When Derek Jeter, one of the New York Yankees’ all-time greats, announced in February that he would retire after this season, I couldn’t shake one question:

What, exactly, is the game of baseball without Derek Jeter?

I find myself thinking these days along similar lines about Dave Nimmer, who is nearing the end of his time at the University of St. Thomas. For those of you unfamiliar with “Nim,” he is the voice of those UST videos and the writer of those blogs in The Scroll. He is an avid supporter of ThreeSixty Journalism, a nonprofit on campus that teaches high school students about journalism. I could talk all day about Nim’s achievements and influence in the world of journalism – former newspaper reporter and editor at the Minneapolis Star, former reporter and associate news director at WCCO-TV, former assistant professor of journalism at St. Thomas for more than a decade – but that’s not my goal.

Life is so much more than a career and awards. More important, I believe, are the people with whom you develop a relationship along the way. My relationship with Nimmer, a man 48 years my senior, has been one of the great blessings of my life.

What, exactly, is the University of St. Thomas without Dave Nimmer?

I met Nim during my junior year at St. Thomas when I applied for a summer job as a video editor at ThreeSixty. I had less experience than other candidates when I “interviewed” with Nim for the job, so he hired someone else.

The end. Right?

Except, Nim didn’t quit on me. He introduced me to ThreeSixty executive director Lynda McDonnell, who hired me in a different capacity, and to St. Thomas videographer Brad Jacobsen, who brought me on as a video production assistant.

More doors opened for me in the next year than I could have predicted. Nim built the foundation. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. I am sure of it.

Nim once wrote that I give more to him than he can give to me. That can’t be true. I worked next to Brad and Dave as they traversed campus, the metro area and greater Minnesota to shoot video projects. As an aspiring journalist, I picked up more watching the two of them work than I could have anywhere else on campus. If you have seen Nimmer interview someone, then you know what I mean: He has this magical ability to get people to talk. In the midst of a 10-minute conversation, he makes you feel both special and important.

But as a young man, I have learned from Dave more about life than about journalism. Our conversations have spanned everything from the human condition, for which Nim has an uncanny sense of empathy, to our loved ones and our futures. He has showed me in subtle ways what it means to be a compassionate man in this world, to become a lifelong learner, to relate to other people.

I would be lying if I said I have never doubted myself and my journalistic career. As a mentor, Dave always has believed in me – and told me as much – even at times when I fail to believe in myself. He’s willing to help me along the way. He cares when he doesn’t have to.

That’s just one of many reasons why it’s so difficult for me to imagine St. Thomas without Nimmer tucked away in his OEC basement office, reclined in his chair while he shoots the breeze on the phone. Or walking the halls of campus, newspaper in hand, on his way to grab a bite to eat. Or using “How ya doin?” for a conversation starter as he offers up a chair. Or perching on a stool next to Brad’s camera, keeping the person across from the lens calm and loose before Brad hits “record.”

Dave knows the time is approaching for him to move on to the next step in his journey. But the question remains: What, exactly, is the University of St. Thomas without Dave Nimmer?

I don’t know. Like Derek Jeter and baseball, I know I won’t be able to ever separate the two.

9 Responses

  1. Bernard Brady

    I wish I could quote my favorite lines from Nimmer here but …

    He has the double gift (whether in hallway conversations or in his narrations of videos) for finding the sublime in the ordinary and, of course, for talking about it — in the hopes of inviting the listener to hold a little bit of that beauty in his or her life.

  2. Jared Morris '93

    Godspeed, Nim.

    Remembering your long-ago performance review with John Nemo Sr. in Aquinas Hall, in which the entire time was discussing poetry.

    Hope Yeats was among them: “And say my glory was that I had such friends.”

