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It was three days full of belly-laughing, donkey-snorting, mascara-running good times with 350 humor writers from around the country.
And there I was, sitting in Sears Recital Hall, trying not to cry.
A fellow attendee at UD’s biennial Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop had just stood up. Her name was Kate.
She had come here from Newtown, Conn. “I was funny and lost my funny,” she told us as we rummaged our pockets for tissues. “I came here to find it again.”
We knew she hadn’t just lost it. This writer had her funny ripped from her in her own hometown by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter. When would it be OK, she wondered, to laugh again?
It’s when life makes us ask such questions that we need laughter the most.
At the workshop’s keynote dinner, Phil Donahue reminded us of the power of laughter as he talked about his good friend, the late Erma Fiste Bombeck ’49. The father of daytime talk shows and the mother of misadventures had been neighbors in Centerville, Ohio, each raising stair-step children while launching their careers.
In her writing, he said, was an honesty that touched the world. She popped balloons of pretense with daggers of laughter. Her humor was revolutionary.
“Motherhood was sacred,” Donahue said as he intoned popular sentiment: “‘Oh, how blessed you are. Oh, what a wonderful mother you are.’ Mothers were on pedestals. And Erma would do a column something like, ‘I am going to sell my children.’ She punctured that pretense, and she was speaking for millions of women.”
My own mother taped Bombeck’s words to our goldenrod-yellow refrigerator door — not the words about selling us, as far as I can remember, though I certainly would have deserved it for digging a pond in the backyard and filling it with frogs, which attracted crows from three counties.
Millions of women also taped Bombeck to their fridges, taking strength from the joys of an imperfect life
with this sister who cautioned us to never have more children than we have car windows. It is a community that stretches through the miles and across the decades and that, every two years, materializes at UD, where a young Erma was told by her English professor, “You can write.”
This April, Donahue repeated the phrase, adding a charge to use our words to move mountains. “We have an assembly of people of conscience here … and you may just be the people who will make our lives better,” he said.
With their words and their support, the attendees embraced Kate from Newtown, who later wrote, “My three days in Dayton were extraordinary, and when the laughter died down I learned this above all: the line between tragedy and comedy does exist, and while laughing in the face of any horror is nearly impossible, the only way through the tears and darkness is with laughter and light.”No Comments
On a beautiful spring afternoon brimming with hope and promise, Father Jim Schimelpfening, S.M., spoke from the pulpit — and the heart — about the journey ahead for our newest graduates.
“Graduation is a moment on that journey,” he told students and their families at the Baccalaureate Mass in the University of Dayton Arena. “Journeys are so powerful. They are sometimes so powerful that they irrevocably change us.”
Alumni and students wouldn’t argue that point. A University of Dayton education transforms you — and prepares you for a changing world.
As I looked out over the sea of happy faces at spring commencement the next morning, I saw joy mixed with a few tears. Each spring, graduating seniors repeatedly tell me, “I can’t believe I’m leaving UD.”
It is hard to leave this great community. Think of the memories. This class will never forget the thrilling Elite Eight run by the men’s basketball team in the NCAA tournament. Other moments are more private, such as helping a child as part of a service project or pushing yourself to go beyond what you even thought possible in the classroom. They are all important.
This annual ritual always reminds me of an Alexander Graham Bell quote, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”
There is rarely a straight path to happiness. I reminded our graduates that the plans they make today will inevitably need to be adapted. I urged them to remember Blessed William Joseph Chaminade’s words: “Read the signs of the times.” It is a call to be aware of the world around them, move forward and take advantage of opportunities.
The signs aren’t always positive. Sometimes, I told them, it will be easier to ignore the negative signs in our society and focus simply on getting ahead. We must see the bad with the good and try to make a difference. The world’s population faces hunger, overcrowding, disease, war — and more. Global progress requires the efforts, big and small, of people of all nations. It is the responsibility of this class — and all our graduates — to confront the global challenges, to be the ones who care.
I pray that the University of Dayton has educated these new graduates for service, justice and peace — while ensuring that they are prepared for adaptation and change. I trust that they will become community builders, serving as responsible leaders and promoting justice and peace for all persons.
They are ready for the next door. They have secured a great education and are ready to make a difference in the world.
