There are nights I show up at UD Arena and I know the man in front of me groans a silent groan.
Every game, he’s here to watch basketball. Every game, I’m here to watch basketball … and get a pinch of something more.
Last time, it was fennel.
As we watched players run up and down the floor, Jo Hinker and I discussed soup. She wrestled with stubborn, hard pinto beans. I shared a disgust for carrots but an obsession for carrot-ginger soup.
Her tale of a near-mythical tomato, orzo and fennel mélange made me miss a slam dunk.
The next day, she emailed me three recipes. I copied two of my favorites to index cards for her.
I only know Jo and her husband, Neal Hinker ’79, because our basketball seats are side by side. We are of different generations, live on different ends of town; but there’s something very familiar about the relationship. It starts with UD, and soon they’re attending one of my husband’s plays and we’re donating to one of their favorite charities.
I’m writing this column between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which may explain my uncharacteristic sentimentality. I can be as curmudgeonly as the next editor, but I feel that relationships with UD at their heart become something better, or deeper, or faster than other associations.
For example, my experience of “minoring in the Majkas.” More than 20 years after graduation, I tell anyone who will listen about the block of sociology courses I took from professors Linda and Theo Majka. Their lessons still inform the way I consider life, from the Supreme Court case on pregnancy as disability to the rulings on use of police force against black men.
In the years since, my husband and I shared a meal with the Majkas at a Denver Tex-Mex restaurant. On another occasion, the four of us walked together through a nature preserve to see the bluebells in bloom. Those memories are a few of the reasons I was so saddened to learn of Linda’s death this November.
In Class Notes this issue, there are stories of Flyer strangers meeting along the Columbia River (Page 55), on a train in New Zealand (Page 42) and on a golf course in New York state (Page 46). They knew what this column was about before I even started writing it. (I could’ve asked them to write this; it would have saved me a lot of time.)
I’d guess the man who sits in front of me at Flyer games does, too.
“It’s about connections,” I bet he’d say, not turning his head from the court. “And soup.” And then I’d hand him a handwritten recipe card.
Maybe I will.No Comments
Malawi is a nation of two-thirds land and one-third lake. Lake Malawi is 360 miles long, 47 miles wide and, at 2,316 feet, one of the deepest in the world. Fishing is embedded in the culture. When I talked to children in northern Malawi, they told me they often start and end their days fishing with their families. After school, they fish by themselves or with friends. They spend the rest of their time swimming.
Families fish to feed themselves. Fathers teach their boys. Women traditionally do not participate in fishing. As I walked five days up the shore talking to local people, I found that the village of Tilivumbo had no such cultural reservations. As in this photo, the girls fished along with the boys. The most common fishing from the shore is with gill nets. Families put them in the water in the morning, anchoring them with rocks. In the afternoon, they return and pull them in together.
While fishing is a family activity, there is a problem with child labor in the fishing industry. Around age 10, boys begin to join the men in dugout canoes, paddling hours through the dark night on the deep lake. Their knees are bloodied by the rough canoe edges. Their hands are torn in the fishing nets. They are beaten with oars. They can drown. Boys who fish every night are often orphans who must support themselves and their families, or they are required to fish by their fathers.
Night fishing is done with tili lamps, fueled by paraffin. Around dark, an experienced fisherman called a sanginara paddles his canoe out into the deep, his lamp attracting usipa, a sardine-sized fish that swims in schools. Two more canoes will join him, with men and boys dragging a large net to capture the fish and haul them into the boat. They will fish until 6 a.m., when they return to shore to sell their catch to fellow villagers and sometimes the wider market.
During my eight weeks in Malawi, I relied on Frackson Mhango as a translator and an expert; as a child, he fished Lake Malawi. Mhango is now studying human rights at the University of Livingstonia, funded by Matt Maroon ’06 and Determined to Develop. We conducted research at 15 schools, interviewing headmasters, teachers and children. The boys told us how they’d go straight from fishing to school, often with no sleep and no food. Child labor has a major impact on their education. They fall asleep in class, or they decide that fishing — and making money, kwacha — is more important than education. Most boys need to fish to afford school fees, uniforms and books. Schools recognize the problem. Boys who go fishing instead of going to school may receive a whipping with a thin stick or be given school chores like cleaning out a latrine.
In Nkhata Bay, the Ripple Africa organization is working with village leaders to discourage fishing practices that harm children, such as fishing that interferes with school or “fish for sex,” where girls trade their bodies for food. When rules are broken, it is the adults who are punished, not the children. Getting villages to adopt such laws is part of Ripple Africa’s plan to encourage sustainable fishing communities. The organization told me it plans to share its model with villages outside of Nkhata Bay for wider impact.
Fishermen tell stories of large catches pulled in less than a decade ago. Today, they are lucky to bring in a full catch, or even any of the most prized large fish, chambo. Overfishing has many causes, including the effectiveness of tili lamps (men used to fish with bonfires on their wooden canoes). While child labor is bad, what is worse is that they are all training for a job that won’t be around by the time they are my age. There won’t be any fish, and they won’t have an education. I talked with local leaders, and they say these boys will likely grow to have only crime and despair.
Poverty is the root cause of child labor in the fishing industry. Night fishing is an epidemic that few are addressing, so I hope my research will help ignite conversation. I will present my research on campus at the Roesch Social Science Symposium and the Stander Symposium. I hope my research will be a resource for Malawian communities and Matt Maroon to better understand child labor in tili lamp fishing and to address the issue as a community. International organizations and NGOs working in Malawi will be able to use my work to conduct more research or build a project that addresses the issue.
Photojournalism as a career is a dream I have had since my freshman year. I began taking photographs when I studied abroad in Morocco in the fall of 2013, and I still have so much to learn. This year, I am a student photographer for the office that produces the University of Dayton Magazine. I am selling prints of my Malawi photos at etsy.com/shop/jedgerlachphoto to support the NGO Determined to Develop, and I hope to use photojournalism to tell the stories of people in situations in which their basic human rights are being abused.
Read more about UD students’ research in Malawi.No Comments
The inmate is not identified by name, but by food: Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The exhibit The Last Supper: 550 Plates Illustrating Final Meals of U.S. Death Row Inmates depicts the last suppers of death row inmates as painted on plates.
“We all have food in common,” said the artist, Julie Green, a professor at Oregon State University. “Working on The Last Supper provides time to meditate on final meals and our system of capital punishment.”
The exhibit is part of an examination of the death penalty through the interdisciplinary curriculum “Rites. Rights. Writes.”
A last meal request humanizes death row in a way that can stimulate thoughtful discussion, said Judith Huacuja, chair of the Department of Art and Design.
“This is an ironic moment because it pairs humanity with the fact that society kills people,” she said.
The exhibit, on display at the Dayton Art Institute Feb. 21 – April 12, is a partnership between UD and the institute.
Art major Kenzie Barron ’15 said the accessibility of the meals and the simplicity of their presentation can start conversations that go beyond the death penalty. The exhibit, she said, “makes us evaluate the way we as society value life in general.”
Learn more about 2015 Rites. Rights. Writes. events.
Read a commentary on the death penalty by former Gov. Bob Taft.No Comments
Art is an expression of our individual and collective conscience. So are the laws that we make. What happens when the two collide?
The lights go up, only enough to illuminate the scene of two teenagers parked near a secluded lake at night. Two shadows emerge from the dark corners of the stage and attack. Rape, murder, then a quick scene cut to nuns singing hymns with children. No more than 10 minutes have passed, and the audience sits in shock.
But, that’s the point.
Among those in the audience this February will be first-year students from the University of Dayton. They will travel to the Schuster Performing Arts Center in downtown Dayton to witness scenes of the opera Dead Man Walking. But this shock factor is part of something bigger; it fits into a curriculum to encourage students — as scholars, citizens and humans — to combine faith and reason, to analyze issues like the death penalty, make decisions about where they stand, and reflect on how those decisions affect them both now and in the future.
