When the University of Dayton welcomed the largest, most geographically diverse first-year class since the Vietnam War era, we paused to celebrate the moment.
It is an extraordinary accomplishment, but not the one by which we measure our true success. We are continually transforming the University of Dayton to meet the needs of today’s students and shape our future.
I posed two big questions to my administrative team at a summer retreat. How do we remain a vibrant, forward-thinking learning community in the Marianist tradition? How do we ensure broader recognition of the value of the educational experience we provide?
We are viewing the challenges in higher education with an inventive spirit — and an eagerness to embrace change and take action. While our retention, graduation and alumni giving rates rank higher than national averages, I believe we can do better. We must do better to compete.
We will improve the first-year experience for new students, offer more scholarships and do more to prepare all students to enter and thrive in a rapidly changing world. We will inspire greater numbers of alumni to invest in their alma mater because, having experienced the transformative power of a University of Dayton education, they recognize their important role in our mission. We can reach our aspirations only through greater levels of private support.
In a highly competitive marketplace, we are focused on improving our position nationally and globally. We will boldly communicate our distinctive identity and continue to establish broader domestic and global markets, ensuring that all students feel at home on our welcoming campus. We will assess our programs, abandon outdated ideas, and introduce curricular innovations and new technologies at a pace normally not seen in the world of academia.
This is not a new management philosophy. The Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Society of Mary, advocated for ongoing, adaptive thinking that responds to world conditions. He called for a clear vision of education and continuous improvement of methods. Our history brims with examples of how we have boldly transformed this campus to meet the needs of the day.
Over the years, we have built a strong campus community that educates students to link learning and scholarship to lives of leadership and service. We have never viewed ourselves as an ivory tower isolated from the urban community that surrounds us, but as a social force that must be involved in the region to reach our full potential. We have worked to create knowledge in service to the community — and the world.
These are distinctively Catholic, Marianist values that guide our work as educators every day. Our historic mission will not change. It’s as fresh and relevant today as it was 160 years ago.
Chaminade knew how to read the signs of the times and respond boldly with faith and action. We’re walking in his footsteps.No Comments
I wanted to go to new student convocation in RecPlex. Honest. But there was another new student, just down the hill from the chapel, who needed me more.
As President Daniel J. Curran welcomed first-year students and SGA president Jim Saywell told them they’ll know they’re Flyers when they spontaneously yell, “Go UD,” to tour groups of prospective students, I sat on a tiny chair in a classroom at Holy Angels School, kindergarden orientation for my 5-year-old, Gus.
He spent it on the playground outside while we adults talked very seriously of matters like curriculum and shoe-tying, bathroom breaks and bus-riding protocol. Behind the parents’ questions was a mixture of anticipation and anxiety. We each balanced them on the scales of our hearts at this moment of letting go.
Our Marianist principles commit us to education for adaptation and change. Change can prompt reflection, as it did for Janet Filips, who came to campus this summer to visit with housemates from College Park and hallmates from Marycrest, some of whom she hadn’t seen since she walked the line at graduation.
And she peeked in the windows of that College Park house and walked the hallways of Sherman Hall to see what she would feel.
Change can also prompt discovery. To keep his Blue Sky Project growing, Peter Benkendorf opted to uproot himself, his family and his arts program from the Chicago area to the University of Dayton, where his daughter had enrolled. From the move is growing a mutual revelation: what visiting contemporary artists can offer UD and the city of Dayton, and what our insistence on community can offer to usually solitary artists. Both sides have much to gain.
And sometimes change can sneak up in ways as subtle as a tiny footnote in an obscure scientific article. That happened to alum Ed Timm, and as a result he and UD researcher Khalid Lafdi are making strides toward alleviating the suffering of glaucoma patients, a very welcome change indeed. When new worlds open before us, we react to find our place in them and shape what they and we become.
Janet, Peter, Ed and Khalid are doing that, and so are our students at that convocation I missed.
Even as a kindergardener at age 5, Gus is discovering how to shape himself and our world. Over the last month my wife and I are doing the same, uncovering daily the space in our hearts to watch Gus grow in knowledge and love and faith.
And in a community that nurtures that, how can there not also be great hope?No Comments
To breathe life into a relic, inhale deeply and sing.
An intricately embellished 16th-century Spanish antiphonary revealed centuries of liturgical tradition and candle wax as 20 students and their professor surrounded the manuscript and chanted, “Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.”
“I told them how lucky they are to be at a university that allowed such access to such amazing material that is so large that our students can actually touch and sing from,” said Samuel Dorf, a new lecturer in music and musicology.
When he arrived on campus this fall, Dorf sought out hidden treasures on campus, such as the Zimmerman Collection, which includes instruments from around the world. It was then that Roesch Library special collections curator Nicholetta Hary asked if he would like to see the antiphonary.
His exclamation: “That would be awesome.”
Its 240 thick vellum leaves are stained with the oils of centuries of hands turning pages. Measuring more than 15 inches wide and 21 inches high, each leaf contains five staves of black notes on red lines. The words — from psalms, hymns and other parts of the Divine Office — written in Latin in Gothic hand begin with finely decorated initial caps surrounded by swirls and curls in red and blue ink.
In his Music History and Literature I class, students learn about the books and music first transcribed in Europe in the ninth and 10th centuries for distribution to abbeys and congregations. As they paged through the antiphonary, students encountered the unmetered notation for chanting developed in the 11th century, notation quite different than that common in today’s music.
“It was difficult to do together, as the rhythms were very obscure,” said music major Samuel Day.
Still, the students’ ability to sight read was impressive, Dorf said, illustrating both their training and skill and — along with the antiphonary — giving him more reasons to feel lucky to be at UD.
“It was a living, musical tradition, and it still is living because we sang from it last week,” he said.No Comments
We are pilgrims. Eyes hot from too little sleep. Bodies sore from too many foreign beds. And again, we pray. This time on the freeway at 100 kph, rushing past sand dunes made stationary by scrub grass where naked sheep graze.
