In the early 1980s, at a nearly sold-out UD Arena, a barnstormer crouched in one of the seating sections, trying to hide his big head among the crowd. Attached by a long rope tied to the Arena roof rafters, he leapt up and soared across the basketball court, cape flowing behind while fans laughed and pointed at the silly, but daring, mascot who brings them so much joy.
For more than 35 years, Rudy Flyer has captured the hearts of fans. The friendly, muscular mascot leads cheers at games, gives high-fives to fans and takes photos with children and alumni — all while fostering and supporting the University’s commitment to Flyer community.
But Rudy didn’t fly out of thin air. The beloved mascot was born at a basketball game Dec. 1, 1980, after years of spirit-filled, sometimes four-legged predecessors. The history of Rudy is a story that involves those who helped conceive him, as well as the Flyer Faithful who have cheered beside and supported him along the way.
The making of this modern Flyer icon began in France in 1880 with the opera La Mascotte, composed by Edmond Audran. According to the International University Sports Federation, the popularity of the opera hastened the translation of the word and concept into English by 1881.
The term was often applied to live animals that U.S. sports teams brought to games to intimidate opponents and entertain fans. The University of Dayton had its own livestock, such as a chicken who once appeared at a soccer game. In 1956, the Flyer News interviewed Pedro the Donkey, which the writer described as having “large, dreamy, brown eyes” and a red and blue blanket with the letter “D.” “I hope to be on the Flyers’ team for many years to come,” Pedro was quoted as saying.
But Pedro’s days — and those of live animal mascots everywhere — were numbered after the popular embrace of the Muppets, those plush, sarcastic creations of puppeteer Jim Henson.
According to the federation, teams in the late 1960s started creating Muppet-like mascots that were friendly with fans and good at helping teams with marketing and public relations efforts.
Up until the early 1970s, the University of Dayton didn’t have an official mascot. In 1972, Gene Schill, the director of athletic public relations and promotions, sent a letter to world-renowned cartoonist Milton Caniff.
In his letter, Schill wrote, “To the best of our knowledge, UD is the only college or university in the country with the nickname of ‘Flyers,’ and it has been a source of irritation to the Department of Athletics that we have not had an official mascot or logo for use on decals, tee shirts, letterheads, etc.”
Ohio born and Dayton raised, Caniff had become famous for creating the comic strips Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon. When asked to draw UD’s mascot, Caniff inked the D-Bird — part bird, part plane to help represent the Flyers nickname while also paying tribute to Orville and Wilbur Wright, the inventors of powered flight.
Caniff described the D-Bird to Schill in a letter, now housed at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University.
“The drawing shows a winged-goggled-beaked-helmeted creature, carrying on its head a flashing, beacon-like device and brandishing four menacing legs each wearing a different kind of shoe (football, basketball, track and baseball),” Caniff wrote. “The blue helmet bears the U. of D. major letter in red. The bird’s bill and legs are also in the school’s traditional red color.
“The wings represent the Wright Flyer aircraft which gave the teams their nickname of Flyers. The shoes symbolize the major sports in which the University participates while the aggressive attitude of the bird diving out of the sun on its prey reflects the competitive spirit of the various athletic teams.
“Topping it all is the flashing light reminding the viewer that learning is the main issue of any university function. The participants in sports are there for an education. As an antenna, the symbol indicates that these athletes are in touch … they are with it!”
Dayton Daily News sports writer Hal McCoy called it “a weird little creature” when it debuted on a football program in fall 1972. But the D-Bird had huge wings attached to his back and two stubby legs, giving it a form with no hope of translating into a human-inhabited costume.
By the late 1970s, UD was ready to try again, and this time it wanted a walking, cheering mascot.
First, UD identified the person who would inhabit the costume. Ric Cengeri ’81 was an enthusiastic management major with a passion for basketball. He was discovered at the 1979-80 AIAW Women’s Basketball National Championship, hosted at the Arena. While waiting for the Flyers to take the court, Cengeri cheered on William Penn, later helping rally the William Penn fans to push their team to win in the overtime consolation game.
UD’s band director and cheerleading adviser took note and invited Cengeri to try out for the cheerleading squad.
“I was terrible,” Cengeri recalled. “I had all kinds of spirit, but I couldn’t do the lifts.”
The team kept Cengeri from potentially dropping fellow cheerleaders by having him entertain fans with mannequins and other skits.
Around this time, the band director approached Athletic Director Tom Frericks ’53 about getting a mascot costume, said Rory Falato ’77.
“Tom Frericks was intent on building up the basketball program,” said Falato, director of athletic and arena promotions at the time. “He understood the benefits not just for the athletic department but the University as a whole.”
Frericks knew a competitive basketball team would attract students, and Rudy became part of refining the Flyer sports brand. “We started selling Flyer merchandise at games,” Falato said. “There were blue crying towels and kids’ dribble-pass-and-shoot contests at halftime. Get people involved. Fill the seats. Make it family friendly. It’s not just a game, it’s an event.”
The athletic department hired southwest Ohio artist D.W. Biggs to draw the first Rudy, who resembled a 1920s barnstormer, a term used to describe stunt pilots performing tricks with their planes. UD sent the watercolor and ink image to Stagecraft, a Cincinnati mascot design company, where owner Randy Kent brought the drawing to life.
Kent said he started by first sculpting the head, then adding a giant mustache below the bulging nose and topping it with a leather pilot cap. Next came the body, arms and feet, all covered with a flight jacket, pants, gloves and high-top boots.
Just after the costume arrived on campus, it suffered a wardrobe malfunction. The mascot’s goggles came loose and needed to be reattached. So the costume was sent back to Stagecraft, and Kent said he glued the goggles back on and brought it up to Dayton so that it could be used for the game that night, Dec. 1, 1980, against San Francisco.
Cengeri said he put the mascot head on, immediately smelled the glue fumes and became lightheaded. But he performed his role as the mascot for the night.
The following day, the head was placed in the ticket office. Cengeri said that the fumes from the glue were so bad the ticketing employees evacuated the office.
The fumes did not discourage Cengeri, and at the Jan. 24, 1981, basketball game against Marquette, the mascot finally got his name. The athletic department had run a promotion, with fans ranging in age from 4 years to Golden Flyers submitting entries of their favorite names. It was Falato’s idea.
