A sociologist at heart, Curran reshaped the University in his 14-year tenure as president
Daniel J. Curran traveled to China in the spring of 2002 with an eye on the future. The cadence of the trip itself was familiar — an academic exchange filled with formalities to help bridge a cultural divide. But this time, just two months before he would become the University of Dayton’s 18th president, Curran envisioned a grander path of globalization.
He traveled with Fred Pestello, who was provost at the University of Dayton, and Greg Dell’Omo, associate vice president at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where Curran served as executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs. As Curran participated in a signing ceremony between the University of Dayton and Nanjing University, a ritual that signals the start of a relationship, Pestello leaned over to Dell’Omo and whispered, “Can he do that? He isn’t even president yet.”
“Welcome to the world of Dan Curran,” replied Dell’Omo, who is now president of Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
Bold and strategic, high-energy and personable, Curran doesn’t like to wait. He had a vision for the future of higher education, a streak of impatience and the tenacity to make things happen — characteristics that would enable him to bring meaningful change to the University as it embarked on a new millennium.
“It was clear that Dan was going to be an ambitious president who was going to push the University in new and exciting directions,” recalls Pestello, who is now president of Saint Louis University. “Today, there are hundreds and hundreds of Chinese students studying at the University of Dayton as a result of the initiatives that began with that first trip in 2002.”
The China visit, the first of many in Curran’s 14-year tenure, set the stage for his presidency, an era in which the University of Dayton opened to the world and experienced unprecedented growth. Curran brought a global perspective — and so much more.
His legacy can be summed up most easily by the numbers: From 7,000 undergraduate applicants to nearly 17,000. From 42 undergraduate international students to 939. From a campus of 212 acres to 388 acres. From $47.5 million in sponsored research to $98.6 million. From an endowment of $254 million to $500.4 million. While other universities had cutbacks and furloughs during the Great Recession, the University of Dayton had its pick of top-choice candidates, growing the faculty while expanding diversity, academic depth and program breadth.
During Curran’s tenure, the University adapted its academic program to meet the changing times. It launched the nation’s first accelerated law degree; started physical therapy doctoral and physician assistant practice master’s programs; introduced one of the nation’s first bachelor’s degrees in human rights studies; and offered the state’s first master’s program in clean and renewable energy. It was the first American university to open a freestanding institute in Suzhou, China. Today, the University of Dayton China Institute hosts research and educational opportunities for students and faculty and provides educational services to the workforce of multinational companies at Suzhou Industrial Park.
In addition, the University redesigned its undergraduate general education curriculum, the Common Academic Program; launched the Dayton Early College Academy, a charter school serving urban students underrepresented in higher education; and instituted a Human Rights Center and the Hanley Sustainability Institute.
“It’s been a pretty amazing 14 years of change,” says Sandra Yocum, associate professor of religious studies, who was on the presidential search committee that recommended Curran.
His time in Dayton also can be measured by his accolades: Leader of the Year from the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce; Most Outstanding Volunteer Citizen from the Dayton Development Coalition for 2006 and 2015; and the Joseph E. Lowery Human Rights Legacy Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights organization founded by Martin Luther King Jr. In 2011, he was named one of the 10 most influential people in Dayton. He is the only person to twice receive the Regional Leader of the Year award from the Dayton Business Journal.
Yet in keeping with the Marianist spirit that he has honored at the University, Curran shares the credit. “I came into the right situation — a solid foundation built on [former president Brother] Ray Fitz’s legacy, a board that said, ‘We want you to be bold; we want you to be yourself,’” he says. “It just allowed me to move quickly.”
When Curran became president of the University of Dayton, some may have wondered how the first lay president would maintain the University’s deeply held identity. They needn’t have worried. Faith and community — core Marianist values — have always been at the center of Curran’s life.
One of three children, Curran grew up in suburban Philadelphia, where he attended Catholic schools. In his early childhood, he belonged to Our Mother of Good Counsel parish in Bryn Mawr and lived on Dayton Road — perhaps foreshadowing things to come.
Curran was a first-generation college student, and he originally considered studying engineering. Instead, he decided to major in business at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. His father, a truck driver, wasn’t happy when he later announced that he was switching to sociology.
“What job will a sociologist get?” his father asked him.
“I’ll be a professor,” replied Curran, who had an abiding interest in criminology, poverty and social issues.
That would be the first step on a path to university president.
Curran, 65, spent 23 years at Saint Joseph’s, a place where he collaborated academically with his wife, Claire Renzetti, who is also a sociologist (and is now the sociology department chair and Judi Conway Patton Endowed Chair in the Center for Research on Violence Against Women at the University of Kentucky). They met while doctoral students at the University of Delaware, and together taught and wrote textbooks, such as Women, Men & Society, an exploration of gender issues.
Curran made his first trip to China as part of their honeymoon tour of Asia in 1985, a time when the Communist nation was still a closed society and few Americans ventured there. He was fascinated by China’s internal migrants, the “floating population” who flouted state rules about where they must live and traveled alone to other parts of the country. He saw the potential to collaborate on criminology research with Chinese academics.
Curran had a sense that China, the most populous country in the world, would grow as a global force. Since then, he has made about 50 trips. “Much of what happens with any relationship with China is built on personal relationships. It’s very important that they know you,” Renzetti says. “He feels very comfortable in Chinese culture.”
Meanwhile, as a professor at Saint Joseph’s, Curran took on roles that built his administrative and organizational skills and that brought him closer to students — serving as director of first-year orientation and academic adviser of the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Eventually, Curran moved into leadership posts: dean, vice president for academic affairs, executive vice president.
When the University of Dayton began its presidential search in 2001, the search firm contacted Curran, but it wasn’t the right time. The president of Saint Joseph’s had just been diagnosed with a serious illness, and Curran and Renzetti were building their dream house and hadn’t even moved in.
But the search failed to identify a suitable candidate, someone who could connect with faculty, staff and students and shepherd the University through the emerging challenges of higher education while remaining true to the Marianist tradition. The recruiter contacted Curran again, and he agreed to visit.
Curran, Renzetti and their two boys came to campus just before Christmas in 2001. They met three times with then-President Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M. ’64. “I was struck by how humble he was and his emphasis on community,” recalls Curran. He also saw a university with a strong base for growth.
In February 2002, Curran accepted the offer and would begin in July. At the formal installation the following spring, the University of Dayton rector, Father Gene Contadino, S.M. ’62, gave Curran a lapel pin that the Marianists had designed for him. It features the University’s chapel dome and the Marianist cross.
“He went out of his way to do this to say, ‘You’re part of the Marianist family,’” says Curran, who wears the pin every day. “From the very beginning, I felt the Marianists were around me all the time. You never feel alone.”
At the same time, Curran had the freedom to act decisively and make the changes he felt the University needed to remain competitive. He moved with the swiftness of a CEO, not the ruminative pace of an academic. That came as a bit of a jolt to the faculty and staff, who had yet to grow accustomed to his style.
Beth Keyes, vice president for facilities and campus operations, recalls that shortly after his arrival, Curran shared his concerns about the look and feel of the campus. Why were trucks parked in the center of campus? And what about those dreadful tennis courts, surrounded by a chain-link fence? The core of the campus should be a unifying spot for students, he said.
“I learned early on that just a passing comment from him is not a passing comment,” Keyes says. The trucks and tennis courts were soon moved, replaced by an expansive grassy mall — and later, a statue of Marianist founder Blessed William Joseph Chaminade was added, donated by Curran and Renzetti.
In December 2002, just months after taking office, Curran told Keyes he wanted a new residence hall. It would provide updated space and enable the University to move students out of older buildings, which could then be renovated. It would contain classroom space and a bookstore.
And he wanted it to open within 18 months. “There’s no way we can plan that and have it open in 18 months,” Keyes remembers thinking. But Curran stayed firm. Instead of spending a year just in design, the project used a speedier design-build process. Construction began on Marianist Hall in May 2003, and it opened in August 2004.
In fact, the timeline inspired the builders of ArtStreet to accelerate their work so the housing and multi-arts facility in the student neighborhood could also open in 2004.
Capitalizing on other opportunities required both pragmatic reflection and swift action. Shortly after Curran was selected, he learned about ongoing negotiations for a 49-acre site owned by NCR Corp. that could greatly expand the campus. The catch: Part of the property was a “brownfield,” a former
factory zone with contaminated soil and asbestos in the remaining buildings.
After much study, Curran recommended going forward with the $25 million purchase. The board of trustees agreed unanimously, and the sale was finalized in 2005. In partnership with the city of Dayton, the University obtained about $5.5 million from two Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund grants to assist in the cleanup.
In 2010, he proudly announced that GE Aviation would open a major research facility there. This spring,
Emerson Climate Technologies opened its own innovation center, The Helix, which it built on the site.
In 2009, with Dayton still reeling from the Great Recession, the city lost its largest company. While NCR announced its move to Georgia, the University underscored its commitment to the city by purchasing NCR’s former world headquarters. The 115-acre site contained a sprawling building with 455,000 square feet of space. The University of Dayton Research Institute moved into the building. “This is an exceptional opportunity for the University of Dayton to invest in our future — and this region’s destiny,” he said.
No one was surprised that Curran had stepped forward to boost the region’s fortunes. He had served on the boards of numerous community organizations, including as chair of the Dayton Development Coalition and as a member of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. “Dan is looked at throughout the community as one of the top leaders in the entire region,” says Jeff Hoagland ’91, president and CEO of the coalition. And the University “has been the economic driver that has changed the way people perceive the city of Dayton and the entire region,” he says.
For Curran, improving and expanding campus was part of a greater vision for the future. Most of the student body came from Ohio and the Midwest — a demographic that was shrinking. Curran saw that geographic diversity would strengthen the University while enriching the student experience.
The University would need to shed some modesty and spread its message. A new viewbook for prospective students projected a bold image. “THIS BOOK DOES NOT HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS” it said in bright red letters on the cover. Inside, amid provocative questions (“Do you perform community service because it feels good or because it looks good on your résumé?”) and an eye-catching design, the viewbook touted the University’s accomplishments and unique attributes.
Affordability arose as a major concern nationally, and the University responded with a tuition guarantee: University-funded scholarships and grants are adjusted every year so that net tuition stays the same for the entire four years.
Today, the student loan debt burden of University of Dayton families has declined while the first-to second-year retention rate reached 91 percent, an all-time high. The retention rate is even higher — above 92 percent — for entering African-American and Hispanic students. About 57 percent of first-year students are from outside Ohio, compared with just 37 percent in 2007. The number of applicants continues to rise, boosting the University’s selectivity. International students come from more than 50 countries. “For the student who can’t study abroad, they do have various slices of the world here in Dayton, Ohio,” says Interim Provost Paul Benson.
Meanwhile, Curran endorsed a collaborative approach to emerging issues when he re-established the University’s Educational Leadership Council with strong faculty representation. It is co-chaired by the University president and the president of the Academic Senate and includes the provost, deans, and vice president for finance and administrative services as well as faculty and student members of the executive committee and committee chairs of the Academic Senate.
Curran’s move was “very Marianist,” says Carissa Krane, professor of biology and president of the Academic Senate. “In a very true and tangible way, faculty have a seat at the table for strategic discussions,” she says.
As Curran worked to strengthen the University of Dayton community, he kept students and the student experience at the core of every decision. He has a professor’s sensibilities and can’t walk across campus without pausing to greet students who call him “Dr. Dan.” He formalized a student connection to the president’s office by creating the President’s Emissaries, and he regularly dines with students — in his house or theirs.
Curran showed his comfort level with students when he attended a fall 2015 rally in support of students at the University of Missouri who had toppled their own president over a failure to adequately address racial tensions on campus.
“I’m here as a sign of solidarity with the students, faculty and staff,” Curran told a student reporter with Flyer News as they all braced themselves against a brisk wind off the Central Mall outside Kennedy Union. “I think the statement they’re making about dignity is very important for the University of Dayton. It’s at the heart of our mission.”
When racial concerns have emerged in recent years at the University, Curran became directly involved and opened his office as an avenue to address the issues, says Mike Lofton ’05, vice president for partnerships for myEDmatch, a job-matching website for teachers and schools. “He’s never run away from any hard issue as it concerns students on campus,” he says.
Lofton was one of the first emissaries and vice president of the Student Government Association. Curran became a mentor and friend. “I look up to him so very much in all phases of life,” says Lofton, who is now on the board of directors of the University of Dayton Alumni Association.
In 2014, Curran waded into a very different student gathering when a celebratory throng poured out of houses and residence halls to party in the street after Dayton defeated Syracuse to advance to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. For a few moments, students held Curran aloft as they chanted “Dr. Dan! Dr. Dan!
Dr. Dan!” The incident made the national news.
“A person asked me, ‘Weren’t you frightened to walk into a crowd of students?’” Curran says. “No, it was a natural thing to do. It’s just not the way I’ve ever felt about the students. They care about me, and I care about them.”
When he steps down at the end of the academic year, Curran plans to take a yearlong sabbatical, which will include resumption of his academic work in China. A long-distance bicyclist, he has already checked out the bike shops in Suzhou.
As president, he says he finds his greatest joy in seeing the success of students, faculty and staff. Now he is looking forward to
returning to the place where he began — the classroom.
It won’t be hard to find Professor Dan Curran at the University of Dayton. On game days, he’ll be in the stands, cheering for the Flyers. His contract as president included a clause guaranteeing him basketball tickets for life.
