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Imagination at work

10:03 AM  Jul 11th, 2013
by President Daniel J. Curran

It’s rare for a global company to build a huge research center on a college campus, but GE Aviation doesn’t think small. Neither do we.

The world’s largest jet engine supplier spends about $1 billion annually on research-and-development efforts and plans to double its engine production during the next decade. I admire that kind of forward-thinking philosophy because we think and act boldly, too.

When finished this summer, GE Aviation’s new EPISCENTER rising along 8 acres at Patterson Boulevard and River Park Drive will create more electric power than any other lab of its kind in the world. The company says this aerospace research complex will be the “intellectual heart and soul” of GE Aviation’s electrical power business.

It will stand as a testament to what imagination — and collaboration — can accomplish. In the higher education landscape nationally, this innovative partnership can be a model for the future.

When we bought our first big parcel of land from NCR in 2005, we worked with regional leaders to secure the federal and state funds necessary to transform the largely vacant urban brownfield into a vibrant academic and mixed-use development. We envisioned attracting strong companies that could spur additional research, serve as real-world classrooms and spark economic development for the region.

Admittedly, some people thought that was a far-fetched idea. Not only is the EPISCENTER, which stands for Electrical Power Integrated Systems Center, opening this summer, Midmark, a worldwide manufacturer and supplier of health care products, is moving its corporate headquarters to the 1700 South Patterson Building on our River Campus.
These companies are looking for intellectual talent, for young professionals to join their ranks and build a future of innovation in Dayton. GE Aviation and Midmark will only have to look in their backyard for their future leaders.

Internships, particularly those that lead to full-time positions, are the top recruiting strategy for a growing number of employers. In the past year alone, we’ve seen a remarkable 43 percent jump in postings for internships and co-ops through our Career Placement Center.

GE Aviation wants to tap into the best minds in our classrooms and labs. That’s why the company is committing at least $1 million annually to bring graduate engineering students into the EPISCENTER to work on design teams.

Talk about a résumé builder. As Lorraine Bolsinger, then-president and CEO of GE Aviation Systems, told community leaders at the 2012 Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting, “This will not be an ivory tower kind of place. This is not a center where people will walk around in white lab coats and tinker in R&D as a hobby. GE scientists will team with UD graduate students and faculty to develop new electrical power systems for future aircraft. And we will sell them worldwide.”

That’s the kind of vision we at UD like, bold and forward-thinking.

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The Dementia Dance

8:48 AM  Jun 27th, 2013
by Audrey Starr

A book by Rosemary Barkes ’95

She says, “A fan of lifelong learning, I started my master’s degree program at UD when I was 54 years old. A few years after graduating, I read about the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition in UD Quarterly, entered on a whim — and won. I’d written a few short stories, but never entered any contests. I’ve been a professional writer ever since.”

In addition to her UD degree, Barkes holds two bachelor’s degrees from Ohio State in radio and TV communications (1960) and speech and hearing therapy (1974). “I moved to Columbus from Mount Gilead, Ohio, immediately after high school and worked at an insurance agency for a year to save enough money for tuition,” she said. That job supported her first year, and Barkes worked three jobs, sometimes simultaneously — manufacturing company secretary in the mornings, faculty club waitress at night and model on the weekends — to fund the rest.

After the competition, Barkes said she “was like a woman possessed. I wrote constantly: on toilet paper, on restaurant tablecloths, on a scratch pad balanced on the steering wheel,” she said. Her work has been featured in Taste of Home Magazine, and she’s served as a guest columnist for the Grove City [Ohio] Record. “I write about the human condition, and I like to think there’s a little bit of Erma in that.”

“As a young mother in the 1960s, I idolized Erma — we all did,” Barkes said. “Through humor, she raised the bar on being a homemaker to a level of respect. She gave us hope. I felt like I owed it to her to write something for the competition.” Barkes was convinced her entry didn’t stand a chance after she had to “cut all the good parts out” to meet the competition’s word count. Barkes arrived at the 2000 Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop an hour early in hopes of scoring a photo with keynoter and The Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald.

Barkes’ career included secretarial work and a stint as a speech and hearing therapist with Columbus City Schools. In 1985, Barkes took a job as executive assistant to the president of Doctors Hospital, retiring in 1998. She entered the UD master’s of education program after her boss, Rick Vincent ’84, recommended it. Two nights a week she attended classes taught by UD faculty on the campus of Capital University.