The opera follows Louisiana nun Sister Helen Prejean on her journey as a spiritual adviser to the convicted man as he prepares for the death penalty. She first recorded her experience in 1993 when she wrote the nonfiction book Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty.
In 2000, composer Jake Heggie adapted it for the stage with librettist Terrence McNally. The opera was inspired by the tough questions Prejean’s story poses to society, Heggie said: “Are we for vengeance or forgiveness? For hate or compassion? In today’s age, is our best response to killing still to kill in return?”
When the time came for Richard Chenoweth, Graul Chair in Arts and Languages, to choose a performance for UD’s “Rites. Rights. Writes.” series, he wanted a piece that would have a profound impact on students. The opera has had more than 40 international productions and has reached a broad audience, but Chenoweth said it is of special significance for UD students.
“We’re trying to create a yearly arts immersion experience for all of our students that not only communicates the importance of the arts in their lives, but also shows them how the arts communicate important social issues in ways they haven’t thought of,” he said.
These efforts have been implemented through the Common Academic Program, a learning experience that is shared in common among all undergraduate students. CAP introduces and cultivates different modes of learning and important topics across academic disciplines. One of the ways first-year students begin their interdisciplinary study is through the arts immersion experience.
Caroline Merithew, associate professor of history who coordinates first-year students’ humanities experiences, said Dead Man Walking introduces students to community, experiential learning and issues of social justice.
“This opera is based on something that is so much a part of our [human] condition,” she said.
The opera demonstrates different perspectives on capital punishment. It discusses the political aspect — the denial of pardon and the announcement of the death sentence. It challenges the meaning of humanity — mourning parents confronting those who speak on the murderer’s behalf. It explores Catholic teaching — forgiveness of sins.
Meanwhile, the question remains for the audience to consider: What’s right and what’s wrong?
For students, the exercise of critical-thinking skills about a controversial subject fosters the potential for deeper exploration of the CAP.
Merithew will participate in interdisciplinary collaboration about the subject matter explored by Dead Man Walking, including faculty development colloquia and seminars.
“The four departments involved in humanities — history, philosophy, religious studies and English — have been described as the front lines for teaching hard topics,” she said. “We can’t pick up a piece of great literature or talk about the history of humanity without talking about rape, violence, killing and injustice. If students experience these themes more viscerally [through the opera], it will stimulate different parts of their intellect.”
Several members of the music department faculty will perform in the opera at the Schuster Center. Minnita Daniel-Cox, assistant professor of voice playing the role of Sister Rose, a close companion to Prejean, said connecting with the
characters is the easy part. The challenge is deciding what to do with one’s own self-discovery. As a musician, she said she stretches herself for every role she performs.
“The role of Sister Rose is no different in that I am challenged to see a perspective that is different from my own and, as a result, I grow,” Daniel-Cox said. “Our life experiences can change us. This opera will change everyone involved from the audience to the performers.”
The opera is personally intimate, Heggie said, taking us to places that only get intensified with music. Characters offer emotional authenticity, he said, rather than a soapbox approach pushing a political agenda.
“Our goal was to tell the story honestly and without any preaching — to go with Sister Helen on her journey to that difficult place and to let people make up their own minds,” he said.
Chenoweth agreed the personal approach is sometimes the most effective; he can speak from personal experience.
Earlier this year, he attended Dead Man Walking at the Central City opera house in Colorado. He said he felt the music vividly portrayed each side of the question, and he found himself thinking, “This is the only way you can tell the story. It’s expressive, and wrenching.”
Chenoweth acknowledged it can be hard to find the truth. However, he said that’s what makes this particular opera so moving.
“It doesn’t make any conclusions,” he said. “It simply presents what happened, and leaves it for the audience to decide how they feel. I always hope for a clear understanding of the facts, the law, the ethics and the morality. I think that’s what we’re trying to do at the University, teach the whole person, teach people to be contemplative about these important events.”
In the weeks leading up to the opera performance, the UD community will have the opportunity to interact and learn from Heggie during his residency. Heggie will attend a convocation with music students and faculty to discuss the inspiration behind the music in Dead Man Walking. The following days will include a musical performance by Heggie and UD faculty, further discussion about the opera, and question and answer sessions. A selection of music students will also perform for Heggie and receive feedback during a master class.
“The opera is rife with possibilities for dialogue,” Heggie said. “Audiences at universities have always been so awake and eager for these opportunities. I have information and experience I can offer based on my music and people I’ve worked with, but I also look forward to learning from students. I coach, work and teach, but many times I learn more than anyone else in the room.”
Rites. Rights. Writes. Events
Open to the public. Free unless otherwise noted.
7 p.m. Feb. 26: UD Speaker Series presents Sister Helen Prejean
Film screenings and discussions, ArtStreet
5 p.m. Feb. 20: Dead Man Walking
3 p.m. Feb. 27: Mandela
7 p.m. March 14: Follow Me Down: Portraits of Louisiana Prison Musicians
7 p.m. March 20: Carandiru
Discussions, Sears Recital Hall
1 p.m. Jan 28, Wednesday at One Convocation with Jake Heggie
10 a.m. Jan. 30, with composer Jake Heggie
7 p.m. Feb. 4, roundtable on capital punishment
2 p.m. Feb. 9, school-to-prison pipeline
8 p.m. Jan. 29, Sears Recital Hall concert: An Evening with Jake Heggie and Selected Soloists. Purchase tickets: 937-229-2545.
Feb. 21 – April 12, Dayton Art Institute exhibit: The Last Supper. Admission. Call 937-223-4278.
Feb. 25, 27, March 1, Schuster Center: Dayton Opera presents Dead Man Walking. Purchase tickets: 937-228-3630.
For details, visit go.udayton.edu/rrw.
Read a commentary on the death penalty by former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft.No Comments
“You’re from Maji Zuwa?” the bike taxi driver asked as he picked up speed. He was about 17 and, although thin, he was all muscle and hardly broke a sweat as he pushed forward.
“I’m sorry?” I asked, distracted. I was attempting to keep my balance while sitting sidesaddle on the back of his bike. We were gliding dangerously near the edge of the paved road between the occasional car and a 10-foot drop into trees. “Oh, yes, I’m staying with Matt.” An 18-wheeler whizzed past. I gripped onto the metal seat, momentarily forgetting my skirt’s regulation length.
My companion smiled. “Ah, Maroony! He pays my school fees.”
Unexpected encounters with people who knew UD alumnus Matt Maroon ’06 were common during my two-month stay in Malawi. Four current UD students and I lived with Matt at his lodge as a part of the political science department’s Research Practicum on Rights and Development. The research projects we conducted focused on prominent local issues, some of which Matt is currently working to address with his nonprofit Determined to Develop.
Malawians are accustomed to foreign visitors. As one of the poorest countries in the world, they receive an influx of volunteers who flit in and out of the country to teach, research or administer aid. Ultimately, these visitors leave and much of their work remains unfinished. Not Matt. His decision to live in Malawi is altering an entire community. Matt has put a strong emphasis on working with the people to develop, as a result gaining respect and acceptance. As I conducted my research, people would discover my association with Matt. Their responses were identical to that of the bike taxi driver: “Maroony! He is a Malawian.”
There is something genuine about Malawians. Whatever they do, however they act, they do so with all their heart. I have seen them express gratitude toward Matt in a single handshake. On a visit to the secondary school Khwawa, the deputy head teacher took Matt’s hand in both of his and thanked him for a recent donation to the school. He then turned to the practicum, emphasizing we were “most welcome.”
On a rare occasion, the people of Matt’s community have thanked him in more elaborate ways. Maji Zuwa hosts a ceremony each year honoring traditional dances. I watched this past June as women moved and sang; I would occasionally hear “Maroony” within their chants. Matt remains humble — gracious for the community’s acceptance, but eager to continue his work.
