Mindful Health

Judi Godsey did not have to look far to see the devastating effects of extreme poverty.

Most of the people in her home in McCreary County, Ky.—a beautiful part of the country in the rolling Appalachian foothills near Lake Cumberland—were extremely poor, and it showed in their health.

A lot of the adults smoked and had poor eating habits, which led to excessive cases of obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. By high school, a lot of her friends had picked up the deadly habits as well.

She even saw it at home. They weren’t poor—her father had a good job working with machinery—but he was a smoker and died of a heart attack at age 47.

Now the assistant professor in the School of Nursing is working to do something about it. Godsey recently published a research article on using a therapy known as “mindfulness” to help people with obesity control their weight. It’s part of her research into solutions to the obesity epidemic in the U.S. and improving health overall—especially in her part of Kentucky, where childhood obesity is third in the nation and adult obesity is seventh.

In spite of its beauty, she says, “It’s a very sick county.”

Wanting to improve her own life and help change the outcome for the people of Kentucky, she became the first in her family to graduate from college, earning a nursing degree at Northern Kentucky University while raising two children. She continued on, eventually earning her master’s in nursing and is now working on her doctorate. As she studied for her degrees, she developed an interest in researching population health issues, including how more than a third of adults in the U.S. are classified as obese and how it’s one of the largest health care threats facing American children today. 

“I wanted to understand the growing epidemic of obesity both locally and nationally.”

Her research ultimately led to her discovery of “mindfulness-based interventions” as a common-sense means of treating obesity and eating disorders. Her report, published in July in the
medical journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, finds that despite mounting evidence the therapy is an effective tool in treating eating disorders, there has been very little research into its use in treating obesity.

Mindfulness is a psychological term for being aware of one’s actions in the present moment, paying attention without judging yourself. It’s typically used to help a person change behaviors that are destructive or unhealthy, like stress or smoking. In weight management, Godsey says it can augment more typical strategies like changing one’s diet or adding regular exercise.

But that’s not what’s happening in most cases. Despite some pocket studies that have had promising results, the therapy is rarely used as a method of weight management. It’s time for that to change, she says.

“The literature supports its use,” she says. “While obesity rates are skyrocketing, this study suggests we need to incorporate alternative methods into current weight loss strategies and find a new way of thinking about an old problem.”

She recommends starting with children, who can be taught healthy behaviors like the importance of brushing teeth. Mindfulness intervention would teach them to think about what they choose to eat and why. What are the triggers? Feeling sad or happy, depressed or anxious?

“It’s about the difference between eating the way we’ve always done it and changing that behavior. It’s about eating with purpose and intention, and thoughtful decisions that become engrained as mindful behaviors.”

The article drew a lot of attention from health professionals and is the journal’s eighth-most downloaded piece this year. “The paper draws attention to the fact there is a gaping hole to the way we approach the problem of obesity. It needs to be included in our national dialogue.”

It’s one that can also be applied to Godsey’s home in McCreary County. “It’s why I became a nurse,” she says, “to use what I’ve learned to help the people of my beloved Kentucky.” 

Better Biology: Beating Cancer

Cancer sucks. So Jennifer Sunderman Broo is doing something about it.

Rather than teaching the same old boring curriculum about cells, the biology teacher at St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati developed her own curriculum that teaches her students about the cell cycle by studying cancer cells and the havoc they wreak.

“The War of the 21st Century: The Cell Cycle, Cancer and Clinical Trials” is a two-week unit of seven lessons aimed at challenging the way her students think about cancer. “This actually walks students through the history of cancer,” says Broo, who earned an MEd in 2006. “They get a better idea of the cell cycle and how genes actually influence it.”

Broo wrote the curriculum while taking a summer workshop and internship at the University of Florida in 2012, doing research and staring at leukemia cells in a petri dish. She and a fellow intern, another high-school science teacher, co-wrote the curriculum based on their findings.

“We were trying new combinations of drugs to treat leukemia cells, and our task was to design a lesson plan that brought life science into classrooms,” Broo says. “We got carried away and developed seven plans that fit into any bio teacher’s curriculum of the cell cycle.”

