Thinking Differently

When the world zigs, Gary Sharpe zags. If someone says no, he says yes. Sell? Nope. Buy.

“I’ve been a contrarian my entire life,” he says. “I’m not sure how my parents put up with me.”

While such an opposing perspective may have taken its toll on the patience and blood pressure of his parents, looking at life through such a contrarian lens has definitely provided the 1973 MBA grad with a very clear vision of how to best negotiate the congested and cutthroat ways of the business world—and make a lot of money along the way.

“The world does not run in straight lines,” he says, “so you’ve got to think differently. The way I see it, if the herd is going in one direction, there’s money to be made going in the other direction. Or as companies get bigger, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that is going to fall off their truck that you can make money on.”

This combination of professional revelation and personal self-awareness became apparent to Sharpe early in his career, shortly after he graduated from Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in economic geography with a specialty in thematic cartography.

Wait. A degree in what? 

Sharpe laughs. “There was one job in the world I was qualified for, and it was taken.”

Still, armed with a degree and eager to get out in the real world and make his mark, he grabbed the first job that came his way—developing government contracts for Philips Electronics in its human pharmaceutical branch in Columbus, Ohio. The position reported directly to the CEO and was open for good reason. “It was the job no one wanted.”

Sharpe took it and ran. After a few years, he approached his boss with an idea of how to grow the role: He repeatedly heard talk from his customers about products they needed to help them do their jobs but couldn’t find anyone who had them or could produce them.

“Not interested,” his boss told him. “Just sell what we’ve got.”

That wasn’t the answer Sharpe wanted to hear. Go with the flow? No way. And he couldn’t just let the opportunity to meet so many needs go unfulfilled.

So he did what every good contrarian would do: He quit and went out on his own, creating Health Care Logistics, a one-man-enterprise headquartered in the spare bedroom of his house. “The garage was my warehouse,” he says. It didn’t take long, though, before the business was booming and the bedroom was too small.

“I went on a sales call in Dayton, Ohio,” he says. “The director of purchasing was known to be really mean, and before my butt could hit the chair, he said, ‘OK, what are you selling?’ Sometimes I talk before I think, so I said, ‘What are you looking for that you can’t find?’ He told me. I said, ‘Give me a week. I’ll either find one or make one.’ It evolved from there.”

Today, the company’s a multimillion-dollar enterprise with four warehouses in the United States and one in England, all filled with unique or hard-to-find health care products. Often new innovations make older products outdated, but not every hospital has the newest innovation and still needs to support the older technology. The massive product list includes a handful of products that Sharpe holds the patents on.

“The patents are mostly defensive,” he says. “There have been a number of times I helped others create a product and then they would come back and undersell me. I got tired of that. But we’re always creating new products. We’ll get a customer’s request and create something. Or we’ll make a product on our own and throw it against the wall. If it sticks, it stays in the product line.”

Sharpe’s love of innovation and entrepreneurship has prompted him to support the Critical Making Program, a new effort within the Williams College of Business that blends innovation with Ignatian values. 

He also endowed an academic scholarship at Xavier—not for the best and brightest, but for those who may not have the best GPA or SAT score coming out of high school but deserve a chance. A student, he says, like himself.

“I graduated from high school with honors and an award in science,” he says, “but I was crappy at taking standardized tests. When I went to OSU’s orientation, I was told that I should drop out now because based on my test scores I would flunk out my first quarter or the spring quarter at the latest. I thought, ‘They have to take me, so I’m staying.’”

He stayed, of course. What else would a contrarian do? And he’s been proving to them and everyone since that success sometimes comes from the other direction. 

 

Back on the Pitch

After his first day of practice with Xavier’s men’s soccer team, Mike Mossel called his mom back home in The Netherlands.

“I don’t think I can compete,” he said. “All of these guys are a lot bigger and stronger.”

mosselDon’t give up, she said. He didn’t. On day two he began noticing something. The American players were bigger and stronger, true, but their skills weren’t quite as sharp as players he competed against around Europe. Their touches weren’t as sharp. Their footwork not quite as skillful. Suddenly the tall, lanky forward who came to Xavier at the invitation of former coach Jack Hermans, also a native of The Netherlands, found himself in a stark reversal of roles. Not only was he able to compete against the others, but the others were suddenly struggling to compete against him.

Propelled by an upbringing with the Dutch youth sports philosophy that emphasizes developing skills over winning, he excelled. In just two seasons, Mossel etched his name in the Xavier record books for both goals and points, surpassing, in some cases, others who played all four years. But he found more than just on-the-field success while playing soccer in America. He also discovered a career.

“I had this idea in 1993 when I graduated,” he says. “What this country needs is what I went through. The Dutch philosophy is to focus on developing players on and off the pitch. Off the pitch you develop them through intellectual, moral, social and physical growth. On the pitch you focus on developing technical skills in players ages 5-10 and tactics from age 10-12. After that you get them into an academy and develop them into pro players. In the U.S., the focus is all on winning. We don’t care if you lose 10 games as long as you’re improving as players.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in sports marketing, Mossel played professionally for 15 years in Belgium and the United States before retiring and forming the Dutch Lions Group, a Netherlands-based organization that owns a wide variety of soccer-related businesses—a youth academy and player agency group in Brazil, a player agency group in Portugal, and business organizing soccer tours in Europe.Most importantly, at least for Mossel, it also owns a series of minor-league soccer teams and youth development academies in the United States.

The group owns two teams in Dayton, Ohio—a women’s team and a men’s Pro Division team that’s the farm team for the MLS’ Columbus Crew—as well as a youth development academy. It owns another youth development academy and men’s Premier Development League team in Houston. And, starting this year, it owns a men’s Premier Development League team in Cincinnati.

Mossel wanted to start his U.S. businesses in Cincinnati because of his familiarity with the region, but another organization had the league rights to the market at the time.  When those rights became available, Mossel was on the phone with the league the next day. His second call was to Xavier to secure a home field. The team finished second in the league with a 6-4-4 record in its first year, including a 4-1-2 record on Mossel’s one-time home turf—or what is a close proximity to his one-time home turf.

