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.
My wife, Suzanne (a three-time UD grad), and I went to the rededication of UD’s Chapel of the Immaculate Conception this August. The chapel held many memories for us. A photo from the 1970s shows our first two children, Liz and Mike (both two-time grads), as very young people sitting on the floor near the altar at an overflow Father Norb Burns’ Mass. Father Jim Russell remembers our youngest child, Ben, in the 1980s, playing air guitar during hymns at Mass.
For the dedication, Suzanne and I wanted seats near the door. Some time ago she was diagnosed with heart conditions, in recent years compounded by congestive heart failure; a long ceremony could be too much. So we sat in the last row on the left, near the side door.
It was also where often I had sat alone, having left my work behind in my office and come to the chapel to contemplate whatever one contemplates after a child dies, as did Ben nearly 20 years ago. I looked over at Suzanne. Her face seemed contorted. Tears were in her eyes. I feared an episode with her heart.
“What’s the matter?” I said.
She replied, “Nothing. It’s just so beautiful. It’s just so beautiful.”
That was the only time she made it to the renovated chapel. She died Sept. 22.
Liz and Mike and their families and friends and colleagues (and owners and waitresses and bartenders at Suzanne’s and my favorite restaurants and even apparent strangers) have given me, and each other, support that a theologian might reflect tells us something of the Mystical Body. It tells me Suzanne touched a lot of people.
“She had a kind word about everyone,” someone said, “even the most difficult people.”
“But she didn’t mince words,” Liz’s husband, Tony, said.
Nobody saw a contradiction between kindness and honesty.
Mike spoke at her funeral Mass. “My mom was selfless and unconditionally kind,” he said. “She taught my sister, Liz, my brother, Ben, and me strong values and the importance of family, faith, hard work, kindness, tolerance, generosity, forgiveness and love.”
He spoke, too, of her competitiveness. On one family vacation, Mike’s wife, Jenn, thought playing beach bocce with Suzanne might be a relaxing game. Suzanne, Mike said, “body-checked Jenn, nearly knocking her to the sand, in order to line up her next roll. My mom rationally explained, ‘She was in my way, and I am here to win.’”
The congregation of friends and colleagues from UD and Kettering Medical Center (where Suzanne managed the clinical lab before retirement) thought Suzanne was a winner, too. When Mike finished, they broke into applause.
Back at work now, again doing some part-time writing and editing for this magazine, I recently edited a piece in which Brother Ray Fitz prays to be able “to ponder the mystery of God and creation.”
And, as I did years before, I again frequently leave my desk behind and walk to the chapel. I sit where I sat with Suzanne at the dedication, where I sat after Ben died. I stare at the statue of Mary. I stare at the stained-glass image of Jesus on the cross. And I listen.
You’re no goldfish — and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
If you were, you’d have an attention span of 9 seconds. In three seconds, you’d swim off and miss the most important part of this story. So here it is: Thank you.
If you’re still reading this, you’re no typical human, either. Our species now registers an attention span of just 8 seconds. In our hyper-connected world, every ding, flicker and vibration remind us more of where we aren’t than where we are.
Maybe that’s why a publication rooted in place holds such appeal.
Seven years ago, we redesigned our beloved tabloid into the University of Dayton Magazine with a mission to engage, educate and entertain all those in our Flyer family. Our mission remains, but with this issue we offer you an update to both design and content, based on the feedback you’ve given us in reader surveys and magazine letters.
Here’s what you’ll find:
Youth: We’ve picked cleaner and larger fonts to help go easy on the eyes and make you feel 10 years younger, especially in Class Notes [Page 49].
Wealth: Hidden Treasure is one of our most popular features. We’ve given it more space to highlight the rich art that accompanies the stories [Page 20].
Love: It’s the heart of the Marianist spirit, and it’s a gift you share widely — even when confined to 140 characters. MainStream highlights your voices — and a whole lotta hearts [Page 7].
Time: More short pieces, graphics and quick hits give you ways to connect with the UD community [The Alumni, Page 43].
Knowledge: Continued access to UD experts, like professor Mary Fisher and her research to help our loved ones who’ve had breast cancer [Page 36].
Beauty: We’ve made more space for photographs, ones that welcome you in and bring you back [View Finder, Page 13, and “Guided by Faith,” Page 22].
