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Inspiration and Innovation

10:17 AM  Sep 14th, 2017
by Gita Balakrishnan, Thomas M. Columbus, Jeaneen Parsons, Michelle Tedford, Elysse Winget 

Brilliant brainstorms that took root at the University of Dayton and changed the world


Being able to feed oneself fulfills a basic human need. Jonathan Dekar ’11 is giving that power back to people with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and other conditions that limit range of motion through his invention, Obi. The tabletop device has an automated spoon, robotic arm and a four-course compartmentalized plate that can accommodate foods cut into sizes ranging from a pea to a grape. Dekar first worked on a prototype of the robotic eating device during his freshman-year engineering course. Ten years later, Obi is now available for home use. The device can be operated by switches controlled by the head, shoulders, legs, feet or mouth. “This wasn’t just another engineering project, getting food from point A to point B. I wanted it to be emotionally empowering and inspiring,” Dekar said.


Among the 92 patents held by Carroll Hochwalt, Class of 1920, was the creation of the first practical chemical fire extinguisher. In 1925, Hochwalt sought the assistance of Brother William Wohlleben, S.M. ’04, with developing a non-freezing fire extinguisher. Wohlleben provided laboratory space for Hochwalt and his partner, Charles Thomas, to perfect a product that they subsequently sold to the Fyr Fyter Co. In his patent filed May 29, 1929, Hochwalt describes how they discovered potassium lactate not only was superior in extinguishing fires but also prevented the extinguisher from freezing at temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius and below. Among his other innovations with household applications were the process for iodizing Morton’s Salt, creating a low-suds washing machine detergent called All and developing a fast-aging technique for the National Distillers’ Association. In 1936, they sold Thomas & Hochwalt Laboratories to Monsanto, where Hochwalt became director of central research.


One day in his lab at DuPont, Charles Pedersen ’26 discovered, as a byproduct to what he was trying to do, some unknown crystals. He named them crown ethers. “Crown,” he said, because official names “were so complex and hard for me to remember.” And they were like crowns because, unlike necklaces, they had no fasteners that opened and closed; they maintained their unbroken structure during reactions. Despite that remarkable characteristic, crown ethers seemed to hold little prospect of immediate commercial value. Nevertheless, DuPont let Pedersen work on them for nine years. Later they became used in many applications from isolating and removing small, harmful concentrations of mercury from drinking water to helping identify potassium in blood samples.
And one day later in life, Pedersen got a phone call. From Sweden. He had won the 1987 Nobel Prize for chemistry.


In harness racing, a horse and driver can reach speeds of 30 mph. Between the driver and the track are two wheels and a seat attached to the frame. Bad news if the frame breaks. Odds of that happening were reduced a quarter of a century ago when the UD Research Institute analyzed sulky frames and developed standards and a testing procedure for the United States Trotting Association. UDRI’s Structures and Materials Assessment, Research and Testing Lab became then and is still now the only lab that certifies that a new or revised model of a sulky meets those standards of durability. The lab tests approximately a half dozen sulkies per year — a small fraction of its volume of testing products from ballet shoes to the F-22.


When a worker opens a commercial dishwasher hood, a plume of hot, moist air escapes and creates an uncomfortable situation for the worker plus heat loss from the machine. Students in UD’s Innovation Center helped Hobart, an international food services company, create a solution to improve operator comfort and save energy for reheating the dishwasher. Seven students are listed on the non-provisional patent filing, which will publish on the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in early 2018. The team estimates the invention will improve the energy efficiency of an Energy Star machine by at least 5 percent and the drying efficiency by at least 25 percent. “In an age where energy is getting expensive and standards keep rising, every bit counts,” said Alexander Anim-Mensah, Hobart engineering manager and the student group’s mentor.


If you’ve ordered delivery from Domino’s Pizza and your pie was still steaming when it arrived, you can thank research done at UD Research Institute for your hot meal. Research conducted at the labs on campus and led by renowned scientist Ival Salyer created phase-change materials that store heat as they melt and release heat as they freeze. UDRI began researching phase-change materials in the 1980s for thermal energy storage, energy conservation and energy cost-savings in buildings. The technology can melt and solidify at precise temperatures, which allows for heat to be released when needed. By the mid- 1990s, licenses for the technology’s use included hot and cold food serving ware, hand warmers, earmuffs and the shipment of temperature sensitive materials — and Domino’s is the only pizza joint that has rights to the “hot bags.”


In 1952, UD hired its first five full-time researchers, who pulled up stakes for several risky, classified projects to study the effects of nuclear weapons on aircraft and aircraft components after atomic bomb detonation tests in Nevada. Although safety precautions were taken, it was still dangerous work. “After the blast, we waited about three or four hours and went in with a monitor, a guy who measured radiation,” Charles R. “Bob” Andrews, one of the researchers, said in 1996. “You had to get in and get out quickly.” One test took them to Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, where the researchers flew in a B-56 near a thermonuclear detonation. The explosive yield was nearly twice what was expected, and the plane landed safely despite crushed landing gear doors and an airplane skin that was wrinkled and burnt down to bare metal. Results yielded ways to protect aircraft instruments from extreme heat, radiation and physical shock. It was the beginning of structural testing, which continues to be one of UD Research Institute’s hallmark research areas.

