Vince Presuitt and the Barry Seal killers

When Vincent Presutti was a student at Xavier, he took a class from psychology professor Earl Kronenberger, who used to teach about intuition—or as he called it, “the little professor.” The young Presutti took the lesson to heart, and listening to his little professor helped him crack cases and stay alive in many dangerous situations as an undercover agent. One of those situations involved hunting down the killers of former drug trafficker and federal witness Barry Seal.

Presutti was in a New Orleans gym when he heard that Seal had been assassinated in Baton Rouge. Seal had been cooperating with the government as an informant against Colombian drug kingpin Jorge Ochoa. On the night of February 19, 1986, he was murdered in a hail of bullets from a .45 caliber Mac 10 machine gun while sitting in his parked Cadillac outside a Salvation Army halfway house. Ochoa, leader of Colombia’s Medellin drug cartel, had sent a hit team of six men to kill him.

“They were waiting for him there with machine guns,” Presutti says. “They just lit him up like a Christmas tree and split.”

Presutti, who had been an FBI agent for scarcely more than two years, thought about what he would do if he were a criminal. “I just started thinking like a killer,” he says. “If I just murdered a guy in Baton Rouge, I’m not going to take a flight out of Baton Rouge.”

So Presutti drove to the New Orleans airport and checked the flights to Florida, figuring that’s where a member of a Colombian hit team would be headed.

Soon he saw a man dressed in hospital scrubs at the desk asking if he could pay cash for a ticket to Miami. The airline employee told him the Miami flights were booked. When the man asked about Orlando, Presutti got suspicious. “I said, wait a minute, something’s funny here,” he recalls. The man couldn’t get a flight, so he started to leave the airport.

“That’s when I tilted my head,” Presutti says. “I just felt like something wasn’t right.” Without the probable cause to arrest the man, Presutti and another rookie agent stopped him in the middle of the concourse and asked him what he was doing in New Orleans. The man’s answers didn’t add up. He said he was visiting a friend, but he couldn’t give them the friend’s address or last name. A bead of sweat was rolling down his face. “That’s not right either,” Presutti said to himself.

A search of his bags yielded nothing, so Presutti and his partner had to let the man go. But Presutti asked the airport police to tail the man when he left the airport. They followed him to a nearby hotel, and watched him get into a taxi. Minutes later Presutti received a radio call with a description of the suspect that fit the man he had stopped. The chase was on.

Presutti called out a search for the man’s taxi, then went to the hotel. He arrested two other men there who had checked in at the same time as the man in scrubs. Hours later, police found that man’s taxi. It had hit a deer on the highway to Alabama. When policemen descended on it with guns drawn, the driver jumped from the vehicle and shouted, “All I did was hit a deer!” The man in scrubs was arrested, and a test revealed gunpowder residue on his hands.

Presutti didn’t sleep for the next 72 hours, when he helped track and arrest the remaining three assassins. Once all of them were captured, a crime lab ran their prints and found them on the recovered getaway car.

“I remember like yesterday,” Presutti says. “It’s so exciting. For the longest time you don’t know what you have. But when you strike gold, there’s nothing more fulfilling and exciting than knowing that you did a good job and you stopped killers for the rest of their lives—which makes retirement a drag sometimes.”

World View

As businesses and organizations become more international, Xavier is looking to keep pace, making sure as many international opportunities are offered to students as possible.

The push began in the summer with the hiring of a new executive director for the Center for International Education, Ismael Betancourt. He oversees the academic service learning semesters, the Office of International Student Services and the English as a Second Language program.

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Betancourt came to Xavier after serving as director of education abroad at Northern Arizona University and director for the Office of International Services at Saint Louis University, where he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is pursuing a doctorate in higher education administration.

Extra Credit: John LaRocca, S.J.

A transplanted New Yorker, John LaRocca, S.J., joined Xavier’s Department of History faculty in 1977 convinced he would return to his native East Coast within two years. He’s been at Xavier ever since.