Matt is full of joy, and he brings joy and encouragement wherever he goes. A large aspect of Determined to Develop is sending men and women to school. A few of these boys live with Matt. They have big dreams and work extremely hard, but occasionally they can be found sitting and laughing with Matt, talking or playing board games. He is their big brother as much as their mentor.
UD’s partnership with Matt adds to his current and future projects. Our research brings new information and ideas to further Determined to Develop’s work. It gives students an opportunity to practice what we learn in our human rights courses. The experience offers a valuable perspective and a unique opportunity to facilitate change in a loving community.
Read more about UD students’ human rights research in Malawi.No Comments
The questions and answers that appear only in this online edition of the University of Dayton Magazine are followed by those appearing in the print edition.
What does Father Burns do for entertainment? —ANITA AND JAMES BROTHERS, DAYTON
Anita, James, As you know my beloved sister has moved to Dayton. We take frequent rides, enjoy Hills and Dales and Cox Arboretum. I have cultivated a hobby in reading and research on Dayton history — especially Deeds (No. 1 in my book), Kettering and Patterson. I have read everything I can find on Wilbur and Orville along with visiting their monuments, museums and home in Indiana.
You were always passionate in the classroom. To what do you ascribe that passion? —BILL ROBERTS, DAYTON
Bill, Passion is who I am, a gift from Mary.
Is there one fundamental piece of advice that you would give regarding developing and maintaining a successful relationship? —TERRI KAYLOR ’80, KETTERING, OHIO
Terri, Stay with the pursuit. Relationships, community is the Chaminade charism.
“In the Marianist Tradition” — four words that are integral to UD’s mission statement. Please remind us why that is so important. —DAN COVEY ’77, SPRINGBORO, OHIO
Dan, Because those four words are the best answer to a purposeful life.
What did you love the most about the classroom? —MICHELA BUCCINI ’08, NORWOOD, OHIO
Michela, The embrace of God’s, Mary’s children.
Pope Francis celebrated a public marriage with 20 couples, some previously married, some living together and one an unwed mother. Do you see this as a positive influence? —JIM McGARRY ’73, TROY, OHIO
Jim, Thank you! I believe the great Francis is finding answers that are much needed.
How do you know you have had a great day in God’s eyes? —ANITA AND JAMES BROTHERS, DAYTON
Anita, James, I don’t know. I trust — the heart of any relationship.
The following questions and answers appeared in the University of Dayton Magazine, Winter 2014-15, vol. 7, no. 2.
With the passing of such great Roman Catholic theologians as Yves Congar, Karl Rahner, Edward Schillebeeckx and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, to cite just a few from that same fertile period of the 1960s, who do you see replacing them today? —BILL ANDERSON, LAC DU FLAMBEAU, WISCONSIN
Bill, I have given considerable thought to your great question. Congar, Rahner, Schillebeeckx, de Chardin are still with us. Today I honor Elizabeth Johnson, Pope Francis, Dairmuid O’Murchu, Matt Malone.
In your five decades of teaching, did you observe any fundamental changes in students’ attitudes towards relationships and marriage? —TERRI KAYLOR ’80, KETTERING, OHIO
Terri, In the early years attitudes were much more fixed. Today finds a much greater openness and acceptance of challenging those fixed ideas.
What advice can you give to young adults about to enter the sacrament of marriage? —DAN COVEY ’77, SPRINGBORO, OHIO
Dan, I have been sharing reflections on Six Keys to a Healthy Relationship. They are: Vision/Sacramentality — Passion — Dynamism — Communing Ways — Openness — Accommodating.
Why is it that so-called good Christians are so judgmental of others? If you do not live life their way, they feel you will not go to heaven. God loves us all. He welcomes us all into his kingdom. —MARY ALICE LOGAN, VIA FACEBOOK
Mary Alice, We are all God’s, Mary’s! We may be different, but we are all brothers and sisters embracing each other. Openness to the embrace is our call, our test.
How many students would you estimate you’ve taught during your career at UD? —CHELSEY SOUDERS ’04, TWINSBURG, OHIO
Chelsey, They tell me over 27,000 students met me in the classroom, the largest number of any professor in UD’s history. What a gift I have been given.
How much, in your present retirement, do you miss teaching? —BILL ROBERTS, DAYTON
Bill, I became avowed Marianist to live my life for God through Mary. In my retirement I am concentrating on that goal. I also wanted to dedicate my life as you have to the service of the young. For me that meant the classroom. I do miss it.
What has been the most rewarding thing about being a community member at UD? —HEATHER POOLE HEWITT ’98, CINCINNATI
Heather, As a vowed Marianist I hoped to answer Chaminade’s vision by a belongingness, a relationship. The UD Community was the answer for me, Chaminade’s Sodality in action.
What has kept you passionate and dedicated through your life as a Marianist? —MICHELA BUCCINI ’08, NORWOOD, OHIO
Mary’s help! My whole life is in her honor and for her glory.
How does the present pope, Francis, compare to Pope John XXIII, who called the Second Vatican Council into session in the 1960s and revolutionized the church? He seems to do many wonderful things, but what about “substantive” theological issues? —BILL ANDERSON, LAC DU FLAMBEAU, WISCONSIN
Bill, I love Francis and have great hopes for a 1960s repeat. Answers must be found to theological thorns. Mary will lead him!
How would you advise a person who is having a crisis of faith, not because of the laws of God, but rather because of the rules of the local church? —MAUREEN WILLITS ’69, KETTERING, OHIO
Maureen, We are grateful for the guidance of our Church. We are cognizant of the humanity of those making and interpreting the laws and the importance of conscience.
Why do you have such a devotion to Mary? Who influenced you the most growing up? Why the Marianist and not a different Catholic order? What was your favorite subject in high school and college? What do you believe is your legacy at the University of Dayton? —ANITA AND JAMES BROTHERS, DAYTON
a. a gift from my saintly mother; b. without a doubt, my mother and with her weekly devotion to the Miraculous Medal Novena at St. Ignatius Church in Cleveland; c. Cathedral Latin High School, Cleveland; d. discerning the purpose of life; e. that the primary message of life, of Scripture is RELATIONSHIP.
For our next issue, ask your questions of Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M. ’64, former University president (1979-2002) and current Father Ferree Professor of Social Justice. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.No Comments
“Erika, Erika, geh zu Amerika.”
The friendly jab — “Erika, Erika, go to America” — echoed around the 1930s Austrian schoolyard as 6-year-old Erika Schulhof Rybeck ’52 ran, laughing, away from her chanting classmates. It was a childhood rhyme that, 14 years later, became a prophecy. Sensing danger in Nazi-controlled Vienna, Rybeck’s parents sent her via Kindertransport to a boarding school in Scotland, then on to relatives in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She would spend the next 60 years searching for the parents who sacrificed their lives to save hers.
It was 11 at night, Saturday, May 13, 1939, when a whistle blew and a train full of children pulled out of the station.
Mine was one of the faces pressed against the window to wave goodbye. I watched the two dearest people in my life — my parents, Friedrich and Gertrude Schulhof — waving white handkerchiefs so bravely until they disappeared from view.
It was to be my last glimpse of all that was most precious to me. I never saw them again — but I would not know that until many years later.
“Don’t tell the child”
My parents’ love sustained me throughout my life, even though I never saw them after I was 10. So it is comforting and helpful for me to look back to those early years as a way of thanking them for the great gifts they gave me.
An only child, I grew up in the little village of Hohenau, Austria, on the Czech border. My father was manager and chief chemist of the Hohenauer Zuckerfabrik, the sugar factory that employed most of the locals.
As a 9-year-old, I was self-absorbed and took no notice of world events — including the tremendous changes happening across Europe in the late 1930s. If there was tension in my house — and looking back, there undoubtedly must have been — I was unaware of it. Children were not included in concerns of the adult world, and my parents, for reasons that I now fully comprehend, really pushed that approach to its limits.
