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A book by Andrea Kiesewetter Hulshult ’00.
Andrea Kiesewetter Hulshult can’t remember a time when she wasn’t writing. With her first novel, Fighting the Fog, she hopes others will also appreciate the beauty of English composition. Highlighting the value of
hope, courage and friendship, it’s a story of a woman, her best friend and the struggles that come after tragedy strikes. “You shouldn’t let the fog of life keep you from living life to its fullest,” Hulshult said. “I hope people take from this book that they, too, can fight through the fog, and I hope it allows them to escape from reality for just a few minutes.”
A book by Virginia Brabender ’71
A researcher at heart, psychologist Virginia Brabender dove into adoption literature to learn and understand the field before becoming an adoptive parent herself. However, she found herself disappointed when her readings minimally addressed the bond between adoptive parents and children. Brabender worked with
co-editor and fellow adoptive parent April Fallon to develop a book that weaves the experiences of many adoptive families with rich clinical research to engage readers, both lay and professional. “I hope to give a voice to adoptive parents in a way that has not been done before,” she said.
A book by Chris Blewitt ’96
Chris Blewitt has always enjoyed learning about American history; now, he’s written the book on it. The Lost Journal is an educational adventure novel that takes readers on a chase through some of the country’s most
well-known historical sites to uncover their best-kept secrets. “I really enjoy learning about Colonial times and the American Revolution,” Blewitt said. “I visited all the historical places featured in the book, from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. Those trips, and the actual research, made writing this book very enjoyable.”
What major, which house, when to (finally) do the laundry: a college student’s life is full of decisions. For nearly 20 years, one familiar voice helped UD students make one of their most important choices: where to eat.
Do you take the easy route and stop by Kennedy Union after class, or do you — knowing that it’s breadstick day — hike up the hill to Marycrest? Thanks to a telephone message programmed by Telecom (now, UDit) and recorded by dining services, Flyers in the 1990s and 2000s could make an educated choice.
Willie Hickey ’88, the longtime voice of 229-FOOD, says the now-defunct menu hotline originated after the
department’s secretary found herself inundated with calls inquiring about that day’s options.
“What the soup of the day was, what was for lunch, if we were making their favorite sandwich: people wanted to know,” he says. “So, we started it out of necessity, but it grew, taking on a life of its own and gaining a following.”
While the hotline met the immediate need of chicken-noodle-or-vegetable-beef, it also offered a daily helping of warmth and humor. Hickey began adding jokes — usually bad ones, he admits — to the end of each recording, and coined his now-famous sendoff, “Remember today to eat well and do good work.”
“We all loved Willie,” says Paula Smith, executive director of dining services. “His phrases are still quoted often in our department.”
Hickey spent nearly 20 years in dining services, starting in 1987 as a kitchen production supervisor while still a UD student and working his way up to general manager of Kennedy Union dining. With a few exceptions, Hickey recorded the menu every day for nearly 20 years until he left UD in late 2008. After his departure, dining services retired the phone line and placed menus online. Today, he is a special education teacher at Dayton’s Meadowdale PreK-8 School.
Many students didn’t know who the voice on the other end belonged to — but calling in each day was about more than food.
“It was less about hearing what was actually on the menu and more about getting a kick out of how enthusiastically the voice on the other end read the day’s selections,” recalls Courtney Wendeln Deutsch ’98. “It was like a dramatic reading of main dishes and side items. No one could make a chicken cutlet sound more delicious. And those terrible jokes at the end of each recording were worth waiting for. Kudos to him for taking a mundane job duty and turning it into something fun for students to enjoy and remember.”
As manager of the University’s most popular dining option, in person Hickey found himself with another moniker. “I was also known as ‘the guy in the tie,’ since I was on the floor a lot,” he says. “It was my favorite part of the job. I got to meet and help a real cross-section of campus, from the president to first-year students and everyone in between. Everyone eats.”1 Comment
Their favorite Flyers may be a team you’ve never heard of.
Ghetto Force, the University’s men’s Ultimate Frisbee team, has a fan base close to home in their families, whether created by blood or by common bond.
Joel Jira ’69 and his wife, Debbie, for example, are no strangers to UD or its athletics teams. Joel’s father, Joseph Jira ’31, played football for the Flyers for four years and was named to the Small College All-American Team in 1930. The couple’s son, Stephen Jira ’14, carried on the family tradition on a different field.
“Stephen loves Frisbee,” Debbie said, noting that they’ve donated funds to the team since 2009. “He loves the camaraderie with the other players. We often drive to watch him and his team, and team members have stayed at our house when they play nearby.”
Paul Kosmerl ’05 and Emily Puchala Kosmerl ’07 also frequently support the team’s efforts after experiencing firsthand the difficulties of keeping a sports club afloat.
Emily, a former member of the women’s Ultimate Frisbee team, remembers how hard it was for the group to fundraise for the team’s many expenses, including travel to and from games. As a graduate looking to give back to UD, she knew where she wanted it directed.
“Traveling to Frisbee tournaments is so fun, and we wanted to make sure that continued,” Emily said. “Paul and I have been in the habit of donating, be it our time or funds, since before we left UD — we have to credit our parents, who taught us well. We feel really grateful for the things we’ve been given, and we know that
we should pay that back or forward when we have the chance.”
The Kosmerls aren’t the only ones; this year, nearly 100 UD alumni and parents have supported
the University through hobbies and interests that match their passions with student needs.
Groups like the student rescue squad, waterski team and math club have also benefitted, allowing
them to buy equipment, offer training and attend conferences. Often, these donors are as mysterious as they are generous.
Alexander Hunton ’14, a member of the University’s aero design team, can’t recall the amount of support
alumni have given his group, but he can tell you exactly how much it has helped.
“With the funds, we’ve purchased materials and aircraft components we wouldn’t have otherwise,”
Hunton said. “Donations have also helped us attend competitions, like the American Institute of Aeronautics
and Astronautics Design, Build, Fly competition, and the Oklahoma State University Speedfest competition, where we placed third last year in our first showing.”
Go, team.No Comments
Reno can call itself whatever it wants; Louisville’s the biggest little city in the world, say Flyers there. In this city, the 700-person-strong alumni community is known as the “few but faithful.”
“Louisville’s a great town for a community like UD alumni because of the nature of the city,” explains John Gueltzow ’06, community leader. “It’s not particularly big, and given that most of our alumni went to one
of the same four or five Catholic high schools, a lot of us already know each other or are connected through mutual acquaintances.”
Former community president Traci Hall ’04 points to the impact the group has not just in Louisville but also back in Dayton. “Our community is unique because, while we’re not in Ohio, we’re close enough to host an on-campus event occasionally. We’re small but big enough to make a difference,” Hall said, noting that
the Louisville community boasts the largest percentage of alumni who give back to the University.
Gueltzow, who was born and raised in Louisville, now owns his own law practice in town. Louisville alumni are a core group of active members, and Gueltzow cites basketball gamewatches as his community’s favorite event — and 2014’s tournament run was no exception.
“This year was particularly fun. We met at Shenanigans, a friendly neighborhood place. We had nearly 100 people in attendance for the Sweet 16 game against Stanford. The management got really excited, serving
drinks in UD glasses and hanging a sheet sign outside to let passersby know it was where Flyer alumni
came together,” Gueltzow said.
One thing Dayton and Louisville have in common? Loyal fans.
