George Scott Baker is an average guy. He’s OK with it, though, and he wants other average folks to embrace their averageness too. In fact, he gives entire seminars on how to be average. Baker, the alter ego of Andy Boehnlein, says that being average gets a bad rap when it really shouldn’t.
“People think of average as not even trying,” said Boehnlein. “But it’s really about being OK with who you are rather than
being stressed out all the time trying to keep up with the person next to you.”
George’s debut was hardly average, however. He appeared on Chicago’s famed The Second City stage in what Boehnlein called, “kind of a terrible sketch.” Still, Boehnlein, who spent six months studying sketch writing, improv and acting during his sophomore year, never forgot about his pal George.
Years later, Boehnlein wondered what George would look like and what he would have to say. He revived the quirky fellow thanks, in part, to his general studies major that included comedy, leadership and philosophy.
“It built a steady foundation for us both,” said Boehnlein who today demotivates (as George, of course) university staff and
recreational sports departments all over the U.S. His message?
“It’s really rooted in living a purposeful life and being OK with being you,” Boehnlein said. “I then relate it to leadership and how it applies to a job.”
As for the goofy outfit and terrible wig, Boehnlein said it relaxes people and reminds them not to take themselves too seriously.
“People hear this kind of message a lot, but I like to say that I trick people into really understanding
Boehnlein, who also works for the University of Michigan intramural sports league, would eventually like to introduce George to the corporate world. For now, he’s happy with George being, well, average.
In this jubilee year, the siblings are celebrating.
The Marianist brothers and sisters each mark 200 years of service to their communities during a worldwide, 20-month celebration.
“Both religious institutions have been ‘siblings’ from the beginning, according to the mind of our founders,” wrote the superiors general of the Society of Mary and the Daughters of Mary Immaculate.
Born out of the chaos of the French Revolution, the congregations’ roots began in diverse lay communities of faith open to all Christians. Founded by the Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon and Marie Thérèse de Lamourous, the lay communities grew and sparked the desire of a small group eager to take religious vows.
“Our Marianist founders’ vision for rebuilding society and Church through a network of dynamic and engaged faith communities is as applicable today as it was 200 years ago,” said Sister Leanne Jablonski, F.M.I. ’85, director of the Marianist Environmental
Education Center at Mount St. John and Hanley Sustainability Institute scholar-in-residence for faith and environment.
“Marianist sisters today live Adèle’s spirit by collaborating with our other Marianist branches and with other organizations to
address justice concerns, including the needs of women, children, the environment and those in poverty. In Pope Francis’ spirit of hope, mercy and care, we are joyfully building a Church and world where no one is left out.”
The jubilee theme “To know, love and serve” highlights actions ever-present in Marianist text and traditions.
The celebration began May 15, 2016, just prior to the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, and encompasses the founding anniversary of the Society of Mary, Oct. 2, 1817.
The celebration continues through Jan. 22, 2018, the feast day of Chaminade.
The congregations commissioned a three-paneled icon, which is traveling the world visiting Marianist communities. It features artwork of the wedding feast at Cana created by Brother Salvatore Santacroce, S.M., of Italy. Flanking the art are original letters penned by Adèle and Chaminade.
“The icon is a way to unify every Marianist community,” said Father Bob Jones, S.M. ’98, chaplain at Chaminade Julienne High School, during the icon’s December visit to Dayton.
The Society of Mary founded what would become known as the University of Dayton in 1850. The Marianist sisters joined them on campus in 1962 when the University opened its first women’s residence hall. Both congregations remain integral to campus, religious and scholarly life.
“We are small but mighty,” said Sister Laura Leming, F.M.I. ’87, associate professor of sociology. “We have about 330 sisters and are the smallest of the three branches. When we choose a ministry, it’s often to complete the Marianist Family because we are best when we — women and men, lay and religious — are together,” she said.
This will again be the case in Malawi, where the sisters will, in a new ministry this year, complement the works of the Society of Mary and lay communities by teaching in a high school for girls. The sisters will also be starting a ministry in Vietnam, their 16th country of service and as the first religious branch to go there.
“I think [Adèle] encourages us to be risk takers and to, in faith, know that Mary and her son will be with us,” said Sister Estella Ibarra, F.M.I. ’68, former member of the general administration in Rome. “When you use that refrain over and over in prayer and everyday
activity, pretty soon you live it. It becomes more than a mantra; it becomes a reality.”
Today, the Marianist Family operates 18 high schools, three universities, four retreat centers and six parishes in the United States. Worldwide, they can be found on six continents and in 34 countries.
“Few things last 200 years these days in our rapidly changing world,” said UD President Eric F. Spina. “Yet the Marianist charism has endured and thrived during an era when it seems we’re always busy chasing the next big idea, when faith and culture often clash, when electronic communication replaces, all too
often, personal conversations.”
Two hundred years ago, Chaminade recognized power in the revolutionary call for “liberty, equality and fraternity,” said Father Jim Fitz, S.M. ’68, vice president for mission and rector. But he also realized something was missing — Christian values. The violence of the Revolution betrayed the Christian values on which it rested.
“If we were all sons and daughters of God, the violence of the Revolution wouldn’t be a part of it,” Fitz said of Chaminade’s insight. “We talk a lot about community. It is rooted in this time, when through adversity we somehow came together to support each other but also to be witnesses to different values — to working together and collaborating across class lines.
“How do we dialogue; how do we work together for a common humanity; how do we keep faith in the mix? Chaminade showed us how in his day and age. We must do the same today.”
*Blue dots: Brothers and Priests — The Society of Mary 1,056
*Orange dots: Daughters of Mary Immaculate 331
“What does a white guy in a suit know about poor people?”
That’s what David Phillips said everyone asked when he decided to open a nonprofit to help low-income people find jobs.
And Phillips has made it his mission to know as much as he can about poverty and its far-reaching consequences. After retirement, Phillips and his wife, Liane, looked at their hometown of Cincinnati — a city with pockets of high poverty — and decided to do something.
They opened Cincinnati Works in 1996 to help residents find jobs. Over time, Phillips learned that the problem goes deeper than simply locating employment.
“People can find a job,” Phillips said. “The hard part is keeping it.”
The reasons are complicated. Phillips says single parents get fired because they have to take time off work when a child is sick. Mental illness can also create roadblocks.
“It seems to have nothing to do with keeping a job, but it has everything to do with it,” Phillips said.
To help ease those stressors, CW provides assistance with childcare, transportation, work clothes, and mental and physical health care for the entire family, as well as assistance to help with any other barriers to employment.
The biggest impact the organization has had, though, has been on Phillips himself, who says he is amazed at the strength of the human spirit. He recalled attending a CW participant’s wedding.
“This big, tall guy ran over to me and picked me up off the floor. He said that without the CW, he’d be dead right now. That was powerful.”
According to its own statistics, CW has placed more than 9,000 people in the workforce since it opened its doors in 1996.
Phillips is now traveling the nation sharing the CW model with other communities.
“Poverty is totally unacceptable in our society,” Phillips said. “It’s a condition that strips people of all human dignity. It’s time for citizens to say it is our responsibility and it’s time to say ‘no’ to poverty.”
When a health trauma leads to a mental health crisis, medical professionals and patients have a new, groundbreaking resource for ensuring a patient’s emotional health isn’t on the
Michelle Flaum Hall ’02 nearly lost her life when she gave birth.
She went to the hospital anxious and excited to meet her daughter. But as doctors induced labor, she suffered the most severe type of hemorrhage and required 18 units of blood — the equivalent of the entire blood supply of a person plus half that of another.
She underwent an emergency Caesarean and a life-saving hysterectomy. She spent five days in the intensive care unit and developed pneumonia.
A steady stream of health care professionals visited her room to give her additional units of blood, monitor her vital signs, check her incision, look for infection, adjust her IVs, administer painkillers and closely monitor her physical recovery. But, Hall says, “My emotional needs weren’t even on the radar.”
Now, she is working to change that for other patients.
Hall, a graduate of the counselor education program, and her husband, Scott Hall, associate professor of counselor education and human services, have written a new guide for health care professionals that, for the first time, describes best practices for treating medical trauma in health care settings.
They say the need was clear: Too often, the emotional costs of medical experiences go undetected, untreated and unvoiced. It is staggering to think about the number of people who might be affected, they write. Every minute in the United States, one person will have a heart attack and two will suffer strokes; every hour, nearly six women will suffer grave complications while giving birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Their book, Managing the Psychological Impact of Medical Trauma: A Guide for Mental Health and Healthcare Professionals, offers models for how to bring mental health professionals into the treatment team to ensure a patient’s emotional health isn’t on the back burner. It also gives doctors, nurses and students the tools and strategies they need to recognize signs of stress in patients and their families.
