A shorter version of this story first published in the autumn 2016 University of Dayton Magazine
His first day as the 19th president of the University of Dayton was full of that familiar UD word — “community.” On July 1, Eric F. Spina toured Kettering Labs, where students showed their research to restore the environment or repair our bodies with nanotechnology. He and his wife, Karen, attended Mass and lunch with the Marianists. He shook hands with international students and community partners. He met with faculty leaders. And he took selfies with all excited to meet the #UDNewPrez.
Spina, who served Syracuse University for 28 years, including nearly nine as vice chancellor and provost, emphasized his commitment to Catholic, Marianist traditions, engagement with the greater community, support for students and faculty, and research excellence.
He’ll be carrying those themes with him as he talks with campus, community and alumni groups during the next six months on his listening tour. What he hears will help shape the University’s strategic vision for the next 20 years.
We sat down with Spina to hear what he had to say about his first day, his family and his plans for the presidency.
Two days before you started, you joined Dan Curran and Brother Ray Fitz for a photo shoot. What do three presidents talk about when they get together?
Dan I’ve worked with closely, and he has been so gracious, warm and supportive. Brother Ray is an icon here, and to have him part of that day for me was very special. The conversation was light, and primarily we talked about their support for me and their love for the institution.
It’s fun, and so much of what we do is heavy and serious. It’s where our students and increasingly our alumni are, so I want to find ways to be accessible. I like Instagram, which I frame as “a day in the life.” I’m going to try to make it diverse enough so followers understand what a president is trying to do to make the university better.
What emoji describes your first day?
The one with the huge smile. And the one I’d put next to it is the one with the hearts in your eyes.
On your first day, the students working at RecPlex changed the music to help welcome you. What music do you like?
On my phone I have a mix with everything imaginable, from modern to some Italian tunes, but my favorites right now are Dave Matthews, Rolling Stones and Amos Lee. It needs to be heavy with a good rhythm, especially when you’re getting tired at the end of the elliptical. The Rolling Stones work especially well.
What’s the story behind the blue tie with red airplanes you wore on your first day?
It was a gift from my friend Andrew Hermalyn, executive vice president of 2U, a company that supports online education. If you look at it carefully, it goes from birds with an occasional plane to planes with an occasional bird. It’s a great tie.
A photograph from your first day in the office shows a nameplate on the desk, a coffee mug on the shelf and hardly anything else. Since then, what have you brought in to decorate, and what is its significance?
Pictures of my family, because that’s my home. I did bring in one thing from Syracuse. In 2002 I received the Chancellor’s Citation for contributions to academic programs. It came with an original piece of art, a drawing of a candle that represents this light in the world that we needed after 9-11. I was fine with leaving Syracuse University, but the relationships I had in my life at Syracuse are with me in that picture.
Why is it important that we remember UD started as a primary boarding school for 14 boys in 1850?
You said 1850 — it’s a long time ago. We’re an institution with an incredible history that we have every reason to be proud of. Those 14 boys, the graduating class we had last May of 2,108 and all those in between — there’s a web of connectivity and impact not only in Dayton, not only in Ohio, but in the country and the world. I’ve read enough and learned enough about how Blessed William Chaminade was wise enough to know that this world is always changing. As a Marianist founder, he didn’t look back but forward. That transformation from boys’ school to college, from college to research university, and from commuter to residential, those are big changes, every one of which has been absolutely right for the institution, for the region, for the country, for society. We have modeled in the past what we need to continue to do. We like who we are and we want to be better, but our call from our history is to be the disrupter. Where really do we need to be in 20 to 35 years?
We like to bike together, so we’re looking forward to hitting the trails. We like to hike. We love art, museums, history. We went to the Dayton Art Institute but also spent a few hours with Willis Bing Davis and his wife, Audrey, in their art studio in West Dayton. They are obviously talented artists but also humanitarians, givers and leaders with a humility and dignity they bring to art education and supporting youth. Art is a passion for Karen and me, and communities are important, so that was really a great two hours.
You’re trained as an aerospace engineer. What interests you?
Karen and I visited the Museum of the U.S. Air Force, and I know all the planes. My favorite is the XB-70 Valkyrie — Mach 3, heavy bomber, huge inlets, cool plane, great name. My father was born in 1925, his mother in 1896. My grandmother died not too long ago, and I think about how her life went from having never heard about the Wright brothers to aircraft that can fly halfway around the world. Change over time is really amazing, as is what we’ve done as a species in terms of harnessing technology.
What will help your children, Kaitlyn and Emery, both students at Skidmore College, feel at home in Dayton?
