Sundae Service

Lots of people want to fund good ideas that improve their community. And when there’s ice cream involved, doing good becomes fun—and yummy.

Kristine Frech, a 2008 Xavier grad, launched Cincy Sundaes last year with friend and colleague Erika Fiola. The two work for organizations that promote regional development in the Cincinnati area—Frech for Vision 2015 in Northern Kentucky, Fiola for Agenda 360 north of the Ohio River. On a brainstorming trip to Detroit, they learned of a micro-funding effort called Detroit Soup. On the drive home, they decided to set up a similar program in Cincinnati, swapping the soup for ice cream.

Here’s how it works: People pay $5 for an ice-cream sundae. As they’re eating, they hear four pitches about ideas to improve the community. At the end, the group votes on their favorite idea, and the winner takes home the pot.

“We see a lot of people who want to be engaged in their community, but they don’t know how,” says Frech. “It’s a really good example of how Cincinnati as a community comes together to fund individuals with great ideas.”

Cincy Sundaes hosted five events in 2014 and has another four scheduled for 2015. Crowds range from 80 to 180 people, and foundations match the donations. Winners have used the funds to decorate sidewalks as a way of slowing traffic, improve a park in Covington, Ky., and support classical-music education for kids. All the ice cream and toppings are donated, and everyone—from the people making their pitches to those donating the cash—leaves with a sweet taste in their mouths.

Welcome To Lydia’s House: A Home for Moms and Babes

In a sturdy three-story house two miles from Xavier’s campus, Mary Ellen Mitchell Eilerman and Elizabeth Coyle pass between the kitchen and dining room, performing the most mundane tasks—setting the table, sweeping the floor, loading the dishwasher. A pot of soup bubbles on the stove as a handful of guests stream in from work.

The two women are co-directors of Lydia’s House, a transitional housing program for homeless women and their children that also provides a community in the tradition of the Catholic Worker movement. Lydia’s House is their way of living their commitment to the Gospel. “If tomorrow all the housing needs in Cincinnati were met, we would still want to exist as a community that lives out the Gospel together,” Eilerman says.

Eilerman and a third partner, Meredith Owensby, met in college in Atlanta, where they volunteered in a community similar to Lydia’s House. Wanting to do the same in Cincinnati, Eilerman, who earned a master’s degree in theology at Xavier in 2009, started looking for property around 2011. Two years later, they found the classic foursquare-style house with wooden floors, a front porch and a small back yard. It was perfect. After extensive renovations, Lydia’s House opened in April last year. Coyle, a 2005 graduate with English and theology degrees, had moved around the country doing campus ministry but came back to join them when she heard about Lydia’s House from friends.

The house, named for a woman in Acts of the Apostles who opens her house to Paul and Silas, is more than just free housing. It holds up to four women and six children who stay for up to 18 months. Coyle and Owensby live there, too, while Eilerman and her family live nearby. Members also function as a community, sharing meals, chores and prayer. There are worship services and an emphasis on hospitality. And Xavier students come over from campus each week to help clean and cook.

There are also expectations: save a portion of each paycheck, and demonstrate a clear path toward stability. Coyle and Eilerman have been pleasantly surprised at times. One expectant mother asked them to accompany her to the hospital when it was time to give birth. Another who left on less-than-ideal terms later asked the women to serve as godmothers for her newborn. It’s gone so well that they’ve purchased another house nearby. Named for Jean Donovan, one of four American churchwomen murdered in El Salvador in 1980, the house opens its doors this spring.

Alumni Profile: Medical Missionary

Dr. Carol Egner
Bachelor of Science in biology,
1978 Staff physician, Women Partners in OB GYN

Trouble in Madagascar | The African island nation is a dangerous place to be pregnant. For every 100,000 births, 440 women die in childbirth, compared to 24 in the U.S. Babies are six times more likely to die than their American peers.

Mother-Baby Initiative | Every year Dr. Carol Egner spends two weeks in Madagascar trying to change that. Egner, a Cincinnati obstetrician/gynecologist, returns in September for her fifth visit helping the Caring Response Madagascar Foundation with its Mother-Baby Initiative.

Feeling a Calling | Though she describes herself as “not very adventurous,” she ended up 6,000 miles away, being greeted by strangers in African villages, after learning about the Caring Response Foundation, launched by a woman named Virginia Wiltse.

Caring Response | The idea of doing medical mission work appealed to Egner, and meeting Wiltse sealed the deal. Caring Response also runs literacy centers, a water-purification program, micro-lending and other initiatives,  concentrating on needs that others aren’t meeting.

