The World Choir Games were held in Cincinnati this summer, bringing 15,000 people from 64 countries to the region. Nearly 1,000 of the participants stayed in Xavier’s residence halls during the 11-day event. Among those competing in the Games: Xavier’s Edgecliff Vocal Ensemble, which earned a silver medal for its perfomance in the mixed chamber choirs competition, and the Kowloon Boys Choir of Hong Kong, which sang during a Friendship Concert in Bellarmine Chapel and then got into the Xavier spirit while posing for a photo.
With 2012 being a presidential election year, get ready to hear plenty of rhetoric about the mythical, oft-mentioned American Dream.
At some point, the incumbent will tell you he’s busy trying to restore it and make it more accessible to everyone, while the challenger will tell you it’s in danger of disappearing altogether unless he’s elected. But if someone asks what they mean, exactly, when they refer to the American Dream, the person likely will get different answers. Owning a home or starting a small business, one might say. Getting an affordable college education or ensuring fairness for all, the other might reply.
That’s not what people are telling Michael Ford, at least not precisely.
As the founding director of Xavier’s Center for the Study of the American Dream, Ford has spent more time and effort gauging the attitudes and opinions of the public on this particular topic than many politicians. With the help of his staff and students, Ford has discovered that most people share a common, basic definition of what the Dream means, even though it can manifest itself in different ways.
“The fundamental definition of the American Dream is people are seeking a better life for their families. There are many offshoots and variations, but that’s the common denominator,” Ford says. “The American Dream is an attitude, it’s shared by a country, but it’s also a personal statement.”
Since the Center was created in 2007, it has conducted five major surveys assessing how people view the American Dream and whether they think it’s still attainable. Additionally, it issues the monthly American Dream Composite Index that examines whether people are achieving the Dream. The index uses 35 variables that provide insight into economic, political and societal conditions in the U.S. and how people view their own well-being. Each month the composite index includes new snapshot questions—called “eye openers”—designed to examine a particular aspect of American life such as civic literacy, concerns about debt, and attitudes about technology and privacy.
With the effects of the Great Recession still lingering and national unemployment remaining above 8 percent, it would be easy to think belief in the American Dream has wavered. Not so, Ford says.
“Our research shows it’s wrong to conflate the American Dream with the economy. The assumption is the Dream is all about owning a home, but that’s really something that’s been pushed by special interest groups,” he says. “The American Dream stands alone. People have their own individual ambitions, but they’re reasonably created. They are not trying to get rich.”
Ford adds, “It’s even more surprising that the Dream has stood so well during the depths of the recession. The American Dream really is a belief in ideas. It is a belief in possibilities, hard work and individualism.”
What the survey has discovered, however, is that while most people believe in the American Dream, they have little confidence in society’s traditional institutional pillars—government, big business, media and the like—in helping them achieve it. The Center’s work has gained national and international attention with mentions in outlets ranging from cable TV networks like CNN and MSNBC to Time magazine and newspapers including USA Today and London’s Daily Mail. Further, the Center’s data has been used by Dartmouth College, Wake Forest University and the University of Arkansas’ Clinton School of Public Service.
A new project is the Permanent American Dream Video Archive. Xavier students are tasked with videotaping and compiling individual accounts of people who are pursuing the American Dream in their own ways.
For Ford, the Center is the natural culmination of nearly four decades spent amid political campaigns and in the corridors of government. “I couldn’t bear the way politics was moving,” Ford says about his decision to leave active campaigning. “The divisiveness, the intensity—it was futile. Right now, it’s like clown school.”
All of the polarization and negative campaigning comes with a cost. In addition to eroding the public’s confidence in major institutions, many Americans don’t understand basic features about their own government. Last spring the Center released its findings from its nationwide survey on civic literacy. It found that one in three native-born Americans failed the civics portion of the naturalization test given to immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship. That’s far below the 97.5-percent pass rate among immigrants. Among the shocking results, 59 percent of respondents couldn’t name a single power of the federal government, 82 percent couldn’t cite “two rights stated in the Declaration of Independence,” and 71 percent were unable to identify the Constitution as the “supreme law of the land.”
Keeping attention focused on civic literacy and participating in the debate about how to improve it will be part of the Center’s focus in the coming months. “We believe civic literacy is an important protection for the American Dream. It helps us identify and avoid manipulation in politics and emotional, headstrong responses,” Ford says. “The political system is driven by the extremes. The political system will fail if the great mass of citizens don’t stand up and say extremism is unacceptable.”
Ford is optimistic about the future of the nation and its political system but adds any improvement won’t just happen. “It can change but it isn’t enough for us to blame rich people or politicians or special interests,” he says. “This is a republic and it requires public action. More people have to wake up and take on an active role in public life. We are enabling what’s going on right now through our inactivity.”
[divider]PART ONE: THE SHOOTING [/divider]
The day of Nov. 1, 2002, may have ended without bloodshed in New Albany, Ind., if the mail had come to Cynthia Bogard’s house at the usual time. It typically arrives between 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., but it ran early that day.
