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Not knowing the question

2:44 PM  Sep 28th, 2012
by Michelle Tedford, '94

A little, lonely tree stands in the vast Central Mall, and the students embrace it.

Not literally — you won’t find them hugging this twig. But when we asked our readers through Facebook to help us choose a cover for the autumn issue, current and recent students often chose the sapling, pictured here, to illustrate “deep roots.”

That’s why I love asking questions and gaining feedback. Most often, I discover something I never knew to look for.

Like when I wandered into new student orientation and sat in Formica-topped desks with more than a dozen first-year students. I expected to learn what they thought of the first-year read, This I Believe II: More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women. In the chit-chat din of a room mercifully darkened for this early hour, we discovered we had something in common: We all lived in Marycrest. Their “lived” was quite recent, as in that’s where they awoke a half hour ago and rolled out of bed, down the hill to the Humanities Center and into their first UD classroom experience. For me, “lived” was 1990, when I was barely 18 and the Humanities Center was but a patch of grass with a mammoth forsythia bush.

Marycrest is just a building — bricks and bathrooms and doors we walk through every day, holding them open for the person coming after us.

And while a tree is just a tree, in it students saw promise, hope, potential. They saw evidence of what has sprouted on campus, a liveliness in the setting, a simplicity of meaning. I saw a Charlie Brown tree that didn’t have roots deep enough to embrace all I wanted to tell in the story of James Kielbaso’s first trip to campus in 50 years.

What I came to see was that the little tree wasn’t about him — it was about them.

We received hundreds of votes on the cover, and I should be careful not to compartmentalize our readers or second-guess their reasoning. When I posted the images, I wasn’t looking for a straight tally to tell us which we should choose; I wanted to know whether yellow leaves were preferred over green ones, whether statues gave the image meaning or diluted its purpose. Instead, I got a glimpse of how we relate to this place, how we see ourselves reflected in this campus, how we learn we belong.

These are answers to a question I never knew to ask from people who share with me a common connection.

A magazine cover may be just a photo, a dorm just a building. But UD is never just a school, something to which we can all agree no matter how deep our roots.

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Awe-filled stories

4:02 PM  Jun 27th, 2012
by Michelle Tedford

I’m not a fan of boxing  — watching hits that barely dent muscled flesh threatens to shatter my eye sockets — but I am a fan of the boxer. Michael Gaffney’s story of his year with Muhammad Ali [“Muhammad and Me,” Page 28] intrigued me because of the intimate lens the photographer had into Ali’s life; I also must admit I glow each time a Flyer does something of wonder and worth. But the photographs completely overwhelmed me. In Gaffney’s book, I can see the physical transformation Ali undertook to rid his body of any softness that contributed to his title loss against Leon Spinks. I see calves famous for conveying deft footwork, arms triggered for the assault. Gaffney captured Ali’s mischievous smile, behind which I see cheek muscles that could crush a can.

By those images, I am both awed and envious.

It’s the same feeling I get when I watch the Dayton Contemporary Dance Co., which begins another year as UD’s community artist in residence. That bodies can be so graceful and powerful seems implausible. In the darkened theater, I squeeze my husband’s arm as a man who seems twice my size leaps in interpretation of an ostrich or airman or pusher or preacher, each muscle moving precisely thanks to training and talent.

I do not look like a boxer. I do not move like a dancer. I occasionally run because I know I should (and because my dog is bored). I poke at my soft spots and order the Peanut Buster Parfait. And I love to watch others move.

This summer will be a cornucopia for spectators who believe bodies are finely engineered temples. Among my favorites at the Olympics will be Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. I will refuse to breathe for the five minutes before — and the 9-point-wow seconds during — Bolt’s race to again prove he’s the fastest human alive. I will devour everything from shot put to sailing, and my dog will be bored.

