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A conversation with UD’s 19th president

9:00 AM  Sep 14th, 2016
by Michelle Tedford

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.


Our tweeting president. Photos by Larry Burgess

Why are you on social media @DaytonPrezSpina on Twitter and Instagram?

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.


Making a few calls from his office. Photos by Larry Burgess

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?


Karen and Eric SpinaWhat activities do you and your wife, Karen, like to do together while exploring Dayton?

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.


Dr. Spina talks with students about their research in Kettering Labs. Photos by Larry BurgessName one way being a university president colors the way you see the world.

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.


Click to read more about President Eric Spina. To connect to his blog, click here

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Life lessons from a single bathroom

9:16 AM  Sep 12th, 2016
by Michelle Tedford

Friendships endure, but few are endowed.

The women of 321 Kiefaber St. celebrated both this June.

“That year living off campus was life-changing,” said Ann Rice Mullen ’66 of 1965-66, when nine women lived and grew together. Last year, the friends awarded the first 321 Scholarship to a UD student in acknowledgment of the impact UD had on their lives.

The women all lived in Marycrest the first year it opened, and they found one another through housing assignments and friendships.

When it came to their senior year, they discovered a cute white house with a wide front porch and a landlord willing to rent it — advertised for five or six women — to all nine friends who couldn’t bear to live apart. And he charged them the advertised price: $45 per month per woman.

“How did the nine of us live in one house with one bathroom?” asked Jessica Prendergast Krueger ’66 when the women reunited on campus during  Reunion Weekend 2016.

It was a learning experience for them all. There was the old wringer washing machine in the basement, a fourth bedroom that was really just a closet, and Friday night house meetings for divvying up the chores. For senior prom, they made a schedule that gave every woman 15 minutes in the bathroom.

“Somebody was ready two hours early and someone was ready at the last minute, and it all worked out,” said Ann Hurley Testa ’66.

Mullen’s mom could not believe the arrangement. “If you are friends after this year, you’ll be friends for life,” she told her daughter.

How true.

In recent years, the women have reunited at the Jersey Shore and in Florida. At the reunion in Dayton they remembered housemate Ellen McGarvey Sodnicar ’66, who died in 1990, through sharing stories. Pat Wetzel Kuss ’66 recollected how Sodnicar talked a Marianist brother with an airplane into flying the two women home to Indianapolis — and then into allowing her to take the controls.

“We all grew up together, from innocent little girls,” Karen Sikorski Guszkowski ’66 said, throwing a sideways glance to her friends, “into fine young women.”

Housemates Lexie Shanley Jumper ’66 and Janice Maezer Norton ’66 nodded in agreement.

While the women and their husbands reminisced, senior Abbey Saurine was 8,000 miles away in Zambia, benefiting from their friendship. At the suggestion of one of the husbands, the housemates endowed the 321 Scholarship fund through cash donations and charitable gift annuities to honor their friendship and support the education of a female student committed to service.

Saurine was the scholarship’s first recipient. She is a Catholic religion education major, a Chaminade Scholar, a Campus Ministry volunteer and an assistant in the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community.

Last summer, she joined a service-immersion trip visiting the Marianist brothers in Lusaka and the Sisters of Charity in Lubwe. In Lubwe, she and her fellow Flyers presented scholarships to students and money to their teachers to repair and equip the schools.

“We built relationships and learned about the power of relationships,” Saurine said.

She said she was especially excited to receive the scholarship from a household of nine women; this fall, she’s living with 10 women in the Marianist faith community at 1903 Trinity Ave.

The women of 321 say that while friendships endure, so do the lessons they learned at UD. The women continue to give back in their communities through their churches, groups and mission projects.

Said Jean Gilles Fredericks ’66, “We just value our friendship so much. We are who we are because of our time together.”

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Faculty remembered

1:06 PM  Aug 26th, 2016
by Michelle Tedford

We remember the lives and contributions of faculty members who have passed away. Thanks to those who responded to a call from the UD Magazine for their remembrances. Please add your comments and sympathies below.







