Chuck Noll had a childhood dream. When he was 17, he saw it destroyed. Then he came to Dayton.
Noll’s Dayton years are part of the story told by Michael MacCambridge in his book Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work. MacCambridge’s journey to writing the book about the coach who moved the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise from laughingstock to Super Bowl legend took some time. In researching his award-winning America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation, he had interviewed Dan Rooney, Steelers executive and son of the franchise’s founder, Art Rooney.
A few months after the book was published in 2004, “I received a handwritten note from Rooney saying that it was a good book but didn’t have enough about the Steelers,” said MacCambridge while visiting the University of Dayton in October for a book signing.
In doing another book some years later, MacCambridge again interviewed Rooney, who was nearing 80 and had added to his achievements being the first U.S. ambassador to Ireland to visit all of the island’s 32 counties. After a while, he heard back from Rooney, by then Steelers chairman emeritus, his son Art II now heading the franchise.
Rooney wanted him to do a book on Chuck Noll.
“I was interested,” MacCambridge said, “but I told him it can’t be just about Noll being a good football coach.”
“You look into it,” Rooney said. “You’ll see.”
So MacCambridge talked to men who played with and for Noll. He talked to Noll’s family. He saw.
Three years, 300 interviews and a lot of writing later, the book on Noll has been published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. It is about a successful football coach. No other coach has won four Super Bowls while losing none. But it is also about a successful man.
Noll’s perspectives were broader than football. During his life he became a photographer, a wine connoisseur, an airplane pilot. If something interested him, he wanted to become an expert on it. “He may have been,” MacCambridge said, “the last Renaissance man.”
Noll loved his wife, Marianne, and their son, Chris. And he loved his nieces and nephews. His sister, Rita, and her husband, Clarence, had seven children under the age of 10 when Clarence died suddenly. Noll became a source of financial help and more. Noll kept his family life private; he neither sought the spotlight nor enjoyed it. But MacCambridge noted that, as he was researching the book, the nieces and nephews were very clear to him about their uncle’s love and help and their gratitude to him.
One remembers struggling with algebra. He took her aside and quietly went over it with her. “From that day on,” she said, “math was my best subject.”
The intelligence, the skills, the attitude that Noll brought to everything in life, he brought to football. And he changed the game.
“His big contribution,” MacCambridge said, “was reducing the game to its components. Football was then, in terms of coaches, a cult of personality, of willpower, of overblown rhetoric, ‘give 110 — no, 120 percent.’”
Noll considered it the player’s job to motivate himself. What Noll as a coach did, MacCambridge said, was to teach players “what to do, how to do it and why they should do it.”
After graduating from the University, Noll played for Paul Brown in Cleveland for six years. Brown was a coach who stayed on message. One message his players heard repeatedly was that “this is just what you’re doing now. You have to think of what your life’s work will be.”
Part of that advice had to do with economic necessity. Pro football didn’t pay much in those days. As a player, Noll did consider what his life’s work could be. He sold insurance. He sold trucking services. He did substitute teaching. He studied law a bit. He thought about medicine.
He didn’t like any of it much.
“I had a horrible, horrible fear of him ending up selling time on a truck line forever,” MacCambridge quotes Marianne as saying. “And I wanted him to have a passion.”
In 1959, Noll got a call from his old roommate, Jim Currin ’53, who told him that former UD assistant coach Joe Quinn ’42 and others thought he would be a good candidate for Dayton’s head coaching job. After interviewing in Dayton, he returned home to Cleveland and Marianne waiting with dinner and wine. He explained he knew he wasn’t going to get the job.
“But I do know one thing now,” he said. “This is what I really want to do. I really want to coach.”
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The excerpt that follows is from the part of Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work that chronicles Noll’s Dayton years; it takes him from being a 17-year-old with his spirit crushed to being a man about to try out for a football team that in every year of its existence had played in its league’s championship game — the Cleveland Browns. While at Dayton, MacCambridge said, Noll “got a sense of self, a sense of belonging, a sense of confidence.”
Chuck Noll ’53 had a childhood dream of playing football for the best college team in the country, Notre Dame. He tried out as a walk-on. An epileptic, he had a seizure. That was the end of his Notre Dame career. “The university,” writes Noll biographer Michael MacCambridge, “thought it best if Chuck went home. Coach [Frank] Leahy didn’t want to take the risk.” The following excerpt from MacCambridge’s 2016 book, Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work (reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press), describes what happened after Noll returned to his home on the east side of Cleveland.
There were no heart-to-heart discussions at the breakfast table the next morning. Instead, Chuck got up, showered and dressed, and did what he’d done most days the previous four years: he walked up to Woodland Avenue to grab the streetcar heading out to Benedictine [High School].
The semester had just begun, and the school was in the early stages of earnest fall activity. Chuck went straight to the athletic department and found who he was looking for — Ab Strosnider [Noll’s line coach at Benedictine and a 1927 Dayton grad].
With his eyes fixed on his shoes, Chuck told Strosnider what had happened. They talked for a few moments, and Strosnider asked him what his plan was now. Chuck didn’t have one.
But very soon, Strosnider did. He told Chuck to give him a few hours.
Strosnider had played, with distinction, at the University of Dayton, about 215 miles downstate, in southwestern Ohio. Soon, he got on the phone with Joe Gavin, the head football coach at Dayton and also, as it happened, a college roommate of Frank Leahy.
It made perfect sense. Leahy and Gavin were still close friends, and at times Leahy would call Gavin on the phone and have him try a new wrinkle with his team that Leahy couldn’t risk trying in practice — because of all the attention on Notre Dame — with his own team. Surely Gavin would take on Chuck Noll.
Gavin called Leahy to find out the story on the Noll kid. There wasn’t much information: Leahy knew the kid had a seizure, and Notre Dame didn’t become Notre Dame by taking on problems. Whatever Leahy said wasn’t enough to convince Gavin to take Chuck. But then, after Gavin called Strosnider back and politely declined, he’d found the old Dayton alum unwavering in his insistence on Chuck’s worthiness. Strosnider wouldn’t take no for an answer.
He was speaking quietly at first, but soon he raised his voice, loudly enough for Father Placid [Pientek, the athletic department business manager], sitting in another corner of the Benedictine athletic department office, to hear one side of the conversation.
“Look,” Strosnider continued, more emphatic. “Joe, I tell you he’s a good kid! You got to take him. If you don’t, you won’t get another guy from Benedictine, I swear to God.”
As threats went, it was not an idle one: Strosnider had been around, and he knew virtually everyone in Cleveland football. After a few more moments on the phone, Gavin relented. Strosnider signed off with a relieved affirmation — “You’ll see” — and then a quick goodbye.
He put the phone back in its cradle and eased back into the chair. The next call was to Chuck, to tell him that he should keep his bags packed; he would be enrolling at the University of Dayton.
So, on Sept. 18, 1949, Chuck Noll went to Terminal Tower and got on a train, bound for Dayton. He was met at the station by Dan Ferrazza [’51] who drove him to campus so he could watch practice. One of the other freshmen recognized him. It was Len Kestner, who was on the Catholic Universe Bulletin’s All-Catholic team with Chuck in ’48.
“Hey, Chuck!,” said Kestner. “What are you doing here? I thought you were at Notre Dame.”
“It’s a long story,” Chuck said.
By 1949, the hometown of Orville and Wilbur Wright was a small-time city with big-time aspirations. National Cash Register, founded in 1884 and thriving in the postwar economy, was right across the street from the campus, and there were several General Motors subsidiaries — Delco and Frigidaire plants among them — that were paying well for manual labor. Against this growing industrial metropolis, the University of Dayton stood out as a redoubt of Catholic learning. …
It lacked the bustle of Cleveland or the mystique of Notre Dame, but it was welcoming, approachable and Catholic. It didn’t take long before Chuck felt at home.
Before they’d even met him, some of his teammates saw Chuck one afternoon, a solitary figure out on the practice field, relentlessly ramming out at a blocking sled. Later that day, [Pat] Maloney [’53] became the first to make his acquaintance. They sat together in the narrow corridor outside the athletic office and struck up a conversation. “We must have talked for about 20-25 minutes before Gavin got there,” said Maloney. “I remember afterwards that I said, ‘Boy, what a nice guy; I really like this guy. I’m glad I came to UD because it is going to be good.”
Out on the practice field, Chuck’s credentials were clear. “Right away, you knew he was a player,” Jim Currin [’53] said. “There was no question he could play the game, and he knew it. He was smarter than all the rest of us, had blocking techniques we didn’t have yet. You could just tell.”
The freshman team was designated cannon fodder. “We just got the shit kicked out of us by the varsity,” said Maloney. “That was it. No ifs, ands or buts about it.”
Eventually, though, by the end of that first season, something changed. In 1949, many of Dayton’s starters were nearing their mid-20s, Second World War veterans who attended on the GI Bill. … At first, Gavin thought the older, hardened athletes would be the key to Dayton’s rise. But there was something missing in the GI Bill vets — a degree of abandon characteristic of the best players. Gavin found it hard to convince someone who’d survived the Battle of the Bulge to whip themselves into an emotional fervor for the sake of beating St. Bonaventure.