“Health care has really become a team sport, in a sense. But what we have seen is mental health is still sometimes separated, or even absent,” said Michelle Flaum Hall, an associate professor in counseling at Xavier University.
“We want to put the need for mental and emotional well-being on the radar for health care professionals and for patients,” Scott Hall added. “It starts with awareness.”
Building a bridge
There’s never been a better time to work to bridge the gap between mental and physical health care to better meet the needs of patients, the Halls write in their book. Medicine has made great strides in treating the whole person, but more can be done to address the emotional effects of medical trauma.
“In medicine, it’s often only about doing the surgery, making sure this person is healing properly and getting the right medication,” Michelle Flaum Hall said. “There’s nothing that says, ‘You might really struggle emotionally following this surgery. Here are some signs of depression or anxiety, and here are the resources that can help you.’”
The Halls drew on their own experiences as patients and professionals to develop tools that allow clinicians to be much more proactive about protecting a patient’s emotional well being.
One tool, the Medical Mental Health Screening, helps doctors flag risk factors in patients before a surgery or treatment. It asks patients to mark “yes” or “no” on a series of statements, such as “I have experienced depression at some time in my life” or “I tend to be pessimistic about many things (for example, the future or my health).” It also gauges whether the patient is worried about going under anesthesia or how their families will cope with the illness or procedure.
Other tools help monitor the patient’s emotional well-being after a procedure, including the Secondary 7-Lifestyle Effects Screening. The checklist also uses “yes” or “no” questions, such as, “Since my medical procedure/diagnoses, I have had to alter my life plan or have been unable to reach important milestones (for example, delayed graduation or marriage, relocation).”
Also included are tools Michelle Flaum Hall developed as part of her work on a maternal safety bundle for the Council on Patient Safety in Women’s Health Care. The materials lay out what every hospital should have in place to support women, their families and health care providers when the unexpected happens, said Christine H. Morton, research sociologist at Stanford University and program manager for the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative.
“The impact for this work in the area of maternity care is potentially quite high,” said Morton, who worked with Michelle Flaum Hall as part of the council. “This book is essential reading for every maternity care clinician in the United States.”
The assessments, available online at hawthorneintegrative.com, are also important for many patients because it can be difficult to recognize what is happening to them emotionally. Physicians need interventions and strategies in place automatically, as the Halls write, as a “safety net to ensure that fewer patients who experience medical trauma ‘slip through the cracks’ of a health care system that can sometimes have a singular focus on caring for the physical body at the expense of all else.”
“We’re all responsible,” Michelle Flaum Hall said. “It doesn’t end when the patient walks out the hospital doors. We have to do a better job of protecting patients’ mental health.”
A personal journey
Medical trauma goes beyond what is obviously a traumatic event — like someone in a car crash who is rushed to the hospital in an ambulance with life-threatening injuries. Any kind of medical experience can be medical trauma. There are different levels of trauma, and many just aren’t on the radar, the Halls write.
Patients can also suffer emotional effects later — long after a hospital stay or doctor’s visit.
“Patients can suffer what we call a secondary crisis,” said Scott Hall, whose more than two decades of experience as a counselor includes work with veterans who experience trauma. “A traumatic event can impact them in terms of their careers, their relationships and in developmental milestones. And sometimes that impact might not show up for three months, six months, 12 months.”
Scott Hall said he gained insight into secondary crises after he had lower-back surgery and realized he could no longer do taekwondo with his daughter. Their weekly lessons had been a bonding time over the eight years they earned black belts together. With his surgery, he was not able to achieve the second-degree black belt they had been working toward, although his daughter did.
“I couldn’t do taekwondo anymore. I couldn’t do the kicks or the twists. I had to stop doing the very thing we shared for years, and in some ways it redefined our relationship,” he said.
“I had to think about what the new normal was, and what else in my life I needed to modify,” he said. “And I realized: If I’m experiencing this, how many modifications are other people trying to make in their lives by themselves as a result of health care? It highlights the need on a much larger scale of how there are deficits in the health care system.”
Scott Hall, whose experience as a patient is built into a case study in the book, said he has addressed similar issues with patients and friends. It could be someone who can no longer play golf. Or someone who can no longer run with their husband, wife, son or daughter because of an orthopedic injury — an example they use in the book.
“It’s the kind of medical event that a lot of people would say is outpatient surgery — no big deal,” Michelle Flaum Hall said. “The focus of recovery is very much on managing pain and recapturing whatever mobility may be possible. But something like an orthopedic injury and surgery can be the first of many dominos to fall in someone’s life, because all of a sudden they’re not as mobile and they’re not engaging in aspects of their lifestyles that are really important to them.”
Even for professionals, it can be difficult to recognize the signs of depression and get treatment. Michelle Flaum Hall described herself in the hospital as “utterly drained” and “exhausted, raw and very fragile.” In a daze, she did not ask for mental health care.
“If anyone on my treatment team had enlisted the help of a mental health professional … then I could have begun treatment for what eventually became PTSD,” she wrote for Nursing for Women’s Health. She notes PTSD refers to a long-term clinical set of symptoms, which for her stemmed from the magnitude and complexity of the trauma she experienced and the fact that she spent several more days in the hospital where the trauma originally occurred.
Sharing her story in the Nursing for Women’s Health clinical journal started the Halls’ journey to write the book. Through new connections, the Halls pitched the idea for the book and received almost immediate acceptance.
“It’s been a very personal journal for me,” Michelle Flaum Hall said, “because it’s been about ensuring the suffering I endured was not in vain, and I could potentially make a difference, even in a small way in sharing my story.”
Michelle and Scott Hall hope their book can revolutionize the way mental health and health care professionals work together to better meet the needs of patients. From current practitioners to better training protocols, their goal is to have this model at the forefront of people’s minds when they approach their work with patients.
And while the book is written for health care professionals, the message has resonated outside the industry.
“People reached out with their personal stories of being patients or knowing patients, and knowing how painful emotionally these experiences can be,” Michelle Flaum Hall said. “They just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for bringing awareness because there was a hopefulness that something would change.”
In the early 1980s, at a nearly sold-out UD Arena, a barnstormer crouched in one of the seating sections, trying to hide his big head among the crowd. Attached by a long rope tied to the Arena roof rafters, he leapt up and soared across the basketball court, cape flowing behind while fans laughed and pointed at the silly, but daring, mascot who brings them so much joy.
For more than 35 years, Rudy Flyer has captured the hearts of fans. The friendly, muscular mascot leads cheers at games, gives high-fives to fans and takes photos with children and alumni — all while fostering and supporting the University’s commitment to Flyer community.
But Rudy didn’t fly out of thin air. The beloved mascot was born at a basketball game Dec. 1, 1980, after years of spirit-filled, sometimes four-legged predecessors. The history of Rudy is a story that involves those who helped conceive him, as well as the Flyer Faithful who have cheered beside and supported him along the way.
The making of this modern Flyer icon began in France in 1880 with the opera La Mascotte, composed by Edmond Audran. According to the International University Sports Federation, the popularity of the opera hastened the translation of the word and concept into English by 1881.
The term was often applied to live animals that U.S. sports teams brought to games to intimidate opponents and entertain fans. The University of Dayton had its own livestock, such as a chicken who once appeared at a soccer game. In 1956, the Flyer News interviewed Pedro the Donkey, which the writer described as having “large, dreamy, brown eyes” and a red and blue blanket with the letter “D.” “I hope to be on the Flyers’ team for many years to come,” Pedro was quoted as saying.
But Pedro’s days — and those of live animal mascots everywhere — were numbered after the popular embrace of the Muppets, those plush, sarcastic creations of puppeteer Jim Henson.
According to the federation, teams in the late 1960s started creating Muppet-like mascots that were friendly with fans and good at helping teams with marketing and public relations efforts.
Up until the early 1970s, the University of Dayton didn’t have an official mascot. In 1972, Gene Schill, the director of athletic public relations and promotions, sent a letter to world-renowned cartoonist Milton Caniff.
In his letter, Schill wrote, “To the best of our knowledge, UD is the only college or university in the country with the nickname of ‘Flyers,’ and it has been a source of irritation to the Department of Athletics that we have not had an official mascot or logo for use on decals, tee shirts, letterheads, etc.”
Ohio born and Dayton raised, Caniff had become famous for creating the comic strips Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon. When asked to draw UD’s mascot, Caniff inked the D-Bird — part bird, part plane to help represent the Flyers nickname while also paying tribute to Orville and Wilbur Wright, the inventors of powered flight.