“After my first semester here I was back in New York for Christmas, and I went to dinner with some Jesuits who had gone through Jesuit formation with me. One of them looked at me and said, ‘You still going to be back here in two years?’ and I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘No, you’re not.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ and he said, ‘You’re falling in love with the school. You have no idea what your face looks like when you talk about Xavier.’ ”

“It gave me a place to teach, and I love teaching. I found some excellent students here and a lot of very good people who allowed me to enter their lives. I also saw myself as someone who wanted to do research, and the University and Jesuit community offered me the support to do that research. And one of the essential parts of who I am is that I am a priest, and they valued the ministry I did as a Jesuit priest on the campus.”

During his 33-plus years at Xavier, LaRocca has taken on many responsibilities beyond teaching history courses. He has twice served as chair of the history department and has been a member of and chaired numerous University committees. He’s been chaplain to athletes, continues to take turns presiding at Bellermine Chapel Masses, and is well known for his Friday night pasta dinners at Kuhlman Hall and his beloved beagle, Isabella, whom he routinely walks on campus. He is an avid, opinionated Xavier basketball fan. Most recently he was named trustee emeritus to the Xavier Board of Trustees and completed a six-year term as rector of the Jesuit community at Xavier this past fall.

LaRocca says he enjoyed serving as rector because he got to spend time with his Jesuit brothers, to find out more about their lives, their hopes, expectations and disappointments. Still, he says he’s relieved to be free of the paperwork and regional traveling associated with the job. He hopes to spend his newfound free time—liberation, he calls it—doing research for a book on the theology of Mary Tudor and the Council of Trent.

“I’ve been on all sorts of committees that have done things from the trivial to the really important. I was on the core curriculum committee 20 years ago, the academic vision statement committee, the first one. I was chair of the faculty committee when we purchased Edgecliff College. Is that more important than when I presided at liturgy at Bellarmine Chapel or visited a suicide victim on life support in the hospital? I don’t know what’s more important. Maybe God knows that, and maybe I haven’t done it yet.”

To be sure, one lasting legacy of LaRocca’s is an endowed scholarship he established in 2008 for a first-generation college student. The Joseph and Constance LaRocca Scholarship is named in memory of the only child’s first-generation Italian-American parents.

“I figured they aren’t going to have any grandchildren or great grandchildren to remember them, but at least at Xavier University, somebody will remember that these people once existed, and there will be a college student who benefits.”

Going Public

In 2001, Michael J. Graham, S.J., had just taken over as president of Xavier and was giving a speech to faculty about his vision for the University. By the time philosophy professor Paul Colella shuffled into the auditorium—habitually late and only half listening—Graham was mentioning something about creating a new honors program, to be called Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

“I think I’ll have to talk to Paul Colella about this,” he said.

“I must’ve caught his eye,” Colella says. So he did what any professor in his position would do: He hurried back to his office and started researching. What he found was such high-minded programs that merge philosophy and politics are generally a British tradition, although American versions exist at exclusive schools such as Yale and Stanford. The British model typically requires students to quickly narrow their focus, but if a similar program were to exist at Xavier, he thought, it should reflect a broad Jesuit education, with enough flexibility to allow students to customize it to suit their interests.

Colella and his colleagues decided the program should be called Philosophy, Politics and the Public, or PPP. The word “public” was important, Colella says. “It seemed open enough to accommodate all of the things we wanted to see happen.”

After hammering out a curriculum in two years, the first class of 14 PPP majors was selected in 2003. Since then, more than 70 students have gone through the program.

The four-year program emphasizes philosophy and history to complement a hands-on approach to political science. A final 30-page senior thesis allows students to apply all their learning to a topic of their choosing.

“The program allows students to craft areas of interest without having to shoehorn them into a discipline,” Colella says. The end goal, he says, is to produce “public intellectuals to work for the public good.”

Freshmen begin with a course in philosophy and history, taught by two professors to show the interrelation of the subjects. Within the first few days of their sophomore year, they are thrown into the deep end of the political swimming pool. Each student is instructed to volunteer for a politician’s election campaign—whether it’s for a race for city council or president of the United States.

“By the time they’re done, they under stand what it takes to get elected into a public office in the United States,” says Gene Beaupré, a former director for two mayoral offices in Cincinnati and political science instructor. “You could drop a student into any campaign headquarters in the country and they’d know what’s going on.”

After the elections, they switch to working with public policy. Students research an issue, take a position on it and then travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with policy-makers for a frontline lesson in political advocacy. “It teaches them how to interact with people from the highest levels of the government to little interest groups,” Beaupré says. “At the end of their sophomore year, they see someplace they’d like to go with their careers.”

