03/27/2006 07:28 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When Good Things Happen To Good Colleges

While this post is not about sports, a bit of related sports news is necessary to introduce this subject. On Sunday, unheralded and largely unknown George Mason University of Fairfax, Va., upset Connecticut to gain entry into the NCAA Final Four Men's College Basketball Championships.

This news marks the first time many have heard of George Mason University. But I have known about George Mason for some 20 years.

No, I didn't attend the school with the parklike campus. But someone I knew and loved did.

Anicia was 35 and out of college for several years. She wanted to be a poet, but her B.A. eight years earlier did not include any specific creative writing courses. Product of a working class family, she was no trust fund princess. She wrote on the side for a literary journal now and then, but had to take mundane office jobs in order to pay her bills. She lacked the prescribed grad school admissions pedigree.

But almost from the first time we met, in late 1985, she said she wanted to go to graduate school and study creative writing. Every season brought a pile of rejected applications. She would cry, then toughen it out and go back to work the next morning.

Sometime during that cycle, her body went awry. Hysterectomy, and "we think we got it all."

On a very good day, Anicia managed to hear back from a Professor at George Mason. He would be willing to go to bat for her and endorse a scholarship application. So, after about 20 rejections, she found an academic home.

I visited her that first semester. She found fellowship with other students, a warm and caring faculty advisor, a support system that enabled her to work in the afternoons following classes in the early morning, and radiation treatments around lunchtime.

I remember walking with Anicia on George Mason's parklike footpaths, talking to her about what the next two years were going to be like for her, and the personal plans we might pursue as a couple during and after that period.

The Monday morning after that Sunday evening walk through paths dappled by the full moon, she dropped me off at Union Station in Washington, D.C.

Two weeks later came the call. "It" had come back. The kind Professor at George Mason told her "you get better, and we'll be waiting for you."

She did not get better. George Mason and the world lost a poet. I lost someone who was poetry. Never cared to see the movie "Love Story," for I lived it.

Of course it is a big leap from poetry and ravages I have just described to a win on the basketball court. For that matter, Anicia was not a sports fan. A peaceful Quaker, she regarded competitive sports as frivolity at best, the sublimation of male war-like aggression at worst.

But I have held a fond place in my heart for George Mason University ever since then. This was the school that made it possible for someone I loved to start recognizing their win. I have to figure this new-found publicity will help the endowment of this strong academic college, and help its graduates in terms of that all-important name recognition factor.

I'm rooting for George Mason University to go all the way and win the NCAA Men's hoops.

And somehow, somewhere, even non-sports fans like Anicia must be rooting for them, too.