Gordon believed he could help the Indians and he was anxious to
get on with his education. Although he loved the old Indian traditions,
he knew their way of life could not survive in the modern world.
If he could help them through his ministry, he was ready to devote
his life to it.
In the spring of 1903, he wrote a letter to the Provincial Seminary
of St. Francis, St. Francis, Wisconsin. On March 22, he received
Mr. Dear Philip Gordon,
I sent you our catalog lately, which contains all necessary information
concerning our institution. I also made inquires about you and
am glad to say that you have been well recommended although doubts
have been expressed concerning you vocation to the holy priesthood.
(Underscoring by Father Gordon.)
You did not mention anything concerning this point, so I suppose
you only wish to obtain a good secular or business education.
Still, if you have the intention and strong desire for the priesthood,
you might try and come here but as we have no funds you would
have to pay the whole amount of our tuition at least the first
year. If you then give good satisfaction you might obtain some
help from the "St. Francis League for indigent students."
the meantime, I remain,
Philip had been disturbed about the conditions facing the Indians,
but now he felt his first awareness of racial discrimination against
him personally as he read into the letter bias against him. He was
really to learn about segregation later when he traveled in the
South. His dark skin cause him to be regulated to the Negro section.
At one time he tried to secure a hotel room and there was none available.
When it was learned that he was an American Indian and not a Negro
the hotel suddenly found a room, but Father Gordon said, "No thanks."
At any rate, Phil did not have enough money to pay the tuition at
St. Francis Seminary, so he worked to earn enough to enter St. Thomas
Military College in St. Paul.
college days were some of the happiest and most exciting of his
life. He was popular and perfectly adjusted, with reputation of
being "rather a good student, exemplary in conduct."
He was not only a good student but he excelled in sports. He earned
more letters in athletics than any student. He played football all
through his college years. The roster of the squad in his first
year could have been that of the 'Fighting Irish.' The list contained:
Harrington, O'Hara, Cullen, Sherran, O'Shaughnessy, McGonigal, McHale,
McDermott, Fitzgerald, Duggan, Kafferty, Carlin, Luedtke, Maloney,
Dooley, Hoppenyan, Peschges, Cavanaugh, Dowd, Lang, Culleton, Coleman,
Healy, Dougherty - and Gordon. Some of these became priest and at
least one, a bishop. The team was quite impressive in there wide-stripped,
long-sleeved, turtle necked jerseys, knee pants, and heavy knee
Phil's name appeared often in the St. Thomas Collegian. The April
1905 edition stated, "Basketball was first introduced at St. Thomas
in 1904. Philip Gordon was a member of that team. Whether at guard
or forward, he played a brilliant game with that unassuming manner
of his which quickly wins the spectators. Many a time when our basket
was in danger, Gordon reversed the situation like a flash, by driving
the ball with his 'terrible left' straight and sure to O'Keefe at
the other end of the gym.
In November 1905, "Gordon played left end on the football team.
He played strong defensive games."
In February 1906, "Gordon received the letter 'S.T.' as a qualified
member of the football team. He was manager of the baseball team.
Played left end on the football team - a fast and heady game against
the North Dakota Aggies. In basketball, Gordon, left guard, was
captain of the team."
May of that year, "The basketball team won the pennant in the City
League. It was captained by Gordon who played an excellent game
throughout the winter and made an ideal leader. He was very aggressive
and worked hard during any game until the whistle sounded."
And in December 1906, "Gordon was the choice of many critics for
an end position on the All Star Collegiate team."
His athletic career continued in 1907, along with other activities.
In May the Collegian noted, "Gordon was one of five veterans in
basketball. He was on the Committee of the Temperance Society. In
the Military Department he was captain of Company C."
During this year he was saddened by the death of his grandfather,
Anton Gordon, at the age of 95 who was buried in the cemetery overlooking
the river on which he had established his trading post.
Philip's gift of oratory was showing up now in college. In February
1908, the Collegian states, "The annual Thanksgiving entertainment
was given under the auspices of the Senior Literary Society, Gordon
gave an oration on Thanksgiving. As a left guard in basketball,
Phil is energetic and always alert. His excellent guarding prevented
opponents from shooting baskets."
In his graduation year, 1908, he was being recognized for his eloquence,
probably inherited from the tribal orators in his ancestry. The
Collegian reported: "In June, he was in the play, 'The Toastmaster.'
The character of Tower Fairfax was interpreted in a masterful fashion
by Philip Gordon. His smooth eloquent speech and intellectual ways
took well with the audiences, by whom he was frequented applauded."
the Elocution Class final contest, Gordon gave Lew Wallace's 'The
was graduated from the College Department in 1908, receiving a gold
medal for general excellence. He received the Latin Special Merit
award, first distinction in Greek and in English."
Phil spent his summer vacations at his parent's farm near Clear
Lake in Sherburne County, Minnesota, where they had moved shortly
after he entered St. Thomas. He played bush league baseball there.
One of his teammates was Harold Knutson, who later became a Congressman.
The vigorous program of sports at the college helped to give Philip
the constitution necessary to withstand the dread tuberculosis which
had already clamed three of his brothers and a sister.
During his years at St. Thomas his determination to become a priest
was strengthened. He loved to study and he got the foundation there
in classics. He devoted much time to reading American history (which
he says was written by white men).
During this time he spent one fall at Holy Cross College, Worcester,
Mass., and found time to visit the St. Louis World Fair on closing
days. There he saw his first United States President. Theodore Roosevelt.
He was to meet several more during his lifetime.
After graduating from St. Thomas College, Philip attended St. Paul
Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, for one year. It was a delightful
year in the study of philosophy. Here he associated with 180 future