Meet Joe Hoya

By:
03/15/2007

“What are you going to call the story? How about, ‘Who is Fritz Brogan?’ People on campus sometimes wonder who I am—I look like I’m 40.”

Francis ‘Fritz’ Brogan III (CAS ’07) does not look 40. He looks a youthful 30. Brogan is 22, but has an older face and thinning hair, but before you notice Fritz’s age, you register how big Fritz is—6 feet 6 inches, 275 pounds, a looming figure. And as you’re noticing how big he is, his hand—adorned with a half-dollar sized monogram ring—is engulfing yours in a strangely loose shake, gripping, grinning and greeting.

When he graduates this spring, Brogan will leave behind something of a legacy at Georgetown, in part because he is himself something of a legacy—a third-generation Hoya, with numerous family members represented among alumni—and in part because he has touched nearly every part of Georgetown, in ways good and ill, during his four years here. Brogan is Joe Hoya personified—Catholic, wealthy, conservative, political and fratty—but also dauntingly ambitious, hard working and charming, even to those who wouldn’t normally cotton to his type. Like it or not, he is Georgetown, what it has been, and what it can be.

As a first-year student four years ago, Brogan walked into his Problem of God class and found himself bewildered. Already conservative, though not as staunchly Catholic as he would become, Brogan had somehow enrolled in a Problem of God course taught by Lauve Steenhuisen, a liberal Professor who focused her course on feminist theology. He found himself the only conservative in the class.

“He makes an instant, big impact. Big personality. Big opinions,” Steenhuisen recalled, noting his ability to persuade others of his views—and that he takes theirs seriously. “When it appears as if the whole class is going with the liberal position, Fritz is gifted in his ability to present controversial points of view charmingly.”

Over the course of that class and two others, Steenhuisen and Brogan bonded. He would eventually declare a double-major in Theology and Government, and credit his studies with strengthening his faith—even sounding, as he often does, like an admissions brochure.

“Georgetown is really great about making you defend your beliefs,” Brogan said.

Steenhuisen hasn’t seen Brogan caught flat-footed. She recalls teaching him in another class, when he was scheduled to deliver a small-group presentation on gender segregation. Waiting outside the inner door of a Maguire classroom, Brogan stopped his professor from entering the door, explaining that women were required to walk around to Dalgren Quad, enter there, and sit in the back of the room. Nonplussed, Steenhuisen told Brogan she got the point of his lesson, but she was the professor, and she was going in the front door. Brogan refused. Eventually, Steenhuisen walked around the building, and sat in the back.

“Have I ever seen Fritz Brogan back down? No, not even when appropriate,” she said.

The Mentor: Professor Lauve Steenhuisen challenged Brogan to articulate his faith after facing off with him in her Problem of God class.
Courtesy Lauve Steenhuisen

PARTY BUSINESS

Brogan doesn’t like to sit still. Meeting him in a coffee shop, he skips the beverage—he has enough energy already. His days start early—often around 6:00 a.m.—and end late, as he tackles his many commitments. As a freshman, he and some friends formed a company, Georgetown’s Hottest Parties—now Sunset Point Management—that handled event promotion for clubs, particularly Lulu’s, where Fritz and company organized nearly 40 events. The club closed last year, sending Sunset Point into dormancy, but in its hey-day the business was known for its raucous parties.

Brogan is also the founder and out-going co-Chair of the Georgetown Events Committee, an organization dedicated organizing events, mainly fundraisers, for Georgetown students and alums. Its original plan in 2005 was to restart the Homecoming Formal, a way for alumni to come home, enjoy themselves, and raise money for charity. Plus, Brogan notes, Georgetown has “non-existent” fundraising among young alumni—why not remind them of their college days?

“We’re trying to bring tradition back to Georgetown,” Brogan said.

The inaugural GEC homecoming formal was, bluntly, a mess. Nearly 700 attendees arrived at the exclusive City Tavern Club when only 300 to 400 were expected. Without enough security, the open-bar and under-age drinking soon got out of hand—the Chimes refused to perform when they saw the wild crowd—and led to $6,500 worth of property damage. Brogan and his compatriots paid the damages, and still raised $10,000 for Georgetown’s Lombardi Cancer Center. Worse for Brogan, at the time he was working for the President of the City Tavern Club, D.C. lobbyist Jeffrey Kimmel, creating an awkward personal situation.

Uncharacteristically, Borgan maintained a low profile following the event, but in 2006, Brogan and his gang were more prepared.

