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The power of possibility

10:15 AM  Dec 29th, 2014
by President Daniel J. Curran; Photo by Andy Snow

I remember feeling at home the moment I walked onto campus.

As the familiar strains of the hymn, “We are Called,” filled the chapel at the opening day Mass of my presidency, I felt so welcomed by the Marianists, students, faculty, staff and alumni. I felt so inspired by the University’s powerful heritage and sense of mission.

As a community, I knew we were poised to do great things together — to make a bold leap forward. In the Marianist tradition, we would build upon our core values, read the signs of the times and embrace the power of possibility.

Today, 12 years later, I feel the same way. This is my home. And the University of Dayton is fulfilling that promise of greatness.

That’s why this is the ideal time to look for a new leader to take our University forward. In December, I announced that I would step down as president in June 2016 after a 14-year tenure. The board of trustees has initiated a national search for my successor.

Two years ago, a reporter looked at the growth of the University’s physical size and academic prestige and noted, “The pace of change has been among the most rapid and substantial seen at any American university.”

When I became president in 2002, I inherited a university on the move from longtime president Brother Ray Fitz, S.M., and discovered a community willing to ask the big questions and seek out answers together. I have been humbled and privileged to be the steward of such a remarkable legacy and to be able to continue our historic upward momentum.

When other universities stepped back and froze faculty positions during the recession, we stepped forward and hired some of the brightest minds in the country.

We didn’t turn away from the brownfield and vacant corporate headquarters on our border, but instead embraced the potential. We felt confident community and government partners would help us secure the funding to bring new life to that land. Today, that land is the canvas for the future and will benefit generations of students.

This fall, we welcomed our largest, most academically prepared first-year class. Faculty, staff and students gathered in the Central Mall as George and Amanda Hanley, through their Chicago foundation, committed $12.5 million — the largest gift in school history — to support curricular innovations in sustainability. We honored Brother Ray by renaming the College Park Center as Raymond L. Fitz Hall, and community and state leaders helped us break ground on Emerson Climate Technologies’ $35 million global innovation center at the corner of Main and Stewart streets.

As I reflect on my presidency, I am most proud of the cumulative successes of our students, alumni, faculty and staff. You have spread the University of Dayton’s excellence and reputation around the world.

Our work together isn’t finished.

I will continue to advocate for social justice and sustainability, which stem from our religious mission to stand with the poor and promote the common good. With the help of alumni and friends, we will raise funds to renovate Chaminade Hall as a home for the Human Rights Center and the Hanley Sustainability Institute.

In 2016, I will take a sabbatical, then return to the students and classrooms I love and continue to build the University’s international relationships, particularly in China.

The Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Society of Mary, inspires us to be visionaries — to create our moment in history, to act upon this University’s strong foundation of educational innovation and deep faith.

That’s our calling.

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curran and emerson

A new chapter

10:31 AM  Sep 5th, 2014
by President Daniel J. Curran; Photo by Jim Witmer

We’re writing a fresh chapter in the history of Dayton innovation.

On a crisp, sunny summer morning, I walked from my office in St. Mary’s Hall to the corner of Main and Stewart streets. Under a tent on an expanse of green lawn, I joined leaders from Emerson Climate Technologies and the region to announce that the University of Dayton is leasing this land to Emerson to build a global innovation center.

On our campus. On land that once housed NCR’s booming cash register manufacturing facilities.

I gazed out over the lawn and envisioned the future.

When the Emerson Innovation Center is up and running in late 2015, students from various disciplines — engineering, marketing, even dietetics — will head over to a world-class facility to take classes, work as interns or co-ops, or collaborate on research. Our researchers and faculty, who are experts in advanced materials and energy efficiency, will help Emerson’s engineers drive innovation. The technologies of tomorrow — from smart thermostats for homes to smaller, more efficient air conditioning systems — will be showcased in this building.

The University’s master plan devotes space on this part of campus for attracting high-tech companies that can spur research, serve as real-world classrooms for students and spark economic development for the Dayton region. I believe universities that will thrive in the future are the ones that forge strategic partnerships to advance innovation, provide students with priceless experience and create jobs.

