First Person

In October, I began training for the Country Music Marathon in Nashville. I am Irish and determined—but not a runner. I purposely picked something challenging and sometimes painful, though. I wanted to know, at least a little, what it was like to be Michael.

 

Michael Lewandowski came into my life on my first day as a teacher. Rambunctious and happy, he was no different from the other fourth graders—at least on the outside. During registration, his mother asked to speak to me privately. She told me about her son’s battle with cancer as a first-grader. Treat him normally, she said, yet cautiously.

During the second week of October, Michael came in smelling like a tube of Flexall 454. Michael lived for hockey and said he injured his leg in practice. No big deal. A few days later, though, he was crying from the pain, and I had to call his mom to pick him up. When she arrived, her eyes met mine and gave me a message that sent chills up my spine—I knew Michael’s cancer had returned.

That week, he was again diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer that affects the nervous system. It was a heart-wrenching diagnosis that set into motion a chain of events that would forever change his life—and mine.

I always believed that the difference between a job and a career is the passion one puts into it. I found that passion in helping others. I was the girl that “taught” her teddy bears. I was the girl who loved all animals and wanted to become a veterinarian or a marine biologist. Maybe it was genetic. My mother was a social worker-turned-artist and my father was a psychologist. For whatever reason, I always felt I had a knack for helping people.

Teaching, by its nature, is a helping profession. But two months into my first year as a teacher, I was faced with this overwhelming challenge. How do I help this boy? What about his classmates? Just what is my responsibility as a teacher?

I decided I would pray. Hard. I would be their teacher and their minister. I kept Michael’s desk in a team and when the kids changed seats, Michael’s desk was always included. If I moved it out of the room or to the side, it would show the kids I had given up. I refused to do that.

On days Michael didn’t come to school, I became his homebound teacher. I brought his books and shared comical stories of his classmates. In turn, I updated them with “Michael Moments.” The students and I showed our concern for him by passing out green ribbons in school for people to wear, and then into the community by selling huge green ribbons for people to put on their mailboxes.

One day Michael and I made a snack run and I asked him if he was mad at God for giving him cancer. Slurping an Icee and snapping into his Slim Jim, he said, “No. God chose me. I’m like that guy in the Bible named Job. God told him if He took everything away from him and he still believed in God, he’d get it all back. I’m like Job, Miss Lynch.”

Through his pain, he found joy in those few days of playing hockey with tumors throughout his body. He found laughter to be medicinal and was greatly disappointed when his whoopee cushion didn’t faze the doctors.

That spring, Michael began treatment at Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York. At the end of the year, my gift from the class was a trip to New York. I spent almost a week with his family at the Ronald McDonald House. I saw an amazing example of what it means to be a mother. I heard the voice of a devoted father who stayed behind to keep the bills paid.

When the family moved to South Carolina, I visited and called. Last spring, Michael and I were about to hang up and he said, “I love you, Miss Lynch.” And I said, “I love you too,” as the lump grew in my throat. That was the last time I spoke to my favorite student. Michael died Aug. 11, 2005, two days shy of his 14th birthday. I missed the first day of school to attend his funeral. I have never felt such sorrow as that day, nor such joy in knowing that on that day, Michael saw the face of God.

When my fourth graders heard about my marathon training, they had “Team Lynch” T-shirts printed. On the day of the race, most came to cheer me on. For me, running that half-marathon was symbolic—one mile for every year of his life. I made it. I endured the pain, I learned a lot about myself and I found out, just a little, what it was like to be Michael.

Dressing for Success

The Mary Emery mansion stood statuesque for years, its front door facing Victory Parkway and its backside offering an unparalleled view of the sweeping Ohio River far below. It’s where Cynthia Amneus and the last Edgecliff College fine arts majors spent their final college days.

 

“We lived in that house practically,” says Amneus, who graduated in 1982. “We were in there for classes until 9:00 p.m. every night—until they kicked us out. It was just a beautiful place to be with the river, and the house was gorgeous and intimate.” Now Amneus is in another big, beautiful house, and she’s still studying fine art. As associate curator of costumes and textiles at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Amneus is surrounded daily with everything she loves—fabulous architecture and historic fabrics and clothing dating as far back as the 15th century. She arrived at the museum 15 years ago, after teaching fiber arts at Xavier, and moved into her current position in 1998.

