Susan Davies has seen up-close the impact of concussions on children — on a student’s ability to learn and on educators unequipped to address the brain’s measured healing. The UD associate professor is now educating others to create a community of care that helps students return to learn.
Since the school year began, 14 students had visited Kim LaScola’s office at Hudson Middle School near Akron, Ohio, with concussions — heads banged in football games or knocked around during classroom horseplay. And it was just October.
As the school nurse and a registered nurse at Akron Children’s Hospital, LaScola understands the protocol for recognizing traumatic brain injury and developing post-injury progress plans for her students. She says her word alone, however, often isn’t enough to convince teachers that recovering students might require additional academic assistance when they return to the classroom.
“I need a doctor’s order that says Joey can’t take this test,” she said with exasperation to a group of colleagues from Akron Children’s Hospital, all of whom traveled to Columbus one October afternoon for a training session on managing concussions in school settings.
Such stories are familiar to the session’s presenter, Susan Davies, an associate professor of counselor education and human services in the School of Education and Health Sciences. In her two decades of experience as a school psychologist, she has seen the consequences of concussions left unaddressed. She is now using her faculty research to educate those who work in schools with students — as well as the parents and students themselves — to identify injuries, acknowledge their myriad impacts and create a community of care to help the students return to learn.
When Davies worked in the Oak Hills Local School District in suburban Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Public Schools as a school psychologist during a five-year period, she saw the adverse effects of traumatic brain injury among her students’ ability to learn. They experienced persistent learning and behavioral difficulties after sustaining a brain injury, she said, but “because educators weren’t often well-trained in identifying and understanding brain injuries, these students were not receiving the school-based supports and services they needed in order to be successful.”
Davies is working to change that paradigm. During the October session sponsored by the Ohio Department of Health, she offered school-based professionals and health care providers training they can take back to their schools, districts and regions — “training the trainers,” she says, who will then multiply the impact of her sessions.
Even though students might look fine from a physical standpoint, debilitating effects such as fatigue, concentration difficulties and memory problems can linger well after the initial hit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2010, approximately 2.5 million emergency room visits, hospitalizations or deaths were associated with traumatic brain injuries. About 75 percent were concussions — mild traumatic brain injuries that occur due to bumps or blows to the head or body that cause the head to move rapidly back and forth.
Despite its medical designation as “mild,” Davies stresses that a concussion diagnosis that includes the word “traumatic” indicates the seriousness of the injury, especially considering the frequency in which they occur. Close to 250,000 children in 2009 were treated in U.S. hospitals for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a concussion diagnosis.
“It’s really a public health issue,” said Davies, the founder and coordinator of the National Association of School Psychologists Traumatic Brain Injury Interest Group. In 2016, she won the University’s Faculty Award in Scholarship from the UD Alumni Association.
“If we respond appropriately and we set those appropriate academic and environmental adjustments in place as soon as students return to school, they can recover quite quickly. On the other hand, if students come back to an educational environment that is not understanding their unique needs, it can really do some physical damage and prolong their recovery.”
Davies often uses what she calls the broken-leg analogy to make her point even more clear.
“You’re not going to put someone with a broken leg back in PE class, so likewise, if you have a child who’s coming back to school — and they can come back to school if they have symptoms — but they’re still experiencing headaches or light sensitivity and things like that, you shouldn’t be making them do a half day of standardized testing and then go to a pep rally,” Davies said.
School-based professionals with education and health care backgrounds, like LaScola, understand this. So did most of the 40-plus educators, psychologists, Ohio State Support Team members, physical trainers, injury prevention coordinators and others assembled at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources complex to hear Davies’ presentation. It was up to them, however, to bring that information back to their schools, their communities and their Ohio Department of Education regions to develop a team-based model to ensure their students could safely and effectively return to the classroom.
Community of care
Damien was an eighth-grade boy who was in a car accident that resulted in a broken leg, numerous cuts and abrasions, and a concussion. His family, teachers and medical providers tended to focus first and foremost on his visible injuries. However, Damien was also struggling with concussion symptoms that made the transition back to school particularly difficult. The night before he returned to school, it took Damien several hours to fall asleep. He had a terrible headache and was filled with anxiety about what to say to people and how to catch up on all the schoolwork he had missed.