Caniff described the D-Bird to Schill in a letter, now housed at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University.
“The drawing shows a winged-goggled-beaked-helmeted creature, carrying on its head a flashing, beacon-like device and brandishing four menacing legs each wearing a different kind of shoe (football, basketball, track and baseball),” Caniff wrote. “The blue helmet bears the U. of D. major letter in red. The bird’s bill and legs are also in the school’s traditional red color.
“The wings represent the Wright Flyer aircraft which gave the teams their nickname of Flyers. The shoes symbolize the major sports in which the University participates while the aggressive attitude of the bird diving out of the sun on its prey reflects the competitive spirit of the various athletic teams.
“Topping it all is the flashing light reminding the viewer that learning is the main issue of any university function. The participants in sports are there for an education. As an antenna, the symbol indicates that these athletes are in touch … they are with it!”
Dayton Daily News sports writer Hal McCoy called it “a weird little creature” when it debuted on a football program in fall 1972. But the D-Bird had huge wings attached to his back and two stubby legs, giving it a form with no hope of translating into a human-inhabited costume.
By the late 1970s, UD was ready to try again, and this time it wanted a walking, cheering mascot.
First, UD identified the person who would inhabit the costume. Ric Cengeri ’81 was an enthusiastic management major with a passion for basketball. He was discovered at the 1979-80 AIAW Women’s Basketball National Championship, hosted at the Arena. While waiting for the Flyers to take the court, Cengeri cheered on William Penn, later helping rally the William Penn fans to push their team to win in the overtime consolation game.
UD’s band director and cheerleading adviser took note and invited Cengeri to try out for the cheerleading squad.
“I was terrible,” Cengeri recalled. “I had all kinds of spirit, but I couldn’t do the lifts.”
The team kept Cengeri from potentially dropping fellow cheerleaders by having him entertain fans with mannequins and other skits.
Around this time, the band director approached Athletic Director Tom Frericks ’53 about getting a mascot costume, said Rory Falato ’77.
“Tom Frericks was intent on building up the basketball program,” said Falato, director of athletic and arena promotions at the time. “He understood the benefits not just for the athletic department but the University as a whole.”
Frericks knew a competitive basketball team would attract students, and Rudy became part of refining the Flyer sports brand. “We started selling Flyer merchandise at games,” Falato said. “There were blue crying towels and kids’ dribble-pass-and-shoot contests at halftime. Get people involved. Fill the seats. Make it family friendly. It’s not just a game, it’s an event.”
The athletic department hired southwest Ohio artist D.W. Biggs to draw the first Rudy, who resembled a 1920s barnstormer, a term used to describe stunt pilots performing tricks with their planes. UD sent the watercolor and ink image to Stagecraft, a Cincinnati mascot design company, where owner Randy Kent brought the drawing to life.
Kent said he started by first sculpting the head, then adding a giant mustache below the bulging nose and topping it with a leather pilot cap. Next came the body, arms and feet, all covered with a flight jacket, pants, gloves and high-top boots.
Just after the costume arrived on campus, it suffered a wardrobe malfunction. The mascot’s goggles came loose and needed to be reattached. So the costume was sent back to Stagecraft, and Kent said he glued the goggles back on and brought it up to Dayton so that it could be used for the game that night, Dec. 1, 1980, against San Francisco.
Cengeri said he put the mascot head on, immediately smelled the glue fumes and became lightheaded. But he performed his role as the mascot for the night.
The following day, the head was placed in the ticket office. Cengeri said that the fumes from the glue were so bad the ticketing employees evacuated the office.
The fumes did not discourage Cengeri, and at the Jan. 24, 1981, basketball game against Marquette, the mascot finally got his name. The athletic department had run a promotion, with fans ranging in age from 4 years to Golden Flyers submitting entries of their favorite names. It was Falato’s idea.
“I had the bright idea to have a name-the-mascot contest with a group of randomly chosen fans who would vote on the name,” he said. He received more than 600 entries, including Pontius Pilot and Freddie Flyer. “It came down to Barney Barnstormer and Rudy. The name Rudy reminded me more of a WWI German Flying Ace. But, that’s what they picked,” Falato said.
Falato took to the Arena floor and made the announcement — and it sounded as if all the fans in the Arena were booing, he said.
“We stuck with it,” Falato said. “Here we are almost 40 years later, and he’s still around. I’m very proud of that, but I will tell you I’ve never had a name contest again.”
Cengeri said it took fans several years to embrace the name, but they warmed to the mascot quickly, making the man in the costume proud.
“It was the best,” said Cengeri, now a producer and announcer with Vermont Public Radio. “I’m a massive sports fan. I love the UD Flyers. To be able to attend every home game and some away games — to be right there on the floor — it was fantastic.”
While Rudy rallied support for the Flyers, the fans began supporting their mascot and transforming him into a cherished icon, said Joe Yokajty ’85, who became the mascot in 1982.
“During my second year as the mascot, Rudy started getting fan mail from some of the kids attending the UD games,” Yokajty said. “It was awesome.”
Yokajty made sure to reward the fans with some antics he knew they’d love, including the night when he got to fly.
Yokajty said he was hidden in one of the seating sections, then jumped out and flew across the basketball court with the cape on his back.
“I am still amazed that President Brother Raymond Fitz gave the ROTC permission to tie me to a long rope attached to the ceiling rafters. I think it was because we were both engineers,” said Yokajty, now an engineer based in Rochester, New York.
As Rudy got older, he not only got more adventurous but also more hip.
“Back in 1983, Michael Jackson first performed his Moonwalk on a TV program celebrating the history of Motown,” Yokajty said. “Rudy immediately taught himself the legendary move and incorporated it into his own dance routine during a Flyer basketball halftime. I swear most of the women in the Arena screamed.
“Rudy’s head might have been even bigger that day.”
The head was big, yes. And hot, with Yokajty losing up to 10 pounds while working football games. And, well, funny-looking.
“At one point Rudy’s face became a bit worn,” Yokajty said. “I overheard folks saying Rudy looked a bit like Mr. Potato Head. That was somewhat embarrassing for Rudy, until the costume was sent away for restoration that summer.”
Fans continued to think that Rudy looked like Mr. Potato Head throughout the 1990s. In 1997, the University decided Rudy needed to grow up.
According to a Dayton Daily News article by Bucky Albers, Rudy received a new blue pilot suit, red satin scarf, black boots, a black leather cap and goggles.
“The floppy-footed World War I biplane pilot who has frolicked at UD Arena for the past 17 years has been replaced by a character who looks more like Chuck Yeager,” Albers wrote in the article, referring to the famed test pilot who in 1947 became the first person to break the sound barrier.
More changes took place in the mid–2000s, Jay Nigro ’06 explained. After he became Rudy in August 2004, the mascot upgraded his blue jumpsuit by adding muscles and a bomber jacket. Rudy started wearing the basketball team’s jerseys and even the same shirt as Red Scare when rival Xavier came to town.
“They pretty much let me go where I wanted to go,” said Nigro, who now owns Liftoff Entertainment in Dayton. “It was a lot of fun interacting with fans,” he added, noting that he would walk to where his professors were sitting. They had no idea who was in the costume.
“It was something I’ll definitely remember about my college experience. Everyone loves Rudy,” he said.
Four years ago, Rudy beefed up his image again — taller, bigger and more muscular, said Adrienne Green ’08, director of marketing at UD Arena. He donned a new muscle suit and got a new bomber jacket, though he does dress for the occasion.
“We get all kinds of requests, even on campus,” Green said about Rudy’s appearances at weddings, alumni events, Christmas and birthday parties, and fundraisers.
Rudy Flyer donned a red satin scarf for a special occasion in 2011. “Guests were entertained by Rudy Flyer, who made a surprise appearance during the reception,” wrote Paula Veihdeffer Markley ’07 for her wedding announcement in UD Magazine.
Becky Dunn Kaster ’07 and Chris Kastner ’07 couldn’t have Rudy at their wedding, so they had the next best thing — a custom cake topper with boy and girl Rudy standing beside a Lowes Street sign.
“Rudy to us means family,” said Becky Kastner, “whether it’s our family members who also went to Dayton, our close-knit friends from UD who are now like family or the alumni community as a whole. Even though we graduated almost 10 years ago, the Flyer spirit remains with us and is something that we are both proud of.”
“We are both big UD sports fans and like to see Rudy motivating the crowd,” said Collin Brown.