Though she found it difficult to leave teaching, she still does a lot of it—to school groups, docents and in presentations to arts groups. She also does a lot of research to fill gaps in the collections and secure touring exhibits.

“What’s exciting about my position is it combines everything I love—teaching, doing docent training, giving lectures and gallery tours, and also I’m working with objects I actually love, costume and fashion and fabrics. And my job is varied—in the gallery, in collections and in the library doing research.”

While earning her master’s degree in fine art at the University of Illinois, she learned the technical side of the weaving process—how to set up the loom and figure out how many threads were needed per inch. Her master’s thesis was a set of five pieces that combined wooden structures with fabrics that, when mounted to the wall, reflected the seasonal patterns and landscape of the flat Illinois farmland. In the process, she learned to appreciate the intricacies of textiles and fabrics.

The costume and textiles collection she manages includes a variety of pieces such as a 1620 prayer cloth, numerous evening and wedding gowns of the late 1800s through early 1900s, and a beaded textile from 1670. But it also includes a green and tan polyester minaret dress by Japanese designer Issey Miyake from 1995. Most of the pieces, many made of linen and silk, are so sensitive to light they can only be displayed three to four months of the year.

Amneus is proud of the collection, in part because it was the seed for the museum’s construction in 1886—125 years ago. The group of Cincinnati women who initiated the idea for the museum and brought together the men with the money to build it also traveled to London in 1883 to buy 16th and 17th century textiles, lace and needlework as one of its first acquisitions. “We have pieces in the collection purchased before the museum was built,” she says.

Cardinal on Campus

Oscar Andre Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras headlined a gathering of about 325 international Catholic leaders at Xavier in July for a conference on evangelization and diversity.

The archbishop of Tegucigalpa, who’s been mentioned as a possible papal candidate, challenged everyone to be “builders of a new society” based on the value of our global differences rather than our individualities. “The spirit of the Lord doesn’t understand racism or know one way of thinking or life,” he said. “It manifests itself in all cultures. Evangelizing of the spirit shows a deep respect for the cultures of all people.”

Calling on M.B.A. Students

With cell phones steadily replacing landlines among consumers ages 21 to 29, Cincinnati Bell has struggled to maintain its market share with the younger generation. To combat the problem, the company staged a contest modeled after the reality show “The Apprentice,” but instead pitted teams of M.B.A. students from Xavier and the University of Cincinnati against each other. Their task: Create a strategy to connect with this elusive demographic.

 

The company kicked off the project on April 1 and by June 6, three teams—one from Xavier, two from UC—made their final presentations in the Cincinnati Bell boardroom. “We were confident about the strategy and recommendations that we had to present, but the situation was somewhat intimidating,” says Amy Lovelace, the Xavier team’s captain.

Although Cincinnati Bell provided information from their internal data files, the team conducted extensive research, logged about 150 hours each and exchanged nearly 1,000 e-mails.

Finally, with all the fanfare and drama of the reality show, the teams reconvened in the boardroom, the lights dimmed and the judges entered as the theme from “The Apprentice” played. “Although the team from UC won, Lovelace is proud of her team’s accomplishments. “The stakes were high, the time was short and that makes it very real from a business perspective,” she says. “We learned to function very quickly and efficiently as a group.”

Profile: Damon Jones

Damon Jones
Bachelor of Arts in communication arts/electronic media, 1997 | Associate director, external relations, Procter & Gamble Europe, Geneva, Switzerland

Multicultural Man | Jones oversees Procter & Gamble’s public relations activities in 17 countries. “Each of those countries is unique,” he says. “The cultures are different, the personalities are different, there are different laws and regulations, the various media operate differently, and the governments operate very differently.”

Company Man | Jones joined Procter & Gamble after graduating. In the past nine years, he has worked his way through positions of increasing responsibility, moving to his current position—and country—about 18 months ago.

