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.”No Comments
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.”No Comments
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.No Comments
“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.”No Comments
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.”No Comments
“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.aspxNo Comments
New land. World-class research. Strong enrollment. Rising reputation. Forward thinking and bold moves inspired by our Marianist mission have characterized the presidency of Daniel J. Curran at the University of Dayton.
Dan Curran answers his cell phone even from 12 time zones around the world.
“I would wake him up at 3 a.m. in China, and he would take the call,” says J.P. Nauseef ’88, the former president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition. “He has always been almost 100 percent accessible.”
Nauseef’s call to China was a sign of changing times, for the University of Dayton and its president.
Curran is more likely than ever to be a player in high-level discussions about Dayton’s regional economic interests, which was on Nauseef’s mind that morning. And there’s a decent chance that when Curran’s cell phone rings, he’s traveling internationally and representing a Catholic university that’s gone global in a big way.
Curran has embraced these multifaceted roles, more so than most university leaders nationally. Higher education can be a cautious industry, and colleges and universities typically choose to turn their focus inward during challenging times, like a recession’s wake. Not UD, which has expanded its reach to an extraordinary degree during Curran’s more than nine years at the helm.
The pace of change has been among the most rapid and substantial seen at any American university. The physical campus has literally doubled in size in the last five years. Also doubling since Curran’s arrival has been the volume of sponsored research to nearly $100 million annually — a benchmark that puts UD in the big leagues. At the same time, applications for the first-year class have also almost doubled, with growing numbers of students coming from beyond Ohio and even the United States. Total student enrollment is up by almost 11 percent, to 11,199 Flyers in 2010, while the University’s selectivity and academic reputation also continue to rise.
Keeping up with all the change is enough to make your head spin. Even Brown Street is virtually unrecognizable thanks to the University’s seemingly endless redevelopment projects. As the cliché goes, this isn’t your daddy’s UD. Or is it?
People who know both old and new at the University say its character remains very much intact and has actually driven much of the progress in recent years.
Take UD’s leadership in Dayton’s economic development. When Curran arrived in 2002, he said he felt the University should be an “agent for social change.” That means an active engagement in the local community — a central tenet of the Marianist tradition. Ignoring Dayton’s painful decade-plus of economic turmoil and lost jobs would not have been true to UD’s core beliefs.
“The University is an energetic part of the city,” says Archbishop Emeritus Daniel E. Pilarczyk, who worked closely with UD during his 25 years as archbishop of Cincinnati. Just as important, he says both UD and its president have been “conspicuously Catholic.” In fact, he says the “University is now as Catholic as it has ever been.”
CALCULATED RISK TAKING
Doubt has lurked around the edges of some of the changes at the University. But UD’s success at analyzing and taking risks during Curran’s tenure has quickly erased worries about the pace of the momentum.
One example is UD’s 2005 purchase of a 50-acre brownfield from NCR. This summer, GE Aviation began construction of a $51 million research center on eight acres of the remediated land. With it will come high-tech jobs, which is desperately needed good news for Dayton. And the facility creates a valuable partnership between GE Aviation and the University, which stands to benefit both students and faculty.
This outcome, however, was not a sure thing when the University was negotiating the purchase. In fact, Curran had to break off the deal the first time around.
“We had to step away because the risk was too high,” says Curran. Cleaning up decades of pollution from the manufacture of cash registers is no easy task, and an environmental analysis convinced Curran and his team that the costs would be too much under the initial terms.
But UD kept at the table, to use a Marianist metaphor. And eventually Curran felt confident that the University would be able to attract federal and state money to help pay for environmental cleanup and infrastructure improvements. The University bought the land for a still-substantial $25 million. Later, the property’s redevelopment was bolstered by more than $10 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund.
“It was a leap of faith,” says Richard Finan ’54, who was chair of the University’s board of trustees at the time of the purchase. “But it was the right thing to do.”
The bold move is part of a recurring theme of Curran’s presidency, which many describe as one of calculated risk taking.