Each day, a pilgrim leads the prayer. Today, as we head north to France after 16 hours in Zaragoza, Spain, Joe Saliba sways near the bus driver and speaks into the microphone.
“Some say Marianists are reformed Benedictines,” says the dean of engineering, pausing for our labored chuckles. “We really borrow a lot of their virtues and a lot of their habits. The difference is that they are in abbeys and we are in communities.”
He recites Pope John Paul II’s “Prayer to our Lady of Lourdes” — in preparation for the group’s next stop six hours over the Pyrenees mountains — in the style of the Benedictines. Saliba reads. Others share a word or phrase that resonates deeply. And the process repeats.
“It’s an awakening of the words of the scripture,” Saliba says.
One pilgrim offers: Teach us to build up the world.
And another: Glorious Mother.
Dawn of a new era.
Paths of the World.
“This morning, for me it was ‘first of the disciples,'” he says.
For 10 days in June 2007, we UD pilgrims followed the paths of the Marianist founders through three countries, connecting with the places and spaces that have inspired more than two centuries of education and community action in the spirit of Mary. These pilgrims are Marianist Educational Associates, lay people committed to preserving the heritage and invigorating the spirit of Marianist education. They also may be the future of the University of Dayton.
Gone are the days of a brother in every classroom. Now, it’s hard even to find a priest for every blessing. But thanks to the Blessed Father William Joseph Chaminade, who began the Marianists with his sodality of everyday Christians, the lay and the religious are equal partners in building up society for the glory of God. The 31 vowed Marianists on campus are now complemented by 25 MEAs who have undergone formation training and public commitments. The trip, part of an education to connect them with the order’s founders, allowed them to walk in the footsteps of Chaminade, visit the mission of Mother Marie Thérèse de Lamourous and meet the women who keep the work of Mother Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon alive.
To be sure, it is a costly endeavor for the Society of Mary, which is putting time and resources into people who are not bound to their commitment through anything other than dedication. It’s an investment the society is willing to make.
“The investment is really an investment for a deepening of the Marianist spirit,” said Father Paul Marshall, University rector, who joined eight MEAs, three spouses and this journalist on the trip. “It doesn’t live in ideas first. The forming of the mind, it’s not book knowledge. It’s going to the places, meeting the people. … The Marianist charism lives in people. ”
In Bordeaux, France, we walked in the footsteps of Father Chaminade and inadvertently left some of our own in the wet concrete of a city at once old and constantly reinventing itself. If a 300-year-old building needs water, simply rip up the sidewalk, insert the appropriate piping, and cover it over for another hundred years, Saliba pointed out. No fuss, no “wet cement” signs to warn spiritual sightseers.
Dogged pragmatism, a sense of making do while recognizing the future: These are familiar themes to those who know the Marianists. Simply being in the city gave the pilgrims a sense of the old Bordeaux that Chaminade called home from 1789, when the French Revolution drove him from the school where he was teaching, until his death in 1850.
Brother Tim Phillips, S.M., assistant rector of Marianist International Seminary Chaminade in Rome, turned stories once trapped in ink and pulp to flesh and wood as he led the MEAs on a walking tour of the old city. In the Chapel of the Madeleine, he showed pilgrims the door, 6-feet high and rubbed soft by centuries of hands, behind which the first Marianists took their vows in 1817.
“What we’re about is to learn and keep tradition alive,” said Steve Mueller, UD executive director of counseling and health services. “It also stirs some emotion — we’ve read the books, but it doesn’t feel like it does when you step into the Madeleine for the first time.”
The travelers stepped into the dim chapel and inhaled cool, humid air. The 15th century building, which still holds Mass daily and supports a religious and lay Marianist community, seemed to vibrate with an intensity that pricked the skin like electricity. Its cool limestone walls contrasted with the gilded statues of Mary and the angel of the Annunciation purchased by Chaminade. A relic of Chaminade lies within an illuminated altar.
The MEAs felt that same intensity in the bright second-floor apartment where Chaminade worked and died and where Father Paul Marshall said Mass at the worm-worn table on which Chaminade said Mass during the revolution.
“A lot of the letters and documents we have from Father Chaminade would have been written, dictated, thought about in this room,” Phillips said. “You can imagine the conversations they must have had.”
The simplicity of the chapel and the room struck Sandra Yocum Mize, chair of the department of religious studies. The pine floors and blue front door belie the courage needed by the Marianists to re-Christianize French society after the chaos of the revolution. Being in this place underscored the connection UD has with that first Marianist mission to educate the laity and send them out to be forces for change in their own communities, she said.
“There are people who pass by L’Madeleine every day, ride by it on bikes, and have no idea what is going on inside,” she said. “Yet people in Dayton, Ohio, have a real connection to this place. There’s something real important in recognizing the value of the ordinary, in spreading the gospel and in being one contributor to a transformation in society. … What you need is a simple room with a table and people who are gathered together who are committed.”
The simplicity of the other historic locations — the oratory where Chaminade hid priests during the revolution, the Miséricorde where Marie Thérèse welcomed prostitutes and helped them learn trades, the storefront that once served as the first Marianist boarding school, the first house of the Society of Mary — reinforced the Marianist involvement in everyday life.
It also served for a bit of weary humor that sent the tired bunch into hysterics. On a day trip from Bordeaux into Périgueux, where Chaminade’s parents lived, Father Robert Witwicki, S.M., led the pilgrims down a narrow lane. He stopped before a nondescript green door next to another nondescript green door.
“And this is where Chaminade was born,” he said with a flourish.
Looking up, the pilgrims asked, “Which one? 18 or 20.”
“Ah, 18, 20, it doesn’t matter. We say it is here.”