“I had the bright idea to have a name-the-mascot contest with a group of randomly chosen fans who would vote on the name,” he said. He received more than 600 entries, including Pontius Pilot and Freddie Flyer. “It came down to Barney Barnstormer and Rudy. The name Rudy reminded me more of a WWI German Flying Ace. But, that’s what they picked,” Falato said.
Falato took to the Arena floor and made the announcement — and it sounded as if all the fans in the Arena were booing, he said.
“We stuck with it,” Falato said. “Here we are almost 40 years later, and he’s still around. I’m very proud of that, but I will tell you I’ve never had a name contest again.”
Cengeri said it took fans several years to embrace the name, but they warmed to the mascot quickly, making the man in the costume proud.
“It was the best,” said Cengeri, now a producer and announcer with Vermont Public Radio. “I’m a massive sports fan. I love the UD Flyers. To be able to attend every home game and some away games — to be right there on the floor — it was fantastic.”
While Rudy rallied support for the Flyers, the fans began supporting their mascot and transforming him into a cherished icon, said Joe Yokajty ’85, who became the mascot in 1982.
“During my second year as the mascot, Rudy started getting fan mail from some of the kids attending the UD games,” Yokajty said. “It was awesome.”
Yokajty made sure to reward the fans with some antics he knew they’d love, including the night when he got to fly.
Yokajty said he was hidden in one of the seating sections, then jumped out and flew across the basketball court with the cape on his back.
“I am still amazed that President Brother Raymond Fitz gave the ROTC permission to tie me to a long rope attached to the ceiling rafters. I think it was because we were both engineers,” said Yokajty, now an engineer based in Rochester, New York.
As Rudy got older, he not only got more adventurous but also more hip.
“Back in 1983, Michael Jackson first performed his Moonwalk on a TV program celebrating the history of Motown,” Yokajty said. “Rudy immediately taught himself the legendary move and incorporated it into his own dance routine during a Flyer basketball halftime. I swear most of the women in the Arena screamed.
“Rudy’s head might have been even bigger that day.”
The head was big, yes. And hot, with Yokajty losing up to 10 pounds while working football games. And, well, funny-looking.
“At one point Rudy’s face became a bit worn,” Yokajty said. “I overheard folks saying Rudy looked a bit like Mr. Potato Head. That was somewhat embarrassing for Rudy, until the costume was sent away for restoration that summer.”
Fans continued to think that Rudy looked like Mr. Potato Head throughout the 1990s. In 1997, the University decided Rudy needed to grow up.
According to a Dayton Daily News article by Bucky Albers, Rudy received a new blue pilot suit, red satin scarf, black boots, a black leather cap and goggles.
“The floppy-footed World War I biplane pilot who has frolicked at UD Arena for the past 17 years has been replaced by a character who looks more like Chuck Yeager,” Albers wrote in the article, referring to the famed test pilot who in 1947 became the first person to break the sound barrier.
More changes took place in the mid–2000s, Jay Nigro ’06 explained. After he became Rudy in August 2004, the mascot upgraded his blue jumpsuit by adding muscles and a bomber jacket. Rudy started wearing the basketball team’s jerseys and even the same shirt as Red Scare when rival Xavier came to town.
“They pretty much let me go where I wanted to go,” said Nigro, who now owns Liftoff Entertainment in Dayton. “It was a lot of fun interacting with fans,” he added, noting that he would walk to where his professors were sitting. They had no idea who was in the costume.
“It was something I’ll definitely remember about my college experience. Everyone loves Rudy,” he said.
Four years ago, Rudy beefed up his image again — taller, bigger and more muscular, said Adrienne Green ’08, director of marketing at UD Arena. He donned a new muscle suit and got a new bomber jacket, though he does dress for the occasion.
“We get all kinds of requests, even on campus,” Green said about Rudy’s appearances at weddings, alumni events, Christmas and birthday parties, and fundraisers.
Rudy Flyer donned a red satin scarf for a special occasion in 2011. “Guests were entertained by Rudy Flyer, who made a surprise appearance during the reception,” wrote Paula Veihdeffer Markley ’07 for her wedding announcement in UD Magazine.
Becky Dunn Kaster ’07 and Chris Kastner ’07 couldn’t have Rudy at their wedding, so they had the next best thing — a custom cake topper with boy and girl Rudy standing beside a Lowes Street sign.
“Rudy to us means family,” said Becky Kastner, “whether it’s our family members who also went to Dayton, our close-knit friends from UD who are now like family or the alumni community as a whole. Even though we graduated almost 10 years ago, the Flyer spirit remains with us and is something that we are both proud of.”
“We are both big UD sports fans and like to see Rudy motivating the crowd,” said Collin Brown.
Fernando del Monte ’08 and Molly Bytnar del Monte ’07 also named their furry yellow pup Rudy. “The main reason we named our dog Rudy was to remind ourselves of where we met,” Fernando del Monte said. “Our time at UD was so incredible.”
When the Arena marketing crew discusses how to schedule Rudy, they capitalize on his fan appeal to make a good time even better — including delivering free food during game breaks. “People like to get a pizza, especially if it’s from Rudy,” Green said.
Two to four students per school year have the opportunity to be Rudy, and their ideal height is between 5-foot-7 and 6-foot-3. If someone is not in that height range, the suit becomes disproportional, and Rudy loses his powerful image, Green said.
“I have a lot of respect for our students who do Rudy,” Green said. “It’s hot in there, and you can’t see anything. But it’s fun, and people get excited to see you.”
The love for Rudy — and Rudy’s evolution — continues. This year, Rudy will be able to be in two places at the same time; the athletic department had the costume “cloned.”
Such adaptation calls for a formal portrait. As of fall 2016, fans can purchase Rudy’s likeness on T-shirts, key chains and cut-outs.
Although Rudy has undergone many changes throughout the years, one thing remains the same: his readiness to cheer on his beloved Flyers with an army of Flyer Faithful beside him.
