A little bit of Lourdes sits on my dining room shelf — a half ounce, to be exact, water from the grotto in France where the Virgin Mary revealed herself to a 14-year-old peasant girl in 1858.
I’ve been thinking often about that water since Myron Achbach ’58 called me six months ago. A longtime UD director of admission, his Flyer network spiders across the globe. Along these threads he senses good stories and sends them my way.
So when Myron called, I thought I was in for a treat. Instead, I was heartbroken.
A young alumna, Coral Flamand ’13, had been in a horrible car accident, he said. Her family — including the Flyer family — was organizing a service at UD’s chapel to pray for a miracle.
And when that miracle happens, Myron said, they will have documentation in place to ascribe it to the intercession of William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Society of Mary, which founded UD.
In my mind, it is hard for these two things to occupy the same space: a miracle, by definition something neither logical nor anticipated, and a documentation process as rational and detailed as an IRS audit.
Yet not only do I have one bottle from Lourdes, but I had a second, which I filled for a friend’s mother who was battling multiple myeloma. She accepted the bottle, thanked me and rose to place it on her dining room shelf, with so many other bottles brought to her by the legions who love her. Her action gave me no reassurance she believed, and no indication she did not.
I had filled those bottles while traveling with the Marianist Educational Associates on a pilgrimage to France. We were there to deepen our faith and understanding. Outside the gates to the sanctuary in Lourdes, I was skeptical, seeing how hope distorted into profit in every corner shop (including the one where I purchased my bottles). But inside, it was holy. I looked down from the basilica at the lines of wheelchairs ribboning through the grounds. The faithful, pushed by their attendants, waited to receive the holy water and be immersed in God’s love. I witnessed no spontaneous healing, but there were tears of joy and fullness of hearts.
So, do I believe in miracles, the kind that happen not in books of old but in our world today? As Matthew Dewald writes in our cover story on miracles, faith is not having the evidence in hand, yet believing anyway.
And so I will pray for Coral the beautiful prayer a Marianist priest wrote for her. I have no evidence that the intercession of saints will heal her mind or her body. But, like her family — and her Flyer family — I have faith.1 Comment
A sociologist at heart, Curran reshaped the University in his 14-year tenure as president
Daniel J. Curran traveled to China in the spring of 2002 with an eye on the future. The cadence of the trip itself was familiar — an academic exchange filled with formalities to help bridge a cultural divide. But this time, just two months before he would become the University of Dayton’s 18th president, Curran envisioned a grander path of globalization.
He traveled with Fred Pestello, who was provost at the University of Dayton, and Greg Dell’Omo, associate vice president at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where Curran served as executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs. As Curran participated in a signing ceremony between the University of Dayton and Nanjing University, a ritual that signals the start of a relationship, Pestello leaned over to Dell’Omo and whispered, “Can he do that? He isn’t even president yet.”
“Welcome to the world of Dan Curran,” replied Dell’Omo, who is now president of Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
Bold and strategic, high-energy and personable, Curran doesn’t like to wait. He had a vision for the future of higher education, a streak of impatience and the tenacity to make things happen — characteristics that would enable him to bring meaningful change to the University as it embarked on a new millennium.
“It was clear that Dan was going to be an ambitious president who was going to push the University in new and exciting directions,” recalls Pestello, who is now president of Saint Louis University. “Today, there are hundreds and hundreds of Chinese students studying at the University of Dayton as a result of the initiatives that began with that first trip in 2002.”
The China visit, the first of many in Curran’s 14-year tenure, set the stage for his presidency, an era in which the University of Dayton opened to the world and experienced unprecedented growth. Curran brought a global perspective — and so much more.
His legacy can be summed up most easily by the numbers: From 7,000 undergraduate applicants to nearly 17,000. From 42 undergraduate international students to 939. From a campus of 212 acres to 388 acres. From $47.5 million in sponsored research to $98.6 million. From an endowment of $254 million to $500.4 million. While other universities had cutbacks and furloughs during the Great Recession, the University of Dayton had its pick of top-choice candidates, growing the faculty while expanding diversity, academic depth and program breadth.
During Curran’s tenure, the University adapted its academic program to meet the changing times. It launched the nation’s first accelerated law degree; started physical therapy doctoral and physician assistant practice master’s programs; introduced one of the nation’s first bachelor’s degrees in human rights studies; and offered the state’s first master’s program in clean and renewable energy. It was the first American university to open a freestanding institute in Suzhou, China. Today, the University of Dayton China Institute hosts research and educational opportunities for students and faculty and provides educational services to the workforce of multinational companies at Suzhou Industrial Park.
In addition, the University redesigned its undergraduate general education curriculum, the Common Academic Program; launched the Dayton Early College Academy, a charter school serving urban students underrepresented in higher education; and instituted a Human Rights Center and the Hanley Sustainability Institute.
“It’s been a pretty amazing 14 years of change,” says Sandra Yocum, associate professor of religious studies, who was on the presidential search committee that recommended Curran.
His time in Dayton also can be measured by his accolades: Leader of the Year from the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce; Most Outstanding Volunteer Citizen from the Dayton Development Coalition for 2006 and 2015; and the Joseph E. Lowery Human Rights Legacy Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights organization founded by Martin Luther King Jr. In 2011, he was named one of the 10 most influential people in Dayton. He is the only person to twice receive the Regional Leader of the Year award from the Dayton Business Journal.
Yet in keeping with the Marianist spirit that he has honored at the University, Curran shares the credit. “I came into the right situation — a solid foundation built on [former president Brother] Ray Fitz’s legacy, a board that said, ‘We want you to be bold; we want you to be yourself,’” he says. “It just allowed me to move quickly.”
When Curran became president of the University of Dayton, some may have wondered how the first lay president would maintain the University’s deeply held identity. They needn’t have worried. Faith and community — core Marianist values — have always been at the center of Curran’s life.
