At birth, God gives you just five exclamation marks. Use them wisely.
Years ago, amid a painful stretch of copyediting, a writer friend of mine reminded me of this phrase popular among journalists. It came to mind again recently when the exclamation mark on my keyboard stopped working. Having announced neither theater fires nor world wars in my 15 years at UD, I told myself my key died out of neglect, not overuse.
Except that’s not quite true.
First, let me state that punctuation is elegant when used for good. The semicolon is among my favorites; it indicates relationship while allowing a phrase to stand on its own. Even rhetorical questions raise a quiet eyebrow when the correct mark is added — wouldn’t you agree?
There is nothing elegant about the exclamation mark. It stands up on its tippy toe and shouts at you. The party crasher steals your friends and eats all your birthday cake. Yes, it helps you escape an inferno in the nick of time, but I didn’t even consider it worthy of the toaster oven fire I recently extinguished thanks to a pair of potholders and a quick heave out onto the driveway.
But in our neon world, I have acquiesced. It was apparent when I composed a tweet to the @daymag graduating seniors and had to hit delete twice — leaving a single sentry where three had previously stood. As I’ve coaxed our student writers to curb their enthusiasm, I have found myself closer to a middle ground that would have cost me an A in J-school. It’s the way we now communicate. Even when emailing colleagues, I feel compelled to add an exclamation mark after my terminal “thanks,” lest the reader interpret my gratitude as less than genuine.
As I read the profile of Father Daniel Reehil ’87 in this issue of the magazine (see Page 58), I wondered if the exclamation mark belongs to the cacophony that is stealing our silence. Graduate assistant Joe Oliveri had similar sentiments after last Lent, when he taught students to quiet their minds and open their hearts (see Page 20).
While the exclamation mark is brash, it can also be joyful — just ask the writers of the Psalms. And it is versatile, working well in times of anger and bliss, fear and humor. I have used it in the past more often than I’ve cared to admit, but I will likely use it even more as I find reasons for celebration and connection with the exclamation mark users around me.
Since my key no longer works without a rousing and repeated barrage, each stroke is a reminder to reconsider both intention and effect — which is good advice for life.
I was tired, very hungry and quite muddy from a misstep I took on the rocky, wet trail. After a three-hour hike to one of Ireland’s tallest peaks, I stood at the summit, looked around and saw nothing.
Literally. My hand, outstretched 2 feet from my face, was lost in the clouds. What should have been a cinematic view of the North Atlantic was instead only a ghostly outline of Saint Brendan’s cross, planted at the peak. Somewhere nearby, I could only assume, was my Flyer husband, also standing muddy in the mist.
I’d travel anywhere with a Flyer. With Flyers, I’ve camped in forests, walked through jungles and toured great cities.
Then there was that time feeding elephants in Thailand. And another walking alongside lava flows
Those last two, I didn’t get to do in person. But as editor of this magazine, alumni take me — and you — on adventures through their words and photos. We love the stories they send with their Where Are You Reading pictures.
When we redesigned our quarterly tabloid into the University Dayton Magazine nine years ago, we figured it would take nearly a decade to profile every Flyer alumni community, one issue at a time and accompanied by a Rudy cartoon painted by our art director, Frank Pauer (his illustration for Tampa Bay, pictured here, is one of my favorites). With this issue’s trip to Southwest Florida, we have accomplished that goal.
Some communities have memorable events — bat-watching boat cruise in Austin, Texas, anyone? — but with most, there is much of the same: Game watches. Networking events. Christmas off Campus. Friendships old and new.
Our student journalists love it.
We don’t write the magazine with them in mind, these 18- to 22-year-olds immersed daily in the UD community. But it’s because they are immersed, they say, that they need these stories of Flyers flown afar.
“One day you’ll make us leave,” they say. And that’s scary.
In stories of alumni gathering in communities, students see their future selves, away from campus and doing just fine.