Darrell Anderson, 9-19-17, former professor in theatre department

“He was just a remarkable man. He was so student-focused. He was such a mentor to students in so many ways on a professional level and a personal level.” — Dan Behnke, past professor in theatre department






Tom Davis, 6-11-17, professor in the School of Business

“I was the department chair who hired Tom in the late 1980’s. Tom absolutely loved being a UD faculty member — and his students loved him.” — James Dunne, professor and interim dean in the School of Business Administration





Dan Miller, 3-30-17, professor emeritus of sociology

“Dan was a scholar in every sense of the word. Conversations with Dan included a magical mix of wit, wisdom and esoteric references of popular culture. Students would flock to his classes as he didn’t just teach sociology — he taught students how to live.” — Leslie Picca, department chair of sociology



Father Christopher Conlon, S.M. 3-26-17, former director of Campus Ministry and lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies

“I knew Chris on a very personal level. We studied at UD as young Marianists. We then had the good fortune of being assigned to Cathedral Latin School in Cleveland. Many years later we rejoined at UD and spent many years together. During that time, Chris was always the loyal and supportive friend. My immediate and extended family fell in love with him. He said our family Christmas Mass for over 20 years. I will always remember and miss him.” — Myron Achbach ’58, retired director of admission

“Chris was a gift to this department.  He had vision for Church and ministry that was enlivened and faith filled.  He encouraged collaboration in the Marianist Spirit and risk-taking in ministry.  He was a champion for students and their roles in ministry.  He appreciated diversity of expression in faith and challenged the Campus Ministry team – and others to do the same.  He was a fabulous photographer and spent his later years of ministry gracing us with homemade cards that were a testament to the Glory of God he encountered on his travels.  He loved and was beloved by his family.  He inspired and supported me on a personal and professional level.  He knew the challenges of leadership and affirmed many of us as we grew into and beyond those challenges.  Heaven is rejoicing now that Chris is among them telling stories and taking pictures.  And those of us behind are praying in gratitude to have been blessed by God through knowing him.” — Crystal Sullivan, director of Campus Ministry

“Fr. Chris has been dearly missed ever since he moved to California. We were blessed to have him work with us in the SBA. I always enjoyed his wit and warm smile.  I especially remember him from the 6:00pm Sunday mass at the Chapel. His sermons were laced with life lessons with warm heartedness, humor and wisdom, leaving you with a thoughtful message. He just brightened your day! Heaven just got brighter with his presence!”— Teresa Wehmeyer, senior administrative assistant, Marianist Educational Associate, department of accounting

“Fr. Chris was such a lovely man and oh so Irish!  He always had a twinkle in his eye especially when he was telling a “blarney” joke.  He helped me personally through some difficult times in my life and gave me such caring and understanding advice.  He was part of the School of Engineering Breakaway committee (and founder of it!) and was so instrumental in bringing faculty and staff together in the SoE.  I had such fun times with Fr. Chris and his laughter was infectious.  He was one of those people that brightened a room when he walked into it.  I loved that man dearly and admired him so much.  He was so strong in his faith and in being a Marianist.  One of his passions was photography and he was quite good at it.  I still have cards that he sent me with one of his photos on the front.  I will cherish them and they will bring me comfort as I grieve for this great man.” — Margaret “Peg” Mount, senior administrative assistant, Marianist Educational Associate, engineering management, systems and technology department

“We are blessed by memories of working with Fr. Chris. We planned and executed several annual SBA Prayer Services together, and on behalf of the SBA, I playfully “fought” over him with Engineering to snag him for other events in the School. What a pleasure he was to work with! I have missed him for a long time, and am thankful he is at peace.” — Jeanne Zeek ’08, ’14, Senior Administrative Assistant for Assurance of Learning and Marketing, Marianist Educational Associate, School of Business Administration
“Fr. Chris will be dearly missed by the School of Engineering.  He was a bright light, who graced us with his wisdom, great sense of humor, caring and compassion and his excellent skills as a photographer.” — Margaret Pinnell, associate dean for Faculty and Staff Development; associate professor, department of mechanical and aerospace engineering


Father Francois Rossier S.M. 3-2-17 Executive director of International Marian Research Institute

“François was dedicated to the mission of IMRI of making Mary more known, loved and served. He cared deeply about IMRI’s work and its students. He was a lovely person. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know and work with him. He was kind and thoughtful.” — Kathleen Webb, dean of University libraries.

“Fr. Rossier was very interested in connecting with the University community beyond the IMRI. He cared deeply about the mission and identity of our Marianist and Catholic university.” — Rev. James Fitz, S.M., University of Dayton vice president for mission and rector.