Before Gaffney met Ali — and before Cassius Clay took the name Muhammad — Ali won the light heavyweight boxing gold in Rome in 1960. In 1996, the former boxer, ravaged by Parkinson’s, set the Olympic torch afire in Atlanta. As I watched through my living room TV, I could see that his loss of strength had not diminished his spark. I said I am envious of exhibitions of strength. But I am equally amazed by what that strength — or lack thereof — says about obstacles overcome, goals attained and limitations accepted. The muscles are not the story; the man is.

What I crave more than anything is a good story, to feel close to people tough as nails or mushy as soft-serve. When they are made real — through words, images or interactions — a sliver of that enigma called humanity is revealed. And I am once again awed.

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The long view

3:25 PM  Apr 11th, 2012
by Michelle Tedford

At 14,000 feet, where the air is thin and the view epic, my neurons began firing and fitting together millions of years of earth history.

The Rocky Mountains at my feet were infants compared to the Appalachians of my textbooks, yet in their horns and valleys I could see eons of ice, wind and rain that weathered their eastern brethren down to nubs and were eventually, inevitably, doing the same here.

I got to 14,000 feet by climbing three flights up Wohlleben Hall and fast-talking my way into a geology majors-only summer field course at a high-altitude laboratory in Colorado. In the department’s basement geology lab, I had learned to name the rocks I collected in my youth and emptied by the pocketful into cardboard boxes lining the garage. But I wanted to experience their homeland, learn about the percolating juices of ancient volcanoes that forced liquid minerals through fissured granite to cool into the giant pink crystals my childhood self saved by my bedside.

I say fast-talking, but it was really slow, deliberate, calculated thinking that got me to Colorado. Not my own, but that of the department chair, Charles Ritter. I pleaded my case, and — after saying no, since I was not a geology major — he relented and made me promise: you will become a minor.

Dr. Ritter took a chance on me, and I won. That field course stoked my fire to learn about everything around me and reinforced the importance of hands-on, experiential learning, no matter the subject. That spirit continues through the Charles Ritter Undergraduate Geology Research Fund, something my husband — a geology major who legitimately went on the field course — and I support through gifts to UD.

When we were student and professor, I was part of Dr. Ritter’s learning community. Today, we are also neighbors. I sit in his living room on the brown leather sofa with his beagle, Snoopy, at my feet. Dr. Ritter sneaks another cookie off the plate his wife has set before us on the glass-topped coffee table that displays his geologic specimens. We talk of family, of pets, of the basketball season. He tells me stories of the rocks under the cookies or of Flyer geologists decades my senior, people I will never meet but who are inexorably bound to me through this great teacher.

I am a geology minor. My field course was in 1992, but when I look at each mountain and valley, hillside and river, I give thanks for my high-altitude experience. My education eventually, inevitably, changed my perception and widened my community forever.
—Michelle Tedford ’94
Managing Editor

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So many choices

2:14 PM  Jan 3rd, 2012
by Matthew Dewald

A Flyer News editor asked me a lot of questions for a story last year, but only one really stumped me: What’s your favorite spot on campus?

The obvious answer came to mind: the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. It’s been the heart of campus since long before any of us got here. It remains the center around which all of UD revolves, not only geographically but spiritually and in misson and purpose.

But I was one of 20 people on campus they were profiling that issue, and my guess is the other 19 had the same first gut response. We couldn’t all say the same thing. Plus, she had asked for my “favorite” spot, not most important, or most meaningful, most inspiring, highest, loudest, prettiest, funkiest, strangest or the one most likely to make going back into the office an impossibility. Some places make you want to just sit and think forever.

My favorite, huh? The criteria were all mine to decide. If I could be anywhere on campus right now, where would I be? Posed that way, the question got a lot harder, but I eventually answered: Baujan Field under the lights at a Friday night soccer game in autumn.

No matter where I sit, the views are spectacular. From the north stands, next to St. Joe’s, the game unfolds from a television broadcast’s best camera angle. A line of ash trees and the student neighborhood shape the horizon, and from just below, we can hear nearly every word as Coach Mike Tucker coaxes his players and works the officials.