“The field was grass when I played here,” he says. “And my first year they didn’t want us tearing it up by practicing on it every day, so we had to practice on this field down by Reading Road in Norwood. It was full of holes and bumps. I kept turning my ankle and pulling muscles. In The Netherlands we wouldn’t let our cows on a field like that. I said,  ‘We need a better facility. Who do I talk to?’ I was told the president made the final decisions, so I went up to see Fr. Hoff. He invited me in and explained that there was a plan to upgrade the facilities. He was very nice about it, but looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking—a 20-year-old student telling the president we needed a better field.”

Interestingly, one of Mossel’s goals now is to help the University improve the soccer facility. He loves the intimacy of having the fans close to the field, but he wants expand the seating and put a cover over the stands to protect them against the weather. It would benefit his team, he says, which plays on the field from March-August, as well as Xavier, which plays on the field from August-November. But one step at a time, he says. “We’re taking things slow,” he says. “We’re in this for the long term.”

The long-term business plan, he says, has the Dutch Lions Group owning five youth academies throughout the U.S., three Premier Development League teams, one Pro Division team and one MLS team. Financially, it’s a solid business model, he says. It covers all levels, includes a predictable income stream and
creates a pipeline of players—preferably those trained in the Dutch philosophy. He also has a solid group of investors backing him.

It’s a risk, he says, but so was coming to Xavier sight-unseen 20 years ago. And that worked out well.

“Even my wife tells me I’m crazy,” he says. “But one of the things that Xavier did more than anything was make me aware that if you want something, you go get it.”

Off the Field: Students of Service

landynFans are still filing out of the Cintas Center after watching Xavier beat Providence as Landyn rolls his wheelchair out onto the court.

His brother and sister grab basketballs and start tossing them wildly toward the basket that towers several feet above them. Inspired by their efforts, Landyn steps out of the wheelchair and joins the fun. It’s a struggle.

The 6-year-old has spina bifida, a degenerative spinal disorder that makes it difficult for him to walk, much less play basketball. 

As he works on his game, Matt Stainbrook, Xavier’s 6-foot-10 starting center, walks out onto the court, still in uniform, and offers him a little help. He lifts Landyn onto his shoulders and turns toward the basket. With the new height advantage, Landyn easily scores.

Landyn was brought to the game by SAAC, Xavier’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council, as part of a fundraising effort to send him to Disney World through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Each year for the past three years SAAC has singled out an individual to help go on a Make-A-Wish trip. 

Three years ago it raised about $1,000 to send a boy to Disney World. Last year it raised roughly $2,100 to send a boy to the Bahamas to swim with the dolphins. And this year through raffles, donation tables and general awareness, it raised more than $5,000 for Landyn and his family.

Although each of Xavier’s 18 sports teams always holds at least one community service project each semester, a resuscitation of SAAC three years ago ramped up the amount and level of community service performed by Xavier’s teams. As part of his hiring, Erik Alanson was asked to turn SAAC into something more than an organization on paper. He recruited soccer player Andy Kaplan and golfer Ariel McNair to represent and organize Xavier’s 300-plus student-athletes. Their goal was threefold: 

One, to represent Xavier’s student-athletes at the conference and national levels. The NCAA, for instance, asks for input from student-athletes whenever it is considering policy changes. 

Two, to take student-athlete concerns to the administration. Some professors, for instance, have a zero-tolerance policy about missing a class, which is not a possibility for student-athletes due to their extensive travel schedules. 

“I know saying we represent the interest of student-athletes sounds a bit entitled,” says Kaplan, “but it really is a huge group of people working full-time jobs and going to school.” Xavier’s 300-plus student-athletes represent about 7 percent of the overall undergraduate population.

And, three, to increase the level of community service. The group opens up its monthly meetings—which can’t take place until around 9:00 p.m. because that’s the first time during the day when none of the teams are practicing or committed to another activity—to ideas. Helping Make-A-Wish was one idea. All teams are now involved with mentoring and tutoring at the Academy of World Languages. In November, an idea was brought up for a canned food drive for St. Vincent DePaul. More than 1,000 cans were collected.

“That’s one of the best things about this—you have 300 Type-A competitive people involved trying to out-do each other,” says Kaplan. “When Ariel and I started, we did everything. We struggled to get people from each team to the meetings. Now we don’t have enough room.”

What’s even better, says Alanson, is that not only has SAAC grown, it now has grown to include specifically designed roles and responsibilities, which gives student-athletes job-specific experience they couldn’t get otherwise.

“We didn’t want SAAC to simply be a bullet point on a résumé,” says Alanson. “It’s much more intentional. All of these student-athletes are going to have to compete for a position of employment after they graduate, but being a student-athlete works against them. Traditional students have time for internships; student-athletes don’t. So we asked: What are some of the things SAAC can do that can give them experiences that is applicable to the real world?”

“As much as I’d love to get an internship with Procter and Gamble, that’s just not realistic,” says Erin McGualey, a sophomore soccer player who’s co-president of SAAC this year with Stainbrook. “Time really is the biggest issue with student-athletes.”

“It really does turn it into an internship,” says Adi Taraska, SAAC’s community service manager.

Art majors, for instance, are put in charge of all design work. Public relations majors handle press releases and social media. Communication arts majors are in charge of SAAC’s next project—the remaking of a video that shows new student-athletes what it means to be a Xavier student-athlete and what kind of commitment they have made.

In the end, unlike their games, everybody wins: The student-athletes get valuable experience, the community gets support—and a 6-year-old boy with spina bifida gets to go to Disney World.

A Different Business Approach

Larry Blanford was walking through the hallways of a Catholic high school in Guatemala, checking out how his company’s strategic business plan was working.

The 1984 MBA graduate was president and CEO of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and carefully etched into the company’s mission and corporate strategy was a goal to, yes, make a lot of money, but also to make sure that its financial success was felt by more than just shareholders.

The people in the small Guatemalan town weren’t just coffee bean pickers. They were human beings who played an integral part in the company’s success. As such, the company felt they should enjoy its rewards as well. So they paid them fair trade wages and provided support for the local school so its workers’ children could get a better education.

As Blanford walked, he was approached by one of the students, a senior, who asked to speak to him. Because of the support his company gave the school, she said, she was accepted into nursing school. She would have to leave the community, but as soon as she received her nursing license she was going to return to the village and give health care to the people.

Today, several years after the fact, Blanford nearly tears up as he retells the story. It was, he says, a transformative moment—a confirmation that his philosophy and approach to corporate leadership were correct. Leadership, he says, is about using business to make the world a better place. Make a lot of money and then share the rewards. “Do good by doing well,” he says.