Curran’s first leap of faith was coming to UD at all. When approached about the presidency, he initially declined. He was happy at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, an Atlantic 10 Conference member where he had spent 23 years as both an administrator and scholar.
But when a search consultant told Curran that the University would be a perfect fit for him, he decided to visit campus. During his first day at UD, a student guide gave him the standard walking tour and the current president, Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M. ’64, asked to meet his family. “He’s cool,” Curran’s two young sons reported after chatting with Brother Ray.
Curran says he quickly got a sense of the University, that it would indeed be the right place for him to become a university president. But doubts about his candidacy lingered. Fitz was a tough act to follow. He was beloved during his 23 years as president, the longest presidency in the University’s history.
Curran would also be UD’s first lay president. While other Catholic universities had hired lay presidents, most notably Georgetown University, some alumni and others connected to UD worried that its distinctive Marianist character might be diminished.
During the interview process, Curran decided to just be himself. At the time he was Saint Joseph’s executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs, as well as a sociologist with impressive bona fides as a scholar specializing in criminology, juvenile justice and social problems. He also had deep experience in international affairs, particularly with China.
Finan and Dave Phillips ’62 were co-chairs of the presidential search committee. Finan says it was an easy decision after he and Phillips talked with Curran.
“We said, ‘This is our guy.’ He knew where he wanted to take the University.”
For his part, Curran says he quickly felt comfortable with the Marianists, and that their sense of community and commitment to social justice resonated with him. He also saw a well-managed University that was poised to take a leap.
“There was a sense of building upon something,” Curran says. “It was just the perfect match for me.”
Worries about a lay president failed to materialize after Curran arrived. In fact, many say UD has been more intentional about its Marianist influence under a lay president. Rick Pfleger ’77, a member of the board of trustees, says Curran’s administration has worked hard to preserve and integrate the University’s Catholic culture in its work.
“He kept the Marianist tradition and feel, but he turned up the speed limit for everybody.”
His pace could have been a concern. Some people felt the up-and-comer from the East Coast might use the presidency as a steppingstone to another job. Curran has proved that fear wrong. By all accounts, he’s a Flyer basketball fanatic, even when Saint Joseph’s is in town. And with nine years under his belt, the 60-year-old Curran is diving into the University’s next big move — an ambitious venture in China.
Perhaps the best proof of Curran’s UD roots is that his younger son, Aidan, is a junior at the University. Having a parent’s investment is an undeniable influence on Curran, and it shows.
“My son coming here,” he says, “was just an affirmation of what I thought UD was all about.”
Christine Farmer is a senior psychology major at UD and the Student Government Association’s president. She’s met with Curran several times. When asked to describe the president, she says: “He acts like a parent. He wants to get to know you as a student.”
TELLING UD’S STORY
Curran is quick to say that UD’s progress over the last nine years has been the result of cooperation between the University’s faculty, staff, students and supporters. But the buck stops with the president. A college presidency can be a volatile job, and presidents don’t keep their jobs long amid controversy, even if the problem isn’t their fault.
Leadership also sets a tone, even for an organization as large as a national research university. Curran’s approach meshes well with UD’s dominant personality type, which is a blend of friendly and efficient. The University has the intimate feel of a much smaller college, which is helped by its laid-back, Midwestern affability.
But don’t underestimate the competitive, serious side of UD, or its president.
Universities generally aren’t known as being savvy negotiators and tend to move much more slowly than their peers in the corporate world. UD, however, has bucked this trend with its recent growth.
A good example is Marianist Hall, the newest residence hall on campus, which opened in 2004. A construction firm asked for a two-year timeline to finish the building. The University pushed hard for one year, and the firm hit the deadline.
Even better, UD administrators told a rival contractor, which was working on the ArtStreet project, a residential arts complex in the south student neighborhood, about the compressed schedule for Marianist Hall. Although ArtStreet was planned as a two-year construction project, the firm finished it in a year as well.
Beating construction deadlines for major buildings is virtually unheard of in higher education. UD is agile for a research university, and some of that speed is due to Curran, who is often described as being high-energy.