From the south stands, the view is field level, and the players gallop past at Division 1 speed. I like to sit right on the grass at midfield, often barefoot on a sunny day. Feet away from the edge line, we hear the players’ hurried chatter, a constant rhythm that buzzes between the smack-smack of cleat on leather that sends the ball flying impossible distances. St. Joe’s, majestic and colleagial, defines the horizon from this side.

Those two horizons, the brick edifices to the north and the student houses to the south, are another reason I love this liminal spot. If the chapel defines so much of what UD is and aspires to be, so too do places that symbolize the connection between learning and living, places where life’s ambitions and everyday experiences merge into a seamless whole of presence and continuity.

I could’ve named many such places, everywhere that students are learning that knowledge and service and leadership mean most when they are formed and shared in community. They do it off campus too, on retreats, internships and trips to study abroad, everywhere their education takes them. I like those places, too.

In these pages, we describe updates to the campus master plan, changes that have arisen from extraordinary opportunities we’ve seized to expand the physical campus. Some familiar spots on campus are being transformed — if you haven’t already, lay your eyes on the spectacular new Central Mall when you can. With the new land, the boundaries of campus have expanded, an adjustment of mental geography as much as physical.

There will be more favorite spots to choose among in the coming years — a residential complex on Caldwell that will be every bit as familiar to future students as Marycrest is now, facilities in the new GE Aviation building where students will spend untold hours becoming researchers, a University Center for the Arts near the corner of Brown and Stewart streets where creating and experiencing great art will change how we see our world, to name just a few.

A place is just a place, of course, a physical bit of dirt or wood, brick or steel. It gets its meaning not from what it is without us, but from what we become in it — what we do and dream and create, and how we help others do the same.

Maybe that’s why, on this campus, it’s so hard to pick just one.

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Notes on regeneration

10:00 AM  Aug 26th, 2011
by Matthew Dewald

I confess that when I think about regeneration, the subject of one of this issue’s features, my thoughts are not about science so much as science fiction and mythology. I think of poor Prometheus chained to that rock, his liver growing back each night so that an eagle could return to devour it each day. It was his eternal punishment from Zeus for giving fire to us mortals. Some days I think I know how he must’ve felt.

But such thoughts mark one difference between me, an editor, and a scientist like UD’s Panagiotis Tsonis. In the capacity of a newt to regenerate the lens of its eye, he sees the possibility of one day unlocking similar mechanisms in our own mammalian bodies. A fountain of youth may dwell within us all — but here I am thinking in metaphors again.

You can see regeneration as a more purposeful metaphor in this issue’s story on the River Stewards, who are helping put the region back in touch with the five rivers that the city’s founders first settled around. As a community, we turned our collective back on them a century ago, answering a devastating flood with high levees. Today, regional leaders look hopefully at a renewed embrace. Recreation and tourism, economic development, environmental stewardship — they could all flow together in the plans being laid today with the help of our students and their boundless visions of what the future can be.

The rebirth of the river is but one sign of a broader renewal throughout the region, driven in part by a regeneration of the University itself. This fall marks the beginning of the 10th year of Daniel J. Curran’s presidency at UD. As another feature story notes, the University has experienced a remarkable decade by any measure — the academic strength and geographic diversity of incoming classes, physical growth, infrastructure improvements, endowment health, internationalization and more.

It results from careful planning and calculated risk taking, of course, but those are tactics any well-run organization might claim. More than those, the momentum springs from our Marianist vision, our commitment to, in the words of Father Chaminade who founded the Marianists, read the signs of the times and act. The University community has acted boldly and with ingenuity under Dr. Curran’s leadership, positioning the institution for decades to come.

I see the changes daily outside my office windows, which overlook the 50 acres UD purchased from NCR in 2005. Tennis courts have sprung up and soccer practice fields are dramatically improved. Further in the distance, ground has been broken for the new GE Aviation R&D center.