In a world flashing for attention, you’ve told us that more than half of you spend more than a half hour with each issue. Fifty-nine percent of you read beyond your class year and read most of Class Notes. Sixty-four percent of you read all or most of the features. Even our most recent alumni — those 25 years and under — prefer to read their UD stories by holding paper in their hands.
We know your time is precious to you, and we’re humbled that you’ve chosen to share some of it with us. Thank you. And keep letting us know what you think.
You can’t reserve the gazebo. How often, when logging onto the University’s system to schedule a meeting room, have I paused to wonder why “library lawn” or “low wall by the fountain” is not a location for me to choose, as is “LTC Forum” or “KU 310”?
Granted, I can — without reservation — walk out the door of Albert Emanuel Hall, step up onto the sidewalk and shuffle through the grass to the gazebo on the library lawn. I can personally invite my colleagues who would have clicked their nails on Formica conference tables to instead settle in the metal park benches whose rails have supported more than a century of students.
But there are ants. And wind. Sometimes it’s too warm or too cool. Anyone carrying a snack is dead-eyed by a muscle-bound sparrow nicknamed “Knuckles.”
When the magazine staff does trek out as a group, we rarely find an empty park bench awaiting us. Instead, students inhabit the beautiful spaces on campus. It is a truly beautiful campus, be it spring with mountains of jewel-headed tulips or fall with raucous color clinging everywhere. Students always snag the best spots, sharing quiet conversation or an 11th-hour cram. It would be rude for us to interrupt with talk of the zombie apocalypse and hot cafeteria trays.
Often, I prefer to be the one sitting quietly while the students talk or study or walk. In our reader surveys, alumni tell us what they want most is to connect with the student experience today. You say you want to know how their dreams are the same as yours; how what they’re studying is different from what you found in your 20-pound paper textbooks; how the words used to describe their neighborhood have transformed or remained. It is only by observing, listening and asking that we uncover gems like our summer Collaboratory interns.
The outdoors have more to offer than a meeting or observing space. When I proofread these magazine pages, I prefer to read under natural light, the sun filtered through the linden leaves outside Albert Emanuel Hall. When I’m writing a complicated piece, it helps me to look up and trace the branches on a tree, my dendritic guide to the natural order of both growing and writing. Even the bickering squirrels instruct me in the value of mounting tension and conflict when telling a story.
I am a better editor when I see the world and am surrounded by all campus has to offer. If you can’t find me at my desk, look next to the gazebo. Who knows? While eating lunch in the sunlight, I just might get an idea for an editor’s column.
Depending on your profession, ablank page could be a wonderful thing — full of possibilities, ready for you to make your mark.
For an editor, it’s the stuff of nightmares — ones with hairy spiders, chainsaw-wielding madmen and red pens that have all run out of ink.
So, I almost hate to ask, but did you see the blank pages in this issue, Pages 30-35? No? Thank goodness.
And thank a student. I did.
We employ 13 students — writers, photographers and a social media intern — for contributions that go beyond simply completing assignments and filling holes. In this issue, senior Ian Moran drove under threat of snowmageddon to Columbus, Ohio, to photograph a couple who will make bicycle dreams come true (Page 56). Our graduate assistant Tom Corcoran ’13 channeled his experience on UD’s football team to uncover mysterious figures from the Flyers’ 1938 squad (Page 61). To find their work, just look for bylines followed by the student’s graduation year. They leave their marks everywhere, including proofreading these pages.
Last summer, my assignment to senior Erin Callahan was to poke her head into every academic office and ferret out people and programs for potential stories. She returned from civil engineering with a name: Pete Ogonek. What started as a 500-word student profile blossomed into her feature “Rowing Machine,” starting on Page 30. Not only does she tell a good tale, but she also filled a very large hole left when the editors decided a previously scheduled feature just wasn’t ripe enough to run.
I barely had time to panic about a blank page when Erin filled it with a story of determination and excellence.
I’d like to think this entire magazine shows just that. The traits are often found in those we interview and photograph, in the stories we tell and the University we love. But our staff — both professional and student — demonstrate determination and excellence every day. A favorite part of my job is working with these students, feeding off their energy and teaching them what I love most about this craft. Our working relationship is not perfect; there are frustrations over missed deadlines, killed stories, or the obstinate use of the serial comma. But when I page through the final product, and know all that has gone into it, I am very, very proud.
I hope you are, too.
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.