In 1961, a graduate student’s thesis spawned the UD Research Institute’s first vibration damping research. It grew into a nationally recognized damping team that develops, tests and analyzes sound and vibration-absorbing materials. Researchers used these techniques to fix an airplane engine ring that was cracking and at risk of damaging the engine; the polymer-based fix was applied in 2004 to the Navy’s entire AV-8B Harrier jet fleet. In addition to improving aircraft safety and longevity, researchers have also developed damping systems to reduce vibrations on laser telescopes and satellites and improve the results of air bag testing on crash dummies.

Blaine West didn’t know anything about aircraft windshields until 1975, when he met with U.S. Air Force engineers worried about a new trend: The Air Force was losing an aircraft every eight months because of geese, ducks and other birds striking aircraft windshields during low-level flying. “It was obvious that the failure was related to the support frame’s stiffness, and that strength was a problem,” said West, a former researcher from the UD Research Institute, in 1996. The solution: Make the system stronger by making it weaker — a less rigid windshield allowed the “punch” of impact to be transferred to the larger structure. By the late 1970s the Air Force had used UDRI designs to retrofit its entire F-111 fleet. Since then, UDRI has tested and redesigned windshields and canopies for the Air Force and Navy, including the F-15, F-16, F-18, F-22, B-1, B-2, AV-8, A-7, T-38, V-22 and KTX-2 models. A lieutenant colonel once said to West: “I want to thank you. … I was flying the other day in an F-111. Four ducks hit the windshield, and I’m still here.”

Bob Kauffman was called on as one of the principal investigators to find out what happened to TWA 800, which exploded and crashed in 1996 killing all 230 people aboard. Kauffman, a UDRI researcher, believed that a frayed fuel-sensor wire most likely played a significant role in the explosion. After the crash, Kauffman and senior research physicist Doug Wolf created the SMART (Status and Motion Activated Radiofrequency Tag) sensor for use in smart clamps to hold aircraft wiring in place to help prevent tragedies like the TWA explosion.  The technology uses an inexpensive, modified radiofrequency identification tag that “tells” a handheld device reader if a clamp or wire has been compromised. It is also being evaluated as a way to indicate if a monitored item has gotten too hot.

In 2009, Bob Kauffman’s self-healing wire, which he developed at UDRI, was named one of the 100 “most technologically significant new products” by R&D Magazine. Known as PATCH (Power Activated Technology for Coating and Healing), the technology helps prevent frayed wires from potentially catching fire. His invention was in response to the 1996 TWA crash that killed everyone aboard and is thought to have occurred because of faulty wiring. The technology works when polyvinyl alcohol is sprayed onto the wire or wire bundle. If that liquid comes into contact with an exposed or live wire, the electrical current at the breach will transform the spray into an insoluble polymer coating. A second form of PATCH is designed to be built directly into the wires, where the solid form of polyvinyl is embedded within the wire and its insulation. If the insulation is breached while the wire is live, the PATCH coating draws moisture from the air and a chemical reaction creates a permanent repair for the wire and its breach. Automotive and helicopter companies are looking to employ PATCH for hard-to-reach wires.

On one rainy day in New Jersey in October 2010, a G-4 Gulfstream aircraft overran its runway while landing at Teterboro Airport. This could have proven deadly. However, no one on board was injured and the plane safely came to a stop. Why? Crushable concrete. Formally called Engineered Material Arresting Systems, EMAS is a mixture of lightweight concrete and a foaming agent. When a vehicle runs over the material, it collapses and provides enough friction to safely decelerate moving planes. The material was created at UD Research Institute in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City was the first to install an EMAS bed at the end of some runways in 1996. UDRI’s work in runway disaster prevention dates back to the late 1980s. The material has a 100% success rate in stopping aircraft.

Investigators count on the black boxes to give them data to determine what went wrong during an airplane crash and keep it from happening again. Kevin Poormon ’87 is helping them by shooting these boxes — officially known as flight data and cockpit voice recorders — out of a cannon. The compressed gas gun at the UD Research Institute sends the boxes hurling at 350 mph into an aluminum honeycomb barrier to simulate a crash impact at 3,400 times the force of gravity. “That’s because black boxes have to survive, even if everything else doesn’t survive,” said Poormon, research engineer and leader of the impacts physics group. He has also used the cannon to test how space station shielding holds up to meteoroid and orbital debris.


While ceramic coatings in particular are useful in strengthening biomedical implants and improving tissue adhesion, they are resource-intensive to create and pose a risk to the environment. Assistant professor of biology Karolyn Hansen has patented a process for creating an alternative using oyster shells. By depositing cells extracted from the mantle of an oyster onto a surface, Hansen and her collaborators, including her husband Doug Hansen of the UD Research Institute, have successfully induced the creation of oyster shell layers as a coating. This oyster-derived material is a strong, natural ceramic and can be manufactured at room temperature and pressure with no chemical solvents, she said. Uses range from coating metal implants used to repair bones to creating protective coatings for aircraft.


ChurchLink was an idea intended to connect the millennial generation with their churches. Today, it’s a customizable app serving more than 3,000 churches. Entrepreneur Niel Petersen and then-student Robyn Bradford ’12 pitched the idea to UD’s business plan competition in 2012. Thanks in part to the competition and its $15,000 prize, Petersen launched the business and now employees a staff of 10. ChurchLink creates apps with individualized design and coding and includes functionality that allows members to communicate or make a gift online. “Development is continual, ongoing and complex,” Petersen  said of the app, now used in 50 states and 27 countries.