By the end of the season, as the freshmen grew physically and in confidence, the tide turned in their scrimmaging against the varsity. “Some of them were married, so football wasn’t a big thing,” said Currin. “So when we came in, we were all recruits, ready to go, and we would have a scrimmage, and by the end of that year we would just knock the snot out of them.”
As sophomores, Chuck and the Dayton football Class of 1953 moved en masse up to the varsity. … On the field that sophomore year, Chuck found a new influence. He was Ralph McGehee, an All-American under Leahy at Notre Dame, who was rehabbing an injured knee on his way to trying out for the pros. If Russ Alexander [who coached Noll on a youth team in Cleveland] had taught Chuck the principles of leverage, and Strosnider helped him with the nuances of using his arms to shed and control opponents, McGehee gave Chuck a master class in the initial explosion off the line of scrimmage.
McGehee “had the most powerful lunge out of the three-point stance that I had ever seen or have seen since,” said Currin. “And he watched Chuck, because Chuck had a good lunge from three-point stance, and worked with Chuck. Between the two of them, they would break those sliding machines.” The facility Chuck had exhibited in the classroom — hear or read something once and he retained much of it — translated to the football field as well, and by his sophomore year, Chuck was already coaching his teammates.
By the time he returned for training camp in the late summer of 1951, Chuck might have felt he was coming home to his second family. The connections between those Dayton players ran deeper than mere teammates. They lived together, studied together (those that studied), went out together, and drank together. …
They had spent much of the previous two years giving each other nicknames. … Chuck’s nickname was definitely bestowed during the spring intrasquad game in 1951. … Before one play, Chuck made a line audible that would send him wide to block the end and have Currin moving inside to catch the linebacker coming through the vacated hole. The call was made but the play broke down from the start, Chuck not getting a good shot on the end and Currin missing the linebacker entirely.
Walking back to the huddle, both Chuck and Currin were adamant that the other man had failed.
“That’s your fault!” Chuck said.
“You called it!” said Currin. “He was too far over!” Then, perturbed, he added, “You think you’re always right — you think you’re the Pope!”
Teammate Joe Molloy [’54], walking back to the huddle with them, overheard and echoed the sentiment, “Yeah, you’re the Pope!” …
The nickname poked fun at Chuck’s certitude, but there was also a sense in which it was a descriptive of the authority of his opinions. “If there was ever a discussion, whatever his conclusion was, end of discussion,” said Don Donoher [’54]. “Chuck’s was the last word, so it just became; he is infallible.”
In the locker room [after the 1951 season-ending 34-13 win over Marshall], Gavin gathered his players and announced that they had received an invitation from the Salad Bowl, played in Glendale, Arizona.
There were real questions within the administration over the cost. … Dayton finally accepted.
It would be the greatest moment in Dayton’s major-college football history. They took a chartered train from Dayton, with 11 newspapermen and two train cars full of boosters along for the ride. …
The game itself, played on Jan. 1, 1952, drew a crowd estimated at 17,000. … Dayton fell, 26-21.
[In 1952] on Thanksgiving, they went down to Chattanooga for their last game and were blown out, 40-7, to end a disappointing 6-5 season.
As they took off their sweaty football gear in the Chattanooga locker room, they each knew, to a man, it was probably the last time they’d play the sport. Though Chuck was named all-Ohio, he was undersized for a lineman and was already focused on looking for teaching jobs after graduation. … Only Currin, who’d earned national attention with his receptions, was given a chance. For everyone else, it seemed, the ride was over.
So when a man called the dorm one day in January 1953 to inform Chuck he’d been drafted, he at first assumed it was the Army and was perplexed; he’d already been declared 4-F due to his epilepsy.
“No, the Browns — the Cleveland Browns,” said the reporter. … The Browns kept close tabs on Ohio schools, and Gavin had recommended Noll as the sort of brainy football player that Paul Brown loved; Cleveland drafted him in the 20th round. …
The standard contract for rookies was $5,000. Among the teaching opportunities that had been offered Chuck, one was at Holy Name High School in Cleveland, for a pay of $2,700.
Of course, the odds were stacked against Chuck making the team. NFL rosters had 33 players. From one year to the next, there might be 28 or 29 holdovers, even more on a perennial contender like the Browns. But Brown had been told about Chuck’s technical skills.
“Well, you’re big enough,” said Brown to Chuck when he visited that spring. “Let’s see if you’re brave enough.”
The summer of 1953, Chuck, Currin, Maloney and [Tom] Carroll [’53], along with basketball player Chris Harris [’55], wound up renting space in the attic of an apartment on Grafton Avenue, behind the Dayton Art Institute, within easy walking distance of McKinley Park. They each paid the owner $5 a week for a mattress in the attic. …
They’d found work … laying tar and working nearly dawn to dusk every weekday. It was hot, dirty work, and only the money and the friendship made it worthwhile. …
When they returned to the apartment, most of them would collapse. Not Chuck. Each day, he would change into his Dayton athletic shorts, grab his stopwatch and implore Maloney or Carroll to join him at McKinley Park a few blocks away.
“Chuck, I’m tired — you go,” Carroll would protest.
“You don’t have to do anything!” Chuck said. “Just come along and sit down and time me.”
There, in the gathering dusk, Chuck would run 40-yard sprints, and then have Carroll time the intervals — first 60 seconds, then 50 seconds, then 40 seconds, down to 10-second breaks. Chuck would run until he collapsed from exhaustion. Carroll, stopwatch in hand, would sit with his back against a tree and time his friend.
The sight of the other tired young men sprawled in the stifling heat of their threadbare apartment while Chuck changed into sweatpants and tennis shoes became one of the recurring motifs of that summer.
“Pius [the name of the pope at the time], slow down, man,” said Chris Harris one hot evening.
“Gotta do it,” Chuck replied. “Gotta make this team.”
Noll made the team, playing six years for Paul Brown in Cleveland before going into coaching himself. In 1975 he coached the Pittsburgh Steelers to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title, his first Super Bowl win of four. Nobody has won more. He lost none.
Chuck Noll: His Life and Work is widely available at booksellers including the University of Dayton Bookstore, www.udayton.edu/bookstore.
Susan Davies has seen up-close the impact of concussions on children — on a student’s ability to learn and on educators unequipped to address the brain’s measured healing. The UD associate professor is now educating others to create a community of care that helps students return to learn.
Since the school year began, 14 students had visited Kim LaScola’s office at Hudson Middle School near Akron, Ohio, with concussions — heads banged in football games or knocked around during classroom horseplay. And it was just October.
As the school nurse and a registered nurse at Akron Children’s Hospital, LaScola understands the protocol for recognizing traumatic brain injury and developing post-injury progress plans for her students. She says her word alone, however, often isn’t enough to convince teachers that recovering students might require additional academic assistance when they return to the classroom.
“I need a doctor’s order that says Joey can’t take this test,” she said with exasperation to a group of colleagues from Akron Children’s Hospital, all of whom traveled to Columbus one October afternoon for a training session on managing concussions in school settings.
Such stories are familiar to the session’s presenter, Susan Davies, an associate professor of counselor education and human services in the School of Education and Health Sciences. In her two decades of experience as a school psychologist, she has seen the consequences of concussions left unaddressed. She is now using her faculty research to educate those who work in schools with students — as well as the parents and students themselves — to identify injuries, acknowledge their myriad impacts and create a community of care to help the students return to learn.
When Davies worked in the Oak Hills Local School District in suburban Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Public Schools as a school psychologist during a five-year period, she saw the adverse effects of traumatic brain injury among her students’ ability to learn. They experienced persistent learning and behavioral difficulties after sustaining a brain injury, she said, but “because educators weren’t often well-trained in identifying and understanding brain injuries, these students were not receiving the school-based supports and services they needed in order to be successful.”
Davies is working to change that paradigm. During the October session sponsored by the Ohio Department of Health, she offered school-based professionals and health care providers training they can take back to their schools, districts and regions — “training the trainers,” she says, who will then multiply the impact of her sessions.
Even though students might look fine from a physical standpoint, debilitating effects such as fatigue, concentration difficulties and memory problems can linger well after the initial hit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2010, approximately 2.5 million emergency room visits, hospitalizations or deaths were associated with traumatic brain injuries. About 75 percent were concussions — mild traumatic brain injuries that occur due to bumps or blows to the head or body that cause the head to move rapidly back and forth.
Despite its medical designation as “mild,” Davies stresses that a concussion diagnosis that includes the word “traumatic” indicates the seriousness of the injury, especially considering the frequency in which they occur. Close to 250,000 children in 2009 were treated in U.S. hospitals for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a concussion diagnosis.
“It’s really a public health issue,” said Davies, the founder and coordinator of the National Association of School Psychologists Traumatic Brain Injury Interest Group. In 2016, she won the University’s Faculty Award in Scholarship from the UD Alumni Association.
“If we respond appropriately and we set those appropriate academic and environmental adjustments in place as soon as students return to school, they can recover quite quickly. On the other hand, if students come back to an educational environment that is not understanding their unique needs, it can really do some physical damage and prolong their recovery.”
Davies often uses what she calls the broken-leg analogy to make her point even more clear.
