faith. Its Jesuit curriculum opened doors to courses that I had never really thought about studying before, like Ethics and Social Justice. The education I have received at Gonzaga was a major player in my decision to attend the College of the Holy Cross next year, another Jesuit institution. 

As my Gonzaga career began, I didn’t really know what to expect. However, as I reflect on the last four years, I realize that it exceeded any expectations I had. I made friends from all over the D.C. area, from different backgrounds and cultures that I had little to no exposure to before. Overall, my time at Gonzaga showed me all the beauty that a Gonzaga education has to offer. As I move on to Holy Cross, a place where my family ties aren’t necessarily as prevalent, I plan to take the lessons I learned at Gonzaga with me. 

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