Fernando del Monte ’08 and Molly Bytnar del Monte ’07 also named their furry yellow pup Rudy. “The main reason we named our dog Rudy was to remind ourselves of where we met,” Fernando del Monte said. “Our time at UD was so incredible.”
When the Arena marketing crew discusses how to schedule Rudy, they capitalize on his fan appeal to make a good time even better — including delivering free food during game breaks. “People like to get a pizza, especially if it’s from Rudy,” Green said.
Two to four students per school year have the opportunity to be Rudy, and their ideal height is between 5-foot-7 and 6-foot-3. If someone is not in that height range, the suit becomes disproportional, and Rudy loses his powerful image, Green said.
“I have a lot of respect for our students who do Rudy,” Green said. “It’s hot in there, and you can’t see anything. But it’s fun, and people get excited to see you.”
The love for Rudy — and Rudy’s evolution — continues. This year, Rudy will be able to be in two places at the same time; the athletic department had the costume “cloned.”
Such adaptation calls for a formal portrait. As of fall 2016, fans can purchase Rudy’s likeness on T-shirts, key chains and cut-outs.
Although Rudy has undergone many changes throughout the years, one thing remains the same: his readiness to cheer on his beloved Flyers with an army of Flyer Faithful beside him.
Michelle Tedford ’94 contributed reporting to this story.
Chuck Noll had a childhood dream. When he was 17, he saw it destroyed. Then he came to Dayton.
Noll’s Dayton years are part of the story told by Michael MacCambridge in his book Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work. MacCambridge’s journey to writing the book about the coach who moved the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise from laughingstock to Super Bowl legend took some time. In researching his award-winning America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation, he had interviewed Dan Rooney, Steelers executive and son of the franchise’s founder, Art Rooney.
A few months after the book was published in 2004, “I received a handwritten note from Rooney saying that it was a good book but didn’t have enough about the Steelers,” said MacCambridge while visiting the University of Dayton in October for a book signing.
In doing another book some years later, MacCambridge again interviewed Rooney, who was nearing 80 and had added to his achievements being the first U.S. ambassador to Ireland to visit all of the island’s 32 counties. After a while, he heard back from Rooney, by then Steelers chairman emeritus, his son Art II now heading the franchise.
Rooney wanted him to do a book on Chuck Noll.
“I was interested,” MacCambridge said, “but I told him it can’t be just about Noll being a good football coach.”
“You look into it,” Rooney said. “You’ll see.”
So MacCambridge talked to men who played with and for Noll. He talked to Noll’s family. He saw.
Three years, 300 interviews and a lot of writing later, the book on Noll has been published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. It is about a successful football coach. No other coach has won four Super Bowls while losing none. But it is also about a successful man.
Noll’s perspectives were broader than football. During his life he became a photographer, a wine connoisseur, an airplane pilot. If something interested him, he wanted to become an expert on it. “He may have been,” MacCambridge said, “the last Renaissance man.”
Noll loved his wife, Marianne, and their son, Chris. And he loved his nieces and nephews. His sister, Rita, and her husband, Clarence, had seven children under the age of 10 when Clarence died suddenly. Noll became a source of financial help and more. Noll kept his family life private; he neither sought the spotlight nor enjoyed it. But MacCambridge noted that, as he was researching the book, the nieces and nephews were very clear to him about their uncle’s love and help and their gratitude to him.
One remembers struggling with algebra. He took her aside and quietly went over it with her. “From that day on,” she said, “math was my best subject.”
The intelligence, the skills, the attitude that Noll brought to everything in life, he brought to football. And he changed the game.
“His big contribution,” MacCambridge said, “was reducing the game to its components. Football was then, in terms of coaches, a cult of personality, of willpower, of overblown rhetoric, ‘give 110 — no, 120 percent.’”
Noll considered it the player’s job to motivate himself. What Noll as a coach did, MacCambridge said, was to teach players “what to do, how to do it and why they should do it.”
After graduating from the University, Noll played for Paul Brown in Cleveland for six years. Brown was a coach who stayed on message. One message his players heard repeatedly was that “this is just what you’re doing now. You have to think of what your life’s work will be.”
Part of that advice had to do with economic necessity. Pro football didn’t pay much in those days. As a player, Noll did consider what his life’s work could be. He sold insurance. He sold trucking services. He did substitute teaching. He studied law a bit. He thought about medicine.
He didn’t like any of it much.
“I had a horrible, horrible fear of him ending up selling time on a truck line forever,” MacCambridge quotes Marianne as saying. “And I wanted him to have a passion.”
In 1959, Noll got a call from his old roommate, Jim Currin ’53, who told him that former UD assistant coach Joe Quinn ’42 and others thought he would be a good candidate for Dayton’s head coaching job. After interviewing in Dayton, he returned home to Cleveland and Marianne waiting with dinner and wine. He explained he knew he wasn’t going to get the job.
“But I do know one thing now,” he said. “This is what I really want to do. I really want to coach.”
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The excerpt that follows is from the part of Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work that chronicles Noll’s Dayton years; it takes him from being a 17-year-old with his spirit crushed to being a man about to try out for a football team that in every year of its existence had played in its league’s championship game — the Cleveland Browns. While at Dayton, MacCambridge said, Noll “got a sense of self, a sense of belonging, a sense of confidence.”
Chuck Noll ’53 had a childhood dream of playing football for the best college team in the country, Notre Dame. He tried out as a walk-on. An epileptic, he had a seizure. That was the end of his Notre Dame career. “The university,” writes Noll biographer Michael MacCambridge, “thought it best if Chuck went home. Coach [Frank] Leahy didn’t want to take the risk.” The following excerpt from MacCambridge’s 2016 book, Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work (reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press), describes what happened after Noll returned to his home on the east side of Cleveland.
There were no heart-to-heart discussions at the breakfast table the next morning. Instead, Chuck got up, showered and dressed, and did what he’d done most days the previous four years: he walked up to Woodland Avenue to grab the streetcar heading out to Benedictine [High School].
The semester had just begun, and the school was in the early stages of earnest fall activity. Chuck went straight to the athletic department and found who he was looking for — Ab Strosnider [Noll’s line coach at Benedictine and a 1927 Dayton grad].
With his eyes fixed on his shoes, Chuck told Strosnider what had happened. They talked for a few moments, and Strosnider asked him what his plan was now. Chuck didn’t have one.
But very soon, Strosnider did. He told Chuck to give him a few hours.
Strosnider had played, with distinction, at the University of Dayton, about 215 miles downstate, in southwestern Ohio. Soon, he got on the phone with Joe Gavin, the head football coach at Dayton and also, as it happened, a college roommate of Frank Leahy.
It made perfect sense. Leahy and Gavin were still close friends, and at times Leahy would call Gavin on the phone and have him try a new wrinkle with his team that Leahy couldn’t risk trying in practice — because of all the attention on Notre Dame — with his own team. Surely Gavin would take on Chuck Noll.
Gavin called Leahy to find out the story on the Noll kid. There wasn’t much information: Leahy knew the kid had a seizure, and Notre Dame didn’t become Notre Dame by taking on problems. Whatever Leahy said wasn’t enough to convince Gavin to take Chuck. But then, after Gavin called Strosnider back and politely declined, he’d found the old Dayton alum unwavering in his insistence on Chuck’s worthiness. Strosnider wouldn’t take no for an answer.
He was speaking quietly at first, but soon he raised his voice, loudly enough for Father Placid [Pientek, the athletic department business manager], sitting in another corner of the Benedictine athletic department office, to hear one side of the conversation.
“Look,” Strosnider continued, more emphatic. “Joe, I tell you he’s a good kid! You got to take him. If you don’t, you won’t get another guy from Benedictine, I swear to God.”
As threats went, it was not an idle one: Strosnider had been around, and he knew virtually everyone in Cleveland football. After a few more moments on the phone, Gavin relented. Strosnider signed off with a relieved affirmation — “You’ll see” — and then a quick goodbye.
He put the phone back in its cradle and eased back into the chair. The next call was to Chuck, to tell him that he should keep his bags packed; he would be enrolling at the University of Dayton.
So, on Sept. 18, 1949, Chuck Noll went to Terminal Tower and got on a train, bound for Dayton. He was met at the station by Dan Ferrazza [’51] who drove him to campus so he could watch practice. One of the other freshmen recognized him. It was Len Kestner, who was on the Catholic Universe Bulletin’s All-Catholic team with Chuck in ’48.
“Hey, Chuck!,” said Kestner. “What are you doing here? I thought you were at Notre Dame.”
“It’s a long story,” Chuck said.