Broo and her partner presented the new curriculum at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference in November, and the university posted a free version of it on its website. She incorporated it in her sophomore biology class at St. Ursula, where she started teaching last fall after moving back to Cincinnati.

“Cancer is becoming really common,” she says. “One of the first questions I ask my students is how many know someone with cancer. All raise their hands, and about two-thirds do when I ask how many have had family members with cancer.”

Students learn about clinical trials, even conducting their own research, and can view the websites of ongoing trials. It can be a real surprise for some.

“Students are horrified that some people are not getting helped by these trials,” Broo says. “One of the big shifts in science education is to focus on teaching science through real life examples. This unit emphasizes that science is a collaborative effort of scientists and patients all working together to find a cure for cancer.”

Behind the…Bellarmine Chapel Roof

• Construction of St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel was completed in 1962, replacing the previous chapel, which was located in Schmidt Hall. 

• Its roof is a freestanding hyperbolic paraboloid that is unsupported by its exterior walls.

• Horizontal beams embedded into two buttresses anchored several feet into the ground are the roof’s main support.

• These four steel beams, each 89 feet long, stretch front and back, meeting at the roof’s two apex points.

• A lattice of rebar connects the beams side to side across the roof. The rebar is what gives the roof its smoothly curving shape.

• The curve of the roof continuously changes because it’s a geometric shape created by the intersection of two parabolas—curved planes created from conical cross-sections. 

• Looking at the roof from the side, its curve is convex—dipping then rising from front to back. But from the front, the underside of the roof is concave—rising in a bell curve from one buttress to the other.

• The apex of the roof at the rear of the chapel is higher than the apex over the front entrance.

• The roof, made of reinforced concrete, is only 3.5 inches thick. 

• The length of the roof span from front to back is 153 feet, 3 inches; the height is 47 feet, 7 inches at the highest point—the rear.

Prison Healers: Body and Mind

Susan Harrod’s first day in jail was eye-opening.

She quickly learned, for instance, that she wasn’t the only Xavier graduate there. Enter Thomas Freytag. 

Although Harrod knew Freytag—both grew up in Wapakoneta, Ohio, a town small enough it’s hard not to know everyone else—she didn’t know he was a fellow Musketeer. Harrod graduated in 1991 with a degree in communications and Freytag a biology degree in 1973. Freytag went on to earn a medical degree in 1978, which he now uses as the physician at the Auglaize County Correctional Center. Harrod went on to earn her counseling degree, and since 2005, they have worked as a team to stabilize inmates and reintegrate them into their communities.

“We have to be able to look at the person and not just the crime,” says Harrod. “We were taught at Xavier that every person has value. Four years of philosophy and theology teaches you to think a little deeper and listen a little more carefully.” 

The work is challenging and often unpleasant. Inmates have seemingly insurmountable issues—drug addiction, alcoholism, mental illness, disease. Their criminal activity is the byproduct of unstable lifestyles and abusive and dysfunctional families.

As clinical coordinator for the jail, Harrod counsels the inmates to assess their lives and mental health, learning what events led them to jail and what needs to happen to change the pattern of self-destructive behavior. As the jail physician, Freytag assesses their physical conditions and provides treatment and medications—sparingly—only after reviewing the results of Harrod’s counseling sessions. “I’m getting to where I see no one until they see her first,” Freytag says. “Most jails just throw meds at them, but I can’t do that. I give them as many tools as I can to be successful when they get out.”

It’s a tag-team approach that has helped Auglaize County achieve one of the lowest recidivism rates among county jails in Ohio—14 percent, well below the national average of 43 percent. It’s part of a larger transition program to connect inmates with resources in the community to help them change their lives.

The reward, Harrod says, is sending inmates into the community healthier than when they arrived and never seeing them again.

Losing Weight: Gaining a New Life

courtney.

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Five years ago, Kourtney Kelly bellied up to Wicked Twister, a roller coaster ride at Cedar Point amusement park not too far from her home in Toledo.

It was a tradition to go with friends and family several times a year, and though she’d been refused from three other rides at the park already that day because of her weight, she believed this one was still okay. She fit into it the last time she was there and had a great ride.

