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“Erika, Erika, geh zu Amerika.”
The friendly jab — “Erika, Erika, go to America” — echoed around the 1930s Austrian schoolyard as 6-year-old Erika Schulhof Rybeck ’52 ran, laughing, away from her chanting classmates. It was a childhood rhyme that, 14 years later, became a prophecy. Sensing danger in Nazi-controlled Vienna, Rybeck’s parents sent her via Kindertransport to a boarding school in Scotland, then on to relatives in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She would spend the next 60 years searching for the parents who sacrificed their lives to save hers.
It was 11 at night, Saturday, May 13, 1939, when a whistle blew and a train full of children pulled out of the station.
Mine was one of the faces pressed against the window to wave goodbye. I watched the two dearest people in my life — my parents, Friedrich and Gertrude Schulhof — waving white handkerchiefs so bravely until they disappeared from view.
It was to be my last glimpse of all that was most precious to me. I never saw them again — but I would not know that until many years later.
“Don’t tell the child”
My parents’ love sustained me throughout my life, even though I never saw them after I was 10. So it is comforting and helpful for me to look back to those early years as a way of thanking them for the great gifts they gave me.
An only child, I grew up in the little village of Hohenau, Austria, on the Czech border. My father was manager and chief chemist of the Hohenauer Zuckerfabrik, the sugar factory that employed most of the locals.
As a 9-year-old, I was self-absorbed and took no notice of world events — including the tremendous changes happening across Europe in the late 1930s. If there was tension in my house — and looking back, there undoubtedly must have been — I was unaware of it. Children were not included in concerns of the adult world, and my parents, for reasons that I now fully comprehend, really pushed that approach to its limits.
As an adult, I found copies of correspondence between various adult relatives — some of them early on from my parents — with a consistent theme concerning the horrors of the times and what they were all going through. That theme was a conspiracy of silence, spelled out literally in some of the letters with the words, “Don’t tell the child.”
So, when my parents announced in 1938 that we were moving to Vienna to live with my grandmother, I was ecstatic. I adored my Oma. It never occurred to me then to
question the reason for this move that was disrupting the whole pattern of our lives.
Yet, a flash of momentary uneasiness struck me. When we came down the stairs from our apartment, my mother turned to look back. My father, in a voice I had never heard before, said, “Yes, Trude, have a good look. This is the last home you’ll ever have.”
I did not even find it strange — although it was in fact exceedingly strange — that nobody was at the train station to see us off. Or even stranger that, as we were leaving to live in a different city, we boarded the train without a single piece of luggage.
A granite cocoon
Because my parents chose to protect me, I was not told:
That my family, though thoroughly assimilated and not affiliated with any religious organization, had a long and quite illustrious Jewish history;
That all the changes about to take place in my life were associated with the anti-Semitic obsession of the Nazis, to the extent that, under Hitler’s doctrines, my parents and I were considered Jewish;
That the Nazis had taken over Austria and, in taking over the sugar factory, had stripped my father of his position;
That, like almost all Austrians of Jewish background, we were in great peril.
Decades later, I learned that, within a day or so after we departed for Vienna, Hohenau Jews were rounded up and sent directly to concentration camps where all but one perished. It appears that someone who knew of the roundup plans and who was fond of my parents warned them of what was about to happen.
Early on, my parents said we would become Catholics. Just as I did not question my parents about why we went to Vienna, I had no problem when they said the three of us were converting. My Aunt Olga later told me, “Your parents converted to save you.” If true, their goal was certainly successful. Yet it also seems plausible, based on things my parents wrote, that religion gave them considerable solace during their terrifying ordeals.
Previously, my parents listed their religious preference as religionslos, or unaffiliated. I beleive my father considered himself a freidenker, or free thinker. Both my parents were devoted to ethical behavior, great lovers of nature and proud of their family backgrounds, but before our flight to Vienna, they were not practicing followers of any organized religion.
Soon, my parents promised me a “new adventure,” as they put it. My Uncle Fritz and Aunt Mia Treuer, my mother’s sister and brother-in-law, had invited us to live with them in America. First, however, I would be sent as “luggage in advance” and go to a wonderful boarding school in Scotland. I was led to believe that, after a short time, my parents would join me in Scotland, and then we would all go to America together.
How did I get out of Vienna, since Austria was already occupied by the Germans? The Kindertransport — a children’s train — was my means of breaking free. Sealed trains carried children from Prague, Vienna and Berlin across Germany to Holland, from where they were ferried to England. Most went to families, others like myself to schools or other institutions. I arrived at 3 Queen’s Cross, a Sacred Heart boarding school in Aberdeen, Scotland, four days after my departure from Vienna.
I knew no English, and no one else that I met, young or old, spoke a word of German. It was total immersion. Emotionally, I comforted myself with the understanding that my parents would be coming for me very soon. Looking back now, my heart breaks when I think of those dear people, their lives in tatters, writing cheerful letters and cards to keep up the spirits of their little girl so far away. With no income and their assets frozen, they spent precious money on sending me my favorite chocolates and crayons, even my favorite comic magazines.
In September of the year I came to Aberdeen, the Nazis invaded Poland. Britain in response declared war on Germany. Suddenly it became impossible for me to send letters directly to my parents, or them to me. To put it another way, my parents and I were now living in opposing camps. For a time, we exchanged letters through relatives living in Norway — until the Nazis invaded in April 1940. My parents’ letters dwindled. On rare occasions I received cryptic messages from them via the Red Cross.
This turn of events gave me a rationale for accepting the fact that my parents’ plans to join me and take me to America were not about to occur. Clearly those plans would have to wait until the war ended. My parents spared me from worrying about their fate by writing repeatedly that they were fine and that everything was in order, except for what they led me to believe were inconsequential problems and delays in getting travel documents.
As weeks, then months and finally years went by without my parents’ intended trip
to Scotland to take me with them to America, 3 Queen’s Cross became my home and, from 1939 to 1947, the nuns there were my family. Thanks to the sheltering granite walls and the loving attention of the Sacred Heart community, I felt secure.
Life in triplicate
It has frequently been observed that children accept pretty much anything that comes along because they have no perspective of what alternatives life could offer. This was certainly true for me and my friends during the war years in Scotland. Looking back, war to us meant two bad things: poor food and awful cold. The best food was sent to the
fighting forces; civilians got the dregs; and the convent, like other places, cut way back on heating.
At graduation, nobody said anything to me about my real situation. They didn’t tell me I was an orphan, penniless, without family, free-floating and anchorless. When the war in Europe ended, Uncle Fritz and Aunt Mia had written to me to expect the worst about my parents. The Sacred Heart nuns, apparently not wanting me to read what was not a certainty, intercepted the letter and never let me see it. (I found a copy in Mia’s files after she died in 1990.)
It was somehow determined that I would go to Craiglochart College in Edinburgh, Scotland, to prepare for becoming a teacher, at least until my long-awaited visa to America came through. For years and years I tried unsuccessfully to get that visa. American consuls in Glasgow and London kept stalling. Time after time I was told everything was just about in order, but officials always found something missing: No birth certificate, so I had to write relatives in London and Switzerland to send sworn statements about the date and place of my birth; no affidavits from Americans affirming they would not let me be a financial burden to their country, so Aunt Mia obtained those and sent them to me. After more delays by the consul, he said those affidavits were out of date and had to be renewed. When all I needed was the visa, he claimed my number had not come up — my number under an Austrian quota.
Finally, after 10 years of waiting, my U.S. visa finally came through, and I could embark on a ship across the Atlantic and on to the next phase of my life.
I arrived in New York in July 1949 when I was 19 years old. In America, I reinvented myself for the third time. Often I was in denial that I was an orphan, that I had a strange childhood, that for years I had had no home, that I had missed adolescence, that most of my family were gone and that I had unfinished grieving to do.
At the same time, I found great comfort in my aunt and uncle. After arriving at their home in Yellow Springs just outside Dayton, I was taken upstairs to my bedroom. It had a window. Beside the bed, there was a large desk. I had arrived. I had a home.
I earned my bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton and began a teaching career. In 1954, I became an American citizen and married Walter Rybeck, an editorial writer at the Dayton Daily News. Two sons, Rick and Alex, came along in rapid succession. In 1961, when Walt was named Washington bureau chief for Cox Newspapers, we moved to Maryland, where we still live.
Many of us who survived the war years in Europe as children only started coming out of the closet, so to speak, when the Child Survivors of the Holocaust was formed some three decades after the war. Why had our “silent generation” taken so long, until we reached our 50s, to come to terms with our unique experience?
We were the lucky ones, people told us.
Children, it was widely assumed, were too young to have been traumatized. We bought into the myth of how lucky we were and got on with our lives, suppressing emotions that did not agree with this assessment of our good luck.
Sure, we were lucky that we escaped and were not gassed. But was it good fortune that many of us lost parents and relatives, lost our homes, country and native language, and lost contact with anything familiar or secure?
Once childhood trauma became recognized as a reality, issues and memories I had packed away came flooding back. For years and years I could not speak German or even understand letters I had saved from my parents, but amazingly the language of my first decade returned.
When World War II ended, correspondence between Austria and Britain was again possible. My Aunt Olga Kraft wrote to me in Aberdeen in October 1946. She did not address me as a child, breaking the old conspiracy of silence, and gave me my first inkling that I might be Jewish:
In fall 1941 began the unhappy transports to Poland. We tried every means to permit your parents to locate outside Vienna, to no avail despite his World War I injuries and medals. They were given only two days notice.
Papi and Mutti talked touchingly about their love for you, dear Erika, wishing you to be happy and content. They were so courageous, consoling and comforting us.
Every week Aunt Gretl, Aunt Ella and I each sent them 20 shillings from the money they had left with us. After a short while they asked that we send no more. Then I learned that only Jews were permitted to send money to Jews. Others could be jailed, lose their jobs or their pensions if the Gestapo found out.
Uncle Fritz and Aunt Mia’s efforts to rescue my parents were also truly heroic, raising funds when they were almost penniless, writing to every possible saving organization, buying tickets, all to no avail. At times these efforts came tantalizingly close as they got papers and even plane or ship tickets to New Zealand, the Philippines, Turkey, Norway, Portugal and China, as well as to the United States, only to be thwarted by the advance of Hitler’s war machine, by bureaucratic deception and ineptness, or quirks of fate. Time after time their high hopes failed to materialize.
For years, I wrote every possible organization, in America, Austria and Israel, trying to discover why, despite the Germans’ meticulous record keeping, nobody could tell me of my parents’ last days. The Red Cross confirmed they were deported from Vienna on Oct. 23, 1941, on a train headed for Lodz, Poland. There, the trail ended.
It was not until 2002 that, thanks to my son Rick and his wife, I finally learned their fate.
When the Lodz Ghetto was liquidated, my parents were not deported with Jews from Vienna because they chose to go with a group of Christians who were deported to Chelmno on May 9, 1942. According to my son’s research, Chelmno was not a concentration camp, but purely a death camp prior to the invention of gas chambers. Prisoners were forced to disrobe before entering the cargo hold of trucks, which were sealed off. Truck exhaust was then piped in as it drove around until people stopped moving. Bodies of those who perished were dumped in a nearby forest.
Although the news my son and daughter-in-law discovered was tragic, their careful planning, the pains they took to get the facts, and even the news itself gave me comfort. No longer would I have to await letters telling me, “Proof of death is not available” or “No information has become available yet.” Knowing the awful truth was a relief after spending most of my life trying to fathom how my wonderful parents could have vanished into thin air.
For the first time since their horrible deaths, hidden in mystery for six decades, I finally felt free to grieve for them as their lives were validated during a most moving performance of Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín. It was Sunday, May 1, 2011, in Bemidji, Minnesota.
My cousin, Bob Treuer, was a friend of the Bemidji Symphony conductor, and they worked together to dedicate the performance in memory of my parents and other relatives who had perished in the Holocaust.
The continuous prayer, requiem aeternam, was sung with fervor and emotion.
“Eternal rest give unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”
No grave, tombstone or acknowledgment offers proof that my mother and father existed — a truth I lived with for too long. What an honor it was for my parents to be remembered at long last in such a fitting fashion.
Adapted by Audrey Starr from Erika Rybeck’s memoir, On My Own: Decoding the Conspiracy of Silence, published in 2013 by Summit Crossroads Press, Columbia, Maryland. Available on Amazon.com and at other retailers.
The Kindertransport — literally, “children transport,” in German — was the informal name of a rescue mission that brought thousands of refugee children to Great Britain from Nazi-occupied countries in the two years prior to World War II.
Following Kristallnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”) — a series of coordinated attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria Nov. 9-10, 1938 — British authorities agreed to permit an unspecified number of children under age 17 to enter the United Kingdom unaccompanied on temporary travel visas from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Private citizens and organizations volunteered to pay for each child’s care, education and eventual emigration
The Nazis apparently were eager, before they developed their killing camps, to get rid of ‘useless and undesirable’ children,” noted Erika Schulhof Rybeck. “Especially heroic were the Jewish trainmasters. After tasting the breath of freedom, these leaders returned to take more youngsters on more trips. If any of the escorts had chosen to stay and escape, the whole enterprise would have been closed down.”
The first Kindertransport arrived in Harwich, Great Britain, Dec. 2, 1938, bringing some 200 children from a Jewish orphanage in Berlin that had been destroyed during Kristallnacht. Like this convoy, most transports left by train from Berlin, Vienna, Prague and other major cities in Central Europe. Jewish organizations inside Germany planned the transports. Upon arrival, children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, schools and farms. Often, these children were the only members of their families to survive the Holocaust.
Priority was given to children whose parents were in concentration camps or were no longer able to support them, or to homeless children and orphans. The last transport from Germany left Sept. 1, 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland, while the last transport from the Netherlands left for Britain May 14, 1940, the day the Dutch army surrendered to German forces. In all, the rescue operation transported 9,000 to 10,000 children, some 7,500 of them Jewish.
Sources: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.; The Kindertransport Association.
Erika Schulhof Rybeck landed in Ohio in 1949 a devout Catholic, and intending to continue her college education, she approached the local priest, Father John Anthony, for recommendations.
“He was understanding and with great kindness made arrangements for me to go to the University of Dayton. He even saw to it that I got a generous scholarship. At first, I rode back and forth with Yellow Springs residents who worked in Dayton but soon found a place that rented me a room not far from campus,” Rybeck remembered.
As a Flyer, Rybeck enjoyed singing in the chorus and helping in what she called “the little college store that sold cigarettes and candy,” often referred to as Brother Paul’s.
“I had no work experience at all; I had never worked in my life. I didn’t know the names of cigarettes, and I didn’t know American money, and that poor brother who was in charge — I must have been a terrible burden to him. Between classes the students would rush in and say, ‘Get me Camels,’ or ask for change for a dollar, and I didn’t know what they were talking about. It was a circus,” Rybeck said.
She and her husband, Walter, have visited Dayton a few times since they relocated to the Washington, D.C., area in 1961, but she hasn’t returned to campus.
“I must have been totally ignorant of just about everything when I came to UD, and I’m filled with amazement and gratitude that they took me on,” Rybeck said. “I am so grateful to the University and the opportunity it gave me to complete my degree and get on with my life.”
The home in which I grew up was filled with books, and, when I was young, my parents regularly read to me from them. The activity of reading captivated me then and captivates me to this day. But my great fascination with books, as uniquely interesting, meaning-laden objects, probably began when, as an unsteady toddler, I would scoot into my parents’ bedroom and begin to pull from a low bookshelf dense, heavy volumes from a set of The Great Books of the Western World, edited by Robert Maynard Hutchins and published in 1952 by Encyclopedia Britannica. These books intrigued me because my parents seemed to treat them with reverence. Their 54-volume set of The Great Books, including the curious, two-volume Syntopicon, came with its own shelf, into which the weighty volumes fit snugly. The titles of these books seemed exotic when my parents mouthed them, and the books made a wonderful thud as they fell around me to the floor. These books were, for me, even at that tender age, gateways to worlds of challenge and adventure. A number of the titles from the Rose Rare Book Collection exhibited in Imprints and Impressions were represented among Hutchins’ selections for The Great Books.