Needs vs. Wants | “The poverty is overwhelming, and yet the people are so kind and receptive. We show up to a village to set up a clinic, and we’re always greeted with song and dance and food,” Egner says. “Their whole lives are about what they need and not what they want.”

Saving Mother’s Lives | In Madagascar, Egner teaches doctors and midwives the basics of delivering healthy babies while preserving the mothers’ safety. She starts with how to prevent and treat post-partum hemorrhage, the leading cause of maternal deaths there. Students also learn vacuum extraction, infant resuscitation and other skills.

Stocking Up | In addition to volunteering her time and paying her own way, Egner contacts medical-equipment manufacturers and companies to bring as many supplies with her as she can when she travels. The first year, the foundation shipped maternity beds, baby warmers and other supplies to better prepare clinics for births.

The Grapevine | The foundation also sent an ultrasound machine to a region that had no familiarity with the technology. Egner used it on a pregnant midwife who was one of her students. Early the next day, in an area void of social media, 20 pregnant women were standing in line at the clinic, all eager to see images of their babies.

House Calls | Egner also travels to surrounding villages to provide care for people who have walked for days. The initiative is also teaching caregivers how to keep pre-natal, delivery and post-partum records so they can track outcomes among their patients.

Almni Profile: Youth Mentor

George Powell
Bachelor of Science in physical education, 1965
Master of Education, 1972
Retired educator, Washington, DC

Go West Young Man | Powell, a Washington, DC, native, had completed his freshman year at Virginia Union University in Richmond when he decided he had to see more of the country. “I just packed my gym bag and said, ‘I’m going to the Midwest. I want to see the world,’” says Powell, 72. “I thought Xavier was a good place to come in and sharpen my skills and then give back.”

Knock-Knock | Athletic recruiting was a little different in those days. A student-athlete today wouldn’t, for example, show up at a coach’s office unannounced, ask for a tryout, and begin classes and practice a few days later. But that’s exactly what Powell did on Xavier’s now-defunct football team in the early 1960s.

Guiding Pillars | Giving back became the guiding principle for Powell’s life, along with education. He graduated in 1965 after studying physical education and psychology, and returned for a master’s in education. He volunteered at the Boys Club and the De Porres Center in CIncinnati, and would bring young boys to campus to expose them to college.

Teacher-Coach | After stints at the Ohio State University and Virginia Union, he later coached and taught at high schools in Cincinnati and Columbus. Some of his players went on to play football professionally, including two from Lincoln Heights High School in Cincinnati. Along the way, he mentored many students, urging them to take their education seriously and use it as a stepping-stone to a better life.

Open Door | “The door was open and I told kids to come with me. I tried to do everything I could to show them education is the way to a better life,” he says.

Family Man | Powell and his wife raised their two children to value education as well; his daughter Angela is a physician in Akron and his son George is a high-school teacher in Virginia. Powell moved back to Washington, DC, and lives in the house where he grew up.

Football Reunion | He was back on Xavier’s campus last year, when former Xavier football players were honored at a men’s basketball game. The school ended its football program in 1973, but many players stay in touch 40 years later.

Student-Athletes | Powell marveled at the changes on campus since he was here, and he spoke with pride about the emphasis the school still places on academics for its student-athletes. Though his teaching days are over, Powell’s mentoring and encouragement live on.

Giving Back | “We have to learn how to give back, because there are so many people out there who, with just a little bit of help, can be great people. Everybody needs a hand sometimes,” he says.

Alumni Profile: Active Organizer

Mike Moroski
Bachelor of Arts in English, 2001

Master of Arts in English, 2011
Director of Community Engagement, Community Matters

Flipping For Good | After graduating with an English degree, Mike Moroski began taking students from Moeller High School to Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood to rehab, or flip, old buildings to create affordable housing. He became deeply enmeshed in reviving the impoverished neighborhood, even opening a non-profit coffee shop. He received Xavier’s Magis Award in 2011.

Moving On | While dean of student life at Purcell Marian High School, Moroski faced an ideological dispute over the issue of same-sex marriage and left the school. He ran for Cincinnati City Council and lost. All the while, he kept watch as Over-the-Rhine gentrified into a neighborhood of pricey restaurants and high-end housing.

Uphill Climb | Moroski turned his sights to the Lower Price Hill neighborhood two miles west of downtown, where he serves as director of community engagement and development at Community Matters. He also emerged as a leading figure in efforts to fight poverty in Cincinnati, serving on multiple boards and organizations.

Research Lab | Lower Price Hill provides an especially useful laboratory for community organizing. In this tiny community of less than 1,200 residents, about half live in poverty, and 40 percent of adults lack a high-school diploma. And the traditionally Appalachian neighborhood has seen an influx of Guatemalan residents.