Karen has done it — she has created some warm, inviting, welcoming places in their new rooms with some old and some new. People here are so welcoming and supportive, so meeting them and creating those connections will be exactly what they need. And my daughter needs to find a restaurant with really good steak.
Are your children interested in becoming engineers like their parents?
No. Neither one will be a practicing artist, but they are both incredibly talented — our daughter has a minor in studio art and our son could as well. They are both more humanists and artists than they are engineers.
Name one way being trained as an aerospace engineer colors the way you see the world.
My mom was an artist, and I do rely on my gut, but whenever possible I like to see data.
Name one way being a Catholic colors the way you see the world.
The values I have around social justice come from my mom, who was a huge devotee of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton; I have The Seven Storey Mountain on my bookshelf at home. What can Catholicism do in terms of rolling up its sleeves and making a difference in the world? In small ways and large ways this has colored my view. At Syracuse, my focus on diversifying the student body and hiring deans of color and female deans was central to my frame of Catholicism.
It’s still a new coat that I’m wearing. I’m very cognizant of the fact that there are a lot of us working together, but ultimately I’m responsible for all these students. It colors my decisions of what we do, the directions we take and money that we spend. So I feel a paternal or at least avuncular responsibility for our students.
Name one way that being the son of teachers colors the way you see the world.
A lot of what we do is teaching, and there are always opportunities to teach people, to be patient and understanding of people’s context and help them in one way or another. We’re all teachers and we need to think more about how we all engage others in a teaching way.
If you could sign up for one UD class this semester, what would it be?
Presidency 101. But if it has to be a real class, I would choose art history.
What do you want to accomplish in your first 100 days as president, both professionally and personally?
Professionally, the only thing I want to accomplish is listening. I come here with an agenda to make the place better and an agenda around diversity of all kinds. But beyond that I don’t know what we should do as a university, so I want to listen. Personally, it’s connecting with people. You could say it’s the same as listening, but I’m a person who draws energy from relationships. Both Karen and I want to get to know people and people get to know us, what our values are, what we think about the University, what we want for the University.
Do you miss Dinosaur Bar-B-Que?
Have you found a substitute here?
No. I went to a Cincinnati Reds game and someone said, “This barbeque stand is the best.” And it was a ballpark and it was late in the game, but it was not Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.
Do you have a favorite restaurant so far?
We’ve been stuck on Wheat Penny, which is really cool. We like Roost. Park was good. We like eclectic. There was a place back in Syracuse we went to often enough that I didn’t have to order two courses because they knew what I wanted. We’re looking for that here.
Coming from America’s Snowiest City, will you miss the snow or will you bring it with you?
I hope I’m not bringing it with me. I won’t tell you that when I was in Pittsburgh for four years, in New Jersey for five years, or in Washington, D.C., for a year, they all set records for snow. Once upon a time, I actually went to the record books and counted how much snow I had lived through. It was an astonishing amount. So I hope I’m not bringing the snow with me.
Wilbur Wright offered this advice to young people on how to succeed in life: “Pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.”
Adjunct professor Peter Newman would add to that, “and go to school at the University in Dayton.”
After all, we are the Flyers for a reason, Newman said. And so, in his course The Legal Environment of Business, Newman asked his students to read The Wright Brothers by David McCullough.
The 2015 book, Newman said, fleshes out the historical fact we all learned in second grade — that two brothers from Dayton invented powered, controlled flight — and gives us insight into both the rules of business and the personal traits required to be successful entrepreneurs.
“There is more to being successful than just following the rules,” said Newman, an adjunct professor in both business and law with more than three decades of experience in labor and employment law, corporate compliance and alternative dispute resolution. “You must be ethical, empathetic, optimistic, brave. The Wright brothers embody the traits of successful people that we should try to emulate.”
Newman wondered what lessons his students would find in the pages of the Wrights’ lives, so he had them write about it. Junior Nicolette Dahdah found inspiration.
“When we look back at the past, we should admire and seek to emulate the humbleness they carried to the enterprise, the dedication that made sure they saw it through to the end, and the perseverance to take the dream of flight and bring it into reality despite all their setbacks,” she wrote. “For what is an entrepreneur if not one who tests the limits of society’s thinking and wonders what barriers can man break today?”
In addition to reading McCullough’s book, students visited one of the Wright historic sites in the Dayton area and snapped a photograph. Students knelt at the brothers’ gravesites in Woodland Cemetery, posed in front of the Wright Cycle Co. shop and stood on the replica front porch of the boys’ childhood home less than 3 miles from campus.