Rita Rapp’s meals were out of this world. A 1950 pre-med graduate, Rapp joined the NASA Space Task Group at Langley Field in 1961 and was among the early pioneers of the space program. As an aerospace technologist specializing in environmental physiology, she was responsible for the design and development of food and packaging systems during the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs. Astronaut Charles Duke, lunar module pilot for Apollo 16, talked about how Rapp would introduce variety into their pre-packaged meals: “You had pea soup, you had cream of tomato soup, you had mushroom soup, maybe; and you had different kinds of breads and you had the tuna spread and peanut butter spread and the ham spread.” The photo shows Rapp posing with “Day 4, Meal A” from Apollo 16, the last lunar mission to land on the Moon on April 21, 1972.


Architect Bruce John Graham once said that, before he traveled to the United States, he had never seen a building more than 10 stories tall. In 1943, Graham was 15 and living in Puerto Rico when he won a scholarship to attend UD to study engineering, staying just over a year before enlisting in the Navy during World War ll. Graham’s most visible legacy stands high above Chicago: the 100-story Hancock Center and the 110-story Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower), the world’s tallest building when it was completed in 1973. The tower was constructed using the groundbreaking tubular frame method, and to this day is the second tallest in the United States and 16th tallest building in the world. It hosts more than 1 million visitors to its observation deck each year. Graham died March 6, 2010, at the age of 84.


The next time your computer freezes, you can thank a Flyer when you’re quickly able to unlock it. Best known for inventing the three-key sequence known as control-alt-delete, David Bradley ’71 holds 10 patents related to computer design and was one of the original 12 engineers who began work on the IBM personal computer in 1980. Bradley, who earned a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from UD, said he was fed up with restarting the personal computer every time it malfunctioned, and so control-alt-delete was born. “It took all of about nine steps and five to 10 minutes to code,” he said. Initially meant for programmers, the keystroke caught on with the public.


Charles Magatti ’71 may not be a household name, but the drug he helped invent is: Claritin. The popular allergy medicine, known generically as loratadine, is on the World Health Organization’s 2017 List of Essential Medicines for the most effective, safe and cost-effective medicine for priority conditions. Magatti co-invented the drug while working for Schering-Plough, which is estimated to have made $15 billion from the antihistamine between 1993 and 2002, when its patent was active in the United States. “It’s the ultimate achievement for a chemist,” said Magatti, who studied chemistry at UD. “People work in this industry for 40 years and are never fortunate enough to discover a new drug.” Magatti retired from Schering-Plough in 2000 with six patents.


Dr. Mary Ann Warnowicz Papp, a cardiologist and 1970 biology graduate, needed a better way to manage prescriptions for her patients. So in the late 1990s, she went to the School of Engineering for help. Students helped her create the device now known as EMMA, the first of its kind remote medication management system. The box provides individual unit dose control managed by web-based scheduling that is remotely controlled and programmed by a pharmacist. “The biggest waste of health care dollars is pharmacies dispensing a 30- or 90-day supply of medication because the medication is unlikely to be used in that fashion,” Papp said. Automated dispensing can also prevent expensive hospitalizations caused by patients who don’t properly manage their prescriptions. On Papp’s patents for the device is listed co-inventor Chris Schmidt ’99, a member of the seven-student team. EMMA is now being sold through INRange Systems.


If you’ve ever used a computer, driven a car, flown in an airplane, gotten jiggy to the tunes on your MP3 player, talked on a cell phone, operated a video or digital camera or have been subjected to an MRI, you are benefiting from the discovery of the amazing magnetic properties of rare earth-cobalt alloys by Karl Strnat and his co-workers at the UD Research Institute. Strnat’s pioneering work in 1966 led to the discovery of magneto-crystalline anisotropy in rare earth cobalt intermetallic compounds. What? Simply put, these and later-generation related rare-earth magnets are many times stronger and more stable than the magnets they replaced. They led to the miniaturization of devices that previously required heavy and bulky magnets and gave rise to the development of many electronic devices that require tiny motors, speakers, transmitters and receivers. Strnat retired from his research work and teaching at UD in 1990 and died in 1992.


You can inherit your father’s eye color or mother’s smile — and you can also inherit a family disposition for experiencing severe side effects to chemotherapy drugs, including hearing or sensory loss. Eileen Dolan ’79, a professor of medicine at University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, has dedicated her research to making chemotherapy more effective and less toxic. Her lab identifies DNA variants through studies in patients receiving chemotherapy and in the laboratory by building preclinical models of the toxicity. Her research contributes to efforts to implement genetics into clinical care for cancer patients. Dolan focuses primarily on children and young adults who might experience long-term side effects from chemotherapy because they have their lives ahead of them. “A patient’s genetics sheds light on potential targets for new drugs to prevent or treat these devastating toxicities,” she said.


Students from the ETHOS Center in the School of Engineering used local materials and labor to create an environmentally friendly refrigeration method for a nongovernmental organization in Bihar, India. The Solar-Thermal Absorptive Refrigeration system provides refrigeration for medications and vaccines that could spoil in areas with inconsistent or nonexistent electricity supplies. Students designed the prototype and won three awards for their design at the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. Work continues on phase two of the project, thanks in part to a $75,000 grant from the EPA to project advisers Amy Ciric and Jun-Ki Choi, faculty in the renewable and clean energy program.