Michelle Tedford ’94 contributed reporting to this story.No Comments
“Houston, we have a problem.” Well, not for the over 600 alumni who migrated south after graduation to this fourth-largest and second-fastest growing U.S. city. Not only does Houston attract visitors to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, but it is also where Texas Medical Center — the world’s largest hospital — is located, along with 23 Fortune 500 companies.
For Christmas off Campus 2015, the Houston Alumni Community gathered to help pack 6,500 “backpacks,” providing children with six meals for the weekend. And, the loyal community enjoys having a strong following for basketball game watches throughout the season.
What out-of-this-world experience do you remember having while at UD?
“My senior year the men’s basketball team made it to the [NCAA Tournament] and the whole campus was agog. I don’t remember which game it was, but I stepped out on the porch for a moment. It was eerily quiet. I saw no one walking home, no one sitting out, nothing. And at that moment something happened in the game and I could hear the roars coming from every direction. College sports is about a shared experience, an ownership of our community. And at that moment I was definitely one with my community.” —Mary DeBauche ’90
“The student community at UD is extraordinary. I attribute that to the fact that it’s a Marianist school and students go there for
the faith as much as the classes offered. I was proud to be part of that community.”
—Jason Gavula ’94
“My senior year we had second row tickets in the student section for the Xavier game — that was the most alive that I have ever seen the Arena. We beat Xavier when they were ranked. That same year the team won the first NCAA Tournament game for UD since 1990. I remember watching with all of my friends and being so happy to be a Flyer. Watching the Flyers at UD Arena is really special because the entire community comes together united in support of our team.” —Brad Evans ’09
By the Numbers
Total Alumni 633
Flyer fusions 84
Most 1970s with 158
Arts & Sciences 199
Education & Health Sciences 90
Law 25No Comments
Less than a week after I heard associate professor Susan Davies speak to educators about traumatic brain injuries in children, teachers from my 1-year-old son’s child care center called me at my office.
Kyle had fallen while toddling across the mobile infant playground and hit his head on concrete. He seemed fine, they said, but they were calling as part of their automatic notification process following such injuries.
They called again 10 minutes later. Emergency medical technicians were on the way and a parent needed to come immediately. Kyle now seemed “lethargic” and appeared sleepy, potential signs of a loss of consciousness.
I panicked. Then I started thinking of what I learned from Davies’ books and training session about concussion recognition response, preparing to put her tips into action to help our son heal. (See story.)
As an editor in the Division of University Marketing and Communications, I have the opportunity to meet thoughtful, intelligent faculty like Davies who recognize and identify issues they see in their fields of work and take action. It’s research for the common good, information shared that helps everyday citizens
advocate for themselves and others.
I was reminded of this when, one year after its original publication in the University of Dayton Magazine, a reader thanked us for publishing an article on the importance of physical therapy for breast cancer survivors.
“Last year, shortly after I had surgery for Stage II breast cancer, I had terrible cording and elbow pain after surgery,” she wrote. “Not a single MD taking care of me mentioned this risk at all. Your article helped me figure out that I needed to seek a lymphedema specialist. Thank you.”
The writer’s son, a UD grad, had sent her the Autumn 2015 article featuring associate professor of physical therapy Mary Fisher and her work helping breast cancer survivors manage elbow and shoulder pain common after surgery. By sharing our faculty’s research in these pages, we not only showcase the high-level work taking place at the University, we present their practical, real-world solutions to a broader audience outside the lab or classroom.
That includes the letter writer, who’s getting the treatment she needs for her post-cancer condition. And me, who knew what to do when my son got hurt that day in late October.
The doctors at Dayton Children’s Hospital checked Kyle for signs of concussion and cleared him with little more than a nasty bruise on his forehead — no need to assemble a concussion team at his child care center. But I took comfort in knowing that if I did, I have access to the best minds working to solve such challenges. And you do, too.No Comments
Chuck Noll had a childhood dream. When he was 17, he saw it destroyed. Then he came to Dayton.
Noll’s Dayton years are part of the story told by Michael MacCambridge in his book Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work. MacCambridge’s journey to writing the book about the coach who moved the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise from laughingstock to Super Bowl legend took some time. In researching his award-winning America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation, he had interviewed Dan Rooney, Steelers executive and son of the franchise’s founder, Art Rooney.
A few months after the book was published in 2004, “I received a handwritten note from Rooney saying that it was a good book but didn’t have enough about the Steelers,” said MacCambridge while visiting the University of Dayton in October for a book signing.
In doing another book some years later, MacCambridge again interviewed Rooney, who was nearing 80 and had added to his achievements being the first U.S. ambassador to Ireland to visit all of the island’s 32 counties. After a while, he heard back from Rooney, by then Steelers chairman emeritus, his son Art II now heading the franchise.
Rooney wanted him to do a book on Chuck Noll.
“I was interested,” MacCambridge said, “but I told him it can’t be just about Noll being a good football coach.”
“You look into it,” Rooney said. “You’ll see.”
So MacCambridge talked to men who played with and for Noll. He talked to Noll’s family. He saw.
Three years, 300 interviews and a lot of writing later, the book on Noll has been published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. It is about a successful football coach. No other coach has won four Super Bowls while losing none. But it is also about a successful man.
Noll’s perspectives were broader than football. During his life he became a photographer, a wine connoisseur, an airplane pilot. If something interested him, he wanted to become an expert on it. “He may have been,” MacCambridge said, “the last Renaissance man.”
Noll loved his wife, Marianne, and their son, Chris. And he loved his nieces and nephews. His sister, Rita, and her husband, Clarence, had seven children under the age of 10 when Clarence died suddenly. Noll became a source of financial help and more. Noll kept his family life private; he neither sought the spotlight nor enjoyed it. But MacCambridge noted that, as he was researching the book, the nieces and nephews were very clear to him about their uncle’s love and help and their gratitude to him.
One remembers struggling with algebra. He took her aside and quietly went over it with her. “From that day on,” she said, “math was my best subject.”
The intelligence, the skills, the attitude that Noll brought to everything in life, he brought to football. And he changed the game.
“His big contribution,” MacCambridge said, “was reducing the game to its components. Football was then, in terms of coaches, a cult of personality, of willpower, of overblown rhetoric, ‘give 110 — no, 120 percent.’”