Otherwise, he’ll be doing what sociologists do: Studying concepts of social justice. Mentoring students. Building community. He’s ready for the next chapter. “Who knows what the future brings?” says Curran.
Michele Cohen Marill is a freelance writer based in Atlanta. As someone who grew up with the ideal of Southern hospitality, she was touched by the great Marianist spirit of caring and community at the University of Dayton.
Loved ones are praying for the recovery of Coral Flamand ’13 after a catastrophic car crash. Medical science says her rehabilitation is not possible, but her parents’ Catholic faith holds out the hope of a miracle, perhaps through the intercession of a saint. Father Chaminade, founder of the Society of Mary, could be that saint.
In 1980, some plucky U.S. college kids and amateur players won an Olympic ice hockey game against a team of experienced Soviet players. In the game’s closing seconds, ABC broadcaster Al Michaels delivered what’s still the most famous call of his career: “Do you believe in miracles?”
But “The Miracle on Ice” wasn’t a miracle. It was a hockey game.
Here’s what a miracle looks like: Thousands fed with five loaves and two fishes. An enemy’s approaching army blinded by a handful of dust. Lazarus resurrected.
On the afternoon of Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, Coral Flamand ’13 was in her Honda Civic turning left onto Montgomery Road in Cincinnati when a Cadillac Escalade T-boned the driver’s side of her car, sending it with her flying into an empty lot.
In the moment before the collision, Coral was on her way to her apartment to study for the last final exam of her first semester in law school at the University of Cincinnati. She didn’t really want to be a lawyer, said her mom, Diana, herself a family law attorney in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Coral wanted to understand legal systems so that she could be an effective advocate for people who are marginalized and dispossessed.
But those plans couldn’t protect her from the hard facts of physics and biology at the moment of impact. It was late afternoon when Diana, sitting in her San Juan office at the end of a long week, started to get calls about her daughter. Around 5 o’clock, emergency responders asked for permission to transport Coral by helicopter to University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
“They told me, ‘It’s very bad. You need to get here as soon as possible,’” she said.
Diana left the office for the airport that moment, somehow making it through San Juan’s Friday-afternoon, Christmas-season rush hour in time to catch the next flight to Miami, which took off at 6:15. She sat in a middle seat between two strangers, praying she would get there quickly enough that her daughter would not die alone.
Coral was the baby of the family. The sibling nearest in age, her brother Francois, was 10 when she was born. “She was a surprise,” Diana said. “But from day one, you could tell this child was different.”
From an early age, “she had the gift of the word,” said her father, Luis. “She could always speak and write beautifully, in both English and Spanish.”
She was always, he said, conscious of the suffering of others. Back in fifth grade, her parents got a call from her school about a fight. They learned Coral was sticking up for a girl whom other students were calling “faggot.” In high school, Coral went with the Jesuits on a mission trip to Paraguay and returned without her suitcase because she’d left everything behind for others. She liked to borrow her father’s Economist and Time magazines and could tell you exactly what was happening in Darfur.
When it came time for college, she was admitted to the University of Chicago but chose Dayton instead, partly because it had the nation’s first program in human rights studies and partly because her brother Francois was a Flyer, Class of 2004.
At UD, she was a dedicated writer to the letters to the editor page of Flyer News. In one, she criticizes, with care and respect but pulling no punches, UD’s decision to provide shuttles to the local Walmart, “a corporation that has been criticized for anti-union and deplorable human rights practices for years,” she wrote. In another, she protests what she sees as lackadaisical responses to incidents of racial bias.
“She was always getting into other people’s fights,” her father
said. “She was a very determined girl, always advocating for the other person. It’s one thing to have gifts, but it’s another to use them in service of others.”
In the hours after her crash, Coral’s family converged on the hospital in Cincinnati. Coral’s oldest brother and godfather, also named Luis, drove six hours straight from his home in South Carolina. It fell to him, as the first to arrive, to make the initial medical decisions on his sister’s behalf. Another brother, Juan Carlos, came in from Arizona. Her third brother, Francois, lived in Panama but was in Miami for work and met Diana at the airport gate.
When she landed, Diana called her son Luis to find out whether Coral was still alive. He said yes.
“Then don’t tell me anything else,” Diana said. “That’s enough for now. And don’t tell your father. Just have him call me. I will be the one to tell him.”
Coral’s father Luis was across the ocean in Spain, settling in for the evening on the final day of a six-week religious retreat sponsored by the Jesuits. It was a long time to be away. Diana had offered her blessing for the trip on the condition that he bring back an image of the Virgin of Montserrat, the patron saint of Catalonia. Diana had chosen to give a virgin saint to each of her four children. She had already picked out Our Lady of Fatima, of Carmel and of Lourdes.
Until the accident, the plan was for Luis to arrive from Spain back in San Juan on Monday. Coral would take her last exam in Cincinnati that day and arrive back home on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they’d celebrate her birthday together. When he got Diana’s call, he instead flew to Cincinnati immediately. Another call, from Francois, went to Myron Achbach ’58, a family friend and, for many years, the admission director at UD. Francois knew Achbach could quickly find a priest to perform the sacrament of anointing the sick.
On the flight from Miami to Cincinnati with Francois, Diana prayed: “Father, I’m not going to argue. I’m not going to bargain. Thy will be done. But if we can have a miracle, please.”
They landed around midnight in northern Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati. Diana stepped out into the December cold still wearing the sandals she’d put on that morning in San Juan and went to the hospital. Early the next morning, Father Eugene Contadino, S.M. ’62, arrived and anointed Coral.
On the Glasgow Coma Scale — a three-part scoring system that medical staff use to evaluate a patient’s level of consciousness — Coral initially scored 3, the lowest possible number: no eye opening, no verbal response, no motor response. Anything under 8 is generally considered a coma state. Still, there was a neurologist on hand — he’d stayed behind so others could attend an office holiday party — who took her into surgery, something he later told the family “was a human decision, not a medical one.” He had a daughter around Coral’s age.
With the medical team’s intervention, Coral survived the collision, but just barely. She did not break her neck or sever her spine, did not lose a limb or have her organs sliced to bits by metal. All three of her car’s airbags deployed. Nonetheless, her injuries were catastrophic. A note from one of her UC Medical Cener doctors outlines the litany of her trauma: “a traumatic subdural hemorrhage, traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage” — explaining where her brain was bleeding — “carotid artery dissections” — the tearing of arteries in her neck — plus various bone fractures, a “grade 2 spleen laceration,” a collapsed lung, “and other minor injuries.”
Broken bones and lacerations heal.
The lasting damage has been to Coral’s brain. The same doctor’s note describes her as “mentally devastated.” She is quadriplegic and bed-bound, unable to care for herself or make her own medical decisions. In photographs, her body is contorted, her hands curled up against her chest. Her face wears a pained expression.
Coral’s medical condition lies in the consequences to her brain of being hit squarely by an SUV going 58 mph. The impact violently bounced her brain around the inside of her cranium, causing severe damage and bleeding that severed her brain’s ability to communicate with the other parts of her body. Her heart beats, her lungs breathe and her mind thinks, but her muscles wait in vain for signals to move. Her medical prognosis is bleak. If it holds, she will never walk, never say another word, never bite into an apple nor extend her hand with the sign of peace at Mass, and never insert herself into anyone else’s fight ever again.
After a year in hospitals in the States, Coral now lives back in her childhood home in San Juan. Her parents renovated the garage into a new room for her with a hospital bed and other medical equipment — “like a studio apartment,” they say. It’s just off the kitchen. There’s a futon by the door where one of them now sleeps every night. They’re worried saliva might accumulate in her mouth and choke her, or that she might slip into an awkward position and be in pain, her father said.
“Most importantly, we do it so she knows she is not alone, so she feels protected and cared for always,” he said. A small statue of the Virgin of Montserrat — the one he brought back with him from Spain and sat next to his daughter’s hospital bed in Cincinnati — remains with her also.
“I know that miracles have already happened with Coral,” Luis said. “First, she is alive. Second, she is there; her being is there. She is already a miracle.”
Medical science doesn’t offer a path for Coral’s recovery. In the weeks after the crash, one physical therapist advised that physical therapy was not only hopeless but unethical. Her parents know this, so they pray for a sign that God’s will aligns with their deep hope to have their daughter back closer to what she once was. They pray for her brain to redevelop the connections with her body that will enable her to be made more whole again. They are praying, they say, for the miracle of her rehabilitation.
The doctrines of their Catholic faith hold out the possibility that God may grant this miracle, perhaps through the intercession of one or more saints. The Catholic Church’s canonization process has four steps of recognition — servant of God, venerable, blessed and saint — and confirmation of miracles moves a person up the last two steps toward sainthood. The designation “blessed,” the third of the four steps, reflects the official doctrine of the Catholic Church that a person is in heaven and that one miracle is already attributed to his or her posthumous intercession.
Claims of miracles are investigated by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the precursor of which was established in 1588 by Pope Sixtus V. The current congregation has 34 members whose charge, according to the Vatican, is to annually prepare “everything necessary for the pope to be able to set forth new examples of holiness,” including the approval of miracles.
Today, the go-to miracle is healing, recoveries neither predicted nor explained by medical science. The belief in healing miracles can be subject to the abuse and exploitation of people desperate for cures. Just in March, Pope Francis introduced new regulations to curb perceived abuses in how contributions made to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to reimburse investigation expenses are regulated.
But what, exactly, is a miracle? The word itself comes from Greek, thaumasion, “something that is extraordinary in itself and amazing or inexplicable by normal standards,” according to one standard reference source. But it adds that a miracle is more than something inexplicable. Its essential nature comes not from what it is, but from what it signifies. A wonder becomes a miracle when it is understood as a revelation of the divine, a sign that can be read only through the knowledge that God is with us.
But do miracles really happen? I wondered this as I spoke on the phone to San Juan with the Flamands. We throw the term “miracle” around casually, referring not only to a hockey win but “the miracle of birth,” for example, even though we understand well the mechanisms of reproduction. As the Flamands talked with me from their home about praying for a real miracle for Coral, who I imagined lay nearby, they moved uneasily between past and present tense, the ground constantly shifting underneath them between who she was and who she is.
The 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume went as far as to use the language of transgression when he wrote about believers in miracles. He argued that advocates of miracles, by definition, are willing to allow that God capriciously violates the very laws of nature. Hume dismissed witnesses to miracles as deluded or deceptive. “No human testimony can have such force as to prove a miracle,” he wrote.
That may be so, but I know that my mother, like Diana, is certain of miracles. She has told me more than once that she felt the guiding hand of an angel when I was a baby. We were in a car in the mountains of Europe — the Italian Alps, I think — when a truck careened around a blind corner. Her quick, evasive turn of the steering wheel sent us toward a sheer drop off a high cliff, irretrievably, she says, until the hand of an angel turned the wheel back at the very last possible moment before we slipped over the edge. I’ve always suspected that maybe the car corrected because our wheel hit a rock or something, but could that not also be grace?
Our recognition of what we call miracles has a long history, not only in the Catholic faith but in all of the world’s major religions, according to Kenneth Woodward, the former religion editor at Newsweek, who published a book in 2000 analyzing the stories about miracles told by various religious traditions. Both the Buddha and Jesus are said to have walked on water, he points out, and both Jesus and Mohammad are said to have ascended into heaven.
The Gospels ascribe roughly three dozen miracles to Jesus of Nazareth. His first was turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana, and from there he variously cured lepers, the blind and others, exorcised evil spirits, and even cursed a fig tree, which then withered. The greatest miracle of his life was his own resurrection after his crucifixion. When his apostle Thomas doubted, Jesus invited him to “reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands” and “reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my sides,” according to the luminously beautiful King James translation I grew up reading. And then he damned Thomas (but only figuratively, with faint praise): “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: Blessed are they that have not seen,
and yet have believed.”
That’s as good a definition of faith as I’ve ever read: not having the evidence in hand, yet believing anyway. The Gospels frequently model this version of faith. When Simon Peter has cast his fishing nets again and again without success, Jesus tells him to try once more. He complies, and the nets fill. When disciples have failed to heal a man’s epileptic son, the man still kneels before Jesus and professes his faith. “All things can be done for the one who believes,” Jesus tells him, and he heals the boy.
To Christians, Jesus of Nazareth was the Word made flesh, God become man. “The coming of Jesus represented the reappearance of God in the world,” Woodward writes, a reappearance that was “manifest chiefly through the miracles, or signs, of Jesus.” But his life on Earth lasted but 33 years, his ministry just three of them. Then he was gone again, leaving behind evidence but with himself no longer seen.
After Christ’s ascension into heaven, the Christian saints continued to work miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit with the invocation of Jesus’ name, according to the Catholic tradition. With time, indications of miracles ascribed to the intercession of the faithful and holy came to be understood as evidence of sainthood. With more time, these miracles came to be ascribed posthumously.
Woodward points to Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, as an important turning point in this understanding. After his murder in his cathedral in 1170, a monk was stationed near the altar steps where Becket died to record claims of miracles attributed to him.
“Fifteen years later, the records showed over 700 cures and other miracles,” according to Woodward. He says a shift was underway in the Church’s understanding of miracles.
“From the late 12th century onward, the papacy required posthumous miracles as signs from God, especially for nonmartyrs, confirming the [canonization] candidate’s reputation for holiness,” he writes. The candidates’ miracles were seen not only as signs of God’s presence in the physical world but as signs of their own closeness to God.
