Nick "Skip" Sonnenburg '16

Senior Nick “Skip” Sonnenburg is an old soul. As I join him for an interview in Benson, he is drawing up plans for a Residence Life end-of-year banquet with a Great Gatsby theme. With a disarming grin, he holds up a sheet of paper with handwritten notes and says, “It’s going to be like a speakeasy, so each RLC has a different password.”  

As a Political Science major with three—yes, THREE—minors (Philosophy, History, and Ancient Studies), Skip is the modern Renaissance man. After he graduates in June, he will be working at the Los Angeles Daily Journal as a legal writer, where he interned last summer. “It’s pretty lit,” he quips. His long-term plans, however, include law school within the next few years. He claims that reading To Kill a Mockingbird in eighth grade spurred his interest in law, and he’s been fascinated ever since.

“I had zero intention of coming to Santa Clara. My mother regretted not coming here and wouldn’t stop singing its praises, so I applied to keep her quiet.” When he ended up committing to SCU, he was initially “not so hot on the idea of being here,” but he eventually warmed up to it. “I’m very grateful, and I think there’s a reason I ended up here.”

Academically, Skip values professors who “challenge the way I think politically, and not because they thought I’m wrong or because they have an agenda, but to push students to think about the implications of their opinions in a positive way.” He praises a number of SCU Philosophy and Poli Sci professors for their commitment to helping students improve their critical thinking and self-reflection.

Outside of all his studies, Nick is an Assistant Area Coordinator (ARD) in the Villas, and an editor at The Santa Clara, where he began as a staff writer two years ago.

From Pasadena, California, it seems Skip has always had an affinity for things that predate him. He tells me that seeing Carry Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace when he was in sixth grade inspired him to begin parting his hair because he thought the actor “was the coolest guy ever.”

However, his fondness for classics goes far beyond film. “There’s a photo of me as an infant with a Grateful Dead CD in my mouth,” he says. Today, his musical interests include primarily early American pop, classical, and jazz—especially hot jazz, a subgenre he tells me originated in New Orleans and spread to Chicago and New York in the 1920s and 30s. “Last year, my friends would play this game called ‘Find Living Artists in Skip’s Music Library.’”

Side note: Skip happens to own three record players. Yes, he has the same number of record players as he does minors. His most prized possession is a 1915 RCA Victor-Victrola…I guess if you know what that is, good for you.

Nick also has an unparalleled love for Jewish delis, and his favorite restaurant at home is a classic American joint called Pie ’n Burger that “has had the same cash register since when it opened in 1963.”

Skip reminisces on his last four years, telling quirky stories and jokes here and there. He especially loves the Jesuits he has come to know at Santa Clara. When asked about his favorite SCU memory, he laughs and tells me about seeing one of his favorite Jesuits on campus one day: “It was passing period in front of the Mission, and my friend and I yelled out at him, ‘Are you off to the Jes-Res to go get a martini or something?’ He yelled back at us, ‘Yeah, what are you doing? Going back to your apartment to watch Spongebob all day?’ We just started going back and forth yelling, and all these people were just looking at us all horrified wondering if we knew him or if everything was okay.” He goes on, “I’ve never had a bad conversation with a Jesuit, or met a Jesuit who wasn’t interesting.”

Nick “Skip” Sonnenburg is an academic, a gentleman, and a man who knows how to laugh at life and also at himself. In his time at SCU, he has thrived academically and played key roles in the Residence Life program and in the publication of The Santa Clara. But, more than this, Skip keeps everyone laughing, and he is unfailingly and inspiringly true to himself. Advice from SCU’s very own Renaissance man? “Serendipity is the key to success.”