Of course, my appreciation for books as a 2-year-old was rather limited. I did not know how to read. I had only the dimmest sense of the power that books can possess for individual readers and for literate communities. I did not understand how books are written, edited and produced and how varied are the production and functions of books throughout the history of print culture. I did not yet grasp how my own life and the cultural worlds I would come to inhabit are connected through time, space, meaning and value with the lives of others by way of books. As the volumes of The Great Books of the Western World dropped around me, forming a kind of literary nest in a small tract house in one of the new Eisenhower-era suburbs advancing upon cornfields to the west of Chicago, I sensed, if only obliquely, the magical character of books.
The University of Dayton is honored to exhibit this remarkable selection of volumes from the Rose Rare Book Collection in part because these books are such lovely, precious and influential artifacts. Encountering these rare and, in many cases, visually compelling volumes impresses upon us the unique gift of the emergence of literacy and the powerful place of the printed word in the unfolding of human cultures. In Imprints and Impressions, we are reminded of the connections between what we now think and feel, imagine and believe, say and do and the worlds that are conceived, expressed and inscribed in these books. We find in these books a dazzling array of ways in which persons and communities have sought to illuminate or give voice to their place in the world and to carry their voices forward in conversation with generations future and past. We see how differently words, images and other symbol systems can be ordered so as to seek to make sense of our lives and the worlds in which we live. Consider, for instance, the dramatic contrasts in form and structure among the Scriptures in the Polyglot Bible, the theorems of Euclid, the diagrams of Johannes Kepler, the disputations of Thomas Aquinas, the drawings of William Blake, the verse of Phillis Wheatley and the narratives of J.R.R. Tolkien.
As these books demonstrate the world-forming magic of the imprinted page, the uniqueness of these objects’ histories also brings to mind the multitude of books whose originals no longer exist, whose current reproductions are inadequate or incomplete, or whose origins and authors remain unknown to us. The very books that are constructed to engage in sustained conversation with future and past generations are also fragile, all-too-transient objects.
The marked and bound bundles of paper that Stuart Rose has shared with us bear signs of their age, use and eventual deterioration. As we celebrate their preservation as a body of inestimably influential human endeavor, we are also made aware of how much of the printed legacy of humanity has been — and will be — lost. The time-honored declaration, “Vox audita perit, littera scripta manet” — “The spoken word passes away, while the written word remains” — is as much the expression of our hope as a fact about the durability of the printed word.
We approach this magnificent exhibition, then, partly through our particular and personal relationships with books. Taking in these texts up close unlocks rich personal stories: where we were when we first read Fyodor Dostoevsky or Flannery O’Connor; who first led us through Aristotle or Moses Maimonides; what we felt as we became consumed by the worlds of Homer, William Shakespeare, Mark Twain or Virginia Woolf. We also come to this exhibition gripped by the contrast between the historical power and persistence of these texts, on the one hand, and their ultimate impermanence, on the other. These books present us with human strivings to speak beyond the bounds of our specific time and place, even as they mark the limits and improbabilities of those very efforts.
As an educator, however, what impresses me most about the opportunity to experience these books together, on the University of Dayton campus, is the capability of these volumes to create shared spaces for exploration, imagination, creation and discovery, both here and now and stretched across time. Some of these volumes speak directly to one another. Some can be placed in conversation with each other through our readings of them. All of these volumes can draw us, as active communities of readers, into dialogue with and about them. These books give rise to dialogical spaces within which new questions, emotions, hypotheses, dreams, arguments, relationships and ways of being human become possible for us and worthy of our contemplation.
The University of Dayton’s new Common Academic Program for undergraduates, now entering its second year, embraces the invitations of books such as these. Unlike most general education curricula, the Common Academic Program is not oriented primarily toward sprinkling small portions of students’ time and attention across the breadth of core, disciplinary ways of human knowing (a little humanities here, a little science and social science there, and so on). Rather, our new curriculum seeks to engage the entire University community in the project of advancing shared goals for student learning: the production of bodies of scholarly work; the development of intelligent, mutually enriching dialogue among faith traditions; the cultivation of intercultural competencies; the building of communities that nourish service, justice and peace; the growth of practical wisdom in response to real human problems and needs; the informed and critical evaluation of the times in which we live; and the discernment of our
individual and communal callings.
As we take the opportunity, then, to immerse ourselves in some of these texts and their complex, intersecting histories and patterns of influence, we enter not only a shared space for dialogue and reflective examination, but also a curricular commons that is structured to foster integrative learning in the context of the University of Dayton’s distinctive Marianist educational traditions. In these books, we encounter multiple, profound ways of articulating what it means to be human, new ways of understanding our faith commitments in relation to others’ traditions, and deeper methods for recognizing what it is ethically good or right for us to do. These books also strengthen our awareness of the differences between ways in which various academic cultures — the traditions of conceptualization, reasoning, theory and creative practice that we call “disciplines” — frame and respond to humanity’s deepest questions.
Ultimately, our engagements with volumes in the Imprints and Impressions exhibit challenge us to consider how we might strive for greater wholeness in our pursuit of knowledge and integrity in our decisions about how to lead our lives. They challenge us to integrate our learning, our actions and the broader, overlapping communities that shape who we are. The disciplinary perspectives found in the exhibition speak to our drive to integrate our thoughts, sentiments and decisions and to live with whole hearts and whole minds — in short, our aim to compose meaningful lives and apprehend an intelligible universe out of the fragmentary character of our experience. Perhaps books such as these can help us to do just that.
Paul H. Benson is interim provost and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. His essay appears in the Imprints and Impressions catalog.
To learn more about the exhibit opening Sept. 29. 2014, including titles on display and list of events, visit https://www.udayton.edu/libraries/rarebooks/.
To the uninitiated eye, rugby resembles a demolition derby. Without cars.
It’s body-jarring sport, albeit one with its own unique free-flowing style of strength, speed, agility and strategy. Rugby players wear no hard plastic helmets, no shock-absorbing shoulder pads, almost no protection of any kind except,
perhaps, for some tape over their ears.
So the ears don’t accidentally get ripped off.
With such potential for pain, what could possess a person to play such a game? It’s one thing if you’re getting paid professionally, as many do throughout the world. It’s quite another if you’re a University of Dayton student playing the sport on a club level and the most striking reward is a morning-after-a-game body that feels as if it were thrown off a mountain.
Besides the obvious answer of competition, and the less obvious one of professional networking, players say there’s satisfaction in facing your fears — be it in the form of 15 opponents ready to rip the ball from your arms. Colin Doyle, a 21-year-old chemical engineering major from Chicago who is the heart and soul of UD’s rugby club, has a succinct answer to the question of motivation: “It’s the most fun you can have legally.”
* * *
Rugby isn’t well known among the sporting public in the U.S. A wee bit of football, a wee bit of soccer, it’s a whole lot of mayhem with its own opaque rules and terminology. (“Blood bin,” anyone?)
Last spring, at a game where the Flyers crushed rival Xavier, 54-5, a fan threw his hands in the air after Dayton’s first score and bellowed, “Touchdown!”
A woman, watching from the sidelines, said cryptically, “It’s called a try, not touchdown.”
“Here it’s called a touchdown,” the fan argued.
“It’s a European sport,” the woman countered.
“Well, this is the United States and, over here, I’m calling it a touchdown.”
Rugby is indeed an imported sport, dating back to the 1800s. Legend has it the game was invented in 1823 during a soccer game at Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire, England, when a cheeky lad named William Webb Ellis blithely
disregarded the rules and grabbed the ball in his arms and ran with it. Presumably, after passing on calling the new sport “webby,” they settled on “rugby.”
Whether the tale is apocryphal or not is irrelevant to our story. This we know for certain: The game is wildly popular overseas — an estimated 5 million play it in 117 countries — and every four years the top 20 teams in the world meet in the Rugby World Cup to play for the appropriately named William Webb Ellis Cup.
Why the game isn’t as popular here in the States is a mystery because rugby and football are cousins twice removed. Like American footballers, rugby players run with the ball. Unlike American football, however, there is no quarterback.
Any player on the field can handle and run with the ball, which looks like an American football off its diet.
Two teams of 15 players each throw themselves around the field with abandon, their grunts and groans and the heavy slap of flesh-on-flesh heard from yards away. The goal is to advance the ball by making lateral or backward passes to
teammates. No forward passes allowed.
You score when you ground the ball over the other team’s “try line” (hence, “try” not “touchdown”) or by dropkicking it through the uprights. A try is worth five points, compared to football’s six; a dropkick, three.
Defense, meanwhile, is fairly easy. Tackle the guy with the ball — hard. It’s not uncommon for the ball carrier to be hit by all 15 defenders. At the same time.
UD first started sending players onto the field in 1969 and played — and won — its first game against Bowling Green. According to Doyle, the only loss that first season was to the Cleveland Grays, a men’s city club.
Since 1995, the UD men’s club has been coached by Shane Stacks, a native New Zealander who has led the team to two national tournament appearances and five Midwest regional appearances. In 2012, Dayton was promoted to Division I-AA level and has been competing in the MAC rugby conference.
A personal trainer by trade, Stacks, 43, receives no pay for his efforts. He doesn’t care.
“I love rugby,” says Stacks, who also coaches the Dayton men’s city team. “I come from a nation that it’s our national sport. I get a chance to teach it the way I got taught.”
The game, he says, has much to offer.
“It’s a great sport where both sides can be competitive, where you can want to rip your opponent limb from limb on the field, and then off the field, go have some food and respect one another and the sport.
“I tell the guys you always get out of rugby what you put into it.”
On the field, what the players most put into it is their young bodies.
“It does look like a lot of reckless chaos,” says Kevin Hogan, a 19-year-old criminal justice major from Rocky River, Ohio, who hits with a lack of restraint that belies his 5-foot-7, 162-pound frame.
But he insists the game is “safer than it looks.”
“(Because) I don’t wear a helmet, I’m not tackling people leading with my head,” says teammate Ryan Burdine, an operations management major from Westerville, Ohio, who is the club’s president.
“There are more rules around tackling,” says Doyle, who has a preacher’s fervor when discussing the game. “We attempt to wrap people up, not knock them out. The goal is to tackle in a way nobody gets hurt. We’re never going to be No. 1 on the SportsCenter Top 10 plays.”
Says Hogan: “It’s more technical than football. I’m not going to throw all my body mass at someone.”
Still, rugby players don’t do helmets and the possibility of concussion is a real concern. So much so that according to a New York Times article, the International Rugby Board has increased its efforts to educate players, coaches and medical staff about the dangers of head trauma.
UD’s Connor Squire, a tall slab of a young man who is studying to become a teacher but looks like he could handle himself nicely in a boxing ring, has had three “recorded” concussions, but admits, “I’ve probably had a few more than that.”
How many, he won’t speculate. That’s pretty much how it goes among rugby players, who are mostly tight-lipped on the subject. Even the English Rugby Union reports it’s “hard to say how common concussion is as players often don’t admit to being concussed …”
Of course, concussions aren’t the only concern for players.
Squire needed 16 stitches to close a nasty gash under his eye his freshman year. The compactly muscled Hogan has had his right shoulder dislocated “a couple of times,” and Doyle has torn the meniscus in his left knee.
During the March match against Xavier, a Dayton player was upended and sent gymnastically head over heels over head, landing squarely on his back. Another twisted his ankle after being tossed to the ground like a rag doll. Both played on.
The possibility of injuries is one thing that makes it hard to recruit female UD students for the women’s team, says MacKenzie Shivers, a 19-year-old exercise physiology major from Mason, Ohio.
Shivers, who is president of the UD women’s team, says she loves “how tough the sport is,” but finding people like herself is difficult. At the time of this writing, there weren’t enough players to field a full fifteens team.
“If you are a girl who wants to play rugby, you have to want to hit people or it isn’t going to work out,” Shivers says, “and it’s really hard to get girls to willingly tackle.”
The boys, not so much.
In a game against Miami University earlier this year, a RedHawks player was hit so hard, his shoulder just sort of … exploded.
“(The hit) sounded like two pieces of wood clapped together,” Hogan says.
“Like all the air in a hot air balloon just leaving,” Burdine says.
“For sure, there’s hitting,” Doyle says. “But we have a bad rep. A lot of people view rugby players as drinking and then going out on a Saturday night and fighting. But that’s not it. That’s not us.”
* * *
There are 35 sport clubs at UD, among them lacrosse, ice hockey, Quidditch and bass fishing. There are also 16 varsity sports (seven men, nine women) and dozens of intramural activities, ranging from disc golf, to floor hockey, to inner tube water polo.
In the university pecking order, varsity sports come first, followed by sport clubs and intramurals. When talking club sports, forget about perks enjoyed by some NCAA Division-I sports such as full-ride scholarships, first-class travel and tutoring because you’ve missed class while playing in the NCAA basketball tournament.
In UD sport clubs, players buy their own uniforms and cleats. They drive to games as far away as Nashville, Tennessee, in borrowed vehicles to play in front of crowds numbering in the hundreds rather than thousands. They provide their own health insurance. Open a gash requiring stitches and you’d better be ready to present your own insurance card when you arrive at the emergency room. (All UD students, including athletes, are expected to carry their own insurance upon attendance.)
And since rugby is a sport club, players don’t have access to the varsity weight rooms, so they grab lifting time in RecPlex, which they share with all UD students. If they want to run to stay in shape, they do it on their own time.
“When they work out, that’s entirely up to them,” says Stacks, who holds practice twice a week during the regular season and four times a week before a tournament. “They sometimes get together and go, ‘OK, who’s going for a run?’ It’s very, very rewarding when I see these guys pull together. There’s character and honesty in sport and it bleeds over to your real life.”
The University does support sport clubs through a full-time staff position, funds to help offset equipment and travel costs, and facilities.
Stuart Field, a 225,500-square-foot multipurpose outdoor facility, underwent a $2.4 million renovation in 2011 specifically with the school’s sport clubs and intramurals in mind. Currently, it is home to the rugby team as well as a multitude of events and practices for various other sport clubs and an intramural program with 4,000 or so participants.
Keeping track of everything being played on the crosshatched synthetic field takes the skill of an air traffic controller.
That responsibility falls to Shea Ryan, the assistant director of sport clubs.
“There are times out there when we have seven or eight games going on out there over a weekend,” Ryan says.
Another of Ryan’s responsibilities is to help sport clubs with their finances. For rugby, each player ponies up $400 at the start of the season.
“I help manage their finances, help plan travel,” Ryan says. “A few months prior to their season, I meet with the team presidents to discuss how we could help up front.”
In 2013-14, Ryan had $30,000 in potential funding to allocate among the 35 clubs to help teams with expenses.
“Every club is open to give a proposal,” he says. “Not every club does. But if they do, we can allocate a certain amount of funds to help with specific association dues or enter a tournament. To my knowledge, we’ve never had every club make a proposal in the same year.”
Team needs vary. The water ski team might require funds to help fuel their motorboat, while the taekwondo club needs a punching dummy for practice (they purchased “Bob” in 2012 for $205; Ryan’s office paid for half). This year, the volleyball team opted not to participate in games that would lead to the tournament final, since they could not afford travel to Reno, Nevada.
In 2014-15, the MAC rugby league will expand to include two more universities, meaning additional games — and expenses. That means the $400 each rugby player pays to play is vital.
“It helps with lodging, hotels, food and such,” Doyle says.
It’s not enough to cover their jerseys and cleats and other gear, however.
“All that,” Burdine says, “comes out of our pocket.”
Doyle and the others say they would love to see rugby be recognized as a varsity sport at UD, but the likelihood is remote.
For one thing, less than two-dozen universities around the country play rugby at a varsity level. For another, there’s the price tag. Even partial scholarships for the 35 to 40 players on the men’s team could cost UD hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“The University has been very good to us,” Doyle says. “We’ve asked for a few things and gotten some (like balls and practice time on Stuart Field) and not gotten some (like a scrum sled). We don’t want anything handed to us. We want to earn anything we get.”
* * *
While the women’s team is struggling to find players, the men have enough to field two teams. Typically, the A squad will play a game of fifteens, followed by the B squad playing a game of sevens.