“We’ve also had outings to Bats games, our minor league baseball team,” Hall said. “We don’t have major league sports in town, but we have minor league teams and our shared love of college athletics.”
In this Kentucky town, though, there’s another sporting event the community looks forward to each year.
“The Kentucky Derby is one of the biggest annual events in Louisville, which means it’s also one of the busiest for our alumni,” Hall said. “But, we always try to join in the excitement, and it’s not unusual to find a red-and-blue crowd at Churchill Downs each May.”
In fact, the horses run so fast, they seem to fly — obviously, they’re UD fans.
IT’S GAME TIME: WHAT’S YOUR MUST-HAVE TAILGATING SNACK?
“You need RICE KRISPIE TREATS. Kids love them and adults who say they don’t are lying.”
—Tracie Doyle Stoll ’95
“PRETZEL RODS AND BEER CHEESE from Paul’s Market. We wouldn’t head to a game without it.”
—Lisa Thomas Hartung ’84
“A HOMEMADE SANDWICH: turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, red pepper mayonnaise, pepper
jack cheese, salt and pepper on sweet Italian bread. It is awesome.”
—Rob Nunnelley ’80
—Robert Kremer ’91, Aaron Miller ’94 and Kristi Jo Jedlicki ’90
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2005-06 University of Dayton Quarterly. As we approach the 70th anniversary of D-Day, we reflect on war, and peace, and how stories from those who experienced both resonate in our futures.
“We used to have shore leave from 2 to 5 p.m. in Oahu,” said Bud Cochran, professor emeritus of English and formerly of the U.S. Navy. “I liked the YMCA for swimming. It wasn’t crowded.”
“They were good for a milkshake, too,” said Floyd Nelson, who before serving the University of Dayton as a painter and conversationalist served his country as an infantryman.
Nelson and Cochran — along with Orv Comer, Dick Hazen, Frank Mathias, Byron Shiner, Jerry VonderBrink ’66, John Westerheide ’47 and Jess Wilder — had accepted Bill Lawless’ invitation to UD retirees who were also World War II veterans to join him for a countryside cookout and memories of their youth, more than 60 years ago, when they took up arms to defend their country.
Their reminiscences went beyond the Waikiki “Y.”
Nelson remembered one Saturday evening.
“The shore patrol was picking up drunks,” he said. He came across a sailor who had not confined his drinking to milkshakes. “I got him a cab and dropped him off at the main gate. His name was Robertson from Arkansas.”
His ship was the USS Arizona. The evening was Dec. 6, 1941.
The next morning in the Scofield Barracks at Wheeler Field, Nelson got out of his bed to the sound of Japanese bullets. Nearby, in Pearl Harbor, a young sailor named Robertson from the landlocked state of Arkansas was among the 1,177 crew members lost as the battleship Arizona, after being hit by an armor-piercing bomb, sank within nine minutes.
Sixty-four years later, with a mixture of sadness, wisdom and humor, nine men remembered not only Pearl Harbor but also their own parts in World War II.
“I was drafted in 1941 before the war,” retired bursar Shiner recalled. “I was at Bucknell working on my master’s, got drafted in March and finished school in June. I still went in as a $21-per-month private.” According to one method of calculation, that’s about $275 in today’s money.
Comer, professor emeritus of marketing and former marine, couldn’t recall the names of some of the ships upon which he served. But he remembered the low pay. “And I had some taken out to send to my wife.”
Cochran remembered exactly how old he was when he enlisted. “I lied about my age,” he said. “I said I was 18 when I was actually 16 years and 11 months. By the time I was processed, I was 17 plus a week.”
To Comer’s question, “Didn’t you need a birth certificate,” Westerheide, the UD Research Institute’s first director, interjected, “Not if you were a live body.”
Cochran in talking of his Navy days on board a destroyer, like his colleagues, was self-deprecating: “We went through a typhoon. It had 100-mile-per-hour winds — nothing like Katrina.”
Unusual though was a 50-foot hole in the side of his ship, evidence of collision with a mine. Two-inch cables lashed the disabled vessel to a supply ship. Three months later it limped back to the United States. “A smokestack and a gun turret were missing,” Cochran said. “No other ship had our silhouette.”
Even though he faced death on a lightly armored and cramped ship, Cochran saw that others had it worse, for example, those serving on LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank). “A destroyer wasn’t as bony as an LST. And we could go fast.”
In reaction to his colleague’s experiences, Westerheide said, “I’m embarrassed to be with you guys.” While others headed to the South Pacific, his path took him from UD to basic training at Boca Raton Country Club to Yale for 20 weeks and then to New Mexico. By the time he was in the service, there were programs designed for college students. After being trained in Connecticut as an aircraft maintenance officer, Westerheide’s group of about 20 got their wings.
“Being at the end of the alphabet made all the difference,” he said. “Fifteen went to the South Pacific; the rest to Alamogordo, New Mexico.” After a brief stint as an instructor, he transferred to flight testing B-29s.
Luck also played a role in the Navy career of Wilder, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering technology, who in an officer training program spent one year at Pennsylvania State College and one at Duke University.
“I was discharged with a misplaced kidney,” said Wilder, “after the war.”
“I knew a guy in the Army with a glass eye,” Nelson said. “They didn’t catch it until he was overseas. He didn’t want to come back.”
“In December 1941,” Shiner said, “I applied to be an aviation cadet, but I had a hernia. So I applied for officer candidate school.”
The 88-year-old Shiner noted that he had the hernia fixed not along ago, occasioning some Army humor from Mathias, professor emeritus of history: “Now you can go back for Iraq.”
Mathias, who was drafted just after high school in Kentucky, arrived in the Philippines as part of the Ohio 37th Infantry Division. On Luzon, the island on which Manila is located, Mathias volunteered for the band. He talked of playing his saxophone in the island’s mountains.
“I played golf up there,” Shiner said of a more peaceful, later time. “They’re beautiful — cool even in the summer. But you weren’t playing golf in those days, though.”
He wasn’t. In combat, the band was a heavy weapons platoon; the sax player, a machine gunner. The Ohio 37th played a major role in the liberation of Manila, one of the war’s costliest and ugliest battles. Japanese troops, cut off from Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita’s main force, turned on civilians, leaving an estimated 100,000 of them dead and Manila in flames. After the war, Yamashita was hanged for war crimes.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur had returned as he had promised, and Mathias was there by his side — almost literally as a member of the band playing for the conquering commander, who had been recently named a five-star general.
That rank presented the band with a dilemma. Bands, Mathias explained, play one flourish for each star (one for a brigadier general, two for a major general, three for a lieutenant general, four for a general). The rules were clear: No more than four flourishes. On one side were the rules. On the other, MacArthur, not known for having the smallest of egos. Mathias, however, was not alone in his assessment of the man: “I have a high opinion of him; he saved lives.”
So, Mathias said, “We decided to play five. And when we did, he puffed up just a little bit.” They had made the right choice.
After the war, such images of victory combine in the minds of World War II veterans with memories of Pearl Harbor and years of witnessing suffering an death. “That’s why you didn’t buy a Japanese car in 1950,” observed Hazen, chair of electronic engineering technology for 30 years, who during the war served on the LST 570 for the invasion of Kume Shima in the Ryukyu Islands.
“And now,” said Mathias, veteran of the Philippine campaign, “I get 39 miles per gallon in my Civic.”