David W. Ahern 12-26-16 professor emeritus of political science

“David was a wonderful colleague and teacher, and a terrific friend with a delightful sense of humor and an engaging conversational style.”— John Geiger, former University provost

“He loved to rib folks he liked about any number of issues ranging from their driving habits to choices of restaurants. Dave was generous to a fault — in my case, he offered me his home while he was traveling, provided I would take care of his belligerent cat.” — Rick Ghere, associate professor of political science

David had a delightfully sharp sense of humor. He was a creative and innovative educator, developing simulations and computer-facilitated learning well before inquiry-based models of learning became more common in higher education. Former students are still quick to remember fondly their time in Ruritania. He also provided valuable leadership for the department of political science over many years.” — Jason Pierce, dean of College of Arts and Sciences 




Father Joseph Patrick Tedesco, S.M. 12-2-16 professor of psychology

“Father Tedesco was an adjunct member of the UD Department of Psychology from 1996 to 2011, and for the fall semester of 2015 when he was back in Dayton on sabbatical. He taught many courses including intro, abnormal, developmental, personality, tests and measurements, and his all-time favorite, sports psychology. He was very beloved by his students and admired by other faculty. Father ‘Teddy,’ as he was affectionately known, was also my teaching mentor when I first came to the department in 2007. He was a natural born teacher and standup comedian. He was also a licensed professional clinical counselor and a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology. His dissertation research was on performance enhancement. He also received the honor of being inducted in the Ohio Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2006. Father Teddy was also my formation mentor when I first joined the Marianists. We lived together in the Alumni Hall Marianist Community from 2008 to 2010. He helped shape me into the Marianist I am today. He taught me volumes about generosity and self-giving by his example. Father Teddy and I were also co-advisers together for the Greek Fraternity on campus, Beta Theta Pi. He said this made us ‘double brothers.’ He was my truly my best Marianist friend. We all and will miss him terribly. He deeply touched many lives as a priest, teacher and friend.

“May his good and great memory be for us a blessing!” — Brother Thomas Farnsworth, S.M., professor in the department of psychology


joesph-kepes-pics-1 Joseph J. Kepes 9-18-16 professor of physics

“Early in my career at UD, I was assigned to teach in the department’s Summer Intensive Physics Program, which was instituted by Joe. This program offered students the opportunity to complete the two semester algebra-based physics sequence, both lecture and laboratory, in a total of 7 weeks during the summer. Participants were fully immersed in physics, meeting 6 days a week, all day and into the evenings. Because it was a unique offering at the time, students from a number of institutions around the country enrolled, and although the course was very demanding of the student’s time, students always reviewed the experience as productive and valuable.

Joe was a constant member of the Physics golf team that played in the annual Jim La Vance Memorial Golf Tournament. It was great to be able to spend a morning playing golf with Joe, who was an avid golfer. As skilled as he was, he enjoyed playing with those of us with questionable skills. We looked forward to fielding a team every year and spending the time with colleagues outside of the department.” — John Erdei, associate professor and chair of department of physics


takis-tsonis Panagiotis A. Tsonis 9-3-16 professor of biology

“Takis had a passion for regenerative medicine and, in particular, limb regeneration that will transform the lives of those who have suffered from such life-changing injuries. His work on regeneration was a very significant scientific breakthrough. Takis’ loss is a major blow to UD and the research community as a whole.” — Khalid Lafdi, professor of chemical and materials engineering

“Takis was an inspiration. The department’s current research success was built around Takis’ efforts and spirit; he was one of a very few scientists who could make research sing. I think many of us saw that his best days were ahead of him, which makes his passing all the more difficult. He will be sorely missed.”— Mark Nielsen, professor and chair of the department of biology


“No words to describe Professor Tsonis. He was a special person. My Godfather. He had a foresight that very few could understand. He was men of his own kind. Scientist of a caliber not less then a noble laureate. If someday I have to give title of father of tissue regeneration-I will be glad to nominate his name. He could have achieved, and contributed lot more than what he had. His hypothesis has always worked. His imagination was beyond limits. His power to read patterns was nothing less than a God Gift. I am sad that he passed away, and left me like this. Hope whereever he is he is in peace, and solitude because that is what he was searching for in his last two years of life. God Bless my Mento. Dr. Panagiotis A. Tsonis. Amin!”— Abijeet Mehta, doctoral candidate in department of biology


John RoweJohn J. Rowe 7-22-16  professor emeritus of biology

“Dr. Rowe encouraged us to stretch our intellects. I vividly recall him handing me a copy of Nature with the advice that, even as an undergraduate, I should be aware of cutting-edge research. Though he was academically demanding, he was also warm and hospitable. He once invited a group of us out to his farm to look at the Andromeda Galaxy without the light pollution of the city. Of course, Dr. Rowe had a bonfire, drink, and an evening of storytelling waiting for us. He will be dearly missed.” — Kaitlin Moredock DiNapoli ’08


John QuinnJohn F. Quinn 7-13-16 professor emeritus of philosophy

“John contributed a great deal to our department during his decades at UD. He developed both our business ethics courses and our philosophy of law courses, coordinating with the schools of law and business. A constant learner, he taught a wide variety of courses including medieval philosophy, Islamic philosophy, philosophy of art, logic, and philosophy of language, and served as a docent at the Dayton Art Institute for many years. John was effusive and outgoing, and loved teaching, food, drink and friends. He will be missed by his colleagues in the department of philosophy and elsewhere on campus.” —Rebecca Wisnant, associate professor of philosophy

“Dr. Quinn was a renaissance figure in many ways and wanted students to feel connections with hands-on experience. For example, what would it be like to do our taxes based on Roman numerals, and how did we shift to the numbers that we use today? Dr. Quinn created UD’s PHL 365: Islamic Philosophy and Culture course to introduce students to the wider web of geometric structures in Muslim art and architecture. He wanted students to embrace the Islamic rebirth of math and science that led directly to our use Arabic numbers and algebra today, with all the efficiency that this has brought in its wake.