The assignment, Newman said, also provided a historical context for their business education at UD. Students who knew nothing of Dayton’s history learned through McCullough that, in the era of the Wrights, Dayton inventors held more patents than those in any other city — good motivation for the next generation of entrepreneurs, Newman said.
Sophomore Ally Ayoob snapped a selfie at Hawthorn Hill where Orville spent his latter years. She wrote that, as she continues her education and enters into professional life, she will draw on the lessons she learned from the Wright brothers and from McCullough, who made their story come to life:
“As a University of Dayton entrepreneurship major, I am both humbled and inspired by the rich entrepreneurial history from which my university and its city draw so much pride.”
In reading The Wright Brothers, it is evident that Orville and Wilbur had a great deal of determination. Despite countless setbacks and negativism coming at them from every direction, the brothers never gave up on their dream. When it first became known that the Wrights were interested in building a flying machine, they immediately received negative feedback. People called them fools and cranks and thought they were trying to achieve the impossible. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later when people were able to witness the flights for themselves that they would rescind their comments. It would have been easy for the Wrights to become discouraged. Additionally, once Wilbur and Orville began building and testing their planes, they struggled for years in coming up with designs. Whether it be in designing the frame, wings, propellers, engines or any other aspect of the planes, each proved to be a great struggle. Wilbur and Orville could have concluded that, after multiple failed attempts in design (for each of the different parts), flight was simply not meant to be. They had to persevere through bad runs, failed attempts, and above all, plane crashes. The worst of these crashes, Sept. 17, 1908, left passenger Lt. Thomas Selfridge dead and Orville in critical condition. That Orville would later return to the air shows his commitment to aviation. —Carmen Bender, junior, international business management
A saying that their father constantly preached to them was “good mettle.” In other words, embrace the challenge in front of you. They met every project and task in front of them with a mindset full of passion and heart. This would result in heated arguments and isolation, but it would also consume them in a beneficial way. John T. Daniels, the amateur photographer whom the brothers had document their progress, once referred to Orville and Wilbur Wright as “the two workingest boys I ever knew.” Innovators today view their work as work, whereas the brothers viewed their work as life. When one shares this perspective, the discipline, the work ethic and perseverance come without question and without hesitation. —Patrick Duggan, sophomore, marketing
Otto Lilienthal, a pioneer who made great progress in flight from observing birds, provided the basis for all men pursuing flight. McCullough wrote of the Wright brothers’ use of Lilienthal’s data tables, “The difficulty was not to get into the air but to stay there, and they concluded that Lilienthal’s fatal problem had been an insufficient means of control — ‘his inability to properly balance his machine in the air,’ as Orville wrote.” At this moment, the Wright brothers decided to throw out Lilienthal’s data and start from scratch. The Wright brothers used their creativity and developed their own testing methods in a wind tunnel with small models. If the Wright brothers were not willing to challenge and change the status quo, they would not have been able to invent the
airplane. —Tianmu Luo, senior, marketing
Personality differences between Wilbur and Orville helped contribute to the success of the brothers. Wilbur, four years older than Orville, was the senior leader in the partnership. He was often described as critical, or, as McCullough wrote, “always ready to oppose an idea expressed by anybody.” In terms of business, critique is beyond important. Wilbur did not critique to offend anyone but to have, as McCullough wrote, a “new way of looking at things.” This critical attitude developed higher expectations, and when expectations were not met, Wilbur was often more discouraged than his younger brother. Wilbur became so discouraged that at one point he said, “Not in a thousand years would man ever fly.” Yet when discouraged by repeated failures, it was Orville’s spirit of ambition and generally optimistic attitude that brought Wilbur right back to the next calculation. While Wilbur had more confidence in his work as time progressed, Orville continuously displayed a high, hopeful, contagious spirit. —Kayla McLaughlin, junior, accounting and operations
The brothers did not believe they had what it took to be businessmen because they did not think they had any tenacity. Wilbur wrote, as conveyed by McCullough, that “the boys of the Wright family are all lacking in determination and push.” But the tenacity of the brothers was evident. As the brothers started to make headway in flight, people did not believe they had what it took to go any further. McCullough wrote that “as far as the reaction in Dayton, probably not one person in a hundred believed the brothers had actually flown in their machine, or if they had, it could only have been a fluke.” Hearing comments such as these would be enough to hinder many entrepreneurs, but for the brothers it was simply fuel to keep progressing. Instead of hanging their heads and giving up, the brothers continued innovating to show these doubters that they could and would achieve their goals. —Andrew Hoffman, sophomore, entrepreneurship