In addition to praying to the Virgin of Montserrat, the Flamands pray for the intercession of two current candidates for canonization. Blessed Carlos Manuel Cecilio Rodríguez Santiago, who died in 1963, was a native Puerto Rican and layperson of the Catholic Church, and was beatified in 2001. Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, who died in 1850, was beatified in 2000. He founded the Society of Mary, which founded UD. In the bureaucratic and often lengthy process of canonization, each man is blessed, just one miracle away from being declared a saint. If the Flamands’ prayers are answered, Coral’s
rehabilitation could be that miracle.
“God has been very merciful in giving us the strength to accept his will and have the internal will to deal with this situation with — I can say it — with joy,” father Luis said. “There is a purpose for everything.”
The miracle already ascribed to Rodríguez is the cure of a 42-
year-old mother diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s malignant lymphoma who had prayed to Rodríguez for intercession. If another miracle is attributed to him, he will become the Catholic Church’s first Puerto Rico-born saint.
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints has already attributed one medical miracle to Chaminade, the healing of a Buenos Aires woman suffering from lung cancer. The congregation declared her cure “scientifically inexplicable.” Three thousand pages of investigative materials for another possible miracle, the cure of a St. Louis high school student suffering from Askin’s tumor, a kind of sarcoma, was forwarded to Rome in 2010, but the congregation did not judge it a true miracle without medical intervention “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“There is a rigorous process in Rome,” said Father Martin A. Solma, S.M ’71, provincial of the Marianist Province of the United States. “Should Coral be cured, we would begin a local process, involving medical records, testimony and expert witnesses. At the conclusion of the local, diocesan process, the entire documentation, sometimes totaling thousands of pages, would then be sent to the Vatican for the lengthy process of study, verification and, finally, judgment.”
Solma personally prays for Coral daily. “She was a UD student, and the circumstances of her accident are heartbreaking, especially for her parents,” he said. “As believers, we accept the possibility that God can so touch the human person that healing, experienced in both body
and spirit, happens.”
Just after Coral’s accident, her family stayed in a hotel for a few days and then moved into her apartment. There they saw signs of the woman she was becoming and understood her in new ways. Her friends from Dayton and Cincinnati told them stories they’d never heard.
“We learned so much about her, things we never knew,” Diana said.
They knew that in her last two years at UD, “some sort of metamorphosis was happening. Her worldview was evolving,” as her
father Luis put it.
When Diana offered to buy her a new bag for books when she started at UC, Coral said, “I can make do with what I have. I have what’s necessary in life.” Diana saw this commitment to live simply when she entered Coral’s apartment. “She had just the bare things,” Diana said.
On a wall near a simple table where Coral ate and studied was a cross decorated with three flowers and the words “faith hope love.” Luis called it “the icon.” It took months of going back and forth between hospital and rehab rooms and nights of sitting at Coral’s table before he paid any attention to the framed image just below it. It was a giant peace sign with the word “Imagine” in large letters across it.
“I never paid attention to the ‘Imagine’ poster, which meant nothing to me,” he said. “One night, I wondered why only these two objects on that wall in that position.” He Googled it and read John Lennon’s iconic lyrics. “I started to look at the two items as one, and suddenly it made all the sense in the world. … I was so consoled at that moment.”
The juxtaposition spoke to Diana as well: “We believe it defines Coral, her beliefs and mission in life.”
Back home in Puerto Rico, Coral is
beginning to express herself again through the movements of her eyes, say Luis and Diana, something doctors and therapists said was unlikely to happen. “At first, they thought we were distraught,” Luis said.
Diana put it more bluntly: “Everybody thought we were crazy.”
It’s an encouraging sign for them. The girl with the gift for the word is finding a voice again, however tentative. “Her most precious gift was the ability to talk,” Diana said. “The inability to communicate must be the worst thing for her.”
Through the movements of her eyes, they say, she picks the color for her manicure or gives her consent for her daily physical therapy.
“She’s there,” Luis said. “She reads. She cannot talk, but she processes things in her mind. She watches TV. She follows politics and is into what’s happening. She reacts. She’s very much aware of time and space,” though, he added, her processing time is longer. “Only another miracle will make her walk. She knows this.”
The key for her and for them, the Flamands say, is that they have kept faith and found the strength to accept what has happened rather than struggle to make sense of it. “Thy will be done,” as Diana prayed on the way to Cincinnati.
They live, they say, comforted by the sacrament of the present moment, which encourages grace through a selfless abandonment to God. Memories are in the past; pleasant or not, you can’t do anything about them now. The future is similarly beyond grasp. “But we have today,” Luis said.
Even though medicine fails their daughter, the revelation of God’s will continues in their lives, they say. As they pray for the miracle of her rehabilitation, they say they already see many miracles, in her tiny steps toward recovery, in her continuing ability to benefit others around her, such as doctors in training or other families struck by
sudden accidents of their own.
“A miracle can be right in front of you, but you have to see it,” Luis said.
“This is not easy,” Diana said. “I wake up every morning and wonder how we will do it. And every night, I’ve won, but it’s not me. I see little miracles every day. Coral’s doing this for me.”
And every night when they pray for her rehabilitation, their prayers don’t ask for better understanding. The miracle they seek, if it comes, will defy understanding. They are asking to deepen the inexplicable mystery of faith.
Prayer for Coral
We believe, O God, that You are the author of life,
and You hold all of creation in Your eternal embrace.
Because our faith tells us that we live in the palm of
Your hand and we are never outside of Your care,
we beg most earnestly that through the intercession
of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade You will
restore to full health Your servant, Coral. It was
You who gave her life, it is You who can bring it to
fullness. We pray our need in union with Mary who
is our model disciple today and forever.
Since 1992, the UD Rescue Squad has saved lives — and launched students’ medical careers
When senior marketing major Sean Ferguson was struck by lightning last April while walking across a campus parking lot, an ambulance crew of trained student volunteers raced to his aid.
They most likely saved his life.
The UD Rescue Squad was on the scene within minutes, took over from the bystanders who were administering CPR, and coordinated with the Dayton Fire Department to transport Ferguson to Miami Valley Hospital.
“There are individuals who are alive today who wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the presence of that rescue squad on our campus,” said Maj. Randy Groesbeck ’98, director of administration and security for the Department of Public Safety and the student organization’s adviser. “Their calls range from minor illnesses to life-threatening events, and they’ve resuscitated a number of individuals who otherwise probably would not have made it.”
Since it was founded in 1992, the squad has attracted more than 500 student volunteers, responded to thousands of emergency calls, and opened the door to careers as health care and public safety professionals.
Public safety student security cadets who saw a need for a rapid Emergency Medical Services response crew on campus started the organization. They used a donated University van stocked with medical supplies as their ambulance and a side room in the public safety building as their headquarters.
By 1993, the group had seven trained emergency medical technicians who responded to calls in a 1978 Chevy ambulance. That same year, the first EMT class sponsored by public safety started with nine undergraduate students.
Founding squad member Merritt Colton ’93 recalled his crew as a “ragtag” group of students who were just trying to figure things out.
“Originally, we started at Gosiger Hall,” Colton said. “The ambulance was parked outside, and we had to run an extension cord to the back and put a space heater in to keep stuff from freezing.”
After graduation, Colton became a paramedic. Today, he is a Dayton Fire Department captain whose fire district includes the UD campus. He regularly sees the Rescue Squad on its runs, which lighten the number of minor injury calls for his EMS crews.
“Now we look at them — they’re a top-notch, well-equipped organization,” Colton said. “They really are an asset to the University and even to the city of Dayton.”
During the past three decades, the squad has been honored with national awards from the National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services Foundation. UD Rescue Squad was named Collegiate EMS Organization of the Year in 1999 and 2003. The squad also won Collegiate EMS Week Celebration of the Year in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
UD Rescue Squad has been recognized five times by the foundation’s Striving for Excellence program, including the current three-year certification through 2018.
The squad is one of 56 campus-based EMS organizations in North America to provide ambulance service, said Scott C. Savett, vice president of the foundation, which represents about 250 campus-based EMS groups in the U.S. and Canada. Only about 20 percent have an ambulance; the others respond by using golf carts, sport utility vehicles, cars or bicycles, or on foot.
“I can say without hesitation that UD Rescue is one of the finest organizations under the NCEMSF umbrella,” said Savett, who has visited the squad several times since assuming his role in 1997. The passion and dedication that has earned such accolades is evident in the student squad today.
A student-run volunteer EMS organization with a state-certified basic life support ambulance located on campus, the rescue squad provides free pre-hospital care and transportation for all medical and trauma emergencies on campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the academic year.
The squad’s current ambulance, dubbed Squad 1, was purchased in 2012 by the University. The box-like white vehicle is emblazoned with the UD chapel logo and a bold, red stripe down the side that spikes sharply toward the rear like a heartbeat monitor.
Groesbeck said the squad averages more than 400 ambulance runs each year during the eight months it is in service.
During the fall 2015 semester alone, the rescue squad responded to 315 emergency calls and transported 224 students, faculty, staff or visitors to area hospitals, said senior Patrick Dugan, a premedicine major from Noblesville, Indiana, who serves as the squad’s assistant chief of operations. Those runs included six possible heart attacks.
Emergency calls to public safety are dispatched to the UD Rescue Squad, which is alerted by a loud tone that sounds throughout the squad house. Calls to 911 from cell phones are sent to Montgomery County dispatch, which can turn a call over to public safety if the emergency is appropriate for squad response.
Each year about 50 student volunteers participate on the squad, but only after they undergo rigorous classroom and practical training during the fall semester of their sophomore year to become nationally certified EMTs.
Students in the EMT-Basic class initially learn CPR and use of automated external defibrillators for the health care provider and are trained to drive the ambulance. New members then begin working weekly shifts with the squad to gain experience. They continue taking four-hour EMT classes two to three nights a week, including labs and lectures.
“It is really great to be able to learn in the class and then transition into seeing it hands-on as we go on calls with them,” said sophomore Julia Ripepi, a pre-physical therapy major from Cleveland who completed the class in November.
A new group of EMTs is added each year, with 20 new students taking the class.
UD Rescue Squad always has three certified EMTs on duty to make up a crew.
Squad members are required to volunteer for at least 24 hours of duty each month. Typically, students work several two- to four-hour shifts weekly, arranged around their class schedules. Each month, they also work overnight shifts that span 11 hours on weeknights and 18 hours on weekends.
During those overnight shifts, students eat, study and sleep in their cramped, aging squad house at 214 Lawnview Ave. (Read more on the rebuilding of the UD Rescue Squad house.)
Many students average between 500 and 1,000 volunteer hours during their three years on the squad, but about one-third graduate with “well in excess of 2,000 hours each,” Groesbeck said.
That remarkable devotion to service inspired senior Jonathan Melendez to join the squad. A premed major from San Juan,
Puerto Rico, Melendez exudes passion for the organization. He is UD Rescue Squad’s chief, the top officer.
“That really touched me, because for me that’s one of the reasons I picked UD, because I felt very at home here — I felt like people really helped each other out,” Melendez said.
“I felt like this group of students, we kind of represented that, just giving away a lot of our time volunteering to help our community in a very unique way.”
Melendez said the experience has affirmed his decision to become a premed major and pursue a career in the medical profession. “I think there are a lot of ways you can impact the world, but for me, that’s kind of my place,” he said.
Earning a place in medical school involves service and clinical care hours, in addition to a strong grade-point average, said Kathleen Scheltens, director of UD’s premedical programs. Volunteering for UD Rescue Squad is common for premed majors because they gain patient care skills and experience that prepares them for careers as doctors, nurses, physical therapists and other medical professionals.
Melendez, for example, has interviewed and been accepted at Ohio State University, Boston University and the University of Central Florida. He said his experiences as an EMT and leader have been an integral part of his interviews.
Kim Sherman ’13 credits the squad for her discovery of her career path as a physician assistant in emergency medicine. She learned about the profession from an upperclassman while working an overnight shift.
Some physician assistant programs require as many as 2,000 hours of patient care. Said Sherman, “[T]hanks to my EMT-B training and volunteering with the squad, I was able to apply to any school.” She completed her master’s degree in physician assistant studies from Ohio Dominican University in December.
“My experiences with Rescue Squad were absolutely phenomenal,” said Mary Salimbene Merriman ’09, an epidemiologist at the Union County Health Department in Marysville, Ohio. She said UD Rescue boosted her confidence and helped solidify her career goal of working in the medical profession.
Tyler Britton ’11 supervises a hematology/oncology clinic at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston that sees hundreds of patients daily.
“What I experienced behind the double doors of the squad ambulance with two other classmates is not a far cry from the much larger team I work with now,” Britton said. “The principles of teamwork, best care and altruistic dedication are consistent, and to experience that with the UD Rescue Squad is something I am very grateful for, and it excels my work daily.”
While there have been many memorable and satisfying experiences for the squad, it’s clear that last April’s run to rush Sean Ferguson to Miami Valley Hospital will stand out in its history.
A three-member duty crew had just transported another patient and was in the hospital ambulance bay when they heard about the accident, recalled junior Chris Reyes, who was on duty at the time. The UD dispatcher radioed the crew to ask if they were able to respond to Ferguson. Reyes quickly threw the cot in the back of the ambulance, which raced to the scene with lights and sirens.
Meanwhile, senior Nathan Steinbrunner and five other off-duty crew members were meeting at the squad house garage. They heard the radio call, piled into a car and sped to the parking lot near Kettering Laboratories to help deliver aid.