A regular volunteer at an assisted living facility, Barkes never thought much of it — until she moved her mother, a dementia patient, there. Then, inspiration struck: Barkes’ writing — straightforward, with a healthy dose of humor — could help others cope. Her book, The Dementia Dance, was published earlier this year. She’s excited to hear what others think and won’t have to wait long for a response: Her
local book club has chosen her book as its next selection.


Rose Nichols: The Garden Girl

8:31 AM  Jun 27th, 2013
by CC Hutten '15

A book by Mary R. Dunn ’63

Not your typical children’s book, Dunn offers a professionally illustrated biographical nonfiction piece that conveys the story of early-20th-century gardener Rose Standish Nichols, showing young and old readers alike ways to enjoy and learn from nature. After discovering a garden hidden by time, age and history, the book explores Nichols’ life. “I was shocked there wasn’t already a book about her,” said Dunn, who has written more than two dozen books. “I want to give her work the recognition it deserves.” Nichols, a native of Boston, is often considered America’s first professional landscape architect.

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Killer Moon

8:27 AM  Jun 27th, 2013
by CC Hutten '15

A book by Dennis Tenwalde ’87

Just another beautiful night in south Florida, or a Canadian mafia moon-worshipping jewelry conspiracy chase? Tenwalde, a 29-year law enforcement veteran, says his suspense-filled novel has both. “In tough times, people take advantage of those in need,” he said. “I want to let people know what happens, to give insight. I want to show readers a story, along with the technical aspects of how police operate.” Producers have pitched the idea of a movie, but Tenwalde’s content with the book: “I didn’t write it for money or lots of attention.”

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Forgotten Grasslands of the South: Natural History and Conservation

8:25 AM  Jun 27th, 2013
by CC Hutten '15

A book by Reed F. Noss ’75

America’s ecosystems are home to biologically rich and once-abundant species and biodiversity that are rapidly vanishing, unbeknownst to many, says Noss. This ecologist-turned-writer’s book presents grasslands from Texas to Virginia and Florida to Ohio — their past, possible future and how to protect these extraordinary places, as well as how to preserve nature universally. With a nearly 40-year career in ecosystem conservation, he currently serves as the Davis-Shine Endowed Professor at the University of Florida.



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Flying Alligators & Empty Shovels: Our Life and Times in Russia

8:38 AM  Jun 26th, 2013
by CC Hutten '15

A book by Debbie Caffo and Ron Caffo ’69

Two adventurous Americans — with no foreign language skills and limited international experience — leave their homeland behind for a 15-year stint in post-Communist Russia. An expansion of their 2010 self-published tome, If Alligators Could Fly, this book incorporates the specific experiences of three of their Russian co-workers. “We wanted to pay tribute to our Russian colleagues and everyone we met, learned from and admired along the way,” Ron Caffo said. Back in the U.S. since 2007, the couple now travels frequently. As for the airborne reptiles? Check out the book’s introduction for an explanation.

Read more about the Caffo’s journey here.

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My Old House: 57 Woodland

3:23 PM  Jun 7th, 2013
by Meredith Hirt ’13

During the 2002-03 school year, the six women of 57 Woodland slept outside, made a hot tub out of a baby pool and ate a lot of raisins.

“We had a huge bag of raisins, it must have been 20 pounds,” said Angela Crist ’03.

“I have no idea where it came from. It was absurd.” Crist and her five roommates added the bag to their communal groceries. “For the most part we shared everything that year,” Crist said. “It was really kind of special that way.”

57 Woodland is a campus ministry house, and Crist said the women “made
a point to be intentional about community.”

They had daily morning prayer and frequent dinners when they invited over another house on the street to “eat crappy spaghetti together. We got to know a lot of people,” Crist said.

The best part of the house was its three porches. The second-floor balcony, nicknamed “the treehouse,” was the stage for sleeping-bag campouts. The front porch was used to watch people on Woodland try to navigate tiny parallel parking spaces. Crist said they gave out high fives when particularly difficult spots were conquered.

One housemate refused to carry her house key. One time, she hid the key under a pumpkin on the front porch. Crist said, “I’ll never forget the day I was walking home from class and I got home and a squirrel had eaten the pumpkin and the
key was just sitting there.”