Noll considered it the player’s job to motivate himself. What Noll as a coach did, MacCambridge said, was to teach players “what to do, how to do it and why they should do it.”
After graduating from the University, Noll played for Paul Brown in Cleveland for six years. Brown was a coach who stayed on message. One message his players heard repeatedly was that “this is just what you’re doing now. You have to think of what your life’s work will be.”
Part of that advice had to do with economic necessity. Pro football didn’t pay much in those days. As a player, Noll did consider what his life’s work could be. He sold insurance. He sold trucking services. He did substitute teaching. He studied law a bit. He thought about medicine.
He didn’t like any of it much.
“I had a horrible, horrible fear of him ending up selling time on a truck line forever,” MacCambridge quotes Marianne as saying. “And I wanted him to have a passion.”
In 1959, Noll got a call from his old roommate, Jim Currin ’53, who told him that former UD assistant coach Joe Quinn ’42 and others thought he would be a good candidate for Dayton’s head coaching job. After interviewing in Dayton, he returned home to Cleveland and Marianne waiting with dinner and wine. He explained he knew he wasn’t going to get the job.
“But I do know one thing now,” he said. “This is what I really want to do. I really want to coach.”
Read the remainder of this piece by following this link.No Comments
The excerpt that follows is from the part of Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work that chronicles Noll’s Dayton years; it takes him from being a 17-year-old with his spirit crushed to being a man about to try out for a football team that in every year of its existence had played in its league’s championship game — the Cleveland Browns. While at Dayton, MacCambridge said, Noll “got a sense of self, a sense of belonging, a sense of confidence.”
Chuck Noll ’53 had a childhood dream of playing football for the best college team in the country, Notre Dame. He tried out as a walk-on. An epileptic, he had a seizure. That was the end of his Notre Dame career. “The university,” writes Noll biographer Michael MacCambridge, “thought it best if Chuck went home. Coach [Frank] Leahy didn’t want to take the risk.” The following excerpt from MacCambridge’s 2016 book, Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work (reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press), describes what happened after Noll returned to his home on the east side of Cleveland.
There were no heart-to-heart discussions at the breakfast table the next morning. Instead, Chuck got up, showered and dressed, and did what he’d done most days the previous four years: he walked up to Woodland Avenue to grab the streetcar heading out to Benedictine [High School].
The semester had just begun, and the school was in the early stages of earnest fall activity. Chuck went straight to the athletic department and found who he was looking for — Ab Strosnider [Noll’s line coach at Benedictine and a 1927 Dayton grad].
With his eyes fixed on his shoes, Chuck told Strosnider what had happened. They talked for a few moments, and Strosnider asked him what his plan was now. Chuck didn’t have one.
But very soon, Strosnider did. He told Chuck to give him a few hours.
Strosnider had played, with distinction, at the University of Dayton, about 215 miles downstate, in southwestern Ohio. Soon, he got on the phone with Joe Gavin, the head football coach at Dayton and also, as it happened, a college roommate of Frank Leahy.
It made perfect sense. Leahy and Gavin were still close friends, and at times Leahy would call Gavin on the phone and have him try a new wrinkle with his team that Leahy couldn’t risk trying in practice — because of all the attention on Notre Dame — with his own team. Surely Gavin would take on Chuck Noll.
Gavin called Leahy to find out the story on the Noll kid. There wasn’t much information: Leahy knew the kid had a seizure, and Notre Dame didn’t become Notre Dame by taking on problems. Whatever Leahy said wasn’t enough to convince Gavin to take Chuck. But then, after Gavin called Strosnider back and politely declined, he’d found the old Dayton alum unwavering in his insistence on Chuck’s worthiness. Strosnider wouldn’t take no for an answer.
He was speaking quietly at first, but soon he raised his voice, loudly enough for Father Placid [Pientek, the athletic department business manager], sitting in another corner of the Benedictine athletic department office, to hear one side of the conversation.
“Look,” Strosnider continued, more emphatic. “Joe, I tell you he’s a good kid! You got to take him. If you don’t, you won’t get another guy from Benedictine, I swear to God.”
As threats went, it was not an idle one: Strosnider had been around, and he knew virtually everyone in Cleveland football. After a few more moments on the phone, Gavin relented. Strosnider signed off with a relieved affirmation — “You’ll see” — and then a quick goodbye.
He put the phone back in its cradle and eased back into the chair. The next call was to Chuck, to tell him that he should keep his bags packed; he would be enrolling at the University of Dayton.
So, on Sept. 18, 1949, Chuck Noll went to Terminal Tower and got on a train, bound for Dayton. He was met at the station by Dan Ferrazza [’51] who drove him to campus so he could watch practice. One of the other freshmen recognized him. It was Len Kestner, who was on the Catholic Universe Bulletin’s All-Catholic team with Chuck in ’48.
“Hey, Chuck!,” said Kestner. “What are you doing here? I thought you were at Notre Dame.”
“It’s a long story,” Chuck said.
By 1949, the hometown of Orville and Wilbur Wright was a small-time city with big-time aspirations. National Cash Register, founded in 1884 and thriving in the postwar economy, was right across the street from the campus, and there were several General Motors subsidiaries — Delco and Frigidaire plants among them — that were paying well for manual labor. Against this growing industrial metropolis, the University of Dayton stood out as a redoubt of Catholic learning. …
It lacked the bustle of Cleveland or the mystique of Notre Dame, but it was welcoming, approachable and Catholic. It didn’t take long before Chuck felt at home.
Before they’d even met him, some of his teammates saw Chuck one afternoon, a solitary figure out on the practice field, relentlessly ramming out at a blocking sled. Later that day, [Pat] Maloney [’53] became the first to make his acquaintance. They sat together in the narrow corridor outside the athletic office and struck up a conversation. “We must have talked for about 20-25 minutes before Gavin got there,” said Maloney. “I remember afterwards that I said, ‘Boy, what a nice guy; I really like this guy. I’m glad I came to UD because it is going to be good.”
Out on the practice field, Chuck’s credentials were clear. “Right away, you knew he was a player,” Jim Currin [’53] said. “There was no question he could play the game, and he knew it. He was smarter than all the rest of us, had blocking techniques we didn’t have yet. You could just tell.”