In their junior year, students take a class called “Enlightenment and Revolution,” which explores the centuries-old philosophy and history that forms the backdrop to the political theater in which they have just participated. The capstone to this course is an intensive two-week seminar in Paris.

The PPP program is one of the main reasons Alyssa Konermann came to Xavier. A native of nearby West Chester, Ohio, Konermann thought she would leave the state for college and settle elsewhere. But the PPP program intrigued her, and when she graduates in May she will stay in Cincinnati. “I find myself very invested in the city,” she says, “and I don’t plan on moving.”

Konermann, who minors in studio art, is writing her senior thesis about New York City artist Tim Rollins who incorporates philosopher John Dewey’s views on art as a socially transformative experience to help teach struggling students in the Bronx. She hopes to do similar work in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine, a community she says understands the idea of “the public” better than most suburbs.

“This isn’t some foreign thing that they can’t be a part of,” she says.

Colella and Beaupré are both impressed by where their students land. PPP graduates have become political satirists, appointed federal employees and development workers in South Africa, India and Mali. “I think about what a slug I was in college,” Beaupré says. “When I was their age, I went to Canada and thought it was a big deal.”

Signature Moment

Slipping his lanky frame into the driver’s seat of a beat-up Army Jeep, Paul O’Connor takes hold of the wheel and glances around for his two companions. They’re squeezing in where they can among packed supplies of candy, clothing, food and salt. Anticipating delivering the supplies to their fellow Jesuit priests who’ve been stuck in the middle of Tokyo for the duration of the war, the three Jesuits pull out from the naval base at Yokosuka, Japan, “with nothing but light hearts and crosses on our collars,” and enter the ravaged city of Tokyo.

The ink has barely dried on the surrender documents signed by the Allied commanders and the Japanese, officially ending World War II. But O’Connor and his fellow chaplains, all serving on U.S. Navy warships anchored around Tokyo Harbor, know that the Jesuit professors at Sophia University have been holed up and isolated from the rest of the world as the war raged around them. There’s been no word, and O’Connor doesn’t know if they’re injured or starving, or even if they’re alive. But he’s sure they could use some help.

[More: View a photo gallery of O’Connor, read his war letters and read about one Xavier alum’s experience as a POW.]

The trip is treacherous. The Jeep dodges rubble and debris in the roadways, rapidly filling with ragged Japanese civilians carrying bundles and pulling ox carts as they return from hiding in the hills. Their homes are obliterated. The streets are chaotic. The road signs are gone. O’Connor comes upon an Army convoy carrying news correspondents to Gen. Douglas McArthur’s headquarters in Yokohama. Seeing an opportunity, he slips the Jeep into the convoy and quietly passes through several sentry posts before cutting away in the center of the city.

Now the priests are on their own, trying to find their way to the university in the center of Tokyo so they can rescue the Jesuits. The city won’t officially be scouted and secured for another day, but the priests are on a mission, and nothing, it seems, can stop them.

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The Signing
O’Connor’s trip through Tokyo took place only three days after the monumental events of Sept. 2, 1945, when the Japanese signed the formal documents of surrender on board the USS Missouri—65 years ago. O’Connor, a Navy chaplain and Lieutenant Commander assigned to the battleship in the spring of 1945, witnessed the entire ceremony. Perched on the bridge only 15 feet above the deck where the signing took place, he described the events in a running commentary over a microphone to the sailors restricted to their duty stations. In letters written to his mother, Marie, and his brother, James, he describes how boatloads of newspapermen and delegates began arriving at 8:00 a.m. and how the paper in MacArthur’s hand trembled while the general’s voice was strong and steady. He notes how the Japanese foreign minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, dressed in a silk top hat and tails, dragged his wooden leg heavily across the deck as he made his way to the signing table before a hushed delegation representing the nations of the world.
As Shigemitsu signed the surrender documents, O’Connor wrote in a newspaper column years later, his aides wept openly.

“It was at this moment that I first understood the total, inspiring significance of what was going on below me,” O’Connor wrote. “There, in the shadow of 16-inch gun muzzles, surrounded by the might of the U.S. Army and Navy, and under the eyes of the American and British commanders they had so ruthlessly defeated in the Philippines and Malaya, the Japanese were admitting to their first defeat in history. The scratch of Shigemitsu’s pen was final evidence that their dream of an empire was shattered.”