One of three children, Curran grew up in suburban Philadelphia, where he attended Catholic schools. In his early childhood, he belonged to Our Mother of Good Counsel parish in Bryn Mawr and lived on Dayton Road — perhaps foreshadowing things to come.
Curran was a first-generation college student, and he originally considered studying engineering. Instead, he decided to major in business at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. His father, a truck driver, wasn’t happy when he later announced that he was switching to sociology.
“What job will a sociologist get?” his father asked him.
“I’ll be a professor,” replied Curran, who had an abiding interest in criminology, poverty and social issues.
That would be the first step on a path to university president.
Curran, 65, spent 23 years at Saint Joseph’s, a place where he collaborated academically with his wife, Claire Renzetti, who is also a sociologist (and is now the sociology department chair and Judi Conway Patton Endowed Chair in the Center for Research on Violence Against Women at the University of Kentucky). They met while doctoral students at the University of Delaware, and together taught and wrote textbooks, such as Women, Men & Society, an exploration of gender issues.
Curran made his first trip to China as part of their honeymoon tour of Asia in 1985, a time when the Communist nation was still a closed society and few Americans ventured there. He was fascinated by China’s internal migrants, the “floating population” who flouted state rules about where they must live and traveled alone to other parts of the country. He saw the potential to collaborate on criminology research with Chinese academics.
Curran had a sense that China, the most populous country in the world, would grow as a global force. Since then, he has made about 50 trips. “Much of what happens with any relationship with China is built on personal relationships. It’s very important that they know you,” Renzetti says. “He feels very comfortable in Chinese culture.”
Meanwhile, as a professor at Saint Joseph’s, Curran took on roles that built his administrative and organizational skills and that brought him closer to students — serving as director of first-year orientation and academic adviser of the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Eventually, Curran moved into leadership posts: dean, vice president for academic affairs, executive vice president.
When the University of Dayton began its presidential search in 2001, the search firm contacted Curran, but it wasn’t the right time. The president of Saint Joseph’s had just been diagnosed with a serious illness, and Curran and Renzetti were building their dream house and hadn’t even moved in.
But the search failed to identify a suitable candidate, someone who could connect with faculty, staff and students and shepherd the University through the emerging challenges of higher education while remaining true to the Marianist tradition. The recruiter contacted Curran again, and he agreed to visit.
Curran, Renzetti and their two boys came to campus just before Christmas in 2001. They met three times with then-President Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M. ’64. “I was struck by how humble he was and his emphasis on community,” recalls Curran. He also saw a university with a strong base for growth.
In February 2002, Curran accepted the offer and would begin in July. At the formal installation the following spring, the University of Dayton rector, Father Gene Contadino, S.M. ’62, gave Curran a lapel pin that the Marianists had designed for him. It features the University’s chapel dome and the Marianist cross.
“He went out of his way to do this to say, ‘You’re part of the Marianist family,’” says Curran, who wears the pin every day. “From the very beginning, I felt the Marianists were around me all the time. You never feel alone.”
At the same time, Curran had the freedom to act decisively and make the changes he felt the University needed to remain competitive. He moved with the swiftness of a CEO, not the ruminative pace of an academic. That came as a bit of a jolt to the faculty and staff, who had yet to grow accustomed to his style.
Beth Keyes, vice president for facilities and campus operations, recalls that shortly after his arrival, Curran shared his concerns about the look and feel of the campus. Why were trucks parked in the center of campus? And what about those dreadful tennis courts, surrounded by a chain-link fence? The core of the campus should be a unifying spot for students, he said.
“I learned early on that just a passing comment from him is not a passing comment,” Keyes says. The trucks and tennis courts were soon moved, replaced by an expansive grassy mall — and later, a statue of Marianist founder Blessed William Joseph Chaminade was added, donated by Curran and Renzetti.
In December 2002, just months after taking office, Curran told Keyes he wanted a new residence hall. It would provide updated space and enable the University to move students out of older buildings, which could then be renovated. It would contain classroom space and a bookstore.
And he wanted it to open within 18 months. “There’s no way we can plan that and have it open in 18 months,” Keyes remembers thinking. But Curran stayed firm. Instead of spending a year just in design, the project used a speedier design-build process. Construction began on Marianist Hall in May 2003, and it opened in August 2004.
In fact, the timeline inspired the builders of ArtStreet to accelerate their work so the housing and multi-arts facility in the student neighborhood could also open in 2004.
Capitalizing on other opportunities required both pragmatic reflection and swift action. Shortly after Curran was selected, he learned about ongoing negotiations for a 49-acre site owned by NCR Corp. that could greatly expand the campus. The catch: Part of the property was a “brownfield,” a former
factory zone with contaminated soil and asbestos in the remaining buildings.
After much study, Curran recommended going forward with the $25 million purchase. The board of trustees agreed unanimously, and the sale was finalized in 2005. In partnership with the city of Dayton, the University obtained about $5.5 million from two Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund grants to assist in the cleanup.
In 2010, he proudly announced that GE Aviation would open a major research facility there. This spring,
Emerson Climate Technologies opened its own innovation center, The Helix, which it built on the site.
In 2009, with Dayton still reeling from the Great Recession, the city lost its largest company. While NCR announced its move to Georgia, the University underscored its commitment to the city by purchasing NCR’s former world headquarters. The 115-acre site contained a sprawling building with 455,000 square feet of space. The University of Dayton Research Institute moved into the building. “This is an exceptional opportunity for the University of Dayton to invest in our future — and this region’s destiny,” he said.
No one was surprised that Curran had stepped forward to boost the region’s fortunes. He had served on the boards of numerous community organizations, including as chair of the Dayton Development Coalition and as a member of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. “Dan is looked at throughout the community as one of the top leaders in the entire region,” says Jeff Hoagland ’91, president and CEO of the coalition. And the University “has been the economic driver that has changed the way people perceive the city of Dayton and the entire region,” he says.