This time was different. She was even heavier, and as she struggled to squeeze all 327 pounds of herself into the confines of the seat, she realized the bar was not going to fit over her. Two attendants tried but were unable to make it click.

“Sorry, maam,” one said. “You’ll have to get off.”

Humiliated, Kelly ambled her way off the ride platform where her friends sat dumbstruck in their cars. She was in tears. “I had to do this walk of shame and everyone is waiting on you ’cuz they’re ready to go,” she says.

Though painful, getting kicked off the ride was just the kick Kelly needed to turn that walk of shame into a march toward health. She’d been considering lap band surgery to correct her weight problem, which was exacerbated by her first jobs after graduating from Xavier in 2003 with a criminal justice degree. As a corrections officer at juvenile detention facilities in Ohio and Indiana, she sat at a desk for up to 16 hours a day and had access to the calorie-rich food provided for the juvenile inmates, which not only kept them fed but intentionally kept them overly full. She ate out of boredom.

Her family had been telling her she needed to lose weight. Her friends worried about her health. Her efforts at dieting had failed. At 327 pounds, she was the heaviest she’d ever been. Her pants were a size 24.

courtney_slim2So Kelly, a high achiever who had earned a full tuition scholarship to Xavier, decided to change her life beginning with the surgery and immediately discovered two things: How to eat and how to kick.

The nutritionist she met with in preparation for the surgery taught her about healthy food. Choose protein, vegetables and fruit. Focus on quality, not quantity. Drop one bad habit at a time.

And a friend introduced her to Turbo Kick, an aerobic exercise routine. That first class was scary. “We go into this class and I’m in the back because I’m heavy, and I don’t know what I’m doing,” she says. “But the atmosphere was so welcoming, just trying the class was so much fun. The instructor comes over and says just keep moving. I loved it.”

She kept up the class and followed her nutritionist’s advice. First went the soda pop. The next month it was white carbs—bread, pasta, rice. Then fried foods and finally sweets.

The pounds began slipping away. By August of 2010, seven months after the Twister incident, she’d lost 60 pounds. Another 20 came off by December. She was on a path she could not reverse.

“I increased going to Turbo three to four times a week,” she says. “My clothes are fitting better. I started walking in the parks. I was cleared for the surgery and I asked my mother did I need it? I wanted to never be fat again, and she said you don’t need it, you just needed a wake-up call.”

Kelly earned a master’s in education and counseling that led to a job in Cincinnati as a case manager for Children’s Services in 2011. She also picked up a side job teaching Turbo Kick at the Duck Creek Y in Cincinnati, where she became one of the Y’s most popular fitness instructors.

kourtney_slimNow starting a new job with Children’s Services in Columbus, Kelly continues working out on her own while searching for another instructor position. She’s lost more than 125 pounds total. People started coming to her for advice, so she posts inspirational messages and tips on her Facebook page, Kourtney 100 Pounds Down Kelly, and reports she no longer gets kicked off amusement park rides.

“I tell new people to stick with it,” she says. She posts before and after pictures so they can see where she started out. She tells them it’s a matter of changing habits until the body doesn’t know any different. “It’s a way of life. I have to eat healthy or I just don’t feel right.”

How the story went viral

Dec. 1, 2013
Before moving out of his house, Ben Nunery and daughter, Olivia, pose for photos taken by Melanie Pace, his late wife, Ali’s, sister. They strike several of the same poses as Ben and Ali did on their wedding day four years earlier.

Dec. 9, 2013
Melanie Pace posts the photos side-by-side on the blog of her photography business, loft3photography.com.

Dec. 11, 2013
Today.com calls Pace asking for information about the photos and permission to use them online.

Dec. 12, 2013
The “Today Show” calls asking if she, Ben and Olivia will do a video interview for a story on the show.

Dec. 19, 2013
A crew from Chicago and a reporter from Texas fly to Cincinnati and  interview and video shoot at Pace’s house in Delhi Township.

Dec. 20, 2013
The “Today Show” story airs and becomes its “most social story of the year” with 5 million page views and more than 300,000 likes.