As an adult, I found copies of correspondence between various adult relatives — some of them early on from my parents — with a consistent theme concerning the horrors of the times and what they were all going through. That theme was a conspiracy of silence, spelled out literally in some of the letters with the words, “Don’t tell the child.”
So, when my parents announced in 1938 that we were moving to Vienna to live with my grandmother, I was ecstatic. I adored my Oma. It never occurred to me then to
question the reason for this move that was disrupting the whole pattern of our lives.
Yet, a flash of momentary uneasiness struck me. When we came down the stairs from our apartment, my mother turned to look back. My father, in a voice I had never heard before, said, “Yes, Trude, have a good look. This is the last home you’ll ever have.”
I did not even find it strange — although it was in fact exceedingly strange — that nobody was at the train station to see us off. Or even stranger that, as we were leaving to live in a different city, we boarded the train without a single piece of luggage.
A granite cocoon
Because my parents chose to protect me, I was not told:
That my family, though thoroughly assimilated and not affiliated with any religious organization, had a long and quite illustrious Jewish history;
That all the changes about to take place in my life were associated with the anti-Semitic obsession of the Nazis, to the extent that, under Hitler’s doctrines, my parents and I were considered Jewish;
That the Nazis had taken over Austria and, in taking over the sugar factory, had stripped my father of his position;
That, like almost all Austrians of Jewish background, we were in great peril.
Decades later, I learned that, within a day or so after we departed for Vienna, Hohenau Jews were rounded up and sent directly to concentration camps where all but one perished. It appears that someone who knew of the roundup plans and who was fond of my parents warned them of what was about to happen.
Early on, my parents said we would become Catholics. Just as I did not question my parents about why we went to Vienna, I had no problem when they said the three of us were converting. My Aunt Olga later told me, “Your parents converted to save you.” If true, their goal was certainly successful. Yet it also seems plausible, based on things my parents wrote, that religion gave them considerable solace during their terrifying ordeals.
Previously, my parents listed their religious preference as religionslos, or unaffiliated. I beleive my father considered himself a freidenker, or free thinker. Both my parents were devoted to ethical behavior, great lovers of nature and proud of their family backgrounds, but before our flight to Vienna, they were not practicing followers of any organized religion.
Soon, my parents promised me a “new adventure,” as they put it. My Uncle Fritz and Aunt Mia Treuer, my mother’s sister and brother-in-law, had invited us to live with them in America. First, however, I would be sent as “luggage in advance” and go to a wonderful boarding school in Scotland. I was led to believe that, after a short time, my parents would join me in Scotland, and then we would all go to America together.
How did I get out of Vienna, since Austria was already occupied by the Germans? The Kindertransport — a children’s train — was my means of breaking free. Sealed trains carried children from Prague, Vienna and Berlin across Germany to Holland, from where they were ferried to England. Most went to families, others like myself to schools or other institutions. I arrived at 3 Queen’s Cross, a Sacred Heart boarding school in Aberdeen, Scotland, four days after my departure from Vienna.
I knew no English, and no one else that I met, young or old, spoke a word of German. It was total immersion. Emotionally, I comforted myself with the understanding that my parents would be coming for me very soon. Looking back now, my heart breaks when I think of those dear people, their lives in tatters, writing cheerful letters and cards to keep up the spirits of their little girl so far away. With no income and their assets frozen, they spent precious money on sending me my favorite chocolates and crayons, even my favorite comic magazines.
In September of the year I came to Aberdeen, the Nazis invaded Poland. Britain in response declared war on Germany. Suddenly it became impossible for me to send letters directly to my parents, or them to me. To put it another way, my parents and I were now living in opposing camps. For a time, we exchanged letters through relatives living in Norway — until the Nazis invaded in April 1940. My parents’ letters dwindled. On rare occasions I received cryptic messages from them via the Red Cross.
This turn of events gave me a rationale for accepting the fact that my parents’ plans to join me and take me to America were not about to occur. Clearly those plans would have to wait until the war ended. My parents spared me from worrying about their fate by writing repeatedly that they were fine and that everything was in order, except for what they led me to believe were inconsequential problems and delays in getting travel documents.
As weeks, then months and finally years went by without my parents’ intended trip
to Scotland to take me with them to America, 3 Queen’s Cross became my home and, from 1939 to 1947, the nuns there were my family. Thanks to the sheltering granite walls and the loving attention of the Sacred Heart community, I felt secure.
Life in triplicate
It has frequently been observed that children accept pretty much anything that comes along because they have no perspective of what alternatives life could offer. This was certainly true for me and my friends during the war years in Scotland. Looking back, war to us meant two bad things: poor food and awful cold. The best food was sent to the
fighting forces; civilians got the dregs; and the convent, like other places, cut way back on heating.
At graduation, nobody said anything to me about my real situation. They didn’t tell me I was an orphan, penniless, without family, free-floating and anchorless. When the war in Europe ended, Uncle Fritz and Aunt Mia had written to me to expect the worst about my parents. The Sacred Heart nuns, apparently not wanting me to read what was not a certainty, intercepted the letter and never let me see it. (I found a copy in Mia’s files after she died in 1990.)
It was somehow determined that I would go to Craiglochart College in Edinburgh, Scotland, to prepare for becoming a teacher, at least until my long-awaited visa to America came through. For years and years I tried unsuccessfully to get that visa. American consuls in Glasgow and London kept stalling. Time after time I was told everything was just about in order, but officials always found something missing: No birth certificate, so I had to write relatives in London and Switzerland to send sworn statements about the date and place of my birth; no affidavits from Americans affirming they would not let me be a financial burden to their country, so Aunt Mia obtained those and sent them to me. After more delays by the consul, he said those affidavits were out of date and had to be renewed. When all I needed was the visa, he claimed my number had not come up — my number under an Austrian quota.
Finally, after 10 years of waiting, my U.S. visa finally came through, and I could embark on a ship across the Atlantic and on to the next phase of my life.
I arrived in New York in July 1949 when I was 19 years old. In America, I reinvented myself for the third time. Often I was in denial that I was an orphan, that I had a strange childhood, that for years I had had no home, that I had missed adolescence, that most of my family were gone and that I had unfinished grieving to do.
At the same time, I found great comfort in my aunt and uncle. After arriving at their home in Yellow Springs just outside Dayton, I was taken upstairs to my bedroom. It had a window. Beside the bed, there was a large desk. I had arrived. I had a home.
I earned my bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton and began a teaching career. In 1954, I became an American citizen and married Walter Rybeck, an editorial writer at the Dayton Daily News. Two sons, Rick and Alex, came along in rapid succession. In 1961, when Walt was named Washington bureau chief for Cox Newspapers, we moved to Maryland, where we still live.
Many of us who survived the war years in Europe as children only started coming out of the closet, so to speak, when the Child Survivors of the Holocaust was formed some three decades after the war. Why had our “silent generation” taken so long, until we reached our 50s, to come to terms with our unique experience?
We were the lucky ones, people told us.
Children, it was widely assumed, were too young to have been traumatized. We bought into the myth of how lucky we were and got on with our lives, suppressing emotions that did not agree with this assessment of our good luck.
Sure, we were lucky that we escaped and were not gassed. But was it good fortune that many of us lost parents and relatives, lost our homes, country and native language, and lost contact with anything familiar or secure?
Once childhood trauma became recognized as a reality, issues and memories I had packed away came flooding back. For years and years I could not speak German or even understand letters I had saved from my parents, but amazingly the language of my first decade returned.
When World War II ended, correspondence between Austria and Britain was again possible. My Aunt Olga Kraft wrote to me in Aberdeen in October 1946. She did not address me as a child, breaking the old conspiracy of silence, and gave me my first inkling that I might be Jewish:
In fall 1941 began the unhappy transports to Poland. We tried every means to permit your parents to locate outside Vienna, to no avail despite his World War I injuries and medals. They were given only two days notice.