VonderBrink, who served UD as treasurer and vice president for financial affairs, served under MacArthur for 14 months during the postwar occupation of Japan. He said he heard that Pearl Harbor is so changed that now within a mile of Waikiki there are 30,000 hotel rooms, frequented by Japanese visitors.
“The story goes,” Westerheide said, “that they couldn’t conquer it, so they bought it.”
As thoughts of the past merged with facts of the present and visions of the future, the historian Mathias said, “I hope we stay out of a face-off with China. That’s what I worry about. Since I was a kid, it’s one war after another. World War I was supposed to make the world safe for democracy; it made it safe for fascism. World War II was just a continuation of World War I. Then. Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam … now this thing in Iraq.”
The veterans continued their talk of past and future as they walked back to their cars through a former farm, now goldenrod on the edge of Dayton’s sprawl. Cochran mentioned he was soon to teach a course in UD’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on poverty in the local area and that he volunteers with the St. Vincent DePaul Society. VonderBrink mentioned his work with St. Vincent Hotel, an overnight emergency shelter.
As talk moved back to war, Cochran filled in details of the immense amount of shelling his ship did of the enemy on shore, hour after hour, shell after shell, explosion after explosion. Westerheide observed, “I guess you don’t go to fireworks anymore.”
Cochran replied, “I’ve seen enough.”
Since this article first appeared, many of these veterans have died. We remember Jess Wilder (12-2-10), Bud Cochran (4-6-09), Frank Mathias (2-10-12), Byron Shiner (8-29-10), John Westerheide ’47 (8-6-09) and Orv Comer (9-7-10).No Comments
The questions and answers that appear only in this online edition of the University of Dayton Magazine are followed by those appearing in the print edition.
One of your gifts as a priest is that you are an excellent storyteller. Who are your favorite storytellers and why? —NICOLE TRAHAN, F.M.I., DAYTON
I do love stories and storytelling. My favorite storytellers are the deceased Irishman Hal Roach, Father William J. Bausch and John Shea. I like these storytellers because they know how to interest a person and a group and how to tell a story well, and they have some very good stories to share. In addition, Father Bausch gives a history and explanation of storytelling in several of his books.
Pope Francis has written and spoken a lot about joy and the fact that a follower of Jesus should be a person of joy. What in your life right now brings you the most joy? —NICOLE TRAHAN, F.M.I., DAYTON
I have been blessed with a happy disposition. What gives me most joy is anything directly involving people like ministering the sacraments, preaching, visiting the sick, working at the Marianist Mission. I do office work and I like that, too, because I also work with others in that context and spend my time writing letters to our donors.
You have been the pastor of a Marianist parish in the Baltimore area. What special gifts do Marianists bring to parish ministry with our focus on community and Mary? —DAN KLCO, S.M.’92, DAYTON
In my experience creating a sense of community in our large parish was a goal from the beginning, with the parish council, with the various committees and with the parish itself. In fact we called ourselves “St. Joseph’s Catholic Community.” Mary is at the center of the community as we celebrate her feasts, hold her up as a model of openness, faithfulness and service, and try to establish Marian ways of relating with people and events: openness, acceptance, hospitality.
You are such a master at developing relationships, what is your secret and/or way of making that happen? —STEVE MUELLER ’74, DAYTON
I don’t think I have any secret for developing relationships. I just really like people and relationships just seem to develop. I’m just blessed.
What or who inspired you to become a Marianist priest? Are you always so upbeat, personal and friendly? —THOMAS J. WESTENDORF ’78, DAYTON
I was inspired to become a Marianist by my older brother John at his first profession of vows at Beacon, N.Y., in 1949. I am blessed with a happy disposition; and so I am almost always upbeat, happy, personal and friendly.
What advice would you give to someone considering life as a Marianist brother, sister or priest? —NICOLE TRAHAN, F.M.I., DAYTON
To anyone considering joining Marianist religious life, which I have loved for 62 years, I would say be ready for close community and living with various kinds of personalities and for a richness of life and ministry experiences. May you have an open heart and spirit like Mary.
What does Mary have to teach us about living a faithful life today? —JOAN SCHIML ’90, DAYTON
I sense Mary as a companion, as one encouraging me to keep being faithful and open, to keep my eyes fixed on her.
What was your favorite part of being rector at UD? —JESSICA GONZALES ’96, DAYTON
I was rector of UD from 1993 to 1996, and I enjoyed especially interacting with all the offices and officers and departments of the university. I was able to attend many meetings, join in various celebrations, take part in various activities and share many gatherings in those years. Getting to know all at the University and becoming part of the University community was such a joy, and I was sorry to leave just as I was getting to know everyone.
As you think about your time as rector at the University of Dayton, where do you see the Marianist identity of the various high schools and universities heading? How can they keep that identity with fewer and fewer professed Marianists? What’s the role of the laity? —MARK DELISI ’91, LEESBURG, VA.
Because there are fewer or no professed Marianists in our various high schools, it is a huge challenge to keep and hold a Marianist presence in those schools; but many of those schools, through Marianist laity, ARE succeeding. There is a program of formation for high school teachers, run by the province, for teachers in such schools so they can keep the Marianist presence alive.
What is your favorite memory of teaching and living in Puerto Rico? How has Marianist education made an impact in those students and their families? —JESSICA GONZALES ’96, DAYTON
I have so many memories of my two years teaching and living in Puerto Rico it is difficult to pick a favorite, but Christmas and especially the days prior to Christmas I will always remember. That time of the year in Puerto Rico is so happy and full of celebrations. And Marianist education in Puerto Rico is very strong; and many former students are in positions of influence in Puerto Rico, and many have come to the mainland and have studied here and have succeeded very well.
What is your favorite scotch? —MYRON ACHBACH ’58, DAYTON
My usual scotch is Dewar’s. My favorite scotch is Glenmorangie.
Did you play any sports growing up? If not, what were your hobbies? Besides the Dayton Flyers, who is your favorite sports team? —THOMAS J. WESTENDORF ’78, DAYTON
Growing up I played sports but not organized sports, just those in the neighborhood. Of course I have been a Dayton Flyers’ fan and have followed a few other teams over the years, but my favorite football team is the Pittsburgh Steelers.
What historical figure would you like to meet? —THOMAS J. WESTENDORF ’78, DAYTON
My great historical interest has been John F. Kennedy. I admired him greatly. He stirred up such interest in politics for me and for the young people I was teaching at that time. I know we have since learned some things about him that have sullied his character, but he was a great leader and could stir a crowd and a generation and could instill ideals. That was a gift.
When have you been the most confident that you were following God’s will? —BETH HABEGGER SCHULZ ’07, DAYTON
I wonder if a person is ever really confident he or she is ever really doing God’s will, but one tries his or her best. I think when I accepted the assignment to be pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Community, when I did not really want to do this ministry at all, was when I had a sense I was doing God’s will.
What is your favorite part of being a Marianist? —JOAN SCHIML ’90, DAYTON
My favorite part of being a Marianist is knowing that others share this dream … of a faithful, open, compassionate, equal, life-giving, faith-filled community.
What is your best childhood memory? —THOMAS J. WESTENDORF ’78, DAYTON
One of my best childhood memories is going on vacation with the family to Rockaway Beach, to the Irish section, where we would rent a cabin. I would get up early with my dad, and we would go down the boardwalk and get things for breakfast for the family. I loved those early morning walks with my dad. In the evenings we all would go to McGinty’s for Irish singing and dancing.