In 1964 and 1965, the rubella pandemic hit the United States, where 1.5 million people contracted the disease also known as German measles. The toll was greatest among the young, including 11,000 pregnant U.S. women who lost their babies and 2,100 newborn deaths. It was the last rubella pandemic the U.S. would have to endure, thanks in part to Col. Edward Buescher ’45. Buescher was a member of the team which, in 1962, isolated and characterized the rubella virus as the cause of German measles. His accomplishment allowed scientists to produce a vaccine, and widespread immunization of children in the United States began in 1970. “[C]ountless lives will be saved in the nation and abroad,” read the citation for the Legion of Merit, bestowed on Buescher in 1969 by the president of the United States.


The power of Curiosity was born at the UD Research Institute. Chad Barklay, a senior research engineer in the Research Institute’s energy technologies and materials division, developed the layout and assembly procedures for the radioisotope power system currently on Mars that operates the Curiosity rover’s wheels, robotic arm, computers, radio and instruments. “We helped build the proverbial tail on the Curiosity dog,” said Barklay, referring to the power generator attached to the back end of the rover — whose design, including camera “head,” make it appear somewhat canine-like. The power system, called a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator, works by converting heat created by naturally decaying isotopes into electricity to power the rover. Heat from the generator also keeps the rover’s mechanical, computer and communication systems at operating temperature. Barklay and his colleagues continue testing a model of the generator in UDRI labs in preparation for future space missions.


Zach McHale ’06 attends more that 20 college basketball games a year. “But it’s always bothered me that I’ve never had a good place to store my coat,” he said. His consternation became an invention with the Neet Seat, a spandex pouch that slips over your stadium and arena seats to hold coats and other items, keeping them off the floor. McHale, a chemical engineering graduate, won first place and $25,000 during the University’s 2017 Flyer Pitch business plan competition. In July, he launched a campaign to take Neet Seat into production. His company philosophy, he said, “is to create solutions that make the fan experience better — more comfortable and more enjoyable.”


Practically every item you’ve purchased in the last 40 years has a Flyer’s signature on it. Paul McEnroe ’59 first developed the bar code to improve efficiency at the supermarket. While working at IBM in 1969, he pulled together a team, contributed technically, and created a vertical bar-coding system and scanning technology known as the UPC. The last he heard, the world was scanning 5 billion bar codes daily. “What could you invent that touches more people?” he asked. And he has more inventions to his name, including the Local Area Network to connect computers, multi-chip modules for computer processing and the addition of the magnetic stripe to the SKU to allow it to be scanned like a credit card.


The SMART dipstick takes all of the guesswork out of knowing whether or not oil has gone bad or if there is still some life in it, thanks to work done by researchers at UD Research Institute beginning in the late 1980s. In 1992, R&D Magazine awarded the invention as one of the 100 most technologically significant products of that year. The device, called RULER (Remaining Useful Life Evaluation Routine) works with all types of oils, from fast-food deep fryers to government aircraft. Researchers Bob Kauffman and Douglas Wolf developed the product to quickly determine when it’s time to change the oil. It does so by calculating how much antioxidant — an additive that helps keep the oil from degrading too quickly — is left in the fluid. RULER is sold worldwide, with steam, gas and wind power plants being the largest market.


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Alumni profile: Stay busy, have fun

8:45 AM  Sep 8th, 2017
by Debbie Juniewicz

Retirement is anything but restful for David Pfriem ’66, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

The 73-year-old is putting his English degree to use as he finishes his second memoir and is in the early stages of writing a novel.  

“I’ve met so many interesting people over the years, I’m going to try to weave them into a story,” he said. “The most important thing, though, is to have fun, and I’m having fun.”

That fun includes visiting with grandchildren, volunteering as a docent and working part time at a condo complex. For Pfriem, staying active is crucial: He equates staying busy with staying vibrant.

“I’ve seen people retire and waste away,” he said. “You need to keep going until you can’t, or you really won’t enjoy life.”

Pfriem’s nontraditional retirement follows a pattern, as he was also a nontraditional college student, making his vows as a Marianist brother a year prior to enrolling at the University of Dayton in 1962.

Dorm living and campus life were not the norm as he lived in community at Mount Saint John and commuted. He chronicled his life as a Marianist in his first memoir, Uncommon Bonds, published in 2009, a work he said “could prove to be an amusing read” for current students and alumni alike.

He left the order in 1967 — after teaching for a year at Cincinnati’s Purcell High School — and while it was an incredibly tough decision,
he said he has no regrets.

From teaching and curriculum development to his work in the field of developmental disabilities, one thing has been a constant: the impact of the University of Dayton.

“Developing an intellectual curiosity and understanding intellectual freedom — I can’t say enough about my Marianist education,” Pfriem said.

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Alumni profile: Beating the cat with 9 lives

9:00 AM  Sep 5th, 2017
by Gita Balakrishnan

Alumnus Elverage Allen says his professional career is a perfect case study for good mentoring and adaptability.

It’s the reason his friends tell him he has more lives than the proverbial cat with nine.

From being a star high school and UD football player to being a high school athletic coach, rental property manager, banker and finally landing in his niche of marketing, Allen says his twisted career path has taught him the power of perseverance.

It’s paid off. He recently received the Advertising Sales Executive Award from The Diversity Discussion — a high honor in advertising and sales.

But, he says he would never have reached this point had it not been for good mentorship.

“I didn’t see myself doing this,” he said. “In high school, there was no course ahead of me. I didn’t really know who to ask for help. I thought I wanted to be a school teacher. I didn’t know my talents were in other places.”

So, he went from job to job.

That changed when Allen became an operations manager at The First National Bank of Chicago. He says his supervisor taught him about corporate America, how to dress, talk, carry himself and helped him to “lay out the next stages of my career,” which included earning his MBA from the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University.