“Damien” isn’t a real student, and his full “story” is one of the case studies Davies presents at training sessions and uses for analysis in her book, Managing Concussions in Schools: A Guide to Recognition, Response, and Leadership. Readers and participants are asked to discuss the warning signs students exhibit that indicate the need for educational adjustments and the issues school staff should recognize and respond to in such cases.
All of the examples presented could easily be composites of scenarios school staff face on a regular basis, including Davies during her career as a school psychologist.
“During my first year, I had a couple of cases where the students were presenting with unusual profiles, unusual patterns of strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “After delving a little deeper into their medical histories and some other things I’d learned in my own training, I’d learned they’d had previous traumatic brain injuries that weren’t revisited in their educational evaluations that happened before I came on the scene.”
Teachers kept flagging those children for potential learning disabilities or cognitive delays, but they weren’t qualifying for special educational services, Davies said. After all, the children had recovered physically. They seemed just fine.
‘My strategy with schools for concussion cases is helping them understand that if they have the right sort of supports and adjustments to the workload and academic environments in place, those kids can get better in a few days or weeks.’
A more detailed parent interview revealed past incidences of traumatic brain injury that hadn’t been reported to the school system.
“One of the girls I evaluated had been hit by a car when she was 2,” Davies said. “Everyone was very excited when she recovered, but when she started school, some of the repercussions only became evident when she needed to sustain attention for longer periods of time and engage in more complex social situations. She actually presented as a typical student who had a traumatic brain injury, but because it had happened in preschool, it really wasn’t on our school’s radar.”
When Davies began pursuing a doctorate in school psychology, she said she “made it her mission” to use her dissertation research to help teams of school professionals better understand brain injuries and how they could present in different ways. There were emotional, social and behavioral issues that often manifested, in addition to academic difficulties.
Immediate identification and treatment for the concussion is the first step. That’s taking place more often thanks to increased awareness of the danger of brain injury and the need for a quick response although nearly 33 percent of concussions in athletes go unreported, according to a paper in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.
What follows is just as critical, which is why Davies developed a concussion team model to ensure students’ return to educational settings happen as safely as possible without long-term damage.
One person is designated as the concussion team leader, or central communicator. This person could be a school nurse, school psychologist, counselor or administrator. He or she is responsible for receiving the injury reports and managing the documented return-to-learn process everyone else will
The student (or parent, for a younger child) should clearly communicate her symptoms, educational struggles and concerns, and the parent should help the child adhere to the plan while submitting any medical notes or instructions to the school. Academic team members should follow guidelines for recommended academic adjustments to excuse a student from a test or allow a student to opt out of activities that require extensive computer or tablet use, for example, as light sensitivity often follows traumatic brain injury.
School psychologists, counselors and speech language pathologists can work as consultants for more complicated cases and help create the plans that include explanations for certain academic adjustments. The medical team members provide the diagnosis and management of the injuries, while a school nurse can monitor in-school symptoms and help evaluate whether or not a student should stay in school or receive academic adjustments.
Athletic team members would manage the student’s return to the practice and playing field.
For the plan to unfold successfully, all team members have to maintain consistent communication, using the concussion team leader as a focal point.
“My strategy with schools for concussion cases is helping them understand that if they have the right supports and adjustments to the workload and academic environments in place, those kids can get better in a few days or weeks,” Davies said. “Occasionally you’ll have kids who’ll have persisting problems beyond a couple of months, but that’s not as common.”
Although managing traumatic brain injury in school settings has been Davies’ area of research for more than 10 years, she’s seen an uptick in interest during the last five with the national attention on sports-related concussions, particularly among football and soccer players. Laws requiring return-to-play protocol exist in all 50 states for student athletes, and school-based and recreational coaches receive concussion recognition and management training. Parents also receive that protocol when signing up their children for sports.
While athletic personnel play an important role in Davies’ concussion team model, she says traumatic brain injury is more likely to occur in more routine settings. General recreational activities, playground injuries and bicycle accidents are leading causes of concussion, especially among younger children. Abuse at home is also a culprit.
“You can’t forget about these kids who’ve fallen, been in fights or been in car accidents,” she said. “Concussions aren’t just a sports thing.”
