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Stories of sustenance

2:40 PM  Dec 7th, 2011
by Michelle Tedford

In the Winter 2011-12 University of Dayton Magazine, we told you a story of community that culminated in the cookbook 5:10:30. We also printed your stories of sustenance. Read a few more, and add yours to the comments section below.

“Popcorn, which set many a fire alarm off in Stuart.” — Lauren Caggiano ’07

“Spring break senior year Michelle Stawicki, fellow design major, and I decided to stay on campus to work on our portfolios. Every day we would arrive at the studio around 9 a.m. and stay until at least 9 p.m. One day we had the brilliant idea to cook chicken for dinner in the crockpot. Our crockpot had a clear lid, so we got some pretty interesting looks and questions on our way up the elevator to the studio. All day long people came to our workspace asking what the good smell was and what was going on. In the end, we both were very happy with the work we put in on our portfolios and were very full from eating our crockpot chicken.” —Elaine English ’10

“We used to always try and make it to KU for their breakfast on Sunday mornings. Those Belgian waffles were the best thing after a fun weekend. ” — Jessica Arnold ’01

“To raise money for Relay For Life, my roommates and I got supplies for grilled cheese donated from KU. We spent a couple hours one night buttering bread and toasting grilled cheese sandwiches using every pan we had in our kitchen. We packed them up in a cooler and then spent the rest of the night sitting outside of Tim’s selling grilled cheeses for a dollar to people as they left. I don’t remember how much we made but it was definitely one of my more memorable Tim’s experiences.” —Megan Mulroy ’06

My housemates of 111 Woodland taught me to bake in our undersized, ancient, maroon oven that required a wedged broom handle to keep the door shut. When I moved into my first post-graduation landlord house, I burned everything I baked. But I took with me the knowledge that food is more than sustenance. We put our joys and our tears into what we create in our lives. Those women and their recipes for life continue to sustain me today.” —Michelle Tedford ’94


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Thalia’s Feast

3:11 PM  Dec 6th, 2011
by Michelle Tedford ’94

The calendar read Dec. 6 and the bedroom windows stood wide open. They had been for more than a week, turning my room into a refrigerator, our beds covered in crinkly wax paper and stacked high with platters of savory potato-leek börek and loaves of Irish brown bread. We slept on the couch, when there was time to sleep, hands still dusty with flour. One day left until the cookbook coming-out party, and we had enough food to feed an army.

The navy and air force would soon arrive, too.

It was 1993, and we had schemed to turn our senioritis into a class project for our Women in Religion class. At 111 Woodland Ave., we watched movies about food and community, food and religion, food and culture. We read books and shared Bible passages. And, every Friday, someone cooked a meal, a prerequisite for recipes to be added to the cookbook. (Against the rules, Ellen’s mint julep recipe made it in, and I’ve always felt cheated.)

Food was important in our house. Most of us were vegetarian and needed to diversify our nutrient intake. But mostly it was just good — to eat, to eat well and to eat with friends. We found that, when we cooked, people came — the cute guys from the Crack Shack and Woodland Manor, girlfriends who would otherwise rarely wander off of Lowes, Kevin with the cramped kitchen in Firwood. They regularly showed up at dinnertime and ate everything we served. Our parties were popular, fueled by sugars and starches and savory vegetables.

On Dec. 7, we opened the doors and the hungry crowd pushed in. We fed hundreds — professors and employers, neighbors and strangers, everyone dressed for a holiday celebration and ready to loosen a few belt notches before finals.

The cookbook we created was Thalia’s Feast, a nod to a Greek muse who presided over banquets and the elegant arts. Ellen’s ink drawings brought the toga-clad lady to life in the index, and we each contributed our penmanship to the 63 recipes inside. Our print-on-demand was a photocopier in the religious studies department. We assembled enough for the class project; for our families; for the friends who showed up at our door nearly every dinnertime; and for posterity. I still hand out the occasional copy, a way of initiating a new friend into the circle we nourished over Kerri’s Irish soda bread, Annie’s gnocchi, Nan’s Christmas season surprise, Sarah’s lemon dream bars and my zucchini chocolate cake.

Those women taught me to bake in our undersized, ancient, maroon oven that required a wedged broom handle to keep the door shut. When I moved into my first post-graduation landlord house, I burned everything I baked. But I took with me the knowledge that food is more than sustenance. We put our joys and our tears into what we create in our lives. The Woodland Avenue women and their recipes for life continue to sustain me today.

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Magazine inbox: A very UD welcome

3:02 PM  Oct 27th, 2011
by Matthew Dewald

I love the notes I often get as editor of UD Magazine. Case in point, this message that recently arrived in my inbox from Elaine and Brian ’75 Fitzgerald:

How true and close to home the article on breaking the ice with a fellow Flyer was for us. On April 14th our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, committed to UD as a incoming freshman. We waited patiently while she looked at many schools the past year, hoping she would pick UD.

The day she made her decision we asked her what took so long, and her answer was simple: UD was so perfect she had to look at everything else just to make sure.

Elizabeth’s choice was great news for us because it meant four more years of visiting UD. Our oldest daughter, Megan Fitzgerald ’10, was graduating with her MBA in three weeks, and the thought of our days of Dayton parents being over was hard to imagine.