Orville and Wilbur needed a place to test their airplane in a place of high wind, no trees and sand where they could land. The brothers researched and contacted the weather bureau, and Wilbur asked Octave Chanute, a French-American civil engineer and aviation pioneer, for advice. They concluded that the small island of Kitty Hawk was the perfect secluded place for their test runs. Their creative place, though, was not always a perfect place. McCullough wrote that “they had endured violent storms, accidents, one disappointment after another, public indifference or ridicule, and clouds of demon mosquitoes. To get to and from their remote sand dune testing ground they had made five round trips from Dayton, a total of seven thousand miles by train, all to fly little more than half a mile.” Entrepreneurs need a place for their idea to be tested, a place for it to come to life and become a reality. —Corinne Cowan, junior, marketing
One of the earliest examples of ingenuity in the lives of the Wright brothers is described by McCullough; while still in high school, “Interested in printing for some while, Orville had worked for two summers as an apprentice at a local print shop. He designed and built his own press using a discarded tombstone, a buggy spring, and scrap metal.” Orville exemplified that self-drive has no age requirement, an important lesson to all aspiring entrepreneurs. Later in their journey, Wilbur had to rely on his ingenuity when The Flyer arrived to the Bollee factory in shambles. McCullough described, “Those who worked with him at the factory marveled at his meticulous craftsmanship, how he would make his own parts when needed, even a needle if necessary.” He took matters into his own hands and fixed the problem himself. —Megan O’Kane, sophomore, marketing
Everyone is very quick to praise the risks the Wright brothers did take but often overlook their more important ability to identify the risks they were not willing to take. From the beginning, Wilbur and Orville decided that they would never fly together. That way, if tragedy were to strike, one of them would still be around to carry on the legacy. They realized that their work was far more important than the enjoyment they would experience flying together. It was not until 1910, shortly before Wilbur’s death, that they flew together for the first and last time. Their risk management abilities were also seen in their everyday work. The brothers never let the opinions or wants of others affect their work. It did not matter who was watching or how big the crowd was — including a planned demonstration for the U.S. Senate and others at Fort Myer — they would not fly in poor conditions or take unnecessary risks just to please the crowd. Risk
management is vital to the success of any business. Not only their success but also their lives relied on their ability to judge risk. —Mary DeCrane, sophomore, leadership
At no point during their experimentations and successes did the Wright brothers seek to lord their performance over another member of the field, nor did they boast in their own time of their accomplishments. They offer us a lesson in humility. When we contrast that to how today’s business practices work, it’s a startling and shameful difference. The Wright brothers spent $1,000 on their flight venture; aviation pioneer Samuel Langley spent $70,000 on his failed attempt. “[B]eing the kind of men they were, neither said the stunning contrast between their success and Samuel Langley’s full-scale failure just days before made what they had done on their own all the more remarkable,” McCullough wrote. More importantly, instead of belittling one of the key figures who had inadvertently competed with them to be the first to achieve the power of flight, they praised him for being so generous to their cause and assisting them in their own efforts. Wilbur even stated that Langley deserved credit beyond the jeering and cruel amusement his failings brought him from the community because he shared with the brothers the drive to pursue a dream that many found foolish and impossible. If competing businesses worked hand in hand to pool resources and intellect in order to harness the vast shared knowledge between them, humbling themselves to put aside differences and work for mutual gain, the atmosphere of the marketplace would be astonishingly changed. —Nicolette Dahdah, junior, communication
Although Wilbur and Orville maintained ownership of their machine and depended on each other instead of outside sources, the brothers made the right friends and hired the right employees, both of which were crucial in their success. The Tate family, friendly Kitty Hawk locals who allowed Wilbur to stay with them when he first arrived in North Carolina, often helped the brothers build structures and execute experiments on the dunes, McCullough wrote. Charlie Taylor was an employee of the Wright Cycle Co. who proved to be, as McCullough wrote, “more than a clever mechanic, he was a brilliant mechanic and for the brothers a godsend.” It was Taylor who built the engine that would allow the brothers to make aeronautic history Dec. 17, 1903. Invested, excited, innovative employees such as Taylor are at the heart of a business. Personal relationships are also incredibly important, especially to new businesses. Friends and family are usually a business’s first supporters, first sales and first marketing resource. They provide advice and goodwill and may even volunteer time and resources to the venture. Without the Tate family and Charlie Taylor, the Wright brothers’ path to creating the airplane could have looked much different. Entrepreneurs need to recognize just how important friends, family and employees are to their businesses and utilize these relationships as influential assets. —Ally Ayoob, sophomore, entrepreneurship
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!