The women had a compost pile in the backyard, until it mysteriously disappeared one day. “We prayed for the compost pile at morning prayer,” Crist said. Crist said one of the things she misses about college is when she didn’t want to do anything, she could just find someone and hang out on the bed and talk. “That was a great year; we loved living on the Darkside.”

Take a visit through the house with today’s residents by clicking here.

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Full service

1:20 PM  Jun 1st, 2013
by Audrey Starr

Her first thought, she admits, was not entirely positive.

“A few years ago, I got a call from facilities asking if my department would be interested in an unused set of campus dishes. My mental image was of a bunch of old, mismatched things — a yellow cup, a blue plate; stuff nobody wanted,” said Pat Dolan ’91, retired dietetics program director.

Skeptical, but still curious, Dolan headed downhill from her Frericks Center office to the Alumni House on L Street. Tiptoeing across drop cloths and maneuvering around stepladders, she made her way through the soon-to-be new office space to a dusty cabinet, ready to be repurposed once it was free of 200 pieces of dinnerware. The construction crew saw surplus; Dolan saw possibilities.

“The first words out of my mouth were, ‘These are too good for us,’” Dolan said of the extensive matching china set, which includes 85 cups and saucers and 32 dinner plates, among other items. “Then I clamped my hand over my mouth and said, ‘You didn’t hear me say that. How soon do you need them moved?’”

Born in New Castle, Pa., at Shenango China Co. in the first half of 1964, the set was originally purchased for use in the president’s dining room in Kennedy Union. Used at various functions for more than two decades (and bearing markers of its birth year, like a complementary set of ashtrays), the set was moved to the Alumni House in 1990.

Heavy and white, with a raised laurel rim surrounded by a thin silver band, the dishes are a custom version of the company’s popular Carlton Shape pattern. Shenango China, which produced china for American Airlines, the U.S. Army and five U.S. presidents, closed in 1991. Today, the average starting price for a Shenango piece is $15.

Dolan envisioned adding the dishes to a new campus food education lab, then in the planning stage; however, the space-hogging dishes needed a new home immediately. Discouraged, Dolan was ready to let the idea go — until a colleague found space in an overlooked closet.

Armed with brown boxes and stacks of newspaper on the first day of class, Dolan greeted students in her health and sport-science course with a hands-on assignment. The group packed up every teacup, bread plate and fruit bowl, loaded them on carts and wheeled the set back up the hill to Dolan’s office. In February, those same first-year students — now seniors — helped move the dishes into the newly opened ProduceOne Food and Nutrition Laboratory in College Park Center.

A definite improvement over the disposable plates students used previously, Dolan said the dishes come with one complaint from students: “Now, they have to wash dishes again.”

For more on the food lab, see “Home cooking.”


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City of Neighbors

11:18 AM  Jun 1st, 2013
by Gene Williams

No huddled masses here. Today’s immigrants and refugees are using their strength to help rebuild Dayton with help of the city’s Welcome Dayton initiative. 

When Islam Shakhbandarov first stepped onto American soil, he clutched his chest and gasped for breath. The air in Atlanta that September night in 2005 was so hot and thick with moisture it had to be gulped into his lungs.

“I took one step off the plane and I almost lost my breath,” he says, his dark eyes falling out of focus as he recalls his introduction to a new life. “I thought, ‘How am I going to survive here?’”

But there was something else on the breeze that evening besides the heat and humidity. The smell of fear. After deplaning, Shakhbandarov entered the sprawling Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and found himself awash in a sea of humanity that ebbed and flowed and broke over him like waves on a beach. There were thousands of people, strangers, dressed in clothes he didn’t recognize, speaking a language he didn’t understand and casually ignoring one another and the din that enveloped them.

It was nothing like Uzbekistan, where he was born, or Russia, from where he and his family had fled.

“I got scared,” says Shakhbandarov, a soft-spoken 29-year-old with the good looks of a young Al Pacino. “I thought, ‘I’m going to get lost in all this.’”

But he didn’t, and seven years later he finds himself in Dayton, a city that has spread its arms to welcome not only him and the Ahiska Turkish-American community to which he belongs but also immigrants from all over the world.