Fifteens is as it implies — 15 players on each team, eight forwards and seven backs. Despite the labels, players are not restricted to any single position.
“That’s one of the reasons I love this sport,” says the barrel-chested Burdine, who was a lineman on his Columbus (Ohio) St. Charles high school football team but saw little playing time. “I’m not locked into one spot. I have the freedom to run the ball, hit people, tackle people.”
In a game of sevens, just seven players from each team are on the field at the same time. The only real difference from a game of fifteens is that the matches are noticeably shorter — 14 minutes compared to the 80 minutes — and much, much faster.
“You’ve got to be in tremendous shape to play sevens,” Burdine says, “because there’s so much more running.”
The UD club used to play two fifteens seasons, a serious one in the fall and a more “friendly” one in the spring. Spring was also a time when the club would go to tournaments and compete against teams other than those in the MAC.
But things have changed. This fall, UD will play six regular-season MAC games. A four-team playoff featuring the top two teams from the north and south divisions will decide which club gets an automatic bid to the national
Additionally, the MAC will play a serious sevens season in the spring. No more “friendly” games.
It’s no place for the faint of heart.
Nor is it anyplace for a player needing a breather or a fan needing a bathroom break. Unlike American football, where timeouts, huddles and 40-second play clocks result in very little actual football being played, rugby is a continuous
game of running and gunning. For 80 minutes.
Whenever the game needs to be restarted because of an infraction or an out-of-bounds play, a scrum is formed. Sixteen players — eight from each side — link arms and fashion a circle. They bend at the waist and start pushing against one another, grunting, gouging and generally knocking the snot out of each other as they maneuver to control the ball that has been rolled down the middle of the tunnel between their legs.
It’s exhausting just to watch, let alone play.
Says Burdine: “Playing this game … it’s not boring or monotonous.”
No, it’s not. That’s why Doyle says he’ll “play ’til I’m 50,” even if his chemical engineering degree drops him onto some oil platform far out into the ocean.
“Even when I’m gone from here there are men’s teams in every city in the country, at every level,” he says. “I’m not going to stop (playing) for a long time.”
* * *
There is a more important if less apparent aspect to playing for these young men and women. They use games as a networking tool, introducing themselves to people who might some day hire them, or be colleagues, or provide a conduit to a job.
“Hockey is a very tight-knit community,” Doyle says. “If you’re chippy on the ice, you get a reputation real quick. Everybody knows it.
“Rugby is the same way. If anything, it’s even tighter. There’s instant recognition. I went on a job interview (recently) and the hiring manager noticed on my résumé that I played rugby and he said he forwarded my name along to someone he knows that also played rugby.”
“Anybody who says they’ve played rugby, there’s that instant bond,” she says. “If I were ever hiring people, if I saw that someone played rugby, I’d be interested in them because I know what it takes to play the game.”
There is, players say, a camaraderie that’s stronger than Gorilla glue.
“The team becomes your family,” Doyle says. “There are 35 guys on our team and I could call any one of them at any time, 4 a.m. or whenever, and know they would help me out.”
Hogan runs a hand through his flop of red hair and says, “Anyone who’s played knows you’re willing to go out there and face people who are willing to help bring out the best in you and sometimes the worst. It’s kind of like being in a fraternity.”
Of course, fraternities aren’t always viewed in a positive light.
“Yeah, some people think we’re creepy cannibals that go nuts,” Hogan says. “They see us walk into class with a black eye and wonder what happened. But they always have fun when they get to know us and hang out with us.”
* * *
Back at the March match against Xavier, the game is over and the players from both sides have shaken hands. Both squads are sweaty and done in, too worn out to talk much. Angry raw rug burns from the artificial turf of Stuart Field cover their knees and elbows, and many of them are walking as if they’d just ridden a horse 100 miles — which is to say gingerly.
“After a game,” Doyle says, “a lot of people ask us, ‘How’d you survive that?’”
For Doyle, Hogan, Burdine, Shivers and the rest, it really isn’t a matter of survival. What they care about is a game they have come to love.
“It’s that edge, the adrenaline, the rush of seeing a guy across the line, waiting to kill you, and taking that head on,” Hogan says. “It’s like how scary the game is, afterward, you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Like you’ve conquered that day’s fears.”
After all is said and done, that’s why they play.
Gene Williams is a freelance writer who never played rugby, for which his body thanks him. Ryan Burdine, president of the UD Rugby Club, is his loving nephew.
Current University of Dayton sport clubs
Boxing / Kickboxing
Cosa Meara Company of Irish Dance
Life Itself Dance
Ultimate Frisbee (M)
Ultimate Frisbee (W)
Water Polo (M)
Water Polo (W)
Call it an outbreak of the Red Scare.
Splotches of red appeared and spread. From the floor to the rafters, UD fans packed tournament sites for the 2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. They sold out ticket allotments, bought from online resellers and haggled on street corners. Any seat would do, because nearly every seat was adjacent to a Flyer fan.
At least that’s how it felt, even to coach Archie Miller down on the floor.
“I always say I don’t know how we’re going to play, but I know [the fans will] be there, and they’ll be loud,” he said after the March 27 Sweet 16 victory. “I just didn’t know how many.”
So numerous that every section was freckled with Flyer gear. So thunderous that this writer’s decibel meter overloaded in the Memphis roar. So deafening that the rosary prayers of a young girl in the highest seats were likely heard by only holy ears. So fervent that as the final moments wound down on the Flyers’ Elite Eight loss to Florida, above the gator-chomping, a unified chant rang clear:
“Thank you, (clap clap) UD. (clap clap)”
“Thank you, (clap clap) UD. (clap clap)”
This season was defined by the “True Team” dedication the players declared on their warm-up shirts, when starting pride took a backseat to an all-in enthusiasm and unwavering faith in one another. But there was another set of T-shirts that could have been printed and worn by thousands: “True Fan.” They’d waited 30 years for a stage this big to show their Flyer colors and community pride.
And what a show it was.
IT WAS A TOUGH WINTER many would rather forget: the polar vortex; snowstorms with names like Greek gods and Transformers; and a 1-5 losing slump that sent Flyer fans reeling.
After they racked up early wins against the likes of Georgia Tech and Gonzaga to roll to a 12-3 record in non-conference play, to have the Flyers falter against the A-10 seemed improbable. Call-in shows and Twitter chatter devolved toward extremes, with fans speculating about the longevity of the coach just halfway through his third season. “I imagine Archie must be wearing a fake beard and dark glasses when he runs out for milk and bread,” one fan wrote.
Little did fans know that, in the cold of winter, UD was signing a contract extension for Miller through 2019.
That slump, it turned out, would be golden. It gave the team permission to regroup and focus on what was important, said senior and team co-captain Devin Oliver.
“[Coach Miller] started preaching play-to-win. And guys were kinda like, ‘ehhhh,’” Oliver said, vocalizing the team’s uncertainty, “and he was like, ‘Just play. Just play basketball.’
“And once we started winning and had a little more organization, we knew what we were trying to accomplish.”
Their goal: UD’s first NCAA Division I men’s tournament bid since 2009, when the Flyers advanced to the second round after beating West Virginia, 68-60, in Minneapolis.
One key to season success was cohesion. Players, in the past, were known to follow their own agendas.
“We didn’t have enough pride to listen to one another last year,” said senior and team co-captain Vee Sanford. “This year, as a team, every day was just helping each other and trying to teach. We can all learn from one another.”
They also drew energy from the coaching team and Miller’s palatable drive to win, said senior Matt Kavanaugh.
“His confidence, passion and enthusiasm just rubs off on all the players because, if you’re not bringing it at the same level as him, you’re not going to play, you’re not going to be successful,” he said. “I think he brings it every day in practice, and that gives us a sense of toughness, and that just transfers over into the games.”
It worked. They busted the slump with a 9-1 winning streak that propelled the Flyers into the NCAA tournament and to Buffalo, N.Y., to face Ohio State.
SELECTION SUNDAY was a time for rejoicing for many and of soul-wrenching agony for others who found their loyalties tested by the 11th-seeded Flyers’ match-up against sixth-seeded Ohio State. Sophomore Ryan Phillips, the next president of Red Scare, UD’s student fan club, is from one such house divided. Literally, he has Ohio State to credit for his existence.
“My parents met at OSU. It’s in my blood, my family,” he said. “If I had gone there, I would have been a fourth generation.”
Instead, he is a Flyer. So he chose — in good fun — to leave a voicemail for his father: “I’m 100 percent behind the Flyers. If you don’t want to talk to me Thursday, it’s fine.”
On March 20, Phillips — wearing a red Dayton Flyers pullover and black basketball shorts — joined hundreds of students who gathered throughout campus to watch the game. He chose the basement of Kennedy Union where the Hangar’s bowling alley sat silent as students piled in front of the big screen.
It was a nerve-wracking game with 15 lead changes that had Phillips doing calisthenics. With 3.8 seconds left on the clock, Sanford drove to the basket and kissed the game-winning shot off the glass to give the Flyers a 60-59 victory. It was a shot that launched Phillips into his friend’s arms.
“I almost went out and kissed the Chaminade statue,” he said. “It was probably the most exciting game I have ever seen. I don’t think I’ve hugged so many random people in my life.”
It was a bracket-busting way to start off March Madness. Dayton’s win left just 17 percent of the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar brackets intact after the first game of the second round, reported Yahoo.
The upset win was just one of many good storylines for the media to report throughout the tournament. Others included junior Jordan Sibert, who transferred from Ohio State and scored nine points in the win over his former school; Miya Oliver, the sister of Devin Oliver and the darling of CBS Sports, which highlighted her as the Flyers’ greatest fan; and the Miller brothers — Archie of Dayton and Sean of Arizona — who would become the first brothers to coach Elite Eight teams in the same tournament.
There was another storyline that grabbed the heartstrings during the third-round Dayton-Syracuse game: the birth of Maeve Maloney.
Chelsie Berry Maloney ’07 and her husband, Adam, watched the first half of the March 22 game from the delivery room at Kettering Medical Center near Dayton. Chelsie delivered Maeve at halftime and watched the second half while holding her new bundle of joy.
“UD has always been a part of our family,” said proud grandma Eileen Murphy Maloney ’80. “[Chelsie and Adam] had their first date at a basketball game at the arena, and their wedding reception was at the Flight Deck [at UD Arena]. Maeve is certainly destined to be a Flyer.”
While the Maloneys had a good reason to stay in Dayton, many fans refused to let a six-hour drive and occasional blinding snow keep them from the First Niagara Center in Buffalo. Fans sold out Dayton’s 550-ticket allotment and scavenged for more.
Longtime season ticket holder Jeff Lecklider traveled with 14-year-old grandson Jack Welsh, who always wears to games the same good-luck red socks. Welsh said the cheers of Flyers fans were incredible. “We were overtaking Syracuse,” he said.
On TV, it looked like a Syracuse home game, with the university only 150 miles away. The Flyers on the court, though, could hear the Dayton pride.
“When we played Syracuse, you could look up and see nothing but orange,” said Sibert. “But to be able to see our crowd and be able to hear them just as loud as the Syracuse fans, it means the world to us and it gives an edge to us in every game.”
Said senior Brian Vonderhaar of the Flyer Faithful, “They’ve always traveled well. Just because it was on a bigger stage, it was even more.”
The fans in the stands make a difference on the court, said the team. They can hear the roar during timeouts or free throws, but even when the players are completely focused, the energy can bleed onto the court and help the team gain momentum.
“Especially if we go on a run,” Sanford said. “That’s when it’s pretty big, the fans yelling ‘Go UD.’ It kind of gets everybody amped up to keep going.”
That energy overtook the team that night, with freshman Scoochie Smith and Sibert making late baskets to give the Flyers the lead, and sophomore Dyshawn Pierre sinking free throws to finish off the Orange, 55-53.
Then it was on to Memphis, Tenn., for the Sweet 16, where the Flyers would find themselves the belle of the ball.
SURE, IT’S NICE TO BE AMERICA’S CINDERELLA at first — you get dressed up for the big dance, everyone pays attention to you, wants to be your fan. But in the fairytale, Cinderella just happened to fit the shoe. The Dayton Flyers knew it took skill and sweat and the support of a cast of thousands spanning generations to get back to the place the men’s team last inhabited in 1984.
“The whole Cinderella thing is kind of out the door,” said Sanford in Memphis. “I just feel like a lot of people don’t know about the Dayton program, but it’s a really great program with a lot of tradition. … Nothing about the University of Dayton is Cinderella or small. We have the best facilities. We are on top of our game academically.”
It was, though, a bit like magic for fans. They rolled into Memphis by the thousands and were treated to a royal ball. In the historic Cadre building with its crystal chandeliers and towering columns with hand-painted gold-leaf molding, Fiore Talarico ’74 and the UD alumni relations staff threw a party for the first 1,300 Flyer fans to arrive. Kevin Davidson ’06, known for his animated halftime dance to “Sandstorm” while a member of Red Scare, stood in the ballroom wearing his trademark sunglasses and red stocking cap. Bill Uhl Jr. ’89, who played for the Flyers from 1986-90, hugged fans and posed for pictures. Everywhere there was free food and drink, with an R&B band and the Flyer pep band keeping the house rocking.
“It’s such an adrenalin rush,” said Curtis Schultz ’01. He had watched the Flyers win in Buffalo, then drove home to Cincinnati to pack up the family for Memphis. He stood in the Cadre building in the quietest corner he could find with wife Erin Wietmarschen Schultz ’01, brother Nick Schultz, and children Will, 8, and Annmarie, 6, who peeked out from behind a giant foam finger.
Former football coach Mike Kelly took the mic and told the jubilant crowd that UD fans had purchased more tickets in Memphis than any other school. “Let’s make this place tonight just like the UD Arena, baby,” he shouted.
And they did. The announcers from Flyer Radio promised listeners at home that they were not turning up the volume; the FedExForum was really that loud. Small children covered their ears with both hands, pointed elbows jutting into raucous space.
Flyer fans sold out their 950-ticket allotment and nabbed available seats anywhere. At one point, there were three Flyer will-call ticket lines compared to one for each of the other three Sweet 16 teams.
In section 208, row Q, near the roof, a family of five could barely contain themselves during the Stanford game. Mom, Dad and kids came packing prayers in case the team needed backup. A few times, the littlest girl started saying the “Hail Mary.” “Not yet! It’s too soon,” Dad coached, not wanting his team to peak too early.
That night, 10 Dayton players would score as the Flyers beat 10th-seeded Stanford, 82-72. Said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, “They were relentless. They came in waves, and they had two players at every position. … Not only do they keep putting bodies out there, but they’re all good.”
Just as the team was becoming known for its high-energy mass attack, the Flyer fans were gaining notoriety for their size and loyalty. Shots of historic Beale Street showed a sea of Flyer red while security guards at Graceland wondered if there was anyone left in Dayton.
On the day between games, Oliver ventured out on Beale Street to meet his family for lunch.
“I figured someone would come up to me, a fan,” he said. “But it was pandemonium. I started walking and people started crowding me and taking pictures. Old ladies were giving me hugs. I took about 40 pictures. That’s when I met Roosevelt Chapman (from the 1984 Flyer Elite Eight team). We shook hands and people started cheering.”
Such a reception was likely not contained to Dayton players, but there was one moment Saturday, March 29, that clearly contrasted the anecdotal differences among schools. At the restaurant Alfred’s on Beale, the University of Florida alumni association hung a banner for its alumni reception on the patio deck with a capacity of 200. Across the street in Handy Park, the UD alumni association threw an epic pre-game. An estimated 2,000 fans flowed in under an archway of red and blue balloons. Alumni in jeans and Flyer T-shirts emblazoned with “Fly to the Occasion,” “Our House” and “Archie’s Army” bumped into dear friends usually removed by 500 miles or 15 years or more.
“UD always preaches community and togetherness, and that was the mindset of our team,” said Oliver of his explanation for the outpouring from the fans. “People were getting together. It’s an overall commitment to the mindset of the University.”