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The History
O’Connor would survive the war and come back to Cincinnati, where he was named dean of the evening college at Xavier and later served as president from 1955-1972. The challenges he faced at sea helped prepare him for his tenure as president, where he showed savvy leadership during a time of tumultuous change in the 1960s and early 1970s, which included student protests, the admission of women, and the end of mandatory ROTC, spiritual retreats and attendance at Mass.

The Missouri also survived to serve in both Korea and the Persian Gulf War before its final decommissioning in 1992. In 1998, it was towed to Pearl Harbor, where it was anchored perpendicular to the grave of the USS Arizona. And in 2009, it was sent to dry dock for an $18 million refurbishment in preparation for the 65th anniversary in September of its role in the surrender. Returned to the harbor in January 2010, the Mighty Mo is now facing the Arizona memorial and open for tours.

The significance of the pairing is hard to miss: The sinking of the Arizona triggered America’s entry into the war with Japan, and the signing on the Missouri ended it. On Sept. 2, 2010, the Battleship Missouri Memorial commemorated Imperial Japan’s surrender to the Allied Powers aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. A week’s worth of events looking at the history of the war and the role of the two battleships led up to “The End of World War II” 65th anniversary ceremony.

To mark O’Connor’s role in that momentous event, his nephew, retired Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge John Paul O’Connor, provided O’Connor’s letters and photos taken during his tour on the Missouri. John O’Connor, who graduated from Xavier in 1963, and Paul O’Connor had a special relationship. John’s middle name is Paul, after his uncle, but they shared more than a name.

“In my early years, he would refer to me as J. Paul,” O’Connor says. “He brought me a collection I still have of the local currency from all the places the Missouri went, like from the Mediterranean—coins and paper money. And I’d see him regularly when I was growing up. They called them the Irish mafia—the priests. They’d all come over on Sunday afternoon and hang up their Roman collars and have a couple of drinks and Jesuit stogies, and Mom would chase them outside. I’d listen and bring them drinks. They’d talk about sports.”

Paul stayed in the Naval Reserve and his rank went up, and I can remember when I went to Xavier, they had mandatory ROTC on Fridays, and when he would review the troops, the whole school would march by for the president’s review. But Fr. Paul would never wear his Naval uniform because he would outrank the Army officer in charge at Xavier, and he didn’t think that would be right.” Paul O’Connor, who attended Loyola of Chicago, Xavier and Saint Louis universities, was ordained by the Jesuits in 1941 and became assistant dean at the University of Detroit before entering military service as a Navy chaplain.

In a letter home that June, he describes a harrowing day subbing for a priest on the ships at Norfolk Operations Base, made more challenging by the threat of a hurricane moving up the east coast toward Norfolk that kept the base closed all weekend.

After being ferried across a windswept Chesapeake Bay dodging destroyers and their escorts, he heard confessions from sailors until 10:00 p.m. and again starting at 6:00 the next morning, interrupted only by two morning Masses. Just when an exhausted O’Connor thought he was done, he was taken by plane to a carrier farther out at sea, the USS Saratoga, that had called for a chaplain. Theirs had been sick for a week, so O’Connor heard more confessions, then conducted Mass for a crew and officers who eagerly donned their dress whites and helped him hold down the altar cloths in the stiff breeze.

“I suppose I have said more beautiful and more consoling Masses, but I don’t think there will ever be one as inspiring as my first one at sea, with the breeze whipping the vestments around, the ship steaming slowly along, rolling slightly for there was a good sea, and over a thousand white uniforms behind me, the boys kneeling on the hard deck,” he writes.

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“The Big Show”
It was great preparation for his role on the Big Mo. But getting to that ship, which lay 100 miles off the Japanese coast, was quite another challenge. He traveled by transport ship to the Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands and transferred to a destroyer. But a typhoon blasted through, stalling his transition to the Missouri for several days. Finally, he was put in a bucket and swung on board, where he spent his days hearing confessions and saying Mass for the officers and crew, often under the shadow of the big, gray guns.

