‘My fondest wish for each and every one of us is that we will find something in our lives worth fighting for because, when we do, we will have found a way to unite the will of the spirit with the work of the flesh, and the world would discover fire for the second time. Then may the light and the heat from that fire confirm our purpose with every thought, every word, every action to help heal a broken world wherever we may find it.’ —Martin Sheen, actor and honorary degree recipient
In the tunnels under UD Arena, one new alumnus was so proud of his degree he couldn’t stop smiling. He greeted every robed and tasseled figure with a hearty hello, a handshake and a congratulations.
While those he greeted likely took four or five years on their UD journey, his took more than 50.
Actor and Daytonian Martin Sheen, 74, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Dayton under his given name, Ramon Estévez, during undergraduate commencement May 3. Like the other 1,441 graduates being honored, he shook hands with President Daniel J. Curran, received his diploma and smiled for the cameras. And then he spoke from the heart in a confluence of emotion and memory:
“It’s a pleasure to return from whence I came for such a special occasion. …
“It is the absolute necessity for justice, healing and mercy that really unites us. …
“We are not asked to do great things; we’re asked to do all things with greater care. …”
The day before, Sheen attended a family reunion in Dayton. Estévez siblings, children and grandchildren gathered around to watch a video created by Sheen’s brother John. It featured photos of their parents, Francisco and Mary-Ann Estévez, immigrants from Spain and Ireland respectively, who raised 10 children in a home along Brown Street. That evening, Sheen attended Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Second Street, where his parents were married in 1927.
“I wasn’t prepared for the deep, emotional crack it made in me,” Sheen said after receiving his degree. “This was about my dad. I had to come here. I had to celebrate him. I had to recognize him.”
And so, the night before the commencement, Sheen rewrote his brief remarks into a speech both funny and heartwarming, one that stoked the fires of social justice — to which he has dedicated himself these last 34 years and for which he was being honored the next day — and gave tribute to his father.
“He was my first hero; he was the best man I ever knew, and I’m honored to remember him this day with thanksgiving and praise,” Sheen said from the stage.
The graduation ceremony was a fulfillment of Francisco’s dream for Sheen — to be a University of Dayton graduate. The dream started at the moment of Sheen’s birth, Aug. 3, 1940. Doctors used forceps to deliver the baby boy, crushing his left shoulder and leaving Sheen with limited use of his left arm. His father was also crushed.
“He thought I was a cripple,” Sheen said, recounting the story to a group of students after the ceremony. And so Francisco, an NCR factory worker who Sheen says likely made no more than $147 a week during his life, saved enough money for his son to attend UD.
It was not a dream Sheen shared, and he punctuated his desire to be an actor by intentionally failing his UD entrance exam. The men eventually healed their rift, and Francisco gave his son his blessing to move to New York. Known for the roles of President Josiah Bartlet in television’s The West Wing, a serial killer in the film Badlands and a troubled soldier during the Vietnam War in Apocalypse Now, Sheen said his most nourishing role has been that of social activist. He has spoken out against war, abortion, genocide and capital punishment, and he has been arrested for his protest of the School of the Americas. He supports environ- mental sustainability, workers’ rights, human rights and an end to gun violence.
“Acting is what I do for a living,” he said, “and activism is what I do to stay alive.”
His activism exemplifies the Catholic, Marianist mission present at both UD and Dayton’s Chaminade High School, where he at- tended as a boy. Sheen has said the teachings of the priests and brothers of the Society of Mary helped shape his commitment to social justice, human rights, service and peace. “Remember this, above all: One heart with courage is a majority,” he said at graduation.
“Over the entire history of the human race no one has ever made any real contribution without personal suffering, self-sacrifice and sometimes even death.”
At a post-graduation lunch reception, Sheen greeted family and friends, including sons Ramon and Emilio. He also gathered with other special guests, including UD’s Chami- nade Scholars, who were leaving in two days for a pilgrimage to Rome. He shared with the students his role as a pilgrim in The Way, a 2011 movie by Emilio about El Camino de Santiago, “the way of St. James” in the northwest of Spain.
Sheen ended by inviting them to sing with him his favorite hymn, “How Can I Keep From Singing?”
“If you start your day with that, you’re in good shape,” he told them.
It was his interactions with students — both gracious and deeply personal — that revealed the depth of his passion for social justice and the energy he absorbs from the activism of others.
When he sat later in the day with faculty and students from the Human Rights Center in Raymond L. Fitz Hall, Sheen balanced his chin on his right hand, leaning forward to engage the students in conversation.
Sophomore Leena Sabagh talked about her work with Students for Justice in Palestine; Sheen offered her contact with director Ellie Bernstein of Ghost Town, The Hebron Story, for which Sheen served as narrator. Sophomore Rosalia Stadler talked about her research in uncovering human trafficking in the consumer supply chain; Sheen shared stories of work- ing with Father Shay Cullen, who has fought trafficking in the Philippines for more than 30 years.