In 2013, GE Aviation opened a $53 million research center nearby. It was recently named the state’s best economic development project. In the same year, Midmark moved its world headquarters to the 1700 South Patterson Building, where we house the Research Institute and offer graduate classes, executive training and lifelong learning courses. Our students intern and co-op with both companies.

With the vision of our trustees, administrators and faculty, and with the support of so many regional partners, I believe this portion of our campus will stand as a testament to what imagination and collaboration can accomplish.

We are among just a handful of universities nationally that are partnering with companies to establish large research facilities on campus, according to Rich Overmoyer, executive director of the University Economic Development Association. He called these partnerships “the future for research institutions.”

The University of Dayton has always looked forward, has always embraced the possibilities. Brother Ray Fitz, S.M., my predecessor, worked with the city, Miami Valley Hospital and Citywide Development Corp. to reinvigorate the Fairgrounds neighborhood with new housing. That sparked the redevelopment of Brown Street and led to the renaissance we’re seeing today on the land we purchased from NCR.

As we build for the future, we are called to be builders of community.

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UDMagazine Sumer14 curran2

The open door

1:57 PM  Jun 17th, 2014
by President Daniel J. Curran

On a beautiful spring afternoon brimming with hope and promise, Father Jim Schimelpfening, S.M., spoke from the pulpit — and the heart — about the journey ahead for our newest graduates.

“Graduation is a moment on that journey,” he told students and their families at the Baccalaureate Mass in the University of Dayton Arena. “Journeys are so powerful. They are sometimes so powerful that they irrevocably change us.”

Alumni and students wouldn’t argue that point. A University of Dayton education transforms you — and prepares you for a changing world.

As I looked out over the sea of happy faces at spring commencement the next morning, I saw joy mixed with a few tears. Each spring, graduating seniors repeatedly tell me, “I can’t believe I’m leaving UD.”

It is hard to leave this great community. Think of the memories. This class will never forget the thrilling Elite Eight run by the men’s basketball team in the NCAA tournament. Other moments are more private, such as helping a child as part of a service project or pushing yourself to go beyond what you even thought possible in the classroom. They are all important.

This annual ritual always reminds me of an Alexander Graham Bell quote, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”

There is rarely a straight path to happiness. I reminded our graduates that the plans they make today will inevitably need to be adapted. I urged them to remember Blessed William Joseph Chaminade’s words: “Read the signs of the times.” It is a call to be aware of the world around them, move forward and take advantage of opportunities.

The signs aren’t always positive. Sometimes, I told them, it will be easier to ignore the negative signs in our society and focus simply on getting ahead. We must see the bad with the good and try to make a difference. The world’s population faces hunger, overcrowding, disease, war — and more. Global progress requires the efforts, big and small, of people of all nations. It is the responsibility of this class — and all our graduates — to confront the global challenges, to be the ones who care.

I pray that the University of Dayton has educated these new graduates for service, justice and peace — while ensuring that they are prepared for adaptation and change. I trust that they will become community builders, serving as responsible leaders and promoting justice and peace for all persons.

They are ready for the next door. They have secured a great education and are ready to make a difference in the world.

Another door remains open, too — the door back to the University of Dayton. It is a place that will always
be home.

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Human Rights Conference 2013 Photo by Arthur Su

A voice for the voiceless

9:56 AM  Mar 18th, 2014
by President Daniel J. Curran

When I addressed faculty, staff and students at my presidential installation 12 years ago, I talked about how a Catholic university must be a force for social change.

Today, I’m more convinced of that than ever.

At a February lunch with students, one shared an intriguing idea about how he could develop safe water in developing countries. During summers, teams of our students have traveled to Africa, where they’ve worked with villagers to install pipelines to carry clean water. Still, the problem of access to safe water persists in too many places in the world.

Our faculty and students have long fought against human trafficking — to the point of encouraging Ohio legislators to pass Senate Bill 235 that made it a felony. Still, more than 1,000 children in Ohio become victims each year.