“Incidents like this are very rare and very uncommon for us to ever get,” said Steinbrunner, a chemical engineering major from Versailles, Ohio. “But in all the instances, even though we don’t see situations like this frequently at all, we are still able to deliver the appropriate patient care.”
The squad members placed Ferguson on a backboard, obtained his vital signs and then transferred him to the Dayton Fire Department ambulance for transport, with Crew Chief Mariah Jutte ’15 riding with them back to the hospital.
After intense treatment and therapy, Ferguson returned to campus in the fall and received his degree in December at UD’s 166th commencement exercises.
Along with senior Matt Lickenbrock and Steven Pope, the bystanders who administered CPR, the Rescue Squad was honored in December at the 10th annual Miami Valley Crime Stoppers Awards banquet.
Reyes, a biology major from Elida, Ohio, said the day the squad responded to that parking lot with speed and professionalism was his proudest day as a Rescue Squad member.
“I would honestly trust all of my UDRS peers with my life,” Reyes said.
Dave Larsen is a former staff writer at the Dayton Daily News, where he covered higher education, film, popular music and technology over his 25-year career.
Rushing to help others can lead to interesting career paths. Here are some chosen by Rescue Squad alumni:
Aeromedical evacuation officer
Molecular genetic technician
Gynecologic oncology fellow
Zoo security officer
Director of athletic communications
Funeral director & embalmer
Deputy fire chief
“The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”
Strong words from a leader respected around the globe. And while he is neither a research scientist focused on climate change nor a politician tasked with protecting the resources of his country, Pope Francis’ words in his encyclical — Laudato Si’: Of The Holy Father Francis On Care for Our Common Home — carry weight among world leaders and practicing Catholics alike.
Pope Francis reinforced his strongly worded encyclical message during his recent trip to the United States.
“Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity,” he said in his Sept. 25 address to the U.N. General Assembly.
He went on to address the “boundless thirst for power and material prosperity,” the “misuse of available natural resources” and the impact they have on the “weak and disadvantaged.”
Francis is not the first pontiff to express his concern about the environment. In his first encyclical in 1979, Pope Saint John Paul II warned that human beings frequently seem “to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption.” He went on to call for a global ecological conversion.
The tone of Francis’ encyclical, however, is one of urgency and action.
As Francis says, “It is my hope that this Encyclical Letter, which is now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching, can help us to acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face.”
Referring to his namesake as “the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically,” the pope implores us to follow in Saint Francis of Assisi’s footsteps.
He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society and interior peace.
There are many ways to put the pope’s encyclical message into practice in our daily lives. Campus scholars weigh in on meaningful messages in the document, how to put Francis’ directives into action and why it matters.
Professor of Physics and in the Renewable and Clean Energy Program, and Director of Research, Hanley Sustainability Institute
“It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. … Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. … Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
The last sentence Pope Francis writes is especially important.
Overall the pope is asking Catholics, and indeed all of us, to think integrally about our actions. Every small action we take has an impact, and therefore we should find ways to use fewer
resources — become far more energy-efficient, for example. I will get more concrete, although it’s not directly what the pope says. We, in the United States, should be clamoring to pay more taxes to build up infrastructure suitable for the future, such as renewable energy. We should be taking care of the least fortunate in our society and providing educational opportunities at appropriate levels to all. And we should think about our international obligations to aid development of those who will be most vulnerable in a changing climate. Our parents and grandparents did their part to provide appropriate infrastructure for us, but the current generation has become selfish and said, in effect, “We don’t care about the future because it might be too
expensive to us today.”
I am not Catholic, but as someone deeply interested in sustainability, I think we need to pay more attention to promoting renewable energy, wasting less, eating less meat and more locally. But Pope Francis is talking about something much bigger and more systemic and comprehensive, much of which should resonate no matter our religious beliefs.
SISTER LEANNE JABLONSKI, F.M.I.
Scholar-in-Residence for Faith & Environment at the Hanley Sustainability Institute, and Director of Marianist Environmental Education Center
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. …
Pope Francis’ “A Prayer for Our Earth” in Laudato Si’ encapsulates the call to tenderness and empathy through transforming encounters with all our neighbors — plants, animals and every person near and far.
I had a life-changing encounter while teaching global environmental issues at Chaminade University in Honolulu. The students — most from small Pacific Islands — shared their love of the ocean and how shorelines were changing through the accumulation of imported cans and bottles and the decrease in freshwater availability with erosion. I spoke about how climate change was predicted to increase storm frequency, raise sea levels and exacerbate saltwater intrusions. One student, Iumi, exclaimed, “Are you telling me my island and culture are disappearing? What are you going to do? Move us somewhere else and ship us bottled water?” Tears welled in me, as they do in each retelling. The next day, Iumi approached me: “I spoke out because I think you can do something about it.” I replied, “We each must do what we can and work together.”
Pope Francis is calling us to dialogue and action. We must mitigate the effects of climate change — choosing solutions that conserve resources, encourage energy efficiency and renewables, and create jobs and healthier air for all. To build bridges across perspectives — such as scientists and engineers providing expertise to faith communities — by forming partnerships and not working
Everyone needs to get involved and share their gifts, no matter where we are coming from. You could write a letter to the editor; I’ve seen people who have never even tried to write for a newspaper express in their own voice how important this is. Policymakers value constituent concerns. Get involved with a creation care team. Check with your local diocese or adjudicatory or visit the Catholic Climate Covenant (www.catholicclimatecovenant.org) to learn about opportunities to connect. Take the community spirit that you knew at UD and build a community in harmony with the environment where you are now. A Laudato Si’ online course (vlcff.udayton.edu) or a study group can support changes.
Little changes in the home, workplace and congregation can also make a big difference. Think about adjusting the thermostat and shifting to LED lights. Planting native plants will attract butterflies and birds and restore ecosystem services including air cooling and purification and preventing run-off. Visit meec.udayton.edu for educational resources.
Acting together, we are making a difference.
VINCENT J. MILLER
Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture, Department of Religious Studies
Francis’ message is essentially a spiritual one — one that nonetheless has profound economic and political consequences. He is asking us whether we can open our hearts to honor and care for all of those who sustain us and with whom we share our planet. Francis asks us to open ourselves to the best scientific arguments available as a way of attending to God’s creation.
“Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.”
We need to think on many levels.
First of all, the Vatican has been very explicit that this encyclical is timed to build moral pressure for governments to act with courage at the Paris climate talks in December. Pope Francis challenges President Obama, the U.S. Congress and the United Nations to act responsibly.
We need to follow his example and lobby our elected officials to negotiate and implement a strong agreement in Paris.
The United States has the highest per capita CO2 emissions rate of any major nation. We need to take serious steps as a nation and as individuals to reduce our carbon footprint. One of the most surprisingly effective ways to do this is to eliminate or seriously reduce our consumption of red meat. Eating lower on the food chain radically reduces the carbon fuel required to sustain our diet.
On the most personal level of change, we need to open ourselves to the world around us to see our interconnections with and responsibility for the rest of creation. Learn about backyard habitats. Connect with a local conservation group. Connect with an organic farm in your community.
The challenge we face is both spiritual and structural. We have to open our hearts and minds to the damage we are doing to the world around us. We need to act quickly to transform our energy system in order to leave our children and grandchildren a world that they can flourish in. Time has run out — we must change and act. The science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson once described our age as “the great dithering.” We owe our children more than that.
SISTER ANGELA ANN ZUKOWSKI, M.H.S.H.
Director of The Institute for Pastoral Initiatives, Professor of Religious Studies, and Marianist Educational Associate
“As Christians, we are also called to accept the world as a sacrament of Communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbors on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet.”
The idea of accepting the world as a sacrament of Communion shifts our perspective on how we interact with creation and all human beings. To be a “sacrament” is recognizing that it is a mirror of the creator. It calls for seeing with new or clearer eyes the beauty that embraces us every second of the day. It demands of us a renewed sense of respect and reverence, virtues which appear to be disappearing particularly in our modern Western civilization.
The words touch us where we need to be touched — in our conscience, mind, heart and lifestyles. We are called to a radical conversion in how we live and relate to the ecological and human factors of our world. This radical conversation involves, as Pope Francis constantly articulates, the reality that everything is connected. We do not live in silos, in isolation, but are by our very nature in communion with all things. In this sense of communion, we are called to be good stewards and care for all with compassion and love.
Finally, we are reminded, yes, we are pilgrims along the way. We are only passing through and we are called to care for the Earth and humanity mindful of the next generation. This idea of passing through helps us shift our lifestyle from thinking only about “me” and “my needs and wants” to what is best for the common good.
Bear in mind “not what I need and want” but how do my actions, lifestyle or way of life possibly impact the next generation? Am I over consuming? Where am I overconsuming? Whether it is food, water or energy use, how can I live more simply realizing less is more? Each day we need to awake and ask the question: How can I live more simply today? How can I raise the consciousness of others by my witness to preserve resources for the next generation? It may seem insignificant for one person, but when, as a community, we live more intentionally, it makes a huge difference. Once we begin to live more consciously with how we spend our time, use our finances and resources and realize that we are called to be stewards of creation and one another, everything can change. Most of us cannot bring about huge changes in the system, but we can change how we enter into each day and encounter and use the gifts that are offered. Everything can become a sacrament of encounter if we only have “eyes to see and ears to hear” (Deuteronomy 29:4).
I believe Pope Francis is striving to raise our consciences to the fact of integral ecology. We need to spend quality time reading, reflecting and discerning what this means for us as a community. This is a moral and ethical obligation — not simply a challenge — and each of us needs to contemplate our lifestyle and strive to work together for the common good for future generations.
Plus: Read how one student finds her place in her faith among a sea of pilgrims.
In 1850, St. Mary’s School for Boys opened with 14 students, one building — and most likely, a stack of books constituting a modest library. Here’s how the University’s 165-year-old academic center has transformed itself for the 21st century. (Hint: It involves hashtags.)
In the lobby, a delivery driver — summoned by a famished student study group — balances a stack of pepperoni pizzas. In the next room, history faculty consult with local historians to put the finishing touches on an exhibit commemorating Dayton’s 1913 flood. Upstairs, staff eye their computer screens as someone in Romania — and then someone in South America, and then someone in New Zealand — downloads the latest article from the Marian Library Studies journal.
In other words, it’s a typical afternoon in the University of Dayton Roesch Library.
Once viewed as an austere collection of books and bricks serving an exclusive group of equally solemn faculty and students, today’s academic library is a vibrant knowledge hub offering information and entertainment for people on campus, in the community — and even halfway around the world.
This isn’t your grandfather’s — or even your father’s — library.
In the beginning … there were books.
One of the oldest — but hardiest — institutions in civilization, the concept of a library was invented soon after we began chipping away at clay tablets and marking on papyrus scrolls. As History Magazine wrote in 2001, “Whether private or public, the library has been founded, built, destroyed and rebuilt. The library, often championed, has been a survivor throughout its long history and serves as a testament to the thirst for knowledge.”
The first record of a library on the University’s campus came in 1866, when a circulation record was referenced in St. Mary’s School paperwork. By 1876, a Brothers’ Library is mentioned in house council minutes. A decade later, the school catalog notes students must pay a $1 fee for use of the college library (a circulating library existed in the study room of each division). Chaminade Hall housed two libraries — one each for faculty and students — and a “special library” of spiritual reading books, later called Zehler Library and housed in St. Mary’s Hall.
In meeting minutes from Jan. 17, 1897, the need for a new library was discussed. Answering that call in the early 20th century was Chicago financier and St. Mary’s alumnus Victor Emanuel ’15, who gave $200,000 to build a stand-alone university library in honor of his father, Albert Emanuel. When the building opened in 1928, the school’s total enrollment was just shy of 900.
Less than 50 years later, UD’s enrollment had soared to 10,000, and the seven-floor, 176,220-square-foot mammoth of 1960s architecture now known as Roesch Library was built. It included the Marian Library, founded in 1943, and, with the blessing of the academic council, admitted professional librarians to faculty rank.
So, how does an institution with a 5,000-year history — and more than 150 years’ worth of campus presence — stay relevant in an era of 8-second attention spans?
It offers timely resources, with a side of Bill’s Donuts. (And then tweets about it.)
CHANGE OF SCENERY
“The library is one of the largest non-classroom buildings on campus, but a lot of learning still happens here,” said Kathy Webb, dean of University Libraries. “Our mission is to help facilitate the
learning in a variety of different formats.”
Like enticing students to come inside and learn more about the building’s offerings by passing out warm donuts on a fall morning, or organizing a multi-floor scavenger hunt for new student orientation — activities that, 25 years ago, were rare, said Maureen Schlangen, e-scholarship and communications manager for Roesch Library.
“More than 250 students participated in last year’s scavenger hunt, way more than we anticipated,” Schlangen said. “The prize was a free Popsicle, and we had to send someone to pick up more because we ran out. It’s unlikely a fun activity like that would have occurred to anyone, let alone happened, three decades ago. The library was a serious place for serious study and serious research.”
It still is, she noted, but the perception of what a library can do, and should do, has changed.
Said Katy Kelly, Roesch Library’s communications and outreach librarian, “The library is for everyone, and it can be serious, but it can also be a bit fun; it is what you
make of it.”
Ethan Frey ’16 has used the library all four of his UD years but is still impressed with its offerings.