We took Lizzy’s picture with the UD flag that night and then hung it on our front porch for all to see. We have had more people with UD connections stop by, honk and wave. We all know she made the right choice.

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Alumni profile: Joan Herbers ’73

9:42 AM  Oct 24th, 2011
by Meredith Hirt '13

When Joan Herbers accepted a job in Ohio nine years ago, it was like coming home.

After three years of driving I-70 between home in St. Louis and school at Dayton, Herbers went to Northwestern University for graduate school, got her first teaching job at the University of Vermont, and became department chair at Colorado State University. In 2002, she was appointed dean of the College of Biological Sciences at The Ohio State University. Along with traveling the U.S. to give presentations and conduct research, Herbers also did work overseas in Australia, Costa Rica and India. “I have been around a little bit,” she said.

Most of Herbers’ research career focused on the social structure of acorn ants: why some colonies have more than one queen and how they deal with parasitic pirate ants.

Continuing to teach evolution, ecology and organismal biology, Herbers shifted her focus to gender equity in sciences three years ago. A member of the Association for Women in Science since grad school, Herbers was elected to the board in 2007 and became president in 2010. AWIS advocates to help women achieve full potential in the sciences.

At the same time she was dean at OSU, Herbers received a grant from the National Science Foundation to fund a project called Comprehensive Equity at Ohio State. By helping deans and chairs understand the issues surrounding gender equity, Herbers hopes to see the percentage of women receiving doctorates proportionately represented in the faculty. For example, although 50 percent of doctorates in biology are earned by women, they comprise only 20 percent of faculty.

Herbers’ career in biology was cemented early at Dayton. She had Brother Don Geiger, S.M., as a professor in biology her freshman year, “a wonderful inspiration and a good man,” so she chose her major as the path of least resistance. “By the time I graduated I still liked it,” she said. “I never changed my mind.”

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New York/New Jersey

10:03 AM  Aug 31st, 2011
by Meredith Hirt ’13

From a luxury party suite in the Staten Island Yankees minor league baseball stadium, New York and New Jersey alumni look across the water toward the towering Manhattan skyline.

When the game is over, the sky between the boroughs erupts with fireworks. A windy ferry ride to and from the annual alumni event sends alumni floating past the Statue of Liberty.

Incoming chapter president Kevin Stacey ’06 says not many alumni get to see something that cool on the commute to a chapter event. He continues, “That’s the excitement of living in New York City. It’s one of a kind.”

The city offers plenty of activities for UD’s New York/New Jersey chapter, 3,526 strong. Alumni are attracted to the area, as exiting president Steve DeFilippis ’92 explains, because you can do anything there. “It has everything to offer, period.”

Chapter events range from wine tastings to game watches. With basketball such a big part of UD’s culture, DeFilippis says anytime a game is in the vicinity, events are huge. Alumni attend games at Fordham University in the Bronx when the Flyers travel there. Host for the NIT finals in 2009, the chapter welcomed alumni from all over the country to New York for the games at Madison Square Garden.

Alumni love to participate in Christmas off Campus. Held at the Covenant House for more than 20 years and counting, Santa Claus always makes a visit, bearing gifts for everyone.

Stacey knows New York City is a very different environment from the Midwest; one of the reasons he moved there after graduation was so he wouldn’t have to drive a car. Though the chapter includes the surrounding suburbs and northern New Jersey, DeFilippis says most events take place in the city and require alumni to cross a bridge, travel through a tunnel or take a subway — but that’s part of New York City’s charm.

There are three points Stacey wants to focus on during his presidency: consistency, variety and communication. He plans to build an ongoing relationship with a Catholic charity and, this summer, he put on a co-ed charity softball game. With the arrival of fall, the chapter held a back-to-school event for current Flyers and their families.

“I could hit a golf ball in any direction from my house and I’d hit an alum,” DeFilippis says. With all that the area has to offer, it’s no surprise there are so many around.

Stacey says, “It’s New York City. … If a UD alum can make it here, they can make it anywhere.”

How do you show off New York?

1. Coney Island Chris and Cindy Majewski Sippel ’81 took their daughter’s UD friends to Coney Island to experience Brooklyn history, “not to mention getting to ride the Cyclone and having a few Nathan’s hot dogs.”

2. Karaoke U2 After riding an elevator to the basement to find a poorly marked doorway, Emily Cipolla ’09 surprised her high school friends with this underground karaoke bar on St. Marks Place. “There’s nothing like belting out old songs with good friends!”

3. Stone Street Tavern Keith Powers ’05 took a fellow grad to this bar in the financial district for happy hour to be outside with all the people and energy. He also likes to take visitors to Yankees games, “since they’re the best team in baseball.”

4. Radiance Tea House & Books Within walking distance of Fifth Avenue, Central Park and the iconic “Love” statue, Lydia Hirt ’07 took her mother and younger sister to Radiance on West 55th for “a fabulous tea tasting and to enjoy their delicious dumplings.”

5. High Line Brian Torpey ’07 took his father to this park, which stretches through three Manhattan neighborhoods. “It’s fascinating to see how it has been revitalized by making an old section of railroad tracks into a park.”