LaScola, the Hudson Middle School nurse, has even seen students who sustained concussions from plain old “horsing around” and bumping heads, hitting their heads on walls or crashing into bleachers during a game in physical education class.
This is why Davies wants all school staff and educational personnel to be aware of the importance of recognizing and responding to concussions — young children are at high risk. The underdevelopment of the younger brain and a physical stature that makes young children’s heads and brains proportionally larger than the rest of their bodies make them more susceptible to brain injury compared to adults, Davies said. Developing motor skills and mobility also contribute to that risk.
But making the link between a child’s fall from the monkey bars and her lack of attention in a kindergarten class doesn’t often
happen in a school setting, to that child’s detriment.
“In comparison to students who sustain severe brain injuries, students who sustain concussions aren’t necessarily going to be experiencing prolonged, severe academic and behavioral issues,” Davies said. “They’re not likely going to qualify for special education, but schools need to know what to do with them, too.”
Ideally, the student would be getting enough rest and sleep following the injury, and limit physical and cognitive activity during that period. While students usually get physical rest, Davies stresses the importance of resting the brain, a step more likely to be neglected in the process. Schoolwork and technology access should be limited. Students who stay home from school should avoid extensive computer, video game, television and smartphone use. Such activities can prolong the healing process and even exacerbate symptoms, she said.
Easier said than done, said some of the attendees in Columbus.
“It’s a constant fight,” said LaScola, noting that tablets and other handheld devices are frequently a requirement in the classroom. Resistance often comes from students and other members who should be key parts of the team model.
Returning to school should be a gradual process, going from partial day attendance to full-day attendance with some academic adjustments (limited tests and homework), full-day attendance with no academic limitations and only physical limitations, and finally, full school participation, including
“If you do the right things, concussion symptoms will get better,” Davies said. “If you don’t, students can have protracted recovery and, should they sustain a second concussion before the first has resolved, that’s really when we see the potential for more permanent impairment. We really want to create that community of care around the students.”
Spreading the word
The attendees at the Ohio Department of Health workshop didn’t doubt the value of Davies’ presentation and the team model approach to helping their students return successfully to academic and extracurricular activity. Assembling the team, however, was more of a struggle.
“This isn’t a priority for a lot of teachers,” said Megan Trowbridge, a state support team member specializing in assistive technology. She attended with Erin Oleen, another state support team specialist in accommodations, modifications and alternate assessment. They serve Region 14, a mostly rural area of Southern Ohio between Columbus and Cincinnati. (Ohio’s schools are divided into 16 regions.)
Trowbridge and Oleen said they share information with schools in their regions but still have trouble emphasizing the importance of the team model for helping students recover from brain injury. For their area, the distance between schools and medical centers hamper the communication process, and a lack of resources also presents hurdles.
Because it’s impossible for Davies to make site visits to all interested communities, she hopes to train as many State Support Team members as possible so they can then lead the training sessions for their regions. She’s also created online trainings through the Ohio Department of Health project, and a University of Dayton graduate student, Maria Tedesco, is completing her graduate research on the effectiveness of online training programs.
Tedesco is studying the efficacy of an online training that Davies developed, which integrates information from existing programs, including the Centers for Disease Control’s Heads Up program and Columbus’ Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Concussion Clinic Resources for Education, and
piloted the training in nine Ohio schools. She gathered background information about participants’ role in their schools and past concussion training and experience. The assessment included questions related to concussion knowledge, recognition and response, and Tedesco is completing data collection to determine the training’s effectiveness.
Another of Davies’ graduate assistants, Allie Hundley, is completing trainings in low-income settings. She received a grant from the Ohio Injury Prevention Program to conduct sessions with parents of preschoolers in Head Start programs to recognize and respond to head injuries. All parents receive bike helmets and are taught to properly fit them.
“Preschoolers are mobile, but their gross motor skills aren’t fully developed yet,” Hundley said, mentioning why she targeted children ages 3-5. “They’re also at that exploratory stage where they want to move around a lot.”
All of which create a perfect brew for accidents leading to brain injury.
Hundley scheduled four training sessions during the fall and hopes to run more during the spring semester before she graduates. Hundley is in her third and final year of the education specialist program at UD and hopes to go into the field of school psychology.