As Sheen learned about the Human Rights Center’s use of evidence-based strategies to help NGOs, he shook his head in amazement that students would volunteer to travel to developing countries and learn from the people about their challenges and dreams.
“I’m very encouraged, and the fact that it’s here, it’s amazing,” Sheen said.
After another round of autographs and selfies, Sheen walked out to his waiting car — two hours later than scheduled — and thanked his UD entourage again for the wonderful day that connected his roots to his personal passions.
In the parking lot, he met new graduate Lori Claricoates. She set down an armload of drawings she had just cleared from her locker in the Department of Art and Design to offer him a handshake and thank-you for his inspiring speech. He countered with a hug and a hearty congratulations, asking questions about her new job, her family and her hometown.
Standing there in the sun, they were simply two forever-Flyers in the process of realizing their dreams.
The days begin early at Annunciation House. The four women here rouse themselves from sleep and pad their way to the chapel for the 6:25 morning prayer and then Mass. Twice a day they gather for prayer, and several times a week they share meals together. In between, it’s household chores and jobs out in the community, jamming hymns on guitars and, yes, sitting around talking and eating ice cream.
For people exploring a religious vocation, Annunciation House in Kettering, Ohio, a few miles from UD’s campus, offers a temporary home to see for themselves what it might mean to live a consecrated life — a life of religious community devoted to Jesus Christ, each person publicly professing the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability.
In today’s Western world, they are not easy vows, but ones Pope Francis has called attention to during this Year of Consecrated Life. He asks us all to be aware of the gift of the lives and work of consecrated people in our communities. He also challenges these religious “to wake up the world,” “step out more courageously” and discover “perfect joy.”
Again, not easy. But at a time when the number of vowed religious is falling, it is this call to a joyful life in community young people may well find attractive — young people who will ultimately be the future of the Church.
It is not enough to simply create attractive recruitment programs, says Pope Francis: “The consecrated life will not flourish as a result of brilliant vocation programs but because the young people we meet find us attractive, because they see us as men and women who are happy!”
Gabby Bibeau ’11 sure does. The 26-year-old has lived at Annunciation House since December 2014. “The individual brothers and sisters here [at UD] are very Christ-like. Meeting them and knowing them has made me want to be like them,” she says. “Living here is a good path to holiness.”
Religious community and continuous discernment shepherd everyone who’s on the path. Their journey is called formation, several years of living the spirit of the vows with the freedom to step out at any point and choose another direction.
It all begins with inquiry, which includes gathering information, going on retreats and working in ministries. Bibeau did that before reaching aspirancy, when she became a pre-novice, or postulant, by committing to a year at Annunciation House and doing full-time ministry in religious education as a pastoral associate at a nearby parish.
Next comes life as a novice, which 30-year-old Craig Irwin, n.O.S.F.S. ’07, will have been for a year, learning about the foundation of the order with other Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales novices in Brooklyn, Michigan. Community living and strictly scheduled prayer are preparing him for the step of temporary profession. That’s when, depending on the order, those in formation further their university education or return to full-time ministry work. Thirty-one-year-old Brandon Paluch, S.M. ’06, is doing the latter until he’s ready to take final vows, when he would devote himself to a consecrated life — for the rest of his life.
These University of Dayton alumni are on their journey during the Year of Consecrated Life, which began the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 30, 2014, and ends on the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Feb. 2, 2016. It marks the 50th anniversary of Perfectae Caritatis, a decree on religious life, and Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.
During this time, the pope is urging everyone to “look to the past with gratitude,” “live the present with passion” and “embrace the future with hope.”
Those considering a consecrated life examine where they’ve been, where they are and where they might be going. In Dayton, they can turn to Sister Nicole Trahan, F.M.I., for guidance. As the Dayton-based vocation coordinator for the Marianist sisters and brothers, she helps mostly young men and women determine whether religious life is right for them. If the person thinks so, she “walks” with him or her through the process to enter the first stage of inquiry. “We talk and email a lot,” says Trahan, 40. She often invites people to Annunciation House for prayer and supper.
During suppers and discernment retreats, questions come up. “Is God calling me to this life?” asks an undergrad who has yet to declare her major. The young man who grew up an only child wants to know, “What does it mean to be a Marianist sister or brother?” “Will my family understand this?” asks another student who lives with his parents. “How does one live the vows?” questions anyone who wonders, “Can I do this?”
Trahan says the path to perpetual vows is full of questions.
“Everyone answers in a different way. There’s also, ‘What if,’ ‘Am I sure,’ ‘Am I lying to myself?’ There are always going to be some doubts. We do our best to trust that God won’t let us down.”