One of those was our own Michaela Eames ’15, who upon graduation worked as the University’s social media strategist. Early this year, she accepted a position with TED Talks in New York City. It was a tip from alumna CC Hutten ’15 that led her to the job posting. Jack Raisch ’15 offered his parents’ NYC home as a temporary abode. Katie Christoff ’15 is now her colleague and Parks and Rec bingo buddy.
Michaela left Dayton, but she didn’t leave UD.
Life has many steps, most of which you don’t see coming. Knowing there’s a Flyer to offer a hand when you slip sure helps. All you have to do is reach out.
Toothpaste. Hockey. Dog. Boy. Banana.
Memorize those words. You’ll need to repeat them back to me at the end of this
I was asked to remember five such words — not these exact words; those I can’t remember, then or now — as part of a research study out of the Department of Physical Therapy. This is the second time I’ve volunteered, in part because my ordeals as a test subject have been minor. The first time, I wore oversized Fitbits on my wrists for a week to gather data on how I used my arms. This time, in addition to the memory test and some exercises, I laid on a table and tried not to fall asleep while students measured the girth of my arms.
Mary Kate Lewis sees volunteering differently. “It’s something anyone can do to impact the greater good,” she said.
Lewis, who graduated from UD with a pre-physical therapy degree in 2016, is one half of the physical therapy doctoral duo responsible for designing, conducting and evaluating research to gather typical measures of upper limb function in women. Lewis and her classmate, Molly Schaffer ’19, want to know how women without breast cancer use their arms in comparison to women with breast cancer.
It’s among the studies students have conducted under the direction of associate professor Mary Fisher. Her work includes investigating the functional problems women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer experience after treatment. Lewis said if they can ascertain the range of “normal,” it could help practitioners better understand the early warning signs of conditions like lymphedema, or arm swelling from a buildup of lymphatic fluid.
While I agree with Lewis that research subjects help the greater good, volunteering is also a way that I, a member of the University staff, can connect to the essence of what happens on campus: faculty research, education, student experience, community outreach and a quest to create a better world.
As I talked with Lewis, I learned more about her motivation for becoming a physical therapist. It includes having a hands-on role in helping people live better lives. Lewis told me about her very first patient: the woman was 102. That day, Lewis helped the centenarian move and stretch.
Lewis said she sees research as an extension of that opportunity to help others. It’s also allowed her to learn a lot about herself.
“If I ever had to do research as a Ph.D. — which is a daunting thought — I know it’s something I could handle,” she said.
Back in the research room, the students administering the tests are encouraging me through the routine. I’m a stellar test subject for arm volume measuring (I just lay there), and I follow directions well for the range of motion, peak force and endurance tests. The cognitive test is a bit trickier, and I can’t recall the word I’m to repeat that begins with a “C.” (Cloak? Church? Caterpillar?)
Lewis tells me not to worry, everyone has trouble — an indication she’s also learned an empathetic bedside manner.
Me, not so much. Remember those five words? Go.
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.
There’s one reason I will never go to Mars: I get claustrophobic when trapped in the revolving door at the Hyatt.
It’s not the only reason, but it’s a good one, and it will keep me from ever experiencing space firsthand. So, instead, I get my space fix by reading about it, talking to researchers about it, laying on my back in the grass and staring at it as the fireflies dance between my eyes and the great unknown.
You’ve read more than a few stories about Mars on these pages through the years, thanks to my mild obsession and our researchers in the advanced high-temperature materials group at the UD Research Institute. They’re at it again, this time making sure the next generation of Mars rovers can operate no matter the temperature of the landing site chosen by NASA.
This spring, with cots and sleeping bags handy, UDRI scientist Chad Barklay and UES engineer Allen Tolston spent 36 hours camped next to one of two UDRI test generators that are identical to those used on Mars (except that ours run on electricity, not plutonium). The researchers slept only 2.5 hours each during the test as they heated the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator to 428 degrees F, approximately 100 degrees hotter than the maximum temperature experienced by Curiosity, the rover currently studying Mars. The researchers, who were prepared to quickly shut down the experiment if they observed any behavior that threatened the system, held the power unit’s temperature steady for 24 hours.