During his six years at the helm of Green Mountain, he not only put such beliefs into practice by implementing everything from fair trade practices to packaging its products in biodegradable bags, but he also changed how analysts understand this idea of helping others. Rather than continue with the common terminology of “corporate social responsibility,” he changed it to “sustainable business practices.” The first, he says, is more secondary in nature, something done as an aside to the business, while the latter implies that the idea of helping others is not only built into the business mission but is required for long-term survival. Although he admits his approach to business is “somewhat different from how business is frequently done today,” he in no way admits that his approach is wrong. Quite the contrary, in fact. And he’s not alone in that belief. Corporate Responsibility Magazine recognized him as the Responsible CEO of the Year—twice. 

That’s not to say he overlooked the foundational aspects of business. Hardly. He grew Green Mountain at a compounded annual rate of 75 percent, with sales quadrupling to $1.4 billion in just three years and the stock price growing 1,500 percent during that time. 

But maintaining a moral compass in a world where money is god can be daunting. “A failure of values can lead to egocentric, unethical leaders,” he says. “That invites stifling regulations and increased costs. I would say that a majority of CEOs are trying to do the right thing. But every one of them has the power to do what’s right. That’s why teaching values to business students needs to be the foundation of their education. It’s critical for business and for the country.”

For Blanford, such a belief came from the collection of experiences he gained—in part—during his climb up the corporate ladder. He actually began as a chemical engineer for Procter and Gamble but became intrigued with business. That led him into a variety of management positions including, eventually, the head of several businesses. He was president of Maytag Appliances, Philips Consumer Electronics and Royal Group Technologies before being tapped for the Green Mountain position.

“I was learning and growing all along the way,” he says. “By the time I got to Green Mountain, I was in a unique position to bring to bear all of the experiences I gained from all of the companies where I was CEO.”

But his business beliefs were equally formed during his days in Catholic school in suburban Dayton, Ohio, and in church.

“Somehow people think you must check your faith at the door when enter the workspace,” he says. “But you have the opportunity to live out faith with every person you interact with. And the Church has much to offer business with its call to advance the condition of the human spirit. We are all called to a greatness greater than ourselves. It’s like Pope Francis reminding us of our responsibility for those less fortunate. Or like the comment [Catholic motivational speaker] Matthew Kelly makes—and I truly believe this—that when you use your talents to help others to be the best they can be, that is a moment of holiness.”

Brian Grant

The four boys are spread out along the end of an otherwise empty football field, running around and sweating in the heat of a summer Portland sun.

“Cut and change direction,” Matt James yells at them. “Good. Slide, slide, don’t run. We’ll run in a second. This is exactly what you need for lateral movement and changing directions. Give me five seconds, all you’ve got. Set. Go. Good, good. See, you’re better, and we’re going to keep working on that.”

James is a master trainer for Nike and putting the boys, who range in age from 14 to 17, through an endless barrage of agility and conditioning drills. James is more used to putting professional athletes through their paces but has been hired by the boys’ father, who sits on a grassy hill off to the side.

“This is how our workouts went down, as I recall,” he says to the father.

Brian Grant laughs. For 12 years, Grant ran the courts of the National Basketball Association, enduring the ruthless pounding and punishment of games thanks in part to the same relentless conditioning drills that James is now putting his sons through.

But things are different now. It’s a new era.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/opener1.jpg”]opener1[/lightbox]James turns back to the boys. “Here’s another drill for you. I’ve got lots of them.” They strap parachutes around their waists and run sprints, the drag of the chutes providing resistance.

“You going to do this one, daddy?” says Anaya, Grant’s 10-year-old daughter, who’s passing the time by riding her bike and doing cartwheels over on the side.

“No, baby, my knee won’t let me.”

He pushes himself up off the grass with a slight groan.

“But I’ve got to get in shape,” he says. “My knee’s been acting up and I haven’t worked out in a month. I used to weigh 268, now I’m 300 ponds. I hold it well, but I’m 300 pounds right now. I’ve never been that heavy.”

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/opener2.jpg”]opener2[/lightbox]He looks down at his knees, which are decorated with the scars of seven surgeries. The disintegration of cartilage in his right knee eventually left bone painfully scraping against bone and forced him to retire. As he gets up to encourage his sons, though, the most noticeable physical difference isn’t his weight or his knees. It’s his left arm. It shakes. Endlessly.

Five years ago Grant was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder whose symptoms include the uncontrollable tremors that now dominate his left arm. The man who made a life out of his remarkable physical abilities and motor control is slowly being robbed of that gift.

But the disease has also given him something else in return—something more: A new direction, a new focus, a new life. While many athletes struggle to reinvent themselves and find a new calling after their playing days end, Grant has found his: helping others. What he couldn’t find when he was told he had Parkinson’s was basic information about the disease. What does this mean? Am I going to die? What will my future look like? What can I do to help myself? If he had those questions, he says, then others must have them as well. So he started a non-profit organization to raise money and educate the 60,000 people who are diagnosed with the disease each year.

Using his fame and personality, he has led the organization in raising more than $1 million and put it in a position to become a prominent player in the Parkinson’s world alongside the foundations created by the disease’s most identifiable victims, Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/opener3.jpg”]opener3[/lightbox]For the moment, though, all that is secondary to what his sons are going through on the field. James has one last drill for them, a 300-yard shuttle run—down the field, back and down again in less than 60 seconds.

“This is exactly what they need,” Grant says.

They line up for their 300-yard dash.

“This ain’t no walk,” Grant shouts at them. “You’ve got to go all out on these.”

James looks over at Grant. “This is some Pat Riley stuff.”

Grant smiles and nods.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/opener4.jpg”]opener4[/lightbox]“When I was with the Miami Heat,” he says, “we had this drill that we had to do at training camp. We had to go baseline to baseline 10 times in 65 seconds. We had to do three of them. You got a two-minute rest in between and you could bank time, so if you did the first one in 59 seconds, you had six seconds in the bank, because by the time you got to that third one you were shot. You had to do it every morning until you made it. I got mine done the first day. We had this one cat who did it four days straight. He was messed up.”

The boys begin to get weary.

“Stride it out. Last one. Stride it out.”

They finish in a youthful 48 seconds.