Fewer Catholics worldwide are answering the call to a consecrated life. Internationally, since 1970 the number of religious priests, sisters and brothers has dropped 27 percent. In the U.S., the number is down 66 percent to 66,211 in 2014, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, or CARA. In the U.S., there are approximately 300 vowed religious in the Society of Mary and Daughters of Mary Immaculate, identified by S.M. for priests and brothers and F.M.I. for sisters.
Many things can attract a person to a religious life. For some young people, service opportunities give a glimpse of a life devoted to Christ.
Paluch’s journey began during UD BreakOuts, when he served in Haiti, India and the Appalachia region of the U.S. “These experiences were so enriching and only added to what I was learning in the classroom,” he says. Take the one he had in Haiti, spring 2003, working with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity at a home for the dying. “While I was massaging a man on his deathbed to relieve some of his pain, I remembered what someone told us as we were preparing to leave for Haiti: ‘Jesus hangs out there a lot.’ For me, this man was the suffering Jesus.”
In Paluch’s encounters with the brothers and priests he met on his travels, “the golden, common thread was they were loving and selfless,” he says. “The consecrated life was somewhat strange, but I admired these people, and that slowly opened me to seeing it as an opportunity for myself.”
During his third and last inquiry retreat, in December 2008, while a graduate student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Paluch seriously considered aspirancy. “A life totally dedicated to God and to serving others, holy and filled with God’s love, was very attractive to me,” he says. “But I was going back and forth with, ‘Is this my call?’
“Then I had a conversation with a very wise Marianist priest, Father Paul Landolfi, who was in his 80s then, and he told me, ‘I would encourage you to make a decision, because I think it will free you.’ If I didn’t try the life, I thought the idea of it would have followed me. So in 2009, I decided to join the Marianists.”
What attracted Paluch then, and still does, he says, is, “Mary’s warmth of welcome to God and others. She gathers under her mantle people from all walks of life: rich and poor, from different cultures and with different ideas. She brings us together so we might be closer to each other and to her son. This is the deep meaning and root of UD community.”
Paluch is now in his third year of temporary profession. Coordinator of community outreach at UD’s Center for Social Concern, he connects students to social justice volunteer opportunities such as serving soup-kitchen meals and assisting people with disabilities. The students give of themselves “from a faith-based perspective,” he says, “answering the question of why they’re engaged in the work at all — because that’s what Jesus asks of us. Then, through self-reflection and conversations with me, they explore how their experiences connect with
the ones they have at church and with the Scriptures.”
Paluch also counsels people during what he calls very tender parts of their journeys in life, whether it’s facing an uncertain future or the illness or death of a loved one. “Together in this community of faith, I hope to point out that God is alive and right here for them,” he says.
It’s community that provides the support for considering and committing oneself to living a consecrated life, says Tracey Horan ’10, a postulant with the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. “I’m choosing to make our mission and community central to each decision that I make.”
The 27-year-old learned a lot about religious community life while at UD. The summer between her junior and senior years, in 2009, she and four other students flew to Nairobi, Kenya, and lived with a men’s Marianist community for five weeks. Every day, they went to one of the largest slums in the country, Mukuru, and tutored youngsters eager to pass an eighth-grade test that would win them scholarships, allowing an escape from the slum.
“Having that consistent, common ministry and then talking about it during mealtimes, I saw the value of living together, rooted in Gospel values, and I drew strength from that,” she says.
After earning her bachelor’s at UD in middle childhood education and Spanish, Horan lived with the Sisters of Charity in El Paso, Texas, for two years. “You can visit communities and learn from books, but to sit down at the table with women called by the Gospel, dedicated to a common religious life, and see the passion, joy and struggles they experience together, and their perseverance, was very influential for me,” she says.
Irwin’s initial inspiration came from the namesake of his order, St. Francis de Sales, a bishop and famous author in the early 1600s.
“He taught that everyone can be holy, that no matter who you are or what you do, you can live a holy life for God,” Irwin says. “I was attracted to this charism also because it doesn’t require a heavy intellectual understanding of Christian life. The Oblates are very down-to-earth, and they work with the ‘common man’ to be holy. I don’t come from a wealthy background, so I like the idea of helping the everyday person.”
In his ministry at Crossroads of Michigan, a Detroit social service agency that offers emergency assistance, food, clothing and counseling, he says, “I give myself fully and completely to the needs of humanity and the Church. This gives me a sense of accountability. I’m vowing to God, consecrating myself to God, answering to God.”
While ministries take Irwin and others who are on this path out into the world, the world doesn’t always understand the life they’ve chosen.
“A lot of Catholics, especially older ones, remember the nuns in school as angry old women,” Irwin says. “Nowadays, I haven’t met a single ‘angry old woman.’ I’m trying to change that assumption, helping people see the truth, through conversations with them, and also through our actions, by the way we live and love people.”
The consecrated life also isn’t supported by mainstream culture, says Trahan: “It’s difficult to live the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in our society today, one that’s so materialistic, focusing on individualism and the accumulation of things, and somewhat oversexualized.” What helps the most, she says, is prayer — and community.