Allen has been an executive in marketing and sales in media programming for nearly 20 years.

With all of his success, Allen admits life was not always a series of wins.

“It’s easy to handle success,” he said. “Anyone can do it. But a person that can handle failure successfully really has the power to do anything.”

He’s also learned that success is more than an award, salary or recognition.

“Whether at work or in your personal life, always strive to be the best person you can be. Work hard, be considerate of others and be spiritually grounded. If you do these things, you will always be successful,” he said.

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ReadSeeHear This: Black Elk Peek- A history

12:55 PM  Sep 4th, 2017
by Gita Balakrishnan

A book by Bradley D. Saum ’88

The history of Black Elk Peak — previously known as Hinhan Kaga and, more recently, as Harney Peak — remained segmented and scattered throughout the shadows of antiquity, until now. Saum chronicles the stories that are intrinsically linked to the highest point in the Black Hills of South Dakota. “Black Elk Peak is truly a natural, historical and cultural gem,” Saum said. “I wanted to capture all the history associated with this peak and share my appreciation with others.” The history includes stories of the great Sioux holy man Black Elk and an account of  Gen. George Custer summiting the peak during an 1874 expedition, among other historical moments. The book is published by the History Press.

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UD Magazine editor Tom Columbus stands in front of window.


2:36 PM  Sep 1st, 2017
by Michelle Tedford ’94

This summer, I marked my 15th year as an editor for University publications. And I still can’t write columns like my colleague, Thomas M. Columbus.

As I’m sitting at my desk not writing this column, I am instead re-reading the book we created for Tom on the occasion of his retirement in 2010. It contains columns from his years as founding editor of University of Dayton Magazine and its predecessor, University of Dayton Quarterly. In the book entitled Amazing Grace, there’s a story of a sandwich handed out to the homeless, of math as taught by the Cleveland Indians, and of the death of his son, Ben, on the soccer field.

But these stories are not reports on food, baseball or tragedy. They are the beginnings of conversations about compassion, curiosity, faith and love, ones best shared over a drink with friends. With each issue, he invited himself into your homes, and you welcomed him as you sat on your couch or at the kitchen table and read. I am fortunate that, 50 years after he came to UD to teach English, Tom continues to come to UD, now as a part-time contributing editor to this magazine. And we continue to have those conversations in person. Last month, it was over morning coffee and orange juice as he leaned in my doorway and discussed banana distribution in New York City. Yesterday it was about his eldest grandchild attending college and the card — and money — he gave her to help manage life’s tollways.

The initial topic does not matter. It’s what the conversation reveals that does.

That’s one of the many things I’ve learned from Tom through the years, starting with my days in this office as a student writer who believed she knew so much. What I have learned since is that I actually know very little, and that that is something to embrace. When you don’t know, you ask. When others talk, you listen. When no one talks, you let silence fill the space until it erupts in a whisper of truth you never knew existed and about which you could have never known to inquire.

I cannot write columns like Tom Columbus, but I am getting better at writing columns like me. What I lack in grace I make up for in sincerity. So, Tom, thank you for 50 years of service to UD. You are among the most faithful Flyers I have known. Let the conversations continue.

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From anything to art

10:20 AM  Aug 22nd, 2017
by Tom Columbus

“Social media takes over our lives,” said visual arts professor Jeffrey Courtland Jones. “We can spend more time on it than we do talking to each other.”

He recalled one day he and his wife were sitting on a couch at home, each working on a laptop. “And,” he said, “we texted each other rather than talk.”

People using social media also, he said, “tend to collect ‘friends’ much like my 10-year-old son collects Pokémon cards. We have some ‘friends’ we never interact with, whom we really don’t know.” He noted he would see an artist’s work and “friend” him. Among his friends, the number who really weren’t friends grew.

In 2014, Jones decided that “I wanted to know the people who came across my screen daily.” He did that through a project he called Fiction (With Only Daylight Between Us) which featured 50 artists from around the world. The words in the project’s title are abridged song lyrics from the band The xx.

“Conceptually,” Jones said, “it is about ‘imaginary’ friendships that exist on social media (“Fiction”) and the physical distance of each participant (“With Only Daylight Between Us”).

The exhibit, shown locally and online, was, Jones said, “experimental and super cheap. It was also a lot of fun.”

So he decided to do it on a larger scale; the result was Fiction (With Only Daylight Between Us . v2). He asked 200 of his Facebook friends to send him something. That something was simply an 8.5-by-11-inch black-and-white JPG or PDF, he said, “of anything they wished that had some sort of relationship to their artmaking practice. I told them it could be an image of their current work, a scan of a page out of their sketchbook, or even a receipt from Starbucks, where they stopped to get coffee on the way to the studio.

All 200 he asked said yes. Responses came from 16 countries.

Besides  Jones, artists in the show with UD connections include full-time faculty members (R. Darden Bradshaw, Julie Jones, Kyle Phelps and Joel Whitaker), adjunct faculty (Nicholaus Arnold and Ashley Jonas), staff members (Michael Conlan and Geno Luketic), a student (Alexandra Morrissette ’17) and alumni (Maxwell Feldmann ’15, Rachel Hellman ’99, Courtney Hoelscher ’16, Amy Sacksteder ’01 and Seth Wade ’15).

How the images are displayed has varied from gallery to gallery. One arranged all the images in one large rectangle; each day, however, a different single image was moved to the opposite wall. The exhibition has been seen so far in five cities in the United States as well as cities in England, Germany and Australia. It will travel later this year to Brooklyn, New York.