The freshman team was designated cannon fodder. “We just got the shit kicked out of us by the varsity,” said Maloney. “That was it. No ifs, ands or buts about it.”
Eventually, though, by the end of that first season, something changed. In 1949, many of Dayton’s starters were nearing their mid-20s, Second World War veterans who attended on the GI Bill. … At first, Gavin thought the older, hardened athletes would be the key to Dayton’s rise. But there was something missing in the GI Bill vets — a degree of abandon characteristic of the best players. Gavin found it hard to convince someone who’d survived the Battle of the Bulge to whip themselves into an emotional fervor for the sake of beating St. Bonaventure.
By the end of the season, as the freshmen grew physically and in confidence, the tide turned in their scrimmaging against the varsity. “Some of them were married, so football wasn’t a big thing,” said Currin. “So when we came in, we were all recruits, ready to go, and we would have a scrimmage, and by the end of that year we would just knock the snot out of them.”
As sophomores, Chuck and the Dayton football Class of 1953 moved en masse up to the varsity. … On the field that sophomore year, Chuck found a new influence. He was Ralph McGehee, an All-American under Leahy at Notre Dame, who was rehabbing an injured knee on his way to trying out for the pros. If Russ Alexander [who coached Noll on a youth team in Cleveland] had taught Chuck the principles of leverage, and Strosnider helped him with the nuances of using his arms to shed and control opponents, McGehee gave Chuck a master class in the initial explosion off the line of scrimmage.
McGehee “had the most powerful lunge out of the three-point stance that I had ever seen or have seen since,” said Currin. “And he watched Chuck, because Chuck had a good lunge from three-point stance, and worked with Chuck. Between the two of them, they would break those sliding machines.” The facility Chuck had exhibited in the classroom — hear or read something once and he retained much of it — translated to the football field as well, and by his sophomore year, Chuck was already coaching his teammates.
By the time he returned for training camp in the late summer of 1951, Chuck might have felt he was coming home to his second family. The connections between those Dayton players ran deeper than mere teammates. They lived together, studied together (those that studied), went out together, and drank together. …
They had spent much of the previous two years giving each other nicknames. … Chuck’s nickname was definitely bestowed during the spring intrasquad game in 1951. … Before one play, Chuck made a line audible that would send him wide to block the end and have Currin moving inside to catch the linebacker coming through the vacated hole. The call was made but the play broke down from the start, Chuck not getting a good shot on the end and Currin missing the linebacker entirely.
Walking back to the huddle, both Chuck and Currin were adamant that the other man had failed.
“That’s your fault!” Chuck said.
“You called it!” said Currin. “He was too far over!” Then, perturbed, he added, “You think you’re always right — you think you’re the Pope!”
Teammate Joe Molloy [’54], walking back to the huddle with them, overheard and echoed the sentiment, “Yeah, you’re the Pope!” …
The nickname poked fun at Chuck’s certitude, but there was also a sense in which it was a descriptive of the authority of his opinions. “If there was ever a discussion, whatever his conclusion was, end of discussion,” said Don Donoher [’54]. “Chuck’s was the last word, so it just became; he is infallible.”
In the locker room [after the 1951 season-ending 34-13 win over Marshall], Gavin gathered his players and announced that they had received an invitation from the Salad Bowl, played in Glendale, Arizona.
There were real questions within the administration over the cost. … Dayton finally accepted.
It would be the greatest moment in Dayton’s major-college football history. They took a chartered train from Dayton, with 11 newspapermen and two train cars full of boosters along for the ride. …
The game itself, played on Jan. 1, 1952, drew a crowd estimated at 17,000. … Dayton fell, 26-21.
[In 1952] on Thanksgiving, they went down to Chattanooga for their last game and were blown out, 40-7, to end a disappointing 6-5 season.
As they took off their sweaty football gear in the Chattanooga locker room, they each knew, to a man, it was probably the last time they’d play the sport. Though Chuck was named all-Ohio, he was undersized for a lineman and was already focused on looking for teaching jobs after graduation. … Only Currin, who’d earned national attention with his receptions, was given a chance. For everyone else, it seemed, the ride was over.
So when a man called the dorm one day in January 1953 to inform Chuck he’d been drafted, he at first assumed it was the Army and was perplexed; he’d already been declared 4-F due to his epilepsy.
“No, the Browns — the Cleveland Browns,” said the reporter. … The Browns kept close tabs on Ohio schools, and Gavin had recommended Noll as the sort of brainy football player that Paul Brown loved; Cleveland drafted him in the 20th round. …
The standard contract for rookies was $5,000. Among the teaching opportunities that had been offered Chuck, one was at Holy Name High School in Cleveland, for a pay of $2,700.
Of course, the odds were stacked against Chuck making the team. NFL rosters had 33 players. From one year to the next, there might be 28 or 29 holdovers, even more on a perennial contender like the Browns. But Brown had been told about Chuck’s technical skills.
“Well, you’re big enough,” said Brown to Chuck when he visited that spring. “Let’s see if you’re brave enough.”
The summer of 1953, Chuck, Currin, Maloney and [Tom] Carroll [’53], along with basketball player Chris Harris [’55], wound up renting space in the attic of an apartment on Grafton Avenue, behind the Dayton Art Institute, within easy walking distance of McKinley Park. They each paid the owner $5 a week for a mattress in the attic. …
They’d found work … laying tar and working nearly dawn to dusk every weekday. It was hot, dirty work, and only the money and the friendship made it worthwhile. …
When they returned to the apartment, most of them would collapse. Not Chuck. Each day, he would change into his Dayton athletic shorts, grab his stopwatch and implore Maloney or Carroll to join him at McKinley Park a few blocks away.
“Chuck, I’m tired — you go,” Carroll would protest.
“You don’t have to do anything!” Chuck said. “Just come along and sit down and time me.”
There, in the gathering dusk, Chuck would run 40-yard sprints, and then have Carroll time the intervals — first 60 seconds, then 50 seconds, then 40 seconds, down to 10-second breaks. Chuck would run until he collapsed from exhaustion. Carroll, stopwatch in hand, would sit with his back against a tree and time his friend.
