If these walls could talk…

33 years later, they do—and the case of the missing wallet is closed

For Tom Eichenberg ’76, M.S. ’77, the Seventies are back. They were hand-delivered earlier this year, in the form of a leather-bound time capsule unearthed from the walls of the Benson Memorial Center. Eichenberg didn’t intend to sequester this bit of personal history on campus. He just lost his wallet—in the fall of 1975. And now it’s turned up.

“I guess St. Anthony’s been busy,” Eichenberg said.

After getting a call from SCU’s Alumni Office reporting the good news, he stopped by the Donohoe Alumni House in January to find out what surprises the past held for him. Though, truth be told, he didn’t remember losing his wallet in the first place. But his older brother, Jim Eichenberg ’77, recalled the afternoon quite well. It was a Friday, and the brothers were getting ready to head out for a night on the town. Instead, after a fruitless search for the missing wallet, Tom had to make some calls to cancel his Bank of America card.

No foul play is suspected. Eichenberg figures he probably dropped the wallet in the Benson Center and it was kicked into an air vent. During renovation work, a construction worker found the wallet and turned it in to Millie De Bie at campus safety, who called the Alumni Office. There wasn’t any money in the found wallet, but Eichenberg chalks that up to authenticity of detail.

“I was a typical college student,” he said, “always broke.”

If These Walls Could Talk 2 Fall 2008

He pulled out his draft card, social security card, driver’s license, a Santa Clara student ID and meal card, a BART pass with ten cents on it, a Southern Pacific Peninsula train schedule, two credit cards, a Wells Fargo pocket calendar, a receipt for his yearbook photo, a metric conversion table, and a five-cent stamp.

Then there were the photos: a snapshot of his father, Col. Bill Eichenberg ’41, who served as assistant professor of military science at Santa Clara during World War II, proudly standing next to Tom’s brother Bill Eichenberg ’65, right after he’d been commissioned as an officer in the Army; Jim ’77; and nieces and nephews including Jim Eichenberg ’92 and Bob Eichenberg ’94. Not among the photographs, but also part of the picture as far as Santa Clara is concerned: sister-in-law Patti McDonald Eichenberg ’75, sister Katie Eichenberg ’66, and niece Carolyn Eichenberg Manno ’99.

If These Walls Could Talk Main Fall 2008

What’s in your wallet? Photo: Charles Barry

For Eichenberg, some things have changed since 1975. Take that photo of his father: “Now it looks more like me,” he said. And, he confessed, at 54, with steely hair and glasses, he’s no longer quite the trim dark-haired lad of 130 pounds that his old driver’s license records.

Back from Baghdad

With a little coaxing from the Santa Clara media relations team, the story of Eichenberg’s missing wallet caught the attention of print and broadcast reporters from the Bay Area and across the country. The story even ran in Kazakhstan.

Eichenberg already has his share of international exposure. He attended Santa Clara on a ROTC scholarship and served seven years active duty in the Army and three decades Reserve duty. He now works for Schneider National, a Wisconsin-based trucking company, and lives in Elk Grove, near Sacramento. But in 2005 Col. Thomas Eichenberg returned with the U.S. Army Reserve to serve in Iraq, where he directed the National Iraqi Assistance Center, which directs humanitarian efforts for the military. Under the umbrella of responsibilities fell work on women’s issues, coordinating non-government organizations, employment claims, and detainee issues. The greatest responsibility was medical assistance—collaborating, for example, with U.S.-based Rotary clubs to sponsor life-saving heart surgeries for children or flying a group of Iraqi children to Turkey for corneal transplants. In 2006, SCU alumni might have seen a photo of Eichenberg in Baghdad, where he posed with Lt. General Joseph Peterson ’72 and Robert Gorini ’71, showing off an SCU sweatshirt.

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