Of the artists in the show who were friends-but-not-really-friends, Jones said, “Now I’ve become real friends with them and have collaborated with some; I’m currently doing projects with people in Australia and Germany.”

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Alumni profile: Action!

9:33 AM  Aug 16th, 2017
by Molly Blake ’96

When Mark Iacofano ’84 was a kid, he dreamed about playing major league baseball.  He lettered his junior and senior year on UD’s varsity baseball team but lacked a few of the key skills that he would need to make it in the majors.

“I couldn’t hit, and I couldn’t run,” Iacofano said. “But I was determined to at least have a career in the sports industry.” 

He moved behind the scenes, so to speak, and worked his way up from directing and producing small college football games to iconic games like Michigan’s The Big Chill, the Frozen Diamond Face-off, gold medal Olympic hockey games, and countless professional and college hockey, baseball, basketball and football games.

“I want to make sports shows great for the people who can’t be in the arena or stadium,” said Iacofano, who expertly stitches together camera shots, graphics, replays, promotions and player storylines to create a seamless experience for the fan sitting on the couch at home. 

“I never want to disturb the flow of the game,” Iacofano said. There are pre- and post -game shows too that often last late into the night. Iacofano stays until the bitter end.

An MLB game, for example, involves upwards of 30 people who all take their cues from Iacofano, a 20-time Emmy award winner. Golden statues aside, producing and directing a February 2017 basketball game between Dayton and St. Joseph’s from UD Arena was “a surreal experience I won’t soon forget,” said Iacofano. 

The self-described Flyer Fanatic hadn’t been back to the Arena in 33 years but, Iacofano said, it was worth the wait. Especially when Tony Caruso, UD’s equipment manager and Iacofano’s former baseball coach, gave him a personal courtside tour during warm-ups.  A consummate professional, Iacofano stayed impartial during the game but admits to celebrating later.

For a guy whose career revolves around watching sports, “it was definitely a bucket list moment for me,” he said.

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Full life, full heart

1:16 PM  Aug 9th, 2017
by Jessica Barga

For Alanná Gibson ’14, pursuing a passion isn’t something that’s scheduled, a box to check off once a month. It’s woven into the
everyday fabric of her life.

It’s the jewelry business, La Bia Rose, she began with a friend, dedicated to creating pieces that promote body positivity, celebrate multiculturalism and give back to local women.

It’s in the way she volunteers with the Rosella French Porterfield Foundation, an organization focused on literacy that’s currently on a mission to give away thousands of free books to children, youth groups and schools.

And it’s in the way Gibson, who received a master’s in English from UD, has tutored children for Youth on a Mission Ministry for the past five years.

What does she have to say about her array of community involvement?

“I’ve just been living life and helping people,” Gibson said.

But her commitment to service hasn’t gone unnoticed: On March 22, Columbus, Ohio, print and media design company RWHC awarded Gibson its 2017 Social Change and Community Philanthropy Honoree award. The accolade also came with an unexpected recognition from the Ohio House of Representatives commending Gibson for her work. Chandra Reeder ’87, RWHC’s owner, nominated Gibson for the award after a more than 10-year professional relationship; fittingly, they met when Gibson, then just 10 years old, was selling handmade dolls at a local event.

Reeder notes Gibson’s impressive family resume as well: R.E. Shurney, Gibson’s great-grandfather, worked at NASA during the mid-20th century. Among his contributions was the invention of tires used on the space buggy for the Apollo 15 mission in 1972.

“Alanná has selflessly demonstrated her commitment and dedication and used her creative energy to make an impact in the community in which she lives by taking a stand to raise awareness, fight for and create solutions to address social injustices in her community,” said Reeder, also noting Gibson’s tireless work ethic and Christ-centered focus.

For Gibson, the award was something she hadn’t anticipated: “Winning was a complete surprise. I never do anything for recognition … I’m very much a behind-the-scenes person,” she said. “I’m not used to getting attention for the work that I do. I just felt gratitude — that someone is paying attention.”

When she’s not busy with other projects, Gibson performs with MadLab, a theater group in Columbus, and Aharen Honryu Keisen Wa No Kai, an organization dedicated to preserving the culture and dance of Okinawa, Japan.

It’s also clear that Columbus itself, the town where she grew up and now resides, is another of her passions: “I always call it my headquarters. It has a lot going on, but people are still very friendly. It’s very diverse; it’s amazing that I can do all these things here,”
she said.

Doing all these things, indeed. For Gibson, it’s exactly how she wants to live and inspire others.

“I do this because it’s part of me and I love doing it. You never know how your passion will affect someone else,” she said.

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A Flyer with hope

10:04 AM  Jul 31st, 2017
by Jeaneen Parsons

Separated by nearly 2,000 miles, two sisters — both diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer — had not seen each other in 13 years. And with limited resources, a reunion seemed impossible. A single plane ticket closed the gap between Alabama and California, and the siblings were able to spend the holidays together one last time.

“Their story really touched my heart,” said Susan Wehr Worline, a 2004 graduate with a master’s degree in educational administration. “Family is so important. I have a sister, and if I couldn’t see her at a time of crisis because of a lack of funds it would be very difficult. That’s one reason I started Flying for Hope, to give people with financial challenges the opportunity to be with their loved ones in times of crisis.”