Dec. 21, 2013
Pace’s blog site gets 12 million hits and crashes about 600 other websites hosted by the same company.

The X Factor

They call it Thirsty Thursday.

On the first Thursday of the month, everyone who is within driving distance meets at a bar, a restaurant or one of their houses and they catch up on their lives—marriage, babies, family, memories.

It’s a tradition that had its beginnings in Brockman Hall, where the core group of women first met and cemented their status as best friends forever. Sounds corny, but these women mean it when they say forever. They’ve already proven it. One of the friends was Ali Nunery.

When Nunery, a 2002 communication arts graduate, was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer in March 2011, the group rallied, taking turns sitting through chemotherapy treatments with xugirlsher, spending evenings at her house and helping with Olivia, her 1-year-old daughter. They put on the over-the-top birthday party Ali wanted for Olivia’s first birthday with everyone dressed in pink and purple.

Kerry Murphy, a regional development director for Xavier and one of the group who graduated with Ali in 2002, was the stoic one. “I knew it wasn’t going to be a good thing. I’m even-keeled and the least emotional of all the friends, so I had a realistic approach and was most prepared to lose her. But that didn’t make it any easier.”

She offered to shave her head when Ali’s hair fell out, but Ali said no. Murphy stayed overnight with her once at the hospital. “It was like a sleepover. She asked me to bring candy and ice cream. We talked and watched TV and fell asleep.”

The end came in early November. Ali went to a Halloween party on Saturday, dressed as a witch. On Sunday night, she went to the hospital. The next Thursday was a Thirsty Thursday, but Ali worsened in the afternoon and they all gathered at the hospital, including Jackie Ziarnik, who flew in from Chicago, and Mary Beth O’Mara, who drove up from Louisville.

“Everyone was able to get there around 5:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m.,” Murphy says. “She was conscious. You could talk to her, but there was no response.”

At 7:30 p.m., they got a call and learned she died. But they were together, so they cried and talked and told
stories about Ali.

“I don’t know what it would have been like had we not been together,” Murphy says. “It was important to know someone else felt the exact way you were feeling and you didn’t have to bear that burden of grief by yourself. We all lost the same person who meant so much to us.”

Losing one of their own has made them even closer. “We were infinitely lucky to have her in our lives,” says Amber Schutte. “She is still very much part of our group.”

A Life (in Pictures)

Ben Nunery made a promise. 

His wife, Ali, was slowly dying of sarcomatoid carcinoma, a rare form of lung cancer. 

portrait_bwPromise me,” she said, “that you will never let Olivia forget me.”

He promised.

In the two years after he made the promise, a lot changed. The cancer drained the life from Ali, a 2002 Xavier graduate. Olivia, their daughter, grew into an energetic 3-year-old. And the home they bought together, fixed up and started their family in, was now sold and about to become a memory.

Now, as Ben sits in his car in the driveway for the last time, he finally begins to feel at peace. He knows how he will keep his promise.

Ali’s younger sister, Melanie Pace, joins him. A professional photographer, Pace used the house as a backdrop for their wedding photos four years earlier. She wanted the photos to have a personal touch, so she staged the couple in various places throughout the home—on the stairs, behind the pocket doors, in front of the living room window. The gleaming yellow wood of the floors, the freshly painted cream-colored walls, the lone chandelier were perfect backdrops for her camera lens.

Ben’s idea: recreate some of the original photos. “I knew I wanted to do something in the house to serve as bookends of me and Ali living there,” he says.

Pace places Ben and Olivia in some of the same spots as the wedding photos. Olivia is in a pink-flowered dress, white tights and pink patent leather shoes. Ali would approve.

The two play on the stairs, stand by the pocket doors and pose in front of the window, just like he and Ali. Olivia grabs her mother’s curling iron and pretends to curl her hair with it. Then she finds the angel, a glass statuette she calls “Mommy.” She and her dad talk to Mommy every day, as a way to help Olivia remember. Pace catches a couple shots of Olivia clutching the statue, gazing at it.