But sharing space with others isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to obedience, says Bibeau.
“I cannot make some decisions without seeing how they could affect others in the community,” she says. “This requires me to compromise. Before I was in formation, I could take a weekend to visit my family or go on vacation with a friend. Now if I want to do those things, I need to ask other people and see if it works with everybody’s schedules, because maybe I’m needed for some ministry.”
Sometimes, Horan says, the test comes from within.
“During formation, you’re asked to look at yourself, your strengths, downfalls and struggles, and why you struggle. For me, it’s my stubbornness and my resistance to compromise even on small things like parts of the daily routine. It makes you feel very vulnerable,” she says. “It’s tough to dig through parts of my past that have made me who I am and recognize how this impacts my own discernment and ability to be present in community life. It’s very humbling. I’m learning to ask for support from others, but it’s not easy.”
For Irwin, living in community requires learning to love each other, in spite of the differences. Paluch agrees. He says, “Jesus taught us to love everybody, even our enemies. It’s a tall order to love like Jesus loves, to be merciful and accepting and compassionate. It’s something we can only do with God’s grace.”
With an eye toward a consecrated life, Horan says she feels part of something bigger than herself.
“That’s motivating, and it propels me to know that we have this common mission and call to follow the Gospel and be present to others in a way that shows radical love,” she says. “I feel like this life is where I fit the best, where I can most be my authentic self, and as a result, the gifts I have are magnified. Whatever I do give becomes more because I’m part of this life. I think I have a strong, prophetic voice in that I’m not easily satisfied when people’s needs are not being met or when there are injustices and people’s voices are not being heard. I have a gift for calling that out, and asking ourselves to be more of a society as people of God and to live up to the Gospel. And that means everyone is included and valued.”
Horan aspires to be more present in the moment: “I want to be more open to learning, open to others’ perspectives,” she says. “And I hope to have the courage to respond when a ministry comes up, or some other opportunity, where my gifts would really fit.” She sees herself in an advocacy role or as a community or labor organizer.
Irwin says parishes and dioceses should take on new roles, especially as more support is becoming available to those who need it most.
“For example, the poor now have greater access to health care,” he says. “So what can we make happen there that hasn’t been thought of yet? I don’t know the answer to that, but the pope is a good example of someone who’s open to new ways of thinking and doing things.”
Who doesn’t want to make the world a better place? For Bibeau, that world includes herself.
“I want to remain open to growth and learning and become more comfortable about what it means to be a religious sister and more trusting of God and how God is working in my life,” she says. The earliest she could take temporary vows is in about two years. After that, “I don’t know. It depends on what your gifts are, and that’s something you discern with the community.”
Here’s something Bibeau does know: She’s honoring religious community, as Pope Francis asks the world’s Catholics to do, by observing the Year of Consecrated Life. It’s the people who choose that life who pulled her to the path to begin with. In their holiness, she saw the happiness the pope says young people like herself will attain, helping the consecrated life thrive.
Each day brings Bibeau closer to living it and being like the people who already do. Meanwhile, together in community, cooking meals and doing chores, talking and eating ice cream — “and especially praying,” she says — “I feel like I’m a better version of myself.”
Claire Sykes is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon.1 Comment
‘I still think a large segment of our society thinks about Vietnam as a war, not a country of over 70 million people, the majority of whom have been born since the war was over. It’s a country with its own hopes, its own dreams, its own culture.’
– John Terzano, associate professor of law, Vietnam veteran and Nobel Peace Prize winner
The U.S. left Vietnam 40 years ago. John Terzano was among the first to return. He brought home a Nobel Peace Prize.
A Nobel Peace Prize hangs in the office of associate professor of law and Vietnam veteran John Terzano.
In 1980 Terzano, who served two tours with the U.S. Navy, co-founded the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) with fellow veterans, including former Marine Bobby Muller. In 1981, the two men joined two others and became the first delegation of veterans to return to Vietnam. Their diplomacy helped lift the U.S. economic embargo of Vietnam and normalize relations, and their advocacy work benefited veterans suffering the effects of exposure to the dioxin-based defoliant Agent Orange.
When the men saw up-close the ravages of landmines that remained in WSoutheast Asia, they collaborated to form the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which was awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.
Terzano, who has taught at the UD School of Law since 2013, is the director of academic success. We caught up with him this spring after he returned from Vietnam, an official guest of the government as it commemorated the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, April 30, 1975.
Why did the four of you go back to Vietnam in 1981?
When we went, we went for ourselves. We went there to get information about Agent Orange to help the guys back home. We met with the leading scientist on the issue, Dr. Tong That Tung, who happened to be Ho Chi Minh’s physician, but he had also done a lot of research on the effects of dioxin. We wanted information that would be helpful to our advocacy work back here in the States because the government’s position was that dioxin doesn’t cause any problems.