“I know this is hard work, fellas, but I’m telling you right now, you do this twice a week and with all the other stuff you’re doing, you’re going to see a big improvement in your quickness, lateral speed, everything.”

As the boys gasp for air and James encourages them to control their breathing—in through the nose, out through the mouth—Grant begins to pack up. He lifts Anaya’s bike into the back of his red “rasta rig” pickup truck. Anaya jumps in the passenger side.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/opener5.jpg”]opener5[/lightbox]“Help coach Matt pick up the gear,” he says. “Then you’ve got the rest of the day. You can chill or whatever.”

The boys decide they’re headed for a post-workout fast food feast. He nods. They’re old enough now to head out on their own. It’s a new era. So he reverses the truck out of the parking spot, shifts it into drive and turns toward home.

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[lightbox link=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XavCX5k_igU&feature=youtu.be” target=”_blank” rel=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XavCX5k_igU&feature=youtu.be”]Grant-video[/lightbox]

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The home has five garages—three attached to the main house and two detached off to the side. His beloved boat, which has carried him through countless hours of fishing on Portland’s many waterways, rests in between.

The garages are filled with the kind of supercharged fun one might expect from the wealthy and athletic—jet skis, four-wheeled ATVs, testosterone toys that he tows to his cabin at the foot of Mount St. Helens about an hour to the north.

It’s a transition house, one in between his old house along the edge of the Willamette River, which stayed with his former wife, and the new one he’s moving into on Lake Oswego this fall when he remarries and becomes a father for the seventh time.

Like the boys undergoing the training, this, too, is the start of a new era for Grant. Life is finally back on the upswing after a year and a half of what he describes as pure hell that started in 2008 when he retired from the NBA, got divorced, suffered a deep depression and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

For any professional athlete, being told you’re past your prime at an age when most people are just getting into theirs is a severe shock. Although the NBA offers seminars on life after basketball, Grant says, there’s really no way to adequately prepare someone for exiting what he calls the “vacuum of non-reality” that is professional sports.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/grant-layup.jpg”]grant-layup[/lightbox]“The life that you live, once you’re in the NBA, it’s just not real,” he says. “Normal people don’t live their lives the way we do. I don’t mean that in a bad or good way, it’s just the fact. The fact that you have so much money that you can do what you want to do. You go places and get in. And when you retire, it’s like smacking into a brick wall. ‘Oh, this is what’s real. This is what the majority of the world goes through.’ You were just in that small class of non-reality. You begin to think about retirement, but nothing can prepare you for the actual retirement.”

[View a slideshow of Grant’s NBA career.]

The reality throws many athletes into a depression, and it did so for Grant. He would stay in bed, unmotivated to do anything. And the trouble making the transition was multiplied not only by marital problems, which eventually led to a divorce from Gina, his wife of 14 years, but also unknowingly because of the Parkinson’s.

“Once I hit retirement, instead of sliding into depression, it was like jumping off a cliff and not being able to find my way back up until I went and got professional help,” he says. “I went into a deep depression for eight months. But part of it was also because of Parkinson’s. My brain had depleted so much dopamine that once you don’t have that amount of dopamine, you’re always teetering on being depressed.”

Although Parkinson’s manifests itself through tremors in the arms and legs, it’s actually a neurological disease. The brain stops producing dopamine, the chemical the body uses to coordinate movement. For most Parkinson’s patients, the symptoms begin to show in their late 50s. For others, like Grant, Fox and Ben Petrick, who played four years of Major League Baseball with Parkinson’s, symptoms start showing as early as their 20s or 30s. Grant was 36 when he was officially diagnosed in 2008, but he noticed changes a few years earlier.

“My last year in the NBA, I noticed that I couldn’t jump off my left leg,” he says. “I was a little uncoordinated. I’m like, Wow that’s my good leg. I just thought it was what happens when you’re going into your 12th season and the body starts breaking down. There was an excuse for it. I also had this little skin twitch in my wrist. I asked about it, and they said it’s normal.”

[View Grant’s career NBA stats.]

He wasn’t fully diagnosed until moving back to Portland at which point he began trying to research what life was like with Parkinson’s. His research turned up nothing. Fox’s foundation deals with raising money for research. Ali has a foundation that helps those with advanced stages of Parkinson’s. No one touches on information for new patients—what does it mean, what to expect, how to manage your health. So he filled the need.

[lightbox link=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYbFFevRW_Q” target=”_blank”]grant-and-fox-video[/lightbox]“I didn’t want to start dipping into the same pot that was already being filled,” he says. “I said to myself if I could have something available to me when I was first diagnosed what would it be? And it was a website that could give me direction on nutrition and exercise or could help me find a psychologist who could help me talk to my kids, things like that. I wanted to answer how to maneuver through life with the disease, because your problems are not going away.”

His work, in many ways, fills the gap between Fox’s research and Ali’s eldercare, putting him in a prominent place within the Parkinson’s community—a place, perhaps, equal to the others and one that, ultimately, may leave him even better known than for his basketball skills.

“If that happens, great. If it doesn’t, that’s OK, too,” he says. “I’m not really concerned about how I’m remembered. I’m concerned about reaching people and it being a useful tool for Parkinson’s patients, especially newly diagnosed patients. I just want to help people.”

Helping others, though, is nothing new for Grant. In 1999, the NBA gave Grant its J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in recognition of his outstanding community service and charitable work.

[Read more about Grant’s charitable work.]

“I think helping underprivileged kids comes from being underprivileged myself,” he says. “And I think sick children just appeal to me. When I was in second grade I had double pneumonia and was in the hospital for two months. One day the Ruth Lyons Fund came by and gave out presents. I got one of those little Tonka trucks. I always remember that. So when I would go visit a little kid. I would always tell myself, ‘Remember how you remembered that moment. These kids are going to remember that moment, too.’ Whatever I have on me, not necessarily monetarily, but who am and the way I speak to them or their parents is going to stick with them the rest of their lives. I think that’s where that comes from.”

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Grant walks into the house and eases into a chair in the living room. Three framed movie posters adorn the walls behind him—Bruce Lee, Shaft and Super Fly. They are, he admits, man-house decorations and have a limited life-span outside of the basement or garage once he gets married. For the time being, though, they dominate the room.