It’s all innocent, just intended to be a family memory and fulfill a promise. But it turns out to be a whole lot more.

On Dec. 9, Pace posts the photos on her business website, loft3photography.com. She pulls up one of the original wedding photos to compare and immediately sees how powerful they are. She pulls up more and posts them side-by-side. When Nunery sees them, he is blown away.

“It took my breath away,” he says. “I knew it would get a lot of attention because so many people were following our story.”

Not only does it get a lot of attention, it goes viral. Pace’s blog ends up getting 12 million hits in one day, crashing 600 other sites located on her hosting company’s server. It’s the “Today Show’s” “most social story of the year,” with 5 million page views and more than 300,000 likes. Thousands of other sites around the world pick up the photos. A German company sends a crew to do an interview. Even the Weather Channel is on board.

See Pace’s original blog post (with a reflection by Ben)
View a timeline on how the story went viral
See Pace’s blog showing a compilation of the websites that picked up the story.

See new photos of Ben and Olivia

The story has clearly pulled a heartstring. Pace says it’s because people yearn to see how others can “keep living gracefully after a devastating loss.”

“I thought I understood that Ali served her purpose in her 31 years,” Pace says. “But now I see that this is her purpose, reaching out to the entire world and giving out as much from the heart, and that surely there is new hope.”

Nunery received messages on his own blog from hundreds of widows and widowers who were inspired by the photos and found hope in them.

“It’s a very lonely thing to be widowed,” he says. “But now a lot of people have asked for advice from me. All I have is my story and that’s the value—the sharing of my story.”

And a promise fulfilled.

[divider] • • • [/divider]

xavier signTHE X FACTOR

Ali Nunery became best friends with a group of women from Brockman  Hall her freshman year. They were always together at Xavier—get one of us and you get all of us, they liked to say—and stayed best friends after graduating, even getting together for monthly “Thirsty Thursday” gatherings. Read how the friends struggled through Ali’s illness and dealt with her death.

 

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Eyes on the Sky

In the waning daylight of a Friday in June 1961, a red and white Ford station wagon rambles down the hilly twists and turns of Zion Road, pushing out beyond the western edges of Cincinnati. The breeze blows through the open windows of the bulky 1957 wagon, brushing along the sleek painted sides and whipping past the pointy tail fins.

To the two young men sitting on the roomy front bench seat, their elbows propped out the open windows, the warm wind across their arms and faces feels like freedom.

Dennis Smith pulls the car into the driveway of an old farmhouse. The gravel crunches under the tires as he maneuvers the wagon into an open field and parks it by three small sheds. He and his sidekick, Thomas Van Flandern, hop out carrying sacks stuffed with Frisch’s Big Boy burgers, onion rings, strawberry pie and sodas. They drop the sacks on a bench in the grass and duck inside each of the small buildings.

Working together, going from shed to shed, they push back the roofs, which are on rollers, exposing to the elements the most advanced astronomical tools of the 20th century—three large telescopes. Two are white, one is silver. Each is slightly larger than the next, measuring 8-inches, 14-inches and 16-inches in diameter.

They point each scope toward the clear evening sky. The two Xavier students have received a request from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., to observe the Transit 4-A satellite, its carrier rocket and two other satellites that are being launched from Cape Canaveral on Florida’s east coast.

It is the middle of the Cold War and the leading edge of the Space Race. Three years earlier, Russia launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, and the U.S. has been trying to catch up and pass the Soviet efforts ever since, filling the skies with more and more artificial stars. The three new satellites being launched tonight are a big part of that effort, and they should appear over Cincinnati about 90 minutes after launch.

The two have time, so they grab their burgers, sit in the grass and talk about what this new world of unmanned satellites circling overhead truly means.

[divider] ••• [/divider]

Smith was in the car with his parents parked at a Frisch’s drive-in for lunch when the news came over the radio that the Soviet Union had just put a satellite into orbit. It was Oct. 4, 1957.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/sputnik.jpg”]sputnik[/lightbox]The news shocked most Americans, but the idea of satellites orbiting Earth so fascinated Smith that his parents took him to the Cincinnati Astronomical Society, a 140-acre site west of Cincinnati near Cleves, Ohio, where amateur astronomers had been observing the stars since the early 1900s. He remembers the president of the group pointing out Sputnik passing overhead on the night they visited.