After the first day or so, we realized there was a whole other side to the war. I wouldn’t even describe Hanoi in 1981 as a Third World city. The Vietnamese people were suffering from the U.S. government’s embargo and the legacy of Agent Orange and landmines. It changed our lives.
How did the locals react to your visit?
They learned that four American GIs were visiting Hanoi from radio broadcasts. We were visiting near Christmas, and they were commemorating what was then the ninth anniversary of the Christmas bombings when the U.S. dropped more bombs on Hanoi than Germany did on England throughout the entire Second World War. We didn’t know what to expect. We were walking around the city, and people would come up to us and say, “Are you the American veterans?” And we’d say yes, and they’d say, “Welcome to Vietnam.” Their openness, their friendliness, their ability to put the war behind them was extraordinary. Certainly in 1981 it was something America had not done, and some would argue we haven’t dealt with it yet.
Did the visit help your advocacy work?
It did help, but it took a while. It took a year or two to get legislation to open the door for treatment of some of the effects but much longer than that for actual compensation. But that’s typical when dealing with issues of advocacy. VVAF was an organization devoted to addressing the causes, conduct and consequences of the war. One of the things veterans were complaining about was a skin condition known as chloracne. We advocated to the Veterans Administration to grant compensation for this skin disease. They refused. The reality is if they would have done that, it would have taken the wind out of our sails. By them refusing to do it, it gave us the voice to say the government is not doing anything.
Why did you start a clinic in Cambodia in 1991?
We had yet to get the embargo lifted with Vietnam — that happened in 1994, and we opened our first clinic there in 1995 — and we were trying to figure out how to become politically relevant again. We were coming off the first Gulf War, and no one wanted to hear from the last generation to go to war. We thought, Americans relate to humanitarian programs, so if we run humanitarian programs that can get us back to the table.
We started a clinic in Phnom Penh as a way to be involved in the region, and we did so somewhat naïvely. We had no expertise in doing this stuff other than Bobby [Muller] being a paraplegic and a couple individuals that were working for us, Ed Miles and Dave Evans, who were double amputees from the war. We had been traveling to Cambodia since the early 1980s, so we met with Prime Minister Hun Sen and asked if we could start a prosthetics clinic. Our first patients were veteran troublemakers that the government rounded up and sent to our clinic. Pissed-off veterans — that we had experience with, with or without a language barrier. After that, the people who started coming to our clinic were civilians affected by landmines. So we said maybe we can do something about this, develop a campaign.
Who did the VVAF work with on landmine issues?
A German organization, Medico International, had been working in Cambodia, and our groups hooked up with a couple other organizations. Then we met with U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and his staff, primarily Tim Rieser. Sen. Leahy said it would take a lot of years to do something, but he said he would start with a moratorium on the United States’ export and manufacture of landmines. Within a year, the resolution passed the Senate on a 100-to-nothing vote. It was pretty amazing. Long story short, we started the campaign in 1991, and in six short years we had an international treaty led by Sen. Leahy and Lloyd Axworthy [then the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada] and signed by 122 countries — and a Nobel Peace Prize.
How did Diana, Princess of Wales, help the campaign?
In 1997, she traveled to Angola with the Mines Advisory Group, one of the campaign’s partners. Princess Di visited a minefield and was pictured in the British press wearing all the protective gear. She was very critical of British policy, and the British government criticized her, saying she had no business talking about military issues. They misjudged the love of the British people for the princess, and there was such an outcry that the British government changed its policy. So when she died Aug. 31, 1997, there was a lot of press around her work on landmines. It was a convergence.
How did you hear VVAF’s efforts won a Nobel?
Bobby [Muller] got woken up in his apartment from the Nobel committee saying that we got the award. I heard it on the news. I was in law school, and I remember being in class and some of my classmates coming up and saying congratulations. This good friend who was sitting next to me said, “Why are they congratulating you?” And I said, “Oh, we got the Nobel Peace Prize today.” “What are you doing here?” she asked. “I’ve got class, and we’ve got a test next week. I’ll deal with that later.” And I didn’t go to Oslo [Norway] for the Nobel lecture. It was around finals time — priorities. Ha. I should tell that to my students: I went to finals and blew off the Nobel Peace Prize presentation.
Your Nobel is hanging on your office wall. How many others from your organization have one?
They didn’t make very many. There were well over 100 who deserved the prize, and at least they were all recognized. When the Nobel committee awarded it, they didn’t understand that there wasn’t an organization per se. We ran the international campaign. We funded it; we managed it; we staffed it. When I say we, it was primarily VVAF who took the lead and worked with other organizations to develop campaigns around the world.
Why did you return to Vietnam for the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon?