THAT NIGHT AT THE ELITE EIGHT GAME in Memphis, FedExForum again rocked like UD Arena. Just as the crowd energized the players, the players stoked the fire. With 8:08 left in the first half, Oliver let fly a long three off a Pierre assist to bring the Flyers within three points of first-seeded Florida. Oliver threw both arms into the air, amping up the sound a few more decibels. He then turned and pointed to section 112 where his family and those of his teammates stood cheering. He threw up another fist as if to say, “That’s for you.”
The night would be a fight for the Flyers, who would take the lead but once as Florida pulled away to a 62-52 win that ended Dayton’s best season since 1984.
Later that night, after the players shook hands and posed for dozens more photos with fans back at the hotel, Oliver posted a tweet to his 5,000 followers.
“Flyer Nation, we made HISTORY. I’m so proud to call myself a Dayton Flyer. Thank you to everyone who has been alongside us for this run!”
That sweet, elite run will stay monumental in the eyes of those who witnessed it near and far.
They don’t call them Flyer Faithful for nothing.
Michelle Tedford ’94 sat courtside on press row for the Elite Eight game. Sometimes, this job is simply amazing.
UD has proven that what proliferates in your kid’s fish tank can also survive the deep freeze of a polar vortex. The Research Institute’s new outdoor modular algae system holds promise for alleviating environmental and energy ills by taking the solution to the point of pollution. In the process, we’re growing young minds with some of the most innovative ideas in the algae industry.
The green, slimy film might make you think twice about taking a dip in the pond — even on the hottest summer day — and it makes cleaning out the aquarium a time-consuming chore.
But algae are emerging as one of the most promising renewable energy sources in decades. The tiny organisms pack a big punch for challenges ranging from climate change to economic security.
Scientists and students at the University of Dayton Research Institute have taken the research a step further by creating a new way to grow algae — adjacent to the source of pollution and no matter the weather. This modular algae system, they say, can significantly reduce carbon emissions headed for the atmosphere, creating a new solution to a growing problem while growing a new generation of problem-solvers equipped to address issues from foreign oil dependence to water
“This is all about cleaner air, cleaner water and cleaner energies,” said Sukh Sidhu, head of UDRI’s Energy Technologies and Materials Division and professor of mechanical engineering.
THE SKINNY ON FAT ALGAE
UDRI has been performing research on algae and developing and testing algae-growing systems for pollution control and alternative energies since 2009. That’s when it received a $980,000 pollution-reduction contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. In all, Air Force funding to UDRI for algae research and development totals $3.5 million.
Algae are among Earth’s oldest living organisms, but only recently have they been cultivated on a large scale for fuel, feed and food. Algae are photosynthetic organisms that occur in most habitats, from marine and freshwater to desert sands. They vary greatly in size from single-celled to complex multicellular forms; kelp, the largest algae, can grow to be 200-feet long. And, according to the department of botany at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, algae are found in fossil records dating back
3 billion years.
Fast-forward from Precambrian times to the modern day, and the many benefits of algae are coming to light. From their rapid growth to their ability to store energy in the forms of oils and carbohydrates, algae are among the most promising long-term sustainable sources of biomass and oils for fuel and food.
As oil crops, the unassuming green organisms are hundreds of times more viable
than corn, soybeans and canola, according to Sidhu. Compared with corn yields of 20 gallons of oil per acre, the “fattest” varieties of algae — those with the highest lipid contents — have the potential to yield more than 14,000 gallons of oil per acre, 700 times the yield of corn.
“You would need to take every single acre of food and nonfood cropland that exists in the United States today, multiply it by eight and dedicate it solely to corn to produce enough corn-based ethanol to meet even half of the nation’s transport fuel needs,” Sidhu said. “But only 1 percent of the equivalent of existing acreage would be needed to produce the same amount of biodiesel, jet fuel and ethanol from algae.”
Producing the highly desirable oil is one benefit. But if algae can be grown year-round near the source of air pollution, algae have the potential to be major players in carbon
NEITHER SNOW NOR RAIN …
Despite their widespread abundance, algae are actually fragile — vulnerable to fluctuations in weather and temperature, which has been a limiting factor for researchers and commercial growers alike. Despite an unseasonably long and cold winter in southwest Ohio, UDRI has been producing a high volume of algae in a new, outdoor system.
“This is a fully automated, closed system designed to operate 24/7, 365, regardless of the weather,” Sidhu said. “Our goal was to design and build an economical and efficient system that could be constructed or implemented anywhere, easily assembled and operated in any climate, and we’ve done just that.”
Initial research focused on testing varieties of algae as well as conditions needed for optimal production. UDRI researchers discovered that there were no “best strains” of algae, rather that variables like weather and temperature were key factors in producing a high yield. Certain strains do, however, respond differently to these variables.
“That’s why most systems are open, such as natural or man-made ponds, and found in warmer climates,” Sidhu said. “And that’s why our system is different. It will operate in any location, regardless of season or climate.”
Operating in this year’s very cold weather — including 11 days of below-zero temperatures — was a concern, said Moshan Kahandawala, the program’s principal investigator.
“The unusually cold ambient temperatures experienced in the Miami Valley were particularly challenging,” he said. They found strains of algae that could grow to approximately 5 degrees Celsius, but below freezing they had to create methods to prevent the
water from freezing.
“Ideally we would rely on waste heat from a CO2 source, but in our case we relied on a boiler to provide and simulate the waste heat needed to make it through the winter at our outdoor facility,” he said.
The UDRI system is a low-energy, high-throughput photobioreactor. Each module fits in a space equivalent to about a dozen parking spaces. The size and number of modules in a given system can be scaled depending on biomass, biofuel and carbon capture requirements of a particular site.
Water and algae are added to the photobioreactor tubes and, because the tubes are clear, algae process light through photosynthesis to grow. A number of factors can affect growth and biomass yield. One is the gas liquid exchange — the balance between carbon dioxide consumed and oxygen released to maintain high growth rates. Others include lighting, water pH, temperature and the algae species selected.
As algae grow, their density increases. The thicker the algae, the less light is available at the center of the tubes, and growth plateaus. Then it’s time to harvest. Algae and water are separated. The separated water is re-circulated into the photobioreactor for reuse. The harvested algae can have many uses, including oil extraction, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals (health food), bioenergy and cosmetics coloring.
UDRI’s system is less expensive to operate than similar systems and, according to Sidhu, is already producing algae at or above the target rate established by the U.S. Department of Energy for 2022 — 50 grams of algae biomass per meter squared per day.
“It’s a beautifully symbiotic system — algae feed on carbon dioxide and convert it to a highly desirable oil, which accounts for as much as 70 percent of the organism’s body weight in some strains,” Sidhu said. “So, we capture carbon dioxide from stacks of coal boilers and other combustion processes before it is released into the atmosphere and run it through algae growing systems.”
Other pollutants can also be captured and run through the system to benefit the algae and the environment. Nitrogen and phosphorus are nutrients that are natural parts of aquatic ecosystems, but too much — from agricultural fertilizer runoff or wastewater treatment plants — can contribute to both air and water pollution. Running this water through the algae can reduce the need for expensive water treatments. When harvested, algae can be used as fertilizer itself.
And then there’s the oil-producing ability Sidhu mentioned. Algae store energy in the form of oil and carbohydrates. These can be extracted chemically or mechanically — such as by pressing — allowing the oil to be used to create biofuels such as biodiesel, ethanol, biojet fuel and “green gasoline.”
And, when you’re done, the dried algal biomass can be pelletized and used as fuel in industrial boilers.
NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL
Change is not an option but a necessity, according to a recent report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control. The IPCC report presented in April, “Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change,” shows global emissions of greenhouse gases have risen at unprecedented levels despite implementation of a growing number of policies designed to reduce climate change. Emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades and will need to be slashed by as much as 70 percent by mid-century to keep global temperatures in check, the report states.
“There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said Germany’s Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the IPCC working group.
According to the report — which analyzed more than 1,200 scenarios from scientific literature — a substantial financial investment would be needed. But it is possible and economically feasible to avert catastrophic climate change.
“Avoiding further delays in mitigation and making use of a broad variety of technologies can limit the associated costs,” Edenhofer said.
The report doesn’t endorse a single approach but rather a wide range of changes and actions. These include emission reductions from energy production, an overall reduction in energy use and afforestation as well as combining electricity production from biomass and carbon dioxide capture and storage.
The UDRI algae growing system could be an effective alternative to traditional carbon dioxide capture and storage methods.
“We consider this a far better alternative for dealing with CO2 emissions than geosequestration, where carbon dioxide is pumped deep into the earth,” Sidhu said.
Aside from being more cost efficient, UDRI’s growing process is greener — in the environmental sense — than most algae-growing systems, which use chemical fertilizer as a nutrient source.
“Producing algae with fertilizer is expensive and leaves a huge carbon footprint. We use livestock and chicken manure, the same type of nutrient source responsible for the algae blooms at Grand Lake St. Mary’s, Ohio, and other lakes affected by agricultural runoff,” Sidhu said.
Among the team members contributing to the progress of algae research at the University of Dayton are UD students.
One was Nilesh Chavada ’12, whose master’s thesis examined factors that affect algae growth in photobioreactors.
He worked with other team members to assemble the pilot scale system and, more recently, helped construct heat exchangers, critical to sustaining algae during the winter.
“When I graduated, algae and its associated research was the current trend and most sought after,” Chavada said. He now works full time for UDRI as a biomass production engineer.
Algae research has been part of the education for 15 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students since the project began in 2009.
“An effort at this scale requires a significant investment of human capital,” said principal investigator Kahandawala. “Access to students from various science and engineering fields helps look at problems from various perspectives. During their undergraduate years, we have the opportunity to benefit from their curiosity while they benefit from work experience. It also allows senior staff to take on more challenging efforts by delegating day-to-day or previously established activities to students.”
Saikumar Chalivendra ’11 has been working on algae research since he completed his master’s degree requirements in 2009. He is scheduled to complete his dissertation on
algae technology this year.
He said he gained a greater understanding of techniques to most efficiently produce biofuels as well as ways to reduce the cost of otherwise expensive wastewater treatment methods. He also learned analytical skills needed for the next discoveries in the algae field.
“I had the opportunity to provide solutions for real-time industrial problems,” Chalivendra said. “The biotechnology field will have some of the most exciting opportunities over the next 20 years. The work experience I gained from this project helped me to attain the skills and technical knowledge necessary to be placed in the top biotechnology or nutraceutical companies.”
According to Chalivendra, participating in such research projects provides an invaluable experience for all students.
“Undergraduate students usually work in the summer and, during that period, they gain more comprehensive knowledge of the subject under study, without specific applications in mind. They also get the excitement of learning new things in real research,” he said. “For graduate and doctoral students, working on research projects like algae will help students go through individualized training and will create an opportunity to work in a diverse research environment that is rich in intellectual and technical resources.”
This diverse environment includes various disciplines — mechanical, chemical and electrical engineering — and a range of nationalities. At one time, algae group employees hailed from the United States, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Russia, Mexico, Pakistan, Gabon and India, said electrical engineer Anupriya Krishnan ’06.
“Everyone’s styles and backgrounds are different, so it’s such a learning opportunity,” said Krishnan, an electrical engineer who is working on the automation of the algae photobioreactor. “It’s like a baby; you see it from the time it’s crawling — five tubes — to the 80 that are out here.”
Krishnan said UDRI does an excellent job identifying people with potential and providing them with opportunities to learn and grow in new industries, such as algae. Fellow team member Michael Butcher agrees.
“This project has given me the opportunity to broaden my horizons in a new field of work,” said Butcher, a full-time technician for the algae group. “I have worked in other technical industries, but this has been the most satisfying position that I have held.”
According to a recent algae industry survey conducted by the Algae Biomass Organization, the algae industry is growing, from increased production of biomass and oils to increased hiring and development of a wider variety of end products.
The survey, conducted in March 2014, included more than 280 responses from companies and individuals involved in directly producing and buying algae or algae-derived products, as well as equipment manufacturers, research laboratories, providers of equipment or materials, government agencies and service providers. Respondents this year continued their optimism that algae-derived fuels are likely to be price-competitive with fossil fuels by 2020; that production will increase in existing and new facilities; and that improved supportive federal policy would accelerate both the production of algae-based fuels, feeds, fertilizers and other products as well as the number of jobs across the industry. The ABO projects the potential for creation of 220,000 jobs in this sector by 2020.
At UDRI, the next step, after demonstrating the technology — which includes proprietary system designs engineered by Kahandawala — will be to investigate the potential application of a fully operational system at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Then, there is the possibility of commercialization.
“The University of Dayton Research Institute has developed the technology to generate a cost-competitive biofuel intermediate in the United States,” Sidhu says. “We’ve taken it from beakers and jars in the lab to full-size and fully operational modules that can be transitioned to the marketplace for commercial use. And we’re pretty proud of that.”
Debbie Juniewicz is an adjunct professor for the department of communication. She wishes the algae in her daughter’s fish tank could be employed to solve the world’s problems.
It was a risky plan, relinquishing control of the University’s 50,000-watt FM radio station to the rockers. But the students would tell you it’s the best thing that could have happened — for the progressive music scene and for themselves.
It’s 12 a.m., 1973. The doors to Kennedy Union are locked tight but WVUD-FM is spinning, the DJ on-air with his feet up on the control board.
He jams to his album pick for the night until a handful of stones thrown against the second-story window rattles him from his groove.
“I wanted to be a part of it,” said Patty Spitler, who tossed those rocks. Like so many students who had to work or just wanted to hang out, Spitler ’76 wanted in on a radio revolution that was sweeping the nation. For them, the entry point was UD’s commercial 50,000-watt megaphone controlled largely by the students to attract listeners like them. It was a risky plan, relinquishing control to the rockers. But if it succeeded, it would change the world — or, at the very least, their worlds.
When those stones thrown by co-workers or friends would rattle the window, the disc jockey would put on a “bathroom song” — like “Stairway to Heaven,” a song long enough for the DJ to take care of some quick business. He’d swing a chair around to prop open the locked door and bolt down the stairs with his footsteps echoing behind him to retrieve his new company so that he wasn’t alone with the music all night.
“With no cell phones and the hotline ringing all of the time, it was really the only way to get in at times,” said Chris Cage (Christian Caggiano ’70), a former program director of WVUD.
That scene, so familiar to decades of student DJs before an era of swipe door locks, described the excitement of 1969-76, the era when WVUD transformed from your mother’s (yawn) traditional music station to the students’ (rock on) music powerhouse.
In 1964, WVUD, “the Voice of the University of Dayton,” officially went on-air operating under 99.9 FM thanks to a man most knew as “Mr. Television.”
George Biersack ’52 was the father of television in the Miami Valley, producing thousands of shows for educational and commercial TV. He wired University of Dayton classrooms for closed-circuit TV but had even bigger ideas about how to expand educational offerings. He wanted to take the speech department — with its 15 majors in 1961 — and grow it into the communication arts department “in order to provide a more comprehensive communications program attuned to contemporary needs,” he wrote to the provost.
The new department, founded in 1964, included moving journalism from the English department and strengthening the theater arts and broadcast offerings. “Our prime obligation is the training of professional communicators,” he told Flyer News. By 1966, the new department had 175 majors; it would grow to be one of the most popular majors at UD.
A practical yet creative man, Biersack knew he needed hands-on opportunities for his students to learn, and he wanted a radio station. He approached the owners of WKET, a classical radio station broadcasting from the basement of the Hills and Dales Shopping Center a few miles from campus, and negotiated a sweet deal. According to Jim “Swampy” Meadows ’72, Speidel Broadcasting Corp. sold the station to UD for $25,000 while also donating $25,000 to the University. UD took ownership of the station in April 1964.
The station moved, along with Flyer News and UDCC (the closed-circuit television station, which would grow into Flyer TV), into offices in the new student union. Biersack’s daughter, Mary Biersack Stine ’72, remembers her father sitting behind the controls of the bulldozer during construction for the radio tower to be placed atop Stuart Hill.
WVUD went on-air to help fulfill the University’s educational and cultural responsibility to the community with the intention of avoiding being too “stuffy.” This WVUD — by all recollections, broadcasting at 25,000 watts that barely reached south over the Oakwood hills — was smaller and quieter than what it would become.