“You’re not going to put someone with a broken leg back in PE class, so likewise, if you have a child who’s coming back to school — and they can come back to school if they have symptoms — but they’re still experiencing headaches or light sensitivity and things like that, you shouldn’t be making them do a half day of standardized testing and then go to a pep rally,” Davies said.
School-based professionals with education and health care backgrounds, like LaScola, understand this. So did most of the 40-plus educators, psychologists, Ohio State Support Team members, physical trainers, injury prevention coordinators and others assembled at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources complex to hear Davies’ presentation. It was up to them, however, to bring that information back to their schools, their communities and their Ohio Department of Education regions to develop a team-based model to ensure their students could safely and effectively return to the classroom.
Community of care
Damien was an eighth-grade boy who was in a car accident that resulted in a broken leg, numerous cuts and abrasions, and a concussion. His family, teachers and medical providers tended to focus first and foremost on his visible injuries. However, Damien was also struggling with concussion symptoms that made the transition back to school particularly difficult. The night before he returned to school, it took Damien several hours to fall asleep. He had a terrible headache and was filled with anxiety about what to say to people and how to catch up on all the schoolwork he had missed.
“Damien” isn’t a real student, and his full “story” is one of the case studies Davies presents at training sessions and uses for analysis in her book, Managing Concussions in Schools: A Guide to Recognition, Response, and Leadership. Readers and participants are asked to discuss the warning signs students exhibit that indicate the need for educational adjustments and the issues school staff should recognize and respond to in such cases.
All of the examples presented could easily be composites of scenarios school staff face on a regular basis, including Davies during her career as a school psychologist.
“During my first year, I had a couple of cases where the students were presenting with unusual profiles, unusual patterns of strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “After delving a little deeper into their medical histories and some other things I’d learned in my own training, I’d learned they’d had previous traumatic brain injuries that weren’t revisited in their educational evaluations that happened before I came on the scene.”
Teachers kept flagging those children for potential learning disabilities or cognitive delays, but they weren’t qualifying for special educational services, Davies said. After all, the children had recovered physically. They seemed just fine.
‘My strategy with schools for concussion cases is helping them understand that if they have the right sort of supports and adjustments to the workload and academic environments in place, those kids can get better in a few days or weeks.’
A more detailed parent interview revealed past incidences of traumatic brain injury that hadn’t been reported to the school system.
“One of the girls I evaluated had been hit by a car when she was 2,” Davies said. “Everyone was very excited when she recovered, but when she started school, some of the repercussions only became evident when she needed to sustain attention for longer periods of time and engage in more complex social situations. She actually presented as a typical student who had a traumatic brain injury, but because it had happened in preschool, it really wasn’t on our school’s radar.”
When Davies began pursuing a doctorate in school psychology, she said she “made it her mission” to use her dissertation research to help teams of school professionals better understand brain injuries and how they could present in different ways. There were emotional, social and behavioral issues that often manifested, in addition to academic difficulties.
Immediate identification and treatment for the concussion is the first step. That’s taking place more often thanks to increased awareness of the danger of brain injury and the need for a quick response although nearly 33 percent of concussions in athletes go unreported, according to a paper in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.
What follows is just as critical, which is why Davies developed a concussion team model to ensure students’ return to educational settings happen as safely as possible without long-term damage.
One person is designated as the concussion team leader, or central communicator. This person could be a school nurse, school psychologist, counselor or administrator. He or she is responsible for receiving the injury reports and managing the documented return-to-learn process everyone else will
The student (or parent, for a younger child) should clearly communicate her symptoms, educational struggles and concerns, and the parent should help the child adhere to the plan while submitting any medical notes or instructions to the school. Academic team members should follow guidelines for recommended academic adjustments to excuse a student from a test or allow a student to opt out of activities that require extensive computer or tablet use, for example, as light sensitivity often follows traumatic brain injury.
School psychologists, counselors and speech language pathologists can work as consultants for more complicated cases and help create the plans that include explanations for certain academic adjustments. The medical team members provide the diagnosis and management of the injuries, while a school nurse can monitor in-school symptoms and help evaluate whether or not a student should stay in school or receive academic adjustments.
Athletic team members would manage the student’s return to the practice and playing field.
For the plan to unfold successfully, all team members have to maintain consistent communication, using the concussion team leader as a focal point.
“My strategy with schools for concussion cases is helping them understand that if they have the right supports and adjustments to the workload and academic environments in place, those kids can get better in a few days or weeks,” Davies said. “Occasionally you’ll have kids who’ll have persisting problems beyond a couple of months, but that’s not as common.”
Although managing traumatic brain injury in school settings has been Davies’ area of research for more than 10 years, she’s seen an uptick in interest during the last five with the national attention on sports-related concussions, particularly among football and soccer players. Laws requiring return-to-play protocol exist in all 50 states for student athletes, and school-based and recreational coaches receive concussion recognition and management training. Parents also receive that protocol when signing up their children for sports.
While athletic personnel play an important role in Davies’ concussion team model, she says traumatic brain injury is more likely to occur in more routine settings. General recreational activities, playground injuries and bicycle accidents are leading causes of concussion, especially among younger children. Abuse at home is also a culprit.
“You can’t forget about these kids who’ve fallen, been in fights or been in car accidents,” she said. “Concussions aren’t just a sports thing.”
LaScola, the Hudson Middle School nurse, has even seen students who sustained concussions from plain old “horsing around” and bumping heads, hitting their heads on walls or crashing into bleachers during a game in physical education class.
This is why Davies wants all school staff and educational personnel to be aware of the importance of recognizing and responding to concussions — young children are at high risk. The underdevelopment of the younger brain and a physical stature that makes young children’s heads and brains proportionally larger than the rest of their bodies make them more susceptible to brain injury compared to adults, Davies said. Developing motor skills and mobility also contribute to that risk.
But making the link between a child’s fall from the monkey bars and her lack of attention in a kindergarten class doesn’t often
happen in a school setting, to that child’s detriment.
“In comparison to students who sustain severe brain injuries, students who sustain concussions aren’t necessarily going to be experiencing prolonged, severe academic and behavioral issues,” Davies said. “They’re not likely going to qualify for special education, but schools need to know what to do with them, too.”
Ideally, the student would be getting enough rest and sleep following the injury, and limit physical and cognitive activity during that period. While students usually get physical rest, Davies stresses the importance of resting the brain, a step more likely to be neglected in the process. Schoolwork and technology access should be limited. Students who stay home from school should avoid extensive computer, video game, television and smartphone use. Such activities can prolong the healing process and even exacerbate symptoms, she said.
Easier said than done, said some of the attendees in Columbus.
“It’s a constant fight,” said LaScola, noting that tablets and other handheld devices are frequently a requirement in the classroom. Resistance often comes from students and other members who should be key parts of the team model.
Returning to school should be a gradual process, going from partial day attendance to full-day attendance with some academic adjustments (limited tests and homework), full-day attendance with no academic limitations and only physical limitations, and finally, full school participation, including
“If you do the right things, concussion symptoms will get better,” Davies said. “If you don’t, students can have protracted recovery and, should they sustain a second concussion before the first has resolved, that’s really when we see the potential for more permanent impairment. We really want to create that community of care around the students.”
Spreading the word
The attendees at the Ohio Department of Health workshop didn’t doubt the value of Davies’ presentation and the team model approach to helping their students return successfully to academic and extracurricular activity. Assembling the team, however, was more of a struggle.
“This isn’t a priority for a lot of teachers,” said Megan Trowbridge, a state support team member specializing in assistive technology. She attended with Erin Oleen, another state support team specialist in accommodations, modifications and alternate assessment. They serve Region 14, a mostly rural area of Southern Ohio between Columbus and Cincinnati. (Ohio’s schools are divided into 16 regions.)
Trowbridge and Oleen said they share information with schools in their regions but still have trouble emphasizing the importance of the team model for helping students recover from brain injury. For their area, the distance between schools and medical centers hamper the communication process, and a lack of resources also presents hurdles.
Because it’s impossible for Davies to make site visits to all interested communities, she hopes to train as many State Support Team members as possible so they can then lead the training sessions for their regions. She’s also created online trainings through the Ohio Department of Health project, and a University of Dayton graduate student, Maria Tedesco, is completing her graduate research on the effectiveness of online training programs.
Tedesco is studying the efficacy of an online training that Davies developed, which integrates information from existing programs, including the Centers for Disease Control’s Heads Up program and Columbus’ Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Concussion Clinic Resources for Education, and
piloted the training in nine Ohio schools. She gathered background information about participants’ role in their schools and past concussion training and experience. The assessment included questions related to concussion knowledge, recognition and response, and Tedesco is completing data collection to determine the training’s effectiveness.
Another of Davies’ graduate assistants, Allie Hundley, is completing trainings in low-income settings. She received a grant from the Ohio Injury Prevention Program to conduct sessions with parents of preschoolers in Head Start programs to recognize and respond to head injuries. All parents receive bike helmets and are taught to properly fit them.
“Preschoolers are mobile, but their gross motor skills aren’t fully developed yet,” Hundley said, mentioning why she targeted children ages 3-5. “They’re also at that exploratory stage where they want to move around a lot.”
All of which create a perfect brew for accidents leading to brain injury.