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How to wait for an organ donation

10:01 AM  Aug 31st, 2011
by Meredith Hirt ’13

In 2002, Theresa Bakum ’78 was diagnosed with glomerulonephritis, an incurable kidney disease. Proving that patience is indeed a virtue, nine years later she is still waiting for a kidney transplant. Though the wait has been long, Bakum has spent it with grace. Here’s how to handle the passage of time:

1. Stay positive Bakum puts out good vibes, praying and believing that when it’s the right time and the right match, it will happen. “You have to have a great attitude or every day it’d be miserable.”

2. Keep busy “Do other things that make you happy. Keep active; otherwise you’re home and thinking about it 24/7, which really puts you in a funk.” Bakum is an avid reader, swimmer and practicer of yoga.

3. Understand your body Follow doctor’s orders. Try to stay as healthy as you can. “The most important things: Be aware of your body and pay attention to what you do.”

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help “I always did things on my own and didn’t want to rely on anyone. Realize you’re sick and can’t do it all yourself. My friends really rallied around me; people really do care about you.”

5. Be open Anyone could be a potential donor. Ask people their blood type. “I always talk about it. You never know when someone will say, ‘Oh, I’m interested.’”

6. Appreciate what you have “Everybody has a challenge in life to take. You just go with that. You can still live, even regulated by a machine. It’s not the worst-case scenario.”

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The power of community

10:00 AM  Aug 31st, 2011
by President Daniel J. Curran

A journalist recently asked me about the University of Dayton’s remarkable growth during my presidency.

As I enter my 10th year as president, I’m grateful to lead a university that’s been extraordinarily well-managed for more than 160 years. I inherited a university on an upward path from Brother Ray Fitz, S.M., who led UD into the modern era with a blend of pragmatism, boldness and humility.

In the spirit of our Marianist founders, our faculty and staff have embraced change at a pace some might consider astounding for higher education. Our local, state and national leaders have rallied around our knack of seeing the possibilities — whether it’s the transformation of a brownfield or the launching of centers of excellence in emerging high-tech fields.

We’ve accomplished the extraordinary because of the ingenuity, leadership and buy-in of a community of supporters on campus and beyond.

That’s how we were able to nearly double the size of campus through two major acquisitions from NCR Corp. and then attract a new GE Aviation research center. Seizing opportunities, our faculty and researchers have doubled the sponsored research volume by developing expertise in emerging fields like sensors and alternative energy. We’ve changed our marketing strategy and dramatically increased selectivity and the geographic diversity of our student body. This fall, we’re enrolling the largest number of international students in history and opening a stand-alone institute in China in one of the fastest-growing innovation parks in the world.

Those are all achievements our faculty, staff and students accomplished by reading the signs of the times and acting boldly. It’s just the Marianist way of working together as a community to make change that has created a real difference in the way the University is perceived in the world. I’m inspired — and gratified — by their tireless work.

Alumni tell me they’re proud of the new residential and academic facilities on campus, but it’s the everyday moments that strike me the most.

When a professor or student shares news of winning a Fulbright scholarship, I feel so proud. When an alumnus visits campus after decades and catches the spirit of innovation and the infectious energy of this place, that renews me. When a group of Chinese students tells me they feel at home here — that this is their community — I’m gratified. When our alumni and friends respond with gifts, large and small, that help us grow our endowment and become a stronger university, I’m motivated to set our aspirations higher.

The strength of the University of Dayton is — and will always be — the strength of our community. Nowhere is this more creatively communicated than in the lobby of Albert Emanuel Hall. If one prospective student stands in front of the new motion-sensitive iWall in our admission welcome center, only one vignette of a larger video pops up. If a group is talking to one another in front of the wall, a surprising panoramic view is created. It sends the message that we learn, live, pray and solve problems together — in community. And great things happen when we do that.

As I reflect on the University of Dayton’s future, I believe we are poised to make a quantum leap into the realm of world-class universities. Just as we prepare students with the ability to adapt and thrive in a changing world, we’ve positioned our university to do the same.

We will not be followers, nor will we embark on this journey by ourselves. In the Marianist spirit, we will imagine our future and, together, create it.

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My Old House 1978-81: 515 Irving Ave.

4:07 PM  Aug 30th, 2011
by Meredith Hirt ’13

“We could have just sat here forever,” Mary Pat Luddy Cornett ’81 said as she sat on the porch of her old house reminiscing with former roommate Maggie Grace ’81 during Reunion Weekend 2011.

From 1978-81, eight friends rotated through the house, swapping roommates and sharing one bathroom with a very large window looking into the house next door. Jamie Caples Farley ’81 summed up their time there by saying the housemates had “very few arguments, lots of laughs and many parties.”

With the house located on Irving between Evanston and Trinity, the library was quite the hike. “You had to take a mandatory nap once you got there,” Grace said. The laundry room in Campus South was close enough to push a shopping cart of dirty clothes to, though. The house came equipped with washer and dryer, but they were located in the basement, which the roommates were afraid of.