Davies’ model can be applied to any educational setting, even as different challenges emerge with older students in high school and college.
They’re old enough to describe their symptoms and learn to advocate for themselves, she said, but actually doing so is a different story. In her first year at UD, Davies encountered a student who experienced multiple concussions in high school and an accident while at college. Although he looked fine and seemed fine, he was experiencing some “pretty serious” ramifications from those head injuries, Davies said. He slept a lot, reported constant headaches and had weak academic performance.
“Really nothing was sinking in,” she said.
The young man’s mother was his advocate, calling to wake him up and explaining his situation to professors, but Davies worked to get him a graduate student “coach” who could help him learn to self-advocate.
“I can’t imagine being an 18- or 19-year-old college student and getting a brain injury, because one of the effects of a brain injury is impaired self-awareness and impaired judgment,” Davies said. “When you are still just a couple of years fresh out of your parents’ house and you’re living away from home and you have a roommate, how can you take care of that?”
She’s also taught one of her graduate students to conduct trainings for resident assistants at UD and workers at RecPlex to develop skills in concussion recognition and response, and help the broader campus community — including disabilities services offices and students in general — gain greater understanding of brain injury.
“I do a lot of training of the trainers, because they’re the ones who have the credibility in their school buildings,” Davies says. “Those parents and teachers and their school don’t know me, but if I can train their trusted school psychologist or their school nurse to go in and help set up a concussion management team, it’s kind of an efficient way of outreach.”
The 40-plus attendees at Davies’ October training were a start. So were the parents who picked up a helmet from one of Hundley’s sessions and the educators who completed one of Tedesco’s online training modules. Each one is contributing to the community of care, becoming part of the team to help students return to learn.1 Comment
A documentary by Erin Dooley ’00
In spring 2015, Erin Dooley walked 550 miles across Spain on
the Camino de Santiago, a centuries-old religious pilgrimage, to learn and understand true forgiveness. Camera in hand, the filmmaker chronicled her journey and asked others on the walk about their thoughts on forgiveness. Her 45-minute documentary called A Way to Forgiveness was completed in September.
Dooley said, “I had read The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho while at UD and became interested in the Camino. Ultimately, when I started freelancing and had six weeks to take off, I did.” The film can be found on Dooley’s company website: www.dashentertainmentllc.com.
A book by Joanne M. Lozar Glenn ’75
Memoirs are no longer only for writers. Joanne M. Lozar Glenn co-wrote Memoir Your Way: Tell Your Story Through Writing, Recipes, Quilts, Graphic Novels, and More to help more people tell their stories. The book, which has five other contributors, came together when the co-authors began sharing ideas about how people were recording pieces of their personal history in nontraditional forms. Published in September, the book aims to help other women quickly and easily create their memoir, using skills in ways they may not have thought about before. Glenn said, “By extending the written memoir form to cookbooks, scrapbooks, quilts and other forms of storytelling, we found we had created a first-of-its-kind guide to memoir that includes rather than excludes would-be memoirists who are not writers.” The book is available at Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com.No Comments
A podcast produced by several alumni and directed by UD professor Chris Burnside ’09
Unwritten is an eight-episode podcast that developed when several UD alumni, along with others, wanted to create a script that revolved around current social issues. Produced by the Dayton Writers Movement, the podcast aired in September and reached listeners in 32 countries in its opening month. “Unwritten” tackles themes of sexual violence, mental health and LGBTQ issues. “Our goal is to attract podcast listeners who haven’t heard a story addressing such real-world issues; alongside them, we also want listeners who care about these issues but haven’t yet broken into the audio drama world,” said Chris Burnside ’09, University English professor and DWM’s executive producer. Others who participated in the project include Anna Adami ’16, Joey Ferber ’16, Jenna Gomes ’15, CC Hutten ’15, Grace Poppe ’16, Tavis Taylor ’16 and current student Avery Hutto. Listen to the podcast at www.unwrittenpodcast.com.No Comments
Ashley Solomon vividly recalls then-President Dan Curran entering her house at 107 Evanston while holding her crying roommates in her arms as they mourned the loss of a close friend. He sat there silently supporting Solomon and her friends, witnessing their pain.