He pulls out his phone and calls up an app that allows him to control the room’s built-in sound system and begins scrolling through his music collection.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/shaft.jpg”]shaft[/lightbox]“When I was at Xavier, we lived in the Manor House,” he says, “and I was in the same building as Erik Edwards and DeWaun Rose. It was the battle of who had the biggest tower speakers. They were constantly blowing things up.”

He scrolls down until he gets to Bob Marley on the list and hits play. Reggae fills the room.

Hey, get up, stand up, stand up for your rights/Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight.

Grant subtly sways with the song, which he knows intimately. When he was with Sacramento, he and Gina went on vacation to Jamaica and ducked into a little hole-in-the-wall bar one evening. Marley began playing on the jukebox, and the music and lyrics immediately caught his attention.

“Who is this?” he asked the owner.

“Dis is Bob Marley, mon. You know Bob Marley, right?”

“Umm. I think I might have his ‘Legends’ album.”

“You don’t know Bob Marley? Hey, get this mon a 12-pack of Red Stripe. We need to educate him.”

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/grant-marley.jpg”]Grant13a[/lightbox]The education ended at 5:30 a.m. but the lessons have lasted a lifetime. When Grant got back home, he got a tattoo of Marley and the word “prophet” inked on his right shoulder. He also began growing the dreadlocks that made him one of the most identifiable if not iconic players in the NBA. When Marley’s kids were touring the U.S., they invited Grant onto their tour bus.

“The way you play,” Ziggy Marley told him, “you represent Daddy good.”

It was the ultimate compliment. Marley changed—and in many ways defined—Grant’s life. Specifically, he says, it was his song “War,” the one he heard on the Jamaican juke box.

Until the philosophy which hold one race superior and another inferior/Is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned/Everywhere is war/Me say war. 

Until there is no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation/Until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes/Me say war.

The lyrics resonated strongly within his soul, taking him back to his childhood in Georgetown, Ohio, and the racial wars he repeatedly had to fight.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/young_withkids.png”]young_withkids[/lightbox]The irony of Georgetown is that it is the home of Ulysses S. Grant, the Union general whose military mastery helped win the Civil War for the North and abolish slavery in the South. And yet despite the freedom created by its best-known son, the small, southwestern Ohio town still hadn’t lost its grip on racism 100 years later when Grant was growing up.

He was always getting into fights as a youth, defending himself against the racial taunts and insults that were hurled in his direction. It was just one of the many challenges of growing up in rural Ohio, where money was scarce and life was hard. Instead of playing away the summers, Grant spent his picking and stripping tobacco on the local farms, digging potatoes and baling hay.

The physical labor made him strong, though, both physically and mentally. And it gave him a sense of what was important and a perspective on life that many never develop. It’s what pushed him to strive for something more, something better, and what prompted him to tell his mom after hearing a commercial for a college on the radio that he was going to go to college and get out of the country. He didn’t know how. He didn’t know where. But he was going to get there. He promised.

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[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/youngbball.jpg”]youngbball[/lightbox]The first time Dino Gaudio came to Georgetown High School to watch a basketball practice, he sat in the stands and was filled with uncertainty. Someone had anonymously been calling Xavier about Grant, and the Musketeers’ assistant basketball coach was there to make sure that the calls weren’t just some sort of prank. Practices, after all, often reveal more than games.

When the practice was over, Gaudio walked into the office of the team’s coach, Tim Chadwell, a former Xavier player himself who graduated in 1980.

“Who knows about this Grant kid?” asked Gaudio.

“No one,” said Chadwell.

“Let’s keep it that way.”

Until that time, Grant was considering an offer from an NAIA school—the smallest of colleges. It wouldn’t be stardom, but at least it would be college and Grant would be able to fulfill the promise he made to his mom.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/grant-xavier.jpg”]grant-xavier[/lightbox]Based on Gaudio’s recommendation, Xavier’s head coach Pete Gillen went to see this unknown kid from the country for himself. Xavier only had one scholarship left. Gillen offered it to Grant. It was a gamble.

[View slideshow of Grant at Xavier.]

Grant didn’t disappoint, though, earning a starting spot as a freshman and going on to become a two-time Midwest Collegiate Conference Player of the Year and honorable mention Associated Press All-American. He was inducted into the Xavier Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999 and became one of only four players to have his jersey retired by the University. His selection as the No. 8 pick in the NBA draft is still the highest Xavier draft pick ever.

In his 12 years in the NBA he played for five teams—Sacramento, Portland, Miami, Los Angeles and Phoenix—scoring just shy of 8,000 points and earning a reputation for his lockdown defense, earth-shattering picks and willingness to play against guys much bigger than him, guys like Shaquille O’Neil and Karl Malone. It was his willingness to stand up to the Hall-of-Fame center Malone, in fact, that made the basketball community stand up and notice Grant. In Game Five of the Western Conference semifinals in 1999, Malone sent Grant flying with a powerful elbow above his right eye. Grant bounced up, bloodied, and held a nose-to-nose, profanity-laced discussion with Malone in the middle of the court, informing him that he wasn’t intimidated.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/grant-malone.jpg”]grant-malone[/lightbox]In the next game, Grant walked out onto the court, a Band-Aid over his eye, to what he calls the most deafening crowd he’s ever played in front of, many of whom were wearing Band-Aids over their eyes in a show of solidarity.

Grant held Malone to just eight points in 44 minutes, and the Trail Blazers advanced to the conference finals. Grant endeared himself to an entire city that night. Everyone was happy.

Except Malone. “I don’t like him,” he said of Grant, “and he don’t like me.”

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Karl Malone called.

“Heard you were sick,” he said. “How can I help?”

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/alaska-fishing-3.jpg”]alaska fishing 3[/lightbox]When Grant set up his first fundraiser, Malone suggested they auction off a hunting and fishing trip with the two of them to Alaska. Four people paid $100,000 to join the former NBA players on the excursion.

Michael J. Fox called.

Grant’s neurologist is on Fox’s board of directors and told the actor about his newest patient, who was just diagnosed with Parkinson’s and trying to figure things out. Fox knew of Grant from his days playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I’m a movie buff, so I was kind of star stuck,” Grant says. “His words were uplifting. He’s got a really great outlook on life. He’s been dealing with it for a long time. What he told me, though, was that I had to lose my vanity. He said, ‘That’s going to be hard for you because you’re an athlete. It’s hard for me because I’m an actor, but until you lose that vanity, you’ll struggle with things.’ I’m slowly starting to lose it. I’m a lot better now than I was before. I used to go into a room at an event and just leave because I would get so much anxiety thinking that people were looking at me or thinking, ‘Oh my God poor him’ or something.”

