We asked former UD students to tell us about the impact retired faculty and staff have had on their lives. Here are four stories about how retires continue to inspire. Read more on their lives as retirees in the Summer 2018 UD Magazine story “Happy Retirement.”
It took just one water wiggle for Amy Marcotte ’03 to remember her time as a mechanical engineering major at the University of Dayton, specifically the mechanical design classes she took from professor Phil Doepker ’64. Marcotte’s daughter brought home the slippery blue plastic toy filled with glittery water and Marcotte was reminded of the water wiggles Doepker used to bring to class.
“[He emphasized] the ability to look past the toy and focus on the ability to move something through it without friction,” Marcotte said, describing how Doepker, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering who retired in 2011, used the toy to explain laparoscopic medical devices.
Marcotte noted that she’s not sure how many people think of their mechanical engineering professor when their kid brings home a specific toy, but Doepker was never just a mechanical engineering professor.
“I will not hesitate to say that Phil Doepker was a professor that changed the lives of his students,” Marcotte said. “His astronomical passion for teaching and industry gave him the edge needed to influence others to change the world through engineering innovations.”
Sixteen years later, Marcotte still keeps in contact with her past professor, and said that the respect she has for him only increased after graduation.
In an office in the Kettering Labs, on a shelf among other belongings, is a framed cover of The New Yorker from 1998. This is the office of Becky Blust ’87, associate professor in the School of Engineering and direct of the Innovation Center.
The cover was a gift from Carroll Schleppi — first professor to, then colleague of Blust. It featured a nursing mother, something that was rare to see in public in the ’90s. To Blust, a rarity is the perfect representation of Schleppi herself.
“Carroll is very much a feminist,” Blust said. “She is very conscious of women’s rights issues and always has that in the forefront.”
From the first time Blust took a class with Schleppi, she liked the idea of having a strong female faculty member that was very good at her profession, mathematics, from which to learn.
In addition to womanhood, Schleppi was intense in all facets, something that Blust said helped shape her.
“Carroll was tough,” Blust said. “She set the tone for the rest of my college career. It was evident I wasn’t in high school anymore.”
After 12 years working in the industry, Blust was asked to come back to UD and apply for a position as professor. Schleppi was among the first to welcome her.
Blust continues to keep in contact with Schleppi today, still looking to her as a beacon to guide her through life when she needs it.
“She understands where I’m at right now, because she’s been there,” Blust said. “I can confide in her. If she gives me advice and I don’t take it, it isn’t offensive to her, and she will still counsel me the same after that.”
From professor, to colleague, to friend Schleppi has continued to be there for Blust throughout all of life’s trials.
Whether Alex Galluzzo ’12 knew it or not, his future began to happen when he joined the Rivers Institute at UD. As a River Steward, Galluzzo was one of the few business majors in a program that held a lot of engineering and biology students. However, Galluzzo discovered his life’s passion when engaging with Dick Ferguson ’73, executive director at the time of the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community.
“He opened my eyes to community engagement and development and how it could impact my major,” Galluzzo said. “He was the one that pushed me off campus as much as possible to interact with the city.”
Galluzzo spent the summer between his junior and senior year working on campus with the Rivers Institute, developing the concept of what is now the RiverMobile. He didn’t have a job lined up for after graduation, so Ferguson urged Galluzzo to stay on campus for a few years continuing his work with the Rivers Institute as a graduate assistant.
Today, Galluzzo is the program manager for the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education (SOCHE), where his focus is on getting students off campus and into meaningful internships and co-ops. His current work is with the Air Force Institute of Technology where he brings students from around the country into the Dayton region.
“Now, the work I’m doing is very much tied into community development, so (Dick is) starting to take some pride and feeling like he has some responsibility in that, which he definitely did,” Galluzzo said.
Galluzzo said that not only would he not be involved in community engagement if it weren’t for Ferguson, but he wouldn’t be living in Dayton. As a River Steward, Galluzzo spent a lot of time teaching other students about Dayton and how to have pride in your community.
“It’s hard to sell to students why Dayton is so great and then not feel a sense of pride living in Dayton,” Galluzzo said.
Since graduating, Galluzzo’s relationship with Ferguson has changed but has not weakened. He said his family is very close with the Fergusons, and that Dick was at both his wedding and his son’s baptism. For Galluzzo, what he once saw as a mentor relationship with Ferguson has evolved into a friendship.
It is not uncommon for UD students to seek out student employment during their time on campus. Megan Burian ’15 didn’t know her employment opportunity in the office of education abroad would mean hearing fascinating stories of life’s experiences. This was the case for Burian, thanks to Patti Procuniar.
Outside of work, one of Procuniar’s hobbies is beekeeping, and Burian recalls learning about the process, asking for updates on the hives, and even indulging in some of the honey when she had a sore throat.
“She inspires me to keep learning new things and has shown me that there is always room for new hobbies and experiences in life,” Burian said of Procuniar.
The two have been able to keep in touch through email, but Burian was able to attend one of Procuniar’s “walk parties,” which include a hike and chili dinner.
“She has a beautiful piece of property,” Burian said. “I enjoyed getting to catch up with her.”
From her diverse interests in beekeeping and astrology to her proclivity for completing diligent work, Procuniar continues to inspire Burian in her everyday life.
“[Her] hard-working attitude and openness to trying new things inspire me to possess these same qualities in my life,” Burian said. “She’s an overall great person with a spark for life.”
From student worker to English as a Second Language aide, Burian has been able to carry that spark for life and continue to let it inspire her.