By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — When a group of Rockhurst University alumni, prominent in the St. Louis business community, wanted to celebrate their alma mater’s identity and raise its profile, they consulted Salesian Father Tom Curran, president of Kansas City’s Jesuit university. Father Curran said the consensus was to host an event to honor someone from St. Louis, who reflects the ideals of Ignatian spirituality and of the Jesuit apostolate, Rockhurst.
Ignatian spirituality centers on living and doing all things Ad majorem Dei glorian, for the greater glory of God, Father Curran explained. An ideal based on the root word majorem is Magis, seeking the greater good, excellence. The award was named the Magis Award, and as its first recipient, the university’s long-time soccer coach and accounting professor, Tony Tocco, PhD.
Magis is more, in quality not quantity, Father Curran said. “It’s giving of yourself, sharing time with others. Tony Tocco is a worthy recipient of this award on so many levels. We are not giving glory to Tony, but honoring how Tony gives glory to God.”
Dr. Tocco, a native of St. Louis, graduated from Jesuit-run St. Louis University in 1967 with a degree in Accounting. He recalled that he was unsure what he wanted to major in as a freshman at SLU, so he asked a friend what he was going into. “He said, ‘Accounting,’ explaining it involved basic Math (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) no trig, and sounded like fun. I liked Math. So I decided to major in accounting, and I’ve never regretted it.”
He went on to earn his Master’s and later his Doctorate in Accounting from SLU. While attending SLU, Tocco played on the only undefeated and untied soccer team in the school’s history in 1964 as well as pitching in the 1965 College Baseball World Series.
He began teaching accounting at Rockhurst in 1970, and quickly found he trusted and relied on the advice and experiences of several faculty members, including Jesuit Fathers Joe Freeman (Philosophy), Tom Denzer (Economics) and Lou Oldani (English), and lay faculty members like Harry Kies (History), Bryce Jones (economics) and Tom Lyon (finance). “I’ve had a lot of great mentors and teachers here at Rockhurst,” Dr. Tocco said. “I could go to them for professional and for personal counseling. Especially Father Denzer and Bryce Jones, they were so organized and knew exactly what they were going to accomplish each day in each class. They would meet with students before and after classes to help them get through. They were student-oriented. Father Freeman was a special, good friend. The faculty members who mentored and taught me were and are good role models, helping me both professionally and personally live the Jesuit ideals. They inspired me to want to do more, to emulate them and become a better teacher.”
“Jesuit philosophy sees good in all things,” Tocco said. “Magis takes it one step further. It’s service to all, little, simple things done for others. Father Curran and everyone here at Rockhurst, we want Magis to become an epidemic. Paying it forward, you do something for me and I do something for another person. Magis is a gift that keeps on giving, a connection between so many individuals who do things for others without looking for repayment.” Any form of service to others is good, he continued. “It’s an awareness of being willing to help, it’s non-judgmental, no matter how much or how little is needed.” Dr. Tocco said that service hours are required at Catholic high schools and colleges including St. Louis University and Rockhurst University, and “I hope it continues.”
Ninety nine percent of Magis is time, he said, the most valuable asset a person has and one that is long remembered.
After 42 years of teaching and 41 years coaching men’s soccer at Rockhurst, there are many laurels Dr. Tocco could rest on – Full-time professor, now Professor Emeritus, head of the Accounting Department, a past George and Gladys Miller Chair in business administration, and a former academic chair of Rockhurst’s Executive Fellows MBA program. He is also an accounting and financial consultant with expertise in the mergers and acquisitions of small and medium-sized area firms, appearing often on TV news broadcasts offering his expert opinions on local and national financial stories.
“I’ve followed the growth and changes of Sprint, YRC (formerly Yellow Freight), Cerner and DST,” he said. “I do it for a lot of reasons: I still teach one class each semester and this gives me access to information I can share with the students; examples they can relate to. I’m also a bit of an investor and so I follow those companies on a personal level. Is their stock a good buy?”
His soccer coaching success of 618 career wins is second only to Jay Martin of Ohio Wesleyan who had 621 wins as of the close of the 2012 season. Dr. Tocco was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2007.
Dr. Tocco and his wife Phyllis live in Roeland Park, Kan., and attend St. Agnes Catholic Church. They have four children, Amy (29), Natalie (27), Leonard (25) and Charlie (23).
The crystal Magis Award was presented to Dr. Tocco at a reception in St. Charles, Mo., on Jan. 12.
“The alumni group in St. Louis is working to establish a Magis Scholarship that will help keep Rockhurst’s profile high, honor someone and give greater glory to God,” Father Curran said. “Dr. Tocco’s award will help jump start the scholarship and be a legacy to benefit others.” Magis, a gift that keeps on giving.