Another door remains open, too — the door back to the University of Dayton. It is a place that will always
A book by William Ries ’59
Longtime educator William Ries was once told that he must have the easiest job in the world as an elementary school principal. Having spent his work days among students — on the playground, at the bus stop, in the lunchroom — instead of behind a desk, he knew that was not the case. “I wanted my seven grandchildren, and others, to understand the challenges that an elementary school principal faces,” Ries said of his book, which tells his experience as a principal in a light-hearted, inspirational way. “My favorite part of writing was saying pleasant things about many of my fellow principals and other strong staff members. Their dedication to children, staff and parents is admirable,” he added.No Comments
A book by Andrea Kiesewetter Hulshult ’00.
Andrea Kiesewetter Hulshult can’t remember a time when she wasn’t writing. With her first novel, Fighting the Fog, she hopes others will also appreciate the beauty of English composition. Highlighting the value of
hope, courage and friendship, it’s a story of a woman, her best friend and the struggles that come after tragedy strikes. “You shouldn’t let the fog of life keep you from living life to its fullest,” Hulshult said. “I hope people take from this book that they, too, can fight through the fog, and I hope it allows them to escape from reality for just a few minutes.”
A book by Virginia Brabender ’71
A researcher at heart, psychologist Virginia Brabender dove into adoption literature to learn and understand the field before becoming an adoptive parent herself. However, she found herself disappointed when her readings minimally addressed the bond between adoptive parents and children. Brabender worked with
co-editor and fellow adoptive parent April Fallon to develop a book that weaves the experiences of many adoptive families with rich clinical research to engage readers, both lay and professional. “I hope to give a voice to adoptive parents in a way that has not been done before,” she said.
A book by Chris Blewitt ’96
Chris Blewitt has always enjoyed learning about American history; now, he’s written the book on it. The Lost Journal is an educational adventure novel that takes readers on a chase through some of the country’s most
well-known historical sites to uncover their best-kept secrets. “I really enjoy learning about Colonial times and the American Revolution,” Blewitt said. “I visited all the historical places featured in the book, from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. Those trips, and the actual research, made writing this book very enjoyable.”
What major, which house, when to (finally) do the laundry: a college student’s life is full of decisions. For nearly 20 years, one familiar voice helped UD students make one of their most important choices: where to eat.
Do you take the easy route and stop by Kennedy Union after class, or do you — knowing that it’s breadstick day — hike up the hill to Marycrest? Thanks to a telephone message programmed by Telecom (now, UDit) and recorded by dining services, Flyers in the 1990s and 2000s could make an educated choice.
Willie Hickey ’88, the longtime voice of 229-FOOD, says the now-defunct menu hotline originated after the
department’s secretary found herself inundated with calls inquiring about that day’s options.
“What the soup of the day was, what was for lunch, if we were making their favorite sandwich: people wanted to know,” he says. “So, we started it out of necessity, but it grew, taking on a life of its own and gaining a following.”
While the hotline met the immediate need of chicken-noodle-or-vegetable-beef, it also offered a daily helping of warmth and humor. Hickey began adding jokes — usually bad ones, he admits — to the end of each recording, and coined his now-famous sendoff, “Remember today to eat well and do good work.”
“We all loved Willie,” says Paula Smith, executive director of dining services. “His phrases are still quoted often in our department.”
Hickey spent nearly 20 years in dining services, starting in 1987 as a kitchen production supervisor while still a UD student and working his way up to general manager of Kennedy Union dining. With a few exceptions, Hickey recorded the menu every day for nearly 20 years until he left UD in late 2008. After his departure, dining services retired the phone line and placed menus online. Today, he is a special education teacher at Dayton’s Meadowdale PreK-8 School.
Many students didn’t know who the voice on the other end belonged to — but calling in each day was about more than food.
“It was less about hearing what was actually on the menu and more about getting a kick out of how enthusiastically the voice on the other end read the day’s selections,” recalls Courtney Wendeln Deutsch ’98. “It was like a dramatic reading of main dishes and side items. No one could make a chicken cutlet sound more delicious. And those terrible jokes at the end of each recording were worth waiting for. Kudos to him for taking a mundane job duty and turning it into something fun for students to enjoy and remember.”