Hundley scheduled four training sessions during the fall and hopes to run more during the spring semester before she graduates. Hundley is in her third and final year of the education specialist program at UD and hopes to go into the field of school psychology.
Davies’ model can be applied to any educational setting, even as different challenges emerge with older students in high school and college.
They’re old enough to describe their symptoms and learn to advocate for themselves, she said, but actually doing so is a different story. In her first year at UD, Davies encountered a student who experienced multiple concussions in high school and an accident while at college. Although he looked fine and seemed fine, he was experiencing some “pretty serious” ramifications from those head injuries, Davies said. He slept a lot, reported constant headaches and had weak academic performance.
“Really nothing was sinking in,” she said.
The young man’s mother was his advocate, calling to wake him up and explaining his situation to professors, but Davies worked to get him a graduate student “coach” who could help him learn to self-advocate.
“I can’t imagine being an 18- or 19-year-old college student and getting a brain injury, because one of the effects of a brain injury is impaired self-awareness and impaired judgment,” Davies said. “When you are still just a couple of years fresh out of your parents’ house and you’re living away from home and you have a roommate, how can you take care of that?”
She’s also taught one of her graduate students to conduct trainings for resident assistants at UD and workers at RecPlex to develop skills in concussion recognition and response, and help the broader campus community — including disabilities services offices and students in general — gain greater understanding of brain injury.
“I do a lot of training of the trainers, because they’re the ones who have the credibility in their school buildings,” Davies says. “Those parents and teachers and their school don’t know me, but if I can train their trusted school psychologist or their school nurse to go in and help set up a concussion management team, it’s kind of an efficient way of outreach.”
The 40-plus attendees at Davies’ October training were a start. So were the parents who picked up a helmet from one of Hundley’s sessions and the educators who completed one of Tedesco’s online training modules. Each one is contributing to the community of care, becoming part of the team to help students return to learn.
In May 2016, eight undergraduate students began collecting, archiving and publicizing instances of moral courage — standing up on behalf of others in danger, regardless of the risk in doing so. The place was Ferguson, Missouri.
For months before, students had trained and researched with whom they should speak and what they should ask. It was not easy. Some activists were known only by their Twitter handles. Others did their work with little fanfare — the librarian who taught students when the schools closed, the peacekeeper who on the streets mediated between residents and officers. Jimmie Briggs, a journalist with St. Louis and Ferguson roots, helped students make the connections and develop the relationships needed to capture the testimonies.
When they arrived, the students put on headphones and held out microphones, asking 33 strangers to expose their souls and speak on issues of race and place, reality and hope. These voices add depth and texture to the headlines and protests that followed the police shooting death of Michael Brown Aug. 9, 2014.
In partnership with PROOF, a nonprofit advocating visual storytelling for human rights and peacebuilding, and led by assistant professor of human rights Joel R. Pruce, the project continues to bear witness. At a September campus forum, the students presented their work alongside stories of protest from Ayotzinapa, the college in Guerrero, Mexico, where 43 students disappeared. An exhibit of Ferguson photographs and testimony, Ferguson Voices: Disrupting the Frame, will be on display Jan. 17 – Feb. 3 in the Roesch Library first floor gallery, before traveling to other exhibit sites in Dayton, St. Louis and Ferguson. For more voices, including those of the student participants, visit
Founder, Show Me Arts Academy
I told my husband, “Oh, I’m ’bout to go over there.” He said, “No, you don’t need to go.” I said, “Yes I do need to go over there because, if this was my baby, I would want someone to come over and be there for me.” He was like, “You don’t even know her. You don’t know them. You’ll get hurt.” I said, “And that’s what’s wrong with us now.” We feel like because it’s not personal, since I don’t know the person that I can’t have compassion for the person. I said, “As long as we continue to operate in that manner and not just simply take the time out to embrace somebody in a bad situation, we’ll never figure out what’s going on.” But we were weeks into it. I found myself feeling empowered.
Community advocate, third-generation Ferguson resident
I have learned so much in the last 20 months, like stuff … I just didn’t understand from being white, from growing up white, from being raised white that I didn’t understand. A lot of it has to do with dialogues and conversations that took place at protests, which inspired me to do more research on my own, to look things up, to read things, whether I was comfortable with it or not comfortable with it or whatever — there were things that I needed to listen to. … So those sort of relationships really inspired me.
Veteran officer, Ferguson Police Department
You gotta remember I’ve been here 27 years, so I’m a grandpa here. And the protesters don’t have to like me. But I tell our officers, you treat people fairly, and they’ll treat you fairly. [People] would tell me problems, whether in their own home or outside of their home, because they felt comfortable. I would want you to talk to me. I don’t want kids to be scared of me. Those parents that say you better watch it or he’ll take you to jail, that hurts me ’cause I don’t want a kid to feel that he can’t approach me. I want families to approach me because there are problems that we can’t see.
Anti-violence advocate, union autoworker
I kind of like tell people all the time, if you wasn’t here when it happened, you kinda missed out on a great opportunity, ’cause on TV, it looked like a warzone. … It was like 98 percent family reunion, 2 percent riot. … And everybody getting along. I seen enemies, I seen cats that I had beef with growin’ up, and they seen me, like bro, bro, come give me a hug. I’m like, that’s what’s up. It only lasted about two weeks, but it still felt good while it happened.
Editor’s note: Seals was murdered Sept. 6, 2016
Lucas Keefer didn’t take his toaster with him when he moved from Dayton to Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Keefer, a post-doctoral research fellow in psychology at UD from August 2014 to June 2016, left to accept a tenure-track position at the University of Southern Mississippi. He also left behind the state where he has family, including a 1-year-old niece, within a three-hour drive.
Yet Keefer, who’s lived in four states during the past 10 years, is used to being in transit — and has studied the impact of just this type of mobility. While he was at UD, he co-wrote a paper with Omri Gillath, associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, that suggests highly mobile people are more likely to view possessions as disposable — and, in turn, friendships and romantic partners as well.
Keefer and Gillath outlined the findings from their four studies in the paper, published in the April 2016 journal Personal Relationships. Together, they suggest that people who are more mobile think of their belongings as disposable, which perhaps is what also leads them to think of their relationships as disposable.
“When you put it all together, mobility is indirectly affecting our commitment to our relationships because it changes how we feel about our material possessions and, likewise, how we feel about relationships,” said Keefer, who’s seen the study results play out somewhat in his own life.
“I definitely ascribe to that first part of the process, that people who move often are more willing to throw things away,” he said. “I would throw away all my belongings except my computer, books and guitar (when I move).
“But I don’t know if that’s affected my relationships,” he continued. “My data would suggest that it has, but if so I’m not aware of it.”
Molly Blake ’96 still mails friends and family handwritten birthday cards — despite the fact that, as the wife of a recently retired Marine, she has moved 11 times since college graduation. Her seventh-grade daughter has attended seven schools.
“There have definitely been people who I’ve been great friends with and have lost touch with, not for any malicious reason but because some people just are not great at keeping in touch,” Blake said. “I happen to be really good at keeping in touch. I learned that from my mom, but also from being in a military family. I work hard to cultivate my friendships because I’ve needed them. I had a baby while my husband was in Iraq, and it was the military connection that made it easier. Military families really rely on each other and create a very special bond.”
While a romantic relationship led to Blake’s move-a-lot lifestyle, Keefer and Gillath found romance may be a casualty for other highly mobile folks.
UD alumnus Paul Sozio ’15 agrees: “I was dating a girl when I was in Argentina and, while it was exciting at the time, we went back to our respective countries when we left Argentina,” said Sozio, who has lived in Honduras, Nicaragua and Argentina during study abroad programs and while working for nongovernmental organizations. “Going into it, you think, ‘This probably isn’t a permanent thing’ in the back of your head.
“But for me, you can’t put up a wall and think, ‘I don’t want to get close to anyone,’ because it’s more important to cherish the time you do have together and be present,” he added. “You have to know that the people you really click with, you’re going to stay in touch.”
Jake Muniak ’14 has moved between Ohio, Nicaragua, Denver and Seattle since graduation and is now a travel service consultant for South America Travel. He agrees that many friendships fade with frequent moves, but others remain solid.
“A real relationship takes a lot of work, and that becomes more so when you don’t see that person every day,” he said. “I visited my college roommate in Chicago when I was traveling from Ohio to Seattle and it was like, ‘Wow, I don’t know the next time I’ll see you.’ We made plans to meet up on St. Patrick’s Day 2017. He might have to come to Brazil to make that happen.
“Making plans is one thing. Following through is another ball game.”
After many years of a highly mobile lifestyle, Blake also has found certain friends — particularly those from her UD days — stand the test of time.
“Most people at the age of 42 have their group of friends they’ve had since they graduated from college and moved into their house,” Blake said. “We don’t have that. We have friends all over the place. We’ve never had family near us so we can’t be like, ‘Let’s go to my parents’ house on Sunday.’
“This is part of why I treasure my true friends so much,” she added. “My Dayton roommates and I just had our 20-year reunion. I love those girls. It means a lot to me that we can get together and hang out as if no time has gone by.”
Kaitlyn Ridel ’13 wanted to live in Washington, D.C. — and she does, although it’s taken some moves back and forth between there and her hometown of Cleveland, as well as between Boston and Dayton, to make it happen. Now, Ridel is a brand and communications specialist for FiscalNote.