Father Matt Komescher, S.M., sitting on a couch in the admission office, greeted Kathy McEuen Harmon with this phrase as he began their daily chats about Flyer basketball, religion and the scholarship in his mother’s name.
One day he had a new topic of conversation: There’s this program, he said, that you’d be perfect for. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I’ve nominated you.
He knew of Harmon’s longstanding dedication to the University, which she joined in 1992. As associate director of student scholarships, she has daily contact with a special area of the Marianists’ mission: educating the whole person by stretching scarce resources.
The program was the Marianist Educational Associates, lay people educated and working in partnership with the vowed religious to perpetuate the heritage and invigorate the mission of the three Marianist universities: Dayton, St. Mary’s in San Antonio and Chaminade University in Honolulu.
Started in 2004, the MEA program has graduated three cohorts of faculty, staff and administrators from an intensive four-day initial formation program focused on the Marianist and Catholic history, Catholic higher education and the Marianist educational mission. MEAs also complete personal readings and reflections, discuss faith and campus mission in community, are invited to make a public commitment, and join the pilgrimage. While it was the second year for the pilgrimage, it was the first attended by only those from UD.
The program recognizes both the importance of the laity to Marianist history (“The laity is as much Marianist as the religious,” said Brother Raymond Fitz, S.M.) and the reality the number of vowed Marianists in North America is diminishing.
“As we move into the future, the driving force (at the universities) will remain the Society of Mary, but there will not be such a cadre to animate and sustain the spirit throughout the institutions,” said Fitz who, with Brother Tom Giardino, S.M., teaches the intensive formation program.
Each university embraced the concept and formed it with a flavor unique to the institution’s character and needs. UD rector’s council, intent not to duplicate existing efforts or create an insiders’ club, discussed for a year the idea before taking nominations, like the one from Komescher, and then applications for those willing to accept the responsibility of being an MEA.
Harmon, who is Protestant, appreciates how welcoming the Marianists are to those of all faiths, employees and students alike. So, when she was selected for the second cohort, she drew from Komescher’s faith in her and years in service to the Marianists to answer: “In the spirit of Chaminade, ‘yes.’ In the spirit of Mary, ‘yes.'”
Since the concept of partnership between religious and lay is key, it’s as important to include an admissions counselor as a dean.
“The charism should infuse every aspect of the University, who we are and what we do,” said Father Marshall. “It embraces all areas of academics and growth — nothing is outside the kingdom of God.”
Brother Michael John McAward, S.M., secretary general of the Marianists at their Rome headquarters, kept the jet-lagged pilgrims moving on the first day of the pilgrimage through St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City with the story of St. Peter, rock of the church, in seven parts. It began with history beneath the colonnade, continued with intrigue at the tomb of St. Peter (the bones are actually 4 feet to the right of the tomb, which bears the inscription that identifies his resting place), and concluded outside with humor (the archeologist who took the bones home in a shoebox for safe keeping).
Michelangelo’s Pietá and the sunlight streaming down on the marble floors provided a striking contrast to the simplicity of the Marianist sites they would see in Bordeaux. But, more than anything, Rome provided a first lesson in the people who inhabit the spaces and places that punctuate an itinerary.
McAward waved his arms as he gave running commentary around the Colosseum, through St. Peter’s and on to the baptistery at St. John Lateran, knowledge that sprang from his love of sharing history, religion and culture. Sister Marie Luce Balliet, F.M.I., who poured sugar in her wine at lunch at the Daughters general administration, told stories of joining the men in the Bordeaux grape harvest as a teenager and of preparing for South American missions at age 70.
“It’s not the places that are interesting, it’s the people,” said Brother Phillips who, with stories rooted in centuries, endeared himself to the MEAs. “It’s at these places you meet the people.”
In Zaragoza, Spain, it was Father Eduardo Benlloch, S.M., who bustled the pilgrims across town for a brief presentation on Our Lady of the Pillar, before which Chaminade prayed while in exile. In Feugarolles, France, it was Patrice and Ghislaine de Bentzmann, who welcomed the MEAs into the historic family home of very great auntie Adèle, founder of the Daughters of Mary.
In Bordeaux, it included Jean Pierre Roumaillac, whose mobile phone rang the theme to Pink Panther. He was the MEAs’ intrepid companion, offering interpretations of history based on his own experience as a lay Marianist.
As he sped past vineyards on the way to Mussidan — where Chaminade and his brother ran a school — Roumaillac announced to the MEAs in his car that it was 3 o’clock, time for the traditional Marianist prayer. Switching from English back to French, he then recited the doxology from memory.
“I found it very touching and felt this connection, this sense that he knew we knew what he was talking about,” Sandra Yocum Mize said. “He said it in French, we say it in English but, in that simple offering of the prayer, we felt a larger connection to the Marianists.”
The strong, curved, 4-foot-5 frame of Sister Marie Agnes shook with excitement. She rattled on in French, filling the cramped room with words about the ministry of Marie Therese and giving her interpreter no pauses to explain the stories to the American visitors.
“And the story doesn’t end there,” she said after a forced interruption before launching into a story about the secret room where Marie Thèrése and her followers said Mass during the French Revolution. Here, she said, is a small window to the courtyard, so the gardener could signal if the soldiers appeared.
Sisters Marie Agnes and Marie Veronique, both aged more than 80 and more than a century removed from Marie Thèrése, were ecstatic to entertain these visitors from America who traveled so far to hear their stories. While the MEAs were there to learn history — see the shepherd’s cottage original to Marie Thèrése’s family, the embroidery made for her by the repentant women she helped — they learned that the jubilant spirit that seems so familiar at UD animates people and missions around the world.
At the Hermitage in Le Pian, outside Bordeaux, the sisters run a boarding school for socially disturbed youth. They require love and attention, Marie Veronique said, much the way Marie Thèrése cared for the prostitutes who were seeking reform and reintegration to society. One of her favorite stories is of a Polish order that wrote asking Marie Thèrése to send women to establish a similar ministry in their country. Her reply: send your women here, learn from us, and take a piece of that back with you.