The test was a success and allows NASA to choose from any of the three potential Mars 2020 landing sites including the Columbia Hills, which rise from the bed of a crater that records temperatures approximately 35 degrees warmer than the location where Curiosity now roams.
Research is a big part of our work at UD. We engage the brightest minds who solve problems that test human ingenuity. Supporting their work are students, full of ambition and prepared to accept intellectual challenges that expand our horizons. At the heart of all their work is an understanding about research’s role in furthering the common good through innovation, collaboration and discovery.
As President Eric Spina shared in his speech during his installation ceremony [see Page 27], UD has an obligation to focus on the local, to achieve success for our neighbors with an eye toward global applications. For Barklay, his collaborators and the approximately 10 students whose work has supported the Mars generator project during the past five years, their horizons stretch even farther.
Look out, outer space. I may not be coming, but they are.
He laughs as he tells us he’s “speckled fruit.”
“That’s what they called those of us in the contagion of the world too long,” says Brother Bob Hughes, S.M.
He joined the Society of Mary after an untraditional path: having received a bachelor’s degree in design from University of Cincinnati — skirting mandatory ROTC training — and then having been drafted into two years of military service. Most of the 100 other men at the novitiate came straight from high school. “It was a good place for a novitiate,” Brother Bob, 78, joked of the four-house village of Marcy, New York. “You couldn’t wander off.”
Brother Bob, a designer for University of Dayton Magazine, professed vows to the Society of Mary 50 years ago. While he balked when his magazine co-workers offered to throw him a party, he joined us in a celebratory breaking of homemade banana bread around the proofreading table — and even washed the bread plate and knife.
As the Marianist sisters and brothers celebrate their bicentennial [see Page 29], Brother Bob offers us a window into a quarter of that
Brother Bob’s first campus address was on Trinity Avenue at a time when Brother Tom Giardino, S.M. ’65, opened its doors to international Marianists who came for a UD education. It did not matter the nationality of their birth, Brother Bob says; he recognized them all.
“They had the same quality of spirit, of life, of concern for one another, and of community where everyone is involved,” he remembers thinking. “I was impressed that this personality that I had attributed as Marianist was present
all over the world.”
Today, Brother Bob lives in the community on Chambers Street with brothers from Haiti, India, Switzerland and Togo. He walks to work in Albert Emanuel Hall and pulls out his chair, a gray cardigan draped over the back. Above his computer hang family portraits with the Chambers housemates smiling out.
When he remembers back to the day he professed his vows, he recalls the man in line in front of him who skipped out at the last moment. Brother Bob never had doubts.
“I’ve only wondered, why do I like this life so much?” he asks. “I feel really privileged to be in a religious family that empathizes the dignity of each individual and allows its members to grow in faith in a way that respects their individual talents.”
And we feel privileged to work with and know so many wonderful vowed Marianists. Thank you, and happy anniversary.
Less than a week after I heard associate professor Susan Davies speak to educators about traumatic brain injuries in children, teachers from my 1-year-old son’s child care center called me at my office.
Kyle had fallen while toddling across the mobile infant playground and hit his head on concrete. He seemed fine, they said, but they were calling as part of their automatic notification process following such injuries.
They called again 10 minutes later. Emergency medical technicians were on the way and a parent needed to come immediately. Kyle now seemed “lethargic” and appeared sleepy, potential signs of a loss of consciousness.
I panicked. Then I started thinking of what I learned from Davies’ books and training session about concussion recognition response, preparing to put her tips into action to help our son heal. (See story.)
As an editor in the Division of University Marketing and Communications, I have the opportunity to meet thoughtful, intelligent faculty like Davies who recognize and identify issues they see in their fields of work and take action. It’s research for the common good, information shared that helps everyday citizens
advocate for themselves and others.