An unemployed bartender on disability, Bogard was in her narrow row house on Chartes Street, waiting for her welfare check. The mail arrived around 3:00 p.m., still early enough to cash it before the weekend. She called her friends Lisa and Donald Barnett and asked for a ride to the bank.
Lisa and Donald—everyone called him Ducky, a nickname his father gave him—were over at Bogard’s house earlier that day. Ducky brought $20 worth of crack with him, and the three friends sat and smoked it through a metal pipe, talking as the drug entered their bloodstream and triggered a flood of dopamine in their brains.
When Bogard called, they returned to the house in Ducky’s truck. It was a beat-up grey pickup with a power washer in the bed, a tool Ducky used in his own little pressure washing business. They reached Bogard’s house a little after 3:00 p.m.
Half a mile away, Steven Paul and his girlfriend, Noreen Cousins, woke up slowly that day. Neither of them had to work, so they lay in bed watching TV. They’d been dating for a year and a half and were living together at a friend’s house.
The son of an Indian doctor and a university professor, Paul grew up in New York and Florida. He was a part-time painter and was learning to blow glass while studying visual communications at Ivy Tech State College in nearby Sellersburg.
When they got out of bed, they took Paul’s pit bull for a walk, as they did every morning, and decided to drive up to Paul’s uncle’s farmhouse near Pekin, Ind. It was only 25 miles north of New Albany.
Paul liked it up there. He would let his dog run around, visit with his cousins and shoot his handgun at paper targets that went from black to green when they were hit.
At around 3:30 p.m., they got in Paul’s white Ford pickup. It was a nice day, but chilly, so Noreen pulled on a black hooded sweatshirt before they headed out the door. Paul grabbed the guns. He put a .40-caliber Taurus in the glove box for Noreen and tucked his .40-caliber Glock in the right cargo pocket of his pants, where he always kept it.
The gun had 10 rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber. It had no safety switch. They stopped at Ace Pawn and Loan for a box of 50 cartridges then drove two blocks north on State Street to a liquor store called Bottles Unlimited. They wanted to buy some beer to take with them into the country.
Lisa and Ducky drove Bogard to Marketboy Grocery to cash her check. Then they crossed the Ohio River into Louisville’s West End to buy more crack. Ducky knew the place. They bought three grams, which Lisa stuffed in her bra, and drove back over the Sherman Minton Bridge, a double-decker span from the 1960s that lifts I-64 over the Ohio River, connecting Kentucky and Indiana. The bridge was already filling with traffic. It was Friday afternoon, close to 4:00 p.m., and the weekend was beginning.
Ducky, Lisa and Bogard were planning a weekend of their own. They talked about throwing a little party back in New Albany, playing some cards and kicking back. Bogard suggested they stop at Bottles Unlimited to pick up some drinks. Ducky took the first exit off the bridge, crawled east through three blocks of traffic on Elm Street and pulled into the liquor store lot.
At the same time, Paul and Cousins turned into the lot from State Street. Pulling into facing parking spaces, the trucks almost collided. Paul got out of his vehicle and walked over to Ducky’s truck.
A 36-year-old former football player, Ducky was a big man, 85 pounds Paul’s senior. Paul grinned when he saw Ducky’s size.
“Okay, now you want to smile,” Ducky said. “What are you talking about, of course I’m smiling. You’re smiling, too. It’s a nice day out.”
“All right boy, go in the store then, go on,” Ducky said.
“You almost hit me.”
“Well, we didn’t.”
The exchange was brief and ended with the two shaking hands. Paul never went into Bottles Unlimited, deciding instead to go to a different liquor store up the road. He got back in his truck, pulled onto State Street and circled around the block to get back on Elm, a one-way.
Cousins saw the whole confrontation from inside the truck and began to simmer. She knew Ducky from the neighborhood. Their families knew each other. Ducky was a bully, she said. He smoked a lot of crack. Nothing but trouble.
By the time Paul circled the block to get back on Elm, the simmer had grown to a full boil. They were in the center lane when they approached Bottles Unlimited.
The light was red and traffic slowed to a stop, a dammed stream of idling engines that pooled all the way back to the interstate. As they sat there, waiting for the light to change, Cousins shifted in her seat, leaned halfway out the passenger side window and began shouting obscenities at Ducky who was still seated in his truck.
“You all ain’t nothin’ but a bunch of crack heads,” Cousins yelled.
“Your mammy’s a crack head,” Ducky shot back.
Several hours earlier, two 15-passenger vans left Xavier and headed south toward Louisville. They were full of students participating in a “rural plunge” experience organized by Ben Urmston, S.J., director of the Dorothy Day Center for Peace and Justice. The group was on its way to Tell City, Ind., where the students would spend a night on a hog farm, learning about small-scale agriculture. But first they were scheduled to hear a speaker in New Albany.
It was an unconnected group of students—a Nicaraguan exchange student, three Japanese graduate students, various others. Most of the students were on the trip to fulfill a requirement for their theology class. They were still learning each other’s names when they crossed the Sherman Minton Bridge from Louisville into Indiana and took the Elm Street exit. One van made it through the intersection before the light changed to red, but the second van became part of the growing pool of traffic and only crept toward State Street.