Communications Man | “The biggest challenge for me has been ‘How do you effectively communicate across cultures where English isn’t the first language?’ Trying to get to the heart of issues or understand before you make assumptions is probably the biggest area where I’ve grown, personally.”

Man of Fate | A Detroit native, Jones wasn’t thinking about attending Xavier. But during his senior year in high school he attended a college fair and stopped to get information on another university with a table next to Xavier’s. As he began to walk away, a Xavier admission counselor struck up a conversation with him. “One thing led to another, and a year later I was a freshman on campus.”

Man of Action | At Xavier, Jones hit the ground running. He was elected to the student government association as a freshman, became vice president the following year and served as president as both a junior and senior—the only person ever to hold the office for two terms. He was also a resident assistant in Brockman Hall for a year and became involved with College Friends, a mentoring program pairing University students with children from surrounding communities.

Service Man | Jones has a strong track record of service to both the University and the Cincinnati area, serving on Xavier’s board of trustees and the board of the national alumni association, as a director for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and as a member of Cincinnati CAN, the committee created to ease racial tension in the wake of civil unrest in Cincinnati.

Man on the Move | Jones moves from Geneva to London in mid-September. Beyond that, he doesn’t try to predict the future, except to say that he’ll always be in communications of some kind. “When I joined P&G, I thought ‘I’ll be there about two years.’ Here I am, nine years later.”

Profile: Mary E. Montgomery

Mary E. Montgomery
Honors Bachelor of Arts in history, 1990 | Visiting foreign professor, Beijing Foreign Studies University, Beijing, China

Power of Compromise | The West Chester, Ohio, native wanted to go to college far away from home; her parents wanted her to commute. “I ended up living on campus at Xavier. It was the best compromise my parents and I ever made.”

Widening the Circle | At Xavier, Montgomery was in the first group of students to receive the peace studies minor and was awarded the Fredin Scholarship, which included a year of studying in France. Those experiences, she says, taught her to think differently about the world outside Cincinnati and her place in it. This, in turn, led her toward teaching and working internationally. “My friends at Xavier taught me the meaning of friendship and acceptance. Honestly, every time I meet someone abroad, I think that what I learned about friendship at Xavier has led to making friends worldwide.”

The Road East | After graduation, Montgomery moved to the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area, where she worked for two years before pursuing graduate work in history at the University of Maryland. Montgomery spent more than a year of her master’s studies at Uppsala University in Sweden. She returned to Maryland to start her doctorate. She also pursued research for a few years in the United Kingdom and in Ghana, West Africa. “In 2000 I moved to Berlin, Germany, and from there I moved to Beijing.”

A Curious Experience | Montgomery arrived in Beijing in July 2002 after receiving a joint appointment in the university’s departments of diplomacy and American studies. “Really it was curiosity that brought me to Beijing. I was looking for somewhere to live internationally and China seemed exciting to me with all of the social, environmental, political and economic changes.”

American History | In Beijing, Montgomery teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in U.S. history. “All of my students are Chinese, but I teach all of my courses in English. At B.F.S.U., all students in the school of English and international studies, where I teach, have to take all their classes in English beginning their sophomore year.”

Global Expansion | Montgomery recently completed her first nine hours of coursework toward a global teaching certificate, which she’ll complete in July 2007. “That will enable me to make the switch from university teaching to high school teaching. I hope to teach history in an international school at the advanced placement or international baccalaureate level.”

The Road Ahead | In the meantime, Montgomery is in Beijing at least through August 2007. After that, who knows? “I would love to head to Mongolia for a few years after Beijing, but I am open to all the possibilities.”

Profile: Eileen Cronin

Eileen Cronin
Bachelor of Arts in English, 1987 | Deputy director of the Peace Corps, Bangkok

Graduation Gift | In 1987, Loret Miller Ruppe, director of the Peace Corps, delivered the commencement address at Xavier that followed Cronin through the corporate and non-profit world for the next 12 years. “She talked about our backyard as not just our neighborhood, our immediate community, but the world and how what we do as a family, neighborhood and community impacts the rest of the world. I came to a crossroads in my career and decided—after thinking about it for more than 10 years—to join the Peace Corps as a volunteer in 1999.”