I was reminded of this when, one year after its original publication in the University of Dayton Magazine, a reader thanked us for publishing an article on the importance of physical therapy for breast cancer survivors.
“Last year, shortly after I had surgery for Stage II breast cancer, I had terrible cording and elbow pain after surgery,” she wrote. “Not a single MD taking care of me mentioned this risk at all. Your article helped me figure out that I needed to seek a lymphedema specialist. Thank you.”
The writer’s son, a UD grad, had sent her the Autumn 2015 article featuring associate professor of physical therapy Mary Fisher and her work helping breast cancer survivors manage elbow and shoulder pain common after surgery. By sharing our faculty’s research in these pages, we not only showcase the high-level work taking place at the University, we present their practical, real-world solutions to a broader audience outside the lab or classroom.
That includes the letter writer, who’s getting the treatment she needs for her post-cancer condition. And me, who knew what to do when my son got hurt that day in late October.
The doctors at Dayton Children’s Hospital checked Kyle for signs of concussion and cleared him with little more than a nasty bruise on his forehead — no need to assemble a concussion team at his child care center. But I took comfort in knowing that if I did, I have access to the best minds working to solve such challenges. And you do, too.
As we sat on the couch sounding out a new word from her reading textbook, my foster daughter looked up at me and crinkled her nose. My brain hurts, she moaned.
Ah, the joys of a new school year.
As an adult, I have conveniently forgotten all those times when as a child I struggled and wriggled before understanding gave way to exuberance. This year’s new student convocation at RecPlex also reminded me of how certain I was of my major when I started at UD so many years ago, only to have my sail buffeted by every new professor. Become instead a geologist hammering fossils in an ancient sea bed? Why not. A sociologist researching the human connection to place? I’m there.
And I’m not alone. Maggie Schaller, a senior political science and human rights major, told the incoming class during her convocation address that she changed her major four times, dropped classes and quit clubs all on her way to excelling at the most important homework assignment: experiencing as much as she could.
“Above all, don’t be scared to learn,” she told the sea of students in their pastel shirts and Sunday dresses. “This includes in your classes, outside of them and, most importantly, about yourself.”
At convocation, speakers inspire students to dream and act and not freak out over the enormous changes and choices before them. Father James Fitz, S.M. ’68, offered words from the Book of Sirach. Its writer, he said, reminds us that if you wish, you can become. If you are willing to listen, you will learn. If you see a person of prudence, seek that person out. “Let your feet wear away that person’s doorstep,” he read.
It’s advice appropriate at a University where friendship and welcome invite us all to learn as a community, to embrace the messiness and the challenges not alone but in concert with those who will support and learn with us.
Philosopher John Dewey believed that the best sort of society is one that uses its collective intelligence. V. Denise James, associate professor of philosophy, cited Dewey in her convocation address that also asked students to answer one of her favorite questions: “Why am I here?”
“I know that real education has a way of chipping away at rigidity and certainty,” she said after revealing her own unexpected trajectory toward professor. “Education makes your world larger, multiplies your experiences, deepens your connection to others and lets you see new opportunities that you didn’t even know existed.”
And why are we here? Today’s answer should be different from tomorrow’s, as we ponder and grow. As James told the incoming class, “That’s my favorite compliment, when a student leaves class and says, ‘You made my head hurt.’”
The process may hurt a little, but we should refuse to be scared to learn. That’s wisdom for us all for the new school year and beyond.
A little bit of Lourdes sits on my dining room shelf — a half ounce, to be exact, water from the grotto in France where the Virgin Mary revealed herself to a 14-year-old peasant girl in 1858.
I’ve been thinking often about that water since Myron Achbach ’58 called me six months ago. A longtime UD director of admission, his Flyer network spiders across the globe. Along these threads he senses good stories and sends them my way.
