April 15, 2016
It has only recently registered with me that one of the men highest on my personal honor roll of Subiaco graduates, Mike Vogler, class of ’63, died in Little Rock last summer.
I was studying out of the country in 1968 when Mike on principle refused to obey his draft order for the Vietnam War. He acted quietly and without animosity or fanfare, but with such resolution that he would not protest his sentence to three years in the federal penitentiary in Springfield, MO, where he served with quiet dignity.
After he was released a little over two years later, Mike spent his entire professional career working with and for at-risk kids. The impact of his work through a score of local and state service organizations can be gauged by his appointment to the State Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board by Governor Bill Clinton, and later to the State Medicaid Advisory Board.
Mike grew up in a strong Catholic family in the shadow of St. Edward’s Church, which had been served by Subiaco Benedictines since its foundation in the 1880s. I remember fondly my relationship with Mike and his brother Bill, class of ’67, and my visits especially with their wonderful mother. Later we did not have much contact with Mike, but he was always esteemed here because of his acting on conscience principle, no matter what the personal cost.
My awareness of Mike’s death was accidentally prompted by Pope Francis’ speaking of Dorothy Day as one of the four great Americans (also Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thomas Merton) that he highlighted in his speech to Congress last fall. I began to reread more carefully the diaries of Dorothy Day,
The Duty of Delight, when in the entry for November 5, 1970, I was startled to read: “Yesterday afternoon Mike Vogler and his wife came to see me.”
They had been picking apples in Vermont and were looking for a good place to have their first child. Dorothy wrote with great respect for Mike and his resolute witness. “His sentence finished, he came out to take up life and work, and that work too had to do with life rather than destruction.” As we now know, that prophecy of Dorothy Day about Mike Vogler came true.