You are known as a warm pastor and an incredible storyteller. When trying to speak to people’s hearts through a story, what are the most important things to keep in mind? —BRANDON PALUCH, S.M. ’06, BEAVERCREEK, OHIO
A story, as wonderful as it is, is only a means. What I try to keep in mind is what am I trying to communicate, what am I trying to touch in the hearts of my listeners? Have I myself sensed first what is going on with them? Does this story really fit?
Give us your impression of Pope Francis so far. —MARK DELISI ’91, LEESBURG, VA.
I admire him. I like the path he is taking. I agree that changes have been needed, and I agree with the things he has said and done, not that he needs my endorsement. I admire his style of leadership, his openness, his simplicity, his courage. I think he is a prophetic Pope.
What do you wish the UD community knew about the work of the Marianist Mission? —NICOLE TRAHAN, F.M.I., DAYTON
About 60 very devoted people work in the Marianist Mission; most of them have been there for many years. The work can be monotonous, but it is important because it supports our brothers, priests and sisters who are working directly with very poor children in unbelievably poor conditions and educating them in Africa, India and Mexico. These ministries are not self-supporting because they are with the destitute poor. Our appeals through the Marianist Mission mailings are essential.
At this point in your life as a Marianist priest, what “makes you go?” What drives you every day? —MYRON ACHBACH ’58, DAYTON
This question is a very interesting one because I don’t think of it very often. I just get up and go about my business. I do so because I promised to. I made my commitment and I am happy and healthy. I like what I do and I am making a contribution, small as it may be. What is important for me is that I am doing some sort of good. I admit it is harder to see that in desk work and letter writing, yet I know this ministry is important. When I was in parish ministry and teaching it was much more evident to see help being rendered. But in the long run, it’s always about doing God’s will.
What keeps you excited about the Marianist charism? —DAN EVANS ’86, DAYTON
It is so open — to young, middle-aged and old; to celibate, single and married — to bring Jesus to the world and to do so with others.
In your career as a Marianist, what aspects have been outstanding for you? —STEVE MUELLER ’74, DAYTON
One was being provincial of the New York Province of the Marianists; I was blessed at that time to be on the board of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men and met many exceptional leaders of religious orders, both men and women. Those contacts gave me great hope for the future of religious life in the United States.
What is one piece of advice you would give to the younger generations?
—BETH HABEGGER SCHULZ ’07, DAYTON
To rejoice in your many graces and blessings, be thankful for them and share them. Then understand where they have come from and what that entails in terms of responsibility.
It was a risky plan, relinquishing control of the University’s 50,000-watt FM radio station to the rockers. But the students would tell you it’s the best thing that could have happened — for the progressive music scene and for themselves.
It’s 12 a.m., 1973. The doors to Kennedy Union are locked tight but WVUD-FM is spinning, the DJ on-air with his feet up on the control board.
He jams to his album pick for the night until a handful of stones thrown against the second-story window rattles him from his groove.
“I wanted to be a part of it,” said Patty Spitler, who tossed those rocks. Like so many students who had to work or just wanted to hang out, Spitler ’76 wanted in on a radio revolution that was sweeping the nation. For them, the entry point was UD’s commercial 50,000-watt megaphone controlled largely by the students to attract listeners like them. It was a risky plan, relinquishing control to the rockers. But if it succeeded, it would change the world — or, at the very least, their worlds.
When those stones thrown by co-workers or friends would rattle the window, the disc jockey would put on a “bathroom song” — like “Stairway to Heaven,” a song long enough for the DJ to take care of some quick business. He’d swing a chair around to prop open the locked door and bolt down the stairs with his footsteps echoing behind him to retrieve his new company so that he wasn’t alone with the music all night.
“With no cell phones and the hotline ringing all of the time, it was really the only way to get in at times,” said Chris Cage (Christian Caggiano ’70), a former program director of WVUD.
That scene, so familiar to decades of student DJs before an era of swipe door locks, described the excitement of 1969-76, the era when WVUD transformed from your mother’s (yawn) traditional music station to the students’ (rock on) music powerhouse.
In 1964, WVUD, “the Voice of the University of Dayton,” officially went on-air operating under 99.9 FM thanks to a man most knew as “Mr. Television.”
George Biersack ’52 was the father of television in the Miami Valley, producing thousands of shows for educational and commercial TV. He wired University of Dayton classrooms for closed-circuit TV but had even bigger ideas about how to expand educational offerings. He wanted to take the speech department — with its 15 majors in 1961 — and grow it into the communication arts department “in order to provide a more comprehensive communications program attuned to contemporary needs,” he wrote to the provost.
The new department, founded in 1964, included moving journalism from the English department and strengthening the theater arts and broadcast offerings. “Our prime obligation is the training of professional communicators,” he told Flyer News. By 1966, the new department had 175 majors; it would grow to be one of the most popular majors at UD.
A practical yet creative man, Biersack knew he needed hands-on opportunities for his students to learn, and he wanted a radio station. He approached the owners of WKET, a classical radio station broadcasting from the basement of the Hills and Dales Shopping Center a few miles from campus, and negotiated a sweet deal. According to Jim “Swampy” Meadows ’72, Speidel Broadcasting Corp. sold the station to UD for $25,000 while also donating $25,000 to the University. UD took ownership of the station in April 1964.
The station moved, along with Flyer News and UDCC (the closed-circuit television station, which would grow into Flyer TV), into offices in the new student union. Biersack’s daughter, Mary Biersack Stine ’72, remembers her father sitting behind the controls of the bulldozer during construction for the radio tower to be placed atop Stuart Hill.
WVUD went on-air to help fulfill the University’s educational and cultural responsibility to the community with the intention of avoiding being too “stuffy.” This WVUD — by all recollections, broadcasting at 25,000 watts that barely reached south over the Oakwood hills — was smaller and quieter than what it would become.
In 1967, the station operated 75 hours a week, 12 months a year with eight student announcers who got no class credit but were paid $1.25 an hour, as reported by Flyer News. “They’re getting paid for experience they couldn’t hope to buy,” Biersack told the student newspaper. Airtime was devoted to classical, folk, jazz, theater, dinner, Broadway albums, full operas, talk shows, “music to work by” and even Mass. By 1968, the station affiliated with American Broadcasting Company’s FM channel and gained airtime that included cultural interests, such as reviews of plays, books and recordings.
Biersack wrote that he hoped by 1970 “our radio station WVUD-FM will be well-established as an outstanding example of a public service station to the community.”
It already sounded good. WVUD was the only station in Dayton to broadcast stereophonic sound, which mimics the human ear by using two independent audio signal channels to create an overall better, more real listening experience.
Despite being ahead of the game technologically, the station wasn’t getting the attention Biersack had hoped for. As general manager, he added more upbeat jazz offerings to the classical and instrumental music rotations. But Biersack wanted more.
So he presented his young but dedicated staff with this challenge: Make WVUD appeal to a younger audience, and do not play Top 40.
In 1971, that meant one thing: album-oriented rock.
From brass to The Boss
Biersack put his faith in his students and a new program manager. Cage, a communication major, had worked at Dayton’s WING-AM during college and after graduation. In 1971, he took a job at WVUD as program director and sales manager. He said that in his time at WVUD, from 1971 to 1974, the station grew in Arbitron ratings from 1.7 percent to 7.3 percent of the total audience share.