So when Myron called, I thought I was in for a treat. Instead, I was heartbroken.
A young alumna, Coral Flamand ’13, had been in a horrible car accident, he said. Her family — including the Flyer family — was organizing a service at UD’s chapel to pray for a miracle.
And when that miracle happens, Myron said, they will have documentation in place to ascribe it to the intercession of William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Society of Mary, which founded UD.
In my mind, it is hard for these two things to occupy the same space: a miracle, by definition something neither logical nor anticipated, and a documentation process as rational and detailed as an IRS audit.
Yet not only do I have one bottle from Lourdes, but I had a second, which I filled for a friend’s mother who was battling multiple myeloma. She accepted the bottle, thanked me and rose to place it on her dining room shelf, with so many other bottles brought to her by the legions who love her. Her action gave me no reassurance she believed, and no indication she did not.
I had filled those bottles while traveling with the Marianist Educational Associates on a pilgrimage to France. We were there to deepen our faith and understanding. Outside the gates to the sanctuary in Lourdes, I was skeptical, seeing how hope distorted into profit in every corner shop (including the one where I purchased my bottles). But inside, it was holy. I looked down from the basilica at the lines of wheelchairs ribboning through the grounds. The faithful, pushed by their attendants, waited to receive the holy water and be immersed in God’s love. I witnessed no spontaneous healing, but there were tears of joy and fullness of hearts.
So, do I believe in miracles, the kind that happen not in books of old but in our world today? As Matthew Dewald writes in our cover story on miracles, faith is not having the evidence in hand, yet believing anyway.
And so I will pray for Coral the beautiful prayer a Marianist priest wrote for her. I have no evidence that the intercession of saints will heal her mind or her body. But, like her family — and her Flyer family — I have faith.
For Christmas, I gave my new friend appendicitis.
That’s what she feared when we finally spilled out of the car after a 12-hour trek up north. We entered my in-laws’ home pale and exhausted, my friend clutching her side and wondering if she’d brought her health insurance card.
It turned out to be just muscle cramps and dehydration, which was good, since I had planned to
give her a Dayton Flyers T-shirt instead.
My friend is Melody Asaresh Moghadam from Iran, an undergraduate music student. At 22 years old, Melody spent her first Christmas ever surrounded by my loving and exuberant extended family. We filled Melody full of sugar cookies and eggnog, and she nourished us with traditional songs strummed on her four-stringed setar.
I started working at UD the same year Dan Curran became president, so I have witnessed the transformation of our campus into a global learning village. Being a member of UD’s communications staff, I write often about how important it is for our domestic students to learn from their international counterparts.
But what goes unacknowledged is how their presence enriches us all. My husband and I have served as an International Friendship Family to Melody from Tehran and Kevin Ishimwe from Rwanda. This magazine has hired Zoey Xia from China and Arthur Su from Taiwan to take amazing photos of campus. I have learned how to say welcome in many languages and forgotten how to say goodbye in many more. Always, the University’s goal in facilitating these interactions is to help students manage the transition and become full participants in campus life. Always, the true outcome is something that sounds like a medical condition: the swelling of our hearts, the expanding of our minds, the enlarging of our circle of friends.
When people hear Melody’s story — how she flew into Dayton with four carry-ons and not a friend or relative within thousands of miles — they say she is brave. She replies she is not; she just did what she needed to do — to perfect her playing, to improve her English, to choose a religion.
I continue to share holiday texts with Kevin, who is now studying nursing in Michigan. I receive baby photos from Arthur, who has returned to Taiwan with his wife and daughter. And I share full-belly laughs with Melody: about the appendix attack, and the way my husband cannot pronounce the “geh” in her last name, and how she showed up for what she thought was a music audition and left cast as the
comedic equivalent to Bob Saget.
When we have finished laughing, and are red-faced and exhausted, we marvel at how different we are from how each other’s government imagines us — two women in Dayton Flyers T-shirts, students of the world.