“It’s hard to keep up with him,” says Joseph Saliba ’79, the University’s provost. “He doesn’t always show it, but he’s very
That passion sometimes includes pushing boundaries, as UD did with the branding campaign it introduced in 2007. In particular, the glossy and provocative viewbook the University sent to prospective students raised eyebrows.
Some people, including several faculty members, alumni and the student newspaper’s editors, thought the viewbook went too far. One page asked: “Do you know more about Lindsay Lohan than Darfur?” and included a picture of two young women wearing glossy lipstick.
The branding effort was part of a key shift for UD, Curran says. After arriving on campus, he and Sundar Kumarasamy, the University’s vice president for enrollment management, took a hard look at UD’s enrollment pipeline and saw a looming problem. Ohio’s demographic shifts were resulting in fewer students who were academically prepared to attend UD.
To strengthen or even maintain its academic reputation and enrollment, the University would need to work harder to recruit students from around the country and internationally.
“We had become very Ohio-centric,” Curran says. “We had to go back to many of our traditional markets,” which include
Chicago and population centers on the East Coast.
The viewbook was part of the attempt to get the word out more broadly about a University in a region that had become a more difficult draw.
The University brought in a marketing firm from Philadelphia to work on the campaign, which was both edgy and expensive. But being a little bit brash appears to have paid off.
Applications for the 2008 freshman class went up a whopping 33 percent, which helped the University be more selective and boosted its standing in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. UD has continued that momentum, and this year’s freshman class is among the largest, most ethnically and geographically diverse, and academically strong in the University’s history.
The branding campaign also drew national media coverage, including a story in The Chronicle of Higher Education with the headline: “Once-Quiet University of Dayton Pushes a Bold Brand.”
Pfleger, who has founded two technology companies, says the time had come for UD to do some bragging.
“I was very frustrated, coming from a sales and marketing background, that the story was not being told,” he says. But with the branding campaign, “it happened, and it happened in spades.”
SEALING THE DEAL
UD’s viewbook may have been bold, but no move during Curran’s tenure has been more assertive than the purchase of NCR’s corporate headquarters and adjacent parkland.
The 2009 acquisition included a world-class 455,000-square-foot building, which is now home to the University’s Research Institute and the developing Alumni Center, among other uses. Also included in the $18 million deal was 115 acres of land, which increased the size of UD’s landlocked campus by 45 percent.
The purchase was also enormously symbolic.
“What we underestimated was the reaction of the greater Dayton community,” Curran says.
NCR’s departure had stung Dayton deeply. The company had long played a leadership role in the region, and its exit came amid severe economic hardship. By quickly taking on NCR’s headquarters, the University sent a message about its growing stature in Dayton and beyond. In some ways, it was a changing of the guard.
“NCR’s long-term decline in Dayton, painful as it was, has set the stage for UD’s rise,” the Dayton Daily News wrote in an editorial.
The NCR purchase is part of a broader story about the decline of manufacturing in America and the new hope of a knowledge economy fostered by research universities. As a result, the national news media took note of UD’s move, including The New York Times, which wrote a substantial story about the NCR acquisition. The nation’s most influential newspaper briefly mentioned similar purchases by other universities — Yale University and the University of Michigan — signaling that UD can now hold its own among the cream of the crop in higher education.
Pete Luongo ’65, a University trustee and the retired president and CEO of The Berry Company, says Dayton is fortunate, on many levels, for the University’s growing influence.
“That would have been an absolute nightmare if that had sat empty,” he says of the NCR headquarters.
Luongo praises Curran and his team for how they handled the purchase, noting that Curran brings the skills of a corporate CEO to the university setting — no easy task, given UD’s broad range of stakeholders, including students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni and many more.
“College presidents have so many constituencies,” Luongo says. “He doesn’t sacrifice one for the others.”
Bernadette V. McGlade agrees. The commissioner of the Atlantic 10 Conference, McGlade refers to Curran as a “CEO” when discussing his role in balancing the A-10’s strategic goals with the institutional missions of its members.