On Aug. 27, six days before “the big show,” the Missouri crept into Tokyo Bay, ahead of a line of ships including the USS Iowa, the HMS Duke of York, the O’Bannion and four other destroyers offering protection. Planes flew a low cover, checking the hillsides for hidden shore batteries. They didn’t know if they’d be allowed to pass safely, or if they’d be blown out to sea.

The tension was palpable, O’Connor wrote:
“This morning a Japanese destroyer approaches and all our 5-inch guns swing on it. Emissaries and a pilot come aboard. The pilot’s eyes pop out when he sees the captured maps we have of Tokyo harbor. We steam toward land, pass Oshima Island on our left—steep cliffs rise sheer from the beach, but the plateau has a pleasant pastoral look about it … We steam in and tension mounts as we approach the outer bay. Nervous fingers are on all the guns. The nine 16-inch guns swing this way and that, up and down and up again, settle on a target, then swing around … No one says much … There is a quiet, almost desolate air about the place, no smoke from visible factory chimneys, no movement in the small towns, no small boats, too far off to see people. And yet you know there are thousands of eyes peering at you. We steam on to about a mile from shore, then drop anchor. The rattle of the enormous chain breaks the spell.”

Just then, the clouds lifted, exposing the volcano, Fujiyama. Though it’s known as the place for Japanese suicide, O’Connor thought it was beautiful—majestic and peaceful. He watched the sun set behind it as the rest of the 3rd Fleet arrived to anchor in the green water of Tokyo Bay. Preparations began almost immediately for the signing ceremony that was only days away. But as significant as that day turned out to be, and as important as his role on the microphone was, by the end of the day, O’Connor’s mind was already on the Sophia Jesuits and the supplies he needed for his trip to rescue them.

“I don’t remember him talking about the Missouri a lot,” John O’Connor says. “He thought it was a sad time in history, but I think he saw his service as his duty and something that had to be done, and he did it. To me he was an example of leadership and using your talents for the forces of good.”

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Driving Through the Destruction
Charles Robinson, S.J., and S.H. Ray, S.J., are bouncing around in the back of the Jeep as O’Connor navigates the cluttered streets of Tokyo. Ray somehow got permission to have the Jeep on his assigned seaplane tender transported to shore on a landing craft. Warned how difficult it would be, impossible even, to get into Tokyo, they have made it nonetheless to the center of the city with their precious packages and are looking for signs to the university. They’re traveling unarmed in a city that hasn’t been officially secured by American troops and are relying instead on the belief that their faith in human nature will get them through. They’re also relying on Robinson, who had taught in Japan 20 years earlier and knows the language. But he doesn’t know the way, and because the street signs are gone, they must stop to ask for directions.

The people are surprisingly friendly even though 80 percent of their city is destroyed. Their homes are “a mass of ruins,” O’Connor wrote. Most of them have been burned, and what’s left in the streets are rusted tin strips and blackened logs. They encounter only one bomb crater. As O’Connor struggles to drive on the left side of the road, dodging the rubble, he notices the few huts still standing have curtains for doors, and the survivors raise the cloth to peer out at them as they drive by. But people on the streets give friendly waves—children, policemen, Japanese soldiers. Those who give directions also make the traditional bow before speaking.

When they come to a barricade on a main bridge leading into the city center, the U.S. sentries tell them the area is off limits. This sends the Jesuits into full preacher mode: Robinson tells them he’s an interpreter for Admiral Badger; O’Connor tells them they’re bringing food to released prisoners, since two of the Sophia Jesuits were just released from an internment camp; and Ray announces they are “chaplains on an errand of mercy.”

The GIs give up, and the priests are allowed to pass. Entering the central area of Tokyo, they drive around the unscathed Imperial Hotel, the Emperor’s Palace and the ancient high stone wall, all beautifully landscaped. They find their way to the university, where bombs destroyed one building, and the Sophia Jesuits welcome them “with open arms.” The chaplains are the first to get through since the war began, and though the Jesuits all survived, they are badly malnourished. Two who were at the Jesuit novitiate near Hiroshima when the atom bomb was dropped have minor flesh wounds from flying glass and debris. Alarmed by their physical state, the chaplains quietly slip their K rations into the food packages and go without a meal.