“The University of Tehran invited him to speak more than once on Islamic philosophy. During these visits, Dr. Quinn assembled a remarkable collection of beautiful illuminated manuscript pages, which he often shared with students.

“Dr. Quinn was a trailblazer at UD in establishing PHL 313: Business Ethics and keeping it up to date. He would consistently receive top awards for papers at academic conferences on business ethics.

“With his law degree, Dr. Quinn would often give colleagues and students legal advice free of charge.” — John Inglis, professor and chair of the department of philosophy

“John Quinn was one of my professors when I attended graduate school in philosophy at UD in the 1980s. He possessed an appetite for knowledge. He studied law, art, philosophy, business and whatever peaked his curiosity. In many ways he was a true Renaissance man. He volunteered as a docent for the Dayton Art Institute. He created the now popular course in Business Ethics. John was generous with his time. Over the years, he dealt with health issues with great courage, humor and dignity. This is how he faced his death. I am glad to have been his student, his colleague and his friend.” — Bill Marvin ’91, lecturer in the department of philosophy


Joe WatrasJoseph L. Watras 6-5-16 professor of teacher education

“Dr. Watras was an amazing faculty member who inspired education majors at UD for decades. He would start every class with a little joke to draw us all into the moment, but he didn’t have to. He had our attention the moment he would softly say, “Good afternoon.” Like every other member of the Dayton family he cared for his students. I wasn’t the best scholar, but his genuine nature always made me feel like my contribution to the conversation mattered.  He had a way of making every student feel as bright and unique as one of his bow ties.” —Michael Fletcher Skelton ’12

“I had Dr. Watras freshman year at UD. He was an excellent professor who truly cared about all of his students and wanted them to learn and grow to become wonderful educators. I will always remember his corny jokes and custom bow ties that he wore daily made by his wife. He is definitely a professor I will never forget!” — Anne Nestor ’12

“Dr. Joseph Watras of the Department of Teacher Education passed away recently. He was 72. His scholarly work, which was considerable, kept our students in touch with the history and philosophy of education. In this day of computers and endless proposed techniques and methodologies associated with teaching, Dr. Watras reminded students to think of what schools are for, where is education headed, for what social purpose. One former student wrote me recently: “Dr. Watras was only 35 when I had him as an instructor. He impressed me as being intellectual and wanting his students to think for themselves. He put alot of emphasis on choosing words. He would challenge you if what you said did not make sense… Socratic method of challenging the student on presumptions in order to stimulate critical thinking. He could be viewed as harsh in that regard as he indeed challenged you.” Most schools of education do not offer a philosophy of education course; students are interested in so called “practical” techniques and methodologies. Therefore, philosophy of education is difficult to teach.  Surveys indicate that it is the least liked teacher preparation course yet, Dr. Watras endured this disinterest and did magnificent work in stimulating deep and serious thought by students. His voice is regrettably dying in teacher education. The profession will miss him.” — Ellis Joseph, dean emeritus, School of Education


K. Michael Geary Michael Geary 4-6-16 retired professor of accounting

“I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Geary as a professor during my time at UD. I took his introductory audit course and distinctly remember it being one my favorite classes due to his enthusiasm and practical experience with the subject. Dr. Geary didn’t just simply teach what the textbook said, but instead taught by providing real-life situations that made the topics both interesting and relatable. Dr. Geary truly cared about his students and their well being and I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from him.” — Anita Shankar ’11


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Finding light in darkness

9:50 AM  Aug 4th, 2016
by Erin Frey '18

In the midst of tragedy, Colleen O’Malia Stine learned that positive messages were so much more than words on T-shirts.

Stine started by selling handmade prints adorned with phrases like, “Choose being kind over being right, and you’ll be right every time,” and “There is a time and place for kindness. Always and everywhere.”

In 2012, one of Stine’s prints was featured on Pinterest. Her website soon had thousands of views and too many orders to fill, so Stine reached out to her sister Shannon O’Malia Hall ’96. Being 10 years her elder, Shannon would do anything for her baby sister, even drive from Chicago to St. Louis to help her complete the mountains of shipments.