Mark Starkey called.

Who? Starkey is a former basketball player at Wright State University in Ohio who was creating a TEDx event in Portland and wanted Grant to speak about Parkinson’s and his life. The theme of all the talks was all of the “What if…” moments in life. Even though he was a communications major at Xavier and spoke to the media countless times, public speaking was new—and terrifying—to Grant. As he began to recount all of the “what if” events in his life, though, it became less daunting because he began to realize how all of the moments in his life fell into place—like dominoes, one tumbling into another. What if one of his high school teachers hadn’t given him a second chance on a test so he could remain eligible for basketball? What if someone hadn’t anonymously called Xavier? And what if he hadn’t gotten Parkinson’s and been told to lose the vanity?

[lightbox link=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Az4huvs71d8&feature=player_embedded” target=”_blank”]grant video graphic[/lightbox]It helped bring it all into perspective: The foundation never would have been formed. He would still be depressed. And there would be people out there today who would still be struggling about what to do and where to turn for information about their Parkinson’s.

“There’s been major results” he says.

This year he expanded the foundation’s mission to include an exercise program with the Portland-area YMCAs specifically for people with Parkinson’s.

“Exercise has been shown to slow the progression of Parkinson’s. Right now we’re just local, but we’re expanding to Seattle and Tacoma, and if that’s successful in a year we’ll have our meeting about going to a national program.

“But what I would love to do is build a wellness center here in Portland, where we have an on-staff neurologist, physical trainer, yoga, psychologist, where it’s a one-stop shop. So when you’re diagnosed, you can take a three-day trip to Portland and have everything available to you right there in one place.[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/grant-speech.jpg”]grant-speech[/lightbox]

“My second goal is to go on the road and hit three cities a year where we’re doing a symposium that highlights all of these areas, and partner with groups in those cities to let people know you have this place that is doing a wonderful exercise program, or you have one of the top neurologists in this area. Those are my goals.”

The doorbell rings. The house that was momentarily quiet once again becomes a flurry of activity. Grant unfolds his 6-foot-9 body from the chair and excuses himself to take care of some personal matters. About 60 percent of his time these days, he says, is spent on personal issues—taking his kids to personal training sessions, getting his daughters to dance—with the remainder spent in conjunction with the foundation.

If he doesn’t go into the downtown Portland office on any given day, he’s on the phone making decisions or handling details. It may be the most demanding job he’s had. But it’s worth the effort. His fight with Parkinson’s, after all, has not only given him a new venue to help others, it’s given him something more: A new life.

[divider] More videos of Grant [/divider]

Climbing Mount St. Helen                     Interview on Live Wire radio

mtsthelensvideo livewire-video

In 1999, the National Basketball Association awarded Brian Grant with its J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in recognition of his outstanding community service and charitable work. Some of his efforts include:

• The family of Dash Thomas contacted Grant, asking if he could visit their 7-year-old son, who had brain cancer. They lived in Salem, Oregon, about an hour’s drive from Portland. Grant was so taken by the boy he wrote “Dash” on his shoes before each game and drove back and forth to visit. They would shoot baskets and play video games. The hour-long drives and visits went on for eight months before the cancer won.

J-Walter-kennedy-citizenship-award-nba-role-model-hero• In Sacramento, Grant was listening to his car radio when a story came on about a foster child who was murdered. The little girl had no family and no one to pay for her funeral expenses. A fund was set up to accept donations. Grant called. He paid for the entire thing.

• After games, Grant would often drive to the Children’s Hospital in Portland and go in and play with the kids. He told no one. “You see those families in there, and they have this look of, ‘Help me I don’t know what to do for my child.’ That’s who probably got the most out of it because they got to see their kid smile and laugh. It was just a moment of peace, a moment they got to forget their child is dying. That’s why I loved it too.”

• Grant met the Reyes family, whose daughter, Jovita, had leukemia. He spearheaded a drive to get the family a $15,000 wheelchair van so she wouldn’t be stuck in the house, and he began helping  their 16-year-old son, Ramon. Grant began picking him up, taking him places, organizing paintball outings, entertaining him at his house four days a week.

• Each Thanksgiving, Grant and his wife Gina provided dinners for families in Mothers Against Gang Violence.

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• Each Christmas, they would adopt underprivileged families, buying them presents.

• He created a scholastic program and gave Blazer tickets to children with good school attendance.

• He would buy food and deliver it to the local Ronald McDonald House, for which he served as the regional spokesperson.

• When the Blazers wanted to host a bone marrow drive for a 16-year-old boy named Woody, Grant organized the effort. It resulted in hundreds of people showing up and getting placed on the national donor registry—including one who matched Woody.

Main Musketeer

Greg Christopher was hired as athletic director in March. We asked him about himself and his vision for Xavier sports as the University enters the Big East.

Q: What attracted you to Xavier?
A: Really three things. First and foremost is the institution. It’s a first-rate institution with a values proposition that, quite frankly, our society needs. Secondly, it’s the athletic part. There’s a tradition and a history of winning here, and there are the resources to be successful. Selfishly, as an athletic director, the thing you want the most are those resources. They give you the ability to be successful on a national level. And then, from a family standpoint, my wife and I spent at least six years in this corner of the state, so we knew what a great area Cincinnati is.

Q: How familiar are you with the Jesuit ideals? That a nun has the authority to tell a coach his star player isn’t going to play.
A: That’s different from what you might see at a public school. I think a lot of the private schools have that type of a values proposition. But I don’t care if it’s a nun, the president, the coach, the athletic director—the short version is there’s accountability. If you’re a student-athlete and you come to a Xavier, you adhere to that. That’s part of why you are here, that accountability. Is that going to turn off a few recruits? Perhaps. But if it does then I don’t think they would be great fits for Xavier anyway.