“The front desk is a great resource. Not only can they tell you where to find certain books, but they can lend headphones and provide campus directory assistance,” he said. Perhaps more importantly: “It is also the only library I have been in that features a coffee shop,” he added, referring to The Blend, a student-run business in the Learning Teaching Center on Roesch Library’s ground floor.
Classmate Peter Hansen ’18 agreed, noting, “My library back home was nothing like Roesch; it was a one-room hall filled with dusty books and broken computers.”
Such shifts may be simple, but they’re important — and reflect changes happening not just at UD but in our culture at large.
“Our society has changed — we’re more casual now, and the library needs to evolve with that,” Webb said, noting that a policy update several years ago to allow bottled water first had to be put to a library staff and faculty vote. “It was a big deal. Now, students are welcome to have pizza delivered. We added a microwave on the second floor so they can heat their lunch from home. During final exams, students have been known to plug in coffee makers, set up sleeping bags and string Christmas lights.”
Taking a more active, rather than passive, approach to customer service is relatively new. Through email, website and social media, the library has regularly surveyed students on everything from carpet and paint colors (after hearing that the 1990s-era jewel tones were “too dark and gloomy”) to how late the library should stay open (the magic number: 5 a.m.). When Webb asked the University’s facilities crew to deliver three different chair styles — then set them out for students to test — it was the first time library staff had consulted students about the furniture where they routinely camp out. Two students also sit on the libraries’ advisory committee.
Said Webb, “I don’t think your father’s library listened to students. To have an opportunity to give feedback is very new. In an old-fashioned library, we wouldn’t have seen the need to provide both noisy and silent study spaces, but students asked for both, so we worked with them to identify and publicize the noise levels on each floor.”
IN WITH THE NEW
Unlike some entities that have experienced massive transformations over the past few decades — like mass media, for instance — libraries haven’t replaced their offerings; they’ve simply added to them. It’s an either/and, not an either/or, situation.
“Our physical circulation of print books has gone down, but our downloads of e-books and e-journals is skyrocketing. We’ve had many more visits to and requests for special exhibits and lectures, and those are things we didn’t spend a lot of time doing when I first arrived at the library in 1993,” Webb said. “We were busy showing people how to use print indexes. Now, it’s easier for people to handle online keyword searches on their own, so we can devote time to new projects.”
That change isn’t unique to Roesch. Krista Veerkamp ’12, a library services assistant at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, notes that “the library has changed so much from its traditional sense of simply providing books and information; it’s now a center for learning and discovery.”
One example: Forgot your phone charger or need a flip camera and video editing software to make your class presentation stand out? Roesch Library can loan you a device for that. The library now also teaches two credit-bearing classes for the philosophy and international studies departments, offers one-on-one librarian mentoring for honors students working on theses, and assists UD’s information technology office by administering software for faculty to track their scholarship, teaching and service.
In fact, very few of the library’s exhibits don’t have a curricular tie-in, Webb said. Imprints and Impressions: Milestones in Human Progress featured highlights from the Rose Rare Book Collection hand-selected by faculty to support the University’s emphasis on liberal arts. Lectures and panel discussions on themes found in the collection — including religion, typography, science and banned books — encouraged conversation.
University Archives and Special Collections — part of University Libraries, along with Roesch Library and the Marian Library — is also preserving the University’s past in real time with eCommons, a free online repository. UD’s version features everything from current scholarly research by faculty to The University of Dayton Alumnus from 1929.
“Our alumni, even though they aren’t on campus, can read what our faculty are doing in human rights research or see the student posters presented at the Stander Symposium,” Webb said. “It’s a one-stop-shop to experience the breadth of scholarly activity happening on our campus.”
It’s not only Flyers who benefit, Schlangen added. “There’s also a perception of academic libraries as being closed to the public. Now, we have exhibits where we actively encourage people off-campus to engage with our library, not just to view the exhibit but to look at all the other resources we have.”
Library services and exhibits are available to alumni and community members, not just students. In fall 2014, for instance, 8,000 people visited the library to view highlights from the Rose Rare Book Collection; the year prior, 5,400 came to see Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible and its accompanying presentations. Each Thanksgiving, about 800 people flock to the opening day of the University’s festival of crèches.
“With our exhibits and events, the University invites the public to come and experience something that is integral to our mission as a Catholic, Marianist university, in a way that is different than attending an athletic event, arts performance or lecture series,” Webb said.
MOVE IT OR LOSE IT
On a daily basis, Roesch Library sees approximately 1,800 students come through its doors each day — about 200 more visitors than the University’s RecPlex sees during the same time. During the 12 days of final exams each year, that library number jumps to 2,600, which is higher than the average student attendance (1,050) for basketball games in UD Arena.
“It’s a neutral space,” Webb explains. “Some of the academic buildings are limited to certain majors, or you need your student ID to access them after business hours. But everyone can get into the library.”
Like dining halls, the library is very much part of the campus experience these days, she said. “It used to be strictly functional, and a little bit stressful — it was tough going through the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature, and you were doing it on your own. Now, there’s a social element and a teamwork function that reflects not just how people learn in the classroom but how they work in the professional world. It’s not just about new technology; it’s about how people are interacting differently.”
Based in part on the feedback the library solicits from students, its physical space sports several changes from when it opened in 1971. Built primarily to be storage from the second floor up, Roesch Library has now been reconfigured to make it more comfortable and user-friendly.
“We’ve been intentional about putting in moveable, comfortable furniture so students feel a sense of ownership; we want them to feel like this is a space they want to be in, where they have what they need to hang out and get their work done,” Webb said.
Kelly agreed. “We want the library to be for everyone, so everyone can find a place here,” she said. “What makes Roesch Library what it is, is the people: the people that work here and the people that use the library. The books you see on the shelf were selected by librarians. The paint colors on the study floors and the chairs you sit in were voted on by students. This makes the library unique to the UD experience, and truly a place made for people by people who care.”
The Knowledge Hub, an innovative new space on the first floor that opened in 2014 and is already averaging nearly 600 visitors per day, combined several student resources — like research assistance, peer writing support and tech-enabled team tables — into one central location. So far, the Knowledge Hub has provided 834 research consultations, 3,541 writing consultations and answered 6,057 questions.
It’s a model based on integrating, instead of simply co-locating, services that help students.
To be a librarian in ancient times was an esteemed profession, since it meant you were one of the elite few who could read. Today, those in the library field still provide valuable services, albeit with a job description that’s changed a bit.
Librarianship as a profession in the U.S. exploded after the Civil War, helped along in 1876 by the founding of the American Library Association (ALA) and the publication of the Dewey Decimal classification system. The first library school was founded by Melvil Dewey in 1887, and in 1928, the first doctorate in library science was awarded by the University of Chicago. By the 1960s, the library profession was becoming increasingly technical — what began as managing books under Dewey was quickly moving toward information science.
Today’s librarians are still the keepers of a wealth of information: where to find it, and what to do with it. In addition to the traditional roles of maintaining physical books and journals, audio and video recordings, and periodicals databases, today a librarian may also provide information services like computer instruction, coordination of community programming, literacy education, assistive technology for people with disabilities — even helping with music and video game downloads.
“Having information that is much easier to access has changed the way people look at research,” Webb said. “Before, you had to truly understand how each individual index worked to successfully find that information. Now, keywords and electronic journals make the hunt much easier. On the other hand, while it’s easier to search, you’re also introduced to a higher volume of information to sift through, which can be more difficult. It’s really changed the emphasis of the work of libraries and librarians.”
Roesch Library has hired staff to help with marketing, community relations, volunteer coordination and information technology, positions that weren’t on the radar 10 years ago. At Roesch, recent staff additions like Schlangen and Kelly represent this new frontier.
“Our profession has a reputation of actively picking new tools up and figuring out how to use them efficiently and effectively, and how to be relevant in students’ lives,” Webb said.
According to the ALA, there are more than 366,600 paid library staff in the U.S., with nearly a quarter (some 85,700) of those serving in academic libraries. What do these professionals do? Just ask a Flyer — about 200 University of Dayton alumni claim libraries — of which the ALA says there are 119,487 total in the country.
Cherie Hubbard Roeth ’85, director of the Bradford (Ohio) Public Library, describes the profession this way: “It’s a highly trained profession that encompasses skills that would boggle the minds of many. My staff are intensely creative and inspired to create activities and choose books and materials that entice the youngest to the oldest of our patrons, and we try to work closely with the community and be an integral part of our village.”
At UD, Barb Crone Feldmann ’71 helped with the library’s move from Albert Emanuel Hall to Roesch Library during winter break 1970. She has worked at the Washington-Centerville (Ohio) Library for 33 years.
“Libraries now are more than just places to get a book; they are places of all formats of materials and types of learning,” she said. “They are responding to changing community needs. They teach classes on computer literacy. They help people complete job applications, the majority of which are online now. They offer programming for children and families. They provide notary services and process passport applications.”
At Dayton (Ohio) Metro Library, where Allison Mikesell Knight ’09 serves as a children’s librarian at the Trotwood branch, patrons can sign up for crochet or self-defense classes, listen to author readings and take advantage of a free summer lunch program. “We even hatched chickens this spring — every day is different, and things are never boring,” she said.
As Linda Mares Pannuto ’69, children’s librarian at Orion Township Public Library in Rochester, Michigan, puts it, libraries aren’t “more than books;” they offer “books and more.”
Libraries may have changed over the years — no longer do scribes tote scrolls and heavy tablets — but the need for a repository of knowledge remains.
Thanks to #ClubRoesch (see above), that knowledge is now also at our fingertips.
Audrey Starr is managing editor of University of Dayton Magazine. She — and her Kindle — are looking forward to joining Roesch Library’s next faculty/staff book club.
UD Libraries: A Timeline
May 4, 1866 First mention of a circulation record.
1876 Brothers’ Library referenced in House Council Minutes.
1887 Catalog lists library usage fee at $1.
1888 Catalog references a circulating library in the study room of each division.
1901 Need for new library shelving, additional space noted.
1904 Chaminade Hall houses two libraries, one each for faculty and students.
1906 A “special library” of spiritual reading books is referenced.
1910 “Central/general library” moved from second floor to basement of Chaminade Hall; named Zehler Library after Brother Maximin Zehler, S.M.
1920 Zehler Library moved to St. Mary’s Hall, first floor. Brother Frank Ruhlman, S.M., serves as librarian.
1927 Groundbreaking for new Albert Emanuel Library, with funds given by Chicago financier and alumnus Victor Emanuel ’15 in honor of his father. Opens in 1928 and initially houses 25,000 books.
1937 Engineering library housed in Nazareth Hall adjacent to Zehler Hall.
1943 Marian Library founded in celebration of the upcoming Triple Centenary (founding of Society of Mary in America, founding of the University of Dayton and the death of founder Father Chaminade, all in 1849-50). First book was Devotion to Mary in the Twentieth Century by Father John Aloysius Elbert, S.M.; first director was Father Lawrence Moheim, S.M.
1954 Brother Walter Roesch, S.M., begins 8-year term as head librarian; Brother Ruhlman is assistant librarian.
1956 Separate libraries for physics (Grady), chemistry (Wohlleben), biology, engineering, science (Sherman) and curriculum materials (Chaminade) are found on campus.
1962 Academic Council admits professional librarians to faculty rank; Brother Raymond Nartker, S.M., begins 23-year tenure as director of University Libraries.
1964 Two wings added to Albert Emanuel Library.
1969 Groundbreaking for new University Library; cost $4.8 million to build, opens in 1971.
1979 University Library renamed Roesch Library after President Raymond A. Roesch, S.M.
1985 Edward Garten serves as director of University libraries for 18 years; will be followed by Kathleen Webb, current dean of libraries, in 2005.
UD students are eager to chat with Roesch Library staff; it just may not happen face-to-face. Since 2009, the library has met students where they are in the digital landscape, hashtags,
handles and all.
“Social media is not just another platform to share information about library resources and events,” said Katy Kelly, communications and outreach librarian. “If all you’re doing is posting
frequent updates, you’re essentially yelling at your audience, and there’s nothing social about that. You need to have a conversation.”
Student communications via Twitter have helped improve library spaces, technology and services. At UD, staff use notification tools and search functions to observe what students are saying about the library and engage with them daily. Monitoring chatter offers insight into what students are frustrated by (slow Wi-Fi or loud students on quiet floors) while also providing evidence that the library is a popular place on campus.
“The idea of the library as a club appealed to them, especially when students are in the library late at night or on the weekend,” Kelly said. “The discovery of #clubroesch was exciting because
it was not only being used often, but it was also the sole label used by student culture. Club Roesch highlights what students want their peers to see, not just what they want the library — or librarian — to see.”
The hashtag allows students to converse with each other, trade Club Roesch anecdotes and comment on their library experiences — which also paints a clearer picture for staff of how the library is used and viewed by students. Librarians are also using Twitter to respond to reference questions.
Other hashtag campaigns hosted by Kelly and her team include a #roeschselfie contest (snap a picture of yourself using the library, be entered to win a gift card) and the popular Club Roesch VIP contest, held before finals week each semester, which asks followers to retweet a @roeschlibrary post.
What prize awaits the lucky winner? A key to his or her own study room for all seven days of final exams.
Not too shabby for 140 characters.