“It just turned me on to see that up there,” Smith says.

While others were looking at moons and planets and galaxies, Smith was captured by the artificial objects. He began helping out with the Astronomical Society’s Operation Moonwatch team, one of 153 amateur satellite spotting teams around the country that were organized in preparation for America’s first satellite launch. With the surprise launch of Sputnik, however, the teams scrambled to begin observing the beeping beacon in orbit overhead and report their findings to the Smithsonian Observatory.

Before the launch of Sputnik, there was nothing manmade beyond Earth’s atmosphere. But Sputnik broke the silence, followed by Sputnik II, III and IV, while the United States launched Explorer I into orbit in January 1958 followed by Vanguard I and Explorer 3. As the number of satellites in orbit continued to grow, volunteer satellite spotters with the Moonwatch teams stepped up their observations.

Among the most prolific of the early Moonwatch teams in the U.S. was the Cincinnati group led by Smith’s friend, Van Flandern. As a child, Van Flandern loved watching the moon out of the car window and reading the children’s book, The Stars, by H.A. Rey. A subscription to Sky & Telescope magazine furthered his interest, and he used summer job money to buy his first telescope. He fought battles with his mother, who raised him and his siblings alone, to let him go out before sunrise to observe the constellations.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Scan-1-300×218.jpg”]Scan-1[/lightbox]

By the time he got to Xavier, he was doing advanced calculations of astronomical phenomena such as occultations and orbits of comets. Shortly after introducing himself to the Cincinnati Astronomical Society and their Moonwatch team, they recognized his genius and handed leadership of the team to him. He and Smith became fast friends, logging many hours together tracking satellites at the society’s observatory. Smith enrolled at Xavier two years later and helped Van Flandern track satellites from an observatory Van Flandern and his physics professors installed on the roof of Logan Hall. From there he operated a substation for the Cincinnati Moonwatch program with the help of Xavier student volunteers.

By 1961, their work tracking satellites was beginning to get noticed by the astrophysicists at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the precursor to NASA. Their notoriety began when the SAO asked them to watch for the new satellites on that Friday night in June.

[divider] • • • [/divider]

As the sun goes down and the sky goes dark at the observatory, Van Flandern and Smith get the telescopes ready. They fix the crosshairs on Polaris, the North Star, and from there they figure the azimuth and altitude.

Then using Van Flandern’s calculations from a computer program he designed using an early IBM computer donated by General Electric—where he had a summer job—they calculate the orbit and time that each object should pass overhead and adjust the scopes so the satellites will fly into their fields of view.

Shortly after 9:30 p.m., they’re looking through the 14-inch scope, waiting for the first satellite to appear. As Van Flandern predicted, they see an object enter the 1.25-degree view circle. He notes the time. Another comes through. Then another, then a pair and then three more. Within 15 minutes, five more objects have been picked up by the scope—way more than expected. By 10:10 p.m., they have spotted a total of 14 satellites. They’re stunned.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/eyes-2.jpg”]eyes-2[/lightbox]Van Flandern sits cross-legged on the bench, pulls out his slide rule and begins scribbling figures madly on a notepad. He looks up at Smith.

“It blew up,” he says.

“You’re crazy,” Smith tells him.

But Van Flandern calculates the time and the rocket’s location by its coordinates and runs into the farmhouse, the society’s headquarters, to send a telegram to the Smithsonian Observatory.

“Rocket blew up,” the telegram reads.

A half hour later, the phone rings in the farmhouse. Gustav Bakos, a leading astronomer at the Smithsonian Observatory, is on the line questioning Van Flandern about his report that the rocket had exploded near the end of its first revolution around the Earth. Van Flandern, it turns out, is correct.

Two days later, Bakos travels from Massachusetts to Xavier to meet Van Flandern. As he tours the rooftop observatory on campus, he asks Van Flandern how he made his calculations so quickly the night of the explosion. Bakos wants his formulas, but Van Flandern refuses to share them. Later, Smith asks him why.