The jubilation was present in Agen, France, where the Daughters of Mary welcomed the MEAs with sweet wine and cakes after a tour of the property, which included Adèle’s grave and a case containing a lock of her hair, a piece of her habit, the cross she wore on her neck.
It also was present at the Daughters of Mary in Rome when Superior General Marie Joëlle Bec, F.M.I., told the story of Adele who, at age 11 in 1801, insisted to the priest she must wait and prepare properly for First Communion. Adèle again insisted, this time in 1816, that Chaminade support her call to form a community of sisters. With great pride, Bec related how Adèle described Chaminade as “working in the masculine branch of our order.”
“Because a family must have a mother and a father,” Bec told her guests in conclusion. “Now, tell me about being an MEA.”
Dick Ferguson expected his presentation to crash. While he had managed to eliminate 100 photos from his pilgrimage PowerPoint slide show, it still contained 1,100 images. It would take two lunch meetings for him to show them all to his staff at the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community.
Many of his images captured everyday life of the Marianists we visited: simple table settings, beautiful flowers, sparse but comfortable sitting rooms, easy conversation.
“There’s something in the simple lifestyle of the European Marianist communities that struck me, ” said Ferguson, Fitz Center executive director. “My life is filled with stuff, both my personal life and my professional life … not just with things, but with projects, presentations, activities. … I’m not sure if it’s a written reflection, a slide presentation or a note to myself, but there’s a lesson somewhere for me and my family, my community, and our university.”
Other MEAs are making plans to incorporate their new knowledge into their work. Beverly Jenkins, associate director of admission, said she can better answer prospective students and parents who ask exactly what her own father asked 30 years ago when she was a UD student: “What do the Marianists mean to you?” While she couldn’t answer her father, she can now articulate their influence to other fathers and mothers.
“I talk with families every day,” she said. “I try to intentionally talk a little more about the Marianists. Parents do want to know what it means to be a Catholic and Marianist university. I haven’t perfected it yet; each time I tell it, it has a little different tone, depending on the families.”
Steve Mueller hopes to share his knowledge with student development employees — who in turn touch all the students — thereby using the Marianist philosophy of learning and sharing to exponentially build understanding.
But just because this is UD doesn’t mean their task is easy. At dinner one night, they talked about the barriers to their work. These include people who see the Marianist influence as nothing more than a friendly hello or a door held open. Others on campus would prefer religion stay in the chapel.
Associate professor Shirley Wright found the MEA formation and pilgrimage personally rewarding and as having tangible benefits to the classroom.
“I see great opportunity for science to be enriched by the Marianist traditions,” she said. “It was an incredible, magnificent experience.”
The MEAs are already making an impact on the University’s path. This year, they joined the vowed Marianists in interviewing candidates for vice president for student development, asking questions related to the University’s mission to find a candidate compatible with the Marianist philosophy of education.
The MEAs have created a strong personal community that has allowed them to probe the role of faith in campus life. This community has also supported each other through illness, professional struggles and uncertainty.
“If this is going to succeed,” Brother Fitz said, “it’s going to be an action of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit has had in mind a lot of surprises.”
One of those has been the MEAs’ willingness to live a life that embodies the Marianist spirit. “There is an amazing depth of commitment and amount of energy people are willing to put into their work,” he said.
And the need for the commitment will only increase. The MEAs will be asked to offer suggestions about how changes in general education could enliven the Marianist goals and contribute to transformational leadership.
They also will be asked to take on additional responsibilities as the number of vowed Marianists decreases.
“There are not going to be clerics to do these things — bless your house, give the opening prayer,” said Joan McGuiness Wagner, director of Marianist strategies in the rector’s office. “If we want those things, we’re going to have to step up.
“Most will say the Marianist part of UD is what they like and what makes us distinctive. If it’s something important, what is each one of us willing to do to keep it going?”
The journey continues, and so pilgrims we remain.No Comments
NCAA athletes get scholarships and compete for all-American status; intramural champions get T-shirts out of a storage closet at RecPlex.
At the Prestigious Posse Post-season Potluck, Pooch’s Posse, which has more than its share of championship T-shirts, sat on the front porch of 455 Kiefaber eating hot dogs and drinking Kool-Aid and iced tea. Most had on their Posse T-shirts: navy blue with the team in either white or pink script across the front. Home and away jerseys, they explained. Others wore the pink “Posse love” T-shirts they made when a teammate was diagnosed with leukemia. “Fighting to Win Since 2003,” the back read.
As they sat on the porch at the potluck, they had ahead of them two more days of classes, then finals week, then graduation. About the time they brought out cupcakes and peach cobbler, they started trying to tally their intramural championships.
Freshman year, there was floor hockey, flag football and wallyball (volleyball played on a racquetball court).
Sophomore year, flag football, wallyball, and indoor and outdoor soccer.
Junior year, outdoor soccer and both seasons of flag football.
Senior year, outdoor soccer, flag football, softball and ultimate Frisbee.
Fourteen championships in four years. Fourteen sets of intramural championship T-shirts.
Now, there’s something you should know before you spend too much more time reading this article. Pooch, the team captain, is baffled by the whole idea of an article about Pooch’s Posse.
As she put it one morning in the basement of the library, “I don’t get it. It’s just intramurals.”
And in a narrow sense, she’s right. Even as she went through her last season, Emily Puchala, aka Pooch, aka Capitan, was also finishing classes, studying for finals, wrapping up work at UD’s Business Research Group and going through three rounds of job interviews with a Columbus, Ohio-based corporation.
“We’re just a women’s intramural team,” she said. “We sign up for all the Quarterlysports. There’s not much to tell. We’re simple. That’s all we look for — cotton glory.”