Welcome Dayton: Immigrant Friendly City Initiative is a community program to let foreign-born people know that there is no place better to live, work and grow families than the Miami Valley area of southwest Ohio. More a set of broad guidelines than anything else, Welcome Dayton is the city’s commitment to help immigrants integrate into the community. To that end, it has hired a program manager and invested funds — perhaps as much as $200,000 over the next several years — to support local organizations in forming policies and practices to implement the plan.

Birthed and nurtured in no small measure with help from the University of Dayton, the strategy seems to be working. Though the immigrant population constitutes slightly less than 4 percent of Dayton’s total population, it’s growing and, more importantly, thriving.

You can look no further than Shakhbandarov and the Ahiska (pronounced hiss-ka) Turkish immigrants.

“It’s a community that has exploded,” says Theo Majka, a professor of sociology at UD and co-author of the Dayton Refugee Community Assessment study, which was researched and written to complement and assist the implementation of Welcome Dayton.

Majka has researched during the past 20 years the experiences of immigrants and refugees moving to the Dayton area. In the assessment study, the co-authors identified the issues that often create barriers to integration and made recommendations for how Welcome Dayton could overcome those obstacles and — like the Ahiska Turks — thrive.

When Shakhbandarov first migrated to Dayton after brief stops in Abilene, Texas, and Boise, Idaho, there were, he says, but seven or eight Ahiska Turkish families living here. Five years later, there are nearly 400.

“There are so many here now, I don’t know them all anymore,” he says with a thin smile.

Why are so many Ahiska Turks coming to Dayton, Ohio? And Ecuadorians? And Rwandans? And Congolese? And Iraqis?

For that matter, why is Dayton putting out the welcome mat when other states — notably Arizona, Alabama and Georgia — and cities are doing just the opposite?

The simple answer: economics.

Manufacturing left much of the Midwest, and with it, Dayton lost half its population since 1960. Houses that were once filled with prosperous families now stand like rows of broken teeth, empty and shuttered.



By welcoming immigrants, Dayton believes it has found a way to reverse those fortunes.

“Immigrants are extremely beneficial to the Dayton economy,” says Melissa Bertolo, program coordinator of Welcome Dayton. “They are two to three times more likely to start businesses than people born in the United States. Meanwhile, homes are being bought and revitalized in the Dayton area.”

The very presence of immigrants in Dayton, says Majka, is like a mini-economic stimulus.

“They shop, they spend, they open small businesses and create jobs,” he says.

Because the program is not yet 2 years old — the Welcome Dayton resolution was passed by the City Commission in October 2011 — there are not yet hard figures to assess the financial impact of immigrants and refugees in the community.

But there is anecdotal evidence that many neighborhoods have seen crime rates fall and property values rise.

“We bring many positive things to the community,” says Shakhbandarov, who, despite his youth, is founder and president of the Ahiska Turkish Community Center on East Fifth Street, where he works full time. “Right now, they might not see what we can do, but they see the potential of what we can do.”

It’s not all about the money. The city has a long and rich history of helping its own. Welcome Dayton is more or less an extension of that munificence.

“Why do it?” Majka asks. “It touches on our core values as a society to offer a helping hand to people in need.”

Tom Wahlrab, generally considered the father of Welcome Dayton, agrees.

“For others, it was the economic factor,” says Wahlrab, the now-retired director of the city’s human relations council. “For me, it was the human factor. If I see people suffering, how can I in my life live with that knowledge and not help?”

That suffering is real. Shakhbandarov was 6 years old when his family fled a bloody pogrom in Uzbekistan against Ahiska Turks and resettled in Russia.

“I saw many, many friends killed,” he says. “I was afraid all the time. But it was more scary to see the older people, the adults, being so afraid. You never think your father will be scared of anything. He is Superman and you don’t think he is ever scared or helpless.”

In Russia, things weren’t much better.

“We could not get jobs without paperwork, and they gave us no paperwork,” he says, holding an unlit cigarette and a lighter in his left hand that he absently taps against his thigh. “You had to pay the police, the government under the table just to work. If you didn’t, they would put you in jail for days, for months. There were segregated classes and no medical treatment. We were nothing.”



It’s those sort of stories that led City Commissioner Matt Joseph ’94 to help lead the Welcome Dayton movement.

“From a moral standpoint it was the right thing to do,” says Joseph.

For Joseph, the decision to back Welcome Dayton was “more on a personal level than a commissioner level.”