For Curran, improving and expanding campus was part of a greater vision for the future. Most of the student body came from Ohio and the Midwest — a demographic that was shrinking. Curran saw that geographic diversity would strengthen the University while enriching the student experience.
The University would need to shed some modesty and spread its message. A new viewbook for prospective students projected a bold image. “THIS BOOK DOES NOT HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS” it said in bright red letters on the cover. Inside, amid provocative questions (“Do you perform community service because it feels good or because it looks good on your résumé?”) and an eye-catching design, the viewbook touted the University’s accomplishments and unique attributes.
Affordability arose as a major concern nationally, and the University responded with a tuition guarantee: University-funded scholarships and grants are adjusted every year so that net tuition stays the same for the entire four years.
Today, the student loan debt burden of University of Dayton families has declined while the first-to second-year retention rate reached 91 percent, an all-time high. The retention rate is even higher — above 92 percent — for entering African-American and Hispanic students. About 57 percent of first-year students are from outside Ohio, compared with just 37 percent in 2007. The number of applicants continues to rise, boosting the University’s selectivity. International students come from more than 50 countries. “For the student who can’t study abroad, they do have various slices of the world here in Dayton, Ohio,” says Interim Provost Paul Benson.
Meanwhile, Curran endorsed a collaborative approach to emerging issues when he re-established the University’s Educational Leadership Council with strong faculty representation. It is co-chaired by the University president and the president of the Academic Senate and includes the provost, deans, and vice president for finance and administrative services as well as faculty and student members of the executive committee and committee chairs of the Academic Senate.
Curran’s move was “very Marianist,” says Carissa Krane, professor of biology and president of the Academic Senate. “In a very true and tangible way, faculty have a seat at the table for strategic discussions,” she says.
As Curran worked to strengthen the University of Dayton community, he kept students and the student experience at the core of every decision. He has a professor’s sensibilities and can’t walk across campus without pausing to greet students who call him “Dr. Dan.” He formalized a student connection to the president’s office by creating the President’s Emissaries, and he regularly dines with students — in his house or theirs.
Curran showed his comfort level with students when he attended a fall 2015 rally in support of students at the University of Missouri who had toppled their own president over a failure to adequately address racial tensions on campus.
“I’m here as a sign of solidarity with the students, faculty and staff,” Curran told a student reporter with Flyer News as they all braced themselves against a brisk wind off the Central Mall outside Kennedy Union. “I think the statement they’re making about dignity is very important for the University of Dayton. It’s at the heart of our mission.”
When racial concerns have emerged in recent years at the University, Curran became directly involved and opened his office as an avenue to address the issues, says Mike Lofton ’05, vice president for partnerships for myEDmatch, a job-matching website for teachers and schools. “He’s never run away from any hard issue as it concerns students on campus,” he says.
Lofton was one of the first emissaries and vice president of the Student Government Association. Curran became a mentor and friend. “I look up to him so very much in all phases of life,” says Lofton, who is now on the board of directors of the University of Dayton Alumni Association.
In 2014, Curran waded into a very different student gathering when a celebratory throng poured out of houses and residence halls to party in the street after Dayton defeated Syracuse to advance to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. For a few moments, students held Curran aloft as they chanted “Dr. Dan! Dr. Dan!
Dr. Dan!” The incident made the national news.
“A person asked me, ‘Weren’t you frightened to walk into a crowd of students?’” Curran says. “No, it was a natural thing to do. It’s just not the way I’ve ever felt about the students. They care about me, and I care about them.”
When he steps down at the end of the academic year, Curran plans to take a yearlong sabbatical, which will include resumption of his academic work in China. A long-distance bicyclist, he has already checked out the bike shops in Suzhou.
As president, he says he finds his greatest joy in seeing the success of students, faculty and staff. Now he is looking forward to
returning to the place where he began — the classroom.
It won’t be hard to find Professor Dan Curran at the University of Dayton. On game days, he’ll be in the stands, cheering for the Flyers. His contract as president included a clause guaranteeing him basketball tickets for life.
Otherwise, he’ll be doing what sociologists do: Studying concepts of social justice. Mentoring students. Building community. He’s ready for the next chapter. “Who knows what the future brings?” says Curran.
Michele Cohen Marill is a freelance writer based in Atlanta. As someone who grew up with the ideal of Southern hospitality, she was touched by the great Marianist spirit of caring and community at the University of Dayton.No Comments
Loved ones are praying for the recovery of Coral Flamand ’13 after a catastrophic car crash. Medical science says her rehabilitation is not possible, but her parents’ Catholic faith holds out the hope of a miracle, perhaps through the intercession of a saint. Father Chaminade, founder of the Society of Mary, could be that saint.
In 1980, some plucky U.S. college kids and amateur players won an Olympic ice hockey game against a team of experienced Soviet players. In the game’s closing seconds, ABC broadcaster Al Michaels delivered what’s still the most famous call of his career: “Do you believe in miracles?”
But “The Miracle on Ice” wasn’t a miracle. It was a hockey game.
Here’s what a miracle looks like: Thousands fed with five loaves and two fishes. An enemy’s approaching army blinded by a handful of dust. Lazarus resurrected.
On the afternoon of Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, Coral Flamand ’13 was in her Honda Civic turning left onto Montgomery Road in Cincinnati when a Cadillac Escalade T-boned the driver’s side of her car, sending it with her flying into an empty lot.
In the moment before the collision, Coral was on her way to her apartment to study for the last final exam of her first semester in law school at the University of Cincinnati. She didn’t really want to be a lawyer, said her mom, Diana, herself a family law attorney in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Coral wanted to understand legal systems so that she could be an effective advocate for people who are marginalized and dispossessed.