By 1949, the hometown of Orville and Wilbur Wright was a small-time city with big-time aspirations. National Cash Register, founded in 1884 and thriving in the postwar economy, was right across the street from the campus, and there were several General Motors subsidiaries — Delco and Frigidaire plants among them — that were paying well for manual labor. Against this growing industrial metropolis, the University of Dayton stood out as a redoubt of Catholic learning. …
It lacked the bustle of Cleveland or the mystique of Notre Dame, but it was welcoming, approachable and Catholic. It didn’t take long before Chuck felt at home.
Before they’d even met him, some of his teammates saw Chuck one afternoon, a solitary figure out on the practice field, relentlessly ramming out at a blocking sled. Later that day, [Pat] Maloney [’53] became the first to make his acquaintance. They sat together in the narrow corridor outside the athletic office and struck up a conversation. “We must have talked for about 20-25 minutes before Gavin got there,” said Maloney. “I remember afterwards that I said, ‘Boy, what a nice guy; I really like this guy. I’m glad I came to UD because it is going to be good.”
Out on the practice field, Chuck’s credentials were clear. “Right away, you knew he was a player,” Jim Currin [’53] said. “There was no question he could play the game, and he knew it. He was smarter than all the rest of us, had blocking techniques we didn’t have yet. You could just tell.”
The freshman team was designated cannon fodder. “We just got the shit kicked out of us by the varsity,” said Maloney. “That was it. No ifs, ands or buts about it.”
Eventually, though, by the end of that first season, something changed. In 1949, many of Dayton’s starters were nearing their mid-20s, Second World War veterans who attended on the GI Bill. … At first, Gavin thought the older, hardened athletes would be the key to Dayton’s rise. But there was something missing in the GI Bill vets — a degree of abandon characteristic of the best players. Gavin found it hard to convince someone who’d survived the Battle of the Bulge to whip themselves into an emotional fervor for the sake of beating St. Bonaventure.
By the end of the season, as the freshmen grew physically and in confidence, the tide turned in their scrimmaging against the varsity. “Some of them were married, so football wasn’t a big thing,” said Currin. “So when we came in, we were all recruits, ready to go, and we would have a scrimmage, and by the end of that year we would just knock the snot out of them.”
As sophomores, Chuck and the Dayton football Class of 1953 moved en masse up to the varsity. … On the field that sophomore year, Chuck found a new influence. He was Ralph McGehee, an All-American under Leahy at Notre Dame, who was rehabbing an injured knee on his way to trying out for the pros. If Russ Alexander [who coached Noll on a youth team in Cleveland] had taught Chuck the principles of leverage, and Strosnider helped him with the nuances of using his arms to shed and control opponents, McGehee gave Chuck a master class in the initial explosion off the line of scrimmage.
McGehee “had the most powerful lunge out of the three-point stance that I had ever seen or have seen since,” said Currin. “And he watched Chuck, because Chuck had a good lunge from three-point stance, and worked with Chuck. Between the two of them, they would break those sliding machines.” The facility Chuck had exhibited in the classroom — hear or read something once and he retained much of it — translated to the football field as well, and by his sophomore year, Chuck was already coaching his teammates.
By the time he returned for training camp in the late summer of 1951, Chuck might have felt he was coming home to his second family. The connections between those Dayton players ran deeper than mere teammates. They lived together, studied together (those that studied), went out together, and drank together. …
They had spent much of the previous two years giving each other nicknames. … Chuck’s nickname was definitely bestowed during the spring intrasquad game in 1951. … Before one play, Chuck made a line audible that would send him wide to block the end and have Currin moving inside to catch the linebacker coming through the vacated hole. The call was made but the play broke down from the start, Chuck not getting a good shot on the end and Currin missing the linebacker entirely.
Walking back to the huddle, both Chuck and Currin were adamant that the other man had failed.
“That’s your fault!” Chuck said.
“You called it!” said Currin. “He was too far over!” Then, perturbed, he added, “You think you’re always right — you think you’re the Pope!”
Teammate Joe Molloy [’54], walking back to the huddle with them, overheard and echoed the sentiment, “Yeah, you’re the Pope!” …
The nickname poked fun at Chuck’s certitude, but there was also a sense in which it was a descriptive of the authority of his opinions. “If there was ever a discussion, whatever his conclusion was, end of discussion,” said Don Donoher [’54]. “Chuck’s was the last word, so it just became; he is infallible.”
In the locker room [after the 1951 season-ending 34-13 win over Marshall], Gavin gathered his players and announced that they had received an invitation from the Salad Bowl, played in Glendale, Arizona.
There were real questions within the administration over the cost. … Dayton finally accepted.
It would be the greatest moment in Dayton’s major-college football history. They took a chartered train from Dayton, with 11 newspapermen and two train cars full of boosters along for the ride. …
The game itself, played on Jan. 1, 1952, drew a crowd estimated at 17,000. … Dayton fell, 26-21.
[In 1952] on Thanksgiving, they went down to Chattanooga for their last game and were blown out, 40-7, to end a disappointing 6-5 season.
As they took off their sweaty football gear in the Chattanooga locker room, they each knew, to a man, it was probably the last time they’d play the sport. Though Chuck was named all-Ohio, he was undersized for a lineman and was already focused on looking for teaching jobs after graduation. … Only Currin, who’d earned national attention with his receptions, was given a chance. For everyone else, it seemed, the ride was over.
So when a man called the dorm one day in January 1953 to inform Chuck he’d been drafted, he at first assumed it was the Army and was perplexed; he’d already been declared 4-F due to his epilepsy.
“No, the Browns — the Cleveland Browns,” said the reporter. … The Browns kept close tabs on Ohio schools, and Gavin had recommended Noll as the sort of brainy football player that Paul Brown loved; Cleveland drafted him in the 20th round. …
The standard contract for rookies was $5,000. Among the teaching opportunities that had been offered Chuck, one was at Holy Name High School in Cleveland, for a pay of $2,700.
Of course, the odds were stacked against Chuck making the team. NFL rosters had 33 players. From one year to the next, there might be 28 or 29 holdovers, even more on a perennial contender like the Browns. But Brown had been told about Chuck’s technical skills.
“Well, you’re big enough,” said Brown to Chuck when he visited that spring. “Let’s see if you’re brave enough.”
The summer of 1953, Chuck, Currin, Maloney and [Tom] Carroll [’53], along with basketball player Chris Harris [’55], wound up renting space in the attic of an apartment on Grafton Avenue, behind the Dayton Art Institute, within easy walking distance of McKinley Park. They each paid the owner $5 a week for a mattress in the attic. …
They’d found work … laying tar and working nearly dawn to dusk every weekday. It was hot, dirty work, and only the money and the friendship made it worthwhile. …
When they returned to the apartment, most of them would collapse. Not Chuck. Each day, he would change into his Dayton athletic shorts, grab his stopwatch and implore Maloney or Carroll to join him at McKinley Park a few blocks away.
“Chuck, I’m tired — you go,” Carroll would protest.
“You don’t have to do anything!” Chuck said. “Just come along and sit down and time me.”
There, in the gathering dusk, Chuck would run 40-yard sprints, and then have Carroll time the intervals — first 60 seconds, then 50 seconds, then 40 seconds, down to 10-second breaks. Chuck would run until he collapsed from exhaustion. Carroll, stopwatch in hand, would sit with his back against a tree and time his friend.
The sight of the other tired young men sprawled in the stifling heat of their threadbare apartment while Chuck changed into sweatpants and tennis shoes became one of the recurring motifs of that summer.
“Pius [the name of the pope at the time], slow down, man,” said Chris Harris one hot evening.
“Gotta do it,” Chuck replied. “Gotta make this team.”
Noll made the team, playing six years for Paul Brown in Cleveland before going into coaching himself. In 1975 he coached the Pittsburgh Steelers to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title, his first Super Bowl win of four. Nobody has won more. He lost none.
Chuck Noll: His Life and Work is widely available at booksellers including the University of Dayton Bookstore, www.udayton.edu/bookstore.
Susan Davies has seen up-close the impact of concussions on children — on a student’s ability to learn and on educators unequipped to address the brain’s measured healing. The UD associate professor is now educating others to create a community of care that helps students return to learn.
Since the school year began, 14 students had visited Kim LaScola’s office at Hudson Middle School near Akron, Ohio, with concussions — heads banged in football games or knocked around during classroom horseplay. And it was just October.
As the school nurse and a registered nurse at Akron Children’s Hospital, LaScola understands the protocol for recognizing traumatic brain injury and developing post-injury progress plans for her students. She says her word alone, however, often isn’t enough to convince teachers that recovering students might require additional academic assistance when they return to the classroom.