Papi and Mutti talked touchingly about their love for you, dear Erika, wishing you to be happy and content. They were so courageous, consoling and comforting us.
Every week Aunt Gretl, Aunt Ella and I each sent them 20 shillings from the money they had left with us. After a short while they asked that we send no more. Then I learned that only Jews were permitted to send money to Jews. Others could be jailed, lose their jobs or their pensions if the Gestapo found out.
Uncle Fritz and Aunt Mia’s efforts to rescue my parents were also truly heroic, raising funds when they were almost penniless, writing to every possible saving organization, buying tickets, all to no avail. At times these efforts came tantalizingly close as they got papers and even plane or ship tickets to New Zealand, the Philippines, Turkey, Norway, Portugal and China, as well as to the United States, only to be thwarted by the advance of Hitler’s war machine, by bureaucratic deception and ineptness, or quirks of fate. Time after time their high hopes failed to materialize.
For years, I wrote every possible organization, in America, Austria and Israel, trying to discover why, despite the Germans’ meticulous record keeping, nobody could tell me of my parents’ last days. The Red Cross confirmed they were deported from Vienna on Oct. 23, 1941, on a train headed for Lodz, Poland. There, the trail ended.
It was not until 2002 that, thanks to my son Rick and his wife, I finally learned their fate.
When the Lodz Ghetto was liquidated, my parents were not deported with Jews from Vienna because they chose to go with a group of Christians who were deported to Chelmno on May 9, 1942. According to my son’s research, Chelmno was not a concentration camp, but purely a death camp prior to the invention of gas chambers. Prisoners were forced to disrobe before entering the cargo hold of trucks, which were sealed off. Truck exhaust was then piped in as it drove around until people stopped moving. Bodies of those who perished were dumped in a nearby forest.
Although the news my son and daughter-in-law discovered was tragic, their careful planning, the pains they took to get the facts, and even the news itself gave me comfort. No longer would I have to await letters telling me, “Proof of death is not available” or “No information has become available yet.” Knowing the awful truth was a relief after spending most of my life trying to fathom how my wonderful parents could have vanished into thin air.
For the first time since their horrible deaths, hidden in mystery for six decades, I finally felt free to grieve for them as their lives were validated during a most moving performance of Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín. It was Sunday, May 1, 2011, in Bemidji, Minnesota.
My cousin, Bob Treuer, was a friend of the Bemidji Symphony conductor, and they worked together to dedicate the performance in memory of my parents and other relatives who had perished in the Holocaust.
The continuous prayer, requiem aeternam, was sung with fervor and emotion.
“Eternal rest give unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”
No grave, tombstone or acknowledgment offers proof that my mother and father existed — a truth I lived with for too long. What an honor it was for my parents to be remembered at long last in such a fitting fashion.
Adapted by Audrey Starr from Erika Rybeck’s memoir, On My Own: Decoding the Conspiracy of Silence, published in 2013 by Summit Crossroads Press, Columbia, Maryland. Available on Amazon.com and at other retailers.
The Kindertransport — literally, “children transport,” in German — was the informal name of a rescue mission that brought thousands of refugee children to Great Britain from Nazi-occupied countries in the two years prior to World War II.
Following Kristallnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”) — a series of coordinated attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria Nov. 9-10, 1938 — British authorities agreed to permit an unspecified number of children under age 17 to enter the United Kingdom unaccompanied on temporary travel visas from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Private citizens and organizations volunteered to pay for each child’s care, education and eventual emigration
The Nazis apparently were eager, before they developed their killing camps, to get rid of ‘useless and undesirable’ children,” noted Erika Schulhof Rybeck. “Especially heroic were the Jewish trainmasters. After tasting the breath of freedom, these leaders returned to take more youngsters on more trips. If any of the escorts had chosen to stay and escape, the whole enterprise would have been closed down.”
The first Kindertransport arrived in Harwich, Great Britain, Dec. 2, 1938, bringing some 200 children from a Jewish orphanage in Berlin that had been destroyed during Kristallnacht. Like this convoy, most transports left by train from Berlin, Vienna, Prague and other major cities in Central Europe. Jewish organizations inside Germany planned the transports. Upon arrival, children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, schools and farms. Often, these children were the only members of their families to survive the Holocaust.
Priority was given to children whose parents were in concentration camps or were no longer able to support them, or to homeless children and orphans. The last transport from Germany left Sept. 1, 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland, while the last transport from the Netherlands left for Britain May 14, 1940, the day the Dutch army surrendered to German forces. In all, the rescue operation transported 9,000 to 10,000 children, some 7,500 of them Jewish.
Sources: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.; The Kindertransport Association.
Erika Schulhof Rybeck landed in Ohio in 1949 a devout Catholic, and intending to continue her college education, she approached the local priest, Father John Anthony, for recommendations.
“He was understanding and with great kindness made arrangements for me to go to the University of Dayton. He even saw to it that I got a generous scholarship. At first, I rode back and forth with Yellow Springs residents who worked in Dayton but soon found a place that rented me a room not far from campus,” Rybeck remembered.
As a Flyer, Rybeck enjoyed singing in the chorus and helping in what she called “the little college store that sold cigarettes and candy,” often referred to as Brother Paul’s.
“I had no work experience at all; I had never worked in my life. I didn’t know the names of cigarettes, and I didn’t know American money, and that poor brother who was in charge — I must have been a terrible burden to him. Between classes the students would rush in and say, ‘Get me Camels,’ or ask for change for a dollar, and I didn’t know what they were talking about. It was a circus,” Rybeck said.
She and her husband, Walter, have visited Dayton a few times since they relocated to the Washington, D.C., area in 1961, but she hasn’t returned to campus.
“I must have been totally ignorant of just about everything when I came to UD, and I’m filled with amazement and gratitude that they took me on,” Rybeck said. “I am so grateful to the University and the opportunity it gave me to complete my degree and get on with my life.”2 Comments
The home in which I grew up was filled with books, and, when I was young, my parents regularly read to me from them. The activity of reading captivated me then and captivates me to this day. But my great fascination with books, as uniquely interesting, meaning-laden objects, probably began when, as an unsteady toddler, I would scoot into my parents’ bedroom and begin to pull from a low bookshelf dense, heavy volumes from a set of The Great Books of the Western World, edited by Robert Maynard Hutchins and published in 1952 by Encyclopedia Britannica. These books intrigued me because my parents seemed to treat them with reverence. Their 54-volume set of The Great Books, including the curious, two-volume Syntopicon, came with its own shelf, into which the weighty volumes fit snugly. The titles of these books seemed exotic when my parents mouthed them, and the books made a wonderful thud as they fell around me to the floor. These books were, for me, even at that tender age, gateways to worlds of challenge and adventure. A number of the titles from the Rose Rare Book Collection exhibited in Imprints and Impressions were represented among Hutchins’ selections for The Great Books.
Of course, my appreciation for books as a 2-year-old was rather limited. I did not know how to read. I had only the dimmest sense of the power that books can possess for individual readers and for literate communities. I did not understand how books are written, edited and produced and how varied are the production and functions of books throughout the history of print culture. I did not yet grasp how my own life and the cultural worlds I would come to inhabit are connected through time, space, meaning and value with the lives of others by way of books. As the volumes of The Great Books of the Western World dropped around me, forming a kind of literary nest in a small tract house in one of the new Eisenhower-era suburbs advancing upon cornfields to the west of Chicago, I sensed, if only obliquely, the magical character of books.