But those plans couldn’t protect her from the hard facts of physics and biology at the moment of impact. It was late afternoon when Diana, sitting in her San Juan office at the end of a long week, started to get calls about her daughter. Around 5 o’clock, emergency responders asked for permission to transport Coral by helicopter to University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
“They told me, ‘It’s very bad. You need to get here as soon as possible,’” she said.
Diana left the office for the airport that moment, somehow making it through San Juan’s Friday-afternoon, Christmas-season rush hour in time to catch the next flight to Miami, which took off at 6:15. She sat in a middle seat between two strangers, praying she would get there quickly enough that her daughter would not die alone.
Coral was the baby of the family. The sibling nearest in age, her brother Francois, was 10 when she was born. “She was a surprise,” Diana said. “But from day one, you could tell this child was different.”
From an early age, “she had the gift of the word,” said her father, Luis. “She could always speak and write beautifully, in both English and Spanish.”
She was always, he said, conscious of the suffering of others. Back in fifth grade, her parents got a call from her school about a fight. They learned Coral was sticking up for a girl whom other students were calling “faggot.” In high school, Coral went with the Jesuits on a mission trip to Paraguay and returned without her suitcase because she’d left everything behind for others. She liked to borrow her father’s Economist and Time magazines and could tell you exactly what was happening in Darfur.
When it came time for college, she was admitted to the University of Chicago but chose Dayton instead, partly because it had the nation’s first program in human rights studies and partly because her brother Francois was a Flyer, Class of 2004.
At UD, she was a dedicated writer to the letters to the editor page of Flyer News. In one, she criticizes, with care and respect but pulling no punches, UD’s decision to provide shuttles to the local Walmart, “a corporation that has been criticized for anti-union and deplorable human rights practices for years,” she wrote. In another, she protests what she sees as lackadaisical responses to incidents of racial bias.
“She was always getting into other people’s fights,” her father
said. “She was a very determined girl, always advocating for the other person. It’s one thing to have gifts, but it’s another to use them in service of others.”
In the hours after her crash, Coral’s family converged on the hospital in Cincinnati. Coral’s oldest brother and godfather, also named Luis, drove six hours straight from his home in South Carolina. It fell to him, as the first to arrive, to make the initial medical decisions on his sister’s behalf. Another brother, Juan Carlos, came in from Arizona. Her third brother, Francois, lived in Panama but was in Miami for work and met Diana at the airport gate.
When she landed, Diana called her son Luis to find out whether Coral was still alive. He said yes.
“Then don’t tell me anything else,” Diana said. “That’s enough for now. And don’t tell your father. Just have him call me. I will be the one to tell him.”
Coral’s father Luis was across the ocean in Spain, settling in for the evening on the final day of a six-week religious retreat sponsored by the Jesuits. It was a long time to be away. Diana had offered her blessing for the trip on the condition that he bring back an image of the Virgin of Montserrat, the patron saint of Catalonia. Diana had chosen to give a virgin saint to each of her four children. She had already picked out Our Lady of Fatima, of Carmel and of Lourdes.
Until the accident, the plan was for Luis to arrive from Spain back in San Juan on Monday. Coral would take her last exam in Cincinnati that day and arrive back home on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they’d celebrate her birthday together. When he got Diana’s call, he instead flew to Cincinnati immediately. Another call, from Francois, went to Myron Achbach ’58, a family friend and, for many years, the admission director at UD. Francois knew Achbach could quickly find a priest to perform the sacrament of anointing the sick.
On the flight from Miami to Cincinnati with Francois, Diana prayed: “Father, I’m not going to argue. I’m not going to bargain. Thy will be done. But if we can have a miracle, please.”
They landed around midnight in northern Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati. Diana stepped out into the December cold still wearing the sandals she’d put on that morning in San Juan and went to the hospital. Early the next morning, Father Eugene Contadino, S.M. ’62, arrived and anointed Coral.
On the Glasgow Coma Scale — a three-part scoring system that medical staff use to evaluate a patient’s level of consciousness — Coral initially scored 3, the lowest possible number: no eye opening, no verbal response, no motor response. Anything under 8 is generally considered a coma state. Still, there was a neurologist on hand — he’d stayed behind so others could attend an office holiday party — who took her into surgery, something he later told the family “was a human decision, not a medical one.” He had a daughter around Coral’s age.
With the medical team’s intervention, Coral survived the collision, but just barely. She did not break her neck or sever her spine, did not lose a limb or have her organs sliced to bits by metal. All three of her car’s airbags deployed. Nonetheless, her injuries were catastrophic. A note from one of her UC Medical Cener doctors outlines the litany of her trauma: “a traumatic subdural hemorrhage, traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage” — explaining where her brain was bleeding — “carotid artery dissections” — the tearing of arteries in her neck — plus various bone fractures, a “grade 2 spleen laceration,” a collapsed lung, “and other minor injuries.”
Broken bones and lacerations heal.
The lasting damage has been to Coral’s brain. The same doctor’s note describes her as “mentally devastated.” She is quadriplegic and bed-bound, unable to care for herself or make her own medical decisions. In photographs, her body is contorted, her hands curled up against her chest. Her face wears a pained expression.
Coral’s medical condition lies in the consequences to her brain of being hit squarely by an SUV going 58 mph. The impact violently bounced her brain around the inside of her cranium, causing severe damage and bleeding that severed her brain’s ability to communicate with the other parts of her body. Her heart beats, her lungs breathe and her mind thinks, but her muscles wait in vain for signals to move. Her medical prognosis is bleak. If it holds, she will never walk, never say another word, never bite into an apple nor extend her hand with the sign of peace at Mass, and never insert herself into anyone else’s fight ever again.