“I need these formulas for later on in my career,” he says.

[divider] • • • [/divider]

Van Flandern graduated in 1962, three months before President Kennedy’s “Moon” speech, and went on to earn a PhD in astronomy from Yale University. The tracking work he did at Xavier with the Moonwatch program helped prepare him for the advanced science he would do throughout his career, including as chief of celestial mechanics at the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Later he founded his own group, Meta Research, where he conducted astronomical research that sometimes bordered on the controversial and caused some to question his genius. Whatever their conclusions, what’s unquestionable is that he left a legacy of curiosity about space and astronomical science at Xavier that continues today. Ray Miller, former chair of the Department of Physics, graduated when Van Flandern was a sophomore, and by the time he returned to Xavier in 1966 to teach, Van Flandern and Smith were gone. The rooftop observatory they created was replaced by a permanent observatory in 1981. But Miller says the stories about Van Flandern and Moonwatch circulated for years, and the work he did laid the groundwork for Xavier’s exploration into astronomy.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/eyes-1.jpg”]eyes-1[/lightbox]“What he did was the first astronomy at Xavier,” Miller says.

After Van Flandern left, Smith kept the Moonwatch program going at both Xavier and the Zion Road location for two more years until he graduated in 1964. But it just wasn’t the same.

“He made me team leader when he left,” Smith said. “But we lost our heart and soul without him. He was the brains behind it all.”

They kept in touch on and off through the years. Smith followed his friend’s career even as he advanced in his own, running the family’s Paper Products Co. in Cincinnati. About five years ago, he rejoined the Cincinnati Astronomical Society after thinking about Moonwatch and what they contributed to the growing knowledge about space.

“We felt we were doing something important, even though I was just having a lot of fun at the time,” Smith says. “I don’t think until I was older and more reflective did I realize this was really important, what we did out here, and it made a major contribution to science.”

[divider] • • • [/divider]

The Cincinnati Moonwatch team set several records for satellite tracking, including making the most observations of satellites for three consecutive months, according to a booklet the society published in 1985.

It says Van Flandern reached his goal of being the best Moonwatch team in the country because of his ability to round up so many volunteer spotters. And it lists Van Flandern’s reporting of the rocket explosion as the team’s greatest triumph, describing it as an “unprecedented prediction” that prompted the Smithsonian to visit.

In their best month they racked up 465 sightings, and in May 1961, the team made 288 observations—the most of any team in the country. On one night alone they saw 22 satellites make 40 transits. Cincinnati always competed against the Moonwatch program in Sacramento, trading the lead back and forth for most sightings.

“Sacramento was the one to beat,” Smith says. “They were better only because they had better weather. But Tom was fiercely competitive. He was always saying, ‘You gotta beat them, you gotta beat them.’ ”

The observations at the Zion Road location were the highlight of Smith’s and Van Flandern’s time at Xavier. It was especially exhilarating for the budding young astronomer.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/eyes-3.jpg”]eyes-3[/lightbox]“It was so exciting to catch a satellite in those days,” Van Flandern told the American Institute of Physics in 2005. “The idea that man had put something in space so captured the imagination of the public. It was almost inconceivable. It’s something no human being had ever done before. And everyone was interested in satellites. And when we would catch one it was a very exciting affair. Especially since they weren’t well predicted at all, and we would just have a vague general idea when we might hope to see one, and sometimes they would show up and sometimes not.”

[Read Van Flandern’s interview with the Institute.]

Smith acted as Van Flandern’s deputy, helping set up the equipment and record each sighting. They would send telegrams to the Smithsonian reporting the name of the satellite, their Cincinnati station number, the time and the coordinates—altitude and azimus—for each sighting. Van Flandern would know how many satellites were expected in a night, and they would watch for them from dusk to dawn.

“Sometimes we had to look at two different satellites at the same time. And some satellites came three to four times a night,” Smith says. “We would set them up and run from scope to scope. We’d sleep in between sightings and goof off, too, throw blackberries at each other. Those were some of the best days of my life.”