Here’s what cotton glory looks like: Katie Kurtz, aka The Real K. Kurtz, who had never played soccer in her life, scoring off her knee to seal the win in the intramurals game of the week. Betsy Rombach, aka Bizzle, tearing her ACL in the outdoor soccer championships and being carried off the field by her team. Larah Sadar, aka Sadar, letting Pooch finally convince her to play basketball, only to foul out in the first half of a game.
Or, as Mark Hoying, who runs UD’s intramural program, put it, “They have become a dynasty in their four years at UD. I thought it may be of interest to you and the alumni around the country.”
UD students play intramurals at very high rates, even when compared with much larger institutions. The University of Kentucky might have had more recent success in intercollegiate basketball, but its 26,000+ students fielded only 170 intramural basketball teams in fall 2006, according to statistics compiled by Hoying’s office. Students at Notre Dame, which has 4,000 more undergraduates than UD, had barely more than 100 fall teams. In the same period, UD students fielded 233 intramural basketball teams. Students also fielded hundreds of teams in men’s, women’s and co-ed recreational and competitive leagues in other sports.
Hoying clearly remembers the first time he met Pooch. It was fall 2003, and he was a senior working in the PAC when Pooch, a freshman, walked through the door.
“She was very much in charge. She had questions, and she wanted answers,” he said.
What she wanted was permission to be captain of two different women’s volleyball teams. At the time, UD had trouble attracting more than two or three teams, and forfeits were common.
Why weren’t there more women’s teams, Pooch wanted to know. Why didn’t Hoying call people and get more teams?
He didn’t like her at all.
“She was basically telling us what we should be doing,” he said. “The irony is that they were Pooch’s Posse then, and they’re Pooch’s Posse now.”
After graduation, Hoying took a position in campus recreation as a graduate assistant and then was hired on as assistant director for intramurals and club sports. Pooch has been with him the whole time.
At an appreciation night he hosted for the Posse in January, he told three stories. One was about his first meeting with Pooch. Another was about Kurtz’s goal during the game of the week. The third was that “Pooch” had transcended Puchala and become a general-purpose noun in his office, as in, “Do you know so-and-so? He’s captain of four teams and always gets his players to games so there’s no forfeits.”
“Oh, he’s their Pooch.”
There would be no Pooch without the Posse, which is 30 strong. They have majors throughout the University: civil engineering, Spanish, finance, biology, marketing, women’s studies, geology, English and others. To be a Posse member, you don’t have to be athletically gifted, but you do have to want to play. The team stopped taking new players early in its junior year. All are seniors. Many play just one sport for Posse, but a core group of almost a dozen tries to play every sport offered.
Puchala can’t be absolutely everywhere, so she sometimes appoints a Pooch-in-lieu to organize games and captain the team. Generally that’s Stephanie Sheavly, aka Malhechora, Pooch’s housemate on Kiefaber. When Steph is also tied up, they appoint a Pooch-in-lieu-in-lieu, usually Meredith Effler, also a housemate. Effler, aka Mere, was also appointed the Prestigious Posse Post-season Potluck Planner. Her job was to avoid a flood of desserts, a problem at the Prestigious Posse Pre-season Potluck.
Their fourth housemate is Tara Hentgen, aka Benchwarmer, a sprinter and jumper on the women’s track and field team. Team rules prohibit her from playing intramurals, so she helps manage the sidelines.
“The Posse is not just intramurals, it’s a lifestyle,” Steph said. She met Pooch in Spanish class freshman year. Pooch saw her soccer gear and bugged her into joining the Posse.
What’s the lifestyle?
“We all have high expectations of each other. We’re all good students, and we’re all involved in service. And we dominate,” said Mere, who lived up the hall from Steph freshman year in 3 South Marycrest. When she told Steph they should be friends, Steph asked her to write a “letter of acceptance,” and she did.
It’s not hard to find examples of Posse members active on campus. Accounting major Diana Hemkens, aka Hempkens, is president of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Betsy is lead peer adviser for the School of Business Administration. Devee Sresthadatta, aka Hobbs, is an officer in campus ministry. Danielle Ermis, aka Ermis, is worksite coordinator for Habitat for Humanity. Steph and Mere are two-term co-presidents of the Dakota Center Club. Hentgen is one of 15 students at the Davis Center for Portfolio Management who manage more than $6 million of UD’s endowment. The examples go on and on.
“I look around campus, and Posse members are leaders everywhere,” said Pooch. “I’m proud to hang out with these people because they do so much. I go everywhere and I think, ‘Yeah, she’s Posse.’”
Other students on campus know about the Posse. Jill Gelhfuss, a junior, declined to join it. It was her freshman year, and she figured that being on three teams was enough for her. By the time she realized what she’d passed up, the Posse had stopped taking new members.
Three years later, Gehlfuss still regrets turning Pooch down.
“When I think of intramurals, I think of them,” she said. “It’s going to be different on the field next year. Maybe we’ll have a chance to win a championship.”
Pooch is quick to say she’s not the most gifted athlete. “What I’m good at is typing names into the ‘To:’ box in e-mail, getting people out to games,” she said. There’s also a Posse spirit of good sportsmanship and goofiness during games that most people mention when they talk about the Posse. They don’t forfeit, they don’t show up opponents and they don’t complain about referees’ calls. They cheer good plays on either side and shake hands after every game. Flag football opponents have been known to be intimidated by their halftime pep rallies.
Greg Raffio, a master’s student in mechanical engineering, has played with Posse members on a co-ed ultimate team called Manamanah. (It’s a Muppets reference; you can look up on Google video.) Pooch and the Posse, he said, “embody all those cliché UD catchwords: community, leadership, service. She’s the most wired Catholic university in the country.
“Pooch should have an award named after her. How many people on campus don’t know who she is?”
“I’m pretty sure between her and her roommates, they know every single person on campus,” said Grace Finn, who played in UD’s first-ever women’s dodgeball tournament. Pooch, Mere and Steph organized it as part of Women’s Week in March. The tournament drew more than 100 players and raised money for the Noble Circle Project, which supports women diagnosed with breast cancer.