As manager of the University’s most popular dining option, in person Hickey found himself with another moniker. “I was also known as ‘the guy in the tie,’ since I was on the floor a lot,” he says. “It was my favorite part of the job. I got to meet and help a real cross-section of campus, from the president to first-year students and everyone in between. Everyone eats.”1 Comment
Their favorite Flyers may be a team you’ve never heard of.
Ghetto Force, the University’s men’s Ultimate Frisbee team, has a fan base close to home in their families, whether created by blood or by common bond.
Joel Jira ’69 and his wife, Debbie, for example, are no strangers to UD or its athletics teams. Joel’s father, Joseph Jira ’31, played football for the Flyers for four years and was named to the Small College All-American Team in 1930. The couple’s son, Stephen Jira ’14, carried on the family tradition on a different field.
“Stephen loves Frisbee,” Debbie said, noting that they’ve donated funds to the team since 2009. “He loves the camaraderie with the other players. We often drive to watch him and his team, and team members have stayed at our house when they play nearby.”
Paul Kosmerl ’05 and Emily Puchala Kosmerl ’07 also frequently support the team’s efforts after experiencing firsthand the difficulties of keeping a sports club afloat.
Emily, a former member of the women’s Ultimate Frisbee team, remembers how hard it was for the group to fundraise for the team’s many expenses, including travel to and from games. As a graduate looking to give back to UD, she knew where she wanted it directed.
“Traveling to Frisbee tournaments is so fun, and we wanted to make sure that continued,” Emily said. “Paul and I have been in the habit of donating, be it our time or funds, since before we left UD — we have to credit our parents, who taught us well. We feel really grateful for the things we’ve been given, and we know that
we should pay that back or forward when we have the chance.”
The Kosmerls aren’t the only ones; this year, nearly 100 UD alumni and parents have supported
the University through hobbies and interests that match their passions with student needs.
Groups like the student rescue squad, waterski team and math club have also benefitted, allowing
them to buy equipment, offer training and attend conferences. Often, these donors are as mysterious as they are generous.
Alexander Hunton ’14, a member of the University’s aero design team, can’t recall the amount of support
alumni have given his group, but he can tell you exactly how much it has helped.
“With the funds, we’ve purchased materials and aircraft components we wouldn’t have otherwise,”
Hunton said. “Donations have also helped us attend competitions, like the American Institute of Aeronautics
and Astronautics Design, Build, Fly competition, and the Oklahoma State University Speedfest competition, where we placed third last year in our first showing.”
Go, team.No Comments
Reno can call itself whatever it wants; Louisville’s the biggest little city in the world, say Flyers there. In this city, the 700-person-strong alumni community is known as the “few but faithful.”
“Louisville’s a great town for a community like UD alumni because of the nature of the city,” explains John Gueltzow ’06, community leader. “It’s not particularly big, and given that most of our alumni went to one
of the same four or five Catholic high schools, a lot of us already know each other or are connected through mutual acquaintances.”
Former community president Traci Hall ’04 points to the impact the group has not just in Louisville but also back in Dayton. “Our community is unique because, while we’re not in Ohio, we’re close enough to host an on-campus event occasionally. We’re small but big enough to make a difference,” Hall said, noting that
the Louisville community boasts the largest percentage of alumni who give back to the University.
Gueltzow, who was born and raised in Louisville, now owns his own law practice in town. Louisville alumni are a core group of active members, and Gueltzow cites basketball gamewatches as his community’s favorite event — and 2014’s tournament run was no exception.
“This year was particularly fun. We met at Shenanigans, a friendly neighborhood place. We had nearly 100 people in attendance for the Sweet 16 game against Stanford. The management got really excited, serving
drinks in UD glasses and hanging a sheet sign outside to let passersby know it was where Flyer alumni
came together,” Gueltzow said.
One thing Dayton and Louisville have in common? Loyal fans.
“We’ve also had outings to Bats games, our minor league baseball team,” Hall said. “We don’t have major league sports in town, but we have minor league teams and our shared love of college athletics.”
In this Kentucky town, though, there’s another sporting event the community looks forward to each year.
“The Kentucky Derby is one of the biggest annual events in Louisville, which means it’s also one of the busiest for our alumni,” Hall said. “But, we always try to join in the excitement, and it’s not unusual to find a red-and-blue crowd at Churchill Downs each May.”