With her sister and a business partner, Colleen opened the online store Mama Said Tees.

“The main goal of the store is to remind us to stay positive and show our children how to treat others,” said Stine, a public relations major at UD.

Five days after the shop opened, Shannon was killed, leaving her two children without parents. Stine took them in as her own, doubling the size of her family.

On her blog The Best Job I’ve Ever Had, Stine recounts what it was like to lose her sister, “I felt hopeless. I felt lost, like a part of me was missing. I didn’t think I would ever live wholly again.”

The store helped, the sayings on the shirts now brightening her own life. Although still mourning, Stine and her business partner created a new T-shirt and print, “Let your smile change the world,” reflecting Shannon’s infectious attitude and in support of a college fund for her two sons.

Stine honors her sister through the store and also with naming her newborn daughter after Shannon in August 2015. Her business also recently launched a national campaign called #letsredefinenormal in the hopes that everyone can accept themselves and others wholly.

“It has become so much more than just selling T-shirts,” Stine said. “It has shown me that there can be light in the darkness, and that the most important thing is to spread happiness wherever you can.”

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Transforming Cultures

9:48 AM  Jul 30th, 2016
by Madalyn Beban ’17

For Patricia Russell, innovation comes in all forms. Not only has she taken risks professionally, starting her own consulting firm after a successful chemical engineering career, but her methods as a consultant concentrate on changing individual perspectives.

During her time as an undergraduate, Russell recorded a great deal of firsts. She helped found Minority Engineers for Advancement and was both the first woman from the Bahamas and the first African-American woman to graduate from the University with a chemical engineering degree.

After getting her master’s in chemical engineering and working in the field for several years, she discovered a different path.

“I loved chemical engineering — I liked the analytics and the numbers,” she said. “But while working as a chemical engineer, I discovered the type of work I really belonged in. It was always about people.”

Sixteen years ago, she made the leap. By starting The Russell Consulting Group, Russell was able to pursue the work she loved. Her firm works with companies, primarily in health care and higher education, to improve productivity and create a great place to work.

“A lot of consultants work on changing behavior, hoping that will impact results,” she said. “I focus on shifting thinking, on identifying thought patterns behind behaviors, on mastering ego to transform cultures.”

Russell’s engineering background has continued to serve her well, giving her firm a competitive edge.

“The strategic-thinking skills I learned help me survive the ups and downs of consulting work,” she said. “If you don’t have that strategic or critical-thinking talent, it’s almost impossible to adapt your business model.”

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Spinning Success

3:21 PM  Jul 25th, 2016
by Anna Adami

A short story by UD senior Anna Adami.

I corner my boss between desks and ask him if we can talk. The whole office hears. The whole office hears everything. We keep our eyes fixed on computer screens and pretend to be lost in our work. Spreadsheets and hollow numbers never led me to feeling found, and I am tired of searching.

I sit across from him in the conference room. He clicks his pen. I give him my two weeks’ notice.

“I’m confused,” he says. He leans back in his chair. “You work hard. With time, you’ll be promoted.”

I watch the clock. “I’m sorry, I am,” I tell him.

“Oh, replacing you won’t be a problem. I’m just concerned for you. Do you have another job lined up?”

“Well, not exactly, but — 

He says, “The economy is tricky. Unemployment is on the rise.”

He stacks a pile of papers that are already straight.

“I’m worried for you.”

“I appreciate your concern, sir.”

He takes an exaggerated breath. “Very well.”

I stand. “Thank you for your understanding.”

“Best of luck.” He turns away from me. I walk out.

I grew up in a one-bedroom apartment with my mother and brother. Mama came home every night after dark with bags under her eyes and fingers that ached.

One time, Louie left me home alone. I must have been 6 or 7 years old. He checked his appearance in the cracked mirror. He was nine years older than me. “I gotta go,” he said. “Mama should be home soon.”

I sat alone with dust and cobwebs. I was crying when Mama jiggled open the finicky door. “Hush, child. I know it’s late,” she said, “But I’m here now. I’m here.”

She picked me up and hugged me close. “Let’s get you washed up, why don’t we?” She started the bath, and she sang. She scrubbed me up, and she kept on singing. Then she tucked me into bed. The linens needed to be washed.                                                                                                                                                                                              
I snuggled my body close to hers. “Mmm, girl,” she said,
“You smell good. Like lavender and bubbles.” She was asleep before I could reply. 

She never had time for much. She waited tables in the mornings, sewed shirts the afternoons. She left food for us when she wasn’t home. She had her jobs and she had her kids and she had one friend who came over for dinner on Sundays. After dinner they’d have “adult conversation.” I would crack open the bedroom door, lay on my stomach and listen to the grownups talk as if they were movie stars on the television we never had.