The sight of the other tired young men sprawled in the stifling heat of their threadbare apartment while Chuck changed into sweatpants and tennis shoes became one of the recurring motifs of that summer.
“Pius [the name of the pope at the time], slow down, man,” said Chris Harris one hot evening.
“Gotta do it,” Chuck replied. “Gotta make this team.”
Noll made the team, playing six years for Paul Brown in Cleveland before going into coaching himself. In 1975 he coached the Pittsburgh Steelers to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title, his first Super Bowl win of four. Nobody has won more. He lost none.
Chuck Noll: His Life and Work is widely available at booksellers including the University of Dayton Bookstore, www.udayton.edu/bookstore.No Comments
Susan Davies has seen up-close the impact of concussions on children — on a student’s ability to learn and on educators unequipped to address the brain’s measured healing. The UD associate professor is now educating others to create a community of care that helps students return to learn.
Since the school year began, 14 students had visited Kim LaScola’s office at Hudson Middle School near Akron, Ohio, with concussions — heads banged in football games or knocked around during classroom horseplay. And it was just October.
As the school nurse and a registered nurse at Akron Children’s Hospital, LaScola understands the protocol for recognizing traumatic brain injury and developing post-injury progress plans for her students. She says her word alone, however, often isn’t enough to convince teachers that recovering students might require additional academic assistance when they return to the classroom.
“I need a doctor’s order that says Joey can’t take this test,” she said with exasperation to a group of colleagues from Akron Children’s Hospital, all of whom traveled to Columbus one October afternoon for a training session on managing concussions in school settings.
Such stories are familiar to the session’s presenter, Susan Davies, an associate professor of counselor education and human services in the School of Education and Health Sciences. In her two decades of experience as a school psychologist, she has seen the consequences of concussions left unaddressed. She is now using her faculty research to educate those who work in schools with students — as well as the parents and students themselves — to identify injuries, acknowledge their myriad impacts and create a community of care to help the students return to learn.
When Davies worked in the Oak Hills Local School District in suburban Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Public Schools as a school psychologist during a five-year period, she saw the adverse effects of traumatic brain injury among her students’ ability to learn. They experienced persistent learning and behavioral difficulties after sustaining a brain injury, she said, but “because educators weren’t often well-trained in identifying and understanding brain injuries, these students were not receiving the school-based supports and services they needed in order to be successful.”
Davies is working to change that paradigm. During the October session sponsored by the Ohio Department of Health, she offered school-based professionals and health care providers training they can take back to their schools, districts and regions — “training the trainers,” she says, who will then multiply the impact of her sessions.
Even though students might look fine from a physical standpoint, debilitating effects such as fatigue, concentration difficulties and memory problems can linger well after the initial hit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2010, approximately 2.5 million emergency room visits, hospitalizations or deaths were associated with traumatic brain injuries. About 75 percent were concussions — mild traumatic brain injuries that occur due to bumps or blows to the head or body that cause the head to move rapidly back and forth.
Despite its medical designation as “mild,” Davies stresses that a concussion diagnosis that includes the word “traumatic” indicates the seriousness of the injury, especially considering the frequency in which they occur. Close to 250,000 children in 2009 were treated in U.S. hospitals for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a concussion diagnosis.
“It’s really a public health issue,” said Davies, the founder and coordinator of the National Association of School Psychologists Traumatic Brain Injury Interest Group. In 2016, she won the University’s Faculty Award in Scholarship from the UD Alumni Association.
“If we respond appropriately and we set those appropriate academic and environmental adjustments in place as soon as students return to school, they can recover quite quickly. On the other hand, if students come back to an educational environment that is not understanding their unique needs, it can really do some physical damage and prolong their recovery.”
Davies often uses what she calls the broken-leg analogy to make her point even more clear.
“You’re not going to put someone with a broken leg back in PE class, so likewise, if you have a child who’s coming back to school — and they can come back to school if they have symptoms — but they’re still experiencing headaches or light sensitivity and things like that, you shouldn’t be making them do a half day of standardized testing and then go to a pep rally,” Davies said.
School-based professionals with education and health care backgrounds, like LaScola, understand this. So did most of the 40-plus educators, psychologists, Ohio State Support Team members, physical trainers, injury prevention coordinators and others assembled at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources complex to hear Davies’ presentation. It was up to them, however, to bring that information back to their schools, their communities and their Ohio Department of Education regions to develop a team-based model to ensure their students could safely and effectively return to the classroom.
Community of care
Damien was an eighth-grade boy who was in a car accident that resulted in a broken leg, numerous cuts and abrasions, and a concussion. His family, teachers and medical providers tended to focus first and foremost on his visible injuries. However, Damien was also struggling with concussion symptoms that made the transition back to school particularly difficult. The night before he returned to school, it took Damien several hours to fall asleep. He had a terrible headache and was filled with anxiety about what to say to people and how to catch up on all the schoolwork he had missed.
“Damien” isn’t a real student, and his full “story” is one of the case studies Davies presents at training sessions and uses for analysis in her book, Managing Concussions in Schools: A Guide to Recognition, Response, and Leadership. Readers and participants are asked to discuss the warning signs students exhibit that indicate the need for educational adjustments and the issues school staff should recognize and respond to in such cases.
All of the examples presented could easily be composites of scenarios school staff face on a regular basis, including Davies during her career as a school psychologist.
“During my first year, I had a couple of cases where the students were presenting with unusual profiles, unusual patterns of strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “After delving a little deeper into their medical histories and some other things I’d learned in my own training, I’d learned they’d had previous traumatic brain injuries that weren’t revisited in their educational evaluations that happened before I came on the scene.”
Teachers kept flagging those children for potential learning disabilities or cognitive delays, but they weren’t qualifying for special educational services, Davies said. After all, the children had recovered physically. They seemed just fine.
‘My strategy with schools for concussion cases is helping them understand that if they have the right sort of supports and adjustments to the workload and academic environments in place, those kids can get better in a few days or weeks.’
A more detailed parent interview revealed past incidences of traumatic brain injury that hadn’t been reported to the school system.