“I guess it’s whatever’s left of the Marianist philosophy after all these years,” he says about his UD education, which taught him to be committed to a common good. “Bottom line, immigrants were already here, and we needed to do something to make sure they weren’t marginalized.”

Indeed, Dayton has been resettling refugees through Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley for more than 70 years, says Dorothy Balser, manager of refugee resettlement and mission services. She estimates that about 140 refugees are settled in Dayton through the U.S. State Department each year.

“We do this and have been doing this regardless of the [Welcome Dayton] initiative,” she says.

Still, her department works in collaboration with Welcome Dayton to ensure achievement of mutual goals: self-sufficiency for immigrants and refugees as soon as possible after arrival, and community integration.

To that end, Welcome Dayton has brought together several entities — Dayton Public Schools, UD, the Dayton Metro Library, law enforcement and clergy, among others — to provide the necessary tools for integration.

“It’s about synergy,” says Wahlrab, who earned a master’s degree from UD in 1984. “It’s about connecting and talking and helping one another in ways that weren’t happening before.”

Working together to achieve a common goal is something with which Dayton is familiar. It’s the same sort of model that worked in saving lives during the 1913 flood and now ensures smooth transitions for those coming to Dayton from foreign lands.

“I think for me, I’ve always viewed the city as being open,” says Nan Whaley ’98, a city commissioner for eight years. “At the core, that’s how we grow, as an open community. … Anyone can come here and follow their dreams and make a difference.”

Whaley was raised in a little town south of Indianapolis. She says her first experience with Dayton was when she attended UD; her first experience with public office, being elected at age 29.

“[I]t says something about who we are as a community,” she says.

The message is clear. Nobody, not even those born in the U.S., can — or has to — do it alone.

“It’s easier to acclimate when others are there to help,” says Bertolo of the coordinated effort to provide assistance.

It will be easier still for the children of current immigrants.

“My grandfather was born in (Eastern European) Georgia,” says Shakhbandarov. “My father was born in Azerbaijan. I was born in Uzbekistan. My son was born in the United States.”

He knows that his 3-year-old son will never have to watch his friends butchered in a military pogrom or pay grubby-handed bureaucrats just to get a job.

This is what Welcome Dayton has to offer. Assistance. Opportunity. Freedom.

For Shakhbandarov, a life that seemed so strange and terrifying that night in Atlanta is now filled with promise.

“When I first came here and saw all the buildings and high rises and computers — I never had a computer before — and the food, lots of food, it was a very unique experience,” he says. “To open the refrigerator and it is full … many people don’t know what it is like to open the refrigerator and find it full of food and drinks.

“For the first three, six months I can’t sleep. I was always worried what will happen. How will I keep my identity? It causes a huge depression. But little by little, it gets better. Dayton is very welcoming, and now I have a vision of a life. And for my son, I have a better vision than I had for myself. What is happening here in Dayton could be a great example for others.”

He sighs, able to breathe easy.

Gene Williams is a former executive editor of the Cherry Hill, N.J., Courier-Post. In the course of reporting this story, he drank his first-ever cup of hot Turkish tea. Make that two.

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Down a street called Brown

10:54 AM  Jun 1st, 2013
by Thomas M. Columbus

Instead of building a wall, UD built partnerships. Now Brown Street thrives.

Brown Street, once on the edge of campus and now in its center, remains in some ways unchanged over the past several decades. You can still get a porterhouse steak at the Pine Club, grab a turkey sub at Milano’s or have your feet stick to the floor at Tim’s.

But part of Brown is now very different. Once upon a time, there were — in reality if not in name — two Brown Streets: one near the upscale suburb of Oakwood and home to Tim’s, Milano’s and the Pine Club; the other, north of Stewart Street.

The Fairgrounds Neighborhood (bounded by Brown and Main streets north of Stewart Street and south of Miami Valley Hospital) was definitely not upscale when Tom Burkhardt ’70, vice president for finance and administrative services, was an undergraduate.

“It was a place,” he said, “where people dumped trash and old tires.”

When Steve Schmidt ’71 in 1980 told his wife, Angie ’71, he was thinking of buying a business on Brown Street north of campus, she said, “Isn’t that where you go to get beat up?”