As the focal point of the living room, the fireplace was always decorated for the holidays. “We didn’t really use the furniture in there,” said Cornett. Instead, the housemates were always on their feet, dancing around.

In the kitchen, the residents felt unusually tall due to the low countertops. They took turns making dinner, though some were better cooks than others. “We thought we ate regular meals,” said Grace, “but I don’t think we really did.” One night, Cornett forgot about the egg she was hard-boiling, and when she finally returned to the kitchen, she found it on the ceiling.
One memorable escapade occurred when a huge, hairy cat got caught in the back room. The women had to shoo it out using mops and brooms they didn’t even know they had. “Someone must have left those behind because we never cleaned the place,” Grace said.

Messy, maybe, but not destructive — except one incident at the end. “One of our parents got us this huge cake for graduation,” Cornett said. “While trying to cut it, we broke the dining room table. But we saved the cake!”

The memories the roommates shared celebrating their 30th anniversary of graduation were fond ones. Cornett said, “The boring things fade. … We didn’t see details, we saw people and experiences. … We made every year count.”

This summer, former roommates sat on the porch of their old house and reminisced.

Take a My Old House tour with today’s residents on UDQuickly.

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2:30 PM  Aug 30th, 2011
by Shannon Shelton Miller

A decade later, the nation and UD look back

Marc Wieman ’78 appears at the beginning of a video for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center, where he shares an anecdote about his wife’s decision to stay in New York City the night of Sept. 10, 2001. The Wiemans lived in Rockville Centre, on Long Island, but Mary had a late client dinner near her office and an early meeting the next morning.

His wife never returned home.

Mary Catherine Lenz Wieman ’80 worked for Aon Corp. in 2 World Trade Center. At 9:03 a.m., Sept. 11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into her building, the south tower, just 16 minutes after American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower. Fifty-six minutes later, the south tower was gone, and the north tower would follow at 10:28 a.m.

“When I turned around, I watched that building collapse,” he said later in the video.  “At that moment, I knew that she was not coming home.”

Wieman would travel the nation years later to raise funds for the memorial and increase awareness of that day’s tragic events, hoping to ensure that future generations would never forget how it changed the nation. Outside the greater New York area, where many lost loved ones, Wieman worried that Sept. 11 was becoming “just another day.”

“The museum and memorial are important,” Wieman said. “There’s a whole generation of kids where the phrase ‘post-9/11’ is all they know. [My travels] were to explain how life was before. Not just mine, but everyone’s.”

That pre-9/11 world was one where airports casually screened passengers and let family and friends follow fliers to their gates and greet them there when they returned. The economy was booming and military engagements in the Middle East felt to many like swift affairs with quick results.

It was also a world where, on Sept. 10, 2001, 2,976 people participated in the routine of everyday life — going to work, attending religious services, planning vacations, marrying, raising families and contributing to their communities — for the last time. Six of them were University of Dayton alumni.

The names of those 2,976 individuals, along with six who died in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, now sit, inscribed in bronze panels, on a permanent structure in New York City at the former site of the Twin Towers. Dedication of the memorial took place during a ceremony for victims’ families on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and a public opening was scheduled the following day.

Along with the six University graduates, all of whom died at the World Trade Center, many more friends, family members, spouses and associates of University alumni faculty, staff and students were lost in the terrorist attacks that day in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. For example, Eugene Steuerle ’68 lost his wife, Norma, in the Pentagon and founded Our Voices Together, a nonprofit organization of 9/11 families.

A museum of artifacts and details about the events of Sept. 11 accompanies the memorial, which consists of two reflecting pools with bronze panels edging the structures. The north pool contains the names of those who died in the north tower or on Flight 11, along with the 1993 victims.

The south pool lists those who died in the south tower, at the Pentagon, on Flight 175, on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, and United Flight 93, which crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa. First responders are also listed on the south pool.

Settling on an appropriate way to list the names was no easy task. Alphabetically didn’t seem right. Some kind of chronological order didn’t make sense either. Names were divided based on occupation or location at the time of death. From there, victims’ family and friends could request that their loved ones’ names be engraved in proximity to the names of others with whom they shared a special connection.
In some cases, connected names represented family ties. In others, there were bonds between co-workers and friends. A few placements involved people who didn’t know each other before that tragic day but who perished together as they attempted to help one another.

The names of all of the UD graduates appear on south pool panels.

Kristin Irvine-Ryan ’93, whose name sits in space S-51, is linked to other co-workers at the investment banking firm Sandler O’Neill & Partners. Family members and friends who live in the Dayton area continue to operate Secret Smiles, a charity Ryan started in New York to help women in need. Today, the organization provides beds and cribs to women in the Miami Valley. “I celebrate her life through Secret Smiles,” said sister Tracy Irvine Janess ’87.

Alfonse Joseph Niedermeyer III ’83 worked for the Port Authority Police Department as an officer in commercial vehicle inspection. His name occupies S-28 with other first responders. Niedermeyer was a 16-year Port Authority veteran who previously risked his life to save passengers of USAir Flight 405, which crashed in the icy waters of Flushing Bay in 1992.