Solomon said, “I think about that night and what that meant when I consider how important a person’s presence can be. It’s powerful just to sit and listen and bear witness, even without saying anything at all.”
While at UD, Solomon continued to bear witness to others by writing in newsletters for the Women’s Center. It was through this opportunity that she found a passion for hearing stories and helping others.
Solomon went on to pursue both her master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology. During her pre-doctoral residency in Philadelphia, she was able to work at a hospital treating patients with eating disorders. And during a fellowship, she focused on developing programs and doing research on eating disorders.
After serving as the director of eating disorder treatment at the Insight Behavioral Health Center in Chicago, she wanted to return home to Cincinnati and make a difference locally. Two years ago, in 2014, Solomon opened the Eating Recovery Center of Ohio and is currently the executive director.
In her work, she remembers the way Curran comforted her roommates and attempts to make her patients feel the same way. Her mission is to not only give her patients support and guidance but, as she said, to “restore them nutritionally, physically and psychologically.”
Solomon said, “UD teaches us that we are blessed with so many gifts and opportunities, and it is our responsibility to give back and support each
In May 2016, eight undergraduate students began collecting, archiving and publicizing instances of moral courage — standing up on behalf of others in danger, regardless of the risk in doing so. The place was Ferguson, Missouri.
For months before, students had trained and researched with whom they should speak and what they should ask. It was not easy. Some activists were known only by their Twitter handles. Others did their work with little fanfare — the librarian who taught students when the schools closed, the peacekeeper who on the streets mediated between residents and officers. Jimmie Briggs, a journalist with St. Louis and Ferguson roots, helped students make the connections and develop the relationships needed to capture the testimonies.
When they arrived, the students put on headphones and held out microphones, asking 33 strangers to expose their souls and speak on issues of race and place, reality and hope. These voices add depth and texture to the headlines and protests that followed the police shooting death of Michael Brown Aug. 9, 2014.
In partnership with PROOF, a nonprofit advocating visual storytelling for human rights and peacebuilding, and led by assistant professor of human rights Joel R. Pruce, the project continues to bear witness. At a September campus forum, the students presented their work alongside stories of protest from Ayotzinapa, the college in Guerrero, Mexico, where 43 students disappeared. An exhibit of Ferguson photographs and testimony, Ferguson Voices: Disrupting the Frame, will be on display Jan. 17 – Feb. 3 in the Roesch Library first floor gallery, before traveling to other exhibit sites in Dayton, St. Louis and Ferguson. For more voices, including those of the student participants, visit
Founder, Show Me Arts Academy
I told my husband, “Oh, I’m ’bout to go over there.” He said, “No, you don’t need to go.” I said, “Yes I do need to go over there because, if this was my baby, I would want someone to come over and be there for me.” He was like, “You don’t even know her. You don’t know them. You’ll get hurt.” I said, “And that’s what’s wrong with us now.” We feel like because it’s not personal, since I don’t know the person that I can’t have compassion for the person. I said, “As long as we continue to operate in that manner and not just simply take the time out to embrace somebody in a bad situation, we’ll never figure out what’s going on.” But we were weeks into it. I found myself feeling empowered.
Community advocate, third-generation Ferguson resident
I have learned so much in the last 20 months, like stuff … I just didn’t understand from being white, from growing up white, from being raised white that I didn’t understand. A lot of it has to do with dialogues and conversations that took place at protests, which inspired me to do more research on my own, to look things up, to read things, whether I was comfortable with it or not comfortable with it or whatever — there were things that I needed to listen to. … So those sort of relationships really inspired me.
Veteran officer, Ferguson Police Department
You gotta remember I’ve been here 27 years, so I’m a grandpa here. And the protesters don’t have to like me. But I tell our officers, you treat people fairly, and they’ll treat you fairly. [People] would tell me problems, whether in their own home or outside of their home, because they felt comfortable. I would want you to talk to me. I don’t want kids to be scared of me. Those parents that say you better watch it or he’ll take you to jail, that hurts me ’cause I don’t want a kid to feel that he can’t approach me. I want families to approach me because there are problems that we can’t see.