First Run | Cronin’s first job was in a small town in Macedonia where she worked with the mayor on community development projects, including renovating schools and rebuilding the city’s antiquated water systems. She also taught English at the high school. A little more than a year later, the Peace Corps evacuated Cronin due to civil unrest in the country. “It was very hard for me to leave my community after being there for one and a half years, so along with some fellow volunteers, we started a foundation to support Macedonian students studying in the U.S. as well as development projects in Macedonia.”

New Direction | After running the foundation for a year, Cronin was hired by the Peace Corps as associate director in 2003 to assist with the re-entry of its program in the Fiji Islands. “The program closed five years earlier and we had to start from nothing and build a program. Part of my job was to travel to outer islands and assess their viability to host Peace Corps volunteers. This included some very interesting travel arrangements: boats stopping in the middle of the ocean so I could jump off and get on a smaller boat, hiking into remote villages, off-road travel through the jungle. After two years in Fiji, I was asked to transfer to Thailand.”

Thai Time | After the December 2004 tsunami, the Thailand program needed an experienced person to manage a program for Peace Corps volunteers in the tsunami-impacted areas, develop projects as well as oversee 10 staff members, more than 100 volunteers and 30 seasonal trainers. Cronin now works in Bangkok, but her term ends next year and she hopes to eventually return to the Balkans.

Lesson Learned | “What is so rewarding is seeing volunteers of all ages—our oldest is 80 years old—contributing to their communities and the rewards of making an impact, however large or small it is, in the world. Peace Corps teaches you what you most need to learn about yourself and the world, and that’s a gift—and at times a curse. I learned that the time and space you give to individuals is the most valuable gift you can give to the world.”

Profile: Jerome J. Gutzwiller Jr.

Jerome J. Gutzwiller Jr.
Bachelor of Arts in international affairs and Spanish, 1998 | Chemonics International, U.S. Agency for International Development, Lima, Peru

Latin Flair | While studying Spanish, Gutzwiller developed an appreciation for Latin American culture and issues. He switched his major to Spanish and international affairs with a Third World concentration. He later added a minor in Latin American studies.

Service Learning | An unplanned visit to Alter Hall as a sophomore changed his life. After listening to students talk about the academic service-learning semester program in Managua, Nicaragua, he signed up for the 1996 trip.

West Side View | “It was absolutely incredible. It changed everything. Here I was, this guy from the West side of Cincinnati who’d never been away from home for more than two weeks at a time, living in a working-class neighborhood in Managua where five young students were killed in the 1970s. It was the perfect combination of everything I was studying.”

Global View | Gutzwiller has worked or studied in Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador and now Peru. He met his wife, Rosalinda, while working with Crispaz, Christians for Peace, in El Salvador. And he has twice accompanied Xavier’s academic service-learning semester trips to Nicaragua as an assistant.

Capital Idea | His experiences in Latin America—including internships with the Office on Latin America and Amnesty International while studying in Washington, D.C., for a master’s degree—combined with his fluency in Spanish, led to a position in 2002 with Chemonics International. The Washington, D.C.-based development consulting firm contracts with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which funds development projects around the world.

Road Trip | In 2004, Gutzwiller was sent to Lima as manager of USAID’s $51 million poverty reduction and alleviation project. Stra-tegies include improving basic infrastructure such as roads so residents can bring their goods to market, increasing the markets, finding new products and replacing dependence on illicit coca production with legitimate industries.

Food for All | “You help the poor increase sustainable income by providing jobs, and you do that by bringing the poor into the market.”

Progress | The success of the project is in the numbers: more than $110 billion in sales, 50,000 jobs. Gutzwiller says some of the simplest solutions have been the most effective. One involved potatoes, a Peruvian staple. A Frito Lay subsidiary in Peru was importing all its potatoes from Colombia but now is getting 30 percent from Peru. Another is trout farming, a new crop for many former coca growers.

