Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Word Magnate To Hotel Magnate, Come In

If you knew Sr. Mary Agnetis, you are aware that she was born with a golden tongue to say nothing of a golden pen.  One might also think she had more than a passing brush with the Blarney Stone.  Today blogger will fulfill a promise made months ago that you would get a little peek at her correspondence with Conrad Hilton.  Chosen for this entry is part of her very first letter to the storied magnate, March 1, 1955, and his response. 

My dear Mr. Hilton,

      How do you do, Mr. Hilton.  It’s nice seeing you personally in your own office in the Town House.  My name is Sister Mary Agnes [Sister’s nom de plume when writing to Hilton], a teacher of teenage girls in Covington, Kentucky.  I’ve met you on two different occasions, Mr. Hilton: the first time, on Monday, September 26, when you met your admirers with your kindly satisfied Hiltonian Smile from the cover of Newsweek—Texas to Instanbul, The World’s No. 1 host.  What a magnificent record behind that heartwarming title…  Mr. Hilton, Do you have time to reminisce a bit?  Do take the time.  It’s relaxing.  And God knows you need a little relaxation.  Remember the day you strode into the lobby of the Mobly Hotel in Cisco, Texas?  How men, haggard with strain were pounding on the reservation desk demanding rooms with none to be had?  How someone said you, ‘No use waiting around here, Mister, there just won’t be any room’?  You saw the problem, Mr. Hilton, found the solution and solved it admirably.”

Well, we can see where she was going with this, and perhaps he did too.  Sister went on for two plus more pages describing the situation/condition at Fifth Street.  Now for a glimpse at Hilton’s reply dated March 9, 1955.

Dear Sister Mary Agnes:

I received your very interesting letter of March 1st and I assure you that I did not look around for the wastebasket when I read your letter.  As a matter of fact, I have read it several times and I congratulate you on your talent.  I think that I would be willing to employ you, either as a salesman or a writer.

He went on to tell her that her request will be honored (no specifics, of course) but not at the moment.  He enumerated some of the building projects that he had done or was in the process of funding for other religious communities of women, besides assisting people across the world.  Not a day passed when he did not get a request for monetary assistance.  She was not to think of his letter as a refusal, but as indication of a delay.  In the end, Conrad Hilton responded to Agnesian charm with a very generous one third of the total price tag on the Hilton Drive construction of 1962-63.  Naming the driveway to the building is not only the least that the academy could have done, but stands as a metaphor—we couldn’t have gotten to the new building when we did without Conrad Hilton’s generosity.

It is to be noted that this correspondence was no momentary phase that lasted only as long as was necessary.  It endured for ten years and fills two large loose-leaf binders, one of the many treasures in Notre Dame Academy’s Archives.