After a year in hospitals in the States, Coral now lives back in her childhood home in San Juan. Her parents renovated the garage into a new room for her with a hospital bed and other medical equipment — “like a studio apartment,” they say. It’s just off the kitchen. There’s a futon by the door where one of them now sleeps every night. They’re worried saliva might accumulate in her mouth and choke her, or that she might slip into an awkward position and be in pain, her father said.
“Most importantly, we do it so she knows she is not alone, so she feels protected and cared for always,” he said. A small statue of the Virgin of Montserrat — the one he brought back with him from Spain and sat next to his daughter’s hospital bed in Cincinnati — remains with her also.
“I know that miracles have already happened with Coral,” Luis said. “First, she is alive. Second, she is there; her being is there. She is already a miracle.”
Medical science doesn’t offer a path for Coral’s recovery. In the weeks after the crash, one physical therapist advised that physical therapy was not only hopeless but unethical. Her parents know this, so they pray for a sign that God’s will aligns with their deep hope to have their daughter back closer to what she once was. They pray for her brain to redevelop the connections with her body that will enable her to be made more whole again. They are praying, they say, for the miracle of her rehabilitation.
The doctrines of their Catholic faith hold out the possibility that God may grant this miracle, perhaps through the intercession of one or more saints. The Catholic Church’s canonization process has four steps of recognition — servant of God, venerable, blessed and saint — and confirmation of miracles moves a person up the last two steps toward sainthood. The designation “blessed,” the third of the four steps, reflects the official doctrine of the Catholic Church that a person is in heaven and that one miracle is already attributed to his or her posthumous intercession.
Claims of miracles are investigated by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the precursor of which was established in 1588 by Pope Sixtus V. The current congregation has 34 members whose charge, according to the Vatican, is to annually prepare “everything necessary for the pope to be able to set forth new examples of holiness,” including the approval of miracles.
Today, the go-to miracle is healing, recoveries neither predicted nor explained by medical science. The belief in healing miracles can be subject to the abuse and exploitation of people desperate for cures. Just in March, Pope Francis introduced new regulations to curb perceived abuses in how contributions made to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to reimburse investigation expenses are regulated.
But what, exactly, is a miracle? The word itself comes from Greek, thaumasion, “something that is extraordinary in itself and amazing or inexplicable by normal standards,” according to one standard reference source. But it adds that a miracle is more than something inexplicable. Its essential nature comes not from what it is, but from what it signifies. A wonder becomes a miracle when it is understood as a revelation of the divine, a sign that can be read only through the knowledge that God is with us.
But do miracles really happen? I wondered this as I spoke on the phone to San Juan with the Flamands. We throw the term “miracle” around casually, referring not only to a hockey win but “the miracle of birth,” for example, even though we understand well the mechanisms of reproduction. As the Flamands talked with me from their home about praying for a real miracle for Coral, who I imagined lay nearby, they moved uneasily between past and present tense, the ground constantly shifting underneath them between who she was and who she is.
The 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume went as far as to use the language of transgression when he wrote about believers in miracles. He argued that advocates of miracles, by definition, are willing to allow that God capriciously violates the very laws of nature. Hume dismissed witnesses to miracles as deluded or deceptive. “No human testimony can have such force as to prove a miracle,” he wrote.
That may be so, but I know that my mother, like Diana, is certain of miracles. She has told me more than once that she felt the guiding hand of an angel when I was a baby. We were in a car in the mountains of Europe — the Italian Alps, I think — when a truck careened around a blind corner. Her quick, evasive turn of the steering wheel sent us toward a sheer drop off a high cliff, irretrievably, she says, until the hand of an angel turned the wheel back at the very last possible moment before we slipped over the edge. I’ve always suspected that maybe the car corrected because our wheel hit a rock or something, but could that not also be grace?
Our recognition of what we call miracles has a long history, not only in the Catholic faith but in all of the world’s major religions, according to Kenneth Woodward, the former religion editor at Newsweek, who published a book in 2000 analyzing the stories about miracles told by various religious traditions. Both the Buddha and Jesus are said to have walked on water, he points out, and both Jesus and Mohammad are said to have ascended into heaven.
The Gospels ascribe roughly three dozen miracles to Jesus of Nazareth. His first was turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana, and from there he variously cured lepers, the blind and others, exorcised evil spirits, and even cursed a fig tree, which then withered. The greatest miracle of his life was his own resurrection after his crucifixion. When his apostle Thomas doubted, Jesus invited him to “reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands” and “reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my sides,” according to the luminously beautiful King James translation I grew up reading. And then he damned Thomas (but only figuratively, with faint praise): “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: Blessed are they that have not seen,
and yet have believed.”
That’s as good a definition of faith as I’ve ever read: not having the evidence in hand, yet believing anyway. The Gospels frequently model this version of faith. When Simon Peter has cast his fishing nets again and again without success, Jesus tells him to try once more. He complies, and the nets fill. When disciples have failed to heal a man’s epileptic son, the man still kneels before Jesus and professes his faith. “All things can be done for the one who believes,” Jesus tells him, and he heals the boy.
To Christians, Jesus of Nazareth was the Word made flesh, God become man. “The coming of Jesus represented the reappearance of God in the world,” Woodward writes, a reappearance that was “manifest chiefly through the miracles, or signs, of Jesus.” But his life on Earth lasted but 33 years, his ministry just three of them. Then he was gone again, leaving behind evidence but with himself no longer seen.
After Christ’s ascension into heaven, the Christian saints continued to work miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit with the invocation of Jesus’ name, according to the Catholic tradition. With time, indications of miracles ascribed to the intercession of the faithful and holy came to be understood as evidence of sainthood. With more time, these miracles came to be ascribed posthumously.