Schmidt and Burkhardt are both people with UD history. Schmidt’s father, Bernie ’42, has an endowed chair in engineering named after him in recognition of his years of teaching at UD. On Burkhardt’s office wall hangs an old photograph — of three of the five generations of Burkhardts to attend UD.

Schmidt and Burkhardt share not only Dayton tradition; they, in different ways, share with many others in having built a path to the future for the University of Dayton and its namesake city.

That path runs down a street called Brown.

Steve and Angie Schmidt in 1980 took the risk of doing business on Brown when they bought a 4-year-old store, Second Time Around. While Steve built a law practice, Angie, who died in 2012, managed the store. While its sales of used merchandise shifted from vinyl to CDs and from VHS to DVDs, and as tablets and other electronic devices added a range of possibilities, the Schmidts expanded their business.

But, with short notice, Second Time Around could have become homeless.

“We were on a month-to-month lease with our landlord for 17 years,” Schmidt said. To ensure that the business would have a building to house it, when a property across the street came up for sale, Schmidt bought it.

“I took,” he said, “a $25,000 advance on my MasterCard.”

When another building came up for sale, he took another advance. Then, Second Time Around’s building came up for sale.

“My landlord called,” he said. “I had 13 days to make an offer. People kept telling me I’d be stupid to do so.”

But he did. Now eight Brown Street businesses call him landlord.

“It took,” he said, “staying power, confidence and belief in Brown Street.”

According to local developer Jeff Samuelson, “Angie was an angel. And Steve literally was a pioneer.”

When the Schmidts purchased Second Time Around, there were people across the street who also believed in Brown Street and had staying power. Joe and Irene Kiss 50 years ago co-founded the restaurant now named Joe Kiss Hickory Bar-B-Q. Joe spent 33 years with the restaurant until his death. His daughter Margo has worked there since childhood; her husband, Gary Fisher, has been there 33 years. And it’s not just co-owners who have been there a long time; a half-dozen people who aren’t family members have worked there more than 30 years.

“Most who leave,” Gary Fisher said, only half-jokingly, “leave only when they die.”

One waitress didn’t stay quite that long, but probably a bit too long. She had become very forgetful but was still working one day a week.

“A millionaire from up north was eating here,” Fisher said. “After dinner, he said to Joe, ‘We know she’s older, but we ordered steak and got chicken. That we don’t mind; it was good. But we got charged for the steak.’

“Joe asked the waitress why she was still working. ‘I want to make enough to play bingo.’ So, he told her she didn’t have to work; he just gave her weekly bingo money.”

Kiss, like Steve Schmidt, also took steps to ensure the survival of his business. For years, the Hickory had no parking of its own. The lot next to it was clearly marked as belonging to the Westward Ho cafeteria adjacent to the lot on its other side.

“One day,” said Fisher, “Joe told me the Westward Ho was going up for sale, and he was going to buy it before somebody else did. I asked him how much he was willing to spend. ‘Whatever it takes.’ We need parking.”

They got that needed commodity.

But while a few businesses on Brown Street thrived, the area as a whole did not. The Fairgrounds Neighborhood had flourished into the mid-20th century. Residents then included NCR workers along with a few UD students and some nursing students from Miami Valley Hospital. A number of NCR workers lived in rooming houses during the week and on weekends returned home (Kentucky for many).

But in the early 1970s, the NCR factory jobs began to disappear from Dayton as later did the factories and eventually the company’s world headquarters.

The rooming houses, which had provided good housing for the workers, deteriorated. The number of owner-occupied houses decreased. Absentee landlords, vandalism, panhandling and drug sales increased. Institutions — such as churches, Miami Valley Hospital and UD — tried to aid the people in the neighborhood. For example, UD students built programs and a playground for students at Patterson-Kennedy, a Dayton public elementary school at Wyoming and Alberta streets. UD’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity revived a boarded-up house at 51 Frank St. Staff from UD’s Strategies for Responsible Development worked with the area’s business association, laying the groundwork for people working together to restore the neighborhood.

But the problems were too big for service groups, volunteers and grassroots efforts alone to eradicate.

The area was perceived as unsafe. And often it was. After UD students were assaulted in the area in the early 1990s, a parent called Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M. ’64, UD president from 1979 to 2002, and said, “We should build a fence.”

Dick Ferguson ’73, an assistant to Fitz at the time, remembered Fitz later saying in a meeting about the situation, “Rather, we should build relationships.”