Cage believed in tight programming, scripting a detailed plan with specific titles or genres student DJs were required to play. Known as a walking encyclopedia of radio, his total commitment to changing the station from “stereo with brass” to progressive music made him a perfect mentor for passionate student DJs.
“A little of ‘painting by the numbers’ is good for inexperienced people,” Cage said. “But once they learn how to do it well … you can allow them to freeform more.”
Allowing this freedom meant opening up the playlist. For a time, the station was criticized for airing a weird hybrid of sounds. The daytime format was upbeat, background music to appeal to adults with news updates from WVUD’s affiliate, ABC. At night the DJs would spin edgier progressive rock for a younger audience that would turn up the volume. Progressive music in the early ’70s blended folk, blues, jazz, rock ’n’ roll and sometimes even classical into hits like those by Yes and the Moody Blues.
When the clock turned to 7 p.m., “Wax Museum” dominated the air. The rock ’n’ rollers plugged in their headphones — and recording devices. For one hour every day, WVUD played complete or nearly complete albums, usually rock and progressive style. Listeners would wait to hear a resounding “beep” that alerted them to the start of the album and then hit record on their tape cassette decks or reel-to-reels. “Wax Museum” provided its audience with new, complete music to own and listen to whenever they wanted — for free.
WVUD’s “Wax Museum” sparked the fire that became the station’s album-oriented rock programming. When the show ended at 8 p.m., DJs played songs in this style until
2 a.m., going after the young adult audience that preferred to not hear the extremes of commercial Top 40 or entire obscure albums. By 1973, the progressive format would dominate the station around the clock.
There were hits and misses, but the students got to lead the experimentation, push the envelope and discover new music.
Along with the change in music style, Cage helped the station embrace its commercial license. While WVUD was one of only three college-owned stations in the country to have a commercial license to sell airtime as advertising, Biersack said in a 1964 Flyer News article that he had no intention to use it. He saw that operating in the red was more than offset by the education the University provided to future broadcasters.
Cage thought differently: that commercial license was not going to be wasted. The station began selling advertising. Meadows recalled his first ad sale — Athena’s Bridal Creations — and some of the more inventive spots using owner Tom Weiser to do the voiceover on ads for The Forest Books and Records. Bill Andres ’75 was the mastermind behind the copywriting, said Dan Covey ’77, who became the station’s music director.
“Bill really knew how to speak to the audience,” Covey said. “He always found a way to make it really compelling. Whether it was funny or dramatic, people really wanted to hear it.”
Listeners also heard inventive — and suggestive — promotions. The banana shtick — where listeners walked up and asked people if they were the “WVUD Big Banana” or “Electric Banana” — made it onto bumper stickers for the station. Another promo, by DJ Steve Wendell ’73, asked listeners to call in and guess the length of his “Wazoolie.” (Answer: 12 inches.)
The edge found in the music and banter led to the success — and attention — the station was after.
“We lived the style of rock ’n’ roll for the most part,” said Covey, who deejayed at WVUD while in college. “We knew who the audience was, well, because we were the audience.”
Covey also knew the audience because he was a Daytonian. He started out at the station — his first position was receptionist — as a shy student with inherent ambition and evolved into a respected music expert who created and maintained critical relationships with record stores in the area. Cage said Covey was one of the reasons WVUD was ahead of the trends.
“All of the record stores knew and liked him,” Cage said. “He always wanted to work and have greater responsibilities; we had to throw him out almost every night.”
Being music director meant constantly exposing new music to listeners, and it included meeting with record labels to discuss what music would be played at WVUD.
Before the age of the Internet, record companies sent representatives to stations with precise agendas. They knew how to navigate people, specifically college students, and attempted to use the power of free food to sway the direction of the conversation.
WVUD music and program directors received invitations to the hallowed Pine Club on Brown Street. They’d be served steak and fine wine right next to a heaping stack of new album releases from the label’s superstars. On top would be what the representatives would push on stations. But Covey said WVUD had a different idea of what “exposing new music” meant.
“They knew our format and wanted to stay with our direction, but they would push what the labels were paying them to sell to help certain artists they thought would make it,” Covey said.
A steak would not sway the students from playing music from groups yet to become household names. For example, if records similar to the first Tom Petty album were shown to Covey, his common response would be:
“Eh, I don’t hear it.”
But four or five albums down the stack, he’d catch a glimpse of something interesting that hadn’t been discovered or widely heard yet — like Bruce Springsteen before his 1975 album Born to Run made him famous. The record companies wouldn’t even mention it because it wasn’t part of the acts that labels were getting behind.
Covey said WVUD music directors of that era predicted who would become stars. He admits that at times they had to comply with companies’ requests because, “Sometimes, it’s just business.” But their goal was to play new music and act as a discovery station for progressive rock and pop music lovers.
Rock ’n’ rivalry
In the 1970s, glasses were big, University of Dayton basketball uniforms were small, and technology enthusiasts had 8-track players in their living rooms. It was a time of social, governmental, cultural and technological revolution, and the radio industry was part of this change, thanks to the Federal Communications Commission.
In the works since 1964, the FCC’s FM Non-Duplication Rule required stations to get creative with their programming. Prior to this, many AM stations that had acquired FM bandwidth would simply double their AM content on this new portion of the dial. With this new rule enforced in 1967, stations had to broadcast at least 50 percent original content, forcing them to think outside the Top 40 playlists popular with their AM audiences.
Some stations turned to an all-talk format, while others — such as KLOS-FM in Los Angeles to WNEW-FM in New York City — began experimenting with progressive and album-oriented rock.
WVUD was part of this trend. The station told its story through Ten Years After, Carole King and the Allman Brothers interspersed with commentary and advertisements to make listeners feel like they were on the inside of the funniest jokes.
In 1972 and 1973, WVUD was a frequent contributor to Billboard magazine’s FM Action feature. Its correspondent — often philosophy major DJ Jeff Silberman ’73 — offered “Hot Action Albums” to inform the rest of the nation of the newest music trends. On Aug. 26, 1972, Silberman recommended The Slider by T-Rex, Toulouse Street by the Doobie Brothers and the self-titled album by Ramatan.
Billboard contributors were opinion leaders at “the nation’s leading progressive stations” in the largest population centers, and being on the list put WVUD in the company of KZAP-FM in San Francisco to WRIF-FM in Detroit.
In 1973, WVUD entered its next revolution: 24-hour programming, followed not long after by an upgrade to 50,000 watts that screamed into homes in southeastern Ohio and parts of Indiana and Kentucky. Geoff Vargo ’73 as program director ushered in this era as he replaced Cage, who moved on to a station in Princeton, N.J., and later onto a career at WRKI-FM in Connecticut.
Convey remembers Vargo as one of the most creative and energetic personalities at the station. Passionate and always ready to solve problems, his caring nature gave him the ability to “get people fired up” about the station, Covey said. Vargo was one of the primary reasons Covey became interested in UD and wanted to join WVUD.
“He lit up a room with positive energy,” Covey said. “He does it to this day.”
The 24-hour format skyrocketed the popularity of the station. Vargo stretched the “Hot Rotation Singles” — when DJs would play hits pushed by record companies — from three hours to six and added new artists, oldies and up-and-coming musicians. News reports said the phone lines rang off the hook with more than 150 requests per day.