Unlimited Potential | Moroski sees unlimited potential for Lower Price Hill. “The people in the neighborhood are so hardworking and so proud,” he says. “You can literally wrap your arms around Lower Price Hill, and you can empower the entire community to rebuild itself.”

Nerve Center | The nerve center of Lower Price Hill’s renewal efforts is the former St. Michael the Archangel Church and School, which closed in 1997 and now houses Community Matters and Education Matters, two non-profits dedicated to improving the neighborhood.

Renewal | A $10 million renovation by the two non-profits is creating a food pantry, thrift store, benefits resource center, co-op laundromat and a community space in the old sanctuary. It will also host students from Xavier and other schools for service-learning programs that immerse them in solutions to poverty. Such programs used to be held in Over-the-Rhine, before the pace of redevelopment there picked up.

Come Together | Morowski sees all his past and current work—education, community development, job creation and support for families—coming together in just a few city blocks. “There’s way more potential than obstacles,” he says.  JULIE IRWIN ZIMMERMAN

Classic Poet

John Knoepfle was bitten by the writing bug in high school in the 1930s while studying Macbeth and other classic literature. “It was intriguing,” says Knoepfle. “By the time I was a senior I was trying to do some of my own. It was very bad and I was very proud of it.”

Today, more than 70 years later, the bug bite hasn’t gone away, but his work has improved. Tremendously, in fact. The 87-year-old Knoepfle has authored more than a dozen books and edited many more. He’s earned fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Mark Twain Award for Contributions to Midwestern Literature, Author of the Year from the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and the Illinois Literary Heritage Award from the Illinois Center for the Book.

Knoepfle spent his career in the writing world, teaching at various universities in Missouri and Illinois while earning his PhD in English at Saint Louis University in 1965. Ultimately he landed at the University of Illinois-Springfield, where he retired as professor emeritus of literature. Surprisingly perhaps for a future lit professor, Knoepfle entered Xavier in 1941 on a football scholarship but lost it after the first year when the program was scaled back. Nevertheless, Knoepfle’s professional fate was sealed once he connected with Paul Sweeney, S.J., founder of the Mermaid Tavern, an undergraduate creative writing club.

As he grew more serious about a career in literature, Knoepfle says he didn’t get much support. “My mother couldn’t figure out where I had come from and my Aunt Augie thought I was crazy, but you do what you want to do,” Knoepfle says. After serving overseas during WWII,

he returned to Xavier to graduate with a bachelor of philosophy in 1947 and master of arts in 1949.

So does the octogenarian still write? You bet. “I try to scratch out a few lines every day,” he says. With a pencil. Knoepfle has a love-hate relationship with the Internet. “It’s a new era. It’s hateful,” he says. “I think everybody hates computers. They demand so much. But the other side of it, if you’re solitary, it gives you something to do.” Still, the “old poet,” as he refers to himself, appears to embrace it on some level. See for proof.

Changing the Game

Amy Gore admits she’s not crazy about running. But there she was in Disney World last January, running a marathon with a group of about 20 Xavier students. The reason? Distance4Dreams, which raises money through running for seriously ill children. Gore, who earned her bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy in 2009 and master’s degree a year later, started the Xavier chapter of D4D with a few friends last year.

Gore learned about Distance4Dreams from Katie Przybysz, a friend at the University of Dayton who started the charity. She worked as an intern at A Special Wish Foundation. Some of Przybysz’s friends were running a Disney Marathon and looking for a charity to support. That gave birth to Distance4Dreams.

At Xavier, the group solicited pledges for every mile they ran. “It was like we were working for the money instead of just asking for it, which made our training more meaningful,” says Gore. The Xavier chapter headed to Florida in January and raised about $4,000 for a girl named Jackie with a rare type of kidney cancer. Jackie and her family went to Disney World this summer after she finished chemotherapy. Gore isn’t sure whether she’ll run another marathon, but the club will remain her legacy. So will getting Jackie and her family to Disney World.

“I always said I’d never run a full marathon because I didn’t think it was good for the body,” she says. “But of all the reasons to do it, those were the things that really pushed me to the finish line.”

An Eye for Art

Every item in Cockerill Gallery, Vickie Cockerill’s eponymous store on Hyde Park Square in Cincinnati, reflects its owner’s discerning taste, honed over a career in advertising and travels in the U.S. and abroad. Cockerill, a 1968 graduate, specializes in contemporary art jewelry and art glass, but the store is full of finds that happened to catch her interest: old African masks, Peruvian art, jewelry from Korea and Japan, all unified by Cockerill’s keen eye.