In 1967, the station operated 75 hours a week, 12 months a year with eight student announcers who got no class credit but were paid $1.25 an hour, as reported by Flyer News. “They’re getting paid for experience they couldn’t hope to buy,” Biersack told the student newspaper. Airtime was devoted to classical, folk, jazz, theater, dinner, Broadway albums, full operas, talk shows, “music to work by” and even Mass. By 1968, the station affiliated with American Broadcasting Company’s FM channel and gained airtime that included cultural interests, such as reviews of plays, books and recordings.
Biersack wrote that he hoped by 1970 “our radio station WVUD-FM will be well-established as an outstanding example of a public service station to the community.”
It already sounded good. WVUD was the only station in Dayton to broadcast stereophonic sound, which mimics the human ear by using two independent audio signal channels to create an overall better, more real listening experience.
Despite being ahead of the game technologically, the station wasn’t getting the attention Biersack had hoped for. As general manager, he added more upbeat jazz offerings to the classical and instrumental music rotations. But Biersack wanted more.
So he presented his young but dedicated staff with this challenge: Make WVUD appeal to a younger audience, and do not play Top 40.
In 1971, that meant one thing: album-oriented rock.
From brass to The Boss
Biersack put his faith in his students and a new program manager. Cage, a communication major, had worked at Dayton’s WING-AM during college and after graduation. In 1971, he took a job at WVUD as program director and sales manager. He said that in his time at WVUD, from 1971 to 1974, the station grew in Arbitron ratings from 1.7 percent to 7.3 percent of the total audience share.
Cage believed in tight programming, scripting a detailed plan with specific titles or genres student DJs were required to play. Known as a walking encyclopedia of radio, his total commitment to changing the station from “stereo with brass” to progressive music made him a perfect mentor for passionate student DJs.
“A little of ‘painting by the numbers’ is good for inexperienced people,” Cage said. “But once they learn how to do it well … you can allow them to freeform more.”
Allowing this freedom meant opening up the playlist. For a time, the station was criticized for airing a weird hybrid of sounds. The daytime format was upbeat, background music to appeal to adults with news updates from WVUD’s affiliate, ABC. At night the DJs would spin edgier progressive rock for a younger audience that would turn up the volume. Progressive music in the early ’70s blended folk, blues, jazz, rock ’n’ roll and sometimes even classical into hits like those by Yes and the Moody Blues.
When the clock turned to 7 p.m., “Wax Museum” dominated the air. The rock ’n’ rollers plugged in their headphones — and recording devices. For one hour every day, WVUD played complete or nearly complete albums, usually rock and progressive style. Listeners would wait to hear a resounding “beep” that alerted them to the start of the album and then hit record on their tape cassette decks or reel-to-reels. “Wax Museum” provided its audience with new, complete music to own and listen to whenever they wanted — for free.
WVUD’s “Wax Museum” sparked the fire that became the station’s album-oriented rock programming. When the show ended at 8 p.m., DJs played songs in this style until
2 a.m., going after the young adult audience that preferred to not hear the extremes of commercial Top 40 or entire obscure albums. By 1973, the progressive format would dominate the station around the clock.
There were hits and misses, but the students got to lead the experimentation, push the envelope and discover new music.
Along with the change in music style, Cage helped the station embrace its commercial license. While WVUD was one of only three college-owned stations in the country to have a commercial license to sell airtime as advertising, Biersack said in a 1964 Flyer News article that he had no intention to use it. He saw that operating in the red was more than offset by the education the University provided to future broadcasters.
Cage thought differently: that commercial license was not going to be wasted. The station began selling advertising. Meadows recalled his first ad sale — Athena’s Bridal Creations — and some of the more inventive spots using owner Tom Weiser to do the voiceover on ads for The Forest Books and Records. Bill Andres ’75 was the mastermind behind the copywriting, said Dan Covey ’77, who became the station’s music director.
“Bill really knew how to speak to the audience,” Covey said. “He always found a way to make it really compelling. Whether it was funny or dramatic, people really wanted to hear it.”
Listeners also heard inventive — and suggestive — promotions. The banana shtick — where listeners walked up and asked people if they were the “WVUD Big Banana” or “Electric Banana” — made it onto bumper stickers for the station. Another promo, by DJ Steve Wendell ’73, asked listeners to call in and guess the length of his “Wazoolie.” (Answer: 12 inches.)
The edge found in the music and banter led to the success — and attention — the station was after.
“We lived the style of rock ’n’ roll for the most part,” said Covey, who deejayed at WVUD while in college. “We knew who the audience was, well, because we were the audience.”
Covey also knew the audience because he was a Daytonian. He started out at the station — his first position was receptionist — as a shy student with inherent ambition and evolved into a respected music expert who created and maintained critical relationships with record stores in the area. Cage said Covey was one of the reasons WVUD was ahead of the trends.
“All of the record stores knew and liked him,” Cage said. “He always wanted to work and have greater responsibilities; we had to throw him out almost every night.”
Being music director meant constantly exposing new music to listeners, and it included meeting with record labels to discuss what music would be played at WVUD.
Before the age of the Internet, record companies sent representatives to stations with precise agendas. They knew how to navigate people, specifically college students, and attempted to use the power of free food to sway the direction of the conversation.
WVUD music and program directors received invitations to the hallowed Pine Club on Brown Street. They’d be served steak and fine wine right next to a heaping stack of new album releases from the label’s superstars. On top would be what the representatives would push on stations. But Covey said WVUD had a different idea of what “exposing new music” meant.
“They knew our format and wanted to stay with our direction, but they would push what the labels were paying them to sell to help certain artists they thought would make it,” Covey said.
A steak would not sway the students from playing music from groups yet to become household names. For example, if records similar to the first Tom Petty album were shown to Covey, his common response would be:
“Eh, I don’t hear it.”
But four or five albums down the stack, he’d catch a glimpse of something interesting that hadn’t been discovered or widely heard yet — like Bruce Springsteen before his 1975 album Born to Run made him famous. The record companies wouldn’t even mention it because it wasn’t part of the acts that labels were getting behind.
Covey said WVUD music directors of that era predicted who would become stars. He admits that at times they had to comply with companies’ requests because, “Sometimes, it’s just business.” But their goal was to play new music and act as a discovery station for progressive rock and pop music lovers.
Rock ’n’ rivalry
In the 1970s, glasses were big, University of Dayton basketball uniforms were small, and technology enthusiasts had 8-track players in their living rooms. It was a time of social, governmental, cultural and technological revolution, and the radio industry was part of this change, thanks to the Federal Communications Commission.
In the works since 1964, the FCC’s FM Non-Duplication Rule required stations to get creative with their programming. Prior to this, many AM stations that had acquired FM bandwidth would simply double their AM content on this new portion of the dial. With this new rule enforced in 1967, stations had to broadcast at least 50 percent original content, forcing them to think outside the Top 40 playlists popular with their AM audiences.
Some stations turned to an all-talk format, while others — such as KLOS-FM in Los Angeles to WNEW-FM in New York City — began experimenting with progressive and album-oriented rock.
WVUD was part of this trend. The station told its story through Ten Years After, Carole King and the Allman Brothers interspersed with commentary and advertisements to make listeners feel like they were on the inside of the funniest jokes.
In 1972 and 1973, WVUD was a frequent contributor to Billboard magazine’s FM Action feature. Its correspondent — often philosophy major DJ Jeff Silberman ’73 — offered “Hot Action Albums” to inform the rest of the nation of the newest music trends. On Aug. 26, 1972, Silberman recommended The Slider by T-Rex, Toulouse Street by the Doobie Brothers and the self-titled album by Ramatan.
Billboard contributors were opinion leaders at “the nation’s leading progressive stations” in the largest population centers, and being on the list put WVUD in the company of KZAP-FM in San Francisco to WRIF-FM in Detroit.
In 1973, WVUD entered its next revolution: 24-hour programming, followed not long after by an upgrade to 50,000 watts that screamed into homes in southeastern Ohio and parts of Indiana and Kentucky. Geoff Vargo ’73 as program director ushered in this era as he replaced Cage, who moved on to a station in Princeton, N.J., and later onto a career at WRKI-FM in Connecticut.
Convey remembers Vargo as one of the most creative and energetic personalities at the station. Passionate and always ready to solve problems, his caring nature gave him the ability to “get people fired up” about the station, Covey said. Vargo was one of the primary reasons Covey became interested in UD and wanted to join WVUD.
“He lit up a room with positive energy,” Covey said. “He does it to this day.”
The 24-hour format skyrocketed the popularity of the station. Vargo stretched the “Hot Rotation Singles” — when DJs would play hits pushed by record companies — from three hours to six and added new artists, oldies and up-and-coming musicians. News reports said the phone lines rang off the hook with more than 150 requests per day.
The students also had other innovations. One was Spitler, WVUD’s first female morning personality. Her show, “Waking Up With a Woman,” highlighted her booming voice and pithy humor. Spitler was unexpected and unapologetically woman.
“Someone would say I ‘talked dirty and played the hits.’ I didn’t really talk dirty, just some innuendos. I was feisty … and maybe a little naughty,” she said. “We competed with the big dogs, people who did this as a living, and we were winning. We were breaking new ground.”
WVUD’s success was attributed to the students, their zany, risk-taking nature and the freedom UD gave them to maneuver within the progressive format of the station.
In Dayton, WVUD was “king of the mountain” of progressive rock, said Chuck Browning, who would move to Dayton to become program manager of what would become WVUD’s largest competitor.
Browning’s station was WTUE-FM 104.7, which has the FCC non-duplication ruling to thank for its programming split from sister station WONE-AM. When Browning, at age 23, arrived in 1976, WTUE was playing a schizophrenic mix of album rock and Top 40, mashing Led Zeppelin up against The O’Jays. He started instituting a playlist of album rock with an ear toward what the kids at UD were spinning.
While he cleared up the playlist, WTUE couldn’t compete with the far superior signal coming out of WVUD’s radio tower. “I spent the first two years at TUE getting my head caved in by a college radio station,” Browning said. “We remained the second radio station.”
The students relished the rivalry, beating out WTUE in ratings and, as Covey said, discovering new music while WTUE simply “stuck with the hits.”
While the students had the innovation, WTUE had the money, and eventually Browning got the technology boost needed to compete with WVUD’s signal.
But the students were ready to hurl one more rock at Goliath. Cage said the same day that WTUE upped its wattage and started broadcasting stereo, WVUD took out an ad in the newspaper announcing its next big leap in technology — a Dolby-B noise reduction system. It made its stereo FM broadcasting quieter while increasing the station’s effective range with no increase in power.
WVUD had built the popularity of progressive rock, and WTUE cashed in on it. After the technology upgrade, WTUE’s ratings skyrocketed, jumping from a 6 percent share of the audience to 13 percent in one rating cycle, Browning said.
The students may have been looking to beat WTUE at any turn, but Browning said he had a lot of respect for the student-run station. Covey remembers attending a local rock concert and bumping into Browning in the pressroom. Browning offered a greeting and said that the town was indeed big enough for them both. “I was a college punk,” Covey said. Covey’s response: “Hell no, there’s not.” And he walked away.
But Browning didn’t. He realized that UD attracted the best college talent from Chicago to Philadelphia and said he was able to build WTUE’s success thanks to the students.
“I was able to listen, pay attention and hire some of the best of them,” said Browning, who lists his time at WTUE and his most recent position — as general manager of KMYZ-FM and KTSO-FM in Tulsa, Okla. — as the most rewarding of his career.
The students had gotten to the top, accomplishing what Biersack had asked them to do, if not exactly in the way he might have imagined. But once the rest of radio caught up with the progressive music phenomenon, it was time for the University to create new plans for the future of WVUD-FM. As the freedom of the ’70s melted away into more formatted radio, the WVUD alumni carried their opportunities with them as they scattered across the nation.
Working at “The Radio Station” was far more valuable than the minimum-wage paycheck they received.
While the students were having fun, they were really building lives. The 17- to 20-year-olds weren’t just kids playing music; they were licensed DJs gaining professional experience, real revenue and popularity for the University of Dayton.
Andres, the WVUD copywriter, went on to careers in film, advertising, production and publishing. He attributes much of his success to the camaraderie among the students. If you were on-air — even late at night — and you did something great, one of your co-workers would always call in to tell you so. (They’d call, too, if you messed up.)
“To this day I stay in touch with people I worked with from WVUD,” he said from his home in Arizona. “It’s because we went through this all together. It was a great training ground and atmosphere, and we made great friends, because it was a great place to work. It was a rare hybrid — a 50,000-watt station owned by a university. It was the perfect place to discover radio as an art form and a one-on-one communication medium. It was unparalleled … and prepared me to be a professional communicator.”
The students helped push progressive rock in the Dayton market, and generations of female DJs have Spitler to thank for progressing the view of women in radio, Andres said: “She was a real pioneer.”
The station — in this era and beyond — helped shape the careers of radio personalities, sports announcers, station managers, media executives and producers in television and Hollywood.
Covey talked about his good fortune at being named music director. “That created an opportunity for me to establish the relationship with all the record labels,” he said.
His first job after college came at the invitation of Andres, who went to a station in Ann Arbor, Mich. When a program director job opened in Illinois at WZOK-FM, a record label rep suggested Covey for the job. His career brought him back to Dayton in 1980, and he now works as a senior account manager for Clear Channel.
Cage remembered a young Dan Pugh ’79 applying to work as a DJ. The station passed him over — twice — before giving him a shot. Pugh — also known as Dan Patrick — went on to DJ at WTUE before working for ESPN radio and now announces for NBC Sports and hosts The Dan Patrick Show.
WVUD of this era launched many careers. Steve Downes ’72 is morning man at WDRV-FM in Chicago and the voice of “Master Chief” on the game Halo. Alan “Mike” McConnell ’77 went from WVUD to WTUE, leading to on-air positions at WLW-AM in Cincinnati and WGN-AM in Chicago.
When Spitler graduated in 1976, Browning promptly hired her for WTUE’s morning drive show. It was a success — its ratings beat WVUD, she said, plus she got her first real paycheck, $200 a week: “I was rich beyond belief.” She went on to become a TV anchor in Indianapolis and is now host and producer of nationally syndicated Pet Pals TV.
They moved on, but they didn’t leave UD entirely behind. At WINE-AM and WRKI-FM in Danbury, Conn., Cage hired Flyers John Fullam ’75, Bob “Buzz Night” Kocak ’78 and Al Tacca ’78 to join him. Covey continues to interact with UD students through the Clear Channel co-op and internship program. Last summer, engineering technology major Michael Harper ’15 worked at Clear Channel.
“It’s about seizing every opportunity you get on campus,” Covey said, “making a contribution, being a part of something, trying to make a difference and then trying to maintain the relationships once you get out of school and paying it forward.”
By the 1990s, WVUD had grown into a light rock powerhouse that still employed students, but they were no longer in control. In 1992, UD sold WVUD to Liggett Broadcasting Group for $3.5 million, which went back to the University to support academic programs and other funds. The call letters changed to WLQT-FM, and the station moved downtown.
Student-centered radio, though, persists in the stu-dent-managed, non-commercial WUDR Flyer Radio. The free spirit of WVUD flourishes on channels 99.5 FM and 98.1 FM. It’s no 50,000 watts — 10 watts with a 50-watt translator, sending the signal into Dayton’s near suburbs — but it has the potential to reach far and wide thanks to Internet streaming. And the students have freedom to play what will attract listeners like them — an idea that has empowered students from 1964 until today.
“Everything was the right place, right time,” Spitler said. “It was magic.”
WVUD alumni will host a special reunion reception in the old WVUD studios in Kennedy Union during Reunion Weekend 2014. They invite all former staff and students — no matter your class year — to the celebration the afternoon of Saturday, June 7. To register for any Reunion Weekend events, visit reunion.udayton.edu.
About the authors
CC Hutten is a junior English major who stumbled onto the WVUD story during Reunion Weekend 2013. She writes, “The more I delve into the epic ’70s music scene, the more convinced I am that I’m attending the University of Dayton in the wrong decade.”
Michelle Tedford ’94 once sat in the control room with a DJ friend who played “Rhinestone Cowboy” (not on the designated playlist) during the last days of WVUD.