“I need a doctor’s order that says Joey can’t take this test,” she said with exasperation to a group of colleagues from Akron Children’s Hospital, all of whom traveled to Columbus one October afternoon for a training session on managing concussions in school settings.
Such stories are familiar to the session’s presenter, Susan Davies, an associate professor of counselor education and human services in the School of Education and Health Sciences. In her two decades of experience as a school psychologist, she has seen the consequences of concussions left unaddressed. She is now using her faculty research to educate those who work in schools with students — as well as the parents and students themselves — to identify injuries, acknowledge their myriad impacts and create a community of care to help the students return to learn.
When Davies worked in the Oak Hills Local School District in suburban Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Public Schools as a school psychologist during a five-year period, she saw the adverse effects of traumatic brain injury among her students’ ability to learn. They experienced persistent learning and behavioral difficulties after sustaining a brain injury, she said, but “because educators weren’t often well-trained in identifying and understanding brain injuries, these students were not receiving the school-based supports and services they needed in order to be successful.”
Davies is working to change that paradigm. During the October session sponsored by the Ohio Department of Health, she offered school-based professionals and health care providers training they can take back to their schools, districts and regions — “training the trainers,” she says, who will then multiply the impact of her sessions.
Even though students might look fine from a physical standpoint, debilitating effects such as fatigue, concentration difficulties and memory problems can linger well after the initial hit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2010, approximately 2.5 million emergency room visits, hospitalizations or deaths were associated with traumatic brain injuries. About 75 percent were concussions — mild traumatic brain injuries that occur due to bumps or blows to the head or body that cause the head to move rapidly back and forth.
Despite its medical designation as “mild,” Davies stresses that a concussion diagnosis that includes the word “traumatic” indicates the seriousness of the injury, especially considering the frequency in which they occur. Close to 250,000 children in 2009 were treated in U.S. hospitals for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a concussion diagnosis.
“It’s really a public health issue,” said Davies, the founder and coordinator of the National Association of School Psychologists Traumatic Brain Injury Interest Group. In 2016, she won the University’s Faculty Award in Scholarship from the UD Alumni Association.
“If we respond appropriately and we set those appropriate academic and environmental adjustments in place as soon as students return to school, they can recover quite quickly. On the other hand, if students come back to an educational environment that is not understanding their unique needs, it can really do some physical damage and prolong their recovery.”
Davies often uses what she calls the broken-leg analogy to make her point even more clear.
“You’re not going to put someone with a broken leg back in PE class, so likewise, if you have a child who’s coming back to school — and they can come back to school if they have symptoms — but they’re still experiencing headaches or light sensitivity and things like that, you shouldn’t be making them do a half day of standardized testing and then go to a pep rally,” Davies said.
School-based professionals with education and health care backgrounds, like LaScola, understand this. So did most of the 40-plus educators, psychologists, Ohio State Support Team members, physical trainers, injury prevention coordinators and others assembled at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources complex to hear Davies’ presentation. It was up to them, however, to bring that information back to their schools, their communities and their Ohio Department of Education regions to develop a team-based model to ensure their students could safely and effectively return to the classroom.
Community of care
Damien was an eighth-grade boy who was in a car accident that resulted in a broken leg, numerous cuts and abrasions, and a concussion. His family, teachers and medical providers tended to focus first and foremost on his visible injuries. However, Damien was also struggling with concussion symptoms that made the transition back to school particularly difficult. The night before he returned to school, it took Damien several hours to fall asleep. He had a terrible headache and was filled with anxiety about what to say to people and how to catch up on all the schoolwork he had missed.
“Damien” isn’t a real student, and his full “story” is one of the case studies Davies presents at training sessions and uses for analysis in her book, Managing Concussions in Schools: A Guide to Recognition, Response, and Leadership. Readers and participants are asked to discuss the warning signs students exhibit that indicate the need for educational adjustments and the issues school staff should recognize and respond to in such cases.
All of the examples presented could easily be composites of scenarios school staff face on a regular basis, including Davies during her career as a school psychologist.
“During my first year, I had a couple of cases where the students were presenting with unusual profiles, unusual patterns of strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “After delving a little deeper into their medical histories and some other things I’d learned in my own training, I’d learned they’d had previous traumatic brain injuries that weren’t revisited in their educational evaluations that happened before I came on the scene.”
Teachers kept flagging those children for potential learning disabilities or cognitive delays, but they weren’t qualifying for special educational services, Davies said. After all, the children had recovered physically. They seemed just fine.
‘My strategy with schools for concussion cases is helping them understand that if they have the right sort of supports and adjustments to the workload and academic environments in place, those kids can get better in a few days or weeks.’
A more detailed parent interview revealed past incidences of traumatic brain injury that hadn’t been reported to the school system.
“One of the girls I evaluated had been hit by a car when she was 2,” Davies said. “Everyone was very excited when she recovered, but when she started school, some of the repercussions only became evident when she needed to sustain attention for longer periods of time and engage in more complex social situations. She actually presented as a typical student who had a traumatic brain injury, but because it had happened in preschool, it really wasn’t on our school’s radar.”
When Davies began pursuing a doctorate in school psychology, she said she “made it her mission” to use her dissertation research to help teams of school professionals better understand brain injuries and how they could present in different ways. There were emotional, social and behavioral issues that often manifested, in addition to academic difficulties.
Immediate identification and treatment for the concussion is the first step. That’s taking place more often thanks to increased awareness of the danger of brain injury and the need for a quick response although nearly 33 percent of concussions in athletes go unreported, according to a paper in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.
What follows is just as critical, which is why Davies developed a concussion team model to ensure students’ return to educational settings happen as safely as possible without long-term damage.
One person is designated as the concussion team leader, or central communicator. This person could be a school nurse, school psychologist, counselor or administrator. He or she is responsible for receiving the injury reports and managing the documented return-to-learn process everyone else will
The student (or parent, for a younger child) should clearly communicate her symptoms, educational struggles and concerns, and the parent should help the child adhere to the plan while submitting any medical notes or instructions to the school. Academic team members should follow guidelines for recommended academic adjustments to excuse a student from a test or allow a student to opt out of activities that require extensive computer or tablet use, for example, as light sensitivity often follows traumatic brain injury.
School psychologists, counselors and speech language pathologists can work as consultants for more complicated cases and help create the plans that include explanations for certain academic adjustments. The medical team members provide the diagnosis and management of the injuries, while a school nurse can monitor in-school symptoms and help evaluate whether or not a student should stay in school or receive academic adjustments.
Athletic team members would manage the student’s return to the practice and playing field.
For the plan to unfold successfully, all team members have to maintain consistent communication, using the concussion team leader as a focal point.
“My strategy with schools for concussion cases is helping them understand that if they have the right supports and adjustments to the workload and academic environments in place, those kids can get better in a few days or weeks,” Davies said. “Occasionally you’ll have kids who’ll have persisting problems beyond a couple of months, but that’s not as common.”
Although managing traumatic brain injury in school settings has been Davies’ area of research for more than 10 years, she’s seen an uptick in interest during the last five with the national attention on sports-related concussions, particularly among football and soccer players. Laws requiring return-to-play protocol exist in all 50 states for student athletes, and school-based and recreational coaches receive concussion recognition and management training. Parents also receive that protocol when signing up their children for sports.
While athletic personnel play an important role in Davies’ concussion team model, she says traumatic brain injury is more likely to occur in more routine settings. General recreational activities, playground injuries and bicycle accidents are leading causes of concussion, especially among younger children. Abuse at home is also a culprit.
“You can’t forget about these kids who’ve fallen, been in fights or been in car accidents,” she said. “Concussions aren’t just a sports thing.”
LaScola, the Hudson Middle School nurse, has even seen students who sustained concussions from plain old “horsing around” and bumping heads, hitting their heads on walls or crashing into bleachers during a game in physical education class.
This is why Davies wants all school staff and educational personnel to be aware of the importance of recognizing and responding to concussions — young children are at high risk. The underdevelopment of the younger brain and a physical stature that makes young children’s heads and brains proportionally larger than the rest of their bodies make them more susceptible to brain injury compared to adults, Davies said. Developing motor skills and mobility also contribute to that risk.
But making the link between a child’s fall from the monkey bars and her lack of attention in a kindergarten class doesn’t often
happen in a school setting, to that child’s detriment.
“In comparison to students who sustain severe brain injuries, students who sustain concussions aren’t necessarily going to be experiencing prolonged, severe academic and behavioral issues,” Davies said. “They’re not likely going to qualify for special education, but schools need to know what to do with them, too.”