“He has great vision,” she says, and “a tremendous business acumen.”
UD drove a hard bargain for the NCR headquarters and surrounding land. Curran’s staff dealt directly with the corporation on the purchase, opting against using a middleman. The University ultimately paid $18 million for a property assessed at $31.3 million.
But a good price isn’t all the university got. Tom Burkhardt ’70, the University’s vice president for finance and administrative services, played a major role in the negotiations. As the deal was closing, Curran asked Burkhardt to push for NCR to include all the furniture in the headquarters building as part of the sale.
Burkhardt landed the furniture and also got NCR to throw in all the lawnmowers for the facility.
FROM RIVER CAMPUS TO CHINA
The largest expansion in its history hardly means the University is ready to sit back and rest on its laurels. Indeed, Curran is on to the next ambitious pursuit: the University of Dayton China Institute.
Unlike some university forays into China, which can be little more than tenuous footholds, UD has a serious operation brewing in the Suzhou Industrial Park in Jiangsu Province in eastern China. A five-story, 54,000-square-foot building will be exclusively UD’s and will include classrooms, laboratories and project space.
The China Institute is another step toward UD’s globalization. This fall, approximately one in every 10 University students is from outside the United States, enriching the campus’s global perspective.
Curran has brought faculty, students, trustees and fellow administrators to China to see the vast opportunities for advancing international engagement and preparing students for the world they’ll enter.
The action at UD isn’t just happening in China. Construction projects continue on campus as well. During one hot summer day, bulldozers could be seen rolling over the rubble that was the former Frank Z Chevrolet dealership on Brown Street. The University, working with a private developer, is building student housing with townhouse façades and 427 beds at the site.
Activity also started to hum over at the old NCR headquarters, now called River Campus, even during the dog days of summer. The building is open and staffed, and work is continuing on the Alumni Center. It’s a beautiful space with a retro feel. The facility looks over the Great Miami River toward UD Arena. The University now stretches all the way from the historic core of campus to the Arena Sports Complex across the river.
An eye-catching feature sits in the front of River Campus. It’s a huge, welcoming lawn. And yes, it’s been freshly mowed, with those NCR lawnmowers.
Paul Fain is a veteran higher-education journalist and a reporter with Inside Higher Ed. He also recently worked with colleges and universities as an assistant vice president for Widmeyer Communications. An Oakwood, Ohio, native, he grew up in the shadow of UD and is a lifelong Flyer basketball fan.No Comments
New knowledge about the regenerative powers of newts is overturning 250 years of conventional scientific wisdom and may one day lead to unlocking a similar capacity in humans.
In 1994 Goro Eguchi headed out the door of his research laboratory in Okazaki, Japan, on a hunt that had become familiar to him over the course of his long career. Eyes trained downward, Eguchi, 61 years old at the time, searched ponds and puddles for the Japanese fire-bellied newt. The creatures aren’t easy to spot. Although their underbellies are dotted in bright orange from chin to tail, their backs are brownish-black, helping them blend with muddy water.
Few developmental biologists in the world are as familiar with these newts, also known as Cynops pyrrhogaster, as Eguchi. He’s devoted his career to studying a biological phenomenon known as regeneration, the ability of some animals to regrow a lost body part. Other animals can regenerate — including salamanders, frogs and worms — but newts are the champions. Remove part of a limb or tail and another one grows. Take away the lens on the eye? No problem. In one month, a new lens grows back.
The fire-bellied newt’s ability to restore certain tissue has fascinated scientists for more than 250 years. In 1768, Lazzaro Spallanzani studied regeneration in newts and frogs, cutting off limbs and watching new ones return. Sometimes, though, the limbs that regrew in Spallanzani’s experiments were missing some bones or didn’t otherwise grow back properly. So for a long time, researchers studying regeneration were convinced that as animals aged, their ability to regenerate limbs, lenses and even hearts diminished over time.