The University of Dayton is honored to exhibit this remarkable selection of volumes from the Rose Rare Book Collection in part because these books are such lovely, precious and influential artifacts. Encountering these rare and, in many cases, visually compelling volumes impresses upon us the unique gift of the emergence of literacy and the powerful place of the printed word in the unfolding of human cultures. In Imprints and Impressions, we are reminded of the connections between what we now think and feel, imagine and believe, say and do and the worlds that are conceived, expressed and inscribed in these books. We find in these books a dazzling array of ways in which persons and communities have sought to illuminate or give voice to their place in the world and to carry their voices forward in conversation with generations future and past. We see how differently words, images and other symbol systems can be ordered so as to seek to make sense of our lives and the worlds in which we live. Consider, for instance, the dramatic contrasts in form and structure among the Scriptures in the Polyglot Bible, the theorems of Euclid, the diagrams of Johannes Kepler, the disputations of Thomas Aquinas, the drawings of William Blake, the verse of Phillis Wheatley and the narratives of J.R.R. Tolkien.
As these books demonstrate the world-forming magic of the imprinted page, the uniqueness of these objects’ histories also brings to mind the multitude of books whose originals no longer exist, whose current reproductions are inadequate or incomplete, or whose origins and authors remain unknown to us. The very books that are constructed to engage in sustained conversation with future and past generations are also fragile, all-too-transient objects.
The marked and bound bundles of paper that Stuart Rose has shared with us bear signs of their age, use and eventual deterioration. As we celebrate their preservation as a body of inestimably influential human endeavor, we are also made aware of how much of the printed legacy of humanity has been — and will be — lost. The time-honored declaration, “Vox audita perit, littera scripta manet” — “The spoken word passes away, while the written word remains” — is as much the expression of our hope as a fact about the durability of the printed word.
We approach this magnificent exhibition, then, partly through our particular and personal relationships with books. Taking in these texts up close unlocks rich personal stories: where we were when we first read Fyodor Dostoevsky or Flannery O’Connor; who first led us through Aristotle or Moses Maimonides; what we felt as we became consumed by the worlds of Homer, William Shakespeare, Mark Twain or Virginia Woolf. We also come to this exhibition gripped by the contrast between the historical power and persistence of these texts, on the one hand, and their ultimate impermanence, on the other. These books present us with human strivings to speak beyond the bounds of our specific time and place, even as they mark the limits and improbabilities of those very efforts.
As an educator, however, what impresses me most about the opportunity to experience these books together, on the University of Dayton campus, is the capability of these volumes to create shared spaces for exploration, imagination, creation and discovery, both here and now and stretched across time. Some of these volumes speak directly to one another. Some can be placed in conversation with each other through our readings of them. All of these volumes can draw us, as active communities of readers, into dialogue with and about them. These books give rise to dialogical spaces within which new questions, emotions, hypotheses, dreams, arguments, relationships and ways of being human become possible for us and worthy of our contemplation.
The University of Dayton’s new Common Academic Program for undergraduates, now entering its second year, embraces the invitations of books such as these. Unlike most general education curricula, the Common Academic Program is not oriented primarily toward sprinkling small portions of students’ time and attention across the breadth of core, disciplinary ways of human knowing (a little humanities here, a little science and social science there, and so on). Rather, our new curriculum seeks to engage the entire University community in the project of advancing shared goals for student learning: the production of bodies of scholarly work; the development of intelligent, mutually enriching dialogue among faith traditions; the cultivation of intercultural competencies; the building of communities that nourish service, justice and peace; the growth of practical wisdom in response to real human problems and needs; the informed and critical evaluation of the times in which we live; and the discernment of our
individual and communal callings.
As we take the opportunity, then, to immerse ourselves in some of these texts and their complex, intersecting histories and patterns of influence, we enter not only a shared space for dialogue and reflective examination, but also a curricular commons that is structured to foster integrative learning in the context of the University of Dayton’s distinctive Marianist educational traditions. In these books, we encounter multiple, profound ways of articulating what it means to be human, new ways of understanding our faith commitments in relation to others’ traditions, and deeper methods for recognizing what it is ethically good or right for us to do. These books also strengthen our awareness of the differences between ways in which various academic cultures — the traditions of conceptualization, reasoning, theory and creative practice that we call “disciplines” — frame and respond to humanity’s deepest questions.
Ultimately, our engagements with volumes in the Imprints and Impressions exhibit challenge us to consider how we might strive for greater wholeness in our pursuit of knowledge and integrity in our decisions about how to lead our lives. They challenge us to integrate our learning, our actions and the broader, overlapping communities that shape who we are. The disciplinary perspectives found in the exhibition speak to our drive to integrate our thoughts, sentiments and decisions and to live with whole hearts and whole minds — in short, our aim to compose meaningful lives and apprehend an intelligible universe out of the fragmentary character of our experience. Perhaps books such as these can help us to do just that.
Paul H. Benson is interim provost and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. His essay appears in the Imprints and Impressions catalog.
To learn more about the exhibit opening Sept. 29. 2014, including titles on display and list of events, visit https://www.udayton.edu/libraries/rarebooks/.No Comments
With pride and as a reflection of the excellence of a University of Dayton education, the Alumni Association recognizes alumni accomplishments through an annual awards program.
Here are the 2014 recipients, who will receive their honors Sept. 13, 2014.
SEAN DONAHUE ’84
Bachelor of Science, Mathematics
Sean Donahue has a vision — and he helps others see it. The Sam and Darthea Coleman Endowed Chair in Opthalmology at Vanderbilt Eye Institute, Donahue’s research helps find new technologies that detect eye problems in preliterate children. Through his work with the Lions Club International Foundation Pediatric Cataract Initiative, he has traveled the globe to train doctors in the recognition, prevention and treatment of cataracts.
The author of more than 200 professional papers, Donahue keeps it simple when instructing the next generation of eye specialists. “If I had to name only one thing I hope every student of mine takes away from my classes, it would be love for the pursuit of knowledge and the understanding of truth,” he said.
As principal of Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati, “Blane Collison embodies the Marianist communal ideal of living and working in a ‘discipleship of equals,’” writes Jim Elfers ’07, the school’s director of pastoral ministry. “He recognizes the inherent value in each person and consistently makes decisions through the lens of our mission as a Catholic school, answering tough questions in light of our Marianist philosophy.”
In his eight-year tenure at Moeller, Collison has begun a wide range of initiatives, from a laptop program to a new counseling model. “The one that is my greatest passion is the Support Services Program, which serves the needs of students with learning disabilities,” he said.
Ranked among Foreign Policy magazine’s 2013 Top 100 Global Thinkers, Erica Chenoweth, associate professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and an associate senior researcher at the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, likes to keep the peace — and can tell you how.
Together with Maria Stephan, Chenoweth won the 2013 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order for their book, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict. “My favorite feedback comes from elementary or middle school students, who ask questions about civil resistance as part of their school projects,” she said. “To know that young people are becoming more familiar with nonviolent resistance is very
Mike Sewell left UD with an education, a job — and a passion for helping his community. He’s served on the boards of the Cincinnati Ballet, YMCA, Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the Ronald McDonald House, where he led the transformation of its facility to the third largest in the world. Today, Sewell is CFO, senior vice president and treasurer of Cincinnati Financial Corp.
Creating community comes naturally to Sewell, said his wife, Monique Napoli Sewell ’87. “Mike strongly believes in the value of friendship. He has organized six reunions in the 30 years since high school and spent more than 20 years recruiting for Deloitte & Touche, helping to connect UD graduates to the firm,” she said.
The Hon. Frank Geraci, judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York — the first and only University of Dayton School of Law graduate to have achieved this distinction — knows the (UD) road well traveled. As two-time leader of the Rochester alumni community, Geraci annually organized a bus trip of 50 nearby Flyers to support the men’s basketball team at games in Dayton or St. Bonaventure, New York.
“Organizing trips to watch the Flyers play has been easy because nothing unites UD alumni, family and friends like UD basketball,” Geraci noted. “Where else would you get 50 people to spend eight hours on a bus, enjoy some UD basketball highlights, enjoy good food and share one bathroom? Now that’s UD.”