  3. Dede Hering

    I agree with all that has been said! I enjoyed Nim at ‘CCO. I always enjoy his narration on videos here on campus but my best memory is the Commencement speech he delivered; I was blown away. UST should contract with him to do the Commencement speech to EVERY graduating class. The message, in a style only Nim can pull off, reminded our students to be good citizens and encouraged them to give back to those people and institutions who got them where they are. I am sure those that graduated that year will remember that speech forever. I hope the fish will biting for you Nim! Happy Trails.

  4. Carol Bruess

    Simply: Nim rocks. He brightens the day of every person he encounters.

    Thanks, Miles, for taking the time to shine the light on the wise and wildly empathic soul of Nim — someone I like to call the model human communicator. As Ken points out, he knows precisely when and how to tell, listen, laugh, pray, and give you the honest (insert word only Nim can get away with in almost any context) truth.

    We love you Dave Nimmer!

  5. Ken Goodpaster

    Miles has offered a fitting tribute to an extraordinary journalist, teacher, mentor, and friend.
    Dave Nimmer has a special gift for caring and sharing, which is no doubt the reason so many regard him as important in their lives: faculty colleagues, students, professional journalists, and people from other walks of life. “It’s a spiritual journey,” he will tell you (as he has told me), “and it matters who you choose to accompany you on that journey.” Among many others, I feel blessed to be traveling the journey with Nim. It’s never dull when you are accompanied by a master story teller who laughs, prays, and gets serious at all the right times.
    Ken Goodpaster

  6. Helen Hunter

    Miles, Dave wouldn’t know me from a hole in the wall, but I can tell you that over the years (including his years at WCCO and with the Star Tribune), I admired his ability to tell a story — and his unique voice. I was thrilled when he came to St. Thomas and he has not disappointed me! I can’t imagine our videos without his story telling ability. Dave — I will miss you (but I hope you come back often). And Miles — you have learned well from the Master Teacher!

  7. Mary Lou Wolsey

    Agreed! Nim is a fixture and an institution at this point and things won’t be the same without him around at St. Thomas. I remember very well the early days when his office in the “then just Journalism” department was across from mine….and was the same one which Don Shelby and other local news caster celebreties had shared on the southeast side of the 3rd floor of OEC.

    Dave was feeling his way into academia and I was IMPRESSED. I’d loved watching him on ‘CCO and was a bit star-struck. But he wowed me when he came to chat about a student we shared. We quickly agreed that she was bright and wonderful and he felt comfortable in his assessment after our chat.

    It was a gift and a pleasure for me to have known him all those years until I retired and he switched jobs and moved to the LL of OEC.

    What a marvelous journalist…true to his profession and to himself,

    I’ve always loved his wonderful sense of humor, sardonic and best delivered with his “corny country” but wonderful dialectal brand of American English.

    Do hope he continues occasionally (like Barbara Walters says she will) to offer his thoughts to us via this medium or any other he might choose.

  8. Lee

    You see, though, Nim will always remain at UST. He has invested his heart and soul into so many of us, fully intending, I believe, for us to carry it forward. It falls to us to be good stewards of the skills he teaches us – to be kind, to be forgiving, to hear and really listen. To show everyone we come into contact with the kind of heart that Dave has and has cultivated in us. I also benefit from having Nim as a mentor, and I also wouldn’t be where I am without him. There are lots of us, I think, and I think we’ll carry it forward. It’ll be different, but all the more reason to mentor those around us towards that grateful heart.

  9. Tom King

    If there’s a better story-teller than Dave Nimmer, I have yet to hear or read him.

    Nimmer has one of those gravelly voices that came from digging up stories that readers love to read, and viewers love to hear. He started as an ink-stained wretch and now does voice-overs to stories you can’t forget.

    In today’s 10 second social media sound bites, we lose the story and the pathos that goes with it. You can hardly Tweet a thought, let alone a story. Look and listen, folks, at what you are missing.

    Nim can deliver a story as cleanly and perfectly as Jeter can turn a double play. Sure you can watch the ESPN highlights of the day, but you’d miss the context and the drama.

    Keep telling the stories, Dave! If you tell them, we will listen!