Out of the Box | “The mindset has been to always produce potatoes or peppers or alpaca wool without an eye for who’s going to buy them.”

On Pace for Success

Tamura and Nedra Okwu know what it means to be a Pacesetter. The sisters are part of a select group of 52 students who have attended Xavier as recipients of the Pacesetter Scholarships. And both say being a Pacesetter has had a powerful impact on their lives.

 

“It was great not having that burden of paying that high cost of education,” Tamura says. “I could enjoy what Xavier had to offer and get the most out of my education. Some of my best times were there.”

The scholarship fund, targeting inner-city students from Toledo, Ohio, was established—and has been largely underwritten—by 1960 graduate and University trustee Charles Gallagher. Since it was started 10 years ago, 32 of the 52 Pacesetter scholars—about 62 percent—have graduated or are currently registered at the University. Five more—slightly less than 10 percent—either transferred to another institution or left school to join the military.

Tamura graduated in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She works in quality assurance for the Lucas County, Ohio, department of job and family services. Younger sister Nedra graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2004 and stayed at Xavier to earn a master’s degree in 2005. She works for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office in a unit that investigates health care fraud.

Both are grateful for Gallagher’s vision. “It allowed me to have all these great experiences, to be able to pursue my master’s—because I didn’t have a lot of debt like a lot of students do after undergrad—and to be able to have a job in the field that I want,” says Nedra. “I see my future here. I like to think I’m a success story for what he really wanted the program to do.”

Cancer Research

Richard Mullins has blue-green algae on his brain. Not literally, of course. On his mind is more like it. The assistant professor of chemistry can’t stop thinking about a specific strain of blue-green algae known as cyanobacteria, which is found only in the deepest parts of the ocean.

For the last two years and for the next three years, cyanobacteria is at the center of his thoughts, because deep within the bacteria is a molecule that has been found to halt tumor production and may, ultimately, put a halt to cancer. Other organic chemists have already developed a process to reproduce the molecule in a lab setting, but it is a long, multi-step process with many complexities.

So Mullins is focusing on synthesizing and quickening the process. The Research Corporation awarded him the Cottrell College Science Award, a five-year, $35,754 grant that covers research expenses, including funding of two student assistants. The University matched part of the award to cover the cost for a third student. All of which is especially impressive considering Xavier isn’t considered, by definition, a research institution. But Mullins, who joined the faculty in 2004 after receiving his Ph.D. from Indiana University, does not let definitions define his work.

“I don’t believe you are a scientist merely by studying science, but by actually doing it,” he says. “And as an academic, I’m not doing it for the practical, commercial aspect. To me, it’s more of an interesting question. And I think that the answer is important and will be important to other people as well.”

The work is just beginning, though, and the answer is still several years away—if then. So they slug away, conducting experiments that change tiny elements of the kalkitoxin molecule in order to see what parts of the molecule are essential to its use as a tumor-halting agent, and what parts can be replaced with simpler elements. This could mean making hundreds of test compounds before achieving that perfect result.

“We will be working on it for at least the next three years, perhaps longer depending on the success of the project,” Mullins says. “Whether or not the research will look exactly the same five years from now, I don’t know. But the research we will be doing then will be derived from the groundwork we are laying now.” But for Mullins, nothing could be more exciting than this tedious process. “Behind every drug that is known to man is an organic molecule. And more than likely, an organic chemist had something to do with it,” he says. “Why be a doctor that prescribes a drug when you can be an organic chemist that makes the drug?”

And he has passed this enthusiasm down to his students, who often spend up to nine hours a day in the lab and even come in on weekends in order to finish experiments. The prospect of being part of a project that might one day cure cancer is worth it to Leke Oni. “If we were just making some random molecule, it wouldn’t be worth it,” he says. Junior Amy Grote agrees: “This is a great cause. Everyone knows someone who was affected by cancer. There have been a lot of roadblocks and restarts, but you just have to come in and work on it. It’s like a huge puzzle and one day it will be complete.”

For Mullins, the long days are worth it. “There is nothing that I would rather be doing,” he says. Then he smiles and turns back to his work.