It’s not a soccer game. It’s a pathway to healing. That’s what Justin Forzano discovered in 2006 when he started kicking a ball around in Cameroon while on a UD ETHOS immersion trip. Inspired by others who were using the sport to fight HIV, empower women and heal former child soldiers, Forzano laid the foundation for the Cameroon Football Development Program, a nonprofit that inspires youth and teaches leadership skills.
“Justin was the first UD engineering student to travel to Cameroon, but not the last,” explained Brother Philip Aaron, S.M. ’54. “He has devoted hundreds of hours to promoting the CFDP and has spent all of his vacation time working for its mission. He found his passion while at UD, and has since followed through with real action.”
To the uninitiated eye, rugby resembles a demolition derby. Without cars.
It’s body-jarring sport, albeit one with its own unique free-flowing style of strength, speed, agility and strategy. Rugby players wear no hard plastic helmets, no shock-absorbing shoulder pads, almost no protection of any kind except,
perhaps, for some tape over their ears.
So the ears don’t accidentally get ripped off.
With such potential for pain, what could possess a person to play such a game? It’s one thing if you’re getting paid professionally, as many do throughout the world. It’s quite another if you’re a University of Dayton student playing the sport on a club level and the most striking reward is a morning-after-a-game body that feels as if it were thrown off a mountain.
Besides the obvious answer of competition, and the less obvious one of professional networking, players say there’s satisfaction in facing your fears — be it in the form of 15 opponents ready to rip the ball from your arms. Colin Doyle, a 21-year-old chemical engineering major from Chicago who is the heart and soul of UD’s rugby club, has a succinct answer to the question of motivation: “It’s the most fun you can have legally.”
* * *
Rugby isn’t well known among the sporting public in the U.S. A wee bit of football, a wee bit of soccer, it’s a whole lot of mayhem with its own opaque rules and terminology. (“Blood bin,” anyone?)
Last spring, at a game where the Flyers crushed rival Xavier, 54-5, a fan threw his hands in the air after Dayton’s first score and bellowed, “Touchdown!”
A woman, watching from the sidelines, said cryptically, “It’s called a try, not touchdown.”
“Here it’s called a touchdown,” the fan argued.
“It’s a European sport,” the woman countered.
“Well, this is the United States and, over here, I’m calling it a touchdown.”
Rugby is indeed an imported sport, dating back to the 1800s. Legend has it the game was invented in 1823 during a soccer game at Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire, England, when a cheeky lad named William Webb Ellis blithely
disregarded the rules and grabbed the ball in his arms and ran with it. Presumably, after passing on calling the new sport “webby,” they settled on “rugby.”
Whether the tale is apocryphal or not is irrelevant to our story. This we know for certain: The game is wildly popular overseas — an estimated 5 million play it in 117 countries — and every four years the top 20 teams in the world meet in the Rugby World Cup to play for the appropriately named William Webb Ellis Cup.
Why the game isn’t as popular here in the States is a mystery because rugby and football are cousins twice removed. Like American footballers, rugby players run with the ball. Unlike American football, however, there is no quarterback.
Any player on the field can handle and run with the ball, which looks like an American football off its diet.
Two teams of 15 players each throw themselves around the field with abandon, their grunts and groans and the heavy slap of flesh-on-flesh heard from yards away. The goal is to advance the ball by making lateral or backward passes to
teammates. No forward passes allowed.
You score when you ground the ball over the other team’s “try line” (hence, “try” not “touchdown”) or by dropkicking it through the uprights. A try is worth five points, compared to football’s six; a dropkick, three.
Defense, meanwhile, is fairly easy. Tackle the guy with the ball — hard. It’s not uncommon for the ball carrier to be hit by all 15 defenders. At the same time.
UD first started sending players onto the field in 1969 and played — and won — its first game against Bowling Green. According to Doyle, the only loss that first season was to the Cleveland Grays, a men’s city club.
Since 1995, the UD men’s club has been coached by Shane Stacks, a native New Zealander who has led the team to two national tournament appearances and five Midwest regional appearances. In 2012, Dayton was promoted to Division I-AA level and has been competing in the MAC rugby conference.
A personal trainer by trade, Stacks, 43, receives no pay for his efforts. He doesn’t care.
“I love rugby,” says Stacks, who also coaches the Dayton men’s city team. “I come from a nation that it’s our national sport. I get a chance to teach it the way I got taught.”
The game, he says, has much to offer.
“It’s a great sport where both sides can be competitive, where you can want to rip your opponent limb from limb on the field, and then off the field, go have some food and respect one another and the sport.
“I tell the guys you always get out of rugby what you put into it.”
On the field, what the players most put into it is their young bodies.
“It does look like a lot of reckless chaos,” says Kevin Hogan, a 19-year-old criminal justice major from Rocky River, Ohio, who hits with a lack of restraint that belies his 5-foot-7, 162-pound frame.
But he insists the game is “safer than it looks.”
“(Because) I don’t wear a helmet, I’m not tackling people leading with my head,” says teammate Ryan Burdine, an operations management major from Westerville, Ohio, who is the club’s president.
“There are more rules around tackling,” says Doyle, who has a preacher’s fervor when discussing the game. “We attempt to wrap people up, not knock them out. The goal is to tackle in a way nobody gets hurt. We’re never going to be No. 1 on the SportsCenter Top 10 plays.”
Says Hogan: “It’s more technical than football. I’m not going to throw all my body mass at someone.”
Still, rugby players don’t do helmets and the possibility of concussion is a real concern. So much so that according to a New York Times article, the International Rugby Board has increased its efforts to educate players, coaches and medical staff about the dangers of head trauma.
UD’s Connor Squire, a tall slab of a young man who is studying to become a teacher but looks like he could handle himself nicely in a boxing ring, has had three “recorded” concussions, but admits, “I’ve probably had a few more than that.”
How many, he won’t speculate. That’s pretty much how it goes among rugby players, who are mostly tight-lipped on the subject. Even the English Rugby Union reports it’s “hard to say how common concussion is as players often don’t admit to being concussed …”
Of course, concussions aren’t the only concern for players.
Squire needed 16 stitches to close a nasty gash under his eye his freshman year. The compactly muscled Hogan has had his right shoulder dislocated “a couple of times,” and Doyle has torn the meniscus in his left knee.
During the March match against Xavier, a Dayton player was upended and sent gymnastically head over heels over head, landing squarely on his back. Another twisted his ankle after being tossed to the ground like a rag doll. Both played on.
The possibility of injuries is one thing that makes it hard to recruit female UD students for the women’s team, says MacKenzie Shivers, a 19-year-old exercise physiology major from Mason, Ohio.
Shivers, who is president of the UD women’s team, says she loves “how tough the sport is,” but finding people like herself is difficult. At the time of this writing, there weren’t enough players to field a full fifteens team.
“If you are a girl who wants to play rugby, you have to want to hit people or it isn’t going to work out,” Shivers says, “and it’s really hard to get girls to willingly tackle.”
The boys, not so much.
In a game against Miami University earlier this year, a RedHawks player was hit so hard, his shoulder just sort of … exploded.
“(The hit) sounded like two pieces of wood clapped together,” Hogan says.
“Like all the air in a hot air balloon just leaving,” Burdine says.
“For sure, there’s hitting,” Doyle says. “But we have a bad rep. A lot of people view rugby players as drinking and then going out on a Saturday night and fighting. But that’s not it. That’s not us.”
* * *
There are 35 sport clubs at UD, among them lacrosse, ice hockey, Quidditch and bass fishing. There are also 16 varsity sports (seven men, nine women) and dozens of intramural activities, ranging from disc golf, to floor hockey, to inner tube water polo.
In the university pecking order, varsity sports come first, followed by sport clubs and intramurals. When talking club sports, forget about perks enjoyed by some NCAA Division-I sports such as full-ride scholarships, first-class travel and tutoring because you’ve missed class while playing in the NCAA basketball tournament.
