My sister, Laura Robinson ’97, spent 10 years at UD and always told me about Christmas on Campus. I thought, “It’s just another Christmas party with a bunch of kids.”
I was assigned to be Christmas on Campus’ media contact three years ago and discovered I was dead wrong by the time they lighted the tree. Seeing the joy on the children’s faces makes “working” Christmas on Campus one of my more rewarding “duties” I have at UD. Nobody could have ordered a better picture last night. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the falling snow and 3 inches already on the ground was a movie-like setting. It was timed perfectly for the children’s — and Santa’s — arrival.
Although some of the performers and school children didn’t make it because of the weather, nobody seemed to go home disappointed. That included one of my daughters, who impishly ambushed me with a fistful of snow as I tried to clean my glasses and who, when she climbed on Santa’s knee and was asked that expected question, responded “You already have the list.”
When I agreed to help judge the annual Christmas on Campus house decorating contest, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I’ve judged contests before but never one where the contestants were encouraged to “butter up” the judges. This year’s contestants took this advice seriously because they really, really wanted to win the first-place prize: a free trip to Daytona for all residents of the house.
What will UD students do to win such a trip? A lot. Besides spending hours putting up lights and hanging ribbon and garland, at almost every house students were waiting in costumes with plates of still warm cookies and steaming hot chocolate for the judges. At one house, the residents had filled small stockings for each of the judges with this year’s Christmas on Campus theme written across the top: Love, Lights and Laughter. (Click on the photo above for a slide show of highlights.)
At first the cookies and cocoa were a welcome sight. It was a cold night after all and who doesn’t like Christmas cookies? By the 10th or so house, however, I found myself taking the cookies because when we didn’t, the students seemed so disappointed. Still, I’m not Santa and I ended up throwing a lot of perfectly good cookies under parked cars. At almost every house the residents had a performance prepared for the judges, often a rhyming poem telling us how good they’d been and how much they deserved the trip.
One of my favorite houses was the all-male live nativity with the largest baby Jesus I’ve ever seen — and the only one with a 5 o’clock shadow. (They were going for high marks in UD spirit, the residents explained.) By the end of the night, I had given four houses perfect scores in all five categories: Christmas on Campus theme, effort, creativity, neatness and UD spirit. They won’t announce the winners until the opening Christmas on Campus ceremonies Dec. 8 but whoever it is, chances are they deserve it
Postscript: The winners are the women from 1926 Trinity Ave., who dressed themselves and their house in a gingerbread theme. The six received a free trip from the Dayton to Daytona committee.
The tree for the 42nd annual Christmas on Campus was delivered on this (very cold) morning as members of the CoC committee looked on. The process took about three hours, from cutting the tree at a donor’s house at 8 a.m. to finally securing it in Kennedy Union plaza close to 11 a.m. (For Quicktime highlights of the end of its journey, click here.
Christmas on Campus is Thursday, Dec. 8, the day of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. No classes are held that day, and students will be preparing for finals.
Alumni chapters in cities across the country will be hosting Christmas off Campus events throughout the season.
Tom Weckesser didn’t need reminding that last night’s win in Cincinnati was the UD men’s basketball team’s first against the Bearcats on their home court in, what, forever? He was there last time it happened, Feb. 11, 1971.
“At the time my sister was a secretary at the (University of Cincinnati) Army ROTC, and she got us tickets. She baby-sat the kids, and we sat in the middle of the UC cheering section,” said Weckesser, a 1967 UD grad and current assistant vice president for finance.
“I still remember (Al) Bertke making that shot.”
That shot. Bertke, a Dayton native, drained UD’s last game-winner in Cincinnati off of a jump ball tipped to him (yes, in the days before the possession arrow). It put UD on top 70-69 at the buzzer.
Weckesser first saw the Flyers with his father in 1954 at the Fieldhouse, camped out for tickets as a student in the mid-’60s and has had season tickets since the Arena opened in 1969.