Mary Lenz Wieman was a marketing executive at Aon, one of the companies hit hardest by the World Trade Center attacks. Her square, S-59, contains co-workers from Aon. Family members of Bermuda native Rhondelle Cherie Tankard, an Aon co-worker, requested that Tankard’s name be placed next to Wieman’s, Marc Wieman said.

William Eben Wilson ’65 was an insurance broker at Aon. His name is engraved on S-61 with other Aon employees.

David Wiswall ’69 was a senior vice president at Aon. His name occupies S-55 with other Aon employees. Surviving co-workers said in news stories that after the first plane hit the north tower, Wiswall helped his colleagues evacuate the south tower by getting them to the stairwell and holding the door open.

Joseph J. Zuccala ’68 appears at space S-44 with co-workers from Fuji Bank, where he worked as a consultant. The bank had offices on the 79th-82nd floors of the south tower, part of the area where Flight 175 made a direct impact. Family and friends established a scholarship in his honor at the University, named for Zuccala’s fraternity, Delta Gamma Omega.

As for Marc Wieman, he’s spent the past decade raising three children and working to make life as normal as possible, learning to live with the grief but not spending their time “living in that place,” he said. Mary’s birthday and Sept. 11 will always remain difficult, but there have been bright moments, such as his remarriage two years ago to wife Stephanie.

His work with the Sept. 11 memorial has been beneficial, and he praised the foundation’s design work. The panels don’t all contain the same number of names, and the placement of the names on each square is not symmetrical.

That randomness is purposeful, he said.

“Conceptually, I like the design,” Wieman said. “Everyone didn’t die in neat, orderly fashion.”

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A river runs through it

2:19 PM  Aug 30th, 2011
by Michelle Tedford

“The river changes every day. Some days, you love it. Others, you’re just frustrated by it.”

And on this sunny July day, senior Bethany Renner says she is loving it. The sky is blue and the Mad River, an artery winding through East Dayton toward downtown, gurgles over rocky riffles at a pace easy enough to be navigated by the novices of the group she’s leading.

Renner, blond hair in a tight ponytail, knifes her kayak through the water. She alerts boaters to a water hazard ahead, an old bridge piling. More students are teaching in other disciplines, pointing out a blue heron the boaters keep scaring downstream (biology), the clarity of the water (geology), the factories operating alongside (economy) and an outflow pipe that drains stormwater and whatever else eastside residents dump down the storm grate (public policy).

This summer, the River Stewards of the University of Dayton’s Rivers Institute taught nearly 200 paddlers — professors and students, mayors and council members, artists and engineers — in their floating classroom, just one way the students are fulfilling their promise of bringing Dayton to the river.

Senior Alex Galluzzo is paddling sweep on the trip and talking a nautical mile a minute. “My first job is to be sure everyone gets safely down the river,” he says. “Then I’m going to throw a big blanket of information on you, and if you can crawl out with one or two facts, I’m good with that.”

What started as a river trip with two dozen honors students in 2004 has grown into a sea change emanating from the University’s Fitz Center for Leadership in Community. The Rivers Institute’s staff, community partners, faculty and committed students can now be found at the table of every major regional discussion regarding water and its connection to economic vitality, quality of life and environmental integrity. Some point to these River Stewards as the catalyst for the regional water discussions of the last five years. All agree that these students and their ideas are changing the landscape and contributing to a national and local refocus on water resources.


“The greatest thing I’ve found is that adults are listening to 21-year-olds, and what I say matters.”

Laura Mustee sits on a porch swing on Stonemill Avenue, hair in a ponytail, arms hugging knees to her pink T-shirt, looking every bit a college senior. But the life she describes is something quite unexpected. Since her sophomore year, she’s been part of a 16-member cohort of River Stewards. Members commit to three years of river education, experience and action in addition to their major areas of study.

For Mustee, that’s marketing. But she adds biology, sociology, ecology and economics to the list of what she’s learning, some from faculty and community partners, much from the other River Stewards who represent 27 majors in the interdisciplinary program that is more intense than a club, more amorphous than a major. River Stewards choose each new cohort by application and interview process. The sophomores commit to three years of Friday afternoon classes and service and civic engagement opportunities. They work with their cohort on a senior project. They constantly create new ways to accomplish the Rivers Institute’s mission of helping the Dayton community to see its rivers as a strategic natural resource central to the communal, economic, aesthetic and ecological vitality of the region.

The program stretches students and their leadership potential, and Mustee and others have proven themselves skillful in discussions of public policy, science, economic development and quality of life.

The Dayton Development Coalition is the region’s economic development engine. In 2008, DDC began focusing attention on water as an economic resource. Then the River Stewards got involved — first as guest presenters, then as seated members of the Dayton Water Roundtable — and the conversation evolved to embrace quality of life, environmental stewardship and retention of a young creative class. Maureen Patterson, vice president of stakeholder relations at DDC, calls the River Stewards “visionary.”

“They all speak about the water. They are so excited by it and that inspires the people sitting there,” Patterson says. The stewards’ voices have allowed DDC to better sell the region, she says, by growing educational curricula, pushing technology and innovation, and marketing quality of life.