The students also had other innovations. One was Spitler, WVUD’s first female morning personality. Her show, “Waking Up With a Woman,” highlighted her booming voice and pithy humor. Spitler was unexpected and unapologetically woman.
“Someone would say I ‘talked dirty and played the hits.’ I didn’t really talk dirty, just some innuendos. I was feisty … and maybe a little naughty,” she said. “We competed with the big dogs, people who did this as a living, and we were winning. We were breaking new ground.”
WVUD’s success was attributed to the students, their zany, risk-taking nature and the freedom UD gave them to maneuver within the progressive format of the station.
In Dayton, WVUD was “king of the mountain” of progressive rock, said Chuck Browning, who would move to Dayton to become program manager of what would become WVUD’s largest competitor.
Browning’s station was WTUE-FM 104.7, which has the FCC non-duplication ruling to thank for its programming split from sister station WONE-AM. When Browning, at age 23, arrived in 1976, WTUE was playing a schizophrenic mix of album rock and Top 40, mashing Led Zeppelin up against The O’Jays. He started instituting a playlist of album rock with an ear toward what the kids at UD were spinning.
While he cleared up the playlist, WTUE couldn’t compete with the far superior signal coming out of WVUD’s radio tower. “I spent the first two years at TUE getting my head caved in by a college radio station,” Browning said. “We remained the second radio station.”
The students relished the rivalry, beating out WTUE in ratings and, as Covey said, discovering new music while WTUE simply “stuck with the hits.”
While the students had the innovation, WTUE had the money, and eventually Browning got the technology boost needed to compete with WVUD’s signal.
But the students were ready to hurl one more rock at Goliath. Cage said the same day that WTUE upped its wattage and started broadcasting stereo, WVUD took out an ad in the newspaper announcing its next big leap in technology — a Dolby-B noise reduction system. It made its stereo FM broadcasting quieter while increasing the station’s effective range with no increase in power.
WVUD had built the popularity of progressive rock, and WTUE cashed in on it. After the technology upgrade, WTUE’s ratings skyrocketed, jumping from a 6 percent share of the audience to 13 percent in one rating cycle, Browning said.
The students may have been looking to beat WTUE at any turn, but Browning said he had a lot of respect for the student-run station. Covey remembers attending a local rock concert and bumping into Browning in the pressroom. Browning offered a greeting and said that the town was indeed big enough for them both. “I was a college punk,” Covey said. Covey’s response: “Hell no, there’s not.” And he walked away.
But Browning didn’t. He realized that UD attracted the best college talent from Chicago to Philadelphia and said he was able to build WTUE’s success thanks to the students.
“I was able to listen, pay attention and hire some of the best of them,” said Browning, who lists his time at WTUE and his most recent position — as general manager of KMYZ-FM and KTSO-FM in Tulsa, Okla. — as the most rewarding of his career.
The students had gotten to the top, accomplishing what Biersack had asked them to do, if not exactly in the way he might have imagined. But once the rest of radio caught up with the progressive music phenomenon, it was time for the University to create new plans for the future of WVUD-FM. As the freedom of the ’70s melted away into more formatted radio, the WVUD alumni carried their opportunities with them as they scattered across the nation.
Working at “The Radio Station” was far more valuable than the minimum-wage paycheck they received.
While the students were having fun, they were really building lives. The 17- to 20-year-olds weren’t just kids playing music; they were licensed DJs gaining professional experience, real revenue and popularity for the University of Dayton.
Andres, the WVUD copywriter, went on to careers in film, advertising, production and publishing. He attributes much of his success to the camaraderie among the students. If you were on-air — even late at night — and you did something great, one of your co-workers would always call in to tell you so. (They’d call, too, if you messed up.)
“To this day I stay in touch with people I worked with from WVUD,” he said from his home in Arizona. “It’s because we went through this all together. It was a great training ground and atmosphere, and we made great friends, because it was a great place to work. It was a rare hybrid — a 50,000-watt station owned by a university. It was the perfect place to discover radio as an art form and a one-on-one communication medium. It was unparalleled … and prepared me to be a professional communicator.”
The students helped push progressive rock in the Dayton market, and generations of female DJs have Spitler to thank for progressing the view of women in radio, Andres said: “She was a real pioneer.”
The station — in this era and beyond — helped shape the careers of radio personalities, sports announcers, station managers, media executives and producers in television and Hollywood.
Covey talked about his good fortune at being named music director. “That created an opportunity for me to establish the relationship with all the record labels,” he said.
His first job after college came at the invitation of Andres, who went to a station in Ann Arbor, Mich. When a program director job opened in Illinois at WZOK-FM, a record label rep suggested Covey for the job. His career brought him back to Dayton in 1980, and he now works as a senior account manager for Clear Channel.
Cage remembered a young Dan Pugh ’79 applying to work as a DJ. The station passed him over — twice — before giving him a shot. Pugh — also known as Dan Patrick — went on to DJ at WTUE before working for ESPN radio and now announces for NBC Sports and hosts The Dan Patrick Show.
WVUD of this era launched many careers. Steve Downes ’72 is morning man at WDRV-FM in Chicago and the voice of “Master Chief” on the game Halo. Alan “Mike” McConnell ’77 went from WVUD to WTUE, leading to on-air positions at WLW-AM in Cincinnati and WGN-AM in Chicago.
When Spitler graduated in 1976, Browning promptly hired her for WTUE’s morning drive show. It was a success — its ratings beat WVUD, she said, plus she got her first real paycheck, $200 a week: “I was rich beyond belief.” She went on to become a TV anchor in Indianapolis and is now host and producer of nationally syndicated Pet Pals TV.
They moved on, but they didn’t leave UD entirely behind. At WINE-AM and WRKI-FM in Danbury, Conn., Cage hired Flyers John Fullam ’75, Bob “Buzz Night” Kocak ’78 and Al Tacca ’78 to join him. Covey continues to interact with UD students through the Clear Channel co-op and internship program. Last summer, engineering technology major Michael Harper ’15 worked at Clear Channel.
“It’s about seizing every opportunity you get on campus,” Covey said, “making a contribution, being a part of something, trying to make a difference and then trying to maintain the relationships once you get out of school and paying it forward.”
By the 1990s, WVUD had grown into a light rock powerhouse that still employed students, but they were no longer in control. In 1992, UD sold WVUD to Liggett Broadcasting Group for $3.5 million, which went back to the University to support academic programs and other funds. The call letters changed to WLQT-FM, and the station moved downtown.
Student-centered radio, though, persists in the stu-dent-managed, non-commercial WUDR Flyer Radio. The free spirit of WVUD flourishes on channels 99.5 FM and 98.1 FM. It’s no 50,000 watts — 10 watts with a 50-watt translator, sending the signal into Dayton’s near suburbs — but it has the potential to reach far and wide thanks to Internet streaming. And the students have freedom to play what will attract listeners like them — an idea that has empowered students from 1964 until today.
“Everything was the right place, right time,” Spitler said. “It was magic.”
WVUD alumni will host a special reunion reception in the old WVUD studios in Kennedy Union during Reunion Weekend 2014. They invite all former staff and students — no matter your class year — to the celebration the afternoon of Saturday, June 7. To register for any Reunion Weekend events, visit reunion.udayton.edu.