“(Their house) is the picture-perfect look at community at UD. They are amazing friends, they motivate each other and have practically become sisters,” Finn said. “If Pooch is asking you to do something, you know it’s a good thing.”
Accolades are nice, but so are those championship T-shirts. As the calendar turned to April, the Posse headed into its last season and last playoffs, indoor soccer. They won their first game handily, beating the Pretty Pink Piranhas 6-1. After the game, they debriefed.
“We have to practice the give-n-go,” said Steph. “No one else except us understands it.”
After just a few minutes, they turned to planning the Prestigious Posse Post-season Potluck.
Three days later, about 10 Posse players were back at RecPlex for their last intramural games together: the women’s indoor soccer semifinals at 9:20 p.m. and, if they won, the finals at 10 p.m. Games were 3-on-3, plus goalies. Teams could substitute as much as they wanted.
Their first opponent was the Beckhams, a group of freshmen from 2 Adele in Stuart Hall. Pooch started in goal, Keely Midden, aka Keeeeeee, started on defense, and Steph and Lauren Locy, aka, Locy, were forwards. Posse had five subs available: Mere, Devee, Betsy, Carly Brink (aka Brink) and Chrissy Jennings (aka The Law). Ermis would arrive a half hour later.
Twenty seconds after the opening touch, Posse was already down by a goal. Steph evened it up at 1-1, but Beckham kept getting one-on-one chances on Pooch. By halftime, Posse were down 3-1.
Thirteen seconds into the second half, a goal by Betsy pulled Posse within 1. With 5:40 to go, a booming shot by Steph ricocheted off the goalie, and Keely put it away to tie the score.
Then Steph took over. Easily the best soccer player on the Posse, she was goalie on a club team that won a state championship. Recurring concussions kept her from playing in college.
“Her doctor told her another concussion could kill her,” said Pooch. “It adds a little bit of an edge to our games.”
With 4:43 to go, Steph dribbled through three Beckhams and put the Posse up 4-3. A minute later, she scored on a one-on-one against the goalie. Late goals by Devee, Mere and Locy put the Posse up by four goals with less than two minutes to go. They won by mercy rule.
Win or lose, the final would be the Posse’s last game together in college. They faced Striker, who had advanced through the semis on a forfeit. Striker had no subs, but they did have matching blue T-shirts. They were freshmen.
Fourteen seconds in, Devee put the Posse up by a goal, but Striker scored the next four goals on two different Posse goalies.
Down 4-2 at the start of the second half, Posse started Steph in goal, Ermis on defense and Betsy and Janelle Hayes, aka Yahnel, on offense but couldn’t get anything going.
Despite several great saves by Steph, Posse trailed 7-2 with eight minutes to go.
At 5:45, Posse caught a break it didn’t want. A referee called a rarely enforced safety regulation on one of the Strikers. She would have to sit out for five minutes for wearing a necklace during the game. With no subs, Striker was down a player. Posse would end the game on the equivalent of an NHL power play.
In the next three minutes, Devee scored two goals and Betsy one to pull the Posse to 7-5 with more than two minutes remaining.
That turned out to be the final score.
After the game, the Posse walked over to BW3s on Brown Street.
They talked only a little about the game.
“We didn’t want to win on a jewelry call,” Betsy said.
Mere talked about helping out at her family’s jewelry store at Christmas time. Pooch told a story about being in Spain on a study abroad trip and not knowing what the appliances in the kitchen were.
“It took me four days to realize I was putting dishes in the washing machine,” she joked.
Mostly, they talked about the future. Ermis, a civil engineering major, had gotten roped into helping teach the survey course in the first summer term. Janelle thought she might be going to France to teach Spanish. Devee planned to work as an au pair in Melbourne, Australia, for a year before starting a doctoral program in physical therapy in Chicago. Steph and Kurtz were headed to graduate social work programs at the University of Chicago and Case Western Reserve, respectively. Sadar, a biology major, would become a whitewater raft guide on the New and Gauley rivers in West Virginia. Betsy was off to New York City for a job as analyst with BlackRock. Hentgen, their benchwarmer, would finish up her undergraduate finance and MBA degrees. Pooch, a marketing and Spanish major, was still waiting to hear back from her job interviews. Mere wasn’t sure what was next for her.
Pooch’s Posse appeared on almost none of their résumés. When it was there, it was generally a short line under a heading along the lines of “Other activities.”
At the beginning of their last semester, a few Posse members had tallied up their intramural careers.
They counted more than 230 games in which Pooch’s Posse competed, a rate of nearly 2.4 a week for every week intramurals were offered. Most also played on different teams in co-ed leagues, on top of everything else they did on campus and off.
Graduation “is going to be weird,” said Steph. “I’m having a hard time imagining life without intramurals. I get excited about the next step. We talk about how Posse is going to go international. We’ll definitely have reunions. We might continue it through our kids.”
Then she added, “It feels weird to say that.”
A week before classes ended, Pooch was feeling overwhelmed.
“Everything has always been mapped out, and now it’s just wide open,” she said. “In a week’s time, I have to finish my college career, plus there’s all the Posse stuff. I have to pack my stuff and find a house. I don’t know if I have a job. Of course, I don’t really want to do any of it except hang out with my friends. I’m not fully accepting it’s going to be different.”
Her original plan for the Posse was to create a dynasty that would be passed from class to class.
“It just didn’t happen, but colleges always turn over. It’s just the nature of the institution. Posse isn’t the focus of any of our lives. It’s a side thing we do.”
She said one of her proudest Posse moments was freshman year. “We got every girl who played a championship T-shirt. They don’t hand out too many of those, the cotton glory.”
One morning on Kiefaber, Steph, Hentgen and Mere sat on the couch eating frozen waffles. They watched their pet hamster, Lady Leon Spinks, rolling around the living room in a plastic ball.