In fact, the horses run so fast, they seem to fly — obviously, they’re UD fans.
IT’S GAME TIME: WHAT’S YOUR MUST-HAVE TAILGATING SNACK?
“You need RICE KRISPIE TREATS. Kids love them and adults who say they don’t are lying.”
—Tracie Doyle Stoll ’95
“PRETZEL RODS AND BEER CHEESE from Paul’s Market. We wouldn’t head to a game without it.”
—Lisa Thomas Hartung ’84
“A HOMEMADE SANDWICH: turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, red pepper mayonnaise, pepper
jack cheese, salt and pepper on sweet Italian bread. It is awesome.”
—Rob Nunnelley ’80
—Robert Kremer ’91, Aaron Miller ’94 and Kristi Jo Jedlicki ’90
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2005-06 University of Dayton Quarterly. As we approach the 70th anniversary of D-Day, we reflect on war, and peace, and how stories from those who experienced both resonate in our futures.
“We used to have shore leave from 2 to 5 p.m. in Oahu,” said Bud Cochran, professor emeritus of English and formerly of the U.S. Navy. “I liked the YMCA for swimming. It wasn’t crowded.”
“They were good for a milkshake, too,” said Floyd Nelson, who before serving the University of Dayton as a painter and conversationalist served his country as an infantryman.
Nelson and Cochran — along with Orv Comer, Dick Hazen, Frank Mathias, Byron Shiner, Jerry VonderBrink ’66, John Westerheide ’47 and Jess Wilder — had accepted Bill Lawless’ invitation to UD retirees who were also World War II veterans to join him for a countryside cookout and memories of their youth, more than 60 years ago, when they took up arms to defend their country.
Their reminiscences went beyond the Waikiki “Y.”
Nelson remembered one Saturday evening.
“The shore patrol was picking up drunks,” he said. He came across a sailor who had not confined his drinking to milkshakes. “I got him a cab and dropped him off at the main gate. His name was Robertson from Arkansas.”
His ship was the USS Arizona. The evening was Dec. 6, 1941.
The next morning in the Scofield Barracks at Wheeler Field, Nelson got out of his bed to the sound of Japanese bullets. Nearby, in Pearl Harbor, a young sailor named Robertson from the landlocked state of Arkansas was among the 1,177 crew members lost as the battleship Arizona, after being hit by an armor-piercing bomb, sank within nine minutes.
Sixty-four years later, with a mixture of sadness, wisdom and humor, nine men remembered not only Pearl Harbor but also their own parts in World War II.
“I was drafted in 1941 before the war,” retired bursar Shiner recalled. “I was at Bucknell working on my master’s, got drafted in March and finished school in June. I still went in as a $21-per-month private.” According to one method of calculation, that’s about $275 in today’s money.
Comer, professor emeritus of marketing and former marine, couldn’t recall the names of some of the ships upon which he served. But he remembered the low pay. “And I had some taken out to send to my wife.”
Cochran remembered exactly how old he was when he enlisted. “I lied about my age,” he said. “I said I was 18 when I was actually 16 years and 11 months. By the time I was processed, I was 17 plus a week.”
To Comer’s question, “Didn’t you need a birth certificate,” Westerheide, the UD Research Institute’s first director, interjected, “Not if you were a live body.”
Cochran in talking of his Navy days on board a destroyer, like his colleagues, was self-deprecating: “We went through a typhoon. It had 100-mile-per-hour winds — nothing like Katrina.”
Unusual though was a 50-foot hole in the side of his ship, evidence of collision with a mine. Two-inch cables lashed the disabled vessel to a supply ship. Three months later it limped back to the United States. “A smokestack and a gun turret were missing,” Cochran said. “No other ship had our silhouette.”
Even though he faced death on a lightly armored and cramped ship, Cochran saw that others had it worse, for example, those serving on LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank). “A destroyer wasn’t as bony as an LST. And we could go fast.”
In reaction to his colleague’s experiences, Westerheide said, “I’m embarrassed to be with you guys.” While others headed to the South Pacific, his path took him from UD to basic training at Boca Raton Country Club to Yale for 20 weeks and then to New Mexico. By the time he was in the service, there were programs designed for college students. After being trained in Connecticut as an aircraft maintenance officer, Westerheide’s group of about 20 got their wings.