Science has waged a full-scale attack on cancer. One teacher is ensuring high school students are prepared to protect themselves and help find a cure for what will kill a quarter of all Americans.
Statistics can sit on the page, cold and lifeless. But sitting in front of Jennifer Sunderman Broo ’04 were 21 warm, breathing humans, high school sophomores in ponytails and Uggs. And every one of them raised her hand to Broo’s question:
“How many of you know someone who has cancer or who has lost his or her life to cancer?”
It’s how Broo begins teaching her new curriculum, “The War of the 21st Century: The Cell Cycle, Cancer and Clinical Trials,” funded by the National Institutes of Health and made available this winter to teachers nationwide. She teaches the science of cancer in the context of our personal experience with the disease, embracing the fear and the determination that we can find a cure for what statistics say will kill a quarter of all Americans.
That cure might come from the mind of one of her students; inspiring the next generation of cancer researchers is one of her goals. Even more likely is her role in creating a more informed generation, one that understands the biologic processes that cause cancer and the choices we can make to reduce our risk or treat the disease — lessons we’d all do well to learn.
There’s a frog skeleton in the cupboard. Photos of scientists are pasted onto tissue boxes. And on an orange sheet of construction paper taped near the dry-erase board in Broo’s classroom are these words from Albert Einstein: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.”
Broo — tall and blond with fingers blackened by the dry-erase marker in her hand — asks lots of questions of her students at St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati, an all-girls Catholic school that educates based on the teachings of a young woman who, in the 16th century, empowered women to serve God within the context of their families and professions.
Broo also asked one question of herself: Can I teach the science of cancer to students who are unlikely to take another biology class in their lifetimes?
“Sometimes I think teachers try to give all the practical stuff to the higher-level kids,” said Broo, who before joining St. Ursula two years ago taught Advanced Placement biology in Florida. The girls who sit around the black lab tables in her biology class are future writers and teachers and some who would rather earn accounting degrees than map out chromosomes. Yet Broo believes that understanding the science of cancer — how it occurs, what factors contribute to our risk, how clinical trials are run — is imperative for every student, every person.
“I tell them that I want them to have the information because, God forbid, when this happens to you or someone you love, you can search the Internet as an informed citizen,” she said.
Plus, she thinks cancer science is exciting. You can hear it in her voice as she describes the clinical trials that are leading to novel therapies for fighting cancer. Her energy comes from a lifelong fascination with nature and the systematic way it responds to changes in our environment. But she understands the looks people give her when she tells them she teaches cancer. “It was weird for me to be so excited to teach something that is so horrible,” Broo said.
Sophomore Gracie Ehemann was not at all interested in learning about a disease that had killed so many in her family and already threatened her.
“How can you be so excited to teach something that has taken my whole family away?” she asked, naming grandparents cancer has killed. “It was very, very hard to let myself open up to this.”
Broo knew it would be, which is why she begins teaching the unit each semester by asking about cancer’s impact on her students’ lives — raising their hands, writing reflection papers and discussing cancer truths and myths with their classmates.
Ehemann reflected on a painful memory: sitting in a doctor’s office with family members, hearing words she didn’t understand, and feeling fear and confusion.
“I had no idea what was going on. It all sounded so scary to me — even the word itself sounds super scary,” she said. “I think that this course really broke everything down. … Every piece of what the doctors were saying when I was younger I know about now.
“I wish I would have known before what everything meant, because I honestly feel that if a doctor came to me to talk about cancer and all the vocabulary, I would have a much better time understanding it.”
And it’s not just children who are struggling. Broo watched the family of her mother-in-law, Jackie, battle through the last months of Jackie’s breast cancer. “I wish I would have gotten to know her better,” said Broo of Jackie, a smart and vibrant woman who died in August 2012, three months before Broo married into the family.
“I saw the toll it took on their whole family,” Broo said. “I couldn’t help them, but at least I could help other families to be able to talk about it and deal with it.”
So to start the conversation, when her students raise their hands to the question about knowing someone with cancer, Broo now raises her own — for Jackie.
As a UD student, Broo enjoyed hiking at Glen Helen in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The biology major intended to pursue her doctorate and spend her life in a laboratory. But she looked back on the work she loved best — including internships at the Cincinnati Zoo — and realized she wanted to teach.
She earned her master’s in education from Xavier University and taught in Georgia then Florida, where she won a Science Education Partnership Award. It was her chance to get back in the lab.
Broo and fellow teacher Jessica Mahoney interned in Dr. Christopher Cogle’s University of Florida clinical and research laboratory. They would don white lab coats to work with new drug combinations to combat acute myelogenous leukemia cells, a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. They were looking for the IC50 dosage — the dosage that would kill 50 percent of the cancer cells. Determining the IC50 is an early step in developing a benchmark for therapies that may eventually be tested in humans.
From their lab experience, Broo and Mahoney developed a lesson plan for their high school students in “translational medicine,” often referred to as “bench to bedside.” It is the application of traditional laboratory research — “bench” — to better the human condition and create novel treatments for diseases such as cancer — “bedside.”
Their first lesson plan focused on the genetics of cancer. But giving the students a little information on inherited cancers, like those resulting from the BRCA-1 gene, led to lots of questions. What about tanning beds? Smoking? How do environmental factors and lifestyle choices relate to the hereditary factors?
“They felt like we weren’t telling them the whole story,” Broo said. So the teachers expanded the curriculum, producing a two-week unit that incorporates traditional biology lessons and meets Next Generation Science Standards. It contains readings, videos and activities that can be adapted to students at a variety of learning levels. They presented the curriculum at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference at the end of November. It is available for free download [see "Continued Conversations" for the link].
One of the activities they added was the game “What’s My Risk?” Students pick cards to help understand that a combination of inherited and acquired risk factors could lead to cancer. Through the game, they learn why using sunscreen or exercising regularly helps reduce cancer risk, whereas heavy alcohol consumption or use of tanning beds can cause a mutation in the gene responsible for suppressing tumor growth.
“I didn’t realize there were so many steps to get cancer. I thought it just sort of happened,” said St. Ursula sophomore Annie Hamiter. Her cancer education that semester included a dose of relief from a fear she’d been carrying around for years. Doctors had told her family that her mother’s cancer diagnosis meant an increased risk for her. “With Mrs. Broo walking us through it and saying how everything has a step, and how things have to happen in your body for you to get it, I think that eased my mind. It’s not as if one day I’m going to wake up with cancer, it has to be a process that has to happen.”
It’s a process she now understands. [See "Division and mutation."]
In the United States, one in three women and one in two men will develop cancer during their lifetimes.
Broo shares that fact with her students not to scare them but to inform them. But fear — or passion or excitement — makes her students more invested learners.
“I joked with my husband that I’m emotionally manipulating them to learn science,” she said. “Anything that you can connect with on an emotional level pushes you to learn a little more than does just reading something in a textbook that doesn’t apply to you.”
It also helps when your teacher has written the textbook. On a Thursday afternoon, six of Broo’s former students sat around a table to discuss what they had learned. They gushed the most about having a teacher who not only did cancer research but also cared enough to teach it to them. Sophomore Gretchen Thomas called Broo “passionate.” Classmate Madeleine Morrissey agreed: “You need a teacher to be enthusiastic to rub off onto the students.”
Learning should be about more than just getting an A. Broo wants them to challenge and argue and question the material — and one another and her, which they did during a lesson on clinical trials.
Hamiter was angry to learn that cancer patients whose last hope may be an experimental drug would not know if they received the drug or a placebo. “I remember I kept on fighting with Mrs. Broo. Why would they let some people die for science?” Hamiter asked.
Broo insisted they read about the pros and cons of the practice and apply their own morality. For Hamiter, the question was more than academic. She struggled to find an answer, but she appreciated the space that allowed her to come to her own conclusion: “I’ve come to [believe] — it sounds awful to say — but these few people will die for the greater cause of creating a cure.”
The students took what they learned in class and carried it throughout their day, out of the classroom and into their homes. They started conversations with their parents, some for the first time having an open discussion about family health history.
Sophomore Marley Molkentin talked about her grandmother, who had died of lung cancer nearly a decade ago.
“I hadn’t thought about my grandma in awhile because I just don’t really like thinking about it,” said Molkentin, her voice soft and full of memories. “This class made me think again, and I don’t feel as sad anymore about it.”
The students said their conversations helped with closure or brought the family closer together, with the girls feeling good about being experts in a subject elder generations likely never learned in school.
They also mulled over their new knowledge and molded it into possible cancer cures. They would come to class with suggestions on ways to cut off the blood supply to cancer cells or to target chemotherapy drugs more precisely. Their approaches were simple, based on their 10th-grade science, but inventive. “They were coming up with some viable mechanisms that, if you could find a practical way to do them, could actually be some pretty great treatments for cancer,” Broo said.
She knows that few of her current students will go into science careers — those students are more likely to choose honors or AP biology — but she wants them to understand you don’t need to be a doctor or researcher to impact cancer. To demonstrate, students sat in a circle. Each girl represented one person involved in clinical trials — patient, spouse, oncologist, pharmacist, nurse, researcher, social worker, drug company executive. They tossed back and forth a ball of blue thread until it created an interlocking web of patient care.
“My favorite job was the person who would play and talk to the kids who have cancer and keep them sane through it,” said Hamiter, recounting watching a video of children with bald heads and bright eyes dancing with their nurses and singing to the song “Brave.” “I never knew there were people who did that, and I thought it was really cool.”
In the end, it’s a hopeful message that Broo wants her students to take from such a scary topic. For more than 4,000 years, humans have been making progress in treating, curing and preventing cancer.
“You have to train them to start to think a little bit, let them make mistakes and learn from them,” Broo said. “That’s one of the things I like about the cancer unit — there are lots of opportunities to internalize it and add their own spin — and hopefully it encourages them through the stories to take the mental energy or the mental effort to do that.”
That energy was evident in sophomore Monica Luebbers, who wriggled in her chair as she recounted her life’s ambition at age 10: to cure cancer. She said it was a dream that got lost in the chaos of middle school, when so many girls turn away from science.
“I think I want to get back that childish dream of trying to pursue a cure for cancer,” Luebbers said. “Mrs. Broo kept that fire alive, and maybe added some gasoline and made it grow bigger.”
Now that’s a way to wage a war.
Preparing for War: A (short) History of Cancer
The date of an Egyptian papyrus containing the first medical description of cancer by Egyptian physician Imhotep.
Hippocrates gives an account of a woman with a carcinoma of the breast. He was the first to use “carcinos” and “carcinoma” to describe the tumors.
Marie and Pierre Curie discover radium, with which doctors begin to deliver high doses of radiation to tumors. Radium also proves to be carcinogenic; Marie Curie dies of leukemia in 1934.
Senator Matthew Neely asks Congress to advertise a $5 million reward for “information leading to the arrest of human cancer.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the National Cancer Institute Act.
An accidental release of mustard gas in Bari, Italy, leads doctors to understand the chemical’s ability to kill cancers of the white blood cells, leading to chemotherapy treatments.
In his State of the Union address, President Richard Nixon asks for an appropriation of $100 million to find a cure for cancer: “Let us make a total national commitment to achieve this goal.”
First tumor suppressor gene, Rb, is isolated. It is among the first genes to be linked to familial cancer.
The first DNA microchip is developed, leading to today’s “gene chips” that are tools to develop individualized cancer treatment plans.
Gleevac, the first drug to target a specific characteristic of a cancer cell rather than attack all rapidly dividing cells, is successfully used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia.
The FDA approves the first cancer-preventing vaccine, Gardasil. It protects against the human papillomavirus, the major cause of cervical cancer.
The Cancer Genome Atlas project is researching and publishing all the possible changes in genes related to specific cancers.
Division and mutation
Cancer can form when the normal process of the cells goes awry. To illustrate this, Jennifer Broo has her students at St. Ursula Academy work in teams to draw a poster-sized diagram of the cell cycle.
Typically, the cell goes through a predictable process of duplication and division, producing cells for specific functions within the body.
But things can — and do — go wrong. DNA can replicate incorrectly, causing mutations that could become cancer. The cells have opportunities to correct these errors at checkpoints. On the cell diagram, Broo illustrates them as stoplights. At each stoplight, the cell can ask itself, are more cells needed? Are the environmental conditions right for cell growth? Is my cell DNA replicating correctly? If the answer is no, the cell can delay division, repair the mistake or kill itself (apoptosis), making room for neighboring healthy cells.
Broo teaches her sophomores that cancer development is a multistep process that requires mutations in both tumor suppressor genes and proto-oncogenes within the cell.
The function of tumor suppressor genes is to prevent mistakes that could lead to cancer. These genes slow down cell division, repair DNA mistakes and tell cells when to die. Tumor suppressor genes can be turned off because of an inherited deficiency such as BRCA-1, the gene deficiency inherited by actress Angelina Jolie, or because of a mutation that develops over a person’s lifetime.
Proto-oncogenes regulate the normal processes of a cell. They are genes that signal to the cell what function to perform and how often to divide. Mutations to proto-oncogenes can also be inherited or acquired.
Age is a risk factor; the more cells have replicated, the more chances there are for mistakes to occur.
But students learn about other risk factors that are within their control. They learn skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types and that they can prevent acquired mutations by using sunscreen or avoiding tanning beds.
And they also learn that many of the breakthroughs in cancer are likely to be in understanding ways to prevent it. This education is especially important for 15-year-olds to learn, Broo said, because they have a lifetime to reduce their chances of
Recommended by Jennifer Broo:
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
“It is a long book, but very readable, even if you haven’t had a biology class since high school.”
National Institutes of Health
“This would be one of the sites I would go to if I knew someone with a rare type of cancer or who had tried standard treatment options and wasn’t improving.”
“Oncogenes, Tumor Suppressor Genes and Cancer,” by the American Cancer Society
“This provides an easily understandable explanation of the genes involved in cancer.”
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
“Another comprehensive website with good animated tutorials.
About the author
Michelle Tedford ’94 is editor of University of Dayton Magazine. She hasn’t taken a biology class since the ninth grade.
Technology has altered our behavior. Is it also changing our values?
Her patience ended as the flight began boarding.
Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, M.H.S.H., had just changed seats in the airport concourse for the third time, desperately seeking solitude from a chatty passenger. His conversation, however, was not with her.
“I had found a quiet place to work,” remembers Zukowski, religious studies professor and director of the University of Dayton’s Institute for Pastoral Initiatives. “Then, a man talking loudly on a cell phone sat down across from me. So, I moved. He followed. I moved again. He followed again. After the third time, I asked him not to follow me, to which he replied, ‘But, I’m trying to get away from all the noise!’”
That was the beginning, she says, of her heightened awareness of what it means to be human in today’s digital civilization. “Everybody’s talking to somebody, but they’re not talking to the person in front of them,” she says. From dinners with friends interrupted by text messages to wilderness hikes punctuated by the ding of an email notification, Zukowski soon felt surrounded by a “culture of distraction.”
Technology has given us new ways to explore, communicate and connect; we already learn, interact and worship differently. We can’t escape it, but we can be aware of it — and recognize our response to a shift that’s changing more than what we do; it’s changing who we are.
A DIGITAL ODYSSEY
The feature that makes current technology so desirable is also what’s advancing our dependence on it. The telegraph, the radio and the personal computer, for instance, proved transformative for previous generations. But, at some point, their users could — even had to — walk away. Portability marked a new frontier.
“Any time new technology is introduced, it is so attractive that it captures our imagination, and we spend a lot of time with it simply because we’re enamored,” Zukowski explains. “The question is, how much time do we spend before either the admiration passes or we get totally sucked in?”
Think about the evolution of transportation. When the main mode was by foot, travelers’ moderate pace allowed them to notice the beauty of the trees, see the flowers blooming, observe the changing seasons. Now, zooming down interstates and flying through the sky, we still see autumn leaves and snowy hills, but they’re passing by rapidly, a peripheral thought instead of a focal point.