And emphasis on those relationships led to a renaissance.

“Brother Ray Fitz deserves an enormous amount of credit,” said Thomas Breitenbach, then president and CEO of Miami Valley Hospital, “for erasing the barriers that had existed between the University and the surrounding community, and using the University’s economic and intellectual resources to improve the neighborhood.”

Ferguson, who has directed UD’s Fitz Center for Leadership in Community since its founding in 2002, remembered that in the mid-1990s UD, Miami Valley Hospital and NCR were all doing master plans.

“Leaders from the city of Dayton,” he said, “were frustrated with a lack of Brown Street development and asked that we all get together.”

They did. Ferguson chaired the Rubicon Master Plan Committee. After the issues were identified, it became clear that No. 1 was the condition of the Fairgrounds Neighborhood.

Today Brother Bernard Ploeger, S.M. ’71,  is president of Chaminade University in Honolulu; Tom Arquilla ’81, senior vice president of business development and strategy at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio. During the 1990s, they were representing the business interests of the University of Dayton and Miami Valley Hospital, respectively. One day in Ploeger’s office, the two were looking at a map of Brown Street.

“We agreed,” Arquilla said, “that the future, if we did nothing, was untenable. There would be blight. We would have walls around UD and Miami Valley. So we had to invest in the neighborhood or let it deteriorate.”

Their institutions each invested millions of dollars.

Miami Valley, directly adjacent to the Fairgrounds Neighborhood, did some work on its own, including relocating a street when the hospital built a new emergency department. Then came the phase, in Arquilla’s words, of “ramping up partnerships.” Among the partners, in addition to UD and Miami Valley Hospital, were the city of Dayton, Montgomery County and CityWide Development, a nonprofit economic community development organizer.

Miami Valley’s Breitenbach asked Arquilla to do some research about similar situations. One hospital, Arquilla said, reacted to its environment “by building its campus as a barrier to the neighborhood.”

Another hospital was St. Vincent in downtown Toledo, which worked to redevelop the area near it by renovating some houses, numbering under a dozen.

“I asked them, if they had to do it over, what would they do differently. Their reply was, ‘We didn’t do enough.’”

Dayton’s institutions decided they had to do enough.

The Rubicon Master Plan was completed in 1998; in 1999, UD and Miami Valley Hospital formally committed to Genesis, a project for transforming the Fairgrounds Neighborhood. UD’s commitment to the first phase (which would run through 2004) was $2.2 million. Contributions from Miami Valley Hospital and other institutions, including banks and government, brought the total to more than $14 million. The goals of the project were simple though ambitious:

  • transform the neighborhood into a safe and attractive area;
  • increase the home ownership rate from 17 percent to 35 percent;
  • provide homes affordable for families making between $25,000 and $40,000 per year; and
  • stimulate reinvestment in the business district.

An early acquisition, 1056 Brown St., became the Rubicon House, a community gathering spot and meeting place for those working on Genesis. Those coming to meetings there could, Ferguson noted, look across Brown Street and see children being raised amid drugs and prostitution.

Arquilla said that sometimes they asked themselves, “Do we know what the hell we have done?” But like Julius Caesar after he led his army across the Italian Rubicon, they knew there was no turning back. So they pressed forward — with a little help from their friends.

Friends included city police. Within view of the Rubicon House was a drug house, said Burkhardt, who by this time had succeeded Ploeger as UD’s chief financial officer. Having such tenants was one landlord’s mistake. The city acted against the dealer, and the property became available.

“It was still a huge price,” said Burkhardt, who, like Arquilla, was averse to overspending institutional resources.

And those resources, though substantial, were limited. Among the problems were drug deals being made on street corners and people bringing trash into the neighborhood and dumping it. Something had to be done.

“We installed video cameras,” Burkhardt said. “Since they were expensive, all except one were fake. But they worked.” Drugs and trash felt less comfortable in the neighborhood; and residents themselves organized and worked with the city in keeping the neighborhood clean.

In revitalizing the neighborhood, Arquilla said, Genesis faced two major obstacles: zoning that allowed rooming houses and a significant amount of property being owned by very few people.

Although the path to overcoming both challenges wasn’t always smooth, zoning was changed and property acquired. Old houses in untenable condition were rebuilt or demolished; new ones arose. And new curbs and sidewalks and trees appeared.