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Over the years, Smith often wondered if Van Flandern ever thought about the importance of what they accomplished with Moonwatch. He was so busy doing such high-level science that perhaps spotting satellites as young college students had lost its allure.

Smith never asked—and then lost the opportunity. Van Flandern died in 2009 at age 68 of cancer.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/sign.jpg”]sign[/lightbox]Smith wanted to commemorate the work of the Moonwatch program, though, and he told the society about his idea to erect an historical marker. He began working with the Ohio Historical Society, and on Oct. 4, 2012—the 55th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik—a marker was dedicated at the old site on Zion Road, where the old telescopes still sit in covered sheds in the open field. There’s now a fourth telescope on the site, and the old 8-inch scope is now protected by a small round dome. A real observatory.

The marker was erected. Words were spoken. Tears shed. Van Flandern’s son, Michael, and widow, Barbara, attended.

“We had the feeling that we were doing something productive for society as well as learning lives and careers for ourselves,” Van Flandern told the Insitute in 2005. “For that reason alone, Operation Moonwatch was a wonderful thing to happen.”

The Circle of Life: Women and Business in Africa

Josephine Lando began making dresses in high school. It was a hobby at first, but soon her friends began asking her to make them dresses, too. By the time she finished boarding school and returned to her home in Rongai, Kenya, she was making more than dresses on demand. She was making money. It wasn’t a lot, but it whet her appetite for business.

Lando already knew something about business. Her mother had a small business making chapati, the traditional bread in Kenya. She used to get up early to help her mother prepare the bread so she could sell it to office workers who took it with their tea. Later, Lando realized her mother was paying more for the flour and other supplies for her bread but was reluctant to raise her own prices.

She saw how hard it was to make money with a small business. She wanted to learn not just how to do it right, but also how to help other women learn how to succeed with their small businesses. But to do that would require education. And that wouldn’t be easy.

Enter the Zawadi Africa Education Fund, a scholarship program that sends bright, disadvantaged Kenyan women to college. Lando applied to several colleges and picked Xavier. As an international undergraduate business student majoring in accounting, everything was going well. She was on target to graduate in December 2014, and she was chosen to be a Brueggeman Fellow, a prestigious honor that would allow her to study the empowerment of women business owners.

But that’s when things started to turn. Already supplementing her Xavier scholarship with loans and a work-study job, she found herself struggling even more when aid from a family friend dried up. Suddenly, her enrollment and Brueggeman Fellowship were in jeopardy.

That’s when things started to turn again. As a resident assistant in the Commons Apartments, she often saw University President Michael J. Graham, S.J., when he passed her office on his way to his apartment. One day last spring he stopped in and asked what she was working on. She told him of her Brueggeman project and her financial troubles. Graham suggested she contact Susan Mboya, a Kenyan businesswoman at Procter and Gamble who founded the scholarship program that sent Lando to Xavier.

Now with Coca-Cola, Mboya heads up a program that works to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs in developing countries by 2020 with training, finances and networking. Called 5by20, the program dovetails neatly with Lando’s goal of helping women with their businesses.

Graham emailed her, and Mboya became so interested in Lando’s project that, in April she awarded her an internship with the 5by20 program in Nairobi, about 20 miles north of Rongai, her home town. At the same time, Lando learned she won the annual Antonio Johnson Scholarship Award at Xavier, which provides full tuition for her senior year.

Lando went back home to Kenya for her 10-week summer internship where she gathered data about women entrepreneurs, studied their businesses and taught them the basics of accounting, bookkeeping and business planning. For her project, she created a handbook of business practices to help women manage their small businesses.

At first, she complained about the long ride between Nairobi and Rongai—the traffic congestion, the hours on the bus, the crowded roads. Soon she reveled in the trip because the road is lined with women selling everything—water, fruit, chapatti, even dresses.

“Seeing this motivates me to create something that will be beneficial to them,” she says. “When I see a woman sitting by the road or in the market selling fruits, I see her taking her children to school with the money she gets. I see smart children growing up healthy, with a good education and learning the value of investing back into their communities. I see the cycle continuing.”