In October, I signed an agreement with Catholic Relief Services that supports faculty research and advocacy in a campaign to eliminate slave labor in Brazil. Last summer, five professors visited the country to examine slave labor in the manufacture of consumer goods that Americans buy. They met with government and church officials to map strategies for change. Still, the International Labor Organization estimates that 40,000 people work in slavery in Brazil today.

News and social media show us faces of the poor, of refugees, of victims of starvation and genocide. We shouldn’t turn our eyes.

So last fall, we convened a global conference to share research on effective human rights advocacy and announced our intention to create and endow a human rights center on campus. In recent weeks, we’ve met with foundations and alumni to share our vision for a center devoted to education, research, advocacy — and action. We are seeking partners in this work deeply rooted in our mission as a
Catholic, Marianist university.

We will be a voice for the voiceless. To do so, we must continue to analyze the systemic causes of injustice, advocate solutions and educate students for work that will advance human rights.

We’re in an ideal position to make a difference. We started the country’s first undergraduate human rights program in 1998 and began offering a bachelor’s degree in human rights studies a decade later. Our alumni today work worldwide in humanitarian roles.

During the past two decades, we’ve held symposia on human rights issues, including the rights of the child and violence against women. Through a generous gift from alumnus Peter McGrath ’72, we began a rigorous research fellows program. Faculty and students conduct research in all areas of human rights, from human trafficking to refugee resettlement.

I’m reminded of Marianist priest William J. Ferree’s philosophy of social justice: It’s not up to individuals alone to make a difference. It’s the responsibility of all to work together to create change.

In the Marianist spirit, through the center for human rights, we will work together to address the world’s systemic injustices and promote the dignity of all people.

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Dan Curran for President's Message UD Magazine Winter 2013-14 by Larry Burgess

A sacred place for all

9:47 AM  Dec 9th, 2013
by President Daniel J. Curran

Whenever I walk through campus and spot the towering blue dome of the chapel, I instantly feel at home — and at peace.

I occasionally take a break from the busyness of the day to steal a few moments, sit in the chapel, reflect and be one with God. This is the spiritual heart of our campus. It’s a place to witness grace in our lives. It’s where we come together to celebrate, to find solace, to pray in community.

During my time in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, I have seen that it is in need of care. We’ve completed only partial renovations of the chapel since its construction by the Marianists in 1869.

Today, this sacred place deserves a thoughtful and unified renovation. We want to improve the interior to meet contemporary liturgical requirements while bringing back the wood finishes, warm colors, pews, artistic touches and the simple elegance of yesteryear. I recently reviewed preliminary sketches for new stained glass windows that will mimic the original colors and patterns — and respect the chapel’s rich history.

More than $11 million toward a $12 million renovation has been committed from trustees, alumni and friends, including a major bequest and a recent anonymous $3 million gift. I’m confident we can meet this fundraising goal and begin a yearlong renovation in August 2014. I’m so grateful to our supporters for their faith in this project.

Earlier this year, we entered into a formal partnership with the Church of the Holy Angels, which sits in the middle of campus among student houses on the corner of Brown and L streets. This is not a merger but a true collaboration. A graduate assistant is helping to direct a K-6 faith formation program at the parish, and undergraduates in the two-year Forum for Young Catechetical Leaders program are teaching catechism classes and offering programs in adult faith formation and sacramental preparation.

Most importantly, when we need a larger worship space, Holy Angels will now be available. That has allowed the University to recommend a renovation rather than an expansion of the chapel. We are now working with a liturgical consultant and architect to finalize the plans.

Preliminary plans call only for a modest addition on the south side of the building for a bride’s room, reconciliation room and restrooms. As people walk through the chapel’s beautiful wooden doors, they will enter a new gathering space. Just inside the chapel, a baptismal font will serve as a visual reminder of the origins of our faith. Traditional wood pews will replace the chairs. Every detail, from the art and statues to the religious symbols used on the windows and walls, will reflect a desire to enhance the chapel’s natural beauty and create greater harmony.