As the area moved to owner-occupied housing, about two dozen people who were renting in the old rooming houses had to find other places to live. Arquilla managed that process, bringing to it a personal perspective. In 1971, when he was not yet a teenager, his family lived across the street from a hospital.

“The landlord,” he said, “sold the property to the hospital. He gave us 30 days to get out. We were turned down for a loan. My father was ill. While he was in a coma, we got a loan. Then he died.”

So when Arquilla was working on acquisition of property in the Fairgrounds Neighborhood, he said, “I didn’t do what happened to me. We found those people places to live. We got them a real estate agent. We provided a relocation package. After I raised what happened to me, there was never any debate over those issues.”

The commitment of Miami Valley Hospital has been critical to the success of the neighborhood, said CityWide President Steve Budd ’76, who continues to chair the Genesis board. (The board also includes two members from UD and two from Miami Valley.) Funding from the hospital has supported two additional Dayton police officers for the neighborhood (without affecting other areas of the city), a social worker and community organizers. The hospital also offered strong financial incentives for employees to buy houses in the neighborhood. Julie Liss-Katz, director of public affairs at Premier Health (parent of Miami Valley Hospital), manages those endeavors.

“Of the 32 houses built by Genesis,” she said, “16 were purchased by Miami Valley Hospital employees.”

Genesis had attempted, Budd said, “to cure a ‘cancer’ in the neighborhood, to create an environment so commercial and residential development would come in.”

Coming in — and in a big way — was developer Jeff Samuelson.

It started small, with a colleague’s question about an available property: “Do you know this place on Brown Street?”

“It’s a pit,” Samuelson said. “But it’s near UD.”

That began a complicated series of deals running parallel to the Genesis project. Samuelson’s JZ Construction, as the lead for other partners and investors, acquired a number of pieces of property on the west side of Brown Street, including a bowling alley-turned-bar-turned-bingo parlor — and then found tenants, including Panera, Chipotle, Penn Station and Dewey’s. Samuelson also constructed the new Milano’s building and did the renovations to several other Brown Street businesses.

On the east side of Brown Street, the University joined with the Miller-Valentine Group to develop University Place, which opened in 2008 and runs from Stewart Street northward. The facility contains graduate student apartments, restaurants and shops, including Flyer Spirit — a student-run retail store.

Within the Fairgrounds Neighborhood itself now is another change — housing being built, not by nonprofit partnerships, but by a commercial builder, Charles Simms Development.

The renaissance of Brown Street from UD to the hospital extends farther north on Brown (and its continuation, Warren Street). A former city of Dayton firehouse has become Jimmie’s Ladder 11, a reincarnation of Jimmie’s Cornerstone Bar and Grille. One of Dayton’s premier restaurants, Coco’s, has established itself even farther north. And Goodwill Easter Seals is moving its Dayton headquarters to a nearby site.

Among the most visible recent changes to Brown Street are UD’s Caldwell Street Apartments, having risen on the site at Brown and Caldwell streets where the auto dealer Frank Z once did business. Across Brown Street at that point, what once was an NCR building has transformed into UD’s College Park Center. And substantially changed is the street itself; the past year saw a complete replacement of a long section and the addition of decorative street lighting, underground utilities, new traffic signals, new sidewalks — and dedicated bike lanes.

At its south end, Brown Street now appears to be spilling over into Oakwood. The former site of the Routsong Funeral home, across Irving Avenue where Brown Street turns into Oakwood Avenue, is seeing stores built that have a resemblance to the new ones on Brown — perhaps because the developer is Jeff Samuelson, and success gets imitated.

Dayton has learned the lessons of Genesis and the rebirth of Brown Street. These — being applied to the renewal of other neighborhoods throughout the city — include:

  • No one person or group can do it alone.
  • The bigger the idea, the better for gaining support.
  • Partners must commit long-term to both funding and staff.
  • Stakeholders must be clear about their interests and about shared interests.
  • Conflicts likely will lessen — but they will continue.

But a street called Brown now runs proudly through the heart of the University of Dayton to the suburb of Oakwood, to the center of Dayton and to worlds beyond.


Thomas M. Columbus has been around Brown Street long enough to have had a drink at the Shed, but claims he was not here to welcome the Marianists when they immigrated to the U.S.

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