“Being at the end of the alphabet made all the difference,” he said. “Fifteen went to the South Pacific; the rest to Alamogordo, New Mexico.” After a brief stint as an instructor, he transferred to flight testing B-29s.
Luck also played a role in the Navy career of Wilder, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering technology, who in an officer training program spent one year at Pennsylvania State College and one at Duke University.
“I was discharged with a misplaced kidney,” said Wilder, “after the war.”
“I knew a guy in the Army with a glass eye,” Nelson said. “They didn’t catch it until he was overseas. He didn’t want to come back.”
“In December 1941,” Shiner said, “I applied to be an aviation cadet, but I had a hernia. So I applied for officer candidate school.”
The 88-year-old Shiner noted that he had the hernia fixed not along ago, occasioning some Army humor from Mathias, professor emeritus of history: “Now you can go back for Iraq.”
Mathias, who was drafted just after high school in Kentucky, arrived in the Philippines as part of the Ohio 37th Infantry Division. On Luzon, the island on which Manila is located, Mathias volunteered for the band. He talked of playing his saxophone in the island’s mountains.
“I played golf up there,” Shiner said of a more peaceful, later time. “They’re beautiful — cool even in the summer. But you weren’t playing golf in those days, though.”
He wasn’t. In combat, the band was a heavy weapons platoon; the sax player, a machine gunner. The Ohio 37th played a major role in the liberation of Manila, one of the war’s costliest and ugliest battles. Japanese troops, cut off from Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita’s main force, turned on civilians, leaving an estimated 100,000 of them dead and Manila in flames. After the war, Yamashita was hanged for war crimes.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur had returned as he had promised, and Mathias was there by his side — almost literally as a member of the band playing for the conquering commander, who had been recently named a five-star general.
That rank presented the band with a dilemma. Bands, Mathias explained, play one flourish for each star (one for a brigadier general, two for a major general, three for a lieutenant general, four for a general). The rules were clear: No more than four flourishes. On one side were the rules. On the other, MacArthur, not known for having the smallest of egos. Mathias, however, was not alone in his assessment of the man: “I have a high opinion of him; he saved lives.”
So, Mathias said, “We decided to play five. And when we did, he puffed up just a little bit.” They had made the right choice.
After the war, such images of victory combine in the minds of World War II veterans with memories of Pearl Harbor and years of witnessing suffering an death. “That’s why you didn’t buy a Japanese car in 1950,” observed Hazen, chair of electronic engineering technology for 30 years, who during the war served on the LST 570 for the invasion of Kume Shima in the Ryukyu Islands.
“And now,” said Mathias, veteran of the Philippine campaign, “I get 39 miles per gallon in my Civic.”
VonderBrink, who served UD as treasurer and vice president for financial affairs, served under MacArthur for 14 months during the postwar occupation of Japan. He said he heard that Pearl Harbor is so changed that now within a mile of Waikiki there are 30,000 hotel rooms, frequented by Japanese visitors.
“The story goes,” Westerheide said, “that they couldn’t conquer it, so they bought it.”
As thoughts of the past merged with facts of the present and visions of the future, the historian Mathias said, “I hope we stay out of a face-off with China. That’s what I worry about. Since I was a kid, it’s one war after another. World War I was supposed to make the world safe for democracy; it made it safe for fascism. World War II was just a continuation of World War I. Then. Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam … now this thing in Iraq.”
The veterans continued their talk of past and future as they walked back to their cars through a former farm, now goldenrod on the edge of Dayton’s sprawl. Cochran mentioned he was soon to teach a course in UD’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on poverty in the local area and that he volunteers with the St. Vincent DePaul Society. VonderBrink mentioned his work with St. Vincent Hotel, an overnight emergency shelter.
As talk moved back to war, Cochran filled in details of the immense amount of shelling his ship did of the enemy on shore, hour after hour, shell after shell, explosion after explosion. Westerheide observed, “I guess you don’t go to fireworks anymore.”
Cochran replied, “I’ve seen enough.”
Since this article first appeared, many of these veterans have died. We remember Jess Wilder (12-2-10), Bud Cochran (4-6-09), Frank Mathias (2-10-12), Byron Shiner (8-29-10), John Westerheide ’47 (8-6-09) and Orv Comer (9-7-10).No Comments