No one had ever designed an experiment to test that conclusion. Eguchi and his colleague Panagiotis Tsonis had their suspicions about how aging would affect regeneration because they’d both worked with the newt for decades. Tsonis, director of UD’s Center for Tissue Regeneration and Engineering at Dayton, had done doctoral work in Eguchi’s lab and has devoted his career to figuring out how lens regeneration in newts works.
To test such an idea, of course, they needed to take the long view. That’s why, 17 years ago, Eguchi began collecting adult newts. He needed newts that were nearly full-sized to make certain they would be old enough at the start of the experiment. The fire-bellied newt grows slowly, reaching about 4 inches long — about 90 percent of its mature length — after 14 years.
Japanese fire-bellied newts were the perfect research subjects for this type of experiment. Unlike American newts, which don’t live very long and don’t tolerate captivity well, Japanese newts can live more than 30 years in captivity and thrive in laboratory life.
Eguchi’s lab took responsibility for the animal maintenance and planning of surgery, and Tsonis collaborated with researchers at the Sanford Children’s Health Research Center in La Jolla, Calif., to analyze the animals’ DNA, molecular profile and the structure of their lenses.
“American newts have such a short lifespan in captivity, so keeping them around in the lab for a continued experiment is tricky,” says Tsonis. “It’s the type of collaboration that could not happen otherwise.”
Starting such an experiment was a leap of faith. Seventeen years ago, the DNA techniques needed to analyze the data either hadn’t been developed or were too expensive to even consider. That’s why up until a decade or so ago, regeneration science had been mostly descriptive, says Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, a regeneration specialist at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Mo. Scientists had been chopping off limbs or heads and tails of worms or removing lenses and then watching them grow back, but they couldn’t do much more.
Whether one is watching newts regrow lenses or watching worms regrow heads and tails, regeneration makes for great videos. But those videos don’t tell researchers what is going on at the molecular level, nor can it identify the genes responsible. Over the past 10 years, though, DNA sequencing — the technique that allows scientists to “read” the genetic code — has become less expensive, and other molecular techniques that allow scientists to add or remove genes or switch genes off have helped the regeneration field in general.
The progress at the molecular level has been slow because animals that regenerate well (newts and a species of worm known as planaria) have not been amenable to study with traditional genetics, either because their sexual reproductive cycles are too long or because traditional genetics and molecular resources were not available. So newts and their regenerating brethren began to fall behind other research animals, such as mice or even zebra fish.
Researchers like Tsonis spent painstaking years getting these genetic and molecular techniques to work in the newts, his lab supported by continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1995. As other molecular techniques became available (such as ways to silence genes), the field of regeneration technology slowly became less descriptive and researchers started to piece together the networks of genes and molecules involved in rebuilding lost tissues.
As the 16-year experiment continued, Tsonis was able, through painstaking work, to use these techniques to analyze lens regeneration. Eventually, Tsonis could compare whether the same genes were switched on or off year after year as the newts grew older.
The technique to remove the lens (called a lentectomy) is simple. Just a tiny slit in the cornea followed by a light pinch with fine forceps, and the entire lens comes out in one piece. The cornea heals in 24 hours, and a lens has been differentiated within a month.
Over the first six years of the experiment, Eguchi’s team performed 12 lentectomies (two a year on the same eye of each newt). After carefully examining the lenses from those surgeries, the researchers determined that repetition was not a problem: The lens architecture (the size and shape of the tissue) and molecules in each lens were exactly the same. After that, Eguchi removed the lenses only once a year, and the team focused on the effects of aging. In 2011, after the experiment had been going for 16 years, Tsonis felt it was time to stop. “We had quite clear data,” he says.
In a study published this summer in Nature Communications, Eguchi and Tsonis concluded that newts’ ability to regenerate lenses was practically limitless: the 17th and 18th lenses (the last two lenses removed) were exactly the same as lenses removed when the experiment began 16 years earlier, they found. And even newts that were at least 30 years old — comparable to a 90-year-old human — showed no decline in their ability to regrow lenses every bit as good as those they started out with as young’uns. Each lens regrew with equal speed and vigor.