And across Brown Street, life has returned to campus classrooms and the student neighborhoods after a long, hot summer. With the new generation of students, there is also a regeneration of our Marianist commitment to educate for adaptation and change in community.

And maybe that, too, is a little how Prometheus must’ve felt when he handed over the secret of fire.

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Happiness is …

1:47 PM  Jun 10th, 2011
by Matthew Dewald

“Are you happy?” You probably don’t hear that question very often.

What about, “How are you?” You’ve probably heard that already today, that polite question we use to greet strangers and friends alike. But these “how are you” exchanges don’t really tell us any more about happiness than today’s weather tells us about the season. Sometimes it snows in July, after all.

But, “Are you happy?” Now, that’s a different, deeper question, the kind you save for after all the other guests have left the party, when you’re settling in for the wee hours with a dear, old friend. In the act of taking stock — of wandering through longings and joys, through sadnesses, setbacks, and moments of revelation and accomplishment — there is an intimacy that begets further love and friendship. I could ask any acquaintance or stranger, “How are you?” But, “Are you happy?” — that’s something I’d ask only a real friend.

The human desire for happiness is nothing new, of course. Questions about what it is and how to attain it stretch at least as far back as Aristotle and the ancient Stoics, who each had their own answers. UD professor Jack Bauer is one of a group of current social scientists applying the scientific method to the study of happiness, and in this issue he offers some of what he and his colleagues have learned. Bauer’s research, and his story here, focuses on stories — how the ways in which we make sense of the facts
and experiences of our lives affect our happiness.

Though the research is complex, the conclusions might not surprise you. While a multibillion-dollar marketing industry works 24/7 to persuade us that the things it’s selling will make us happier, Bauer’s research points to head-scratchingly obvious advice we all too often forget: Look for experiences that help you change and grow. Do things on behalf of others. Spend time doing what you enjoy with friends and family you love. All easier said than done with the pressures and expectations of our lives, not to mention our immersion in a culture of buy-more-stuff-now. But if you can funnel out the noise and pull it off, you increase your chances of finding more happiness, more often.

And isn’t that advice another way of talking about what we often call “community” at UD? Years after walking in the graduation line, what remains with alumni across generations, more than anything, are people and experiences. Tossing a football on the KU lawn. Getting that concept down before the exam or that scholarship letter in the mail. Figuring out coin-operated laundry machines. Going on that retreat or planning that charity 5K. Fending off crushes and falling in real love. Finding the friends still with us today.

Bauer might call those stories of growth. We call it UD.

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The bittersweet joy of a happy ending

1:12 PM  Mar 8th, 2011
by Matthew Dewald

I had, as usual, great seats at UD Arena. Center court, about eight rows behind the scorers’ table. It was Senior Day for the UD women’s basketball team.

The first basket came about 45 seconds into the game. Senior Ebony Gainey, who had missed a shot just after the opening tip, drove from the left and put up a layup that touched the glass and dropped through the net. At the 18:02 mark, coach Jim Jabir pulled her, and Gainey’s career stat line was final. Points, 2. Shooting percentage, .500. Minutes played, 2.

If you go to a lot of any team’s games, you come to know the faces on the bench and even feel a sort of first-name familiarity. Ebony had always seemed more coach than player to me, but just a couple of days before this game, I’d learned her story from ESPN. A two-time all-Ohio selection from Dayton’s Meadowdale High School, Ebony was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy weeks before the first game of her freshman year as a Flyer. It is a disease that attacks the heart muscle and that killed Loyola Marymount star Hank Gathers in 1990.

Ebony’s older sister Kenyattie had died in her sleep of a heart-related ailment just months before Ebony’s diagnosis. On her doctor’s advice, Ebony’s college career was over literally before it ever started. For four years, she remained part of the team, but not a player on the court.

That was why I’d only ever seen her in street clothes on the bench, and also why the 1,300 of us there gave her a standing ovation at team introductions, a loud cheer when she took her first shot, another standing O when she made her next one, and a third when coach Jabir pulled her out of the game and into his arms.