River Stewards sit on the city of Dayton environmental advisory board. They have presented at the Midwest Ground Water Conference, the Water Management Association of Ohio’s annual meeting and at the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. A steward led a presentation to the DP&L Foundation that netted a $250,000 educational grant. Senior AJ Ferguson coordinates the new Ohio’s Great Corridor Association, which brings together governments, businesses and community organizations to promote the Great Miami River watershed.

In the June OGCA meeting, Ferguson took notes and allowed participants to explore ideas — more than 100 he wrote on easel sheets that he taped around the room — to find common threads before he offered careful words of analysis.

That may be the best part of being a steward, he says — being part of the dynamic conversation. “What I get most excited about being in a roomful of mayors and city managers is that I get to test where I am in the quality of the ideas I offer.”

The best example of the Rivers Institute’s collaborative power is the annual River Summit, begun in 2008 and held on UD’s campus. Last spring, it attracted more than 200 of Ohio’s leaders to sessions on recreation, tourism, watershed protection and how nonprofits and governments can work together to garner grant money for river restoration and recreation projects.

UD is the reason the River Summit works, says Amy Dingle, outdoor recreational coordinator for Five Rivers MetroParks, the region’s conservation and recreation organization. She says the University of Dayton, with a reputation for seeking the common good, is the neutral player that can bring together competing interests to understand how our ultimate goals are connected.

In the Great Miami River watershed, those connections extend like the fingers of its tributaries.

Twenty-seven miles upriver from UD is the city of Troy. In 2009, Mayor Mike Beamish welcomed River Stewards who paddled for five days from the headwaters near Indian Lake to Taylorsville Dam north of Dayton as part of their senior project. In Troy they learned about the city’s long connection with the Great Miami River, about its investment in Treasure Island as a family recreation destination and more.

Stan Kegely, Troy’s project manager, is an advocate for the River Summit and for the mission the students espouse. “A stronger river corridor is a stronger Troy,” he says. “A stronger Dayton and a stronger Miamisburg is a stronger Troy. Regionally, when we all grow, we all benefit from one another’s achievements.”

This collaborative mindset is a far cry from the competitive rhetoric once dominant in the region, and Kegley points to the River Stewards as a reason.

Dayton city commissioner Nan Whaley ’98 agrees. “They’ve been the catalyst in the region around water issues. If they hadn’t done the River Summit and didn’t show the excitement and take the leadership role, you wouldn’t see the OGCA, you wouldn’t see the (downtown Dayton) plan. They’ve been the catalyst.”


“My friend picked me up from the airport, and the first place I went to was RiverScape (in downtown Dayton) so I could see my river.”

Katie Norris ’10 is now surrounded by waters — geographically, encircled by the Stillwater and Penobscot rivers at the University of Maine in Orono, and academically, as a graduate student studying the impact of native migrating fish called alewives on the local ecology. Her research takes her wading through cold streams and canoeing in lakes that are the alewives’ breeding grounds. But she has never felt more connected than she did as a River Steward in Dayton.

“I’ve always loved nature,” she says. “The Rivers Institute solidified that for me and showed me how to make the connection between my love for ecology and water and the rivers with community and the social piece.”

And the river she so loves is different from the one known by UD alumni from a decade or more ago. During the last 40 years, organizations like the Miami Conservancy District have been working with farmers, factories and municipalities to improve the quality of the water.

Fish kills of 40 years ago are replaced with fishermen who catch prize-sized smallmouth bass in the shadow of the Monument Street bridge. For $6 a half hour, you can rent a kayak on a lazy Saturday afternoon and paddle where the Great Miami River and Mad River merge in the spray of six giant fountains. More than 40 miles of paved pathways along the river corridor connect to 300 more that wind through farmland and prairie, tying Piqua and Urbana to the north through Dayton and Xenia to Cincinnati in the south. Bicyclists share pathways with joggers, dog-walkers, lunchtime exercisers and young families with toddlers muddy from chasing geese. Five Rivers MetroParks’ RiverScape — with its three blocks of gardens, fountains, four-seasons pavilion and bicycle hub — draws all walks of people downtown, including UD students like Norris.

It’s also a river much more accessible to current students thanks to the Rivers Institute. The 2011 cohort, the second to graduate from the program, organized bus trips to introduce University students to recreational amenities and other features of a livable city. The 2012 cohort is helping to begin a bikeshare program; UD students can check out a bike as easily as a basketball and pedal the spur along Stewart Street to connect to the Great Miami River Trail and the city or countryside beyond.

And all stewards are ambassadors. Senior Jenny Biette took her boyfriend and friends to RiverScape on the Fourth of July. As they sat near the levees built to protect citizens after the 1913 flood, the visual communication design major spoke of the glacier 18,000 years ago that deposited the gravel that naturally filters Dayton’s drinking water, making it some of the best in the world.

“It sort of surprises people about how special Dayton is,” she says. “They came to the school  (UD) because they know it’s special, but in Dayton you always run into something new and exciting. The River Stewards have helped to cement us to this city.”

In the Rivers Institute, students become part of the story — and part of the community. As an arm of the Fitz Center, the Rivers Institute educates leaders who build community. Cincinnati native Norris took with her to Maine that need to feel connected to place. She sought out a community of learners and a community of recreational enthusiasts. She also is making sure her scientific research is relevant to people and their concerns — the impact of repatriated fish populations to property values, tourism and fishing. These are values she says she will carry with her always, no matter the name of the river along which she lives.