“This is a fundamental paper,” says Sánchez Alvarado. “It’s going to become a classic for two reasons, a practical reason and a scientific reason.” Such lengthy, basic science experiments are extremely unlikely to be funded in the United States, he says, because such research grants are given for five years and renewals for four years. Funding is also rare for a single experiment. “It’s very difficult to accomplish long-term experiments.”
But the experiment is notable not only for the researchers’ perseverance but also for its scientific significance, Sánchez Alvarado says. “Here is a real experiment with real data that essentially says, ‘Vertebrates can actually do this; they are aging chronologically, the animals are 30 years old, but biologically they’re young.’ To me that’s a remarkable paradigm shift because it provides incontrovertible evidence that chronological and biological age are not necessarily the same thing. It’s nice to go to your list of things we don’t know about regeneration and scratch that one off the list.”
Sánchez Alvarado says the list of what scientists don’t know about regeneration is still quite long. Now, with all of the information from genome sequencing on so many species, researchers know there’s a finite collection of genes, and those genes are coming together in some organized fashion to produce a finite collection of attributes that are shared throughout all animal species. For Sánchez Alvarado, the take-home message is that “we’re incredibly closely related to each other, so it should be feasible to understand why some animals can do certain things and others cannot; why some animals can regenerate so well now becomes part of the landscape for our interrogation.’’
Even though people don’t regenerate body parts like newts, the regenerative capacities we do possess begin to diminish with age. Hair recedes, wrinkles increase, muscle mass goes away. None of this happened in the newts’ lenses. None of the newts got cataracts. Since humans, mice and so many organisms share genes, regeneration scientists say that we may be able to figure out why some organisms regenerate limbs and heads and others don’t. Researchers suspect that we all have the capability, but in humans that capacity is genetically turned off for most tissues. People can regenerate liver and skin, and children can regenerate fingertips. Now that researchers know that aging newts can churn out fresh lenses, Tsonis says they may be able to figure out how to restore specific tissues lost to degeneration and aging.
Over the past 16 years, Tsonis has collaborated on not only the lens aging experiment. He’s also continued to make his own mark in lens regeneration. He finds the lens attractive because it provides a more clear-cut way for the research to proceed than limb regeneration because the process happens faster. Even more alluring was the way the lens regenerates. For limb regeneration, part of the limb is removed. In the lens, the entire organ is removed and then rebuilt from a different group of cells in the eye tissue. That phenomenon has allowed Tsonis a unique opportunity to study how one tissue stops in its tracks and then recreates an entirely different kind of tissue.
“That’s quite unique, even in the newt,” he says.
Studying regeneration in the lens offered another advantage over limb regeneration: the newt lens always regenerates from cells in the dorsal, or upper, part of the eye and never the ventral, or lower part, even though they’re the same type of cell.
Regeneration starts as a group of cells responsible for pigment in the iris begin a process that turns them into completely different cells and then back again. Scientific lingo for these twin processes are dedifferentiation (when cells slip back to a less specialized form) and transdifferentiation (when one cell type converts into another cell type). Tsonis wants to know everything about how these processes work to understand fundamental biological questions about how and why cells grow old and die, and why some turn cancerous.
David Stocum, a regeneration researcher at the Indiana University Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine, compares the capacity of newts’ lenses to regenerate to a human’s ability to regrow the liver. Researchers can remove a fairly substantial fraction of the liver in lab experiments, and it will regenerate over and over — but he says the Tsonis team has regenerated the lens in the same animal many more times than anyone has repeatedly generated the liver.
As newts age, explains Stocum, their capacity to regenerate limbs declines. Either regeneration slows or the new limb grows with mistakes, such as an extra digit. In the long newt experiment the cells that built lens after lens made no mistakes, suggesting that the problems with limb regeneration might result from its more complex structure or external factors such as infection. “It tells us though that all of these old dogmas — and there have been lots of them — are not viable anymore. So the possibility exists that we will find out how to manipulate things at the site of an injury or disease to regenerate the tissue.”