The rest of the game wasn’t what I’d call a pleasure to watch, an uncharacteristically halting contest without flow for much of the second half. When Fordham’s coach called a late timeout, I leaned to the person next to me and joked, “Does she think she has a play to call for when you’re down by 16 with 44 seconds to go?” That kind of game.

But we won handily, and the player I know best, senior co-captain Kristin Daugherty, had a solid performance. Twelve points, seven rebounds in 25 minutes. I was there particularly to watch her last home game. I do my best to get to Senior Day games. I managed to catch three in the fall (volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer), and I’ve got a few circled on my calendar this spring. In the rhythms of university life, only graduation day has such bittersweet joy.

I knew it would be an emotional game for Kristin, but she held it together well until almost the very end. Fouled with a couple of minutes left, on the line knowing she was about to come out, the tears came. Two quick baskets. A few quicker steps to the bench. Hugs down the line from coaches and teammates. A standing O from us. We gave another a few moments later when the team’s third senior, Aundrea “Puna” Lindsey, came out.

Later, waiting in line near courtside with my sons for post-game autographs, I found myself next to the mother of Kristin’s biggest fan, 7-year-old Lauren Hinders. She sits in the front row wearing Kristin’s No. 40 every game, and Kristin always gives her a pregame high-five. Or maybe Lauren’s giving it to Kristin.

As Lauren played in the seats with her little brother, I asked her mom how she thought Lauren would handle Kristin’s departure from the team. It turned out that Lauren had given it some thought. She counted on seeing Kristin in the stands next year watching her sister Kari Daugherty, a sophomore guard. Lauren had talked of maybe rooting for star Justine Raterman, but she’ll be a senior next year. Might be a little too soon to go through that again.

Autographs signed, our two boys and my wife and I climbed the concrete steps to the concourse, where I noticed a man carrying a framed No. 13 jersey near the west Arena doors. Ebony’s father. As I knelt to tie my younger son’s shoe, I caught Mr. Gainey’s eye and told him what I’d told Kristin in the autograph line, congratulations. He smiled at me, a perfect stranger, and said thanks, then carried his daughter’s memento out to his car in the parking lot.

In another two months, I thought, he’ll be back, this time joined by other parents doing almost exactly the same thing, proud fathers and mothers carrying under their arms the diplomas of their daughters and sons.

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Class notes considered

9:27 AM  Dec 30th, 2010
by Matthew Dewald

This issue of the magazine includes exactly 238 class notes. They run nearly 20,000 words. In my time working on the magazine and its predecessor, UDQ, I’ve easily read more than 10,000 notes, most of them two or three times each as part of our proofreading process.

They’re still my favorite section of the magazine.

There is an Italian saying, that when the game is over the kings and pawns go back in the same box. Class notes reflect that egalitarian spirit. In one note, you might read of a manager promoted to vice president; in the next, a parent promoted to grandparent, both notes set in the same font and size. In class notes, they do not compete.

If you read Page 44, to take just one example, you’ll learn that Father Marty Solma is now provincial of the Marianist Province of the U.S. and then that Ann Donovan Bowman and her husband, Bob, just retired and enjoy passing the days eating lunch together and watching the golfers on the fairway of hole 
No. 1, just off their deck. Both notes 
reveal something of the mysteries of this life.

Throughout class notes, true loves are married, babies born, vacations taken, careers enhanced — the everyday stuff of the lives we cherish. Many of us wouldn’t have a prayer of naming last decade’s Nobel or Heisman winners, but we’d go on and on if asked to name those who’ve loved and supported us. We might admire the former, but it’s the latter who bring us happiness and meaning.

In this 250th anniversary of the birth of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, I wonder if it is useful to ask whether this is a Marianist way of reading the class notes. Chaminade’s sense of mission was influenced profoundly by the revolutions of his times. As a young priest, he lived under a French monarch whose presumed divine right marked his power. “Le roi le veut,” he pronounced when he wearied of debates. The king wills it.