“We know all these artists and deal with them personally,” says Cockerill, whose degree is in business administration. “It’s fun to go out looking for art, and it’s fun to sell.”

Cockerill admits that retail is a wild ride in this economy, and her late husband Joe had to talk her into opening the gallery in 2002. She had owned a Cincinnati store called The Eye Opener in the 1970s and travelled internationally, three months at a time, to stock it with jewelry and other imported items. The Cockerills later worked together in advertising; Joe was a fine-art photographer and cinematographer who directed commercials. Their work prompted them to move, first to Miami and later to Richmond, Va., before resettling in Cincinnati.

Last year, the store Joe Cockerill had convinced his wife to open turned out to be an unexpected source of comfort to her. “I’ve met great people over the years who were so kind to me when Joe died,” she says. Now the gallery’s customers and artisans provide an outlet and a purpose—to find and collect beautiful things into an exquisitely curated collection.

Amazing Feat

In El Salvador last year for an Alternative Breaks trip, Kali Chatham decided to take a run through the rural community of La Cieba, and her host mother agreed to go with her. But when it was time to set out, the woman came down dressed in jeans and flip-flops. 

“I said, ‘You take my tennis shoes, socks and shorts and I’ll take one of the other girls’ shoes,’” says Chatham, a 2009 grad who’s now earning a master’s degree in human genetics at the University of Arkansas.

Toward the end of the jog, a boy with autism ran sprints with her in his bare feet. “That’s when I started thinking they all need tennis shoes, whether it’s for women’s health or children’s health or for people with developmental disabilities,” says Chatham, a former member of the Xavier women’s swim team.

As she started graduate school, Chatham launched Soles for Salud with the goal of collecting 200 pairs of gently used athletic shoes to send to La Cieba. Chatham collected shoes in Little Rock and Kansas City and on Xavier’s campus, where student-athletes filled the Office of Academic Advising with footwear.

Soles for Salud eventually ended up with 600 pairs of shoes, now all sorted and waiting for delivery in Little Rock.

FedEx agreed to deliver 500 pairs of shoes for free, and Chatham had planned to accompany the shipment in early August, but violence in El Salvador prompted her to postpone the trip. She now hopes to travel by the end of the year.

Profile: Grace Northern

Bachelor of arts, 2006
Assistant to the Director of the Office of Presidential Personnel
Washington, D.C.

Defining Moment | An English major at Xavier, Northern was headed for a career in broadcasting when she heard then-Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The speech changed her direction and eventually led to her current position in the White House. “I never considered myself a political person until that speech,” she says. “But when I saw Sen. Obama speak, I had a gut feeling that I would work for him one day.”

Next Moves | Two years later, Northern graduated and headed to Washington, D.C., to intern for Obama, by then a U.S. senator. After the four-month internship, she stayed in Washington to work for a consulting firm. “In the fall of 2006, I heard rumors that he may announce his candidacy. I closely followed him in the news and any story related to his anticipated announcement. Finally, in February 2007, Obama made it official—he was running for President.” Two months later, Northern joined the campaign in New Hampshire.

Criss-crossing the Country | From New Hampshire it was on to Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Colorado, Florida—a non-stop blur of work dotted with unforgettable moments. “Working at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver was my favorite experience on the campaign,” Northern says. “It was a great point where I realized that all of our hard work from the primaries had finally paid off—that we had helped Barack Obama become the nominee for the Democratic party. And of course, election night was one of the most memorable nights of my life. After two years of sleepless nights, knocking on doors, registering voters, we finally did it.”

New Office | After the election, Northern was hired in the Office of Presidential Personnel, which manages the selection process for all Presidential appointments. “It’s an exciting, intense, non-stop atmosphere,” Northern says. “I learn something new every day, and I’m surrounded by very smart, hard-working people. The best perk is giving West Wing tours to my family and friends. A lot of them were very supportive during the campaign, and it’s such a great pleasure to show them through the White House.”

Sports Nut | At Presentation Academy in Louisville, Northern played five sports: basketball, soccer, track, cross-country and softball. She started college at Denison University, where she played on the women’s varsity basketball team before transferring to Xavier. At Xavier she played club soccer and intramural basketball and served as the Newswire’s senior news editor and on the student activities council.

Best Laid Plans | The plan before hearing the 2004 speech was to work as an ESPN broadcaster, and Northern sees parallels between sports and her chosen field. “One of the best lessons I learned in my athletic career was that team sports don’t just build character, they reveal character,” she says. “I see the same thing in politics.”