UPDATE Jan. 7, 2016:
UD students’ passion for community is apparent when Red Scare is in full throat. CBS Sports Network highlighted these fierce and ferocious fans who see their support as just another expression of the UD community spirit. The video, left, aired prior to the Flyer men’s basketball team taking on UMass Jan. 6, 2016. Flyers won the A-10 home opener, 93-63.
The UD Arena was overwhelming the cold night of March 18, 2015. Dayton was trailing Boise State, but it was as if the students knew their cheers could make a difference. They began to scream louder and stand taller. The students of Red Scare didn’t want their chants to just go around the Arena; they wanted them to go around the nation.
The student section we’ve come to know, watch and love, whether from inside the Arena or on our TV at home, was not always burning red. Twenty years ago, students wanting to recapture the glory days of men’s basketball founded Red Scare. Today, Red Scare makes fans proud to be among the Flyer Faithful and rightly wins accolades of its own.
Red Scare’s creation story started in the fall of 1995 in 111 Evanston, a skinny two-story frame home where housemates Ashley Puglia Noronha ’96 and Katie Brown Konieczny ’96 hatched a plan to develop a student group to support the University’s athletics.
The seniors, you see, felt a little cheated. Noronha came to UD expecting the fan experience that birthed epic stories told by her alumni parents, Nora McNally Puglia ’70 and Fred Puglia ’65, who taught her UD’s fight song as soon as she could talk.
“When I came to UD as a student, I was shocked that no one else knew the song,” Noronha said.
In the Puglia household, NCAA and NIT wins made for “glory-days” basketball stories from a time when the UD fight song was sung constantly.
Noronha’s parents told of UD’s trip to the NCAA Tournament final in 1967 when UD played against UCLA and its 7-foot-2 center Lew Alcindor, later known as NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“UD lost, but my parents told me many stories of the dedicated fans and the camaraderie amongst them as they crowded into the UD student union to watch the games on screens that were specially set up for the occasion,” Noronha said. “My mom remembers that a student — in honor of the UD player Glinder Torain — painted on his car, ‘Who needs Alcindor, we’ve got Glinder!’”
Noronha wanted to resurrect the deafening cheers of the Arena and the pride that once filled the community, and she knew it was going to take a lot of energy and commitment.
The women took their idea of founding a student spirit club to Patricia “Trish” Kroeger ’66, UD’s spirit and special events coordinator for athletics. And she offered them her son, Joe, as one of the club’s first members.
Joe Kroeger ’97 had grown up with UD basketball, from selling programs before games at age 8 to running the coat check at age 14. He recalled the ’80s, when giants like Roosevelt Chapman and Damon Goodwin roamed the court and the Arena was electric. And he wanted to help bring some of that electricity back.
“The timing of it is really important,” Joe Kroeger explained. “Dayton was not winning basketball, maybe four games a year, so the [student] tickets were not selling. Our motivation was to fill the student section.”
The average attendance for men’s basketball in 1995 was barely 11,000 during the 7-20 season — still great by most universities’ standards, but more than 2,000 shy of the sellout the students thought their school deserved.
First, they needed to get students excited about filling the seats. Noronha said the enthusiasm was there — it just needed to be organized.
“Up to that point, students were scattered throughout the arena, so the fan power wasn’t cohesive,” Noronha said. “By bringing students together, Red Scare gave us an opportunity to support our fellow students in their athletic pursuits, for students to grow together in friendship, and to develop an appreciation for the distinguished athletic legacy of the University.”
Next, they needed to secure the seats. Trish Kroeger helped the student organization get a block of seats at football and men’s and women’s basketball games.
Finally, they needed a name. “Red Menace” and “Oliver’s Army,” for 1994-2003 men’s head coach Oliver Purnell, were thrown around, but the organization knew it had a winner with the name “Red Scare.”
“It was clever,” Joe Kroeger said. “It had a connotation that wouldn’t be associated with a group like ours. I rallied for it.”
A phrase once associated with communism and political radicalism was an unusual choice for a private university’s athletic support group. But it was unique and intellectual and had ways of making everyone start asking, “What is Red Scare?”
The organization started off small, Noronha said, debuting at the last football home game of the season, a 55-0 win over West Virginia State. Then Red Scare started filling five to 10 rows for the men’s basketball games, wearing shirts reading “Red Scare” on the front and “Go crazy or go home” on the back, painting their faces with red and blue paint, and bellowing the words to the UD fight song.
Soon students stopped asking what Red Scare was and started asking how they could join.
“There was a new and exciting energy around the program after a very challenging stretch of years,” said Michael Joyce ’96, one of the founding members of Red Scare.
Student participation rose, and men’s basketball home attendance rose — to above 12,000 by the 2001-02 season. And everyone had something to cheer about, including a 21-11 season in 2001-02 and a 22-14 season in 2002-03.
Red Scare — the honorary sixth man on the court — has gained appreciation from men’s head coach Archie Miller himself. Miller has repeatedly thanked Red Scare for its contribution through social media.
Miller tweeted after Dayton beat Saint Joseph’s, 68-64, “@red_scare you were fantastic tonight and we thank everyone who was at the arena helping us pull through! We have the best fans in COUNTRY.”
Players add to the praise.
After the Flyers’ 56-55 win over Boise State in UD Arena in the NCAA First Four March 18, 2015, then-senior Jordan Sibert told ESPN that UD’s crowd was a component for their success. “They were electrifying. … I don’t think we would have won that game without them,” Sibert said.
Red Scare also has found success beyond core sports as its spirit model evolved.
“I think we’re unique in the sense of putting a big effort in the non-mainstream [sports],” senior Ryan Phillips said. Phillips, the current Red Scare president, puts emphasis on appreciating all UD athletic programs. The crowds, victory chants and outrageous signs can be heard and seen at women’s basketball, volleyball, and men’s and women’s soccer games.
“We give them the home-field advantage,” he said.
In Red Scare’s recent past, students received coveted men’s basketball seats as groups by accumulating points for attending other athletics events. While it helped the other sports, it hurt basketball. Red Scare could look sparse or scattered when the student group could not fill its assigned seats because of class or other commitments, Phillips said.
At the start of the 2014 season, men’s basketball tickets became first-come, first-serve. Instead of getting points at other athletics events, students cheering at these events now receive free food, T-shirts or other giveaways from Red Scare. It worked, with the student section hitting capacity during some basketball games during the 2014-15 season.
Last season, Red Scare saw continued attendance growth and support for non-basketball sports, Phillips said, and basketball hit heights that would make the Red Scare founders proud. Men’s basketball had an average attendance of 12,718 and a team record of 27-9, including advancing to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Women’s basketball ranked 50th nationally in attendance — and first in the Atlantic 10 Conference — with 2,538, and the team advanced to the Elite Eight.
Although Red Scare puts the focus on cheering for all UD athletics, it also helps bring all Flyers, past and present, together, Phillips said.
“Everyone talks about community. Sports, in my mind, is one way you can experience true community,” Phillips said. “It’s not the University of Dayton Flyers. This is my University of Dayton Flyers.”
Red Scare has changed the game for athletics and all UD Flyers, say alumni.
“Over the years, the student section turnout and cheering has varied,” said Alan Hemler ’87, a men’s basketball season ticket holder. Hemler said he has loved watching students create a “high-energy environment” that supports UD athletics.
“The past four years of Red Scare have outperformed previous seasons,” Hemler said.
And the nation has noticed. In 2012, UD earned the title “Best Under-the-Radar College Basketball Atmosphere” from Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Intersport. In 2013, Red Scare was nominated for a Naismith Student Section of the Year Award. And on March 25, 2014, NBC Nightly News highlighted the blue-faced, red-haired, flag-waving Red Scare in a feature on school spirit.
“The founding fathers are proud of the group — I certainly am,” Joe Kroeger said. That pride traverses the miles as he views the student section on TV from his home on the West Coast. “Keep it up for another 20 years.”
For a school that focuses on tradition and community, Red Scare is one embodiment. So here’s to 20 more years of Red Scare. May the chants always be loud, the seats be never empty, and the Flyer spirit soar.
DAYTON, FLYERS — GO UD!
The poncho underneath me crumpled. I found the most comfortable sitting position possible on the Capitol Building lawn and closed my eyes. Conversations in Spanish, French and English floated through the air, but I was most impressed that people had the ability to converse at 5 in the morning. Pope Francis’ Sept. 25 address to Congress wasn’t for another four and a half hours, yet I, and a crowd of around 50,000, were already gathered to hear him.
During the pope’s visit to D.C., I was one of the youngest members of the press corps, at the invitation of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. It was, at first, a professional opportunity — I’m a public relations major, and I tweeted the events for @daymag and gathered information to write this story. As a Catholic, it also became an opportunity of faith. You see, ever since I came to college I have been questioning what I believe. And I am not alone. According to a Pew Research Center survey of Catholics, only 30 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said they attend Mass once a week, compared to 49 percent of those 65 and older. For the first time, I am being exposed to different religions and people making faith decisions based on something other than how our parents raised us.
I knew that, in the crowds gathered to see the pope, there were more like me who came to hear in his message not just words but a place for us in this worldwide faith. Maybe that is why, as college students, we are so drawn to Pope Francis. He talks, and we listen to him calling and challenging millennials as members of the Church that we didn’t know was ours all along.
The previous day, Sept. 24, I attended the Canonization Mass of Junípero Serra to live tweet what I experienced and to talk to students. I wanted to learn why so many of them were willing to wait in lines starting at 5 a.m. to attend Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The first students I talked with were four broadcast journalism majors from Duquesne University who were filming a documentary about Pope Francis’ visit. Why did they think it was important for college-age students like us to report at these events?
Junior Emily Stock said that, for the first time, she feels like students have a public figure we can all look up to, one who is finally doing what millennials try to do — accept each other.
“The pope is open-minded — he is a people-person,” she said. “He reaches out to undeveloped communities and appeals to both political parties.”
This was the first of many similar responses. The editor-in-chief of Catholic University of America’s student newspaper, Antoinette Cea, was next to me in line and joined in the conversation. “We [as Catholics] are comfortable being members of the Catholic Church again,” she said.
In the U.S., there are roughly 77.7 million Catholics, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, an increase of more than 20 million from 1965. But the number of Catholic millennials is decreasing. According to the Pew Research Center, only 16 percent of Americans ages 18 to 34 identify as Catholic, compared to 20-23 percent of those older than 35. My personal conversations with young Catholics mirror some of the reasons for this national trend: the Church’s views on marriage equality, divorce, abortion and contraception.
But as I walked around the basilica among 25,000, there was little discussion of what divides us. Instead, students talked about what united them to the leader of the Catholic faith: acceptance, humbleness, modern ideals and a charismatic attitude — not to mention a fondness for Twitter [see @Pontifex].
Although this was my first encounter with a pontiff, it wasn’t America’s. Pope Paul VI was the first pope to visit the U.S. in New York City Oct. 4, 1965. Pope John Paul II made seven trips to the United States over two decades. The last time a pontiff visited America was Pope Benedict XVI, who stopped in New York and Washington in 2008 where crowds of roughly 83,000 gathered, according to The New York Times.
Pope Francis’ visit to D.C., Philadelphia and New York was monumental because his trip coincided with national and international political discussions, including on the environment and the poor. Within a week, he canonized a saint, spoke to the United Nations, ate lunch with the homeless, addressed Congress and attended the World Meeting of Families.
While I was in D.C. on the lawn, UD students were in the Kennedy Union Hangar. Among the comfy couches and bowling lanes was a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 200 watching the address to Congress on the big screen and engaging on social media.
Sophomore Alexandra Altomare, who tweets at @alibearie7, spent that morning in the Hangar playing pope bingo (she earned a space when the pope said “joy” or discussed the “economy of exclusion”). She tweeted, “Started my morning with donuts, bingo, politics, and Pope Francis. I love UD! Very proud to be a Catholic today! #UDPope #pope2congress.”
Some of those same students, days later, piled onto two buses to join the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia Sept. 26-27. Pope Saint John Paul II started the World Meeting of Families in 1994 in Rome and, every three years, it is the largest gathering of Catholic families in the world.
The UD family included 111 students, staff and faculty who traveled together to witness Pope Francis’ arrival in Philadelphia, including senior Megan McAuliffe.
“I enjoyed celebrating and worshipping as one Catholic family,” she said. “Pope Francis called everyone to serve and care for each other as freely as God loves the human family.”
Pope Francis also spoke to inmates at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia. There, he said, “We know in faith that Jesus seeks us out. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet which hurt from traveling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from our journey. He doesn’t ask us where we have been, he doesn’t question us about what we have done.”
Back in Dayton, Dominic Sanfilippo, Jack Schlueter, Andrew Ekrich and I discussed Pope Francis’ visit around their duct-taped kitchen table at their Marianist Student Community house on Trinity Avenue. When asked specifically about Francis’ concern for our consumerist-dominated society, Sanfilippo said, “Pope Francis is calling us to be aware of how we walk around in the world. We have to take a step back from the world and question, ‘How am I acting today?’ We have set up the world where so many people profit at the expense of another and with our generation — it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Through Pope Francis’ various stops in the U.S. — and his willingness to talk about debated issues while remaining true to the idea of caring for the common good of all creation — he transformed for me the idea that Catholicism is just something practiced on Sundays into a ritual lived out in the way we accept others.
When Pope Francis finished his address to Congress, he emerged on the Capitol balcony and said, “And I ask you all, please, to pray for me. And if amongst you there are some who don’t believe, or can’t pray, I ask you please, to wish good things for me.”