The original impetus came from a Facebook post. Her cousin had a plane ticket he couldn’t use and offered it to Worline, who suggested he donate it to a local hospice organization. As the business director at a Chicagoland hospice, she had seen many patients with family who could not afford the travel expenses to visit during their final days.

Her suggestion made it possible for a young college student to spend several days with her grandmother before she passed away. That was 2012.

Since then, Flying for Hope has provided flights and bus or train tickets to dozens of people who would have otherwise missed the opportunity to attend a funeral, spend time at nursing facilities or hospice, or have the ability to give care and comfort to family members.

In the early days of Worline’s organization, the Chicago Tribune did an article about a man from Texas whose trip to Chicago to visit his dying mother was made possible by Flying for Hope. The attention launched the organization to new heights in support of their motto: “Giving Hope to Families in Crisis – Changing Lives One Flight at a Time.” Word of their services began to spread, and requests for help starting pouring in.

Today, the nonprofit organization has more requests than it can accommodate, with more coming in daily. It keeps expenses low with an all-volunteer staff working pro bono.

“We support our mission through donations, community support, sponsors and local business partners coming together,” Worline said.

Now in its fourth year, the Spring Fever Gala (www.flying4hope.com/events) is the largest of those events. For the second year in a row, fellow UD alumnus and CBS Chicago reporter Dave Savini ’89 will serve as emcee for the event. Sponsors also make it possible to fill smaller requests that aid people in the local community who have transportation or mobility issues.

Other fundraising activities throughout the year also help grant requests, as well as the donation of frequent flyer miles or travel points. “We don’t want to turn anyone away. It is so hard knowing the situation they are in,” Worline said.

One of those individuals was Iraq War veteran Robert Dudley. He wanted to attend the funeral of his father, Robert Sr., who had served in Vietnam, and make sure he received a full military honors service. “Robert wanted to lay the American flag on his father’s coffin, pay his respects and say goodbye, but he didn’t have the money to get there. We provided a flight from Wisconsin to North Carolina, and Robert was able to ensure his father had the kind of funeral he deserved,” Worline said.

When asked if there was a particular case that has impacted her significantly, Worline offered the story of Trisha from Poughkeepsie, New York. Trisha’s dad had terminal cancer and lived in Arizona, and she wanted to spend time with him before he died. “We got her there and she spent a little over a week with him,” Worline said. “On her plane ride home her father passed away. Trisha thanked me for the gift of time with her father, and it changed how I viewed things in my own life, allowing me to reevaluate what is important. Time is a precious gift. We just have to stop for a moment once in a while to embrace the time given to us.”

Flying for Hope works to offer that precious gift to as many people as possible.

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Just being Chris

9:21 AM  Jul 25th, 2017
by Gita Balakrishnan

Sitting on a train, traveling across the country, Chris Rolfe felt the physical and emotional symptoms of more than half a year slowly dim. His stress took a small reprieve and hid away in some corner of himself. He recalls looking out the window and simply enjoying his surroundings and the company of strangers around him. In that moment, he relished the chance of just being Chris.

Just being Chris was unfamiliar territory for the Flyer soccer star turned pro. Since April 2016, Rolfe has struggled to come to terms with a debilitating concussion that effectively changed the course of his soccer career.

His journey has taken him through frustration, denial and anger, and now acceptance has slowly found its way to him.

“There was this voice inside of me — probably the same one that turned me into the soccer player that I am — that said, ‘Get over it. Let’s go. What’s happened has happened and you can’t control any of that now, so let’s move forward, let’s make it better, and let’s do the best that we can do and make the most of what you’re given in the future,’” Rolfe said.

Although that future is uncertain, Rolfe’s determination is not.

Since he was 7, soccer has been Rolfe’s world. A Kettering, Ohio, native, he went to Kettering Fairmont High School where, in only three years, he set the goal-scoring record.

He played at the University of Dayton from 2001 to 2004, where he set the school record for career assists (25) and was named an NSCAA All-American. In 2010 he was inducted into the Ohio Soccer Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in college.

Rolfe was drafted his senior year in the third round of the 2005 MLS SuperDraft by Chicago Fire and scored 30 goals in his first four seasons with the club. He was the team’s leading scorer in 2005, 2008 and 2012 and was the league’s runner-up rookie of the year in 2005.

In 2014 he was traded to D.C. United, where he thrived and was the team’s leading scorer and MVP in 2015.

As many of his friends say, in 2016 Rolfe was probably in the best physical shape that he’d ever been in as a professional athlete.

The team’s general manager Dave Kasper released a statement in September 2015 saying, “His ability to create and score goals has been vital to the team, and he is among a group of important veteran leaders in the locker room.”

But during a rainy, wet Chicago day, his training, physicality and leadership skills would all be tested for the unforeseeable future.

During the 32nd minute of an April 2016 match against Chicago Fire, Rolfe was putting pressure on Fire player Rodrigo Ramos near midfield.

D.C. had been favored early in the game, but the opponent seemed amped up.

As Rolfe intensified his defensive pressure, Ramos inadvertently elbowed him in the nose. It was a rough hit, Rolfe admitted, but he remained in the game, the competitor that he is, never imagining the injury could be serious.

Then, during halftime, Rolfe started noticing differences in the light patterns on the field. And even though the ground started to feel like it was moving underneath him, he stayed on the field until he was subbed out in the 72nd minute due to obvious symptoms noticed by the D.C. staff.

When he got to the locker room, he knew something was wrong.

He wasn’t able to focus — as if in a fuzzy dream world.

Looking at the light was excruciating. 