He watched last night’s game at home and didn’t let himself celebrate until the final minute. And he’s seen enough games to keep this one in perspective.
“We can’t celebrate too much. We have to go out to Las Vegas and play them again in three weeks on a neutral court.”
Still, last night was special and long, long overdue.
Glance at the bookcases that line professors’ offices and you have a window into their lives.
Take the shelves of Maureen Tilley, associate professor in the department of religious studies. Yes, she has books in her third-floor Humanities office, but two high shelves near a window are full of candles used by practitioners of voodoo and other religions.
Some depict Catholic saints, others warn of death. All are instructional aids she uses when she teaches Afro-Latin religions such as Voudou (Tilley’s preferred spelling), Santería, Candomble and Umbanda, all religions of the African diaspora in the West.
At a Catholic university, why teach these subjects, which for many Americans conjure images of zombies, magic, animal sacrifice and more?
Well, because those things are not really central to these faiths, which are genuine religious traditions practiced by millions, said Tilley. Santería, the Cuban form, is one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States. All satisfy the needs of practitioners, interact with Catholicism in fascinating ways, and are badly misunderstood if known at all. In fact, Tilley prefers the French spelling “Voudou” to distinguish her topic from the connotations “voodoo” conjures.
Just imagine her students’ very serious conversations: “I’d love to, but I can’t go. I’ve got to study my voodoo.”
Interns are not just getting coffee these days. Thomas McDonald stars as the enigmatic Tom the Intern in a humorous, action-filled “flanimation” production to introduce potential clients to Media Production Group, located in the basement of Anderson Center.
A collaboration of team members created “The Adventures of Tom the Intern,” an interactive production that allows viewers to “choose their own adventure.” An intern for the group since April, McDonald, a junior communication major with an emphasis on radio/TV, hocks the group’s video, CD-ROM and DVD services with the flair — and plaid suit jacket — of a carpet discounter. The flanimation presentation combines flash software with video, graphics and text that can be sent through e-mail. McDonald is at turns agile, reliable and ridiculous. “I could see myself involved in political ads in some way in the future,” he said.
Besides starring in the production, McDonald has been involved with other shoots, helping his bosses Mike Kurtz and Brian Mills set up and tear down the equipment and running focus groups from a multimedia standpoint. “I think he has a future as a used car salesman. There were times during recording that we couldn’t stop laughing,” said Kurtz, senior producer.
It’s all in who you know.
With graduation right around the corner, students — including myself — are eager to learn the dos and don’ts of getting a job. The communication networking day on Nov. 15, coordinated by five students in the Public Relations Campaigns course and sponsored by the communication department, gave us a chance to talk with alumni, have our résumés critiqued and learn more about the communication organizations on campus. Already involved with Phi Beta Chi and PRSSA, I went to the career services table for a critique. The women there were very honest and helpful, and complimented my work experience.
At the alumni table, several women who now work in the Dayton area were talking about their experiences at job interviews, how they got the job they have now, and what their positions entail. All alumnae of PRSSA and Phi Beta Chi, they said they “were here to give back to the organizations.”
Rachel Olszewski ’06, one of the students who planned the event, said, “After talking to Dr. Don Yoder about the possibilities of a campaign, a networking day seemed like the best way to bridge the alumni with current students.” A popular event with students was the job search strategies panel discussion, featuring Megan Cullen ’02, Mari Jo V. Sellers ’03 and Megan Houston ’04. After receiving advice from alumnae and critiques of my resume, I feel well prepared to continue my search into the “real world.”
Mike arrived covered in mud from head to toe. Literally. On the first truly cold evening of the year, he showed up last night wearing a knit cap, a couple of layers of T-shirts, shorts and flip flops. And mud everywhere — in his hair, on his face, all up and down his arms and legs.
But what drew him off the soccer field to Marianist Hall last night was the same thing that brought about 40 sophomores over two nights to informal and completely voluntary conversations: a book.