Anti-violence advocate, union autoworker
I kind of like tell people all the time, if you wasn’t here when it happened, you kinda missed out on a great opportunity, ’cause on TV, it looked like a warzone. … It was like 98 percent family reunion, 2 percent riot. … And everybody getting along. I seen enemies, I seen cats that I had beef with growin’ up, and they seen me, like bro, bro, come give me a hug. I’m like, that’s what’s up. It only lasted about two weeks, but it still felt good while it happened.
Editor’s note: Seals was murdered Sept. 6, 2016No Comments
When University of Dayton students left for fall break, faculty and staff played with Legos and took a stroll through virtual reality.
But they weren’t playing. They were dreaming together about the University’s future and using creative ways to express their hopes and dreams.
One group constructed a monorail that would run between the center of campus and River Campus. Another built an urban farm in a reclaimed factory as an experiential learning space. Using virtual reality, others walked through a classroom of the future and considered ways they might revolutionize teaching by supplementing their lectures with engaging, immersive experiences.
This was the scene on campus on “Visioning Day,” a series of opportunities for faculty and staff to think seriously about our future.
I am asking the University of Dayton community and our alumni to think big, even audaciously, as we create a strategic vision together. We’re a great university with a collaborative spirit, but we would be a shadow of who we are today if, throughout history, we had not had big aspirations and adapted and changed for the times.
And, quite frankly, we are better than we know we are. We are better than others know of us.
Here’s our collective challenge: We must look honestly at our strengths, weaknesses and the challenges ahead of us. As we gaze 20 years into the future, we need to develop a few powerful, transformational ideas that will provide strategic direction, help prioritize investments, spark private support at higher levels — and move the University to a new level of excellence. At the end of our strategic visioning process, everyone needs to feel they’ve been heard.
That’s why I’m crisscrossing the country — from Dayton to Chicago, New York to Los Angeles — to talk to alumni about their dreams for their alma mater. I’m encouraged by the level of engagement and the wealth of creative ideas.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about the core values of UD that resonate with you. What differentiates a UD education? What areas of excellence will we be known for in two decades? What are those areas in which we fall short, and how do we tackle the issues of affordability, accessibility and diversity so that students from all socio-economic walks of life feel welcome and supported?
Thousands have already weighed in, and you can, too, at udayton.edu/VisionUD.
Join me at an upcoming alumni gathering for a dialogue about our future. Tap into weekly online conversations as we grapple with questions about the growing influence of digital educational technologies and the significant trends in American society that will shape the curriculum of the future. Read my fall faculty and staff address, where I candidly lay out the challenges and invite all who love the University of Dayton to help shape our aspirational vision.
We teach our students to adapt and change in a changing world, still true to the urgings of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade.
Today, we embrace that same challenge — with imagination and faith in our future.No Comments
What’s at the heart of being a Marianist?
We asked that of Father William J. Meyer, S.M., provincial assistant for religious life of the Marianist Province of the
The distinctive trait at the heart of anyone or anything which is “Marianist” is probably the combination of two characteristics: zeal and mission. Look at the dynamic statue of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Marianist Family, which graces the plaza behind UD’s Kennedy Union to notice that Blessed Father Chaminade is represented as filled with a zealous energy, a person definitely on a mission. (See video of the statue below.)
From where did this concern for “zeal and mission” in the Marianist tradition emanate? In founding the Marianist Family — the first lay groups of the Sodality of Bordeaux (1800), the Marianist sisters (the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, 1816) and the Marianist brothers and priests (the Society of Mary, 1817), Blessed William Joseph took inspiration from the Rule of Saint Benedict. In what many refer to the crowning chapter of his Rule, Benedict speaks of the importance of “good zeal.” Like Saint Benedict, Blessed Father Chaminade liked the word “zeal” — a powerful word that is used in the Scriptures. And there is something about Benedict and Chaminade that is zealous. As I look at the UD statue of Chaminade, I see energy, a fire burning within, the fire of the Holy Spirit — the good zeal of God’s grace.
Marianists encourage one another and others they encounter using our saintly founder’s words: “The essential is the interior.” If we pay attention to the interior life of God’s graceful promptings, the direction of the Holy Spirit will help each of us do our part to bear Jesus, as Mary did, to a waiting world. Blessed Father Chaminade believed that we could best be attentive to this presence and movement of God within by being part of a community, religious and lay, as mission-driven members of the Church. Chaminade believed that all Marianists and indeed all baptized members of the Church are in a permanent mission of responding with zeal to this grace of bringing about the Kingdom of Jesus.No Comments
It was about more than hockey.