Ideally, the student would be getting enough rest and sleep following the injury, and limit physical and cognitive activity during that period. While students usually get physical rest, Davies stresses the importance of resting the brain, a step more likely to be neglected in the process. Schoolwork and technology access should be limited. Students who stay home from school should avoid extensive computer, video game, television and smartphone use. Such activities can prolong the healing process and even exacerbate symptoms, she said.
Easier said than done, said some of the attendees in Columbus.
“It’s a constant fight,” said LaScola, noting that tablets and other handheld devices are frequently a requirement in the classroom. Resistance often comes from students and other members who should be key parts of the team model.
Returning to school should be a gradual process, going from partial day attendance to full-day attendance with some academic adjustments (limited tests and homework), full-day attendance with no academic limitations and only physical limitations, and finally, full school participation, including
“If you do the right things, concussion symptoms will get better,” Davies said. “If you don’t, students can have protracted recovery and, should they sustain a second concussion before the first has resolved, that’s really when we see the potential for more permanent impairment. We really want to create that community of care around the students.”
Spreading the word
The attendees at the Ohio Department of Health workshop didn’t doubt the value of Davies’ presentation and the team model approach to helping their students return successfully to academic and extracurricular activity. Assembling the team, however, was more of a struggle.
“This isn’t a priority for a lot of teachers,” said Megan Trowbridge, a state support team member specializing in assistive technology. She attended with Erin Oleen, another state support team specialist in accommodations, modifications and alternate assessment. They serve Region 14, a mostly rural area of Southern Ohio between Columbus and Cincinnati. (Ohio’s schools are divided into 16 regions.)
Trowbridge and Oleen said they share information with schools in their regions but still have trouble emphasizing the importance of the team model for helping students recover from brain injury. For their area, the distance between schools and medical centers hamper the communication process, and a lack of resources also presents hurdles.
Because it’s impossible for Davies to make site visits to all interested communities, she hopes to train as many State Support Team members as possible so they can then lead the training sessions for their regions. She’s also created online trainings through the Ohio Department of Health project, and a University of Dayton graduate student, Maria Tedesco, is completing her graduate research on the effectiveness of online training programs.
Tedesco is studying the efficacy of an online training that Davies developed, which integrates information from existing programs, including the Centers for Disease Control’s Heads Up program and Columbus’ Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Concussion Clinic Resources for Education, and
piloted the training in nine Ohio schools. She gathered background information about participants’ role in their schools and past concussion training and experience. The assessment included questions related to concussion knowledge, recognition and response, and Tedesco is completing data collection to determine the training’s effectiveness.
Another of Davies’ graduate assistants, Allie Hundley, is completing trainings in low-income settings. She received a grant from the Ohio Injury Prevention Program to conduct sessions with parents of preschoolers in Head Start programs to recognize and respond to head injuries. All parents receive bike helmets and are taught to properly fit them.
“Preschoolers are mobile, but their gross motor skills aren’t fully developed yet,” Hundley said, mentioning why she targeted children ages 3-5. “They’re also at that exploratory stage where they want to move around a lot.”
All of which create a perfect brew for accidents leading to brain injury.
Hundley scheduled four training sessions during the fall and hopes to run more during the spring semester before she graduates. Hundley is in her third and final year of the education specialist program at UD and hopes to go into the field of school psychology.
Davies’ model can be applied to any educational setting, even as different challenges emerge with older students in high school and college.
They’re old enough to describe their symptoms and learn to advocate for themselves, she said, but actually doing so is a different story. In her first year at UD, Davies encountered a student who experienced multiple concussions in high school and an accident while at college. Although he looked fine and seemed fine, he was experiencing some “pretty serious” ramifications from those head injuries, Davies said. He slept a lot, reported constant headaches and had weak academic performance.
“Really nothing was sinking in,” she said.
The young man’s mother was his advocate, calling to wake him up and explaining his situation to professors, but Davies worked to get him a graduate student “coach” who could help him learn to self-advocate.
“I can’t imagine being an 18- or 19-year-old college student and getting a brain injury, because one of the effects of a brain injury is impaired self-awareness and impaired judgment,” Davies said. “When you are still just a couple of years fresh out of your parents’ house and you’re living away from home and you have a roommate, how can you take care of that?”
She’s also taught one of her graduate students to conduct trainings for resident assistants at UD and workers at RecPlex to develop skills in concussion recognition and response, and help the broader campus community — including disabilities services offices and students in general — gain greater understanding of brain injury.
“I do a lot of training of the trainers, because they’re the ones who have the credibility in their school buildings,” Davies says. “Those parents and teachers and their school don’t know me, but if I can train their trusted school psychologist or their school nurse to go in and help set up a concussion management team, it’s kind of an efficient way of outreach.”
The 40-plus attendees at Davies’ October training were a start. So were the parents who picked up a helmet from one of Hundley’s sessions and the educators who completed one of Tedesco’s online training modules. Each one is contributing to the community of care, becoming part of the team to help students return to learn.
In May 2016, eight undergraduate students began collecting, archiving and publicizing instances of moral courage — standing up on behalf of others in danger, regardless of the risk in doing so. The place was Ferguson, Missouri.
For months before, students had trained and researched with whom they should speak and what they should ask. It was not easy. Some activists were known only by their Twitter handles. Others did their work with little fanfare — the librarian who taught students when the schools closed, the peacekeeper who on the streets mediated between residents and officers. Jimmie Briggs, a journalist with St. Louis and Ferguson roots, helped students make the connections and develop the relationships needed to capture the testimonies.
When they arrived, the students put on headphones and held out microphones, asking 33 strangers to expose their souls and speak on issues of race and place, reality and hope. These voices add depth and texture to the headlines and protests that followed the police shooting death of Michael Brown Aug. 9, 2014.
In partnership with PROOF, a nonprofit advocating visual storytelling for human rights and peacebuilding, and led by assistant professor of human rights Joel R. Pruce, the project continues to bear witness. At a September campus forum, the students presented their work alongside stories of protest from Ayotzinapa, the college in Guerrero, Mexico, where 43 students disappeared. An exhibit of Ferguson photographs and testimony, Ferguson Voices: Disrupting the Frame, will be on display Jan. 17 – Feb. 3 in the Roesch Library first floor gallery, before traveling to other exhibit sites in Dayton, St. Louis and Ferguson. For more voices, including those of the student participants, visit
Founder, Show Me Arts Academy
I told my husband, “Oh, I’m ’bout to go over there.” He said, “No, you don’t need to go.” I said, “Yes I do need to go over there because, if this was my baby, I would want someone to come over and be there for me.” He was like, “You don’t even know her. You don’t know them. You’ll get hurt.” I said, “And that’s what’s wrong with us now.” We feel like because it’s not personal, since I don’t know the person that I can’t have compassion for the person. I said, “As long as we continue to operate in that manner and not just simply take the time out to embrace somebody in a bad situation, we’ll never figure out what’s going on.” But we were weeks into it. I found myself feeling empowered.
Community advocate, third-generation Ferguson resident
I have learned so much in the last 20 months, like stuff … I just didn’t understand from being white, from growing up white, from being raised white that I didn’t understand. A lot of it has to do with dialogues and conversations that took place at protests, which inspired me to do more research on my own, to look things up, to read things, whether I was comfortable with it or not comfortable with it or whatever — there were things that I needed to listen to. … So those sort of relationships really inspired me.
Veteran officer, Ferguson Police Department
You gotta remember I’ve been here 27 years, so I’m a grandpa here. And the protesters don’t have to like me. But I tell our officers, you treat people fairly, and they’ll treat you fairly. [People] would tell me problems, whether in their own home or outside of their home, because they felt comfortable. I would want you to talk to me. I don’t want kids to be scared of me. Those parents that say you better watch it or he’ll take you to jail, that hurts me ’cause I don’t want a kid to feel that he can’t approach me. I want families to approach me because there are problems that we can’t see.
Anti-violence advocate, union autoworker
I kind of like tell people all the time, if you wasn’t here when it happened, you kinda missed out on a great opportunity, ’cause on TV, it looked like a warzone. … It was like 98 percent family reunion, 2 percent riot. … And everybody getting along. I seen enemies, I seen cats that I had beef with growin’ up, and they seen me, like bro, bro, come give me a hug. I’m like, that’s what’s up. It only lasted about two weeks, but it still felt good while it happened.
Editor’s note: Seals was murdered Sept. 6, 2016
Lucas Keefer didn’t take his toaster with him when he moved from Dayton to Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Keefer, a post-doctoral research fellow in psychology at UD from August 2014 to June 2016, left to accept a tenure-track position at the University of Southern Mississippi. He also left behind the state where he has family, including a 1-year-old niece, within a three-hour drive.