About the authors
CC Hutten is a junior English major who stumbled onto the WVUD story during Reunion Weekend 2013. She writes, “The more I delve into the epic ’70s music scene, the more convinced I am that I’m attending the University of Dayton in the wrong decade.”
Michelle Tedford ’94 once sat in the control room with a DJ friend who played “Rhinestone Cowboy” (not on the designated playlist) during the last days of WVUD.1 Comment
Science has waged a full-scale attack on cancer. One teacher is ensuring high school students are prepared to protect themselves and help find a cure for what will kill a quarter of all Americans.
Statistics can sit on the page, cold and lifeless. But sitting in front of Jennifer Sunderman Broo ’04 were 21 warm, breathing humans, high school sophomores in ponytails and Uggs. And every one of them raised her hand to Broo’s question:
“How many of you know someone who has cancer or who has lost his or her life to cancer?”
It’s how Broo begins teaching her new curriculum, “The War of the 21st Century: The Cell Cycle, Cancer and Clinical Trials,” funded by the National Institutes of Health and made available this winter to teachers nationwide. She teaches the science of cancer in the context of our personal experience with the disease, embracing the fear and the determination that we can find a cure for what statistics say will kill a quarter of all Americans.
That cure might come from the mind of one of her students; inspiring the next generation of cancer researchers is one of her goals. Even more likely is her role in creating a more informed generation, one that understands the biologic processes that cause cancer and the choices we can make to reduce our risk or treat the disease — lessons we’d all do well to learn.
There’s a frog skeleton in the cupboard. Photos of scientists are pasted onto tissue boxes. And on an orange sheet of construction paper taped near the dry-erase board in Broo’s classroom are these words from Albert Einstein: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.”
Broo — tall and blond with fingers blackened by the dry-erase marker in her hand — asks lots of questions of her students at St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati, an all-girls Catholic school that educates based on the teachings of a young woman who, in the 16th century, empowered women to serve God within the context of their families and professions.
Broo also asked one question of herself: Can I teach the science of cancer to students who are unlikely to take another biology class in their lifetimes?
“Sometimes I think teachers try to give all the practical stuff to the higher-level kids,” said Broo, who before joining St. Ursula two years ago taught Advanced Placement biology in Florida. The girls who sit around the black lab tables in her biology class are future writers and teachers and some who would rather earn accounting degrees than map out chromosomes. Yet Broo believes that understanding the science of cancer — how it occurs, what factors contribute to our risk, how clinical trials are run — is imperative for every student, every person.
“I tell them that I want them to have the information because, God forbid, when this happens to you or someone you love, you can search the Internet as an informed citizen,” she said.
Plus, she thinks cancer science is exciting. You can hear it in her voice as she describes the clinical trials that are leading to novel therapies for fighting cancer. Her energy comes from a lifelong fascination with nature and the systematic way it responds to changes in our environment. But she understands the looks people give her when she tells them she teaches cancer. “It was weird for me to be so excited to teach something that is so horrible,” Broo said.
Sophomore Gracie Ehemann was not at all interested in learning about a disease that had killed so many in her family and already threatened her.
“How can you be so excited to teach something that has taken my whole family away?” she asked, naming grandparents cancer has killed. “It was very, very hard to let myself open up to this.”
Broo knew it would be, which is why she begins teaching the unit each semester by asking about cancer’s impact on her students’ lives — raising their hands, writing reflection papers and discussing cancer truths and myths with their classmates.
Ehemann reflected on a painful memory: sitting in a doctor’s office with family members, hearing words she didn’t understand, and feeling fear and confusion.
“I had no idea what was going on. It all sounded so scary to me — even the word itself sounds super scary,” she said. “I think that this course really broke everything down. … Every piece of what the doctors were saying when I was younger I know about now.
“I wish I would have known before what everything meant, because I honestly feel that if a doctor came to me to talk about cancer and all the vocabulary, I would have a much better time understanding it.”
And it’s not just children who are struggling. Broo watched the family of her mother-in-law, Jackie, battle through the last months of Jackie’s breast cancer. “I wish I would have gotten to know her better,” said Broo of Jackie, a smart and vibrant woman who died in August 2012, three months before Broo married into the family.
“I saw the toll it took on their whole family,” Broo said. “I couldn’t help them, but at least I could help other families to be able to talk about it and deal with it.”
So to start the conversation, when her students raise their hands to the question about knowing someone with cancer, Broo now raises her own — for Jackie.
As a UD student, Broo enjoyed hiking at Glen Helen in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The biology major intended to pursue her doctorate and spend her life in a laboratory. But she looked back on the work she loved best — including internships at the Cincinnati Zoo — and realized she wanted to teach.
She earned her master’s in education from Xavier University and taught in Georgia then Florida, where she won a Science Education Partnership Award. It was her chance to get back in the lab.
Broo and fellow teacher Jessica Mahoney interned in Dr. Christopher Cogle’s University of Florida clinical and research laboratory. They would don white lab coats to work with new drug combinations to combat acute myelogenous leukemia cells, a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. They were looking for the IC50 dosage — the dosage that would kill 50 percent of the cancer cells. Determining the IC50 is an early step in developing a benchmark for therapies that may eventually be tested in humans.
From their lab experience, Broo and Mahoney developed a lesson plan for their high school students in “translational medicine,” often referred to as “bench to bedside.” It is the application of traditional laboratory research — “bench” — to better the human condition and create novel treatments for diseases such as cancer — “bedside.”
Their first lesson plan focused on the genetics of cancer. But giving the students a little information on inherited cancers, like those resulting from the BRCA-1 gene, led to lots of questions. What about tanning beds? Smoking? How do environmental factors and lifestyle choices relate to the hereditary factors?
“They felt like we weren’t telling them the whole story,” Broo said. So the teachers expanded the curriculum, producing a two-week unit that incorporates traditional biology lessons and meets Next Generation Science Standards. It contains readings, videos and activities that can be adapted to students at a variety of learning levels. They presented the curriculum at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference at the end of November. It is available for free download [see "Continued Conversations" for the link].
One of the activities they added was the game “What’s My Risk?” Students pick cards to help understand that a combination of inherited and acquired risk factors could lead to cancer. Through the game, they learn why using sunscreen or exercising regularly helps reduce cancer risk, whereas heavy alcohol consumption or use of tanning beds can cause a mutation in the gene responsible for suppressing tumor growth.
“I didn’t realize there were so many steps to get cancer. I thought it just sort of happened,” said St. Ursula sophomore Annie Hamiter. Her cancer education that semester included a dose of relief from a fear she’d been carrying around for years. Doctors had told her family that her mother’s cancer diagnosis meant an increased risk for her. “With Mrs. Broo walking us through it and saying how everything has a step, and how things have to happen in your body for you to get it, I think that eased my mind. It’s not as if one day I’m going to wake up with cancer, it has to be a process that has to happen.”
It’s a process she now understands. [See "Division and mutation."]
In the United States, one in three women and one in two men will develop cancer during their lifetimes.
Broo shares that fact with her students not to scare them but to inform them. But fear — or passion or excitement — makes her students more invested learners.
“I joked with my husband that I’m emotionally manipulating them to learn science,” she said. “Anything that you can connect with on an emotional level pushes you to learn a little more than does just reading something in a textbook that doesn’t apply to you.”