“If we want more students to be civically engaged, we need more hooks.”

For AJ Ferguson, that hook was kayaking. What better way to entice a student than the opportunity to kayak the rivers, bike the pathways and hike the trails? River Stewards talk of this and more when recruiting the next cohort of students, who vie for the 15 or so positions available each year. For fall 2011, 35 applied — for the fun, the intensity and the commitment that will consume most of their formerly free time.

And once they are hooked by kayaking, the rest follows.

“There’s a city out there we want you to enjoy, and when you know it you’ll love it and you’ll want to protect it,” he says.

Ferguson was one of three students who presented at the June Marianist Universities Meeting to presidents, deans and faculty about civic engagement. Civic engagement is a hallmark of Marianist education, and the three Marianist universities (University of Dayton, St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and Chaminade University of Honolulu) are always looking for ways to do it better. Ferguson believes the Rivers Institute is a perfect example.

So does his father.

Dick Ferguson ’73, Fitz Center executive director, sees in the actions of the Rivers Institute a practical wisdom. Students are not necessarily probing the depths of science but are instead identifying the knowledge needed by everyday citizens to make connections and take action. What makes an economics major passionate about the aquifer? Tap that, and you have the key to civic engagement.

“It’s always very clear that in order to get the most out of the students, you have to engage their hearts, heads and hands,” he says. “We tell them, you have to be willing to get wet … and spend every Friday afternoon for the next three years with the Rivers Institute. You’re going to have to use your head and think along with community leaders about how to bring Dayton to the river.”

And that thinking starts with listening. In the Rivers Institute, the 45 or so students work with coordinator Leslie King, graduate assistants and faculty from biology to history to engineering. In meetings, they joke about the dominant brainstorming style called nominal group technique. But it creates a level playing field that both empowers and humbles. A moderator asks each person to contribute an idea. Ideas are written down, but none are discussed until every idea is out, often after many rounds of the room. Then the discussion begins, and the group condenses, collapses and prioritizes the list, in the end formulating a plan for the future and assigning responsibilities.

The Marianists teach us much about a community of equals, Dick Ferguson says, which is part of what the Fitz Center aims to achieve. He points to Brother Don Geiger, S.M. ’55 as a perfect model.

At age 78, the retired professor and Dayton native can be found paddling the river with students, stopping to pull invasive purple loosestrife from weedy banks. A world-renowned environmental biologist, he can also be found at a Rivers Institute meeting of faculty and students, waiting his turn in a discussion where he knows his seniority does not ensure his opinions will win out.

Says Dick Ferguson of the Marianists, “They go in as learners and contribute as learners, not just teachers.”
This makes UD’s Rivers Institute different.

Around the nation, universities are joining with cities and environmental groups in looking at ways to use, protect and market water. The Rivers Institute at Hanover College in Indiana is a hallmark of higher-ed programs. UD invited its director to campus for a presentation when the Fitz Center added rivers to its community-building agenda. He gave an interesting and technically competent presentation on the science of the rivers of the world.

But that’s not where the UD Rivers Institute wants to be. Hanover can be the leader of river science. The University of Dayton is a national leader in community building and defining the space between curriculum and experiential learning, Dick Ferguson says.

And that is where society needs the most help.

“Environmental challenges remain to be solved because we have failed to look at solving them through a lens other than those of science and engineering,” says Dusty Hall, manager of program development at the Miami Conservancy District, a partner of the Rivers Institute from the start. Hall led that first river trip of honors students in 2004.

Water is a potential billion-dollar resource if you take a multidisciplinary view, Hall says, and UD is in the rare position to prepare students to participate in the three bubbles of the water economy — economic vitality, quality of life and environmental integrity.

“There will be no better-positioned group in the country to address issues of water than the Rivers Institute,” he says.

For example, when tackling the issue of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico — nutrification of water that leads to algal blooms and death of sea life — the stewards suggested having Ohio farmers talk with Gulf Coast fishermen. They believe that Ohioans whose actions contribute to hypoxia 1,505 miles downstream would make better choices about fertilizer application if they felt connected to the larger community of farmers, including those who farm the sea. Such conversations could succeed where years of political and public policy discussions have failed.

On a local level, the River Stewards will help advocate and plan for the removal of a low dam in downtown Dayton. It is a drowning danger and an impediment to developing the downtown section of the Great Miami River as a navigable corridor.

“We know how to take out a low dam,” says AJ Ferguson, a mechanical engineering major. “It’s no great feat — you get enough engineers in a room and they can figure it out. But getting through the public policy issue and the public perceptions issues is much more difficult.”

It’s a conversation he’s looking forward to being part of, and it’s the place to which he’s steering his career upon graduation in May.


“When I teach kids about the aquifers, I can probe them with questions, but I want them to touch and feel it and by the end ask questions that make me see they understand what an aquifer does.”

Bethany Renner, an early childhood education major, is looking forward to the day when she no longer needs to carry an aquarium full of sand and gravel down an icy hill from the chapel to Holy Angels School near Brown Street.
That day could come in 2012.