Woodward points to Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, as an important turning point in this understanding. After his murder in his cathedral in 1170, a monk was stationed near the altar steps where Becket died to record claims of miracles attributed to him.
“Fifteen years later, the records showed over 700 cures and other miracles,” according to Woodward. He says a shift was underway in the Church’s understanding of miracles.
“From the late 12th century onward, the papacy required posthumous miracles as signs from God, especially for nonmartyrs, confirming the [canonization] candidate’s reputation for holiness,” he writes. The candidates’ miracles were seen not only as signs of God’s presence in the physical world but as signs of their own closeness to God.
In addition to praying to the Virgin of Montserrat, the Flamands pray for the intercession of two current candidates for canonization. Blessed Carlos Manuel Cecilio Rodríguez Santiago, who died in 1963, was a native Puerto Rican and layperson of the Catholic Church, and was beatified in 2001. Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, who died in 1850, was beatified in 2000. He founded the Society of Mary, which founded UD. In the bureaucratic and often lengthy process of canonization, each man is blessed, just one miracle away from being declared a saint. If the Flamands’ prayers are answered, Coral’s
rehabilitation could be that miracle.
“God has been very merciful in giving us the strength to accept his will and have the internal will to deal with this situation with — I can say it — with joy,” father Luis said. “There is a purpose for everything.”
The miracle already ascribed to Rodríguez is the cure of a 42-
year-old mother diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s malignant lymphoma who had prayed to Rodríguez for intercession. If another miracle is attributed to him, he will become the Catholic Church’s first Puerto Rico-born saint.
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints has already attributed one medical miracle to Chaminade, the healing of a Buenos Aires woman suffering from lung cancer. The congregation declared her cure “scientifically inexplicable.” Three thousand pages of investigative materials for another possible miracle, the cure of a St. Louis high school student suffering from Askin’s tumor, a kind of sarcoma, was forwarded to Rome in 2010, but the congregation did not judge it a true miracle without medical intervention “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“There is a rigorous process in Rome,” said Father Martin A. Solma, S.M ’71, provincial of the Marianist Province of the United States. “Should Coral be cured, we would begin a local process, involving medical records, testimony and expert witnesses. At the conclusion of the local, diocesan process, the entire documentation, sometimes totaling thousands of pages, would then be sent to the Vatican for the lengthy process of study, verification and, finally, judgment.”
Solma personally prays for Coral daily. “She was a UD student, and the circumstances of her accident are heartbreaking, especially for her parents,” he said. “As believers, we accept the possibility that God can so touch the human person that healing, experienced in both body
and spirit, happens.”
Just after Coral’s accident, her family stayed in a hotel for a few days and then moved into her apartment. There they saw signs of the woman she was becoming and understood her in new ways. Her friends from Dayton and Cincinnati told them stories they’d never heard.
“We learned so much about her, things we never knew,” Diana said.
They knew that in her last two years at UD, “some sort of metamorphosis was happening. Her worldview was evolving,” as her
father Luis put it.
When Diana offered to buy her a new bag for books when she started at UC, Coral said, “I can make do with what I have. I have what’s necessary in life.” Diana saw this commitment to live simply when she entered Coral’s apartment. “She had just the bare things,” Diana said.
On a wall near a simple table where Coral ate and studied was a cross decorated with three flowers and the words “faith hope love.” Luis called it “the icon.” It took months of going back and forth between hospital and rehab rooms and nights of sitting at Coral’s table before he paid any attention to the framed image just below it. It was a giant peace sign with the word “Imagine” in large letters across it.
“I never paid attention to the ‘Imagine’ poster, which meant nothing to me,” he said. “One night, I wondered why only these two objects on that wall in that position.” He Googled it and read John Lennon’s iconic lyrics. “I started to look at the two items as one, and suddenly it made all the sense in the world. … I was so consoled at that moment.”
The juxtaposition spoke to Diana as well: “We believe it defines Coral, her beliefs and mission in life.”
Back home in Puerto Rico, Coral is
beginning to express herself again through the movements of her eyes, say Luis and Diana, something doctors and therapists said was unlikely to happen. “At first, they thought we were distraught,” Luis said.
Diana put it more bluntly: “Everybody thought we were crazy.”
It’s an encouraging sign for them. The girl with the gift for the word is finding a voice again, however tentative. “Her most precious gift was the ability to talk,” Diana said. “The inability to communicate must be the worst thing for her.”
Through the movements of her eyes, they say, she picks the color for her manicure or gives her consent for her daily physical therapy.
“She’s there,” Luis said. “She reads. She cannot talk, but she processes things in her mind. She watches TV. She follows politics and is into what’s happening. She reacts. She’s very much aware of time and space,” though, he added, her processing time is longer. “Only another miracle will make her walk. She knows this.”
The key for her and for them, the Flamands say, is that they have kept faith and found the strength to accept what has happened rather than struggle to make sense of it. “Thy will be done,” as Diana prayed on the way to Cincinnati.
They live, they say, comforted by the sacrament of the present moment, which encourages grace through a selfless abandonment to God. Memories are in the past; pleasant or not, you can’t do anything about them now. The future is similarly beyond grasp. “But we have today,” Luis said.
Even though medicine fails their daughter, the revelation of God’s will continues in their lives, they say. As they pray for the miracle of her rehabilitation, they say they already see many miracles, in her tiny steps toward recovery, in her continuing ability to benefit others around her, such as doctors in training or other families struck by
sudden accidents of their own.
“A miracle can be right in front of you, but you have to see it,” Luis said.
“This is not easy,” Diana said. “I wake up every morning and wonder how we will do it. And every night, I’ve won, but it’s not me. I see little miracles every day. Coral’s doing this for me.”
And every night when they pray for her rehabilitation, their prayers don’t ask for better understanding. The miracle they seek, if it comes, will defy understanding. They are asking to deepen the inexplicable mystery of faith.