Heidi Gauder at Roesch Library has launched a year-long series of “Porch Reads,” informal book discussion groups designed to get UD students to read for pleasure more.
Two groups met last night to talk about Jon Stewart’s mock civics textbook America. One student explained why Andrew Jackson was his favorite president (for ignoring the Supreme Court when it suited him), while another was trying to figure out why Nixon seemed to be hers (“He was just the one who got caught.”). A self-identified conservative picked FDR and wished Roosevelt could have traveled through time to react to Sept. 11. They pointed out their favorite sections and talked about the state of politics.
No grades, no assignments for next week, just students getting together to talk about a book. They went more than an hour, long enough for Mike’s mud to dry and cake up all over him.
On what threatens to be fall’s last sunny Friday, we break out of our Barrett Dining Room rut and amble through the student neighborhood to the ArtStreet Café for lunch. The feature of the day is a ham and cheese panini dubbed the Hamilton “Ham” Porter — the chunky kid who plays catcher in the movie The Sandlot . My dining companion opts for half a Hamilton and half a Picasso salad; the Southwest chicken panini and DaVinci salad sound good to me. We settle into retro chairs and peruse the reading material that doesn’t normally make its way to St. Mary Hall. A flier advertises “Healthy Relationships,” a discussion led by the inexhaustible Father Norbert Burns, S.M. A postcard promotes “Resonance,” an exhibition of student artwork on display in Roesch Library through Dec. 15. “OffBeat,” a monthly newsletter produced by ArtStreet students, features satire, advice and true stories of residence life, including a tale of the retaliatory theft of tightie-whities.
Students drift in and out for coffees and smoothies, wraps and bagels. Susan Byrnes, ArtStreet director, stops by for a take-out order.
The music is pleasant – Natalie Merchant, Tracy Chapman – although we suspect the volume ratchets up at night. Sun streams through the windows, lighting a chess set on a glass coffee table. One of UD senior Sam Wukusick’s paintings hangs behind our table. After lunch, we wander through Studio D to see the rest of his exhibit, “The Other Side of the World: A Visual Study of My Experience In India,” drawn to “Frogs in Deephali.”
Duty calls. We walk past the amphitheater and up Evanston to peek in the windows of the RecPlex, where workers are buffing the newly installed basketball court. The bright red hoop and backboard look inviting – a good place to work off panini calories the next time we stray from our Barrett routine.
If you squinted real hard, you could see Paul Laurence Dunbar shadowed on the stage curtain, hiding from the spotlight aimed on Herbert Woodward Martin as Martin brought the long-dead poet to life for the UD Arts Series last Thursday in Boll Theatre.
The professor emeritus flitted between characters, alternating commentary in his own voice with the voices of Dunbar’s fiery preacher, nosy granny, proud widow. He pulled colored silk handkerchiefs out of his pockets, props that embodied large matrons in bold hats.
“Someone asked me where I found these voices,” he said. “I found these ladies in the Baptist Church,” but added they can be found populating any “protest-ant” — as he prefers to pronounce it — congregation.
Martin’s tone was also serious. During an extensive post-performance Q&A, Martin noted Dunbar’s genius in elevating the humanity of black Americans. The slave in “When Dey ‘Listed Colored Soldiers” shows empathy for her white mistresses whose men have also gone to war, an emotion they cannot reciprocate.
The education and entertainment was part of Celebrate Dunbar!, public events held in the coming year to honor the nation’s first celebrated African-American poet 100 years after his death. Martin danced around the stage like a devilish child in “Opportunity,” belying the fact he has performed as Dunbar for 33 years and suggests retiring it when the celebration concludes.
As he described another poem, Martin threw a glance up stage. “Dunbar’s standing behind me and he’s saying let you ask the questions if you want to.”
Whatever would we do without you bringing life to the poet and his song?