“My family is very close, and they’re all in the Cleveland area,” she said. “I’m the only one who’s kind of stayed away so I feel like an oddball sometimes, but I’ve always loved politics and policy so D.C. seems like the right place for that. My career, for now, is going to come first, and my family understands that.
“I do love Ohio, but I need to see if I can make D.C. work,” she added. “I have a really great set of friends here and a great job and want to see where it goes.”
In their paper, Keefer and Gillath note that mobility can have two effects. Moves within the same community are unlikely to have much impact on social networks. Long-distance moves, on the other hand, are likely to result in both geographical and social network changes.
Today, young people such as Ridel and Muniak often focus on the places where they want to live, and then find jobs.
“Having a job where I can be mobile and make enough to pay off my student loans is a goal, and this job provides that,” Muniak said. “I’m at that stage in life where I can stay in a hostel with 30 people and sleep on the floor. One day, I will want to lay low and settle down, and I want to know I squeezed everything out of that time when I could be transient.”
Sozio grew up in Cleveland, where his parents planned trips that helped him catch the travel bug.
“I’ve been stateside for two weeks and I’m already wondering where my next trip will be to,” he said after returning from Nicaragua. “I need something to plan and look forward to.”
For Blake, after all her moving about, she’s ready to settle down in her new home in Littleton, Colorado — a place she and her husband selected for their love of the mountains and skiing and the fact that her family has a vacation home nearby.
“We bought a house that’s a bit of a renovation project,” she said. “We’ve never had a clean slate to make our own and build that dream deck and fire pit.”
Settling down also means Blake can add some color to her home’s style.
“Now we have this huge house, and we don’t have any furniture,” she said. “Before, everything we owned was beige or brown so if we lived in a historical charmer or a new hacienda house, it would fit.”
Yet Blake isn’t used to having much in the way of stuff.
“We’re lean and mean and ready to move at a moment’s notice,” she said. “If we can’t get both our cars in our garage because there’s too much crap in there, we almost lose our minds. We have drawers that are completely empty and closets with one thing in them.”
“We’ve had houses we’ve rented and sold and it was the same situation,” she added. “Even big stuff like a house — I still had no connection to it.”
Indeed, Keefer and Gillath found this to be typical of highly mobile people.
Their paper also notes one practical aspect of moving has received little attention in existing residential mobility research: When moving, people must decide what possessions are worth moving and what can be left behind.
“If we were to time travel to a place when everything we owned was a family heirloom, perhaps we wouldn’t throw things out,” Keefer said. “So potentially in places high in residential mobility, we
also have a culture of easily replaceable consumer goods. But those and other implications are still open questions.”
Ridel, Muniak and Sozio are with Blake when it comes to traveling light. Ridel has moved photo albums and a good Italian cooking pan from place to place but otherwise rents furnished apartments. Muniak and Sozio move functional things, such as solid boots and a good rain jacket and,in Sozio’s case, a guitar.
“I’m not a very good interior decorator because everything I have is secondhand,” Muniak said.
For Sozio, living and working in places such as Honduras and Nicaragua where many people are impoverished also caused him to look at his belongings in a different way. “You look at your own material possessions and reconsider what you really need and what is really valuable,” he said. “There are some things you should cherish, but generally speaking it makes you less attached to stuff.”
So what does this research say about the human experience?
“The conceptual thread connecting these is the similarities between our relationships and objects,” Keefer said. “We have a willingness to throw things away and a willingness to get rid of relationships. In a way, we’re treating people as objects, and that’s what draws this together.”
But finding the big picture would require additional research.
“Whatever connects mobility to whether or not we keep relationships is more complicated than we have the data to tell,” Keefer said. “The connection to moving and keeping relationships is complex. The human story and why this is important is a question that is still a bit open.”
And with this study, he added, no conclusions can be drawn about whether or not this willingness to dispose of belongings, and therefore relationships, is healthy or unhealthy. Nor does the study take into account the ever-growing influence of technology and social media on our relationships and ability to maintain them.
Gillath noted the research findings show “we need to pay more attention to people’s moves and mobility, and we need to think about the ease of moving and the ease of getting rid of things and of ties, because it might result in various relational difficulties down the line.
“There is a connection between how we view our lives and our physical surroundings and how we perceive our social ties,” he added. “And we pay a price for the ease of mobility and the tendency of people to dispose of things in their lives.”
For Keefer, “Maintaining old ties seems like a double-edged sword. It can meet some social needs to stay in touch, but it can be stifling to forming new social circles in the new location. There is some advantage to knowing someone nearby who can feed your cat when you’re out of town. Ultimately, we are social beings.”
Beings who, when settling in a new home, have a much easier time getting a new toaster than finding new friends to feed that cat — and so much more.
To read more on the research article this article is based on, please here .
What we keep, and what we leave behind: Findings from the residential mobility research
The paper published in the April 2016 journal Personal Relationships by Lucas Keefer and Omri Gillath was a merger of their interests.
Keefer’s research focuses on attachment to objects, and Gillath’s on attachment to friends and romantic partners. After working together in a University of Kansas lab, they decided to join forces to examine the question of how mobility relates to our material possessions and how we relate to close
They also looked to past research conducted by Jewish German psychologist Kurt Lewin, who wrote in a 1936 paper about Americans’ penchant to quickly make — and discard — friends. They also examined more recent research by Shigehiro Oishi of the University of Virginia and others.
“We had this idea about how mobility relates to material possessions and human relationships, and we found that research from 80 years ago is still very applicable,” Keefer said.
To build on the work of Lewin and others, Keefer and Gillath conducted studies in which participants completed questionnaires, including a “Willingness to Dispose Inventory” designed to assess people’s willingness to dispose of objects and close relationships (friends and romantic partners). Participants also were asked about their history of moving.
Studies were held starting in 2009 at the University of Kansas, where Keefer did his graduate work before coming to UD. Another three studies were held every year or two as Keefer and Gillath tweaked and added to their body of work and research findings.
Four studies were part of the research presented in their paper, “Generalizing Disposability: Residential Mobility and the Willingness to Dissolve Social Ties.”
Study one examined whether the perception of objects as disposable is associated with perceiving friends in a similar way. It showed people’s tendencies to dispose of objects and social ties are related.
Studies two and three tested whether high residential mobility makes people more likely to dispose of objects, which in turn results in an increased willingness to cut certain social ties. The studies demonstrated that a history of residential mobility (study two) and increasing residential mobility (study three) likewise increase the willingness to dispose of objects and, through that, dispose of social ties.
Study four compared the geographic and relationship aspects of residential mobility and tested whether changes in social networks have a direct effect on what the researchers called “relational disposability.” This study showed that the relationship aspect of residential mobility is crucial in affecting relational disposability.
“The more a person has moved or relocated, the more he or she had to dispose of his or her possessions (at least some),” Keefer and Gillath write in their paper. “The more he or she disposed of possessions, the more likely he or she is to see possessions or objects as disposable. Once such a disposable approach was adopted, it may be extended or generalized to social ties, coloring the perception of people or social ties as more ephemeral and easily ‘disposed.’
“Taken together, the four studies provide consistent support for the idea that higher residential mobility results in higher willingness and tendency to dispose of social ties,” the paper reads. “Our studies provide support not only for an association between attitudes toward objects and people but also provide evidence that this perspective has important implications for the study of close relationships. Pressure to act in specific ways toward material objects — in this case, to dispose of them — may have subtle yet important implications for how people act toward other humans.”
To read the full article, “Traveling Light,” click here .
It’s a warm, sunny night, the sun is hanging on the mountain range in the distance, and Molly McKinley ’01 is rolling down the tundra.
Tundra rolling may be a time-honored tradition more often carried out by children and the resident grizzly bears, but it’s also how McKinley likes to celebrate a warm summer night in Alaska: going side-over-side down the alpine biome. Throw in a handful of wild blueberries and she might just be in heaven.
Welcome to 99-year-old Denali National Park, one of the amazing American places protected by the National Park Service.
It has been 100 years since the National Park Service was founded, and in that time 412 wilderness areas and historic sites, natural wonders and national monuments have been created, recognized and protected. The oldest, the National Mall, was designated 226 years ago and grandfathered into the Park Service; the newest, Stonewall National Monument, was inducted June 24 of this year. Dubbed “America’s best idea” by writer Wallace Stegner, the National Parks model has been exported to countries around the world.
While the National Parks are full of monuments and glaciers, endangered species and civil rights memorials, perhaps their most important assets are their stories. Stories that celebrate natural wonders, such as the bristled trees of Joshua Tree National Park, and stories that reveal devastating human histories, such as the slaughter of 300 people in Sand Creek, South Dakota, and the internment of 117,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.
Those stories are at the core of the National Park Service mission: to preserve, “unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”
As the National Park Service prepared for its centennial celebration in August, University of Dayton alumni reflected on the important roles our parks play in society today and regaled us with their own stories of the National Parks and its mission.
Discover History: Preserving
Perhaps it’s natural that history major Ann Honious ’00 ended up working for the National Park Service, a leader in historic preservation and responsible for preserving everything from the stories of Paleo-Indians in North America 12,000 years ago to the Chesapeake Bay landscape associated with both the beginning and end of slavery in the United States to the Wright brothers bicycle shop.