It also helps when your teacher has written the textbook. On a Thursday afternoon, six of Broo’s former students sat around a table to discuss what they had learned. They gushed the most about having a teacher who not only did cancer research but also cared enough to teach it to them. Sophomore Gretchen Thomas called Broo “passionate.” Classmate Madeleine Morrissey agreed: “You need a teacher to be enthusiastic to rub off onto the students.”
Learning should be about more than just getting an A. Broo wants them to challenge and argue and question the material — and one another and her, which they did during a lesson on clinical trials.
Hamiter was angry to learn that cancer patients whose last hope may be an experimental drug would not know if they received the drug or a placebo. “I remember I kept on fighting with Mrs. Broo. Why would they let some people die for science?” Hamiter asked.
Broo insisted they read about the pros and cons of the practice and apply their own morality. For Hamiter, the question was more than academic. She struggled to find an answer, but she appreciated the space that allowed her to come to her own conclusion: “I’ve come to [believe] — it sounds awful to say — but these few people will die for the greater cause of creating a cure.”
The students took what they learned in class and carried it throughout their day, out of the classroom and into their homes. They started conversations with their parents, some for the first time having an open discussion about family health history.
Sophomore Marley Molkentin talked about her grandmother, who had died of lung cancer nearly a decade ago.
“I hadn’t thought about my grandma in awhile because I just don’t really like thinking about it,” said Molkentin, her voice soft and full of memories. “This class made me think again, and I don’t feel as sad anymore about it.”
The students said their conversations helped with closure or brought the family closer together, with the girls feeling good about being experts in a subject elder generations likely never learned in school.
They also mulled over their new knowledge and molded it into possible cancer cures. They would come to class with suggestions on ways to cut off the blood supply to cancer cells or to target chemotherapy drugs more precisely. Their approaches were simple, based on their 10th-grade science, but inventive. “They were coming up with some viable mechanisms that, if you could find a practical way to do them, could actually be some pretty great treatments for cancer,” Broo said.
She knows that few of her current students will go into science careers — those students are more likely to choose honors or AP biology — but she wants them to understand you don’t need to be a doctor or researcher to impact cancer. To demonstrate, students sat in a circle. Each girl represented one person involved in clinical trials — patient, spouse, oncologist, pharmacist, nurse, researcher, social worker, drug company executive. They tossed back and forth a ball of blue thread until it created an interlocking web of patient care.
“My favorite job was the person who would play and talk to the kids who have cancer and keep them sane through it,” said Hamiter, recounting watching a video of children with bald heads and bright eyes dancing with their nurses and singing to the song “Brave.” “I never knew there were people who did that, and I thought it was really cool.”
In the end, it’s a hopeful message that Broo wants her students to take from such a scary topic. For more than 4,000 years, humans have been making progress in treating, curing and preventing cancer.
“You have to train them to start to think a little bit, let them make mistakes and learn from them,” Broo said. “That’s one of the things I like about the cancer unit — there are lots of opportunities to internalize it and add their own spin — and hopefully it encourages them through the stories to take the mental energy or the mental effort to do that.”
That energy was evident in sophomore Monica Luebbers, who wriggled in her chair as she recounted her life’s ambition at age 10: to cure cancer. She said it was a dream that got lost in the chaos of middle school, when so many girls turn away from science.
“I think I want to get back that childish dream of trying to pursue a cure for cancer,” Luebbers said. “Mrs. Broo kept that fire alive, and maybe added some gasoline and made it grow bigger.”
Now that’s a way to wage a war.
Preparing for War: A (short) History of Cancer
The date of an Egyptian papyrus containing the first medical description of cancer by Egyptian physician Imhotep.
Hippocrates gives an account of a woman with a carcinoma of the breast. He was the first to use “carcinos” and “carcinoma” to describe the tumors.
Marie and Pierre Curie discover radium, with which doctors begin to deliver high doses of radiation to tumors. Radium also proves to be carcinogenic; Marie Curie dies of leukemia in 1934.
Senator Matthew Neely asks Congress to advertise a $5 million reward for “information leading to the arrest of human cancer.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the National Cancer Institute Act.
An accidental release of mustard gas in Bari, Italy, leads doctors to understand the chemical’s ability to kill cancers of the white blood cells, leading to chemotherapy treatments.
In his State of the Union address, President Richard Nixon asks for an appropriation of $100 million to find a cure for cancer: “Let us make a total national commitment to achieve this goal.”
First tumor suppressor gene, Rb, is isolated. It is among the first genes to be linked to familial cancer.
The first DNA microchip is developed, leading to today’s “gene chips” that are tools to develop individualized cancer treatment plans.
Gleevac, the first drug to target a specific characteristic of a cancer cell rather than attack all rapidly dividing cells, is successfully used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia.
The FDA approves the first cancer-preventing vaccine, Gardasil. It protects against the human papillomavirus, the major cause of cervical cancer.
The Cancer Genome Atlas project is researching and publishing all the possible changes in genes related to specific cancers.
Division and mutation
Cancer can form when the normal process of the cells goes awry. To illustrate this, Jennifer Broo has her students at St. Ursula Academy work in teams to draw a poster-sized diagram of the cell cycle.
Typically, the cell goes through a predictable process of duplication and division, producing cells for specific functions within the body.
But things can — and do — go wrong. DNA can replicate incorrectly, causing mutations that could become cancer. The cells have opportunities to correct these errors at checkpoints. On the cell diagram, Broo illustrates them as stoplights. At each stoplight, the cell can ask itself, are more cells needed? Are the environmental conditions right for cell growth? Is my cell DNA replicating correctly? If the answer is no, the cell can delay division, repair the mistake or kill itself (apoptosis), making room for neighboring healthy cells.
Broo teaches her sophomores that cancer development is a multistep process that requires mutations in both tumor suppressor genes and proto-oncogenes within the cell.
The function of tumor suppressor genes is to prevent mistakes that could lead to cancer. These genes slow down cell division, repair DNA mistakes and tell cells when to die. Tumor suppressor genes can be turned off because of an inherited deficiency such as BRCA-1, the gene deficiency inherited by actress Angelina Jolie, or because of a mutation that develops over a person’s lifetime.
Proto-oncogenes regulate the normal processes of a cell. They are genes that signal to the cell what function to perform and how often to divide. Mutations to proto-oncogenes can also be inherited or acquired.
Age is a risk factor; the more cells have replicated, the more chances there are for mistakes to occur.
But students learn about other risk factors that are within their control. They learn skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types and that they can prevent acquired mutations by using sunscreen or avoiding tanning beds.
And they also learn that many of the breakthroughs in cancer are likely to be in understanding ways to prevent it. This education is especially important for 15-year-olds to learn, Broo said, because they have a lifetime to reduce their chances of
Recommended by Jennifer Broo:
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
“It is a long book, but very readable, even if you haven’t had a biology class since high school.”
National Institutes of Health
“This would be one of the sites I would go to if I knew someone with a rare type of cancer or who had tried standard treatment options and wasn’t improving.”
“Oncogenes, Tumor Suppressor Genes and Cancer,” by the American Cancer Society
“This provides an easily understandable explanation of the genes involved in cancer.”
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
“Another comprehensive website with good animated tutorials.
About the author
Michelle Tedford ’94 is editor of University of Dayton Magazine. She hasn’t taken a biology class since the ninth grade.No Comments