by Alexandra Huzyk ’20
If you do not already know Tom Nee ‘18 personally, there is a great chance you have heard his name mentioned around campus. Many people might recognize Nee as a friendly face behind the counter of McPhail’s, or as a Peer Ministry coordinator. However, his on-campus involvement does not stop there. Nee also serves on the executive board for the Providence College chapter of Habitat for Humanity as a coordinator for this year’s NOLA Immersion Trip, and plays guitar in the 10:30 p.m. Mass ensemble.
As people continued to stop and say hello to Nee throughout our interview, the extent of his social circle became increasingly obvious—a reflection of his involvement and outgoing personality. So, you can imagine my surprise when Nee said he “was unbelievably shy and uninvolved in high school.”
“Something was calling me. The Catholic identity made it feel more like home,” Nee said, recalling his decision to attend Providence College. Nee entered his freshman year undeclared, with the intention of becoming a business major. However, Nee said, “I remember sitting in Civ Seminar, talking about Paradise Lost, and discussing a lot about the theological implications of salvation and suffering,” and truly enjoying it. His love for these deep discussions, and their centrality to his faith, made it clear to him that theology was his calling.
Faith continues to play an integral role in Nee’s life, especially within his involvement in Campus Ministry. “Every position we hold is a lot more than just a resume builder,” Nee said. “Campus Ministry has allowed me to grow in my faith and grow in community with others.” As a participant in the pilot program of Peer Ministry, Nee has seen the program grow from a small group of people to around 300 students. Nee also plays the guitar during the weekly 10:30 p.m. Mass. He said, “I’m in love with folk music, and know how to play the guitar, banjo, and mandolin.” During Mass, Nee says, “looking out and seeing a packed house of college students” is a beautiful portrayal of “faith being active in our lives, which you don’t get in a lot of other schools.”
“Tom is very dedicated to everything he does,” says Keith Lee ’18, president of Campus Ministry and a friend of Nee. “He’s attuned to how other people are feeling and making sure that they are supported and cared for, which plays a big part in Campus Ministry.”
Nee chose to study abroad in Rome the fall semester of his junior year, where he “lived down the street from the Vatican, and across from the Basilica.” He admited, “I was at a weird place in my life,” at the beginning of his study-abroad experience, “feeling a little unfulfilled.” Through his travels, Nee realized, “the Church is important, but what it brings to you, and what you bring to the Church, is equally as important.”
While describing his travels, Nee spoke of Poland—where his experience at Auschwitz “was sad but powerful”—and Athens—where he climbed the second tallest peak of Mount Olympus with a friend he has known since preschool. Before returning to the U.S., Nee went to the Vatican to get some items for his family members blessed. It was here that he met the Pope, who smiled at him from a mere shoulder’s distance away. “It made me realize how active the Church is in the world and in myself,” says Nee. Upon returning home, Nee recalls “embracing all of my [his] friends” and “remembering what a great community I’m [he’s] part of.”
“Tom Nee is an amazing guy, he’s like a brother to me. He’s helped me grow in my faith and I’ve learned to love better because of him,” says Kelsey Doyle ‘19, a McPhail’s employee. As I asked the employees about their experiences working with Nee, they all gave positive comments. Tricia Swanson ’18G, another McPhail’s employee, said, “You can’t help but smile when you hear Tom’s name. People request to work with him, and he’s always willing to help out.”
When asked what was one thing he wanted to accomplish before graduating, Nee jokingly responded, “Have a party in the tunnels” or “Make the half-court shot at a basketball game.”
“At the end of the day, I want to love what I do,” said Nee. After graduation, he plans to pursue a master’s in theology and remain involved in ministry.