The trip back through the city is just as challenging, and they’re pressed for time to return to the ships before nightfall. But O’Connor notices that the people are already working to rebuild their homes. The families are working together, and they’re industrious, he notes. He realizes that he likes them, and he feels sorry for them.

“Thousands have no place to live. Families are scattered. The future is dark,” he wrote. “Their city is desolate. An air of death hangs over it. In some sections the stench is terrific, a stench as of burning flesh that even now after two days I can still smell. And yet they go about their daily routine almost stoically and find time to talk and laugh and smile at strangers in a dusty Jeep.”

Matt’s Back

Matt Tripepi, who spent seven years connecting with alumni as part of the National Alumni Association, has returned to Xavier after a three-year hiatus, this time as the University’s new director for alumni engagement. And he’s coming to an alumni association chapter near you.

While he’s still settling back in, Tripepi already has plans to personally visit with most of the alumni association’s 50 chapters nationwide over the next year with the goal of bolstering alumni participation in all things Xavier and energizing existing members who aren’t active.

“My job is to get them excited and back in the fold,” Tripepi says, adding that he will focus initially on Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. “I want alumni to participate in one way, shape or form—whether that’s sending us an e-mail, checking

the web site, reading the magazine, visiting campus, watching videos of new construction if they can’t visit personally or writing to tell us stories about old buildings.”

One of the biggest challenges Tripepi and his counterparts at other universities face is maintaining current contact information. Tripepi estimates that Xavier has current contact information for less than half its alumni. His goal is to get updated information on at least 75

percent of Xavier’s estimated 60,000 alumni. “With the fast-paced digital era we’re in, traditional methods of keeping in touch with alumni aren’t as effective,” Tripepi says. “People change cell phones and e-mail addresses frequently and don’t necessarily think about updating their alumni office with their latest information.”

 

Updating his own information was, of course, the first thing he did when he returned. An alumnus himself, Tripepi graduated from Xavier with an MBA in 2004 and a bachelor’s degree in communication arts/electronic media in 1998. He was assistant director for alumni chapters from 2000-2005 and then worked as manager of e-marketing and e-philanthropy from 2005-2007. Tripepi most recently worked as online marketing manager for EA Sports, a sports video gaming company, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Cleveland native moved to Cincinnati as a freshman at Xavier in 1994 and has forged close ties to the city he now considers home. Tripepi’s three-year stint in Canada was the 34-year-old’s first time away from Ohio. He cherished the experience, but personal connections lured him back to the Buckeye State and to Xavier, in particular. Tripepi and his wife, Danielle, whom he met at Xavier, are active in many neighborhood programs in Cincinnati and have many friends in the city. “I couldn’t be more excited to be back,” he says.

Contact him at tripepi@xavier.edu.

Update your contact information at myxudata@xavier.edu

Extra Credit: Joseph Bracken, S.J.

“I’m a theologian interested in science. I have a deep respect for the scientific method and what it has produced. But I think some scientists have exaggerated the power of science to explain everything, because a good part of the human experience is awareness of the divine and the power of interpersonal relationships on a scale that science can’t quantify.”

“In the fall of 1982, I was at Marquette, and Xavier wanted me to join the faculty and do the chairmanship. I did that for three years and have been here ever since.”

“I got my bachelor’s degree at Xavier though I was never on campus. We were at the Milford Novitiate, and in 1953 I was awarded a Bachelor of Literature. I got a Master of Philosophy from Loyola of Chicago in 1960. I did my Doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Freiburg in Breisgau, Germany. My background is philosophy, but I also got a licentiate in theology to become a priest.”

“I was the first occupant of the Beckman Chair in Catholic Theology in 1989. I was invited by president Fr. Albert DiUlio who had a bequest from the Beckman family. I had limited courses and taught only six hours instead of 12, and that was a nice opportunity for further research.”

“I teach theology but more from a philosophical perspective. I follow Alfred North Whitehead, the founder of process theology, which is based on the notion that the God-world relationship is always in a state of evolution. His philosophy is very compatible with much of the scientific understanding of evolution. I’ve written 11 books and more than 100 articles dealing with this approach.”

“I’ve taught courses that dealt with intelligent design versus evolution. Basically I’m on the side of the evolutionist, that intelligent design doesn’t think through the issues carefully enough and makes God intervene when nature will surely produce what they think God has created by working through natural processes.”