Q: You created the Falcon Leadership Academy for student-athletes at Bowling Green. What is that and can we expect something similar here?
A: I would never be presumptuous enough to take something we did at Bowling Green and bring it here to Xavier, but after I accepted the position Fr. Graham laid out three or four priorities for me and that was one of them—some form of character development/leadership that is specific to student-athletes. Another prong about why I was attracted to Xavier is that in terms of a leadership academy, that already exists here. I think what will probably happen is we’ll take what the coaches are already doing, what’s already being done on campus and incorporate a few new things and develop it into something that is specific to student-athletes.

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Watch a video of the interview

Q: What were the other priorities you were given?

A: The first was anything and everything related to revenue. As we move to the Big East and all that come with that, the message is clear: Athletics needs to generate more revenue on its own. There will certainly be an institutional commitment, and that’s not wavering, but what are the opportunities we have to generate more revenue? The second was all things Big East. It’s a big moment for the institution, a great opportunity, but it also comes with some challenges. We just need to make sure we are big enough for the stage, that we are an equal partner and not just a tag-along. The character development of our student-athletes. And the fourth was to create a strategic plan. You have a lot of things coming together to make that important right now: The University just finished its strategic planning process. You’ve got a brand new athletic director walking in the door on the heels of an AD who was here 15 years. Take that plus the Big East layer and it’s time to develop a new road map for athletics.

Q: You helped raise $111 million at Purdue and $60 million at Bowling Green. So we can expect you to do a lot of fundraising as well?
A:
It clearly needs to be a priority, but that is true for any Division I institution. And it’s not as simplistic to say going out to people and asking for money. It’s looking at really how are we integrated and cohesive across the board and how we drive revenue or look at revenue within athletics. And even beyond that within the institution. The fact is there’s a business side to what we do. You can’t gouge your customers. That’s not the message I want delivered in any way shape or form. But are we as efficient as we can be in operating from a revenue standpoint?

Q: You mentioned the Big East as a priority. Can we compete?
A:
I’ve been to two Big East meetings so far, and you sit around that table and a couple of things jump out at you. First and foremost, we’re in the right group. Conferences ought to be about ideology and being with like-minded institutions. And I think that’s why the new Big East makes so much sense on a lot of levels. Second, it’s terrific for Xavier in that joining the conference is strategic not just from an athletics standpoint but from an institutional standpoint. Ohio and the Midwest are not tracking the right way from a demographic standpoint to try to grow an institution. So you have to look a little more national. And the Big East is in the right markets for Xavier going forward. And then the third part that readily comes out as we talk is that we are built the right way. Every single school in the Big East, the bandwidth of budgets is really tight. We’re not the top budget in the Big East, but we’re also not the bottom. We probably have some gaps that we’re going to need to address. We’ve also got some places that we’re absolutely built to compete. Are we going to walk in the dominate? No. The bandwidth is too tight. But I think we can be very successful out of the gate.

[button link=”#” size=”small” target=”self”]     Additional Content     [/button]
[The competition: A listing of Big East schools and how Xavier compares.]

Q: How will joining the Big East help grow the institution as whole?
A:
It’s not easily measurable, but you don’t make this kind of a move if you haven’t thought it through from an institutional standpoint. Absolutely it’s about getting Xavier visibility in some key markets that are important to the University. We have to think more nationally from an admission and enrollment standpoint as we look out over the next 10, 20, 30 years. Also it reframes the institution a little bit in that when you look at our peer groups, it’s not just a more external group from the athletic standpoint, but also the academic standpoint. For the institution, to maximize this, let’s make sure we’re visible from an academic standpoint, not necessarily the students in the classroom and their engagement from a research standpoint, and also making sure they are using the platform to get the Xavier message out.

Q: Will Xavier add any new sports?
A:
Each school has its own sports portfolio and that will be something we do take a look at through the strategic plan. Do we have the right sport mix, especially under the ender equity standpoint? The good thing is all of our sports are under the Big East umbrella—we won’t have any orphan sports off in different conferences. I think it’s a good portfolio of sports that we do have, and now it’s our job to make sure they keep getting better.

Game Changer

The official announcement of the worst-kept secret in college sports happened March 20: Xavier is leaving the Atlantic 10 Conference and joining a newly restructured Big East. Talk of the change was a shadow story throughout much of the past year, and making the announcement official was not only a relief, it formally moved Xavier to the place it has been aiming at for the last 30 years—the national stage.

Xavier’s elevation into one of the most dominant basketball conferences in the country was met with a packed Cintas Center conference room and a great deal of pride among Musketeer alumni and fans. But what was lost in the announcement was the fact that the move into national prominence wasn’t an overnight event. Rather, it was the culmination of a well-planned, concerted effort that was decades in the making, starting back even before Xavier entered the Midwestern Collegiate Conference in 1979.Team 5 LIP 8-20-12 DC

There were little steps along the way—ditching the “Xavier of Ohio” tag, ignoring the “mid-major” label, teaching people that it’s not pronounced “Ex-avier.” There were big steps as well—moving from Schmidt Fieldhouse to the Cincinnati Gardens, joining the A-10, building the Cintas Center. But like walking up a flight of stairs, each step elevated the University until it has now reached what could arguably be considered the top flight.

The question remains, though: Now what? The new Big East is in some ways an experiment in athletic dynamics. It’s now the nation’s only non-football, basketball-centered power conference. It’s also made up of nine Catholic schools and one private school. What does all that mean in terms of national interest? In terms of television revenue? In terms of quality?

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[button link=”#” size=”medium” target=”self”]     Additional Content     [/button]
• New athletic director Greg Christopher shares his views on Xavier joining the Big East.
The competition: A listing of Big East schools and how Xavier compares.
A video of Xavier sports highlights from the past three decades.

[divider] ••• [/divider]

20121011_BASE_BlueWhite_Richard_5In some ways, the creation of the conference is a relief to the plethora of conference realignments driven by television exposure and revenue that have been taking place over the last five or six years. Its creation wasn’t spawned from a drive for more money and power, but from a protest against that.

The old Big East was crumbling from the inside out as its football and non-football schools (informally known as the Catholic Seven) engaged in an internal tug-of-war. By rejecting the idea that football comes first and breaking away on their own, the Catholic Seven not only found relief from the stress of financial inequality, but they found freedom as well—freedom to play for reasons other than commercialism.