In UD sport clubs, players buy their own uniforms and cleats. They drive to games as far away as Nashville, Tennessee, in borrowed vehicles to play in front of crowds numbering in the hundreds rather than thousands. They provide their own health insurance. Open a gash requiring stitches and you’d better be ready to present your own insurance card when you arrive at the emergency room. (All UD students, including athletes, are expected to carry their own insurance upon attendance.)
And since rugby is a sport club, players don’t have access to the varsity weight rooms, so they grab lifting time in RecPlex, which they share with all UD students. If they want to run to stay in shape, they do it on their own time.
“When they work out, that’s entirely up to them,” says Stacks, who holds practice twice a week during the regular season and four times a week before a tournament. “They sometimes get together and go, ‘OK, who’s going for a run?’ It’s very, very rewarding when I see these guys pull together. There’s character and honesty in sport and it bleeds over to your real life.”
The University does support sport clubs through a full-time staff position, funds to help offset equipment and travel costs, and facilities.
Stuart Field, a 225,500-square-foot multipurpose outdoor facility, underwent a $2.4 million renovation in 2011 specifically with the school’s sport clubs and intramurals in mind. Currently, it is home to the rugby team as well as a multitude of events and practices for various other sport clubs and an intramural program with 4,000 or so participants.
Keeping track of everything being played on the crosshatched synthetic field takes the skill of an air traffic controller.
That responsibility falls to Shea Ryan, the assistant director of sport clubs.
“There are times out there when we have seven or eight games going on out there over a weekend,” Ryan says.
Another of Ryan’s responsibilities is to help sport clubs with their finances. For rugby, each player ponies up $400 at the start of the season.
“I help manage their finances, help plan travel,” Ryan says. “A few months prior to their season, I meet with the team presidents to discuss how we could help up front.”
In 2013-14, Ryan had $30,000 in potential funding to allocate among the 35 clubs to help teams with expenses.
“Every club is open to give a proposal,” he says. “Not every club does. But if they do, we can allocate a certain amount of funds to help with specific association dues or enter a tournament. To my knowledge, we’ve never had every club make a proposal in the same year.”
Team needs vary. The water ski team might require funds to help fuel their motorboat, while the taekwondo club needs a punching dummy for practice (they purchased “Bob” in 2012 for $205; Ryan’s office paid for half). This year, the volleyball team opted not to participate in games that would lead to the tournament final, since they could not afford travel to Reno, Nevada.
In 2014-15, the MAC rugby league will expand to include two more universities, meaning additional games — and expenses. That means the $400 each rugby player pays to play is vital.
“It helps with lodging, hotels, food and such,” Doyle says.
It’s not enough to cover their jerseys and cleats and other gear, however.
“All that,” Burdine says, “comes out of our pocket.”
Doyle and the others say they would love to see rugby be recognized as a varsity sport at UD, but the likelihood is remote.
For one thing, less than two-dozen universities around the country play rugby at a varsity level. For another, there’s the price tag. Even partial scholarships for the 35 to 40 players on the men’s team could cost UD hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“The University has been very good to us,” Doyle says. “We’ve asked for a few things and gotten some (like balls and practice time on Stuart Field) and not gotten some (like a scrum sled). We don’t want anything handed to us. We want to earn anything we get.”
* * *
While the women’s team is struggling to find players, the men have enough to field two teams. Typically, the A squad will play a game of fifteens, followed by the B squad playing a game of sevens.
Fifteens is as it implies — 15 players on each team, eight forwards and seven backs. Despite the labels, players are not restricted to any single position.
“That’s one of the reasons I love this sport,” says the barrel-chested Burdine, who was a lineman on his Columbus (Ohio) St. Charles high school football team but saw little playing time. “I’m not locked into one spot. I have the freedom to run the ball, hit people, tackle people.”
In a game of sevens, just seven players from each team are on the field at the same time. The only real difference from a game of fifteens is that the matches are noticeably shorter — 14 minutes compared to the 80 minutes — and much, much faster.
“You’ve got to be in tremendous shape to play sevens,” Burdine says, “because there’s so much more running.”
The UD club used to play two fifteens seasons, a serious one in the fall and a more “friendly” one in the spring. Spring was also a time when the club would go to tournaments and compete against teams other than those in the MAC.
But things have changed. This fall, UD will play six regular-season MAC games. A four-team playoff featuring the top two teams from the north and south divisions will decide which club gets an automatic bid to the national
Additionally, the MAC will play a serious sevens season in the spring. No more “friendly” games.
It’s no place for the faint of heart.
Nor is it anyplace for a player needing a breather or a fan needing a bathroom break. Unlike American football, where timeouts, huddles and 40-second play clocks result in very little actual football being played, rugby is a continuous
game of running and gunning. For 80 minutes.
Whenever the game needs to be restarted because of an infraction or an out-of-bounds play, a scrum is formed. Sixteen players — eight from each side — link arms and fashion a circle. They bend at the waist and start pushing against one another, grunting, gouging and generally knocking the snot out of each other as they maneuver to control the ball that has been rolled down the middle of the tunnel between their legs.
It’s exhausting just to watch, let alone play.
Says Burdine: “Playing this game … it’s not boring or monotonous.”
No, it’s not. That’s why Doyle says he’ll “play ’til I’m 50,” even if his chemical engineering degree drops him onto some oil platform far out into the ocean.
“Even when I’m gone from here there are men’s teams in every city in the country, at every level,” he says. “I’m not going to stop (playing) for a long time.”
* * *
There is a more important if less apparent aspect to playing for these young men and women. They use games as a networking tool, introducing themselves to people who might some day hire them, or be colleagues, or provide a conduit to a job.
“Hockey is a very tight-knit community,” Doyle says. “If you’re chippy on the ice, you get a reputation real quick. Everybody knows it.
“Rugby is the same way. If anything, it’s even tighter. There’s instant recognition. I went on a job interview (recently) and the hiring manager noticed on my résumé that I played rugby and he said he forwarded my name along to someone he knows that also played rugby.”
“Anybody who says they’ve played rugby, there’s that instant bond,” she says. “If I were ever hiring people, if I saw that someone played rugby, I’d be interested in them because I know what it takes to play the game.”
There is, players say, a camaraderie that’s stronger than Gorilla glue.
“The team becomes your family,” Doyle says. “There are 35 guys on our team and I could call any one of them at any time, 4 a.m. or whenever, and know they would help me out.”
Hogan runs a hand through his flop of red hair and says, “Anyone who’s played knows you’re willing to go out there and face people who are willing to help bring out the best in you and sometimes the worst. It’s kind of like being in a fraternity.”
Of course, fraternities aren’t always viewed in a positive light.
“Yeah, some people think we’re creepy cannibals that go nuts,” Hogan says. “They see us walk into class with a black eye and wonder what happened. But they always have fun when they get to know us and hang out with us.”
* * *
Back at the March match against Xavier, the game is over and the players from both sides have shaken hands. Both squads are sweaty and done in, too worn out to talk much. Angry raw rug burns from the artificial turf of Stuart Field cover their knees and elbows, and many of them are walking as if they’d just ridden a horse 100 miles — which is to say gingerly.
“After a game,” Doyle says, “a lot of people ask us, ‘How’d you survive that?’”
For Doyle, Hogan, Burdine, Shivers and the rest, it really isn’t a matter of survival. What they care about is a game they have come to love.
“It’s that edge, the adrenaline, the rush of seeing a guy across the line, waiting to kill you, and taking that head on,” Hogan says. “It’s like how scary the game is, afterward, you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Like you’ve conquered that day’s fears.”
After all is said and done, that’s why they play.
Gene Williams is a freelance writer who never played rugby, for which his body thanks him. Ryan Burdine, president of the UD Rugby Club, is his loving nephew.
Current University of Dayton sport clubs
Boxing / Kickboxing
Cosa Meara Company of Irish Dance
Life Itself Dance
Ultimate Frisbee (M)
Ultimate Frisbee (W)
Water Polo (M)
Water Polo (W)