I remember a time they laughed so hard that my mama fell out of her chair. And then they laughed harder.

“I mean, shoot,” my mama said, “he says,” she clutched at her stomach, “he says, ‘You ain’t a slave! You get paid!”’ They howled. Then they wiped the tears off their faces and let silence settle with the dust. My mama reached for a napkin and scrubbed at a stain on the table that never seemed to come off.

“Norma?” her friend asked.

“Hmm, child?”

“We doing a good thing, ya hear?”

My mama nodded her head like she did in church. “I know it,” she said.

Her friend sighed. Mama stood and turned on the radio. Jazz wiped away the silence. She closed her eyes and hummed. She rocked back and forth, tapping her foot, nodding her head. “We doing more than putting food on
the table,” Mama said. “We serving our kids a future. The platter ain’t silver, but we manage.” She rocked, back and forth. “We manage.”

Her friend leaned back in her chair. “Sometimes,” she said, “I thinka what I would do if I were born with opportunity. I think I’d want to be one a’ those university boys.                                                                                          
Get myself a degree. History. I’d wanna study history. Awful fascinating,” she said. “Maybe I could rewrite it.” Mama’s eyes were still closed. Her friend continued. “And I’d have to have a hobby. A sport,” she said, “Like horseback riding. Might feel like flying.”

“There are no horses in the city,” Mama said.

“Well, I’d have a second home. In the country. I’d leave the city on the weekends to fly with horses when the history got too heavy.” Her friend smiled. “Wouldn’t have to worry about a thing. Not really. Ever thinka that?”

“No,” Mama snapped her eyes open and shook her head, like dusting off cobwebs. She walked to the refrigerator and took out the milk. “I think about how I can live this life the best I can as who I am,” she said. “I think about the power I do have, not the power I don’t. I got the power over my own thoughts, firstly. I got the power to work. I got the power to love my children.” She pulled two mugs out of the cabinet. “Want some coffee?” she asked. “I got some coffee and the power to share it.”

I call my mama to tell her I quit my job. She starts  talking before I do.

“You remember that old friend of mine?” she asks, “I’d have her over for dinner sometimes. She was another single mother. Worked with me at the diner. Anyway, we got to talking yesterday for the first time in three years. She asked about you. I told her about how you’re doing so good for yourself. How you got yourself a car now, and a good, well-paying job. How you moved to the suburbs. Now you’re just looking for a husband,” Mama laughs. “I told her ain’t a single man good enough for my baby girl.” I let Mama keep talking. When my doorbell rings, I have an excuse to hang up.

I’d ordered Chinese. I don’t open the boxes. My stomach is cluttered with cobwebs. I go to bed early. I toss from my left to right side. I think through telling Mama I quit my job. I rehearse scenarios in my head. I turn to my stomach. Louie always told me I wouldn’t have bad dreams if I slept on my stomach. I fall asleep in an instant.

In the morning I have my coffee with the newspaper and a legal pad. At the top of a fresh page I write “DREAMS,” then cross it out and write “FUTURE.” I look through the jobs pages, but don’t find much worth circling. Where the job descriptions end, the obituaries begin. I read one. A white boy. Twenty-two years old. Graduated from Columbia. Summa cum laude. Interning for a marketing firm. Unpaid, probably, but he had “such a bright future ahead of him.”                                                                                                                                           
He fell off the Brooklyn Bridge. Left “two loving parents and a sister behind.”

My stomach feels empty, but the thought of food makes me sick. I stare at the black and white photograph. I grab my Sharpie. I circle the date, time and address. I go to my closet and try on the black dress I haven’t touched since Louie’s funeral.

I sit at the back of the church. We all stand when the family walks down the aisle. A wail jumps from the mother’s mouth, though she tries to keep it caged. The father wraps his left arm around the mother. His right hand clutches a handkerchief to his nose. The sister walks with a straight back. She looks at each face they pass. Her eyes hit mine. They gleam with still dewdrop tears. She looks away.

Grief walks with the family. Through it, they reach for each other. Except the girl. She shrugs away. She wants time with Grief alone. She has questions she needs to ask it.

There’s a reception after the funeral. I don’t want to trespass, but I’m not ready to go home. I pace through the garden in front of the church. I stand in front of the statue of a saint and wonder what it means to be that good.

I turn and see the sister. She is sitting on a bench and looking straight ahead.

“Mind if I sit here?” I ask her.

“Have at it,” she says. Her voice is empty.

“Your brother?” I ask the obvious. She nods.

“Did you know him?” she asks.