Zukowski — a former member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications — sees this trend at the Caribbean School of Catholic Communications in Trinidad, which she co-directs and is co-sponsored by UD’s Institute for Pastoral Initiatives. When the school began in 1994, students were eager to learn about new media, although most of their parishes owned none of it. Then, six years ago, students began bringing cell phones to class. A year later, the phones were already being replaced with newer versions.
“Then, they brought digital cameras. They brought laptops. They brought iPads. This is a developing country, but suddenly, our students had more technology individually than we had within the whole school,” Zukowski says.
According to a 2013 report by the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union, there will soon be as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as there are people inhabiting the planet, with the figure set to pass the 7 billion mark this year — meaning that many individuals own multiple devices.
By the end of last year, 96 percent of the globe had been penetrated by the mobile market, and almost half (41 percent) of the world’s households were connected to the Internet. The report also shows that, worldwide, young people are almost twice as networked as the population as a whole.
“This digital culture is informing, forming and transforming our students, the digital natives, at quantum speed,” Zukowski says.
Call it the Rip Van Winkle effect: One day, we rolled out of bed, and it seemed the whole world changed while we slept. For today’s youth, though, it’s all they’ve known. A 2010 Nielsen study noted that 36 percent of children ages of 2 to 11 use both the Internet and television simultaneously, with children ages 8 to 10 spending about 5.5 hours each day using media — eight hours if you count additional media consumed while multitasking.
Education for these “cyberzens” — citizens of a digital civilization — is no longer contained within four walls. Today’s learning environments are without borders, as communication theorist Marshall McLuhan predicted: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and then our tools shape us.” Many textbook companies have rebranded, offering “personalized learning experiences” that deliver a mix of text, videos and digital assignments.
The new learning ecology calls us to move from “learning about” something to “learning to be,” Zukowski says. “In the 20th century, the approach to education was focused on learning about things and creating stocks of knowledge that students might deploy later in life. This approach worked well in a relatively stable and slow-changing world where students could expect to use the same set of skills throughout their life. But now lifelong learning is imperative. Everything is in flux, with constant change calling for flexibility.”
Take the Caribbean school, for instance. When leaders realized the vast amount of technology students possessed, they revamped their learning model to accommodate it. Instead of creating lesson plans in advance, coordinators approached each class based on the tools students brought with them. Monday could mean learning about f-stops on DSLR cameras; Thursday might see a tutorial on mobile blog posts.
Zukowski found a similar situation happening in the U.S. As a judge for the Catholic Schools of Tomorrow Award, she realized that a third of last year’s entries indicated their schools are 100 percent paperless, with students issued tablets instead of textbooks.
Indeed, the days of solitary lecturing may be numbered.
“Students’ brain scans actually look different, and they communicate differently,” Zukowski says. “I teach my UD courses now like a TED Talk. I’ll give a presentation for 15 or 20 minutes, then ask them to discuss the ideas, then do something within their table cohort. I feel like I cover more material in a traditional lecture, but you can tell that doesn’t get through to them anymore. They zone out. And, if students are being taught differently in elementary and high school and then come to college and our environments are still traditional, that won’t work. The universities that will survive will be the ones willing to shift.”
Shauna Adams, associate professor of education and executive director of UD’s Center for Early Learning, follows the neuroscience behind our changing brains.
“Any interaction that you have, any language that you use, any sensation that you engage in, the more it’s repeated, the more it becomes part of your neuro-network,” Adams says.
Zukowski points out that adults born before 1965 came of age when the amount of knowledge was more manageable, when someone could start at the beginning of a book and read to the end. So, people growing up in the 20th century learned to read left to right, top to bottom, start to finish.
This is not how young people influenced by the Internet read, she says. They read in the form of the letter “F,” conditioned by a website layout to read across the top first, down the left side and then skim through the center. Their minds have been rewired for kaleidoscope color and constant movement. Black and white pages are yesterday’s news.
BEING MORE HUMAN
As instructors in Trinidad noticed more and more digital devices being brought to the school, they also noticed something else: Fewer students were socializing with each other after lessons ended. In previous years, students could be found “liming,” a Caribbean term for a casual, often unplanned social gathering. Now, it seemed, they were still hanging out — but it was happening virtually.
As Zukowski says, “New technology creates new opportunities, but with any change, something’s being lost. Sometimes, you lose something you wish you hadn’t.”
Like silence. In a recent BBC feature, The Noisy Planet, Dutch sonographer Floris van Manen notes that noise is like a drug, so easy to get hooked on that most of us now feel distinctly uneasy when confronted with silence. He offers this example: “The next time you go to a concert, listen carefully to what happens when a long, loud passage is followed by a quiet one: many people start coughing. The constant overexposure of our aural nerves is as addictive as using chemical stimulants.”
But listening highlights the dignity of the human person, Zukowski says, suggesting that community is essential to being and becoming more human. By treating time with other people as valuable — and not something that passes the time in between text messages and Facebook likes — you’re communicating your respect for them as individuals. Zukowski refers to a “vibration reflex syndrome”: the urge to double-check that your device is still on, and fully charged, when it’s been quiet for a few minutes.
“We’ve gotten into the habit of making the people we’re with feel like there’s always somebody or something else more important waiting to come our way,” Zukowski told the audience gathered at the University’s 2013 Catholic Education Summit. “If your cell phone is on vibrate right now, why? Why aren’t I the most important person in your life right this minute? Why do you want to be distracted by that next text message?”
The fourth annual Civility in America: A Nationwide Survey purports that rudeness in the U.S. has reached crisis proportions. The most recent study found Americans encounter incivility more than twice a day on average, and nearly half expect to experience it in the next 24 hours, prompting the report’s authors to call rude behavior the country’s “new normal.” For the first time since the survey began in 2010, the Internet and social media rose into the top ranks of perceived causes, joining politicians, youth and the media.
“It’s as simple as taking everything for granted instead of treating everything as a gift,” Zukowski says. “People are accustomed to instant gratification now. They expect instantaneous responses, which leaves little time to explore or reflect on issues in any depth.”
Adams sees the trend in her students, too. “One of the things I’ve noticed is that they have a need for immediate answers. Their ability to wait for information is very different than it used to be,” she says. A lack of access to answers is more uncomfortable for today’s learners, she says, because it activates anxiety, increasing stress hormones.
It also relates to values, says Zukowski: “Only that which is new is good and true. If it’s six months old, it’s gone. Our role and our responsibility as Catholic educators is to educate our young people to realize that they are cybercitizens and can also transform this culture. This is a culture that is shaping them, and they’re not even conscious of it.”
LIVING HOLY — AND WHOLLY
Speaking at the TEDxDayton conference in November, Chris Wire, president of Real Art Design Group, said we’re still inherently curious, asking Google around 60,000 questions a second. The problem, though, is that we’re less interested in the exploration cycle.
In his talk, “The Magic of Brainpower, Deductive Abilities and Curiosity,” he said technology is “accelerating the fading of wonderment.” With a computer in our pockets, it’s become too easy to neglect the power of our own mind, asking “Why?” less and looking for quick, data-driven answers more.
“I’m not saying reject technology,” he told the crowd. “I’m saying we need to re-script our use of it. Think for yourself. Don’t let Google be a reflex. Don’t be a passive consumer of information; become an active creator. Come up with your own ideas of how it could or should work first, then go check your answer. You just might have a brand-new, nutty, crazy, magical idea.”
To help, Zukowski encourages her students to disconnect and actively seek out “Sabbath moments” and has found that they want them, too. She recalls a conversation with Lauren Glass ’13, one of her Chaminade Scholars, a program for honors students to explore their vocation and faith.
“Quiet time, to me, doesn’t just mean removing exterior noise. It also means silencing your thoughts,” Glass says. “It’s good to get away from the gazillion screens, or people, or the stressful parts of our day — but we need to take time away from ourselves, too. By consciously existing outside of our own ego, we’re moving toward cultivating peace and selflessness in our lives.”
Sabbath time, like other periods of rest, allows us to re-create ourselves — to focus our minds and center our hearts. It’s a temporary fasting of the tangible that strengthens the spiritual.
Zukowski says, “We need to live more holy, and wholly — consciously and intentionally, carving out time to detach. These are values important to developing a spiritual life. If only our search for God was as intense and constant as our search for a Wi-Fi connection.”
If it’s increasingly hard to ignite our creative minds, cultivating a sense of religious imagination in students can be equally challenging. Mirroring changes happening in the classroom, many churches now offer multiple worship styles, maintaining a traditional service as well as a contemporary, interactive one that appeals to minds that crave more activity and stimulation.
“Imagination in the Catholic Church is strong; our churches are full of symbols and stories,” Zukowski points out. She cites author G.K. Chesterton, who said that intellectual knowledge is important but, without imagination, we lose a sense of what’s transcendent.
Such is the challenge for Catholic educators, she says. “I believe firmly that education, particularly Catholic education, can and does offer a value-added dimension in the face of a new digital civilization. We have the blessed opportunity to communicate faith that stimulates the religious imagination of our students and acknowledges the presence of a merciful, compassionate and loving God, even — especially — in a virtual culture.”
For Adams, recognizing the challenges and needs of a new generation of students is essential. “One challenge for professors today is that we are often not seen as the authority on a subject as identified by the millennials we teach,” she says. “They don’t trust information, and they look at it more collaboratively. If I tell them something, they don’t view me as the expert in early childhood; they will check it out and communicate with their friends and go to social media.
“Class today does not stop when they leave the classroom. It continues, and students process information constantly,” Adams adds. “They want to have an ongoing conversation between scheduled lectures.”
Ultimately, Zukowski sees more fulfillment — and less frustration — in the digital frontier ahead. “I strive to see the new digital landscape as a gift evoking a call and not a threat provoking fear,” Zukowski says.
Next time you’re in an airport concourse, choose your seat wisely. The world may expect to hear your phone call — but it doesn’t have to.
About the author
Audrey Starr is managing editor of UD Magazine. She finds Sabbath moments during long walks along RiverScape (aided by a pedometer iPhone app).
Campus at night is a different place.
People move with more meaning, not because they have to, but because they want to
or just be up all night. Like me.
I captured these photos between sundown and sunrise over three months this fall. Shooting in low light at night makes scenes a little spooky and a lot more alive. Generations of student photographers have captured the people change the campus change.
But the way the night works on campus stays the same — it is for the students.
The Ku Klux Klan terrorized Catholic universities in the 1920s. But somehow, we forgot. Professor William Vance Trollinger Jr. uncovers stories of great courage in a struggle to define who is an American.
The University of Dayton served as the headquarters of Catholic subversion in southwest Ohio.
That’s how the Klan saw it.
In the years between 1923 and 1926, the Dayton chapter of the Ku Klux Klan — which had at least 15,000 members — devoted much of its energies to harassing the University of Dayton by burning of crosses.
A UD student in the 1920s, Jack Brown later recalled, “it [was] their joy and delight to come out on the campus and burn a cross or two.” But the students did not passively accept the Klan’s harassment. They fought back. As a student at the campus high school later reported, on more than one occasion he and some of his peers raced out of class to chase the Klansmen away, all the while calling on the cowards to “show their faces.”
The Klan responded to such defeats by lighting crosses in Woodland Cemetery across from the University, as the cemetery fence gave the Klansmen some protection from enraged students. But even there the Klansmen were not safe. On one occasion UD football coach Harry Baujan learned that the Klan was en route. So Baujan, as he recalled a half century later, went “to the halls and called out all my big football players.” Gathering them near the cemetery, he instructed the players to wait until the Klansmen got “around that cross.” Once the cross was ablaze, he exhorted his players to “take off after them” and “tear their shirts off” or “anything else, whatever you want to do.” But the Klansmen saw them coming; Baujan lamented, “we never got near any of them,” as “they went … so fast through that cemetery.”
I think this is a great story of courage in the face of terrorism. But you will not find it in any official UD history. There are more stories of student resistance to Ku Klux Klan harassment at other Catholic universities, but most of those stories are also not included in the official histories. As a historian I have a responsibility to uncover such stories and retell them. In doing so we can better understand the struggle to define who is an American and the struggle to secure a university education — struggles which did not end with the cross burnings of the 1920s.
RESURGENCE OF THE KLAN
While for many the decade after World War I is best known as the “Roaring Twenties,” these were also the years of the anti-Communist Red Scare, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Scopes Trial, and the Ku Klux Klan. Having virtually disappeared in the late 19th century, the Klan was reorganized in Georgia in 1915 and exploded into national prominence in the early 1920s.
While the original Klan concentrated its animus against the newly freed slaves and their Republican Party supporters, this “second” Klan had an expanded list of social scapegoats that included Catholics, Jews and immigrants. Moreover, while the first Klan was based primarily in the South, this Klan had its greatest numerical strength in the Midwest and West. Indiana was the site of the Klan’s greatest achievements, but Ohio may have had more members than any state in the Union; as David Chalmers — who estimated Klan membership in Ohio as 400,000 at its peak — observed in Hooded Americanism, “there was a time during the 1920s when it seemed that mask and hood had become the official symbol of the Buckeye State.”
This certainly fit Dayton. Having recovered from a disastrous flood in 1913 that killed hundreds, in the early 1920s Dayton was a thriving industrial city of more than 150,000 residents and such going concerns as Delco and National Cash Register. Dayton’s factories attracted immigrant laborers; according to the 1920 Census, 28 percent of the populace was either foreign-born or of foreign parentage. Eighty percent of the foreign-born Daytonians were from central, eastern and southern Europe, particularly (in descending order) Germans, Hungarians, Russians, Poles, Austrians, Italians, Slavs, Greeks, Lithuanians, Czechs and Romanians. Such immigration patterns meant a strong Catholic presence in Dayton. According to the 1926 Religious Census, 35 percent of reported churchgoers were Catholic, with almost all the rest Protestant. According to Chalmers, this was the perfect setting for the Second Ku Klux Klan: a majority of native-born residents, but with a substantial minority of non-Protestant immigrants.
With at least 10 percent of the city’s population as members of the Ku Klux Klan, Dayton joined Indianapolis; Portland, Ore.; Youngstown, Ohio; Denver; and Dallas as “the hooded capitals of the nation.” And these Klansmen and Klanswomen were determined to make the Klan’s presence felt. Newspaper articles and oral interviews suggest a Dayton illumined by burning crosses in the mid-1920s.
Perhaps the biggest night of cross burning came on May 6, 1924, when the local Klan celebrated the 58th anniversary of the KKK’s founding. The Dayton Daily News reported Klansmen burned a “30-foot cross … in each of the four districts of the city,” attracting supportive crowds of “several hundred persons” to each site.
While only a small percentage of cross burnings in Dayton found their way into newspaper and Klan reports, oral interviews with Catholics who lived in the 1920s help fill out the story. One woman who was a teenager in the Klan’s peak years admitted that she is still spooked by the memory of “crosses burning almost every night” near her home. One resident of Dayton in those years recalled that the “threat of Klan violence was always there … [this was] the big threat in the Catholic mind: what [the Klan] could do to us.”
The Society of Mary, a Catholic order of brothers and priests, founded St. Mary’s School for Boys in Dayton in 1850. Renamed the University of Dayton in 1920, the school by 1923 had 280 full-time undergraduates (85 percent of whom were Catholic), 36 law students and 174 students who took night classes, not to mention the 560 students who attended the high school on campus. A contributor to a locally published KKK newspaper asserted that the University “stands like a giant fortress upon a high hill overlooking the surrounding country,” with a ROTC program that had been established for the purpose of training a Catholic army to fight religious wars against American Protestants.
On Sept. 21, 1923, the Dayton Ku Klux Klan held perhaps its largest rally, including a 3-mile march down Main Street (its sidewalks packed with cheering spectators) and a “naturalization ceremony” for prospective Klansmen at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds. Fifteen thousand Klansmen formed a ring around 7,000 kneeling initiates, while 10,000 spectators filled the stands. The ceremony included prayers, songs and the oath taken by the Klansmen-to-be affirming their “pure American nationality” (that they were white and they were Protestant). Then, celebration.
It would have been very difficult for the students and staff on the campus just down the road not to hear the cheering and singing of an estimated 32,000 white Dayton Protestants, not to feel the tremors of bombs being set off, not to see the Klan airplane (with a cross illuminated with red electric lights) circling the Fairgrounds, not to see the fireworks exploding in the sky, not to see the 100-foot burning cross.