The newly renovated chapel will stand as a testament to what a community of believers can accomplish through faith and action. It will be a symbol of our gratitude to our Marianist founders, who taught us that we are to use our knowledge and faith to make a difference in the lives of others.

It will be a sacred place for all.

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Bringing Dayton to the river

8:33 AM  Sep 12th, 2013
by President Daniel J. Curran

Feeling a spray of mist, I float down the Great Miami River with the River Stewards, an eclectic group of students from almost all majors united around their love of the river.

As I paddle my kayak past tree-lined grassy banks and watch the downtown skyline emerge in the distance, I understand more deeply their passion, their sense of wonder at the possibilities.

The River Stewards represent a new generation of water enthusiasts. As ambassadors for riverfront development, they are a critical part of a team of regional leaders and planners working to leverage the assets of more than a dozen waterfront communities in a 77-mile stretch winding from Sidney to Hamilton — and right through our campus.

Don’t underestimate the power of their vision, the depth of their tenacity.

With the help of donors and educational leaders, they recently converted a 53-foot semi-trailer into a mobile, multimedia classroom. It’s a roving billboard that vividly illustrates the students’ commitment to conserving and promoting the Great Miami River watershed. It’s set to travel to area schools this fall.

The RiverMobile’s mission is simple: to develop pride for the region, to provide knowledge about Dayton’s river system and water resources, and to develop personal responsibility for the protection of local water resources and the environment.

As Rivers Institute graduate assistant Bethany Renner ’12 told her fellow River Stewards at the unveiling of the RiverMobile, “We believe that if people learn to appreciate and grow to love our local watershed and its assets, they will do their part to act as good stewards.

The RiverMobile is just one very visible example of how the University is bringing Dayton to the river. This summer, we partnered with the Miami Conservancy District to construct a bike path extension along the river from Stewart Street to the softball diamond. We plan to build stairs to the river and place benches or swings along the adjacent bike path. We’re launching the Outdoor Engagement Center so all students will have access to the equipment they need to enjoy our rivers and trails.

More importantly, faculty, staff and students in the Rivers Institute can be found at the table of every major regional discussion about water. The River Stewards recently lobbied to remove a dangerous low dam in down- town Dayton. They created a river leadership curriculum for UD students. They spearheaded an annual River Summit to develop a regional strategy for tapping into the untapped potential of the rivers.

We educate our students to be community builders. One trip down the Great Miami River is all it takes to see how well the River Stewards have learned that lesson.

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Photo by Julie Miller Walling '80

Imagination at work

10:03 AM  Jul 11th, 2013
by President Daniel J. Curran

It’s rare for a global company to build a huge research center on a college campus, but GE Aviation doesn’t think small. Neither do we.

The world’s largest jet engine supplier spends about $1 billion annually on research-and-development efforts and plans to double its engine production during the next decade. I admire that kind of forward-thinking philosophy because we think and act boldly, too.

When finished this summer, GE Aviation’s new EPISCENTER rising along 8 acres at Patterson Boulevard and River Park Drive will create more electric power than any other lab of its kind in the world. The company says this aerospace research complex will be the “intellectual heart and soul” of GE Aviation’s electrical power business.

It will stand as a testament to what imagination — and collaboration — can accomplish. In the higher education landscape nationally, this innovative partnership can be a model for the future.

When we bought our first big parcel of land from NCR in 2005, we worked with regional leaders to secure the federal and state funds necessary to transform the largely vacant urban brownfield into a vibrant academic and mixed-use development. We envisioned attracting strong companies that could spur additional research, serve as real-world classrooms and spark economic development for the region.

Admittedly, some people thought that was a far-fetched idea. Not only is the EPISCENTER, which stands for Electrical Power Integrated Systems Center, opening this summer, Midmark, a worldwide manufacturer and supplier of health care products, is moving its corporate headquarters to the 1700 South Patterson Building on our River Campus.
These companies are looking for intellectual talent, for young professionals to join their ranks and build a future of innovation in Dayton. GE Aviation and Midmark will only have to look in their backyard for their future leaders.

Internships, particularly those that lead to full-time positions, are the top recruiting strategy for a growing number of employers. In the past year alone, we’ve seen a remarkable 43 percent jump in postings for internships and co-ops through our Career Placement Center.