I say, “Not very well.”

We sit still. A spider crawls over my knee. I don’t flick it off. The girl pokes the silence. “People don’t just fall off the Brooklyn Bridge,” she says.

I watch the spider crawl across the bench but feel it in my throat.

“They jump,” she says.

The spider stops. “My parents refuse to acknowledge it,” the girl continues. She lets out a breath and a hollow laugh. “They mean well, they do. They just … well,” she rubs her palms back and forth on her skirt. “They pushed Dave,” she says. “They pushed him hard, you know. Private school his whole life. His first day of high school they said, ‘Make us proud.’ After high school was Ivy League. If he wanted to go to college, he had to prove himself. He doctored his life to fit a résumé. He thought college meant freedom. God.” She looks at her hands. Then she starts watching the spider, too. It crawls toward the tiny tree in front of us.

“He wanted to major in philosophy,” the girl says. “My parents told him they wouldn’t pay for that. So he studied business.” The spider climbs the tree. “He didn’t come home much.” The spider starts spinning a web. “I think … I think my brother may have ended his life because he felt like it wasn’t his in the first place. Everyone’s saying how tragic his death is because he just graduated and his life was getting started, but I think how tragic,” she starts laughing, “how tragic it is that his life hadn’t started before.” She laughs harder. “I mean, Jesus!” she says. “His life should have started the day he was born!”

Then I laugh, too. We both laugh body-convulsing laughter on a sunny day that would be better off cloudy. I imagine the reception happening inside. I think about people eating meatballs on toothpicks and making small talk about tragedy and about future. I laugh harder. I never thought I’d relate so much to a dead white boy or his laughing sister.

We stop laughing but we don’t stop crying. We sit still and let the saltwater surge like the tide of an ocean too big to entirely fathom.

I snag my voice back from the spider. “I’m sorry for your loss,” I tell her.

“Me too,” she says. A dull ache throbs in my sinuses. “Thanks for listening,” she says. “I didn’t realize I needed to say that stuff.”

“Oh, child,” I tell her, “I didn’t realize I needed to hear it. But I did. I did.”

I reach into my purse and fumble for paper. “When you need to talk,” I tell her. “Real talk. With someone unrelated to anything else.” I write my phone number. “Call me. I’ll probably need to talk too.”

“I will,” she says. She looks at me. “I like you,” she says.

“I like you, too.”

She stares ahead again. “Life is strange,” she says.

“And heavy.”

She rubs her eyes with the palms of her hands. “Yeah,” she says. She takes a quick, shaky breath.

I leave the girl so she can talk with Grief. I shake the branch that holds the spider’s web. I watch it fall. I walk away. But I know the spider will crawl back up the tree. It will spin a web again. It will catch a mosquito and it will eat it and it will feel full. So full.

When I get home, I pick up the phone. I lay on my stomach and listen to it growl.

I call to ask for my job back.

Anna Adami graduated in May with an English major and a Spanish minor. She found a writing community at UD of professors and peers who gave generous encouragement, smart critique and unfiltered love. For the development of her writing skills, she credits the passionate English faculty: style with Patrick Thomas, fiction with Joe Pici and screenwriting with Chris Burnside. She recently transferred her writing from the page to the stage, performing downtown with the Dayton Poetry Slam, an equally eclectic and supportive community. She is now looking for a job that will  employ her passion for the written word. Her story first appeared in the autumn 2015 issue of Orpheus.

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Divergent Thinking

9:46 AM  Jul 25th, 2016
by Grace Poppe ’16

In 2012, Robert Boeke and his wife, Rita, traveled to Haiti to teach a three-week math and English course. They didn’t intend to visit the island more than once. But in August 2014, they returned to facilitate a seminar that helped Haitian students plan for their futures.

Originally, the Boekes went to Haiti at the suggestion of Father Medard Laz, with whom they started a Catholic parish in Inverness, Illinois, in the 1980s. When Father Laz later became involved in a project in Haiti, he informed Bob Boeke that his math background would be a help at the University of the Nouvelle Grand’Anse (UNOGA) in Jeremie.

Upon arriving in Haiti, the Boekes realized almost immediately that their students had trouble envisioning the future in their work.

“We were concerned that university graduates in agronomy and business management would be hampered in their ability to start businesses, plan plantings and bring about change in Haiti,” Bob Boeke said.

He and his math educator colleague Mercedes McGowen planned a two-week seminar to stimulate multiple areas of the brain and help students become well-rounded independent leaders and thinkers.

After the Boekes returned to the U.S., the Divergent Thinking Seminar was approved by the UNOGA administration for Aug. 18-29, 2014.