“We just wanted to be a legend that dominated,” Mere said.
“We played to have fun,” Hentgen added.
“And,” said Steph, “we just happened to kick ass while we did it.”
Greg Padesky is painting his “Texture of Prayer” series in an ArtStreet studio this month.
Padesky, a campus ministry graduate assistant for the student neighborhood, first painted each panel in miniature, approximately 8 inches square, as a guide for the larger paintings, which are 4 feet square.
He is painting the 18 masonry board panels in pairs in the colors of the spectrum and coating them with epoxy gloss to promote durability. He will then mount each pair on one of the nine floors of Campus South at the elevator stops, giving students a spiritual splash of color as they head to class.
A bright, sunny Wednesday became the perfect time for eight student workers to scrub approximately 128 Marianist Hall dorm room trash cans. They organized an efficient system of handling such a large number of items to be washed by giving everyone a job: adding liquid soap to the cans, blasting away the dirt with the sprayer, rinsing or stacking to let them dry in the sun. The most efficient and visually pleasing way in which to dry them, they decided, was to form a pyramid.
When school starts in the fall and students return to their dorm rooms, they’ll most likely never know that their trash cans were once part of a public sculpture this day.No Comments
In 1942, German U-boats were picking of Allied supply ships crossing the Atlantic, putting the blockaded British in dire straits and ravaging the Allied fleet. Polish mathematicians, followed by British engineers, had worked on the intelligence project known as Ultra to decrypt enemy messages. But their success was stymied by the sophisticated German naval code, and the U.S. Navy decided to embark on its own codebreaking effort.
Among the greatest enemies of German U-boats during World War II was the ingenious mind of 1929 UD graduate Joseph “Joe” Desch and the codebreaking machines he designed, assembled a mile from campus in NCR’s Building 26 along the Great Miami River.
It’s a surprising tale even to many war scholars. That’s because, for 50 years after the war, no one working on the top-secret project uttered a word.
Now, their stories of loyalty, invention and sacrifice are being revealed to a national audience through the April 2004 release of the book The Secret in Building 26 and the documentary Dayton Codebreakers, being released this fall. It’s a familiar tale of Dayton ingenuity and hard work, with roots in a Midwestern sensibility and Marianist education that provided Desch with the tools to crack the code.
An impossible task
In 1942, German U-boats were picking off Allied supply ships crossing the Atlantic, putting the blockaded British in dire straits and ravaging the Allied fleet.
Polish mathematicians, followed by British engineers, had worked on the intelligence project known as Ultra to decrypt enemy messages. But their success was stymied by the sophisticated German naval code, and the U.S. Navy decided to embark on its own codebreaking effort.
Enter Joe Desch and Dayton’s National Cash Register Co.
Desch had been building a reputation for himself since he joined NCR in 1938. In an effort to speed the calculations of NCR’s cash registers, his engineering team created the first electronic counter that could log a million counts per second. His work foreshadowed the coming computer age, and the Navy wanted to use that technology to break the German code, known as Enigma.
The intellectual, physical and spiritual struggles that ensued during those 14 months were as monumental as the innovation, and they only started to be revealed in the last 15 years. Debbie Desch Anderson, who was born in 1950 and didn’t know during her father’s lifetime of his war contributions, responded to a challenge her father issued before his death in 1987.
“Dad used to say, ‘Honey, you’ll never figure out what I did,’ and that was the wrong thing to say to me,” says the 1971 UD graduate. “He underestimated me.”
Her task, at times, was almost as daunting as her father’s. During a 1993 visit to Washington, D.C., she went to the National Security Agency with an armload of classified documents she found among her father’s possessions. Seeking answers, she instead endured hours of questioning and the ultimate confiscation of her records.
In 2001, at the National Archives in Washington, Anderson found a memo signed by her father’s hand.
“I started crying, because he’s a historical figure, and he’s my dad,” she says.
Through her research, Anderson learned that the Navy pushed repeatedly for an all-electronic decipher machine, while Desch insisted that an electromechanical hybrid could do the same job and take less time to produce. It was an intellectual struggle that wore on him, further strained by the moral obligation he felt to the men who were dying on warships, waiting for intelligence that would allow them to evade the U-boats.
But Desch was prepared to fight for his electromechanical hybrid and succeed. He had behind him an army of 600 WAVES — Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service — to assemble the deciphering machines, called “Bombes,” and an engineering staff of 24, whom he managed with deftness and grace. Edward DeLaet, an engineering technician, remembers how Desch handled one of the numerous demands placed on him by the Navy. For the documentary, DeLaet recalls Desch saying, “They just gave me another impossible job. Impossible jobs I can do; it will just take me a little longer.”
Breaking the German Engima was a herculean task. When Desch worked on Ultra, the Germans had progressed from a three-rotor to a four-rotor encryption machine. The alphabetized rotors and plugboard settings — which transposed individual letters, further confusing the message — were changed daily. The German code clerk chose which four letters were to appear through small windows next to the rotors. These letters indicated the initial rotor settings for any given message, and the code clerk changed those settings with every message he sent. The resulting message looked like a string of completely random letters to anyone not knowing the day’s settings.
To understand how difficult it is to arrive at the right combination of rotor and plugboard positions to decode a message, Wittenberg University physics assistant professor Dan Fleisch related it to the number of atoms in the universe. The number of possible combinations for the Enigma machine was 10 to the 145th power, compared to 10 to the 81st power, the number of atoms in “all the 50 billion galaxies,” Fleisch says.
“Imagine trying to find one specific atom out of all the atoms in all the stars in all the galaxies in the universe,” he says in the documentary now being completed for public television. “You are trying to find that one that represents the setting of the machine on that day. It is an impossible task unless you have some advantage other than simply trying all the possible sequences.”