Walt DeAnna ’62 didn’t expect many perks for the fledgling hockey program at Dayton when he became coach in 1963-64. But he believed the school could at least provide the bare essentials, and he wasn’t afraid to push for them.
Instead of having the Flyers wearing second-hand uniforms donated by a local pro club, DeAnna sought out Harry Baujan, the athletic director then, to see about getting jerseys in the traditional UD colors of Columbia blue and red.
“I asked him, ‘Do you have any old football jerseys?’” DeAnna recalled. “He took me down to the stadium, and there was a bunch of old jerseys: powder blue, red numbers, and red-and-blue stripes on the sleeves. But they were the kind with the tails that you buttoned underneath you to keep the jersey in.
“I got all the tackle and guard jerseys I could, and we cut off the tails. Those were our jerseys the first couple years.”
The Flyers often had to make do without top-of-the-line gear, even after transitioning from a club team to the non-scholarship varsity level in 1964-65.
But DeAnna still managed to build a winning program by providing structure, attracting top talent and developing bonds with his players that have only grown stronger with time.
“I tell people all the time, ‘If you don’t have a Walt, you don’t have a hockey program,’” said Bill Bommarito ’77, a four-year captain. “You need people like Walt DeAnna to make that happen.”
The program had an unlikely pioneer. Although DeAnna was from Windsor, Ontario, he wasn’t a hockey buff like most native Canadians, playing only sporadically at the youth level.
But he picked it up again when he attended college, choosing Dayton after hearing about it through his high school vice principal, Paul Donoher, who was the brother of UD Hall of Fame basketball coach Don Donoher ’54.
Playing in the school’s first hockey games as a freshman in 1958, DeAnna would become the team’s leading scorer each of his four years. One year after he graduated, the team needed a coach, and he was urged by younger brother Mario ’65 and other players to take the job.
“I told them, ‘If we could ever get it to be a varsity team, I’ll spend some time with it,’” DeAnna said.
That wasn’t an easy sell. Before securing varsity status, DeAnna had to get the blessing of Baujan’s successor, Tom Frericks ’53.
“I told him the guys were scrounging around for $10 or $25 to rent the ice and pay the referees,” DeAnna recalled. “He said, ‘I tell you what, you run it one year the way you’re running it, and you report back with your financials and all the things you’re doing. If I think it’s worthwhile, I’ll take it to the athletic board.’”
One year later, DeAnna and the Flyers did enough to win Frericks’ support. The board was also swayed, approving a $1,500 budget.
“Frericks never asked how many wins or losses I had. He just knew we were taking care of 25 to 30 kids who wanted to play hockey,” DeAnna said. “And we had some interest on campus from people who wanted to see us play.”
DeAnna had a career record of 211-107-16 in his 22 varsity seasons with four conference championships while playing mostly against other college programs around the state.
He routinely corralled seasoned players from hockey-mad cities such as Boston, Detroit and Chicago as well as about a half-dozen prospects each year who had Division-I scholarship offers.
The recruits fell in love with UD and liked DeAnna’s balanced approach.
“I’d say, ‘If you come here, your big game each year is going to be Oberlin. But if you want to be a doctor or lawyer, if your parents want some grades from you, you can’t say hockey is going to interfere with your school. You’ll graduate with a 3.2 instead of a 2.1 and play 18 to 19 games and keep your interest — rather than playing 60 games and practicing every day for a couple hours,” he said.
“Surprisingly, a lot of the kids decided to come to the school because of that.”
They certainly didn’t come for the amenities. UD paid for the ice time for twice-a-week practices and home games at Troy Arena or wherever a rink could be found, while also ponying up for uniforms, refs and a modest $3.50 per diem on the road.
The players had to shell out for their skates and padding. And they were careful not to break their hockey sticks because those came out of their pockets, too.
“We knew we weren’t football players. We knew we weren’t basketball players. We knew we weren’t scholarship players in any way, shape or form,” said Bommarito, a St. Louis resident. “But I think the thing we always had on our mind was that our jerseys said, ‘The University of Dayton.’ We had a chance, maybe not with the brightest of lights, of representing the University with the something we loved doing.”