Vietnam is part of who I am, what I am. I’ve been back many times since 1981, and the government invited me to its celebration. I was happy to see old friends and colleagues and to see our 20-year-old program still doing extraordinary work on issues of the environment, landmines, education and mental health. VVAF closed up shop, but our programs still operate under The International Center, an American NGO. While I was there, we broke ground on a new Vietnamese Mine Action Center. This is a testament to the country’s commitment to working on this issue, but it also reflects Vietnam’s leadership in the world: it has its own extraordinary difficulties but has the resources and expertise to help other nations.
You obviously hold great respect for Vietnam. What’s your hope for the country?
A lot has changed, but I still think a large segment of our society thinks about Vietnam as a war, not a country of over 70 million people, the majority of whom have been born since the war was over. It’s a country with its own hopes, its own dreams, its own culture. For the day when we as a people can view it as that, that’s what I wish for.
How have your thoughts about advocacy around issues of war changed?
For so many years, Vietnam veterans bore the burden of all the negativity around the war: we were the baby killers, the village burners. The veterans bore it all, not the government policies. Now it’s different: If you criticize our policy in Afghanistan or Iraq, people jump all over you as if you’re criticizing what our service members had done. There are lessons from Vietnam we haven’t learned and need to discuss, things as basic as when do you go to war, how do you go about doing it, who serves, who doesn’t serve and what do we do in society? We don’t have the larger discussions about what it means, the sacrifices that are going to be asked of everyone, not just some small segment of our society that serves and their families that we rip apart.
What are you most proud of?
I have spent my professional life working on issues that mean a lot to me, and I’m still doing work in a country where I served so many years ago. Seeing a smile on a little child’s face when she gets a new limb is more gratifying than all the accolades from governments or institutions.
Learn more about the programs of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation: www.ic-vvaf.org
The war in Vietnam officially ended 40 years ago on April 30, 1975, but for many Vietnamese-Americans, the trauma lives on. Beginning with that day which some call “Black April,” our wounds have reopened in battles over the war’s remembrance.
It happened to me one spring afternoon more than a decade ago. My high school history teacher was asking for students who’d had family serve in the military to participate in a memorial ceremony for an alumnus who died in Vietnam. My father had been an officer in the South Vietnamese army before a bullet shredded his thigh and left him with a permanent limp. I knew what it meant to honor the memories of those who died in war, so I raised my hand. The teacher shook his head. “No, we want American military,” he said, before moving on to other students.
I was stunned. My family’s pain and loss of loved ones, the endless days at sea after fleeing Saigon, the years working menial jobs while going to night classes and studying for citizenship and college tests, the siblings left behind in re-education camps, the 200,000 comrades whose names my father would never see on the Wall in D.C., the friends and neighbors scattered with 2 million other refugees across the globe — all dismissed in a breath. Just because my father fought the same war on the same side under a different flag.
It was frightening how easily the teacher made me unwelcome in my own country by denying my place in (his) American narrative. It’s not just me, though. The dominant stories in the U.S. about the war have a similar “othering” effect on the refugee community. The diverse journeys that have transformed first- and second-generation Vietnamese-Americans from refugee to food blogger, U.S. general, filmmaker, bomb engineer or novelist are rarely represented in mainstream portrayals. When we see yammering captors forcing POWs to play Russian roulette, exotic hookers or terrified, helpless villagers, we don’t recognize ourselves. And yet many films, books and television shows tell us that’s what Vietnamese are — extras and bit actors in what should be our own drama.
There is danger in a single, dominant story, as Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns us. In an increasingly interconnected and pluralistic world, we deprive ourselves of a fuller understanding of the past and a more just vision of the future if we dismiss the voices at the margins. Whenever we are in the majority (be it racial, socioeconomical, religious, gender, sexual), we need to seek out, listen to and make space for those voices.
Let us seek the stories of African migrants and Syrian refugees. Central and South American children crossing the border. The immigrants the city of Dayton is trying to attract. The workers who do our nails or harvest our food.
Their stories could be like my family’s. Or yours.
HaQuyen Pham lives and works in New York City coordinating communication and fundraising at a nonprofit dedicated to supporting grassroots organizing for social justice. She graduated from UD with a bachelor’s degree in French and journalism and a master’s in communication. Her father was recently featured in a ThinkTV-16 documentary about some of Dayton’s Vietnamese-Americans.2 Comments
A Workbook for Parents of Offenders
BOOK BY CAY SHEA HELLERVIK ’64/
Cay Shea Hellervik ’64 has written the book on how parents and professionals can help juvenile offenders. It details a successful cognitive behavioral therapy program. After a five-year stint as director of a correctional institution program for juvenile offenders in Hennepin County, Minnesota, Hellervik discovered techniques to “help kids turn their lives around.” One study showed that 74 percent of offenders who stayed in Hellervik’s program for six months were not arrested in the year following their release. “Everyone automatically blames the parents,” Hellervik said. “The parents I worked with did so much to help their kids.” lives.”