BOMBS IN THE NIGHT
This rally seemed to embolden the Dayton Klan in its campaign against UD. The autumn of 1923 saw more cross burnings on or near University property. In early December the Klan planted a cross on campus and set it afire; as the Dayton Daily News later reported, this incident “terminated in a clash between a group of students and the alleged klansmen [sic], [who] were outnumbered by the students,” and who ran off into the night “before identification could be made.” It was an embarrassing failure for the forces of militant Protestantism and may have motivated the Klansmen to up the ante in their next attack.
Wednesday, Dec. 19, 1923, was the first day of Christmas break at the University of Dayton. By the time evening had arrived fewer than 40 students remained on campus. At 10:30 the calm was shattered. Students leaped out of their beds and ran out into the night as 12 bombs exploded throughout campus, all at some distance from University buildings. No one sustained serious injuries and the property damage was minimal; it could have been much worse, given that at least one bomb went off near campus buildings that stored guns and ammunition for the university’s ROTC program.
But what caught the eyes of the frightened students shivering in the cold was a blazing 8-foot, burlap-wrapped, oil-soaked cross on the west edge of campus. As the UD students ran toward the cross in order to tear it down, they discovered the perpetrators waiting for them. As reported by the Dayton Daily News, several hundred Klansmen had filled 40 to 50 cars, which they very slowly drove in single file “past the blazing emblem,” all the while issuing “a volley of threats” to the badly outnumbered students. But the tables soon turned. Angry at losing their sleep, hunderds of neighbors charged the hooded intruders, yelling their own “menacing threats” as they approached the line of cars in front of the blazing cross. The alarmed Klansmen hit the gas and sped off into the night. Faculty and students, along with the University vice president, “hastened to the cross and battered it to the ground.”
In the bombing’s aftermath, local residents vented their frustrations to the press, complaining that “they ha[d] made repeated remonstrances to the police in regard to the demonstrations at the university,” but to no avail. There were rumors that the police department was filled with Klansmen. The UD administration, however, had also worked to keep city authorities from responding to the disturbances; as Vice President Father Francis Kunnecke, S.M. ’06, admitted after the bombings, the University’s plan had been “to cope with the situation without seeking the aid of the police.”
But the “brazenness” of the Dec. 19 attack led Kunnecke to assert that these “demonstrations directed upon the university were unjustified and unlawful,” and thus the University would “do everything in its power to force prosecution.” When Dayton police detectives reported (after a one-day investigation) that they “were unsuccessful … in finding clews [sic] which would reveal the identity of the invaders,” President Father Bernard O’Reilly, S.M., responded by publicly expressing his frustration with the history of Klan attacks on the University, attacks that “forced the students to lose sleep, which greatly handicapped them in their studies.” He met with “city officials … and asked that immediate action be taken to discover the identity of the alleged klan [sic] members.”
The Dec. 19, 1923, incident was the high point of Ku Klux Klan harassment of the University of Dayton. There were no more bombings. But it does not appear that the Dayton Police Department ever identified the bombers, much less brought them to justice. Moreover, the Klan continued to burn crosses on and near campus, and held more large rallies at the fairgrounds. It was not until the late 1920s, when the Ohio Klan entered a precipitous decline, that the University of Dayton could begin to consider itself safe from terror administered by “100% Americans.”
In spring 1996, I was hired as an associate professor of history at the University of Dayton. That summer, Provost Father James Heft, S.M. ’66, asked me to write a brief article on some aspect of Dayton’s religious history, to be distributed to those attending an interfaith Thanksgiving celebration sponsored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
I knew nothing about Dayton’s religious history, but I did know that the Second Ku Klux Klan had been strong in Ohio. That fall I turned my undergraduate American religious history class — which had just four students: Erin Flory Camargo ’98, John Jauch ’97, John Nally ’96 and David Yarosz ’96 — into a research seminar on religion and religious conflict in Dayton in the 1920s. The secondary literature on the Ohio Klan was minimal, and there was virtually nothing on the Dayton Klan. But their careful reading of the Dayton Daily News showed that the Klan had been very active in Dayton, and that the University of Dayton had been a target of Klan wrath. Students interviewed Marianists who had been on campus as students in the 1920s, as well as Catholic laypeople who had resided in Dayton in those years. From our two months of intensive research I wrote — with my students as secondary co-authors — a very short pamphlet, “Toward a Tolerant and Inclusive Community,” which was distributed at the interfaith celebration.
What surprised me most was that virtually no one I talked with at UD knew that the University had been the target of Ku Klux Klan harassment, much less knew that the school had been bombed in 1923. There is no mention of Klan harassment in institutional histories written in 1937 (just 14 years after the bombing) or in 2000 for the University’s 150th anniversary. And the oral history of the attacks seems not to have made it from one generation of students to the next; in response to my paper on this topic at the 2011 American Catholic Historical Association meeting, Philip Gleason ’51 commented that never in his time as a University of Dayton student (nor in the six decades since graduation) had he heard a word about the Ku Klux Klan’s attacks.
To underscore this point, I return to the story of coach Baujan and his football players chasing the Ku Klux Klan away from campus. The story becomes more dramatic when one realizes Harry Baujan’s place in University of Dayton athletic lore. Having played for Knute Rockne at Notre Dame and for the Cleveland Tigers/Indians in the nascent National Football League, Baujan came to UD in 1922 as an assistant coach, taking over as head coach in 1923. Over the next few decades he created a stellar football program; not only does the UD soccer field (which had been the football field) bear his name, but in 1990 he was posthumously inducted as a coach into the College Football Hall of Fame.
For all of Baujan’s renown, I had heard nothing about his team’s encounter with the Klan until the summer of 2011 when I visited the University archives. The archivist on duty mentioned in passing that there was an unsubstantiated rumor that UD football players had confronted Klansmen. With this rumor in mind, I discovered the story in a transcript from a 1974 oral history interview with Harry Baujan and one of his players. Five decades had likely muddied some facts, but it seems almost certain that sometime in the mid-1920s the University of Dayton football team — prompted by its legendary head coach — confronted cross-burning Klansmen and sent them running.
How and why does an institution “forget” an exciting, even heroic, story such as this? Clues go back to July 1920, when the board of trustees voted to change the name from St. Mary’s College to the University of Dayton, a decision that obscured the school’s Catholic identity while publicly linking the school to its home city. While I have not been able to locate records of the board’s deliberations, in October 1920 President Father Joseph Tetzlaff, S.M. ’05, published an article in the University of Dayton Exponent explaining the board’s decision. Tetzlaff provided three reasons for the name change, the second of which focused on how the term “university” better fit the “scope” of academic work being done at the institution.
But the first and third reasons had to do with the city itself. Tetzlaff began with the confusing assertion that making the change from St. Mary’s College to University of Dayton would “bring home to the City of Dayton” the “work of premier order accomplished” at the school “in the domain of cultural and technical education”; this statement suggested that naming the school for its home city would induce Daytonians to have pride in their local university, thus implying that city residents had not felt such pride about St. Mary’s College. Tetzlaff’s third reason for the name change was equally ambiguous: “To do honor to the City of Dayton, which has always entertained a kindly interest in its principal school. … We entertain the fondest hopes that the citizens of this progressive community will make permanent this sympathetic attitude” by providing “their further moral and material support.” If the city had truly maintained “a kindly interest” in the school since its 1850 founding, why the concern that Daytonians “make permanent” their “sympathetic attitude”?
Perhaps the most that can be said for Tetzlaff’s ambiguous explanation is that it was aspirational. But in the next few years a significant percentage of native-born Daytonians joined or supported the local Ku Klux Klan chapter, which had as one of its primary and ongoing activities a harassment campaign directed against Dayton’s “principal school.”
Still, UD’s administration stayed quiet, perhaps grasping at their “fondest hopes” for the University’s relationship with the city. Then came the December 1923 bombing. Silence was no longer an option. But in breaking the silence it is telling what the administration said. Both President O’Reilly (who had become president that year) and Vice President Kunnecke focused their comments on the threat to the ROTC arsenal on campus; because the Klan was now threatening the property of the United States, its attacks on the University must be stopped. It does not appear there was one public comment from either administrator about the Klan’s anti-Catholicism, or about how Catholics in Dayton and Dayton’s Catholic university were weary of being harassed. To the contrary, the vice president went out of his way to downplay the school’s Catholic identity, observing not only that “students of all denominations attend” the University (thus eliding the fact that 85 percent of UD undergraduates were Catholic), but that this interdenominational “student body” has made “a universal remonstrance … against the picturesque demonstrations that have been staged” on campus.
One plausible reading of the University of Dayton’s almost instantaneous institutional amnesia regarding the Ku Klux Klan harassment and attacks is that there was some sense of shame that a large portion of the community in which they resided and in whose name they had titled the University did not understand UD as truly American. The faster all of this could be forgotten, the better.
What happened and then was forgotten at the University of Dayton leads to questions about the Klan and other Catholic universities, which numbered 69 in 1926, according to the Catholic Education Association.
In Contending with Modernity: Catholic Higher Education in the Twentieth Century, Philip Gleason relates the famous story of the confrontation between University of Notre Dame students and the Ku Klux Klan. As Gleason observes, in May 1924 university students “broke up a regional rally and parade in South Bend,” an attack followed two days later by a student march “on the local Klan headquarters in response to rumors that one of their number was being mistreated there.” Thanks to “the calming effect of an emotional appeal by Notre Dame president [Father] Matthew J. Walsh,” the students were “persuaded … to return to campus before the second episode got completely out of hand.”
UD and Notre Dame were surely not the only Catholic schools to encounter the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. What do institutional histories say — or not say — about such encounters, and what does it tell us?
To answer these questions, I focused on Catholic colleges and universities in nine northern and western states where the Ku Klux Klan was particularly active in the 1920s: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. I located 23 institutional histories of 17 Catholic universities and colleges in these states. Nine of these histories make reference to Ku Klux Klan activities near or related to the university, but none of these histories make any mention of Klan activities on campus.
For example, in his history of Xavier University, Roger Fortin tells the story of 1928 Ohio Republican gubernatorial candidate Myers Cooper, whose “association with St. Xavier College and its Catholic identity” — Cooper had led the fundraising campaign for Xavier’s football stadium — provided fodder for attacks by his Democratic opponent at a time when the Ku Klux Klan was organizing hate campaigns in Cincinnati.
Detroit was also a center of Klan activity in the 1920s. In his 1977 centennial history of the University of Detroit, Herman Muller relates the story that every Saturday evening in the summer of 1925 Klansmen drove by Gesu Chapel, a church the Jesuits had been “empowered to build” very close to the new campus site of the university. According to a Catholic resident who lived nearby, the University president, Father John McNichols, S.J., “call[ed] for me and my uncle, who was a deputy sheriff,” to protect the church: “My uncle had a double-barrelled shotgun and I had a pump gun. One of us stayed in front and one in back. Father Mac did not want them to burn down the church.”
The story is similar in John Stranges’ 2006 history of Niagara University, The Rainbow Never Fades. Stranges observes that a gathering of some 5,000 hooded delegates shocked “the Catholics of western New York”; Niagara students interpreted the Klansmen as a “demoralizing blemish” or, more hopefully, a “monster reptile doomed inevitably to extinction.” But in The Rainbow Never Fades — as in the histories of Xavier and Detroit — there is no reference to Klan attacks on or harassment of Niagara University.
The Ku Klux Klan receives more attention in James Covert’s history of the University of Portland, A Point of Pride, but it is only in the context of Oregon’s infamous Compulsory Education Bill. As Covert notes, the “Ku Klux Klan … was a motivating force” for this ballot initiative, which made it illegal for “any parent [or] guardian” to “fail or neglect or refuse to send [their] child to a public school,” and which was passed by Oregon voters in November 1922. Covert observes that the University of Portland (known as Columbia University until 1935) not only supported the legal campaign to have this decision ruled unconstitutional — which the Supreme Court did in 1924 — but the lead attorneys in this legal effort were “all formerly connected” with the university. But again, no reference to the Klan on campus.
In their 1953 and 2007 histories of Marquette University, both Raphael Hamilton and Thomas Jablonsky report that the local Klan chapter was prominently involved in the successful campaign to persuade the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors to reject a proposal to sell a square block of county-owned property to the university for purposes of building a health complex. What’s curious here is that this only mention of the Klan’s political intervention took place in 1927, at the very time when the Milwaukee chapter of the Klan was, as David Chalmers observes, rapidly splintering into irrelevance. In the mid-1920s, when the Klan was stronger, was it harassing Marquette students?
Finally, there is Denver’s Regis University. The Klan was a dominant force in Colorado politics in the early 1920s, including the election of a Ku Klux Klan executive committeeman as state governor. In keeping with the other university histories, the two institutional histories of Regis are silent about cross burnings on campus. But in his 1955 study of Catholic education in Colorado, William Jones notes that on April 1, 1924, “a large cross was placed on the campus near Carroll Hall and ignited before the faculty or students were aware of the incident.” In his 1989 work, Colorado Catholicism, Thomas Noel also reports this incident, but he gives a different twist on the Regis response: “According to [one source], ‘the Jesuits held the boys back inside or they would have torn those Kluxers apart.’”
One more point about Regis. In April 1921, the trustees changed the college’s name from Sacred Heart to Regis. Institutional histories report that school officials were unhappy with how many schools in America were named “Sacred Heart,” and they were concerned (to quote Ronald Brockway) “about the profane use of a clearly sacred name in sports yells emanating from frenzied fans” as well as unhappiness with students corrupting the school’s initials (S.H.C.) “into the unflattering nickname of ‘the Shack.’” Interestingly, in his unpublished 1997 piece entitled “The ‘Regis’ of Regis University,” John Callahan takes a different tack, arguing that another reason for the name change was that Sacred Heart “provided a clear target for the Ku Klux Klan, which was growing quite powerful in Colorado.” A less obviously Catholic name would provide cover, and “Regis” was “chosen because John Francis Regis was a Jesuit saint who worked in the mountains. Simple as that.”
STORY OF COURAGE
The confusion as to why Sacred Heart College became Regis College in 1921 is indicative of the larger point that there is much we do not know about the Ku Klux Klan and Catholic higher education in the 1920s. We can say definitively that Notre Dame was not the only Catholic institution of higher education that had direct encounters with the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan harassed and attacked both the University of Dayton and Regis College, and it may very well have harassed and attacked other Catholic universities. Moreover, and as with Notre Dame, UD and perhaps Regis, students were not passive victims; instead, they responded aggressively to the Klan attacks, more aggressively than did their school’s administrators.
As I told students at the August 2013 academic convocation, in chasing off the Klansmen UD students were saying, “we are true Americans.” But they were saying more than this. They were also making clear that while the Klan could hold gigantic rallies two blocks away, light crosses on campus and even explode bombs, the Klan was not going to keep these students from a university education, from a University of Dayton education. It was too precious.
This gift of a university education was precious in 1923; it is precious today. Of course, and as I also said to the students at convocation, UD students today don’t have to deal with Klansmen lighting crosses and exploding bombs. But there are still obstacles to overcome. Those obstacles include the fact that we live in a culture that repeatedly tells all of us that thinking about ideas is a waste of time, that seeing the world in simple terms is better than seeing it in its complexity, that seeking beauty and justice and truth is a frivolous quest, that understanding the “other” is irrelevant.
As in 1923, then, there are challenges to securing a university education. So it behooves us here at UD to remember our history, to remember the time when — just 90 years ago — UD students tore down burning crosses and the UD football team chased the Klan away from campus. Forgetting history is never good, and in this instance the UD community has a story of determination and courage to draw upon. So we should.
William Vance Trollinger Jr. is professor of history in UD’s history and religious studies departments and director of the CORE program. He and his wife, Susan Trollinger of UD’s English department, are writing a book on young earth creationism to be published by Johns Hopkins University Press. This article is an abridged and revised version of an article that appeared in the spring 2013 issue of American Catholic Studies: “Hearing the Silence: The University of Dayton, the Ku Klux Klan, and Catholic Universities and Colleges in the 1920s.”