Though the opposition was also of the non-scholarship variety, games were fierce. The Flyers embraced physical contact and sometimes even initiated it.
“I’ve got a (dental) plate. I lost a couple choppers,” said former player Peter King ’77, a Philadelphia product. “Some guy put the butt end of his stick down my throat.”
Under DeAnna, the Flyers were tough. They finished under .500 only twice and went 18-1-1 in his last season in 1985-86.
The program is still going strong though it reverted to the club level again in 1990 when UD joined the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.
The news of the program being de-emphasized was a sad day for the varsity alumni, but they still take great pride in having been Flyers and are grateful for DeAnna’s lasting impact. They affectionately call him “The Mentor.”
Since many are now too old to suit up for the annual alumni game in Dayton, they have begun a fall tradition of spending a weekend playing golf and swapping stories with the 76-year-old DeAnna near his home in Port Charlotte, Florida.
“Walt was all the things you’d want in a father without coming down super hard on you,” King said. “He was the kind of guy you could talk to when you made a mistake. He stood up for his guys. He made it fun, but he never put up with our juvenile behavior.”
DeAnna, whose annual coaching salary topped out at $150, worked full time as a salesman for E.F McDonald in Dayton and stayed with the company after it was sold. He and his wife, Marilou, raised three children (all UD grads).
He traveled for work, but he always made time for his players.
“When I think of the Marianists — because I was fortunate to go to a Marianist high school and then a Marianist university — I always think of how their No. 1 asset is an ability to create community and make people feel part of something very special,” Bommarito said.
“That’s what Walt did.”1 Comment
When I was a secondary school principal, I dreaded the visit of my provincial, Father William Ferree, S.M. He had elaborate solutions to all my problems. I thought he didn’t understand the reality of the situation.
He was, however, a genius.
True, an absent-minded one: He once came out to celebrate Mass without a chasuble; the server had to remind him to complete his vestments. He was intense, whether he was giving a tennis lesson or tackling large social problems, classifying Marianist historical documents or clearing a road with heavy equipment.
He never met a situation that was too big or too difficult to address. He addressed not individual problems but the big picture. He expected the same from others.
And he did not like whiners.
That is evident in his influential book, Introduction to Social Justice. He did not see complaining about institutions as a good beginning to changing them. To him, social charity requires us to give unconditional love to the institutions that we have created just as we would to another person, whether or not that person is perfect. This “mess we’re in” (as he phrased it) is our global reality, the imperfect, untidy and developing gift from God through which we achieve ever higher and higher levels of human flourishing.
The mess is a gift from God. Our first task is to accept it as a gift of love.
According to Ferree, the act of social justice, that is, what one does to practice virtue, requires us to join with others to reconstruct all institutions from the family to global organizations like the United Nations. Drawing on the social encyclicals of popes, he taught that all virtues have a social dimension because humans were made to be in relationship.
They are wired to work together.
Our obligations will vary, he taught, based on our relationship to the institution, our family being our first obligation. He stressed the need for competence and professionalism in working to reconstruct the social
To merely protest that an institution is not perfect, according to Ferree, alienates one from efforts to reconstruct it. He admitted that social reconstruction is a complicated, gigantic problem, one that never would be completely solved. He preached, however, humans are continually finding new tools with which to address the complexity of the problem and that our responsibility was to manage change and reorganize continually.
One of his “laws” — Cooperation, not Conflict — presents particular problems for social activists who see a duty to protest an unjust situation without understanding its complexity and the good that may exist alongside the injustice in a complex organization. Ferree did not advocate destructive revolution but creative collaboration.
The “mess we’re in” is made up of institutions that humans have organized. Ferree sees this work of humans, this mess, as an image of God, the means God has chosen through us to deliver his grace. These institutions — from the UN to the church to the family — are imperfect. We need to accept them in their imperfection and to continually reorganize them.
As a young principal, I was trying to solve particular problems. Father Ferree was trying to alleviate their causes; he was trying to change the world.
“Introduction to Social Justice” by William Ferree, S.M., can be found at bit.ly/UDM_Ferree_introsocialjustice.No Comments