Learning and Living with an Exceptional Boy
Book by John Durkin ’82
“If you are looking to become an intervention specialist, this is a great book to read,” said John Durkin ’82, who serves as intervention specialist at Massillon Jackson High School in Ohio. His book, Lessons from Ty, is a collection of inspirational stories he found while working with students and their parents. “The book is of basic reading level, but the message is universal,” Durkin said, noting that fellow Flyers are welcome to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.No Comments
When charged with pitching a big idea, what would a group of writers come up with? A small conference that brings laughter, tears, learning and friendship — and lasts for 15-plus years.
Developed in 2000, the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop began as a challenge from the University’s Alumni Association, said Teri Rizvi ’91, executive director of strategic communications.
“Ours was not the huge idea they were envisioning, but it has lasted,” Rizvi said. “Originally, it was going to be a one-time workshop to coincide with the Bombeck family’s gift of Erma’s papers to the University. The second time we hosted it, we laughed for three days and knew we would do it again.”
Started in 2004 with a $100,000 gift from the cousin of Marianist Brother Tom Price — the English professor and 1911 alumnus who told Bombeck those three magic words, “You can write” — the workshop’s endowment has recently picked up steam, garnering $33,000 from a spring fundraiser featuring nationally known author and performer Mary Lou Quinlan and two anonymous gifts totaling $50,000.
“Until recently, we’ve hid the light under the bushel, so to speak, about the workshop, which is crazy because it’s national in scope,” Rizvi said. “More and more, I’m seeing the potential for its long-term sustainability and growth.”
The endowment serves a two-fold purpose. First, it helps keep the workshop affordable for writers, many of whom pay their own way and whose experience runs the gamut from weekly newspaper columns and blogs to traditionally published books. Second, it ensures the long-term sustainability of a conference that supports writers — and provides an invaluable learning opportunity for students. Over the years, the workshop has attracted such household names as Dave Barry, Garrison Keillor, Phil Donahue, Nancy Cartwright, Gail Collins, Alan Zweibel, Lisa Scottoline and others.
“The Alumni Association continues to be a terrific supporter of the workshop,” Rizvi said. “Each session, they underwrite scholarships for students, allowing about 30 of them to attend for free. It’s a phenomenal gift, and it emphasizes the belief they have in the message of the workshop.”
Vicki Edwards Giambrone ’81, who served as Alumni Association president when the workshop originated and continued as a workshop volunteer and donor, said Bombeck’s influence played a crucial role.
“This project has been a labor of love for me and the UD Alumni Association since the beginning because of what Erma means to all of us,” she explained. “Erma often told the story of finding her calling at UD, so when the National Alumni Association was given the opportunity to work with the Bombeck family and create the workshop, it was a perfect match and a unique opportunity to honor someone who brought us all so much pride, laughter and joy.”No Comments
Say hallelujah — this spring, campus got Flyer’d up in a new way.
To showcase the University of Dayton, the Media Production Group partnered with student a cappella group Remedy to produce a parody of the song “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. The end result was a 3.5-minute video with catchy lyrics and campus scenes.
It was a group effort: Remedy wrote the lyrics, ArtStreet recorded the song, the Media Production Group filmed the video, and the UD community spread the message far and wide. To date, the video has more than 169,000 views, almost 2,400 likes and more than 2,300 shares on Facebook.
It was a true collaboration to share the University of Dayton story. Mike Kurtz ’90, director of media productions, his assistant Tyler Back, and two Remedy members share a behind-the-scenes look at how the video came to life.
Don’t believe us? Just watch: bit.ly/flyerdup.
1 Pick your theme. To create a parody, it’s important to consider the message you want to communicate to your audience. Kurtz, Back and Remedy wanted to show off what’s great about UD, and they ensured the message was consistent in every aspect of the video. “When we thought about where we were going to shoot, what we were going to shoot and who would be in the shot, we’re thinking about how we can best showcase the University of Dayton community,” Kurtz said.
2 Spread the word. Back utilized a social media plan, complete with research and resources, to get people involved. University and student social media accounts, including Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, were used for video teasers, promotion and recruitment for students to act as extras in the video. They also approached students on campus to ask if they would like to be involved. “We wanted to get a lot of people excited and rallied around this idea to really drive its execution,” Back said.
3 Make the music happen. When Kurtz approached Remedy with the idea, the students were already prepared with a rendition of “Uptown Funk” they’d been practicing for competitions. Junior Hannah Snow took the lead in re-creating the song lyrics with other members. “There’s no preparation when I write parodies; it just kind of comes to me,” she said. For others who want to try their hand at writing, her advice:
Have fun, use personal memories and experiences from others, make
it rhyme, and most importantly, make it enjoyable for listeners.
4 Catch it on camera. Once the song recording was finished, Kurtz and Back assessed how it would look onscreen — a representation of the UD community with the same essence as “Uptown Funk.” “We didn’t want to duplicate it shot for shot, but we wanted to create scenes that evoke the look and feel and style of the original video while still communicating our own message,” they said. They filmed in locations across campus, used a stretch golf cart instead of the limousine, and even created a rig to replicate the 360-degree gyro spin used in the original music video.