“We just sit back and let the story take its course, and planned to do a better job this year,” said John Arnold (MSB ’07), who has worked with Brogan in his various ventures—he describes Arnold as his “right-hand man”—since they became friends as freshmen. “We really cut down on underage drinking, and made sure we hired about 12 D.C. cops to be there at the door. The example we set this year was the reaction to last year.”

The increased security led to the arrest of several students for using fake identification, which Brogan called a deterrent for future misbehavior. Two new chairs of the GEC have already been selected for next year.

“It’s really important that it goes on without me. I don’t want it to be ‘Fritz’s event.’ My greatest accomplishment might be, God Bless, if my son or daughter comes to Georgetown, and they go to the homecoming formal, and they can think 30 years ago, 40 years ago, their father helped start that. I think it will live on forever—I hope it will,” Brogan said.

WHAT’S A HOYA?

In his sophomore year, Brogan, a tackle on the football team, decided to give up the sport to focus on his other commitment: Georgetown.

“There’s a million people who are smarter than I am, but I like to act,” Brogan said.

He joined a laundry list of committees, beginning with two years on the Georgetown University Honor Council, and eventually becoming a student representative to the Georgetown Athletic Advisory Board, the Georgetown College Executive Committee, and perhaps most interestingly, the Georgetown College Admissions Committee.

Senior Associate Dean Hugh Cloke, who has been at Georgetown as a Professor and administrator since 1973, worked with Brogan on the Honor Council and on the admissions committee this year.

“In a board you get to talk pretty frankly, in a way you’re functioning as an equal. It is an unusual way to see a student out of costume,” Cloke said, calling Brogan “generous.”

“You’re not going to get a bill at the end of the day from Fritz.”

Georgetown is unique among top universities in employing both faculty members and students on its admissions selections committees, according to Dean of Admissions Charles Deacon; many universities use faculty or admissions officers alone. For the College, the committee breaks down into four groups to consider students who are on the bubble for admissions—those who aren’t in either the top percentage, who are automatically accepted, or the bottom percentage, who are automatically denied. Each sub-committee reads about 40 files a week—an enormous time commitment for students and faculty alike—then discusses and rates them.

“[Brogan]’s very suspicious of liberal students,” Cloke jokes. “We laugh and say we’ll send them to Father Schall’s class.”

The committees admit approximately half of Georgetown’s student body, according to Deacon and Cloke. Everyone involved in the process is concerned with “building a class,” creating the identity of Georgetown’s student body. Deacon and Cloke worry about the increasing affluence of Georgetown students, even as they take pride in the increasing quality of the student body and the University’s selectivity. Stressing a commitment to finding a broader range of students, including a focus on first-generation college attendees, both men also bemoan the University’s inability to provide competitive financial aid offers even to desirable applicants.

“The student body we end up admitting is no one’s first choice,” Cloke said.

Even as Deacon tries to create a balanced student body, he is bluntly realistic about the need to admit legacy students, who make up about 10 percent of the school’s population, and whose families can benefit the school financially.

“Children of alumni get a second consideration to recognize the family tie,” he said. “It is beneficial from the fundraising point of view.”

LEGACY OR IDENTITY?

Which makes Fritz Brogan, a legacy student whose goal, and whose family’s goal, seems to be creating a Georgetown where non-legacy students have a better chance of admission, more interesting. Brogan is, predictably enough, the Chair of the Senior Class Gift Committee. The class of 2006 collected $55,000 with 33 percent participation. Brogan is gunning for 100 percent participation, and, he confides, $100,000, which he admits he’s unlikely to raise. His goal is to put the money towards a scholarship, not a structural improvement like the new Reiss patio, which was funded by last year’s gift.

Brogan is highly conscious of Georgetown’s identity and history, in part because it is his family’s as well. His football Varsity Letter hangs on the wall of his spacious Foggy Bottom apartment below his grandfather’s football Varsity Letter from 1928. His parents had their first date in the Tombs, his father won the John Carroll alumni award in 1991 and chairs the award committee today. He can tell stories about former Georgetown President Father Timothy Healy visiting the Brogan home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and joking with his then-five year-old sister about when she would attend Georgetown (not until law school, it turned out).

Fritz can expound on Georgetown’s rise to national prominence in the late 70s and early 80s, during Healy’s presidency and the John Thompson Jr. basketball era. And if you ask him about his initials, imprinted on monograms scattered on his clothing or around his apartment, he’ll shrug and say, “It’s my grandfather’s name. He went here, too.”