Honious began at the Park Service in 1992, surveying historic buildings and parks and cataloguing historic structures. She worked at the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park before becoming the second employee at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park. She then went to the Gateway Arch — formally the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial — where she oversaw for nearly six years the history, museum and ranger programs.
Today, she’s the deputy superintendent of Capitol Parks East in D.C. and the administrator for roughly 15 parks east of the Capitol, including the historic home of Frederick Douglass and Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens.
“I’ve always been interested in telling stories, and the National Park Service gives an opportunity to tell those stories where they happened,” says Honious. That’s the National Parks’ purpose: “They help you find or get to know your country — whether that be on a hike in the Grand Canyon or a visit to Independence Hall.”
Or on a tour of one of the nation’s 11 National Battlefields.
When Dale Floyd ’68 walked the parks and fields of the American South back in the mid-1990s, he wasn’t looking at the trees or the animals, he was mapping Civil War battlefields in his mind’s eye. And on paper.
For nearly five years the historian served on the Park Service’s Civil War sites advisory commission, helping determine the nation’s most important Civil War battle sites. The Army had already done much of the heavy lifting, identifying 10,500 Civil War battles, and Floyd and colleagues used that documentation as a jumping off point. They narrowed the list to about 500 sites of import and set out to investigate.
With U.S. Geological Survey maps in hand, Floyd walked the sites, inspecting fields and pastures, determining the significance of the battles waged, and the condition of the land and any remaining artifacts. He evaluated what threats existed to the sites, and what might in the future. Some of the battlefields were mostly gone, developed or encroached upon. Artifacts at others had been mined by individuals.
In the end, Floyd and his co-authors drew up an argument for preservation of many of the sites. Without it, the report said, the nation stood to lose fully two-thirds of its major Civil War battlefields. Soon, the American Battlefield Protection Program was established and, in 1996, Congress signed into law the American Battlefield Protection Act. Under the National Park Service, the ABPP “promotes the preservation of significant historic battlefields associated with wars on American soil.”
Today, the Park Service oversees 11 National Battlefields, four National Battlefield Parks and one National Battlefield Site. While not all of the nation’s Civil War and Revolutionary battle sites are encompassed within the National Parks, many are. Antietam National Battlefield, for example, commemorates the bloodiest one-day battle in American history, a day where 23,000 soldiers were declared dead, wounded or missing after 12 hours of battle. Preserving such history is part of the Parks’ mission — and value.
“The Park Service is custodian of important properties,” says Floyd, who has since retired. “And the Parks are the conservators of what are supposed to be our most important historical properties.”
That historic conservation extends to manmade technology and its consequences. For instance, there’s the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park, which “preserves and interprets the history and legacies” of the Wright brothers and one of America’s great African-American poets, Paul Laurence Dunbar. Kimberly Juhnke ’02 is one of many UD alumni to intern as an interpretive ranger — think educator in a uniform — at Dayton Aviation.
To Juhnke, having a program that tells the story of the people and experiences that changed America is critical.
“Each site you go to you learn something new. It’s important to know where you came from, and what happened in our country,” says Juhnke. “The Wright brothers, for example, were such innovative men, and they never even graduated from high school. That’s a testament to that time period.”
While some sites celebrate innovation and American spirit, others serve as testament to American ingenuity gone unchecked, including the Johnstown Flood Memorial.
In the late 1800s, the wealthy citizens of Pittsburgh bought a reservoir, converted a dam and created a massive lake for a private resort. They altered the dam but failed to maintain it properly and, in 1889, a storm destroyed the dam, killing 2,209 civilians below. The Great Flood, as it’s known, also led to the creation of the Army Corps of Engineers. And yet, says Juhnke — who worked at Johnstown, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Site and the Flight 93 Memorial for a year after graduation — few would really know about that flood, or that devastation, were it not for the National Parks preserved memorial.
Preserving cultural and natural places may be core aspects of the Parks’ mission, but education is paramount. Education — about wild plants and animals or about historic events — inspires people to protect the parks for the future. It also shapes dreams.
Steven Roberts ’97 knows this firsthand.
It was a balmy Florida evening in 1997 when Roberts, alongside Greg Leingang ’97 and Brian Boynton ’98, first discovered the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. The classmates had mapped their spring break by National Parks, arriving seven parks later at the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.
Studying history growing up, Roberts had learned about Jamestown and about the Mayflower, but no one had ever taught him about the influence of the Spanish. As the lights burned below the walls of the Castillo, turning it into a glowing castle, Roberts knew he’d be back someday.
“The Castillo, built more than 300 years ago, isn’t just an old building, it tells special stories about freedom, about defending family, about sacrifice,” says Roberts. “Creating those experiences in real places has a huge power to help people find their own values, to find their own meanings in America’s special places.”
Roberts has spent the 20 years since that visit sharing the stories of America’s past through National Parks, beginning at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park where he worked as a seasonal park ranger. Later, at Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial, he revealed the lives of those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. He worked at James A. Garfield National Historic Site and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
“I found specialness in the places,” says Roberts. “These were authentic places that had real stories of America for people to experience and actually become a part of during their visit.”
That Parks mission of education — and of sharing something important about America’s past with visitors from around the world — is ingrained in Roberts. “We help people care about their national parks, and about these national stories, and about these special resources. We hope they will get excited about them and also want to share these stories and become stewards of their own national parks. These are the people’s parks.”
Now, 20 years after that initial visit, Roberts is back at the Castillo where he serves as chief of interpretation and education.
If the Spanish arrival to America and their influence on the United States seems like ancient history, try donning Jeff Malik’s ranger hat.
In the high, cold desert of Kemmerer, Wyoming, there’s neither cactus nor bare earth in sight. Instead, sagebrush and mesquite and hardy vegetation clings to the earth, and prairie dogs run wild. A rock outcropping, Fossil Butte, hangs above the remains of an ancient lake. In that ancient lake are the fossilized remains of palm trees and alligators.
Malik, who is currently completing his master’s in public administration at UD, spent the summers of 2009 and 2010 at Fossil Butte National Monument, working as an interpretive officer, doing everything from leading tours to managing invasive species. The most exciting part of the job, however, was providing environmental education and especially fossil education.
Fossil Butte is home to 50-million-year-old fossils — among the best preserved in the world — and as such, it’s a destination for many families. One trail leads to an active resource quarry where researchers dig for fossilized fish. Visitors can watch the dig and, perhaps more important, rangers and researchers let kids lift up slabs of rock, look for fish and measure the fossils found.
To Malik, that kind of firsthand education is what makes the National Parks so important. They’re an opportunity for people to directly connect with nature, and with some of the most important parts of America.
“I mean that both in a natural environment setting and in a historic setting. It lets people experience these places firsthand, in a way that there’s no other chance for them to otherwise,” says Malik. “There’s just nothing that can compare to a kid going camping for the first time or seeing herds of bison in Yellowstone or viewing the Grand Canyon.
“That’s where the power is; that potential for a transformative experience.”
Which perhaps explains why the National Park Service is celebrating its centennial.
Explore nature: preserving
Today, 480 threatened and endangered plant and animal species exist within the areas protected by the National Parks, and the Park Service is charged with reducing the risk of their extinction while simultaneously telling the stories of these places, plants and animals to those responsible for preventing that extinction — the public.
McKinley, outdoor recreation planner at Denali National Park and resident tundra roller, has countless tales about the National Parks and run-ins with endangered species. The view from her office window in the woods offers spruce and alder and, quite routinely, a moose, but a short drive or hike leads to a world covered in tundra. Denali is green in summer, white in winter, and brown during spring — or mud season. Then, for a short time in autumn, there’s an explosion of color as the tundra comes alive in a way most people don’t expect. There’s a fabric to the place, says McKinley, a carpet of purples and reds and oranges.
During her Park Service career McKinley has spent a day perched on a glacier using a battery-operated chainsaw disassembling a decades-old plane crash for recycling. She has come upon a moose kill and a bear dining on that kill, and she has learned, midway through a river crossing, that caribou huff through their nostrils at humans. And, there was the day that, while surveying a new trail location, she looked up to discover one of those
endangered species the Parks seek to protect — a lynx — just 15 feet away.
“One of our goals is to not interrupt the activity of the wildlife if no one’s in danger, so I was just hanging out with this lynx,” she says. “Me and a lynx, for kind of a long time, and the lynx wasn’t scared of me and I wasn’t scared of it. But there’s this huge beautiful cat, with tufts of fur coming out of its ears, and huge paws that allow it to walk on the snow in the winter, and to be that close to such a different, beautiful, amazing creature is really special. I feel really blessed by those opportunities.”
Coming to Alaska is striking and sometimes hard to wrap our heads around, she says, but that’s part of the enjoyment: “Everything here is so darn big. The mountains are big, the landscape is big, the mammals are big. I think for some people it creates a baseline shift in how the world around us can feel. And, when the world around us feels really big, it can make you feel really small. Or, it can make you feel awed and inspired.”