“In a mercenary college athletics world drunk on dollars and disdainful of both common sense and the common fan,” Yahoo sports columnist Pat Forde wrote, “it’s nice to see one group declare that something else matters more. Identity matters more. Equality matters more.“083112_OleMiss_001

Arguably, so might mission. With all of the schools except Butler being Catholic, it offers the opportunity for subtle preaching of values and service through its on- and off-the-field actions. Before the first game has even been played, the new league can already boast about one record that most other conferences can’t—academic success. All of the new Big East schools have an NCAA graduation rate of at least 90 percent, with the exception of Butler, which is at 83 percent. Xavier’s 97 percent graduation rate is the best.

David Gibson, a writer with the Religious News Service, even posed the question, “Can a Catholic hoops conference save college sports?” By “the conference’s breaking away in protest,” he wrote, “the schools are offering a corrective example to the way big-money programs, especially in football, are driving (some would say warping) amateur sports.”

It’s a lot of added pressure—being able to compete at the highest level while not engaging in the kind of athletic and moral malfeasance that has dominated sports headlines of late. Still, it could set a benchmark other conferences may be challenged to meet.

Whatever ripple effects the league might have externally, joining the conference will certainly have a ripple effect internally for Xavier. Its effects will be felt in the admissions office and classrooms and bookstore as new audiences of potential students, fans and donors become exposed to Xavier and all it has to offer. What will that mean? Time will tell.

Time begins this fall.

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The Competition

As Xavier prepares to enter its first season in the Big East, it faces an entirely new set of competitors. Here are the new Big East teams with basic information on how they stack up against Xavier.

Xavier Musketeers

Location: Cincinnati

Arena: Cintas Center (on campus), 10,250

Average attendance: 10,155

Highlights: 23 NCAA Tournament appearances, three Sweet 16s, two Elite Eights

 

Butler Bulldogs

Location: Indianapolis

Arena: Hinkle Fieldhouse (on campus), 10,000

Average attendance: 6,599

Highlights: 12 NCAA Tournament appearances, two Final Fours

 

Creighton Bluejays

Location: Omaha, Neb.

Arena: CenturyLink Center (off campus), 18,560

Average attendance: 16,665

Highlights: 19 NCAA Tournament appearances

 

DePaul Blue Demons

Location: Chicago

Arena: Allstate Arena (off campus), 17,500

Average attendance: 7,740

Highlights: 22 NCAA Tournament appearances, two Final Fours

 

Georgetown Hoyas

Location: Washington, D.C.

Arena: Verizon Center (off campus), 20,308

Average attendance: 11,283

Highlights: 30 NCAA Tournament appearances, five Final Fours, one NCAA championship

 

Marquette Golden Eagles

Location: Milwaukee

Arena: Bradley Center (off campus), 18,850

Average attendance: 15,138

Highlights: 32 NCAA Tournament appearances, three Final Fours, one NCAA championship

 

Providence College

Location: Providence, R.I.

Arena: Dunkin Donut Center (off campus), 12,400

Average attendance: 7,883

Highlights: 15 NCAA Tournament appearances, two Final Fours

 

Seton Hall Pirates

Location: South Orange, N.J.

Arena: Prudential Center (off campus), 18,500

Average attendance: 6,941

Highlights: Nine NCAA Tournament appearances, one Final Four

 

St. John’s Red Storm

Location: New York City

Arena: Carnesecca Arena (on campus), 6,008

Average attendance: 8,428

Highlights: 27 NCAA Tournament appearances, two Final Fours

 

Villanova Wildcats

Location: Villanova, Pa.

Arena: The Pavilion (on campus), 6,500

Average attendance: 8,923

Highlights: 33 NCAA Tournament appearances, two Final Fours, one NCAA championship

Words to Run By

I run. I don’t run very far, nor do I run very fast. And I try to run early in the morning before the sun comes up so it’s dark and no one can see me sweating and swearing and gasping for breath like there’s only two oxygen molecules left on the planet.

All of which is a long way of saying that I’m a runner, but I’m not a very good runner. A plodder might be more accurate. So doing something like running a marathon rests only on the outer limits of my imagination. Still, I admire those who are capable of accomplishing such a feat. It’s no small achievement.

I recently read an article by a writer who called himself a “runegade” because he jumped into the middle of the masses at the starting line of a marathon and took off running despite lacking the credentials or qualifications to be in the race. He just ran it because he wanted to and thought it wouldn’t be that difficult. Much to no one else’s surprise but his own, it actually proved to be very difficult.

Getting into a race such as the Boston Marathon is even more difficult. You have to qualify by proving that you finished a previous marathon within a certain time limit. The times vary by age group. For instance, someone age 50 would have to run a marathon in less than three and a half hours in order to qualify. That’s pretty speedy by my standards.

Still, 23,000 people not only qualified but actually ran in the marathon. I admire and maybe even envy those people. Which is why I have been following so closely every detail of the bombings and the hunt for the brothers Tsarnaev. Although I’m not the same class of runner, I feel a somewhat kindred spirit to anyone who laces on a pair of shoes and pounds the pavement.

It’s also why on Thursday I broke my mold and decided to run in broad daylight, within full view of a campus full of students, visitors and, gasp, television cameras.

In the current issue of Xavier magazine, we profiled Rabbi Abie Ingber, the director of the University’s Center for Interfaith Community Engagement. In addition to recounting his remarkable life—which has included time at John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous Bed-In, audiences in front of various popes and countless trips to the White House—Ingber creates events on campus that force students out of their everyday college bubble and gives them a perspective on the larger issues of life.

When the bombings happened at the Boston Marathon, some of Ingber’s students approached him with an idea to stage a one-mile run to raise money for OneFundBoston.org, the non-profit organization that is raising money for those killed, maimed or hurt as a result of the bombings. Ingber has never said no to an idea. If a student has the motivation and enthusiasm to come to him with an idea, saying no would cause harm. That’s not in his genetics.

So he said yes. And when I heard about it, so did I. I got out there and huffed and puffed my way twice around a half-mile course. And I was not alone. There was a pilot from Delta who heard about the event on the news and wanted to run. There was a mother pushing a two-seat stroller. There was a woman whose grown children now live in Boston. There were several people who chose to walk the course wearing flip-flops. And there were students—a couple dozen students, in fact.

Before the run started, the crowd gathered around Ingber who sought to put the event into its proper perspective. And he did. “There isn’t a race in Cincinnati and a race in Boston,” he said. “There’s only one race—the human race. And we’re all in this together.”

Words to run by.