UNOGA will continue to offer the seminar, after sending three Haitian employees to stay with the Boekes for a two-week training on presenting the material. Following the training, the Boekes plan to have daily Skype sessions with the teachers for support.

“Perhaps the most important ongoing result of the seminar is that the students have a sense of empowerment. They are talking among themselves and others about believing that they can change Haiti,” Bob Boeke said.

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Porch Reads, and beyond

9:44 AM  Jul 22nd, 2016
by Shelby Quinlivan '06

Whether it’s a question about research or the best place on campus to curl up with a good book, Heidi Gauder has your answer.

As coordinator of research and instruction at University of Dayton, Gauder coordinates a team of librarians to teach students how to conduct research, a task that has evolved as much as the library has since Gauder began her career there in 1998.

“Not only do we provide core services like reference work, teaching and collections, but we have also expanded,” Gauder said. “We have an institutional repository that archives campus scholarship — and serves as a platform for conferences and journals; we have gallery spaces; we have a faculty delivery service; and we are engaging our users on social media. We are also digitizing portions of our special collections and archival materials.

“The library has great study spaces, but it’s so much more than that these days. The best part of this job is helping folks get to an answer or see that they have learned to do it on their own.”

Gauder, an American studies major a UD, expanded on her interest in how students learn in the library — whether as part of class for a library-led session or in training for student library employees — during her recent sabbatical research.

Having firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be a student at UD, Gauder also saw an opportunity to help undergraduates find time to unwind with a good book. Porch Reads, a book club exclusive to UD, gives students four novels to read per year and the opportunity to have lively discussion in a group setting. Now in its 10th year, Gauder has seen the program grow in popularity.

As for where to curl up with a Jane Austen or Tom Wolfe novel, Gauder recommends the sixth floor of Roesch Library or the gazebo between Albert Emanuel Hall and Roesch.

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The other half of the equation

11:18 AM  Jul 20th, 2016
by Sarah Spech '16

Pat Glaser Shea grew up privileged. “I had a family that loved me and parents who valued education,” Shea explained.

The daughter of a steel worker in West Virginia, Shea has been the CEO of YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee, the largest provider of domestic violence services in the state, for 10 years and sees the absence of such privilege every day.

In 1984, the UD marketing graduate settled in Nashville, Tennessee, and began to volunteer at the YWCA, where she saw firsthand the effects of violence and abuse on women and girls. “When women and girls aren’t able to live up to their potential due to abuse, we all lose out,” said Shea.

After a 20-year career in health care, Shea now focuses on ending gender violence by locating root causes. “We have been missing 50 percent of the population, thus half of the equation,” said Shea. “It is time to involve men, to invite good men to be part of the solution.”

Shea has become an outspoken advocate for engaging men in the effort to end violence against women and girls. In March 2015, she gave the TEDxNashville talk, “Violence Against Women: The End Begins with Men.”

In her talk, Shea states there are three things everyone can do: know the facts and elevate the issue, as violence against women is an epidemic; work to change our culture that belittles and devalues women and girls; and teach boys that loving and respecting women and girls is part of healthy masculinity.  Shea said, “When women are valued and safe, we are able to be better mothers, sisters, daughters and partners. Everybody benefits.”

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From Lectures to Legos

9:13 AM  Jul 19th, 2016
by Courtney Mocklow ’17

Some might say that Legos are toys meant only for the hands of children. Rafe Donahue would respectfully disagree.

Donahue, now senior director of statistics at Wright Medical in Franklin, Tennessee, used the popular building blocks to construct a structure iconic to UD’s campus: In 2014,  Donahue built a miniature Lego model of the Chapel of Immaculate Conception. [Watch the video.]

“A couple of weeks after I had started building it, Paul Elloe in UD’s math department called me,” Rafe said. “He asked if I wanted to come to UD and give a speech, so I thought I’d also present the model while I was there.”

After graduating with a degree in mathematics from UD, Rafe went on to receive a doctorate in statistics from Colorado State University. To complete his Lego masterpieces, he needed to translate his knowledge of numbers and equations into the field of Lego architecture.

Rafe had an admiration of the chapel’s structure, inspiring his build. “Once I finished it, I immediately wanted to build more, so I made two more copies after giving one to the math department. One is with my sister, and the other I carry to Lego shows around the country.”

Donahue is grateful he was able to present UD with something to exemplify his appreciation of the school.

“I wanted to present all the amazing professors I had at UD with a gift that was really meaningful, something important and beautiful on that campus.”

Two models are currently displayed on campus: one in O’Reilly Hall, in the office of Maura Donahue, Rafe’s sister and director of budget and operations for the College of Arts and Sciences, and the original model, outside the mathematics office in the Science Center.

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