The machine to do it was dubbed the “Bombe,” possibly after a frozen dessert fancied by the original Polish codebreakers. Just as Desch required an army of workers to build the machine, Anderson needed a host of scientists, historians, intelligence agents and Bombe workers to fit together the pieces of Desch’s life and tell the story of Dayton’s codebreakers.
Cradled in creativity
To understand Desch, Dayton Codebreakers roots him firmly in his Kirkham Street house wedged among three rail lines in the Edgemont neighborhood that sheltered Italians, Jews, Germans and African-Americans.
Anderson says her father may have caught the creative genius from his father, one of a long line of wagon makers, or was thrust into it by his mother, a German immigrant who insisted on a Catholic education for her son.
“Living on the West Side and being exposed to all the different populations, the different businesses, gave him the confidence and even the imagination” he needed to invent, she said.
As a teenager, Desch taught himself how to blow glass to create vacuum tubes. He would order so many unusual chemicals for experiments that, one day, a chemical company representative showed up on his parents’ doorstep looking for the chemist “Mr. Desch.” His parents directed the man to the boy in his basement lab.
The documentary also sets Desch in a city that fostered great minds and unusual solutions to extraordinary challenges. Desch lived only blocks from where the Wright brothers were testing airplane water landings on the Great Miami River and just across the river from NCR, where John Patterson created new models for business and hired men who would go on to found or lead IBM, Delco, Packard and Standard Register.
It was a combination of a Midwestern work ethic and ingenious know-how that cultivated such inventors, said Paul J. Morman, a UD history professor with a special interest in regional innovation early in the century.
“There’s something about the Midwest that fostered a creative genius that was willing to rethink problems in a fundamentally different way and could do so without established wisdom saying, ‘That’s not the way you do it,’” Morman says.
In the documentary, Anderson describes her father as humorous, opinionated, stubborn and charming. Even as a child, the traits that defined the man she knew were evident. He thrived at Emmanuel Elementary School, where the Marianists stressed quality and creativity with an ethical base. Despite an episode in which he slugged a Marianist who disagreed with him on a math equation, Desch attended UD’s preparatory school on scholarship and gravitated toward an experimental field of electrical engineering, studying toward a bachelor’s degree under Brother Louis Rose, S.M.
“He was Dad’s engineering professor, but it was a brand-new field, and they were learning together,” Anderson says. “The whole love-of-learning thing was part of Dad’s personality, but it was further developed while he was (at UD).”
Desch developed a special relationship with other young Marianists, including Brother Lawrence Boll, who taught Shakespeare, and Brothers Ulrich Rappel and William Bellmer, who shared Desch’s love for science. Anderson says her father would meet with them after school hours to “goof off” and experiment with ham radios.
While he held only a bachelor’s degree, Desch was folded into circles with some of the brightest minds in the nation. Anderson’s mother would tell the story of attending a function at MIT, where he would be introduced as “Dr.” Desch.
“They couldn’t understand that someone so brilliant had only an undergraduate degree,” Dorothy Desch would say.
The highest credit
Desch taught one term of physics at UD before moving on to work at Frigidaire, and then at NCR. Wartime interrupted his cash register work, and the Bombe became one of more than a dozen war assignments for Desch.
The Bombe proved a messy, hot, cranky challenge with a tight timetable. Desch’s service to the Navy began on March 9, 1942. He endured long hours, a severing of ties with his German relatives and constant personal surveillance, including officers assigned to live in the two-bedroom home Desch shared with his wife.
By May 28, 1943, his first two Bombe prototypes — dubbed “Adam” and “Eve” — registered “hits,” highlighting the encryption pattern that could be used to decipher all intercepted transmissions on that day.
The Bombe was taller than a person and twice as long, a cast iron and steel machine with miles of wiring attached to thousands of vacuum tubes. It would whir and grind as it spun out the possible letter combinations, joining with other Bombes on the floor to create a deafening noise.
Shirley McKenzie Anderson (no relation to Debbie Anderson) was one of the WAVES stationed in Dayton. She later traveled to Washington, D.C., to operate the machines.
“It was a clanking sound, with all those machines going at different times and clanking at different times,” she says for the documentary. When the Bombe would hit a pattern that made sense of the code, “it was crash, boom, bang,” she says, reversing itself and halting at the combination where the hit was made.
Desch’s engineering team and the WAVES constructed 121 Bombes and sent them by rail to Washington, D.C. Of those 121, only one machine remains intact, housed in the NSA Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade, Md.
The Bombe’s contribution to the war is hotly debated, but Baylor University associate professor of history Eric Rust gives the Bombe project the credit he believes it’s due. The son of a German U-boat officer and a former member of the German military who has experience with Enigma encryption technology, Rust calls the Bombe’s effect “tremendous.”
“The Dayton operation gave the Allied side, especially Americans, a tremendous advantage by saving the Allies time, by not wasting resources on operations that would have otherwise not been necessary had there been no Enigma intercepts,” says Rust, who is featured in Dayton Codebreakers. “It saved personnel and it saved lives because fewer were exposed to the dangers of the war.”
Based on the combined efforts of the Bombes operating in Washington and the Ultra project in England’s Bletchley Park, Rust says that up to 54 U-boats were destroyed.
Desch’s contributions were also noted by President Harry S. Truman, who signed Desch’s 1947 National Medal of Merit citation.
“By his brilliant originality, superb skill and immeasurable perseverance, he contributed essentially to the effectiveness of important technical developments of great significance in the successful conclusion of the war,” the citation reads. “Mr. Desch’s technical skill and fine professional judgment reflect the highest credit upon him, and upon the scientific tradition of the United States.”
Such glowing words grace a piece of paper yellowed with age and once forgotten. It’s a story that’s no longer top-secret, ready to be classified among America’s greatest success stories.
Michelle Tedford inherited her love for military history from her father, Clint Tedford, the first to tell her the story of the 1835 Toledo War.