“One of the girls I evaluated had been hit by a car when she was 2,” Davies said. “Everyone was very excited when she recovered, but when she started school, some of the repercussions only became evident when she needed to sustain attention for longer periods of time and engage in more complex social situations. She actually presented as a typical student who had a traumatic brain injury, but because it had happened in preschool, it really wasn’t on our school’s radar.”
When Davies began pursuing a doctorate in school psychology, she said she “made it her mission” to use her dissertation research to help teams of school professionals better understand brain injuries and how they could present in different ways. There were emotional, social and behavioral issues that often manifested, in addition to academic difficulties.
Immediate identification and treatment for the concussion is the first step. That’s taking place more often thanks to increased awareness of the danger of brain injury and the need for a quick response although nearly 33 percent of concussions in athletes go unreported, according to a paper in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.
What follows is just as critical, which is why Davies developed a concussion team model to ensure students’ return to educational settings happen as safely as possible without long-term damage.
One person is designated as the concussion team leader, or central communicator. This person could be a school nurse, school psychologist, counselor or administrator. He or she is responsible for receiving the injury reports and managing the documented return-to-learn process everyone else will
The student (or parent, for a younger child) should clearly communicate her symptoms, educational struggles and concerns, and the parent should help the child adhere to the plan while submitting any medical notes or instructions to the school. Academic team members should follow guidelines for recommended academic adjustments to excuse a student from a test or allow a student to opt out of activities that require extensive computer or tablet use, for example, as light sensitivity often follows traumatic brain injury.
School psychologists, counselors and speech language pathologists can work as consultants for more complicated cases and help create the plans that include explanations for certain academic adjustments. The medical team members provide the diagnosis and management of the injuries, while a school nurse can monitor in-school symptoms and help evaluate whether or not a student should stay in school or receive academic adjustments.
Athletic team members would manage the student’s return to the practice and playing field.
For the plan to unfold successfully, all team members have to maintain consistent communication, using the concussion team leader as a focal point.
“My strategy with schools for concussion cases is helping them understand that if they have the right supports and adjustments to the workload and academic environments in place, those kids can get better in a few days or weeks,” Davies said. “Occasionally you’ll have kids who’ll have persisting problems beyond a couple of months, but that’s not as common.”
Although managing traumatic brain injury in school settings has been Davies’ area of research for more than 10 years, she’s seen an uptick in interest during the last five with the national attention on sports-related concussions, particularly among football and soccer players. Laws requiring return-to-play protocol exist in all 50 states for student athletes, and school-based and recreational coaches receive concussion recognition and management training. Parents also receive that protocol when signing up their children for sports.
While athletic personnel play an important role in Davies’ concussion team model, she says traumatic brain injury is more likely to occur in more routine settings. General recreational activities, playground injuries and bicycle accidents are leading causes of concussion, especially among younger children. Abuse at home is also a culprit.
“You can’t forget about these kids who’ve fallen, been in fights or been in car accidents,” she said. “Concussions aren’t just a sports thing.”
LaScola, the Hudson Middle School nurse, has even seen students who sustained concussions from plain old “horsing around” and bumping heads, hitting their heads on walls or crashing into bleachers during a game in physical education class.
This is why Davies wants all school staff and educational personnel to be aware of the importance of recognizing and responding to concussions — young children are at high risk. The underdevelopment of the younger brain and a physical stature that makes young children’s heads and brains proportionally larger than the rest of their bodies make them more susceptible to brain injury compared to adults, Davies said. Developing motor skills and mobility also contribute to that risk.
But making the link between a child’s fall from the monkey bars and her lack of attention in a kindergarten class doesn’t often
happen in a school setting, to that child’s detriment.
“In comparison to students who sustain severe brain injuries, students who sustain concussions aren’t necessarily going to be experiencing prolonged, severe academic and behavioral issues,” Davies said. “They’re not likely going to qualify for special education, but schools need to know what to do with them, too.”
Ideally, the student would be getting enough rest and sleep following the injury, and limit physical and cognitive activity during that period. While students usually get physical rest, Davies stresses the importance of resting the brain, a step more likely to be neglected in the process. Schoolwork and technology access should be limited. Students who stay home from school should avoid extensive computer, video game, television and smartphone use. Such activities can prolong the healing process and even exacerbate symptoms, she said.
Easier said than done, said some of the attendees in Columbus.
“It’s a constant fight,” said LaScola, noting that tablets and other handheld devices are frequently a requirement in the classroom. Resistance often comes from students and other members who should be key parts of the team model.
Returning to school should be a gradual process, going from partial day attendance to full-day attendance with some academic adjustments (limited tests and homework), full-day attendance with no academic limitations and only physical limitations, and finally, full school participation, including
“If you do the right things, concussion symptoms will get better,” Davies said. “If you don’t, students can have protracted recovery and, should they sustain a second concussion before the first has resolved, that’s really when we see the potential for more permanent impairment. We really want to create that community of care around the students.”
Spreading the word
The attendees at the Ohio Department of Health workshop didn’t doubt the value of Davies’ presentation and the team model approach to helping their students return successfully to academic and extracurricular activity. Assembling the team, however, was more of a struggle.
“This isn’t a priority for a lot of teachers,” said Megan Trowbridge, a state support team member specializing in assistive technology. She attended with Erin Oleen, another state support team specialist in accommodations, modifications and alternate assessment. They serve Region 14, a mostly rural area of Southern Ohio between Columbus and Cincinnati. (Ohio’s schools are divided into 16 regions.)
Trowbridge and Oleen said they share information with schools in their regions but still have trouble emphasizing the importance of the team model for helping students recover from brain injury. For their area, the distance between schools and medical centers hamper the communication process, and a lack of resources also presents hurdles.
Because it’s impossible for Davies to make site visits to all interested communities, she hopes to train as many State Support Team members as possible so they can then lead the training sessions for their regions. She’s also created online trainings through the Ohio Department of Health project, and a University of Dayton graduate student, Maria Tedesco, is completing her graduate research on the effectiveness of online training programs.