This summer, she was one of seven students who received stipends to work on Rivers Institute projects. They shared an office and lived in community, lobbing ideas to one another through open doors at bedtime. Bethany’s project was the Rivermobile, which will take the lessons stewards are already sharing with children — ecology, river safety, history, energy — and house an exhibit in a 53-foot trailer that will become a mobile classroom accessible to students throughout the watershed.

The Rivermobile is the brainchild of Tracy Horan ’10, a Spanish and middle childhood education graduate who created a water curriculum for Holy Angels that worked to build community by getting the children to better understand the place in which they live.

Stewards adapted that curriculum this summer for children in the Adventure Central summer program at Wesleyan MetroPark in West Dayton. Alex Galluzzo, an operations management major, led the camp.

“The whole point of the camp is why Dayton is special, why you should be proud,” he says.

The sixth- and seventh-graders stomped in Wolf Creek, paddled kayaks and made edible aquifers that tasted a lot like sundaes. On the last day, the boys surprised the stewards with a rap naming the area’s five rivers and creeks, and the girls sang about invertebrates, algae and rocks. “It was one of the coolest gifts ever,” he says.

When the Rivermobile is complete, it will be one of many success stories for the Rivers Institute, which is constantly developing new ways to reach larger audiences.

While there are only about 45 River Stewards any given year, the River Leadership Curriculum reaches many more. The interdisciplinary classes use students, faculty and community members as teachers who craft lessons around water topics paired with field trips and guest speakers. Through a $180,000 grant from the McGregor Fund, the Fitz Center and the College of Arts and Sciences developed the curriculum. Graduate assistant Sarah Peterson, a 2010 River Steward alumna, helped assess the curriculum’s effectiveness, and two sophomore River Stewards this summer scheduled the teachers and sessions for the 2011-12 academic year.

It is a powerful educational model, one that demonstrates an effective new approach to learning, says Don Pair, associate dean for integrated learning and curriculum.

“It’s about the opportunity our students get — and I get to experience along with them — to see how community issues, priorities and assets connect,” he says. “Their entire educational experience is completely changed by learning what is on campus or just outside campus.”

He says lessons learned from the river curriculum will be applied to the Common Academic Program, the first major overhaul in 25 years of the University’s general education requirements that will guarantee all students a more experiential, interactive and collaborative education.


“I’ve signed a lease. I’m pretty committed to Dayton.”

Maggie Varga ’10 is the kind of person you know you need to hold on to. Smart, committed, connected and energetic, the economics and finance graduate first joined the River Stewards as a way to have fun on the river. She became a leader for her cohort, organizing their senior project from the headwaters of the Great Miami River watershed to Dayton. While completing her MBA, she became the Rivers Institute graduate assistant, and she then transitioned into the Rivers Institute’s summer coordinator. Today Varga, a Columbus, Ohio, native, is looking for a job in Dayton, and she has lots of supporters vying to make a spot for her on their staffs.

“There is a real movement around the rivers in Dayton,” she says. “Something is happening here, and UD was at the forefront of it. It was the enthusiasm of the students going down the river that kind of got the ball rolling.”

Rivers Institute coordinator Leslie King sees the development of Varga’s leadership skills as mirroring the growth of the Rivers Institute. It started as an August kayak for Berry Scholars, who told the Fitz Center it needed to create something more. It became a program for a small cohort, then added a curriculum to reach more students, which has become one of the models of the new undergraduate general education curriculum. Classes for Holy Angels students will become a regional mobile learning laboratory in the Rivermobile. The River Summit will be supported and partially coordinated by Ohio’s Great Corridor Association, created collaboratively with the Rivers Institute.

The growth is good, King says, because 45 stewards can accomplish only so much on Friday afternoons. Because of their community-building and leadership skills, they get to create and complete projects. They develop partnerships that assume some of the responsibilities, allowing those ideas to thrive while the next group of students develops its own projects. And with each new cohort, new priorities emerge.

One question King is now posing to the students: “We’ve done so much for the river in general. How can we now put some of the focus on UD’s riverfront?”

A student asked why we don’t have benches along the levee across from the University’s new River Campus, the former NCR world headquarters. Why can’t you walk from UD, sit and just enjoy the river? Good question.

And be assured they will have good answers, and a meeting employing nominal group technique, and a few field trips, and goals for their cohort as well as goals for life that are quite different than those with which they started UD. Stewards are true leaders in the Marianist sense, building community through civic engagement, bringing the community in which they live together over a shared resource and a common goal.

“I’m the perfect example of this,” says Varga, “of how the Rivers Institute changes your entire course of your college career and your focus in life.”

Bringing Dayton to the river.

Michelle Tedford paddled under the spray of the RiverScape fountains July 1 during a trip down the Mad River led by the stewards. The fountain water, fed by the buried valley aquifer, is a constant 57 degrees.



Rivers Institute rivers.udayton.edu

Great Miami River Watershed www.miamiconservancy.org/water/gmrw.asp

Five Rivers MetroParks trail maps www.metroparks.org/GetOutside/Cycling.aspx

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