Which is what the Parks are after: preserving natural places for education, enjoyment and inspiration. In fact, the National Parks stewards, and celebrates, some of the most spectacular scenic places in the United States. There’s the windswept Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, one of the of the 88 coastal and ocean parks in the system; the 4,700 caves and karsts scattered across the country, such as the lava tubes at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho; and the star-filled skies over the buttes of Canyonlands National Park. And then there’s Old Faithful.
Yellowstone National Park, home to Old Faithful, became the world’s first national park in 1872, decades before the creation of the National Park Service. In August 1916, the Department of the Interior was overseeing 21 national monuments, 14 national parks and two national reservations, with no umbrella organization to run or manage them. With support from journalists, the National Geographic Society and more, Congress passed the Organic Act, establishing the National Park Service, and placing the 37 parks under its protection. Chief among those was Yellowstone. Today, Yellowstone encompasses 3,472 square miles, 500 active geysers, 900 historic buildings, 1,800 known archeological sites and two endangered species: the Canada lynx and the grizzly bear.
Melissa McAdam ’83 has seen much of this and more. Some of it from her office window, which on this day offers a view of a grazing female elk framed against a backdrop of historic buildings. Nearby, a tree bears the weight of a giant owl condo. The nests there have produced multiple flocks, and a parliament of owlets is fluttering among the branches. Tourists stand below, cameras trained on the baby birds, oblivious to the elk grazing nearby.
McAdam landed at the world’s first national park in the early 1980s on a lark. A friend had returned to UD raving about her summer working at Yellowstone, and so McAdam followed suit. In 1982, between her junior and senior years, she spent the summer working in reservations at Yellowstone. She returned in 1983 (and met her now husband, Rick), then left for a while to “try to do the real job thing.”
But Yellowstone beckoned. By 1985 they had returned for good.
“For us it’s the scenery, the feeling of openness, of spaciousness. When you grow up in the suburbs of the east, as I did, this is a different experience. It’s a feeling you can breathe,” she says of her decision to make Yellowstone home.
McAdam began her career as an accounting technician, then volunteered in the public affairs office before landing a job in the emergency communications center. She’s been working full time for Yellowstone National Park ever since and today holds the title of supervisory budget analyst. Her staff handles everything from human resources to procurement to budget management for the resource management and science branches of Yellowstone. Or the animal, vegetable, mineral branch, as she calls it.
“I like the idea of being part of a community — such a tight knit community — that’s also tied to a mission,” she says. “I’m still amazed by the wildlife. And the features — I don’t spend enough time at Old Faithful, but the features are unlike any other in the world.”
And then, there is the intersection of exploring nature and discovering history; of cultural and environmental preservation. Saratoga National Historical Park — one of the nation’s 50 National Historic Parks — melds cultural preservation and natural exploration. The park, in upstate New York, is rural, and the Revolutionary War battlefield that comprises the majority of the park has been protected from much of the encroachment that has happened at other historic sites. Saratoga has one big looping road that encompasses much of where the fighting happened in 1777. There are 10 places you can stop to see significant battle sites, and trails — paved and unpaved — jut out from each.
It looks much as it would have in the 1700s, says Jason Huarte ’02, and that means this park has given him an appreciation for the American Revolution and how difficult life was.
“It makes you pretty grateful for what we have now,” says Huarte. “Just a couple hundred years ago there were guys cutting down trees and building walls so lead balls didn’t go through their bellies.”
Huarte, an engineer and the supervisory facilities operation specialist at Saratoga, has seen his share of National Parks. He was sent to the Statue of Liberty after Hurricane Sandy and helped the National Park Service design a whole new docking system at Ellis and Liberty Islands. He has seen the massive red sandstone cliffs and narrow slot canyons of Zion National Park and most of the monuments in Washington, D.C. And of course, there were the years he spent as an engineer with the National Park Service in Alaska, flying on four-seat floatplanes to the wilds for a project, or helicoptering into the middle of nowhere to oversee construction.
“You see bears fishing in rivers, hear wolves at night. … And you’re on the clock. People save their entire lives to go see the things I saw while on the job,” he says.
Such wildlife may be why Huarte’s veneration extends beyond Saratoga and to the Parks in general.
“It makes you appreciate how rich of a country we are in natural resources. You have Alaska with glaciers, and then you have Death Valley — all in one country.”
The proud holder of a National Parks Passport — a little booklet filled with stamps that track every check-in at every National Park, Monument or Site — Huarte has already been to 112 of the 412 National Parks. Like many alumni, whether they work for the Park Service or not, his life goal is to visit them all.
“They call the National Parks America’s greatest idea,” he says. “I think it’s true.”
Citizens are reclaiming their neighborhood, and UD is nourishing the partnership.
The Twin Towers neighborhood in East Dayton was once a thriving residential community with a prominent business district.
That all changed in 1962 with the construction of U.S. Route 35 through Dayton, which forced thousands of Twin Towers families to relocate and many of its businesses and industries to close.
“It was a very traumatic time in the neighborhood,” said Leslie Sheward, president of the Twin Towers Neighborhood Association, who has lived in the community for all of her 60 years. “They tore down over 5,000 homes and displaced over 20,000 residents — that was just in this neighborhood alone.”
Sheward, a plain-spoken woman with a shock of gray hair, recalled her childhood home being among those taken by the highway project.
A partnership among the University of Dayton, East End Community Services and Mission of Mary Cooperative is working to transform the former Lincoln Elementary School site at 401 Nassau St. into an urban farm and greenspace.
Long-term plans call for the mostly vacant 5-acre site, dubbed Lincoln Hill Gardens, to feature greenhouses, community garden plots, natural playscapes, a wetland restoration area, a community education kitchen and performance pavilion.
“What it means to the community is a chance to, for once, be given back to, instead of taken from,” Sheward said.
Lincoln Hill Gardens is the first high-profile project for the University’s Hanley Sustainability Institute. Established in 2014 with a $12.5 million gift from the George and Amanda Hanley Foundation, the institute aims to extend the University’s sustainability efforts across campus and into the Dayton community. Its goals include creating an urban agriculture demonstration project in the community that can be sustained and reproduced elsewhere in Dayton and beyond.
“It’s an opportunity for UD to learn and benefit from the important conversations we are having with crucial community partners,” Pair said.
Downtown Dayton and its surrounding areas is considered a “food desert” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture because there is limited access to healthy and affordable food within a half-mile radius — particularly for low-income residents.
Located less than 2 miles from the University’s campus, Twin Towers is a community where 63 percent of the children live below the poverty level, more than double the statewide average.
The neighborhood’s population boomed during World War II, when thousands of people flocked from Appalachia to work in its war-time factories.
But the U.S. 35 construction continued for nearly 10 years, until 1971. During that time, Twin Towers began its decline from a prosperous, self-contained community to a deteriorating neighborhood blighted by crime and boarded-up homes.
In recent years, Twin Towers has worked with area partners to address those issues by tearing down vacant homes, building more affordable housing, increasing police patrols and opening an outreach addiction center.
The Hanley Institute hopes to increase food accessibility in that area through Lincoln Hill Gardens, said Tess Keener ’15, who served as project coordinator through May.
“It is building on partnerships that we already have in making the University a leader in the regional food conversations, which are really prevalent with former Congressman Tony Hall’s new initiatives to reduce hunger in Dayton,” she said.
Keener began working on the Lincoln Hill Gardens project in summer 2015 as the Hanley Institute’s first undergraduate fellow. She continued to coordinate the project after graduating in December, and then left in May to take a full-time position at Homefull, a Dayton nonprofit that works to end homelessness.
The Hanley Institute funded a site development plan by MKSK, a Columbus, Ohio-based landscape architecture and urban design firm whose projects also include RiverScape MetroPark in Dayton.
The institute also paid for construction of three greenhouse-like hoop houses at Lincoln Hill Gardens and is covering maintenance and utilities fees for the site.
“We would like other communities to see what has been done on the Lincoln Hill Gardens site — the site of a former Dayton Public Schools elementary school — and say: ‘Gosh. We have some vacant land in our area; we’d like to do something similar in our neighborhood,’” Pair said.
The Lincoln Hill project officially launched in January with a site assessment, information gathering and goal setting by MKSK and the project partners. In February, the first public meeting was held to solicit campus and community input.
But the garden’s roots go much deeper, stretching back several years.
In fall 2013, the University became partners with Growing Power, an urban agriculture training and growing site in Milwaukee. Will Allen, Growing Power’s founder and chief executive, visited Dayton to speak on campus.
George Hanley ’77 and Amanda Hanley were interested in using Growing Power as a model for Dayton, said Ryan McEwan, associate professor of biology.
In January 2014, McEwan and other faculty and community members traveled to Milwaukee to learn how to implement an urban agriculture project with community support. Additional faculty and community members attended Growing Power workshops in subsequent months.
“The purpose of it was to think about how the University of Dayton could engage in urban agriculture in the region in a general sense,” McEwan said. “I think that was really the first step in the whole thing.”
Meanwhile, East End Community Services was eyeing the former Lincoln School site. Dayton Public Schools closed the school in 2006 and demolished the structure in January 2012, scraping the surrounding turf down to the glacial till.
It also overlooks St. Mary’s Catholic Church, a Romanesque-style church built in 1906. Twin Towers takes its name from the church’s two matching spires.