Though he’ll graduate in the spring, Brogan won’t be leaving Georgetown behind. He has applied to Georgetown Law, and will be working, at least for the summer, as the managing partner in the Deck, an outdoor bar on Wisconsin Ave. He’s also interested in becoming the chair of his alumni class. He’ll be shaping Georgetown for years to come. Whether his view of Georgetown’s identity jibes with the student body’s is a different question. Last spring, the Hoya ran a picture of two students of the same sex kissing on their front page. Brogan responded with a letter to the editor published in the next issue, writing in part, “This picture has no newsworthy purpose. While I firmly believe in diversity and the right of people to express their sexual identity, I do not think that flaunting homosexual activity is good for dialogue between students at Georgetown.

“The only thing that this picture can generate is backlash and bigotry. I have friends at Georgetown who are gay and while I disagree strongly with their choice of lifestyle, I respect their choices. This picture makes a mockery of our school’s tradition.”

Other readers wrote in criticizing Brogan’s position, including Nick Sementelli (SFS ‘09), who wrote, “Brogan prefaces his criticism by trying to mask his intolerance, claiming that he firmly believes in ‘the right of people to express their sexual identity.’ If that means only as long as they stay quiet and in the background of society or no one else sees, then maybe he’s right. But if the Georgetown community wants to promote a campus of real diversity, equality and tolerance, then those like Brogan will need to recognize the insufficiency of that definition.”

A Counterpoint: Nick Sementelli (SFS ‘09) challenged Brogan’s public statements about homosexual students and diversity at Georgetown.
Michael Keller

Today, Sementelli, a Hoya Blue board member who came to Georgetown from a Jesuit high school in Texas, still believes Brogan’s comments were inappropriate.

“Georgetown is a place where it is appropriate to celebrate the various identities of people on campus and not limit what a Georgetown student is or should be,” he said.

Fritz ostensibly agrees with this sentiment—“We do want to continue to be a diverse school. We don’t want to be the small Catholic school we once were. On the other hand, we can’t just abandon our Jesuit Catholic beliefs off the railings. How do you balance that out?” For Brogan, what is the difference between expressing and flaunting your identity? His struggle to find that answer mirrors that of Georgetown as an institution trying to maintain its Catholic identity as a modern research university.

“It can be difficult sometimes,” Sementelli said. “It can feel at Georgetown that everyone comes from the same mold, [but] knowing students at Pride who are sexual minorities … They kind of see the Joe or Jane Hoya, and they’re not sure if they can be comfortable around them.”

“He could have let that slide,” Steenhuisen said of Brogan’s response to the story. “He’s willing to go out on a limb—that’s what leaders do, and they know they’re going to get shot at.”

THE ELECT

Fritz is unabashed about his goal of entering electoral politics—more than once he’ll mention that something he says might “cost him votes later.” Throughout his life, he has worked for politicians, often the most controversial ones. Beginning in 2000 as a 16-year-old Florida Youth Coordinator for then-Governor George W. Bush’s Presidential campaign, he later interned for now-jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was a partner in the same law firm as Brogan’s father, albeit in a different practice. Brogan briefly worked as Deputy Political Director for disgraced Congressman Mark Foley’s 2004 Senate campaign before working as Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s driver. He started a political consulting company when he was 17 and won the rising star award from Campaigns and Elections magazine. More recently, former New York Mayor Rudy Guliani’s 2008 Presidential campaign interviewed him for a job.

Spending all that time around politicians has taught Brogan numerous skills. He is on-message—sometimes it seems like he is speaking in sound bites—and Brogan is, his friends say, ever-ready with someone’s name and a handshake. His Rolodex, he says, has thousands of names. Even when asked tough questions—about his feelings on homosexuality, or the drinking at his parties—he has an answer at the ready. For instance, Fritz is likely a member of the Stewards, one of Georgetown’s secret societies. But ask him about it, and his eyes stare off for a moment before he utters the formula, “I am not a member of a secret society. But I support any group dedicated to helping Georgetown.”

Despite all this, Brogan is more self-aware than his critics give him credit for. Discussing his letter to the Hoya, he notes that “[the Hoya was] trying to provoke someone like me into writing an editorial … some angry Catholic out there.” He still wrote in, though.

Friends describe Fritz as charismatic, generous, confident, even humble—which he is, in a strange way, despite all his accomplishments—even conceding his ego and his tendency to wade into controversy. Cloke said that Fritz reminded him of Father Healy, who made Georgetown the national university it is today.

“Tim was like Fritz—he was big. He had a big ego, he was willful and rambunctious,” Cloke said. “He was a leader and sometimes leaders drag institutions along with them.”

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Tim Fernholz


6 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Meet Joe Hoya”

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