Yet Keefer, who’s lived in four states during the past 10 years, is used to being in transit — and has studied the impact of just this type of mobility. While he was at UD, he co-wrote a paper with Omri Gillath, associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, that suggests highly mobile people are more likely to view possessions as disposable — and, in turn, friendships and romantic partners as well.
Keefer and Gillath outlined the findings from their four studies in the paper, published in the April 2016 journal Personal Relationships. Together, they suggest that people who are more mobile think of their belongings as disposable, which perhaps is what also leads them to think of their relationships as disposable.
“When you put it all together, mobility is indirectly affecting our commitment to our relationships because it changes how we feel about our material possessions and, likewise, how we feel about relationships,” said Keefer, who’s seen the study results play out somewhat in his own life.
“I definitely ascribe to that first part of the process, that people who move often are more willing to throw things away,” he said. “I would throw away all my belongings except my computer, books and guitar (when I move).
“But I don’t know if that’s affected my relationships,” he continued. “My data would suggest that it has, but if so I’m not aware of it.”
Molly Blake ’96 still mails friends and family handwritten birthday cards — despite the fact that, as the wife of a recently retired Marine, she has moved 11 times since college graduation. Her seventh-grade daughter has attended seven schools.
“There have definitely been people who I’ve been great friends with and have lost touch with, not for any malicious reason but because some people just are not great at keeping in touch,” Blake said. “I happen to be really good at keeping in touch. I learned that from my mom, but also from being in a military family. I work hard to cultivate my friendships because I’ve needed them. I had a baby while my husband was in Iraq, and it was the military connection that made it easier. Military families really rely on each other and create a very special bond.”
While a romantic relationship led to Blake’s move-a-lot lifestyle, Keefer and Gillath found romance may be a casualty for other highly mobile folks.
UD alumnus Paul Sozio ’15 agrees: “I was dating a girl when I was in Argentina and, while it was exciting at the time, we went back to our respective countries when we left Argentina,” said Sozio, who has lived in Honduras, Nicaragua and Argentina during study abroad programs and while working for nongovernmental organizations. “Going into it, you think, ‘This probably isn’t a permanent thing’ in the back of your head.
“But for me, you can’t put up a wall and think, ‘I don’t want to get close to anyone,’ because it’s more important to cherish the time you do have together and be present,” he added. “You have to know that the people you really click with, you’re going to stay in touch.”
Jake Muniak ’14 has moved between Ohio, Nicaragua, Denver and Seattle since graduation and is now a travel service consultant for South America Travel. He agrees that many friendships fade with frequent moves, but others remain solid.
“A real relationship takes a lot of work, and that becomes more so when you don’t see that person every day,” he said. “I visited my college roommate in Chicago when I was traveling from Ohio to Seattle and it was like, ‘Wow, I don’t know the next time I’ll see you.’ We made plans to meet up on St. Patrick’s Day 2017. He might have to come to Brazil to make that happen.
“Making plans is one thing. Following through is another ball game.”
After many years of a highly mobile lifestyle, Blake also has found certain friends — particularly those from her UD days — stand the test of time.
“Most people at the age of 42 have their group of friends they’ve had since they graduated from college and moved into their house,” Blake said. “We don’t have that. We have friends all over the place. We’ve never had family near us so we can’t be like, ‘Let’s go to my parents’ house on Sunday.’
“This is part of why I treasure my true friends so much,” she added. “My Dayton roommates and I just had our 20-year reunion. I love those girls. It means a lot to me that we can get together and hang out as if no time has gone by.”
Kaitlyn Ridel ’13 wanted to live in Washington, D.C. — and she does, although it’s taken some moves back and forth between there and her hometown of Cleveland, as well as between Boston and Dayton, to make it happen. Now, Ridel is a brand and communications specialist for FiscalNote.
“My family is very close, and they’re all in the Cleveland area,” she said. “I’m the only one who’s kind of stayed away so I feel like an oddball sometimes, but I’ve always loved politics and policy so D.C. seems like the right place for that. My career, for now, is going to come first, and my family understands that.
“I do love Ohio, but I need to see if I can make D.C. work,” she added. “I have a really great set of friends here and a great job and want to see where it goes.”
In their paper, Keefer and Gillath note that mobility can have two effects. Moves within the same community are unlikely to have much impact on social networks. Long-distance moves, on the other hand, are likely to result in both geographical and social network changes.
Today, young people such as Ridel and Muniak often focus on the places where they want to live, and then find jobs.
“Having a job where I can be mobile and make enough to pay off my student loans is a goal, and this job provides that,” Muniak said. “I’m at that stage in life where I can stay in a hostel with 30 people and sleep on the floor. One day, I will want to lay low and settle down, and I want to know I squeezed everything out of that time when I could be transient.”
Sozio grew up in Cleveland, where his parents planned trips that helped him catch the travel bug.
“I’ve been stateside for two weeks and I’m already wondering where my next trip will be to,” he said after returning from Nicaragua. “I need something to plan and look forward to.”
For Blake, after all her moving about, she’s ready to settle down in her new home in Littleton, Colorado — a place she and her husband selected for their love of the mountains and skiing and the fact that her family has a vacation home nearby.
“We bought a house that’s a bit of a renovation project,” she said. “We’ve never had a clean slate to make our own and build that dream deck and fire pit.”
Settling down also means Blake can add some color to her home’s style.
“Now we have this huge house, and we don’t have any furniture,” she said. “Before, everything we owned was beige or brown so if we lived in a historical charmer or a new hacienda house, it would fit.”
Yet Blake isn’t used to having much in the way of stuff.
“We’re lean and mean and ready to move at a moment’s notice,” she said. “If we can’t get both our cars in our garage because there’s too much crap in there, we almost lose our minds. We have drawers that are completely empty and closets with one thing in them.”
“We’ve had houses we’ve rented and sold and it was the same situation,” she added. “Even big stuff like a house — I still had no connection to it.”
Indeed, Keefer and Gillath found this to be typical of highly mobile people.
Their paper also notes one practical aspect of moving has received little attention in existing residential mobility research: When moving, people must decide what possessions are worth moving and what can be left behind.
“If we were to time travel to a place when everything we owned was a family heirloom, perhaps we wouldn’t throw things out,” Keefer said. “So potentially in places high in residential mobility, we
also have a culture of easily replaceable consumer goods. But those and other implications are still open questions.”
Ridel, Muniak and Sozio are with Blake when it comes to traveling light. Ridel has moved photo albums and a good Italian cooking pan from place to place but otherwise rents furnished apartments. Muniak and Sozio move functional things, such as solid boots and a good rain jacket and,in Sozio’s case, a guitar.
“I’m not a very good interior decorator because everything I have is secondhand,” Muniak said.
For Sozio, living and working in places such as Honduras and Nicaragua where many people are impoverished also caused him to look at his belongings in a different way. “You look at your own material possessions and reconsider what you really need and what is really valuable,” he said. “There are some things you should cherish, but generally speaking it makes you less attached to stuff.”
So what does this research say about the human experience?
“The conceptual thread connecting these is the similarities between our relationships and objects,” Keefer said. “We have a willingness to throw things away and a willingness to get rid of relationships. In a way, we’re treating people as objects, and that’s what draws this together.”
But finding the big picture would require additional research.
“Whatever connects mobility to whether or not we keep relationships is more complicated than we have the data to tell,” Keefer said. “The connection to moving and keeping relationships is complex. The human story and why this is important is a question that is still a bit open.”
And with this study, he added, no conclusions can be drawn about whether or not this willingness to dispose of belongings, and therefore relationships, is healthy or unhealthy. Nor does the study take into account the ever-growing influence of technology and social media on our relationships and ability to maintain them.
Gillath noted the research findings show “we need to pay more attention to people’s moves and mobility, and we need to think about the ease of moving and the ease of getting rid of things and of ties, because it might result in various relational difficulties down the line.
“There is a connection between how we view our lives and our physical surroundings and how we perceive our social ties,” he added. “And we pay a price for the ease of mobility and the tendency of people to dispose of things in their lives.”
For Keefer, “Maintaining old ties seems like a double-edged sword. It can meet some social needs to stay in touch, but it can be stifling to forming new social circles in the new location. There is some advantage to knowing someone nearby who can feed your cat when you’re out of town. Ultimately, we are social beings.”
Beings who, when settling in a new home, have a much easier time getting a new toaster than finding new friends to feed that cat — and so much more.
To read more on the research article this article is based on, please here .