Talk of rare books sent me hunting for my own first edition. Its spine was hard to spy on my bookshelf — its cover having been ripped off and taped back on long ago. I opened it and found a red Kool-Aid spot dotting the opening page and the word “SO” scratched in pencil at the end, evidence of my very first edit.
Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!, by Dr. Seuss, was printed the year I was born. It is the story of an obstinate gent who eschewed fanciful transportation until he was good and ready to leave on his own two, furry feet. It was one of the first books I read aloud, my entrée into the fun that could be had by shuffling 26 letters and rolling them around in your mouth.
My first edition will not be part of the Rose Rare Book Collection on display in Roesch Library Sept. 29 to Nov. 9.
But it doesn’t have to be rare to be priceless to us.
This fall, we’re asking readers to share the priceless works on their shelves by posting to social media and tagging photos with #shelfie and #UDrarebooks. What makes it priceless is different for each of us. Maybe our grandmother gave us the book, or it took a long hunt through a dusty bookstore to find it. Books can open new worlds, teach us about old ones, and make us cry or laugh.
Or blush. For a photo shoot, I held in my hands a 1492 printing of Canterbury Tales, part of the exhibit. Looking at looping letters and angular illustrations, I learned something of early printing techniques. It also reminded me of high school and a red-faced Mr. Parr revealing Chaucer’s bawdy humor to a bunch of giggling teenagers. I’ve carried that 1988 paperback with me through five moves.
Will students in professor Ulrike Schellhammer’s fall literature course have the same connection to their $8 paperback Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front)? In the 1928 galley proofs on display in Roesch Library, students will see Erich Remarque’s handwriting as he edited lines that Schellhammer says make it one of the most important anti-war pieces: “It is the attempt to tell the story about a generation that was destroyed by the war, even if it escaped its grenades.”
At the exhibit, we will marvel at the weight of the paper, or the signature of Abraham Lincoln, or how the breadth of works reveals the human progression of thought on our place in the cosmos. And then we will go home, look at our bookshelves and pull from them golden words whose meaning is richer thanks to all the experiences that shape our lives.
It was three days full of belly-laughing, donkey-snorting, mascara-running good times with 350 humor writers from around the country.
And there I was, sitting in Sears Recital Hall, trying not to cry.
A fellow attendee at UD’s biennial Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop had just stood up. Her name was Kate.
She had come here from Newtown, Conn. “I was funny and lost my funny,” she told us as we rummaged our pockets for tissues. “I came here to find it again.”
We knew she hadn’t just lost it. This writer had her funny ripped from her in her own hometown by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter. When would it be OK, she wondered, to laugh again?
It’s when life makes us ask such questions that we need laughter the most.
At the workshop’s keynote dinner, Phil Donahue reminded us of the power of laughter as he talked about his good friend, the late Erma Fiste Bombeck ’49. The father of daytime talk shows and the mother of misadventures had been neighbors in Centerville, Ohio, each raising stair-step children while launching their careers.
In her writing, he said, was an honesty that touched the world. She popped balloons of pretense with daggers of laughter. Her humor was revolutionary.
“Motherhood was sacred,” Donahue said as he intoned popular sentiment: “‘Oh, how blessed you are. Oh, what a wonderful mother you are.’ Mothers were on pedestals. And Erma would do a column something like, ‘I am going to sell my children.’ She punctured that pretense, and she was speaking for millions of women.”
My own mother taped Bombeck’s words to our goldenrod-yellow refrigerator door — not the words about selling us, as far as I can remember, though I certainly would have deserved it for digging a pond in the backyard and filling it with frogs, which attracted crows from three counties.
Millions of women also taped Bombeck to their fridges, taking strength from the joys of an imperfect life
with this sister who cautioned us to never have more children than we have car windows. It is a community that stretches through the miles and across the decades and that, every two years, materializes at UD, where a young Erma was told by her English professor, “You can write.”
This April, Donahue repeated the phrase, adding a charge to use our words to move mountains. “We have an assembly of people of conscience here … and you may just be the people who will make our lives better,” he said.
With their words and their support, the attendees embraced Kate from Newtown, who later wrote, “My three days in Dayton were extraordinary, and when the laughter died down I learned this above all: the line between tragedy and comedy does exist, and while laughing in the face of any horror is nearly impossible, the only way through the tears and darkness is with laughter and light.”