The hair on my arms stood up and a chill raced up my spine. I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. As I stood alone in the crowd, I knew I wasn’t the only one who was blinking back tears.
Through that simple statement, Pope Francis recognizes that while we all question our faith, we are accepted anyway. That one statement reaffirmed that there was and always will be a place for me in Catholicism.
Read more about what the pope says (and why we care).
“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”
Singing the words of Psalm 122, the congregation prepared to enter through the doors of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, led by the Most Rev. Joseph R. Binzer, auxiliary bishop, Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
The Aug. 16 rededication of the chapel echoed its first rites of dedication and consecration June 24, 1869, celebrated by the archbishop of Cincinnati at the time, John Baptist Purcell.
“This historic renovation of the chapel,” Bishop Binzer told the congregation during his homily, “goes beyond bricks and mortar to renew the heart of the University.”
He said he had gone to the University’s homepage, clicked on the link titled “Guided by Faith,” and come to the vision statement for the chapel renovation. From that vision, he shared these words:
Since it was built in 1869, the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception has been the focal point of the University of Dayton. In terms of mission, spirituality and campus geography, the chapel marks the central axis around which the University has grown: It is truly the heart of the University of
In 1869 Maltese crosses were put on the side walls of the chapel. They are still there. They signify that this consecrated space must remain one whose primary purpose is to celebrate the liturgical rites of the church.
That purpose has not varied.
Over the years, some physical changes to the chapel have taken place. Many early photos are dominated by an ugly coal stove in the center of the congregation. The stove mercifully yielded to steam heat in 1898.
In 1876, the reredos (the wall behind the altar) was added with statues of Saints Peter, John and Mary. At some unknown point, Peter morphed into Joseph. In 1907, the sacristy was enlarged; in 1919, confessionals added. The statues of Our Lady of the Pillar and Blessed William Joseph Chaminade were put in the niches in the outside wall flanking the massive doors in 1951-52.
In 1971, the dome was painted blue.
The dome is still blue, the cross still above it. Our Lady and Father Chaminade still welcome worshippers. John and Joseph still attend Mary.
Behind the altar, Mary continues to stretch out her arms, today also welcoming people to a new reservation chapel. Above her, the historic rosette window of the crucified Christ is now in full view of the congregation.
Original windows have been restored, new stained glass windows added. A real immersion baptismal font. A reconciliation room. Wooden pews.
But the chapel is more than a place.
At the rededication, Bishop Binzer drew the congregation’s attention to that fact by again quoting from a document on the renovation:
The history of the chapel’s refreshment, renewal and renovation reverberates in every corner, but its true power extends beyond its four walls. It appears in the lives of all who come here to worship the triune God, receive the sacraments, pray in times of quiet hope and desperation, and share joys and sorrows. We leave this sacred space with a fervent desire, buoyed by God’s grace, to carry out the mission of Mary — the Marianist mission of bringing Christ’s life into a world always in need of refreshment, renewal and renovation.
The congregation left the chapel Aug. 16 having seen it blessed, having felt the holy water and smelled the incense, having watched the anointing of the altar and walls where hang the Maltese crosses, having rejoiced in the lighting of the candle, having celebrated the Eucharist and having seen lit the sanctuary lamp of the reservation Chapel — Christ present, his mother nearby, arms outstretched, welcoming all to the salvation earned by Jesus Christ, her son, our Lord.
To see a video of the rededication ceremony and to read more about the renovation of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, see go.udayton.edu/chapel.
BEAUTY IS IN THE DETAILS
After years of planning and 14 months of construction, the $12 million renovation of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception has been accomplished. The beauty is in the details.
1. Reservation chapel The Eucharistic reservation chapel, in accord with church liturgical guidelines, is a distinct space, here sitting to the east of the sanctuary. The canopy from the old, unused pulpit is now above the tabernacle.
2. Windows in the nave The 10 windows in the nave have been replaced, with elements echoing those of the chapel’s original windows. Each also has a medallion, 2 feet in diameter, depicting an image of Mary from Scripture or tradition. Franklin Art Glass was commissioned for the new windows as well as the restoration of the historic windows.
3. In the sanctuary The furnishings, designed by Brother Gary Marcinowski, S.M., include the altar, ambo, presider chair, processional crucifix, candles, cantor stand and Easter candle stand.
4. Wooden pews Curved wooden pews salvaged from a former church not only provide an aesthetic upgrade from metal-framed chairs but also contribute toward LEED certification through the reuse of materials.
5. Devotional areas On the north side of the chapel, one devotional alcove is devoted to Mary; one tells the story of the Marianist founders; and one is dedicated to Jesus.
6. Baptismal font As worshippers enter through the west doors, they encounter a baptismal font, emblem of the first sacrament of Christian life. At the font’s base stand restored wooden statues (formerly part of the unused pulpit) of Mary and the four Evangelists.
7. Eastern windows The crucifixion rosette, above the reredos, is flanked by two new rosettes, representing the Alpha and the Omega. To the sides, the four windows portraying Saints Peter and Augustine on the north and Saints Paul and Ambrose on the south have been restored.
8. Reredos High on the wall behind the altar, the statue of Mary, standing between the statues of St. John and St. Joseph, not only overlooks the assembly but also welcomes worshippers to the Eucharistic reservation chapel.
9. Stations of the cross Along the north and south walls of the chapel will be the Stations of the Cross by Ohio artist Michael Bendele.
10. Pathway of Discipleship In the new reconciliation room and south hallway, five new windows grace a Pathway of Discipleship with images from Jesus’ life: baptism, the Word of God, prayer, Eucharist and service.
11.Western windows The three rosette windows in the western wall have been restored. Relocating the organ and lowering of the balcony have made all these windows, for the first time in history, visible to those assembled in the chapel.
For more details, download the Chapel commemorative booklet.
BY THEIR HANDS
The mostly unseen hands of more than 1,705 donors helped renovate Immaculate Conception Chapel for the glory of God and the exultation of community. Their gifts made possible the $12 million, 14-month project.
“We give special thanks to our generous, visionary donors who made our dream a reality,” said renovation committee co-chairs Sandra Yocum and Father James Fitz, S.M. ’68.
In attendance at the rededication Mass were Francis and Janet Berkemeier, whose names are among those donors. They took special pride in the rich walnut woodwork on the reredos, where the statue of Mary stands with Saints John and Joseph behind the altar. The wood came from the trees on the family farm in Jackson, Michigan, where generations of Berkemeiers — and Flyers — have begun their trek to Dayton. Francis, a 1969 graduate, said the wood donation signifies the family’s enduring connection to UD.
“We can become part of the brick and the mortar and the landscape,” he said.
Outside, in the St. Mary’s Courtyard, an extension of the sacred environment of the chapel, is a garden in recognition of all those who made the renovation possible. The sculpture by Dayton metal artist Hamilton Dixon is reminiscent of a timepiece set to the 3 o’clock hour. Etched in marble is the Three O’clock Prayer, a prayer of spiritual unity for Marianists around the world. The sculpture now also unites the hearts of all those who have contributed to the spiritual heart of campus.
Watch the Berkemeier trees transformed for the chapel on YouTube.
The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception means something special to each of us for different reasons. Senior Ryan Phillips — the face of Red Scare, one of the longest-tenured student workers at the RecPlex and a Eucharistic minister — sat down with us to talk about his chapel moments.
Squint at first sight
I didn’t plan to attend the University of Dayton, but in the fall of my senior year, my family and I
visited anyway. It was the stereotypical college day. As my tour passed through the center of
campus, I squinted in the sun to look up at the blue dome of the chapel.
Breaking up is hard to do
There would be certain times when I would just go and sit in the chapel. I was there with my brother and one of my best friends a few weeks after my breakup with my high school girlfriend. There weren’t many words, but there was that comforting feeling of “I’m here with you.”
You go to any church back home, and a lot of people are just sort of sitting there. They’re doing their “hour of the week.” When I go to the chapel 10 minutes before Mass here, everybody is sitting there laughing and hugging and talking about
their weekends. That was the first time I saw and understood true community.
Center of it all
After returning from the UD Summer Appalachia Program, I realized that everything at UD is focused on the Marianist charism. It’s at the core of every decision we make. Brothers live in the middle of the student neighborhoods, and the chapel is in the heart of campus. The blue dome is so prominent because it is so symbolic of what
the University is based on: our faith.
Friends in faith
As a first-year student, I sat in the chapel with 40 other students for the Callings Christian leadership program. It was centered around the
Marianist tradition. That day, I met a lot of people with whom I have led retreats, and we’ve stayed friends. This year, I’m even living with three of them.
Brothers that pray together…
I just sat there and talked to my brother for an hour. That conversation wasn’t just between me and my brother, but between me, my brother and God because we were sitting in front of the Eucharist. Even in the moments when we sat in silence, we bonded over that.
My fascination with fear comes directly from my awareness of how life can change in an instant. I was in a car accident in the mid-1960s, when I was 6 years old. My dad crashed into a telephone pole while driving down a four-lane road. I flew through the front windshield and sustained major head and facial injuries. My parents were told at the time that if I lived, I’d be “a vegetable.” The doctors were wrong.
Within two weeks, I was out of the hospital, and I recovered fully.
Fear continues to lurk in my middle-aged life, and instead of ruminating about it, I decided to explore it from the mindset of an observer and collector. Through other people’s words and my visuals, I have been steadily creating what I call the Fear Project, a narrative about common and not-so-common fears that others have shared with me. These fears include death, failure, losing a child, losing one’s voice, losing one’s mind, centipedes in the shower, needles, cancer, speaking honestly with one’s spouse, déjà vu, seaweed, being wrongfully imprisoned, biscuits and clusters of small holes.
The project’s participants — friends, neighbors, colleagues, my students, family members, acquaintances and people I’ve never met — share their fears with me via email or in person. Many people have told me that after seeing a tangible interpretation of their fear, they feel less burdened by it.
Why talk about fear? Because we live in a world where fear is a driving force in our everyday lives, like it or not. Fear sells. (Buy this, or else!) Fear persuades. (Repent, or ye shall be damned!) Through daily headlines, we learn early on that the world is indeed a scary place — terrorism, school shootings, melting ice caps, epidemics, polluted water. If we’re not scared, we’re told, we’re foolish.
I’m often asked if it’s depressing for me to work on drawing these fear pieces. The short answer is no. It’s actually quite the opposite. A visual representation of fear generates thought and conversation. Placing fear in the context of drawings that are colorful, multilayered and accessible gives people a way to face the darker parts of their lives in a nonthreatening way.
I may dwell in this world of fear, anxiety and phobias, but honestly (and fortunately), I am not frozen with fear in my own day-to-day life. I’ve even done some things that exhibit some measure of fearlessness, I think — I’ve lived in many different states, tried on numerous jobs, hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in one shot and completed my first year-and-a-half of college-level French in my 50s.
I’ve said “yes” to many things before I had a chance to let any worries get the best of me. I have learned that “Onward!” is a powerful mantra. I believe that many people carry heaps of blankets of fear with them, yet they continually aspire to move beyond whatever holds them back.
This project resonates strongly with people, I’ve discovered — simply because of how deeply embedded fear is in most of our everyday lives. I’ve come to think of this project as my “fear beat,” and as long as fear remains a constant presence in our collective consciousness and conversation (which it will, no doubt), I know I will never run out of material.
Julie Elman is an associate professor of visual communication at Ohio University. She graduated from UD in 1982 with a bachelor’s in commercial design. She is happy to take your fears at fear-project.com.
They beat breast cancer, only to be battered by side effects of treatment. Assistant professor Mary Fisher is helping survivors thrive with research and clinical practices to keep their bodies in motion — and their quality of life soaring.
As co-chair of her 50-year class reunion committee, Joanne Daley ’57 stood out among her peers at Reunion Weekend 2007, buzzing around Kennedy Union and greeting her fellow Flyers with a warm hello.
Colorful scarves and hats hid the vestiges of her chemotherapy treatment. She remembers the sheer exhaustion she felt as she worked to fulfill the Reunion Weekend duties she had accepted months before a Stage II breast cancer diagnosis. A tumor in her left breast was triple negative, a type that tends to grow and spread aggressively. Daley says her doctors “threw everything they could at it,” providing a standard of care that sent her cancer into remission and extended her life.
On March 19, 2015, Daley, now 80, celebrated eight years of being cancer-free. A scar marking the spot where tissue was removed remains a permanent reminder of what she endured eight years ago; a compression sleeve on her left arm, swollen to double the size of her right, symbolizes the continuing physical restrictions she manages as a result of her treatment.
Daley’s story is one Mary Fisher has heard countless times in her career as a physical therapist and assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy: A breast cancer survivor completes radiation or chemotherapy, only to notice debilitating physical limitations, usually in the arm and shoulders, that weren’t present before.
“The survival rate for breast cancer is nearly 90 percent,” Fisher says. “After breast cancer treatment, we should be able to help these women return to the same level of quality of life they had before their diagnosis.”
That vision guides Fisher’s research as she works to raise awareness among survivors, their doctors and loved ones that the fight against breast cancer can continue, in a different arena, long after the cure.
MOVEMENT AFTER SURVIVAL
Three months after Daley’s surgery in March 2007, she developed lymphedema, a painful condition in which fluid fails to drain from body tissues, leading to swelling in the arm or leg. Removal of lymph nodes from around the armpit, called axillary nodes, is a common risk factor, and close to 60 percent of breast cancer survivors report symptoms of lymphedema after completing cancer treatment.