Tedesco is studying the efficacy of an online training that Davies developed, which integrates information from existing programs, including the Centers for Disease Control’s Heads Up program and Columbus’ Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Concussion Clinic Resources for Education, and
piloted the training in nine Ohio schools. She gathered background information about participants’ role in their schools and past concussion training and experience. The assessment included questions related to concussion knowledge, recognition and response, and Tedesco is completing data collection to determine the training’s effectiveness.
Another of Davies’ graduate assistants, Allie Hundley, is completing trainings in low-income settings. She received a grant from the Ohio Injury Prevention Program to conduct sessions with parents of preschoolers in Head Start programs to recognize and respond to head injuries. All parents receive bike helmets and are taught to properly fit them.
“Preschoolers are mobile, but their gross motor skills aren’t fully developed yet,” Hundley said, mentioning why she targeted children ages 3-5. “They’re also at that exploratory stage where they want to move around a lot.”
All of which create a perfect brew for accidents leading to brain injury.
Hundley scheduled four training sessions during the fall and hopes to run more during the spring semester before she graduates. Hundley is in her third and final year of the education specialist program at UD and hopes to go into the field of school psychology.
Davies’ model can be applied to any educational setting, even as different challenges emerge with older students in high school and college.
They’re old enough to describe their symptoms and learn to advocate for themselves, she said, but actually doing so is a different story. In her first year at UD, Davies encountered a student who experienced multiple concussions in high school and an accident while at college. Although he looked fine and seemed fine, he was experiencing some “pretty serious” ramifications from those head injuries, Davies said. He slept a lot, reported constant headaches and had weak academic performance.
“Really nothing was sinking in,” she said.
The young man’s mother was his advocate, calling to wake him up and explaining his situation to professors, but Davies worked to get him a graduate student “coach” who could help him learn to self-advocate.
“I can’t imagine being an 18- or 19-year-old college student and getting a brain injury, because one of the effects of a brain injury is impaired self-awareness and impaired judgment,” Davies said. “When you are still just a couple of years fresh out of your parents’ house and you’re living away from home and you have a roommate, how can you take care of that?”
She’s also taught one of her graduate students to conduct trainings for resident assistants at UD and workers at RecPlex to develop skills in concussion recognition and response, and help the broader campus community — including disabilities services offices and students in general — gain greater understanding of brain injury.
“I do a lot of training of the trainers, because they’re the ones who have the credibility in their school buildings,” Davies says. “Those parents and teachers and their school don’t know me, but if I can train their trusted school psychologist or their school nurse to go in and help set up a concussion management team, it’s kind of an efficient way of outreach.”
The 40-plus attendees at Davies’ October training were a start. So were the parents who picked up a helmet from one of Hundley’s sessions and the educators who completed one of Tedesco’s online training modules. Each one is contributing to the community of care, becoming part of the team to help students return to learn.1 Comment
A documentary by Erin Dooley ’00
In spring 2015, Erin Dooley walked 550 miles across Spain on
the Camino de Santiago, a centuries-old religious pilgrimage, to learn and understand true forgiveness. Camera in hand, the filmmaker chronicled her journey and asked others on the walk about their thoughts on forgiveness. Her 45-minute documentary called A Way to Forgiveness was completed in September.
Dooley said, “I had read The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho while at UD and became interested in the Camino. Ultimately, when I started freelancing and had six weeks to take off, I did.” The film can be found on Dooley’s company website: www.dashentertainmentllc.com.
A book by Joanne M. Lozar Glenn ’75
Memoirs are no longer only for writers. Joanne M. Lozar Glenn co-wrote Memoir Your Way: Tell Your Story Through Writing, Recipes, Quilts, Graphic Novels, and More to help more people tell their stories. The book, which has five other contributors, came together when the co-authors began sharing ideas about how people were recording pieces of their personal history in nontraditional forms. Published in September, the book aims to help other women quickly and easily create their memoir, using skills in ways they may not have thought about before. Glenn said, “By extending the written memoir form to cookbooks, scrapbooks, quilts and other forms of storytelling, we found we had created a first-of-its-kind guide to memoir that includes rather than excludes would-be memoirists who are not writers.” The book is available at Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com.No Comments
A podcast produced by several alumni and directed by UD professor Chris Burnside ’09
Unwritten is an eight-episode podcast that developed when several UD alumni, along with others, wanted to create a script that revolved around current social issues. Produced by the Dayton Writers Movement, the podcast aired in September and reached listeners in 32 countries in its opening month. “Unwritten” tackles themes of sexual violence, mental health and LGBTQ issues. “Our goal is to attract podcast listeners who haven’t heard a story addressing such real-world issues; alongside them, we also want listeners who care about these issues but haven’t yet broken into the audio drama world,” said Chris Burnside ’09, University English professor and DWM’s executive producer. Others who participated in the project include Anna Adami ’16, Joey Ferber ’16, Jenna Gomes ’15, CC Hutten ’15, Grace Poppe ’16, Tavis Taylor ’16 and current student Avery Hutto. Listen to the podcast at www.unwrittenpodcast.com.No Comments
Ashley Solomon vividly recalls then-President Dan Curran entering her house at 107 Evanston while holding her crying roommates in her arms as they mourned the loss of a close friend. He sat there silently supporting Solomon and her friends, witnessing their pain.
Solomon said, “I think about that night and what that meant when I consider how important a person’s presence can be. It’s powerful just to sit and listen and bear witness, even without saying anything at all.”
While at UD, Solomon continued to bear witness to others by writing in newsletters for the Women’s Center. It was through this opportunity that she found a passion for hearing stories and helping others.
Solomon went on to pursue both her master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology. During her pre-doctoral residency in Philadelphia, she was able to work at a hospital treating patients with eating disorders. And during a fellowship, she focused on developing programs and doing research on eating disorders.
After serving as the director of eating disorder treatment at the Insight Behavioral Health Center in Chicago, she wanted to return home to Cincinnati and make a difference locally. Two years ago, in 2014, Solomon opened the Eating Recovery Center of Ohio and is currently the executive director.
In her work, she remembers the way Curran comforted her roommates and attempts to make her patients feel the same way. Her mission is to not only give her patients support and guidance but, as she said, to “restore them nutritionally, physically and psychologically.”
Solomon said, “UD teaches us that we are blessed with so many gifts and opportunities, and it is our responsibility to give back and support each