GE Aviation wants to tap into the best minds in our classrooms and labs. That’s why the company is committing at least $1 million annually to bring graduate engineering students into the EPISCENTER to work on design teams.

Talk about a résumé builder. As Lorraine Bolsinger, then-president and CEO of GE Aviation Systems, told community leaders at the 2012 Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting, “This will not be an ivory tower kind of place. This is not a center where people will walk around in white lab coats and tinker in R&D as a hobby. GE scientists will team with UD graduate students and faculty to develop new electrical power systems for future aircraft. And we will sell them worldwide.”

That’s the kind of vision we at UD like, bold and forward-thinking.

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Daniel J. Curran with Red Scare

I love UD

10:55 AM  Feb 11th, 2013
by President Daniel J. Curran

Driving along Rahn Road in Kettering a few years ago, I noticed a Christmas tree decorated in Flyer colors.

“Look, Claire, that tree has only red and blue lights,” I said to my wife after we passed it.

“No, it doesn’t,” she said in surprise. As we drove down the same road later, she pointed out the multicolored lights on the tree. “The problem with you is that you only see red and blue,” she said with a laugh.

After more than 10 years as president, I’ve discovered my love for the University of Dayton only grows deeper with time.

Last fall, The Princeton Review ranked the University 10th in the nation under the category, “Their Students Love These Colleges.” That’s no surprise to those who live and study here. A sheet draped from a Woodland Avenue porch at the end of August said it all: “6 Girls, 5 Majors, 4 States, 3rd Year, 2 Porches, 1 Home.”

In a hotel lobby in Xi’an, China, a person behind me in the registration line noticed that my traveling companion was wearing a Dayton Flyers shirt. He wanted to talk about the two degrees he earned here. We reminisced for an hour about a campus 7,000 miles away, about his time as a student and the resulting bond that stretches around the world.

Our students are the heart of this university, the hope for our world. Their passion energizes me.

Students in the Rivers Institute, with generous support from local donors, imagined and created the RiverMobile. Converted from a semi-trailer, it’s a traveling exhibit that showcases the Great Miami River watershed for local schoolchildren.

Other students lobbied to bring Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof to campus this spring for an annual social justice event called Consciousness Rising, aimed at raising awareness about human trafficking.

And what can you say about the Red Scare? On game day, they paint their faces red and blue, dress up as the Wright brothers, wave oversized signs and never sit down. They are the reason why the University of Dayton Arena is arguably the best place in America to experience college basketball.

This February, we are celebrating the monthlong “I Love UD” campaign. We want you to tell the world how special this place is. For those who haven’t been involved recently, we invite you to reconnect. Share one of your vintage Lawnview porch photos. Make a donation to a UD scholarship fund. Spearhead a food drive, tutor students or engage in a random act of kindness on your own or with others in your local alumni chapter.

In 1850, Father Leo Meyer, S.M., had the foresight and faith to borrow money and buy a farm. We are all stewards of that legacy. We are all builders of a university that we love.

Let’s show that love.

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Dr. Daniel J. Curran with Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian.

Living the faith

1:56 PM  Sep 28th, 2012
by President Daniel J. Curran

On a steamy Sunday morning in August, I walked into Shanghai’s St. Ignatius Cathedral for Mass.

The church’s pews overflowed with 2,500 parishioners, so I stood quietly along the back wall, marveling at the sight of faith in action in China. I was surprised by the number of young people worshipping.

Earlier that day, I spent an unforgettable hour with one of the oldest Catholic bishops in the world in his apartment in the cathedral. Jesuit Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, 96, is an inspiring figure, the most influential Catholic in China. About two decades ago, he traveled to our campus to talk about his experiences in China, a Communist country with a checkered relationship with the Vatican. Even now, his stories hold so much power.

Bishop Jin, who’s still spry and energetic, spent nearly three decades under house arrest, in re-education camps and in prison in his native land. Yet, he never lost the faith.