And then one July day in 1789, the king’s power evaporated, replaced by a people’s assembly that devolved into an intemperate mob, forcing oaths on priests, prisons on nobles and the guillotine on countless souls, including the Terror’s architect, Robespierre himself. The revolution had replaced the tyranny of a monarch with the tyranny of a mob. The dignity of the individual counted for little under either.

It was this chaos that Chaminade fled when he went into exile in Spain. He returned committed to finding new methods for new times, founding a religious family of laity, sisters, brothers and priests working toget-
her and dedicated to Mary’s mission. He ensured a dignified place and voice for all who share the Marianists’ deep faith and commitment to meaningful service — through leadership when necessary, as it so often is.

I see this place and hear this voice in class notes, where the listings proceed without favor. For years, I’ve had a private tradition of always beginning with “In Memoriam,” the notices of deaths, when I proofread each issue’s class notes. It’s a powerful reminder that these aren’t the classifieds they resemble at a casual 

In each few sentences, there is the dignity and beauty of God’s children — the immense joy of newborns like little Evan James Mooney (Page 51) and the compassion of caregivers like Michael Licata (Page 47), a coordinator of substance abuse for his county sheriff’s office. I want to know so much more about Michael Gaffney’s yearlong stint as Muhammed Ali’s personal photographer (Page 44), Patricia Brennan Scott’s fabulously titled book (Page 49) and Bob Ciullo’s Flyer gamewatches with his infant twin grandsons, Robbie and Rezo Lucarelli (Page 42).

A class note in this magazine signifies a bond that simultaneously uplifts and transcends each individual. That’s why I love them so. The participants in this Marianist community are blessed indeed.

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2:42 PM  Sep 22nd, 2010
by Matthew Dewald

I wanted to go to new student convocation in RecPlex. Honest. But there was another new student, just down the hill from the chapel, who needed me more.

As President Daniel J. Curran welcomed first-year students and SGA president Jim Saywell told them they’ll know they’re Flyers when they spontaneously yell, “Go UD,” to tour groups of prospective students, I sat on a tiny chair in a classroom at Holy Angels School, kindergarden orientation for my 5-year-old, Gus.

He spent it on the playground outside while we adults talked very seriously of matters like curriculum and shoe-tying, bathroom breaks and bus-riding protocol. Behind the parents’ questions was a mixture of anticipation and anxiety. We each balanced them on the scales of our hearts at this moment of letting go.

Our Marianist principles commit us to education for adaptation and change. Change can prompt reflection, as it did for Janet Filips, who came to campus this summer to visit with housemates from College Park and hallmates from Marycrest, some of whom she hadn’t seen since she walked the line at graduation.

And she peeked in the windows of that College Park house and walked the hallways of Sherman Hall to see what she would feel.

Change can also prompt discovery. To keep his Blue Sky Project growing, Peter Benkendorf opted to uproot himself, his family and his arts program from the Chicago area to the University of Dayton, where his daughter had enrolled. From the move is growing a mutual revelation: what visiting contemporary artists can offer UD and the city of Dayton, and what our insistence on community can offer to usually solitary artists. Both sides have much to gain.

And sometimes change can sneak up in ways as subtle as a tiny footnote in an obscure scientific article. That happened to alum Ed Timm, and as a result he and UD researcher Khalid Lafdi are making strides toward alleviating the suffering of glaucoma patients, a very welcome change indeed. When new worlds open before us, we react to find our place in them and shape what they and we become.

Janet, Peter, Ed and Khalid are doing that, and so are our students at that convocation I missed.

Even as a kindergardener at age 5, Gus is discovering how to shape himself and our world. Over the last month my wife and I are doing the same, uncovering daily the space in our hearts to watch Gus grow in knowledge and love and faith.

And in a community that nurtures that, how can there not also be great hope?

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