Tsonis plans on going down some of those research avenues. He says finding answers in one area of regeneration will answer basic questions in other areas. For instance, Tsonis wants to see what’s going on with DNA repair and aging. He’s intrigued by cancer formation in the newts. While in Eguchi’s lab during his doctoral studies, Tsonis gave the newts all sorts of cancer-inducing chemicals, but the newts never got cancer. Now, he wants to return to those experiments so he can figure out why. “If that process is regulated, then I can trace it.”
He also wants to investigate the relationship between what newt cells do during regeneration and how stem cells work.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that nature invented common strategies and then modified them in different animals according to needs. I don’t think they’re completely different strategies.”
Investigating such strategies can spark ideas for research in mice and eventually people, says Tsonis. Although that’s a long way off, cellular pathways are similar and so are cell physiologies. He wants to discover whether newts and people have the same genes and cellular mechanisms.
One day, in the distant future, Tsonis hopes to use this research to find a way to treat eye disease, such as macular degeneration. “It’s not that easy, but that’s the ultimate goal of regeneration, to treat people.”
Jeanne Erdmann is a medical science writer in Wentzville, Mo. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Nature and Science News.
Center for Tissue Regeneration and Engineering at Dayton http://trend.udayton.edu/
Coverage of the research in Discover http://bit.ly/p8T6K9
Read the paper in Nature Communications http://bit.ly/p86LiINo Comments
We won the cup, and we never gave it up.
It was Nov. 4, 1972, and there was a lot on the line, including the silver Governor’s Cup, first awarded in 1929 by Ohio Gov. Myers Cooper to the winner of the UD-Xavier football rivalry and taken home by the victors every game since. It was also UD’s homecoming at Baujan Field, and the Flyers were looking to improve on their 20-27-3 series record against the Musketeers going back to 1907.
But Xavier had more at risk. Its football team was losing games, losing money and, possibly, losing the program.
Musketeer quarterback Tim Dydo set Xavier records, attempting 60 passes and completing 31 for 337 yards. But Flyer quarterback Ken Polke ’75 repeatedly turned to Denny Whitehead ’73, who picked up 139 yards and three touchdowns in what Flyer News called “his finest afternoon in a Dayton uniform.”
The game’s score is etched on a silver plate on the trophy’s wooden stand: 31 Dayton – Xavier 13.
It’s the last series statistic. In 1973, Xavier’s board of trustees ended the school’s football program, and Dayton kept the cup.
Fast forward to 2002. UD Arena is being renovated, and equipment manager Tony Caruso ’81 rescues the trophy that was once stored in the north air-handling room with scores of other memorabilia. Today, you’ll find it atop a worn wooden wall cabinet outside his office near the football locker room.
He’s surrounded by history he’s saved. There’s a 1949 pigskin signed by the team. On a high shelf is a brass basketball given by the Rotary Club to the 1952 basketball team. He has a brass football presented Jan. 18, 1955, at a dinner for legendary football coach Harry Baujan in honor of 33 years of service; he’d work at UD for 21 more until his death Dec. 30, 1976.
“I keep all of the old stuff — you can’t go forward until you see where you’ve been,” says Caruso, who played baseball from 1977-81, coached through the ’80s and has worked with the athletics programs ever since.
In the room with industrial-sized washers are more than 40 football helmets, some from college teams that no longer exist. You can hang your coat on a four-and-a-half-foot trophy that sits by his office door; it’s the TOMPROP, a steel airplane propeller affixed with a brass tomahawk that passed between the Miami University and Dayton football programs from 1935 to 1955.
These traveling trophies are among his favorites. And he’s in search of one more. He’s heard rumor of the Flying Cleat, golden with wings, passed between Marshall and Dayton. Caruso has made some calls, but no one knows where it is.