“I spent last semester in Africa at Hekima College in Nairobi, a school of theology associated with the Catholic University of East Africa. It was very rewarding to realize I was making an impression on young people who would shape the Church of East Africa. I told them in Africa it’s up to them to shape the African Church and that it would be a mistake to pattern themselves after the Church in Rome because then they won’t have a feel for their native church if they don’t develop an African theology.”

“In Tanzania I stayed at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro and was lucky to see the summit when the clouds parted and saw how Kilimanjaro is losing its snowcap. It’s a reminder we are in a period of rather extraordinary global warming and there will be a price to pay with very hot summers and weather changes that are almost totally unpredictable. We need to change our lifestyle. We’re living during a period where in the U.S. we enjoy a lifestyle everyone wants to imitate, but it can’t happen without mass shortages, so we should help people develop a better lifestyle, but we have to reduce our own. I would begin with energy conservation with our cars and electricity.”

Jesuit Dialogue

They came to Xavier from 12 Jesuit colleges and universities spread across America’s heartland—Nebraska, Missouri, Belize. Wait. Belize is part of America’s heartland? Well, no. It’s more like an honorary member. But where they came from isn’t important. What’s important is why they came.

“They” being faculty, staff and administrators from 12 Jesuit universities who came to Xavier to take part in the sixth Heartland Delta Conference. The three-day conference is designed to provide a venue for dialogue about learning, Jesuit education, collaboration, Ignatian spirituality and a host of topics unique to Jesuit schools that typically aren’t going to be found at other conferences. This was the sixth such conference, which takes place every three years.

This year’s theme was “The World is Our House,” a phrase taken from Jerónimo Nadal, S.J., an early Jesuit leader, giving participants the roadmap to delve into issues such as globalization and what role Jesuit education plays in that concept. The conference was highlighted by three keynote speakers: John L. Allen, Jr., senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and author of “The Future Church: How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church”; Kathleen Erickson, R.S.M., co-founder of the Women’s Intercultural Center; and Larry Gillick, S.J., director of the Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Creighton University.

The conference is sponsored by each of the schools and the five Jesuit Provinces in these regions—one of which includes St. John’s College in Belize City, Belize.

New Coaches

This season Xavier volleyball will have a new face net-side. Hawaii-native Mike Johnson starts his first season at Xavier this fall.

Last year Johnson led the Austin Peay State University volleyball team to a 22-9 record in his first season as head coach. Austin Peay also finished second in league standings, sent three players to the Ohio Valley All-Conference First and Second Teams, and produced the league’s Player of the Year in Stephanie Champine.

“I feel both inspired and humbled to join the Musketeer family,” Johnson said. “I have long admired Xavier for its esteemed academics and great athletic support. I’m thrilled to get started.”

This summer, Xavier also named a new head coach for men’s and women’s cross country and track. Dan Flaute, the former cross country head coach at Wyoming High School in Cincinnati, begins his coaching at Xavier this fall, and he has high hopes for his athletes.

“I am grateful to Xavier for giving me this great opportunity to lead the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field program,” Flaute said. “I am excited to begin working with our athletes this fall and building a winning program here at Xavier.”

Theology and Ecology

In an act as simple as driving to a food pantry to drop off some food, Elizabeth Groppe sees a tension: She is helping to feed the hungry, but at the same time she is contributing to environmental degradation through the use of fossil fuels. “It’s an inherently good thing,” says the associate professor of theology, “but by using a car that’s powered by oil, I’m participating in a system that by the sources of extraction is harmful. Plus the emissions that come from the car contribute to global warming, which makes life difficult for future generations, including my children.”

So what’s a theologian to do? Dig deeper, of course. Groppe was awarded a $40,000 grant from the Louisville Institute for a research sabbatical to explore the incongruities between her faith commitments and the daily tasks of her life as a teacher, mother and member of a Christian community. Her research will form the basis of a book titled Guarding the Flame of the Grandeur of God: Christian Life and Practice in an Era of Ecological Crisis.

Her work will explore the sources of her food, clothing and energy, and highlight Christian churches and organizations that are finding ways to reconcile their mission with ecological concerns. For them, as well as for Groppe, the goal is to do good for people and the planet at the same time.