5 Have fun. Watching UD’s version, you’ll see students enjoying a sunny day on campus — but in reality, the outside temperature hovered at 30 degrees that day. Not to be put off by a late-spring cold snap, the crew forged ahead. Sophomore Holly Gyenes had never performed in a parody video, but said she had a good time despite battling the especially brisk spring air. “For it to be the production you want it to be, you have to take everything up a notch, amp up your performance and make sure your audience is having fun with you.”No Comments
Frankly, my dear, they’ll always be Flyers
Yes, Atlanta is the Georgia state capital. But it also boasts another significant — albeit unofficial — title, according to its residents.
“A lot of people here refer to Atlanta as the ‘Capital of the South,’ and I think that rings true and attracts people to move here,” says Kevin Miskewicz ’09, current leader of the Atlanta Alumni Community.
Home to nearly 1,300 UD alumni, it’s not just the warm weather and Southern charm that attract these former Flyers to migrate south.
“The weather here is great — you still see all four seasons, but the winter is a lot milder,” Miskewicz says. “I think the tremendous growth that the city has experienced in the past decade is really what draws alumni here. There are a ton of opportunities.”
According to Miskewicz, there are a few striking similarities between Atlanta residents and its UD alumni community.
“The Southern hospitality that you experience here is very similar to the community feel on UD’s campus,” Miskewicz says. “People are very friendly and open. You find yourself talking to the grocery store cashier like you’d talk to your grandma.
“Also, so many residents of Atlanta — like so many members of our alumni community — are transplants. It’s pretty rare to meet a resident who was born and raised in Atlanta. Which means you’re exposed to a wide variety of cultures and ethnicities, which offers a pretty cool living experience.”
Bringing people together is a hallmark of the Atlanta Alumni Community. Each year, the community plans an outing to an Atlanta Braves game and participates in Christmas off Campus, among other activities. In 2014, for the third straight year, the group participated in Holidays around the World at the Franklin Road Community Association, helping children decorate more than 250 Christmas cookies.
The community also recently teamed up with alumni associations from several other Ohio colleges — including Miami University, Bowling Green State University and the University of Toledo — to host a networking event and minor league baseball gamewatch.
“Meeting up with other Ohio college alumni was a great success because it allowed us to pool our resources and bring more people together who have a lot in common,” Miskewicz says.
Through his involvement with the alumni community, Miskewicz is constantly reminded that there is no school like UD.
“Not every school tries as hard to stay connected with its alumni like UD,” he says. “We’re lucky that UD puts forth the effort to keep us
connected to campus and is constantly engaging us and reminding us of all the fun we had
while we were there.”
You can’t reserve the gazebo. How often, when logging onto the University’s system to schedule a meeting room, have I paused to wonder why “library lawn” or “low wall by the fountain” is not a location for me to choose, as is “LTC Forum” or “KU 310”?
Granted, I can — without reservation — walk out the door of Albert Emanuel Hall, step up onto the sidewalk and shuffle through the grass to the gazebo on the library lawn. I can personally invite my colleagues who would have clicked their nails on Formica conference tables to instead settle in the metal park benches whose rails have supported more than a century of students.
But there are ants. And wind. Sometimes it’s too warm or too cool. Anyone carrying a snack is dead-eyed by a muscle-bound sparrow nicknamed “Knuckles.”
When the magazine staff does trek out as a group, we rarely find an empty park bench awaiting us. Instead, students inhabit the beautiful spaces on campus. It is a truly beautiful campus, be it spring with mountains of jewel-headed tulips or fall with raucous color clinging everywhere. Students always snag the best spots, sharing quiet conversation or an 11th-hour cram. It would be rude for us to interrupt with talk of the zombie apocalypse and hot cafeteria trays.
Often, I prefer to be the one sitting quietly while the students talk or study or walk. In our reader surveys, alumni tell us what they want most is to connect with the student experience today. You say you want to know how their dreams are the same as yours; how what they’re studying is different from what you found in your 20-pound paper textbooks; how the words used to describe their neighborhood have transformed or remained. It is only by observing, listening and asking that we uncover gems like our summer Collaboratory interns.
The outdoors have more to offer than a meeting or observing space. When I proofread these magazine pages, I prefer to read under natural light, the sun filtered through the linden leaves outside Albert Emanuel Hall. When I’m writing a complicated piece, it helps me to look up and trace the branches on a tree, my dendritic guide to the natural order of both growing and writing. Even the bickering squirrels instruct me in the value of mounting tension and conflict when telling a story.
I am a better editor when I see the world and am surrounded by all campus has to offer. If you can’t find me at my desk, look next to the gazebo. Who knows? While eating lunch in the sunlight, I just might get an idea for an editor’s column.No Comments