Prayer for Coral
We believe, O God, that You are the author of life,
and You hold all of creation in Your eternal embrace.
Because our faith tells us that we live in the palm of
Your hand and we are never outside of Your care,
we beg most earnestly that through the intercession
of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade You will
restore to full health Your servant, Coral. It was
You who gave her life, it is You who can bring it to
fullness. We pray our need in union with Mary who
is our model disciple today and forever.
—a MarianistNo Comments
Although the residents of 124 Evanston might not have kept their house as clean as they should have, the mess didn’t stop them from becoming life-long friends, said Nick Hummel ’02.
Hummel lived at 124 Evanston with Tom Zientak, John Surso, Lou Cioffi, Aaron Sorrentino and Jay Harrison — all members of the Class of 2002.
“We thought the house was awesome, after having to live off-campus in Irving Commons for our junior year,” Hummel said. “The house had three bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, a dining room, a living room and, most importantly, a front porch. We were also able to use the basement when we were there and turned it into a VIP lounge with shag furniture and vinyl records on the wall.”
Hummel explained that one night, while he and Zientak were asleep, their roommates decided to cover the whole downstairs of the house — floor, furniture and walls — in tin foil.
“Being a house of six guys, it stayed like that for about a week before someone decided to clean it up,” Hummel said.
Another moment that Hummel and his roommates remember is being together in the house on Sept. 11, 2001.
“We can remember watching the news as things unfolded that morning and listening to the sonic booms of the jets being scrambled from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” Hummel said.
The residents have continued to stay in touch since their time at UD.
“We grew to be best friends, best men in each other’s weddings and godparents to children. UD was great, and we try to get back as often as possible,” Hummel said, adding that he recently attended a UD basketball game and visited with the current residents of 124 Evanston.
“Most of my best memories of UD involved the guys in that house,” Hummel said.
Suggest we take a tour of your old house.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pat McGann ’98 has teamed up with the Chicago White Sox to produce “The Cycle,” a weekly podcast. The comedian will host the hour-long show throughout the 2016 season, interviewing former players and others related to the franchise. McGann, who has made appearances on late night talk shows, believes teaming with the White Sox gives him a ready-made audience as well as a topic he’s interested in. “Being a lifelong White Sox fan, it is really cool. I want to talk about things they are not talking about in press conferences.”
Listen in at bit.ly/UDM_TheCycle.
—Shelby Quinlivan ’06
Margo Orlando Littell ’99
Margo Orlando Littell published her debut novel in June 2016. “A poem I heard during a poetry class more than 20 years ago wound up becoming the epigraph of this book. I began writing short stories during my time at UD and then wrote novellas at Columbia University.” In 2011, she turned one of her novellas into a full-length novel that would become Each Vagabond by Name. “I’m driven to write about characters who are rooted to a place and who, even if they succeed at leaving, feel pulled toward home for one reason or another.” The novel recently received the University of New Orleans Publishing Lab Prize. Visit her website at margoorlandolittell.com.No Comments
A University of Dayton education can take you far — including all the way to the top of colleges and universities around the nation. As we continue to celebrate historic presidential transitions on our campus, we look to our alumni who have made an impact in higher education.
Know of alumni we missed? Have more you can add to their stories? Send us information on presidents — past and present — and we’ll add their information to our honor roll. Email email@example.com.
Donald Birx ’90 became the 15th president of Plymouth State University in July 2015. Plymouth State is a residential university located in Plymouth, New Hampshire, with an enrollment of approximately 4,200 undergraduate students and 2,100 graduate students. Prior to his career in academia, he worked for 19 years at Systems Research Laboratories Inc. in Dayton, where he advanced from senior systems engineer to vice president and team leader of technology and new ventures. He is co-author or author of more than 20 journal articles. His primary academic research interests are in the areas of automated decision making and event prediction. He holds a doctoral degree in electrical engineering from the University of Dayton.
Ollie “Lee” Coggin ’90, in August 2010, became Muskegon campus president of Baker College of Muskegon in Michigan. Baker college is the largest independent college in Michigan. He began his career at the college as an instructor. Prior to his role as an educator, Coggin was a prosecuting attorney in Ohio’s Athens and Erie counties. He received his law degree from the University of Dayton in 1990.
Bonnie Coe ’00 became president of Central Ohio Technical College in 2004. She was presented the Excellence in Higher Education Leadership Award by the American Council on Education Women’s Network-Ohio in 2015. She places great value on her role as a mentor to students, saying, “I didn’t achieve this level of success on my own. Both men and women opened doors for me and they role modeled for me. As I get closer to retirement, I’ve become obsessive with trying to help other people because other people have helped me.” She received her doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Dayton in 2000.
Richard Creehan ’81 served as the ninth president of Alderson Broaddus University in West Virginia from 2011 to 2015. The university grew in student population from 500 to just more than 1,200 in his four-year tenure and was also named its region’s Success Story of the Year in 2014. Creehan graduated from the University of Dayton in 1981 with a master’s degree in educational administration.
Michael Grandillo ’86 became the first lay president of Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan, in 2015. The university was founded by the Felician Sisters 78 years ago. He told the Detroit News, “I want to wake up every day to live up to the sisters’ values, serve those students and make sure they are prosperous in life.” Grandillo has 35 years of higher education experience, served on the Tiffin City (Ohio) Council four times and was appointed by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown to his commission to screen candidates for federal appointments. Grandillo used to serve as president of Lakeland College in Wisconsin. He is a 1986 graduate of the University of Dayton, having earned a master’s degree in college student personnel.