Sheward said area residents gather at the top of the hill to watch the city of Dayton’s Fourth of July fireworks display and to shoot off their own firecrackers and rockets. People also use the site for sledding and four-wheeling, as evidenced by the visible ruts from truck and all-terrain vehicle tires.
To the north, the former school site slopes down to a densely wooded area. The ground to the west drops sharply down a 25-foot grade to an existing, man-made rain garden for storm water runoff.
East End Community Services was concerned about development at the site, said Kate Ervin, the nonprofit organization’s director of community development and a 2006 graduate of the University’s Master of Public Administration program.
“A lot of neighbors were afraid when the school was torn down a few years ago that something would be developed that wouldn’t be a community asset,” Ervin said. “East End really wanted to ensure that we got the land and it would serve neighborhood purposes.”
In 2015, East End purchased the site from the city of Dayton for $35,000 with funding from an Ohio Housing Finance Agency grant.
Conversations about using the site for urban agriculture started well before East End acquired the property, said Stephen Mackell ’13, urban farm manager for Mission of Mary Cooperative.
“We spoke with them several years ago about the 5-acre site — what could happen up there and how we could make urban farming a little enterprise to eventually employ people in the neighborhood,” he said.
Founded in the spirit of Mary in 2010 by Michael Schulz ’07 and a group of lay Marianists, Mission of Mary is a faith-based nonprofit organization focused on food and economic social justice issues, especially healthy food access and affordability. University faculty, staff and students often work alongside Mission of Mary staff on service learning projects in the community.
Mission of Mary operates three urban agriculture plots in the Twin Towers neighborhood, totaling about 2.5 acres of land. Lincoln Hill Garden will be the fourth and largest, as well as the first to have large-production hoop houses.
Pair said Marianist urban gardening dates back nearly a century.
“Urban gardening is not a new idea for the Marianists,” he explained. “Mission of Mary is the latest rediscovery and exploration of that central concept of community building.”
A native of Findlay, Ohio, Mackell started volunteering for Mission of Mary as an undergraduate and joined the staff full time after completing his bachelor’s degree in economics and philosophy.
As with Mission of Mary, the University has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with East End Community Services. After the launch of the Hanley Institute, East End and Mission of Mary looked to the University as an essential partner in the project. They asked if UD wanted to be involved in a formal way.
In early 2014, Mackell made five University-sponsored trips to Growing Power in Milwaukee to see if Allen’s urban agriculture techniques could be applied to the Lincoln Hill project. He accompanied McEwan on the first trip.
“I’d say that’s when things got serious about the partnership among the three organizations: Mission of Mary, East End Community Services and UD,” he said.
The partners’ goals for the project were outlined in MKSK’s public presentations. They include providing an educational and research space for learning about sustainable land and food practices; creating a community green space for outdoor recreation and experiencing nature; and creating an urban farm that produces healthy food and provides job training and income for the community.
Aligning those goals with the wants and needs of both residents and faculty hasn’t always been an easy process. In early April, workshop discussions about MKSK’s conceptual plans at both East End’s community center and a campus ArtStreet gallery turned contentious.
At ArtStreet, McEwan expressed fears that Lincoln Hill Gardens would become an overly landscaped park with well-manicured lawns, as opposed to a more natural setting where he could engage his environmental biology students in research projects involving native plans and ecological restoration.
“Where do UD students fit in?” he asked.
Concerns also were raised about striking a balance between public spaces and semi-private zones such as Mission of Mary’s garden plots.
Another meeting that evening for Twin Towers residents was even more heated.
The nearly three dozen community members who gathered were a mix of ages and races and included both longtime residents and recent arrivals to the neighborhood.
“An urban farm doesn’t make sense to me; an urban park does,” said Liz Hopkins ’12, a Brooklyn, New York, gallery director who was working with artists at the nearby Davis-Linden Building in East Dayton.
Sheward stood and countered that Twin Towers is in a food desert. Devoting 1 acre for food production would still leave another 4 for development.
“It is crucial to the future of the community,” Sheward said.
Glenda Lamb-Wilson, a Demphle Avenue resident, said she was looking forward to having a garden plot at the Lincoln Hill site. Her property sits at a 45-degree angle and is covered by shade, making it difficult to grow vegetables in her own yard.
Other residents voiced concerns about the possibility of light pollution, and public art displays becoming hazards on the sledding hill.
MKSK principal Darren Meyer and designer Brett Kordenbrock took notes on the feedback at these meetings for consideration in preparing the final site plan.
“Fundamentally, when you come full-circle, what an amazing educational opportunity for students, staff, faculty and graduate students to see the nature of these conversations as they unfold with our community partners,” Pair said.
Lincoln Hill Gardens will allow students to work on projects that meet both learning goals and community needs, said Kelly Bohrer ’96 and ’01, director of community-engaged learning in the University’s Fitz Center for Leadership in Community.
For example, students in Bohrer’s sustainability research classes designed possible site elements, including aquaponics and composting facilities, that were presented to MKSK. In addition, students in associate professor Suki Kwon’s art and design course worked with Niels Braam, MKSK’s environmental graphic designer, to develop branding and signage proposals for Lincoln Hill Gardens.
“Our hope is that the implementation of each piece of the design that the landscape architect ultimately gives us has community members fully involved and students fully involved,” Bohrer said.
Mackell stood atop a tall ladder directing construction of the metal tubing frame that will support the plastic covering of the first greenhouse-like structure.
Nearby, dozens of students pounded metal stakes for the second hoop house into the rock-hard turf with sledgehammers.
A large pile of dark compost was poised to enrich the garden beds.
Less expensive than a traditional glass greenhouse, a hoop house warms plants and soil by retaining incoming solar radiation from the sun through plastic sheeting. “We can grow year-round in it just by passive solar heating; not actively heating it,” Mackell said.
One hoop house is a fixed structure for growing seedlings, plant propagation and year-round production. It also includes space for student research projects.
The other two are on wheels, so they can be rolled to cover adjacent garden plots. This allows for both indoor and outdoor production, depending on the crops and time of year.
“It essentially allows us to grow twice as much food on the same amount of square footage because we are able to stretch the growing season on the front and back ends of the season by moving the greenhouse back and forth,” Mackell said.
He expects to have the hoop houses covered by fall, so they can grow produce throughout the winter.
One of the student volunteers was Léa Dolimier ’16, a Maryland native who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology and a minor in sustainability. She was a Mission of Mary intern during the spring semester. She said her goal is to work on a nonprofit farm in a city.
“The University of Dayton really stresses being part of your community and the service aspect and working together,” Dolimier said. “I think a lot of people embrace that idea and want to come out and help.”
Sheward, who received the Fitz Center’s 2015 Mattie Davis and Joe Kanak Community Builders Award, watched the hoop house installation and talked about her hopes for Lincoln Hill Gardens. She is eager for the performance pavilion, which would bring people out of their homes for movies and storytelling.
“When we were an Appalachian community, the storytelling is what continued the richness of the community,” she said.
Local lore includes St. Mary’s Church, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. During World War II, the church was a high point in Dayton and the lights in its towers were used to help U.S. military aircraft land at what is now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
“The nuns and the priests used to go up there and they would change the colors of the lights,” Sheward said. “My grandmother and my mother lived here through the war, so they knew that the lights in the towers had different meanings.”
Sheward said her dream is to perform the play Stone Soup at the pavilion. The folk tale, in which a hungry traveler manipulates villagers into sharing their food by contributing ingredients to a pot of soup, shows how people can make something significant through many small contributions.
“Stone Soup is a very good story to use for community telling,” she said.
The final site plan was revealed to residents July 3, as neighbors gathered at Lincoln Hill for a cookout before watching the city’s fireworks display.
Artist renderings and schematic designs were arrayed on a large kiosk made from wooden pallets. Community members gathered around the drawings and commented favorably about the plans.
“This is a long way from when I went to school here,” said Anthony Stanford, of Dayton, whose mother still lives nearby on Beaumont Avenue.
He has watched the site’s transformation from a vacant lot, and he hopes progress continues.
MKSK’s plan calls for the project to be implemented in five phases, contingent on fundraising and additional community partnerships.
Already, the first phase — construction of an urban agriculture education facility — is nearly complete. Though not yet covered, the hoop houses are home to crops of tomatoes, peppers, beets, summer squash and eggplant.
The second phase will add community garden plots. The partners hope over time the nature playscape, a sculpture hill with walking paths, a wetland exploration area, the education kitchen and a performance pavilion will follow.
Ervin called the plan a road map that offers the partners professional guidance on how to move the project forward and realize their vision. Mackell agreed.
“It is all very exciting,” said Mackell, who brought his wife and infant daughter to the fireworks event. “The way the project will be implemented in stages allows community members, students and faculty to be involved in different stages and to see it develop over time.”
Sheward stood by the display with fellow residents, discussing how the project might improve their quality of life.
She is excited by the possibilities but sounded a note of caution — perhaps born from the hardship of Twin Towers itself — about bringing Lincoln Hill Gardens to fruition.
“I know it will be a reality, but like every good plan it takes money and time,” Sheward said. “I just want everybody to realize that no dream is achieved overnight.”
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.