In 2006, Xavier awarded John Boehner an honorary degree, presented to him by Joseph A. Pichler, chairman of Xavier’s Board of Trustees and chairman of Kroger Co. Part of Boehner’s speech to the students that day is transcribed here:
“I had every rotten job that you could ever imagine and was very happy to have every one of them…I went to Moeller High School and wanted to go to college but couldn’t really figure out how to afford it…I went back to driving a truck, driving bulldozers and loaders…I became a sports official. Refereeing games I got reacquainted with a man named Bill Smith, the accounting professor here. Bill and I had dinner after a game. He said, “John you ought to think about getting yourself back to school…How much money do you have?” I said, “I’ve probably got about $400.” He says, “For $450 you can get 9 credit hours and we start on Tuesday.” This is Saturday night. On Monday I run around, grab my transcript and I come to meet Father Buschmann, the Admissions Officer. I think Bill Smith had paved the way. Fr. looked at my transcript and said, “Why are you here?” I said, “Father, if you give me a chance I’ll prove to you that I’m up to this.” And he said, “Okay.”
“So I took 3 classes; Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning from 9-12, and worked every part time job known to man and still officiated football and basketball games with Bill Smith. At the end of the semester I had an A and two Bs. And Father said I could come back…I spent the next 5 years finishing my career here at Xavier at night – working full time and coming to night school. So for you commuter students out there, those of you that spent most of your career at night, I feel your pain, and can tell you that 29 years ago today I was a very, very proud member of the class of 1977.
“I tell you this story for three reasons. First, we live in America; a land of hope, opportunity and freedom and you can be whatever you want to be. My second point: hard work, perseverance will take you as far as you want to go. Xavier has prepared all of you very well. I remember when I was out of Xavier, about ten years ago, I realized what I learned here: how to use my brain, how to think rationally, and how to use my heart and my conscience to guide me in my work. And so, if you’re willing to work hard, if you’re willing to persevere, here in America, you can be all that you want to be. And my last point is this: no one who succeeds in life does it alone. There are people along the way - your family, your friends, and yes, there may be a Bill Smith in your life who gave you a break, who gave you a chance, who gave you an idea, who inspired you to be more than you ever thought you could be. God bless you and congratulations.”