“It’s in the trash or someone’s house somewhere,” he says. Or maybe it’s a hidden treasure in plain sight, being guarded by another history buff like Caruso.No Comments
How busy can a brother be? Right now, Brother Tom Pieper, S.M. ’67, is filling in as resident campus minister at Marycrest while still ministering to the needs of Stuart Hall, where he has worked for 15 years. He coordinates the nine-week UD Summer Appalachia Program in Salyersville, Ky. And he’s taking suggestions for the UDSAP 50th anniversary reunion, less than three years away. Email him ideas at Tom.Pieper@notes.udayton.edu.
What is your favorite part of ministering to first-year students in Stuart Hall? —Daniel Zidek ’13, UD student
When students first come here, they have left everything. I believe the Marianist spirit and charism really offers them a place of welcome. For the first month that’s my main goal — get to know as many names as possible. I try to be proactive, inviting students to deepen and share their faith by being leaders on retreats, leaders of faith-sharing communities, leaders of community-building activities in my residence hall. I love this ministry. It uses lots of my natural gifts and gives me an opportunity to help them grow in their faith and in the person they want to become. And, since I live in the student neighborhood, I can continue to be present to these students as they move on in their four years at UD.
How has the renovation of the Chapel of St. Joseph the Worker enhanced the campus ministry in Stuart Hall? And are you also still playing sand volleyball? —Nick Pohlman ’00 Geneva, Ill.
Our chapel moved from the back of Meyer Hall to the front where the dryers and washers were located. The chapel used to be a rectangle with burnt orange carpeting. Now, when you walk in, it’s a beautiful sacred space to have liturgy and pray — stained glass, sacred furnishings and wooden liturgical pieces made by Brother Gary Marcinowski. And because of its location, many more students have come to celebrate. It’s a great sign of our Marianist and Catholic presence. As for volleyball, I watch, maybe take a few swipes at the ball.
Why did you initially begin moderating UDSAP? What has kept you coming back every summer? —Nichole Davis ’06, Indianapolis
Kentucky is my home state. Going back and being present to my state is valuable to me. When I first went down to fill in for Sister Nancy Bramlage, I just fell in love with the place and what they’re doing. It’s a unique service experience in that the 14 students are involved with the lives of the people — through a day camp, teen center, nursing home visits and family visits — and that has changed me a lot. We really do learn that Appalachia is not just a place where poor people live. We know the faces and the names. Knowing the people, we can be advocates for them. And we live simply — we have a great outhouse.
I feel like the poor have such terrible needs in our current economy, and many political leaders seem to be the worst enemies of their most desperate constituents. What can be done? —Marilyn Stauffer Kaple ’69, Summerville, S.C.
Do research and listen to the volunteer organizations in your community that can instruct you on how to help financially and how to be involved because we are all just part of this great community. At UD, we challenge students to have experiences of being with and living with the poor. Later in life, students who have had these experiences change the way they live, vote and look at the needs of others.
When was “Holy Mary, Mother of God …” added to the “Hail Mary”? —Robert Corgan, Madeira, Ohio
The first parts are scripture from the Gospel of St. Luke — Gabriel at the Annunciation and Mary and Elizabeth at the Visitation. They were said by monks before the 10th and 11th centuries. In 1196, the bishop of Paris ordered all the clergy to teach these Marian verses to all the people. Why not add an intercession for all of us? No one knows who wrote it but, by the 1500s, this intercession was already the tradition.
Is there a difference between Marianists who are brothers and those who are priests? —Bill Lorenz ’84, Nairobi, Kenya
We all call one another “brother,” and that’s an important thing because the Marianists have an equality between brothers and priests. Some brothers have a desire to perform the sacred liturgies and preach the word of God. We as a whole group of brothers work to discern where the spirit is moving in their lives and how to carry out Mary’s mission of bringing Christ into the world. We all have gifts and we discern how to use those gifts for the community.
For our next issue ask Father Jim Fitz ’68, vice president for mission and rector and former assistant provincial of the Marianist Province of the U.S. His office is coordinating UD’s celebration of Chaminade Year, running through January 2012. Email your question to email@example.com.No Comments