“It’s a pain in the butt — you can quote me on that,” Daley says.
The swelling in her hand and arm make gardening, one of her favorite hobbies, range from uncomfortable to painful. Washing dishes becomes a struggle with a swollen hand, as does the simple task of holding food in place to cut it. Trips to buy clothes become exercises in frustration, as Daley struggles to slide coat sleeves over her left arm. She must buy two sets of gloves to make a pair to fit differently sized hands.
As common as such complaints are, doctors and other health care professionals are usually more focused on keeping cancer at bay. The rest of the patient’s physical state isn’t often part of post-treatment conversation.
Because of her interest in physical therapy, however, Fisher listened to these survivors.
“While I was in graduate school, I had a conversation with a colleague who had breast cancer many years before, and she said to me, ‘You know, Mary, I’m still having trouble with my arm five years later,’” Fisher says. “That got me looking into this and thinking about it, and I began to read the literature and find out what kind of problems women who have had breast cancer treatments face.”
Among her findings is that not all regain full arm function even six years after undergoing surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. She is also finding that early intervention with exercise and physical therapy can help women recover fully.
It’s an easy solution in theory, but there’s another catch. By the time most women begin noticing signs of lymphedema, it’s too late for them to return to full function. Other limitations can be overcome through physical therapy and exercise.
Since 2007, Fisher has participated in multiple local and national studies to first confirm, and later, to determine best practices to address arm function limitations among breast cancer survivors. Her initial findings have encouraged her to promote prospective surveillance — the practice of monitoring an affected group after a medical event to observe pattern development — and early intervention efforts to improve survivors’ physical capabilities and prevent long-term functional limitations.
She considers prospective surveillance a paradigm shift in addressing the needs of all cancer survivors after treatment — a change Fisher says will improve the quality of life for men and women long after they’ve overcome cancer.
STUDIES IN MOTION
Until the late 20th century, breast cancer diagnoses were often delivered behind a veil of shame and secrecy, with women quickly given mastectomies to remove the affected breasts, often without fully informed consent.
Breast cancer advocacy emerged in the 1970s when women began to talk more openly about their diagnoses and push for more involvement in their treatment. Prominent women like Shirley Temple Black, the former child star and U.S. ambassador, and First Lady Betty Ford lent their voices to the cause. Women began pushing for research, more sensitive medical care and treatment options that didn’t result in mastectomy as a matter of course.
Nearly 40 years later, it’s clear such advocacy and awareness has worked. The long-term outlook for breast cancer survivors in the United States has never been better — in 2013, the National Institutes of Health reported a 90.5 percent survival rate five years after diagnosis, up from the 75 percent for women diagnosed between 1975 and 1977. Lumpectomy and radiation therapy, rather than mastectomy, are now the standard of care for early-stage breast cancer.
Because most survivors now live decades after their initial diagnoses, post-treatment complaints are emerging with greater frequency. As a physical therapist, Fisher began noticing a common trend among those who visited her for arm limitations. Quite a few had completed post-lumpectomy treatment in the past few months, or perhaps the past year or two, and complained of arm pain or limited function. Sometimes lymph nodes had been removed; in other cases, they had not.
“I can tell you this story over and over again,” Fisher says. “Even if she didn’t develop lymphedema, she can barely move her arm.”
Fisher wanted to know how long the problems persisted after cancer treatment. While completing her doctorate in rehabilitation sciences at the University of Kentucky, she began studying arm function in long-term breast cancer survivors. Her 24 years of clinical practice as a physical therapist at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton also influenced her research.
Her dissertation findings confirmed that breast cancer survivors had limited motion compared to women who hadn’t had breast cancer. This was especially true for left-handed women who had cancer on their right sides, and for right-handed women who had cancer on the left sides. Survivors also reported a slightly lower quality of life and slightly higher arm disability than women who hadn’t had breast cancer.
Fisher then had to rule out other possibilities for decreased long-term arm mobility before attributing the change to cancer treatment. Perhaps the physical issues were simply part of the normal aging process? Or were other factors involved? Those questions hadn’t adequately been addressed, she says.
To find out, she began conducting studies at UD in 2011 using healthy controls — 79 women who’d never had breast cancer or a shoulder injury or surgery — and compared them to 50 women who’d had breast cancer and treatments more than a year in the past. She put them through a series of tests, timing them as they picked up light objects and placed them on a shelf, similar to an everyday activity like putting groceries in a pantry.
The survivors had more disability and less arm function than the healthy controls, regardless of age, she found.
In January 2013, Fisher joined a National Institutes of Health team working with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington, D.C. The group has been collecting data since 2004 on the arm function of most women diagnosed with breast cancer who have received services at Walter Reed.
The study examined 150 women after breast cancer treatment. The group measured the women’s arm functions at the study’s start and at regular intervals thereafter — one, three, six, nine, 18, 24, 36 and 60 months out. The following year, the group began collecting data on healthy control subjects for comparison.
Researchers used a tool called a perometer to measure changes in limb volume, such as swelling in an arm. Their results showed that even a 5- to 10-percent increase in limb size was not reversible. But there was also good news. Prospective surveillance alerted health care providers to increases of less than 5 percent in limb volume. Patients and providers then employed aggressive management, and patients showed less disability long term.
“At the first hint of preclinical lymphedema, which is a 3-percent difference in arm volume from the pretreatment measure, they’ll put a (compression) sleeve on the patient, teach her how to do manual lymph drainage and start an exercise program,” Fisher says. “They’ve found it very effective in often reversing lymphedema.”
The NIH team is now working to develop more sensitive tools to measure arm function and standard tests of muscular endurance for post-treatment evaluations, as none currently exist.
Limited arm function might be of less concern to survivors than the cancer itself, but Fisher believes cancer treatment shouldn’t rob women of what they enjoyed doing before their diagnoses, such as gardening, in Daley’s case.
“Ultimately, if arm function is impaired, quality of life is often diminished,” Fisher says. “That’s what we’re trying to address.”
STOPPING BEFORE IT STARTS
In 2010, Terri Baldasare, a former annual fund employee at UD, was more than a year out from the surgery that removed a cancerous lump in her breast. She traveled to South Carolina for a vacation and noticed her hand had swollen significantly after a day playing golf.
Baldasare, a Beavercreek, Ohio, resident and friend of Fisher’s, was aware of the potential physical changes she could encounter after surgery, but she thought she had avoided them.
“A year and a half [later] … you just never know,” she says.
Lymphedema was the diagnosis. As part of her ongoing treatment, Baldasare, 66, now has to wear a protective sleeve, which compresses her arm to reduce swelling and promote lymph drainage.
Fisher notes that lymphedema can develop at any point after treatment, even 20 years later.
Although Baldasare is managing her lymphedema through physical therapy and exercise, earlier examinations and treatment could have identified and prevented the swelling. Fisher says Baldasare’s experience is common — by the time a woman notices swelling in her hands or arms, the condition is often irreversible, making prospective surveillance crucial.
Although lymphedema might be among the more painful conditions a survivor can experience, patients who don’t develop the disorder could still find themselves struggling with arm pain. Fisher says some women move their arms and shoulders differently to avoid pain after surgery, a practice that ultimately worsens their condition and requires neuromuscular retraining through physical therapy. A typical course of treatment can be four to six weeks of motion and strength training; that can increase to two to three months for lymphedema sufferers.
Avoiding arm dysfunction altogether is Fisher’s ultimate goal for breast cancer survivors, but research shows that exercise and physical therapy can help mitigate existing limitations. She reviewed past studies from other researchers that debunked old myths, such as one suggesting that strength training was harmful for women after cancer treatment.
In fact, it has been shown to reduce swelling and pain.
Establishing the importance of physical activity provided another piece to the puzzle. Fisher’s next move would be testing other exercise practices to learn what could help women avoid or manage issues resulting from arm restrictions.
In 2013, Fisher received a University grant to study the possible beneficial effects of yoga for breast cancer-related lymphedema. Results of a seven-person pilot study indicated that yoga was a safe exercise.
Fisher continued the study in fall 2014, gaining funding from UD for studies examining yoga practice among women with lymphedema.
One study primarily examined yoga and arm volume, while the other looked at yoga’s effects on arm volume, along with balance and range of motion, in affected women.
Participants entered an eight-week yoga program. Devon Schmidt, an instructor at Day Yoga Studio on Brown Street near UD’s campus, led two classes each week, and participants completed a third at home with a video. Some participants wore compression sleeves during the classes, and Schmidt modified poses as needed based on physical capabilities. Some did arm and shoulder stretches while holding on to a chair. Schmidt modified popular positions like the triangle, a standing pose that opens the chest and shoulders while stretching legs and hips, by placing blocks on the floor for participants who couldn’t stretch their arms that far.
UD students pursuing their doctorates in physical therapy helped find participants and record data before, during and after the yoga class.
“It was amazing to hear their individual stories,” says Meghann Ford, a 2015 physical therapy graduate who worked with Fisher. “There were 10- to 15-year survivors, and women who were just going through another round of radiation. They were strangers when they first started, but by the time they finished, they were hugging, sharing stories and planning ways to meet after the class was over.”
For the first study, Ford and other students measured six participants’ arm volume, self-reported arm function, self-reported quality of life and hand grip strength. With the second study, which also included six participants, measurements for shoulder range of motion and balance were added, while hand grip strength was not measured.
Data was taken at the beginning and end of the yoga class, and for the second study, again at one month after the final class.
Results showed a significant decrease in arm volume after eight weeks, but no changes in the other measurements taken in the first study. With the second study, data showed a decrease in arm volume, an increase in arm flexion (raising arms straight up), an increase in quality of life and improved balance. Self-reported arm function showed improvement that wasn’t considered statistically significant, but quite significant from a clinical, or practical, perspective.
Daley, the octogenarian survivor, was a believer. “When I went to clean my flower beds that night in my garden after going to yoga class, I didn’t hurt as badly,” she says.
Schmidt wasn’t involved in data collection, but watching and listening to feedback from study participants also confirmed to her that yoga, notably the poses that involved stretching the arms and shoulders, had proven beneficial.
“I was actually surprised that they progressed so quickly,” Schmidt says. “I saw them improve as they progressed through the course, and some of them didn’t need modifications at all by the end of the eight weeks.”
Schmidt says some participants have continued to take classes at her studio, enrolling in courses open to the public and doing modifications as needed.
Fisher’s study also showed the importance of maintaining an exercise regimen. Gains made during the class were not maintained by the time the one-month follow-up date arrived, data showed.
Daley says she noticed three months later how much worse she felt because she hadn’t continued her classes. During the summer, she decided to change that and enrolled in a weekly yoga class for cancer patients and survivors at Kettering Medical Center.
“It’s very basic, but it’s certainly been helpful,” she says.
LIFE IN FULL
Fisher’s long-term goals are simple: make the recovery from breast cancer treatment as effective as possible so survivors can return to the life they had before diagnosis. This, she says, requires a multipronged approach to find the most effective treatments, educate health care providers about prospective surveillance and make care accessible to all.
The UD studies address the first goal of figuring out what works best for breast cancer survivors’ arm functions. Fisher has seven publications and presentations scheduled for 2015, and four of her doctoral students — Ford, Minna Cho, Olivia Morris and Karissa Feucht — presented a poster at the National Lymphedema Network’s 11th International Conference in Washington, D.C., in September 2014. They also presented at the Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association in Indianapolis in February 2015.
The topic, “Effects of Yoga on Arm Volume, Quality of Life, Self-reported Arm Function, Shoulder Motion, and Balance in Women with Breast Cancer-related Lymphedema,” received a Graduate Student Showcase Award in Physical Therapy at UD. All DPT students are required to participate in research projects.
“I had never really been into research before this, but the experience really opened my eyes to being a part of research studies in the future,” says Ford, who’s now working at a skilled nursing facility in Springboro, Ohio. “This opportunity has opened a lot of doors for the four of us.”
Fisher is already beginning work on a study quantifying arm activity of women who had breast cancer on their non-dominant side. Her dissertation findings suggested that women with cancer on the side of their lesser-used arm experienced more long-term issues. She’ll now see if women with cancer in their non-dominant arm use that arm less than women who haven’t had cancer, effectively slowing recovery.
First, she is collecting data. Women who have had cancer and healthy women serving as controls are given activity monitors to wear on both arms for one week, and data from the two groups will be compared. Fisher has recruited 22 of 30 participants, and her study will continue through the end of the year.
Although studies are progressing, another paradigm shift might be required to fulfill Fisher’s other goals. Health care providers will need to encourage women to be acutely aware of potential physical changes after cancer treatment and immediately refer those women to physical therapy. University programs should educate students in health care fields about physical side effects so they can incorporate that knowledge in their future practices. Greater publicity — like this article — also increases awareness of lymphedema and other issues among those going through treatment and survivors.
Then there’s the issue of accessibility. Certain types of physical therapy could be out of reach for many lower-income women. Distance and lack of transportation could prohibit some from participating in physical therapy or exercise programs. Compression sleeves, a crucial element in lymphedema treatment, are costly and not often covered by insurance. Financial barriers prohibit survivors from managing their limitations effectively and prevent them from participating in everyday activities — whether they be jobs or hobbies.
Surviving breast cancer is a victory worth celebrating. After defeating it, survivors should be able to thrive as well.
Shannon Miller’s mother, Jennifer, is a breast cancer survivor. She has been cancer-free for 10 years.