Gary Haight ’70 was the president, from 2007 to 2010, of Menlo College, a private, nonprofit school that focuses on business education with a strong liberal arts emphasis located in Silicon Valley, California. Haight says that it was not his dyslexia or hearing impairment that caused him difficulty in early education, but rather his proclivity to left-handedness. “Back then we all were required to write right-handed,” he recalls. “I couldn’t do it. Whenever the nuns turned their back to me, I would switch. But I couldn’t hide the evidence. One day a teacher saw the ink smudges on my left wrist and knew I had been writing with it.” Despite failing first grade, Haight went on to earn an MBA and doctoral degree. He graduated from the University of Dayton in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in management.
David Harrison ’84 became the fifth president of Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio, in July 2010. Under his leadership, the college was named an Achieving the Dream college, a program that is aimed at helping first-generation students, students of color, and low-income students. Harrison has focused on student success and attainment, workforce innovation and civic engagement during his tenure. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Dayton in 1984.
John Lahey ’68 has been the president of Quinnipiac University, located in Connecticut, since 1987. Since taking office, the university has grown its enrollment by more than 350 percent and expanded its physical plant from 100 acres to 604 acres. He serves as a director of Yale-New Haven Hospital and has been a member of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee for more than 25 years. He devotes his time to educating others on the historical implications of Ireland’s Great Hunger. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Dayton.
Richanne Mankey ’97 became the first female president of Defiance College in Ohio in January 2016. She’s held leadership positions at the college level for nearly three decades. In 2011, she became a founding member the Women’s Leadership Institute through the Western New York Consortium for Higher Education, and she also participates in national discussions about issues relating to women in higher education. She received a master’s degree in social agency counseling from the University of Dayton in 1997.
Roderick McDavis ’71 became Ohio University’s 20th president in 2004. With a main campus in Athens, Ohio, OU serves 39,201 students. He is also OU’s first African-American president and the state’s longest-serving president at a major public university. Under his leadership, OU named three academic colleges on campus and created two extension campuses in Dublin, Ohio and Cleveland. He received a master’s of science in education from UD in 1971.
Scott Miller ’84 has led four colleges or universities as president in his career in academia. Since 2015, he has been the president of Virginia Wesleyan College. He was named, in the 2004 book The Entrepreneurial College President, as one of the 17 most entrepreneurial presidents in the nation. He has previously served as president for Bethany College in West Virginia, Wesley College in Delaware and Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee. He earned a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Dayton in 1984.
Brother Bernie Ploeger S.M. ’71 has been the president of Chaminade University in Hawaii since 2009. Chaminade University is one of three Marianist universities nationwide, the other two being St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and the University of Dayton. Ploeger also serves on the board of trustees at the University of Dayton. Brother Ploeger took first vows in the Society of Mary in 1967. He served at UD as its vice president for administration/senior vice president for administration from 1986 to 2001. He earned his bachelor’s degree in math from the University of Dayton in 1971.
Thomas Sullivan ’69 was president of Cleary University from 1989 to 2014. Cleary, founded in 1883 as the Cleary School of Penmanship, is a Michigan-based independent, nonprofit business university. It s MBA program became accredited under Sullivan’s leadership in 2000. He told the Ann Arbor News, ““People motivate themselves. Give people opportunity to understand their role, make decisions and serve their customers. That produces joy in work — motivation naturally follows.” He received a bachelor’s in English from the University of Dayton in 1969.
David Pauldine ’79 was the president of DeVry University from 2006 to 2014. DeVry, founded in 1831, now has 55 locations around the country. Pauldine focused his presidency on maintaining academic quality and providing graduates with the skills and knowledge to meet the needs of employers. He is chairman of the board of the Association of Private Sector Colleges & Universities (APSCU) and serves on the board of DeVry Brasil. Pauldine earned his bachelor’s degree in communication arts from the University of Dayton in 1979.No Comments
Jen Aprahamian ’06 believes that “every woman deserves a great #girlsquad.” However, she and a friend found that making new girl friends was a challenge once they left college. After using dating apps to try to reach out to other women to become friends, they realized it was time to make an app for that specific purpose. Hey! VINA is the result. On the app, women create profiles and can match with other women in the area who have similar interests. After that, they are encouraged to meet up and let the friendship grow. As the co-founder and CTO, Aprahamian has seen the app go viral and continue to grow. At the time of the launch, the app was available in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City, and Aprahamian said they are adding new cities as more women sign up on the free app.No Comments
These Flyer alumni have moved out of the UD bubble and into the sprawling Dallas/Fort Worth area. “Our community is friendly, active and incredibly welcoming,” said community leader Julia Prior ’10.
It’s not all cowboys and barbeque — North Texas is a bustling metropolis with Fortune 500 companies and a diverse population from all over the world, she said. But location still matters. Much like the loyalty of residents to Stonemill Road or Woodland Avenue, these Texans are loyal to their municipality. “You won’t find someone with a Plano address telling people they live in Carrollton, even if the two are right next door,” Prior said.
DayMag asked: What’s your favorite Texas-sized Flyer moment?
“I would say a collection of moments — basically every UD basketball game-watching party. There are not a lot of UD alumni in Texas, much less in Dallas/Fort Worth. We turn out in force to support our team, however, whether it be a blow-out victory, a squeaker or a shocking defeat. My most recent memory is the Feb. 27 game against Rhode Island. The restaurant thought it could get away with one server at 11 a.m. on a Saturday. It thought wrong. Go UD.” —Shaun Hassett ’09
“As of two weeks ago, I have a new favorite Texas-sized memory: My son has decided to join the Flyer family and is officially a Dayton Flyer, Class of 2020.” —Erin Reilly ’97
“My favorite ‘Texas-sized’ Flyer moment was when I attended the Dallas Mavericks game with the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter. It was an incredible event, and I was so shocked to see as many Flyer alums as I did. It was fun to meet new people from this area and attend an exciting game. Being
so far from UD has been hard, but attending events like these and making connections with fellow Flyers has made it better.” —Katie Giacomini ’15