When he was released from prison in 1982, he discovered that St. Ignatius Cathedral, the church where he had been ordained, had been turned into a state-owned grain warehouse during the cultural revolution. The once-stately church had been vandalized, stripped of its magnificent Gothic spires and stained glass. Today, the cathedral’s grandeur has been restored after China began allowing the practice of religion again. Estimates put the number of Catholics in China at 12 million to 15 million, and that figure is growing.

Bishop Jin is not part of the so-called underground church in China. He lives openly as a Catholic priest under the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and promotes dialogue with both the government and the Vatican. The Vatican recognizes his ordination, and he’s made a number of important reforms, including receiving permission to celebrate the Mass in Mandarin instead of Latin.

We talked about faith, what it means to be a Catholic in China, and the role the University of Dayton can play in the future. It was such a positive, uplifting conversation and, for me, reaffirmed why we’re establishing a physical presence in China through the University of Dayton China Institute in Suzhou Industrial Park (P. 26). As a Catholic, Marianist university, we’re here, ultimately, to spread knowledge and live our faith. In the spirit of our Marianist founders, we are builders of community — whether we’re celebrating Christmas on Campus or working with engineers around the globe to solve problems.

We don’t shy away from our identity. Our logo is featured prominently on the outside wall of the China Institute, which will include a center for showcasing our Catholic, Marianist heritage. Suzhou Industrial Park officials plan to build a Catholic church within the ultra-modern, sprawling park, and I believe we can play an important role in
helping the church realize its social justice mission in China.

I left China inspired by a bishop who’s living the faith.

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President Daniel J. Curran

Dr. Dan

2:32 PM  Jun 26th, 2012
by President Daniel J. Curran

As I walk across campus, I’m often greeted by a friendly student voice, “Hey, Dr. Dan. What’s up?”

I appreciate that students casually seek me out for a chat between classes. That kind of comfortable rapport keeps the lines of communication open and helps us learn from one another. During a recent “Dialogue with the President” town hall meeting in Sears Recital Hall, I chatted with students for more than two hours on issues as wide ranging as housing and curriculum to academic reputation and the faith life of campus.

How will campus change in the next five years?  Are you going to tear down our houses? What are the plans for Brown Street? These were just a few of the questions they peppered over a lively and candid exchange.

Students promoted the informal gathering in a way that made me laugh. It’s certainly an odd feeling walking across Kennedy Union Plaza and coming face to face with a nearly life-size cardboard cutout photo of yourself.

It’s even more startling to glance over at the rowdy Red Scare student section in UD Arena and spot your giant face bobbing up and down with the likes of the Wright brothers and Flyers basketball coach Archie Miller.

I realize it’s all in good fun.

Like most college presidents, I spend much of my day moving the strategic plan forward, participating in alumni gatherings and fundraising. The job is energizing, but the moments I interact with our students are very special to me.

In my presidency, we’ve built more houses than we’ve torn down. And while we’re committed to modernizing Founders Hall, the oldest residence hall on campus, I assured students at the town hall meeting that we’re also turning our attention to academic buildings. The places where they learn and study — the Science Center, Roesch Library and Chaminade Hall — are all due for upgrades. We’ll be introducing new majors, such as a proposed master of physician assistant practice, and opening an academic and research center in China. The renaissance of Brown Street will continue with bike lanes connecting the campus to downtown.

Claire and I love having students over to our house for meals. I attend Flyer basketball games, but I’m just as likely to cheer students at a volleyball match or a soccer game.  I feel such a sense of pride when I listen to students share their research projects at the annual Stander Symposium on campus that celebrates undergraduate research and creativity.

I’ve driven into the heart of Appalachia to visit students running a summer day camp for children in Salyersville, Ky., a campus ministry service project now extending into its 49th year. Another time, I found our students camped outside a Biloxi, Miss., church held together by wooden beams, its walls blown out by a hurricane. They had traveled there over their fall midterm break to aid the relief effort.

Our students help me see life through their eyes, remind me of the power of life’s possibilities. Their curiosity, intellect and compassion never cease to amaze me.

Not to mention their ability to make me laugh when I least expect it.

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