His head hurt.

After speaking with medical staff, Rolfe was diagnosed with a concussion and was out for the rest of the season.

In the months since, his symptoms have been constant companions: Headaches. Extreme light sensitivity. Unsteadiness. 

He describes the effects in his left eye as “bolts of pain going through the back of my eye into my head and back into my temples.”

Days and months drag on.

“I noticed problems with everything I did,” Rolfe said, noting he had difficulty concentrating and found it hard to filter out external and peripheral stimuli and noise.

Rolfe said he initially didn’t realize the severity of his injury, having recovered from concussions in the past.

“I’m used to playing with pain,” Rolfe said. “We joke that the only day you feel great is the first day of preseason, and after that you’re hurt. So I’m used to dealing with that stuff.”

In 2006 he had two concussions five days apart, and in 2014 suffered a devastating arm injury. But this injury has been more long-lasting.

Rolfe said the symptoms were at their worst one week after the hit, after gradually increasing in severity over the first seven days. But it wasn’t until the initial symptoms began to subside in mid- to late summer 2016 that he realized he was in bad shape.

“I didn’t even realize how severe my symptoms were. There was a moment in June or July that it started to become a reality. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t leave the house. I would have to get a taxi, then keep my eyes closed in the backseat so I didn’t get sick when I got to where I was going,” he said.

In an emotional Washington Post article, he detailed going to the grocery store to buy an item but feeling overwhelmed by stimuli and struggling to find his product despite trips up and down the same aisle for several minutes.

As a professional athlete, Rolfe is a self-admitted overachiever and, although he was benched for the remainder of the 2016 season, he continued to work on the sidelines, going to practices, trying to work out and train. But in late September, Rolfe said he “hit a wall.” 

Unlike past injuries, where training would help him get better, working out this time seemed only to exacerbate the symptoms. 

“Whenever I tried to exercise, the symptoms would compound and become worse day by day,” Rolfe recalled. “If you try and strengthen your legs, you go to the gym, hit it hard and sure, your legs hurt, but you recover and get stronger. But it’s been the complete opposite with the brain and so it’s been counterintuitive to all of the rehab I’ve done for my career in the past.”

In November 2016, when D.C. United was knocked out of the playoffs, Rolfe decided he needed to get away.

He was tired of feeling bad. Tired of hurting. And tired of being stressed about recovery on an unknown timeline.

He made the decision to reset and booked himself a 22-day cross-country train trip — Chicago to San Francisco down to Los Angeles and back to Chicago.

There were stops in Denver; Aspen, Colorado; and Flagstaff, Arizona.

And in the last week of his trip, Rolfe began to feel normal — he didn’t think about the symptoms or the concussion and he was enjoying himself for the first time in eight months.

There were 10- to 12-mile hikes. For once, he said, he relented control of his surroundings and his symptoms seemed not to affect him as much.

“I had a train schedule, and I stuck to it. I let go of trying to have control of things for the most part and I just tried to enjoy being in that moment. I tried to enjoy the scenery and I enjoyed my meals with these random people who were sitting at the table with me in the dining car.

“I was not thinking about my head. Not worrying about what career was next. Not worrying if I was not going to play soccer ever again. Not worrying about what the fans thought about it or what my teammates thought.

“I was really able to get to the bare bottom of controlling my own life and letting go,” he said.

When the trip ended, the symptoms did return, but it didn’t matter as much because Rolfe had changed. And in that change, there has been personal growth and inspiration. His plans are simple: He says he wants to get his life back.

“It’s hard for me because I’m a goal setter and I like to know how to get from point A to point B. There have been plans, but I need to allow myself to be more fluid with what I do while I’m in rehab,” he said. “For me, it’s getting my life back, healing my head, returning to fitness and figuring out my soccer career.”

He notes that it’s also time for him to decide what comes next, since any athletic career has an expiration date. At 34, Rolfe acknowledges that even with a full recovery, he may only have a handful of years left in pro sports.

Although Rolfe kids when he says he doesn’t “have a lot of skills that translate to another occupation,” he has the traits that can make anyone successful.

“That’s the best thing about the competitive nature of what I’ve done and the team sport aspect of it,” he said. “I have a lot of great takeaways from what I’ve been doing.”

His determination is unquestionable. Always trying to improve, Rolfe has created what he calls “brain games.” Each morning, he recaps the day before: every detail, times he went places, people he was with, what they talked about, what he ate.

And why?

“I’m not sure what the science would say about that, but I believe it’s been beneficial,” he said. He also practices yoga and meditation along with physical therapy sessions.

While he wishes the injury never occurred, he finds goodness in everything that happens to him by acknowledging that the event has forced him to think about himself outside the soccer field. For now, he is officially on the 2017 D.C. United roster but cannot yet practice with the team.

His new journey may lead him to non-soccer options in the near future that would likely include work in financial planning and wealth management thanks to his new UD finance degree, which he received this May after putting his studies on hold in 2005.

“It’s forced me to take a look at who I am and what my identity is because, for 27 years now, I’ve been ‘Chris the soccer player,’ and if you want to go broader, ‘Chris the athlete,’” he said.

But ever the optimist, Rolfe is excited about his future, whatever that may be.

“It’s been great in that regard because I’ve now been forced to think deeper about who I am and the kind of person I want to be and what I now want to have define me,” he said.

And with a cautious but motivated smile, he added, “Now I have a chance to kind of dictate the next moniker to go along with who I am and what I’ll be known for going forward.”

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