Anna Burdick, a 19-year-old public relations major, was absent-mindedly watching the cars. “I was looking out the window because we’d been driving so long and I was kind of bored,” Burdick later testified. “A car came up along the side of us … There was a woman hanging out of the window of the vehicle screaming. I assumed that she was screaming at us.”
The other passengers in the van turned to look. “She was saying the ‘F’ word a lot,” Rosie Gibson, an 18-year-old Montessori education major told the police.
“She was pretty steamed,” said David Dunn, a 19-year-old biology major.
The students realized she was shouting over the Xavier van, to someone sitting in a truck in the parking lot next to them. Ducky was returning the insults. It only took a few more words before Cousins threw open the truck door and stepped out onto the street.?Paul leaned over and grabbed a fistful of her black sweatshirt as she was leaving the truck. He was trying to hold on, but she slipped through his fingers. Cousins ran across the street, around the Xavier vehicle, to Ducky’s truck. The students’ eyes followed her from one side of the van to the other. “She was ready to fight,” said Dunn.
Bogard had just walked out of Bottles Unlimited and set a six-pack of Smirnoff Ice on the hood of Ducky’s truck when she heard the yelling and saw Cousins running toward her. “She came up out of that truck so fast,” Bogard said. “Just charged toward the truck.”
Cousins started swinging while Ducky was still in his vehicle. Bogard remembers him looking bemused, with “a sort of grin on his face.” He stepped out of the truck and deflected the blows. Ducky was much larger than Cousins. Gibson remembers him saying something like, “What are you going to do?”
That’s when Paul got out of his truck. Walking through traffic, he pulled the Glock from his pocket and wandered into the peripheral vision of everyone who was focused on the fight.
Most of the witnesses thought he was coming to break it up. His right arm was straight against his body. In his hand was a ?black gun.
Lisa McCafferty Friel was just two years out from earning her biology degree from Xavier and interning with the Dorothy Day Center. She was chosen to drive the second of the two vans. “It was like I was watching a movie,” she says.
In the passenger seat, Tom Sheibley, the associate director of the Center, started shouting, “Get down, he’s got a gun!” But Friel lacked the instinct to duck. She had no concept the gun could hurt her. And she couldn’t take her eyes off it.
Neither could Gibson, watching from the window. “When I saw that he had a gun I was just watching him,” she says. She followed Paul’s arm as he leveled the weapon. “I was looking at his face when he pulled the trigger,” she says. “It looked kind of disturbingly calm. He was just looking straight ahead. I really didn’t see much emotion at all.”
The shot hit Ducky in the right side of his stomach, a copper jacketed bullet that tore through his intestine, pierced his inferior vena cava—the largest vein in the body—then severed his left iliac artery and another section of intestine before coming to a rest in the soft tissue on the other side of his body.
Vaughn Jantzen, a self-employed tree-trimmer, heard the shot from the Citibank parking lot across the street. He thought it was a firecracker or a car backfiring. He looked up and saw Ducky. “There was a black man, looked like he was scrambling to get out of the way of something,” Jantzen said.
The students were glued to the van window. “He doubled over in pain and kind of went like, ‘Ohh,’ ” Burdick says. “I could hear the agony.”
Ducky turned and started to run. Paul leveled again, firing a second shot into Ducky’s left shoulder. Ducky ran 96 feet, across an alley and through some bushes before he dropped to the pavement.
Paul and Cousins scrambled back to their truck and drove away.
Inside the van, Sheibley had the presence of mind to read the license plate aloud, repeating it so he wouldn’t forget. Unable to find a pen, one of the students punched the numbers into a cell phone.
After the second shot, Jantzen, the tree-trimmer, ran across the street. “Everybody started screaming and hollering,” he said. “There was a truck that was taking off and it was squealing tires.”
Friel sprung into action. She pulled the van off the road and ran toward Ducky. Trained in CPR since she was 12, she took off her sweatshirt and pressed it to Ducky’s wound, trying to stop the bleeding. “He was going into shock,” she says. “He was shaking.”?Bogard ran toward Ducky, too. She remembers him raising his head and trying to call his wife. “Lisa.”
It was only seconds before the scene was flooded in lights and sirens.The liquor store was a block away from the police station. It was such a small town, Friel says, “You didn’t have to call the police, you just had to yell.”
As EMTs loaded Ducky into an ambulance and rushed him to Floyd Memorial Hospital, students wandered around the lot, some of them crying. When the ambulance left, police circled the scene in crime tape. They asked the Xavier students to look for the bullet casings. Friel had never shot a gun before, never even held one. She didn’t know what a casing looked like, but within a few minutes she had found a small metal cylinder on the asphalt. A detective marked and photographed it. It was such a small piece of metal.
Around the same time, a mile up State Street, Ducky Barnett, a husband, a son and the 36-year-old father of five, was pronounced dead. Six days later he would be lowered into the ground at West Haven Cemetery as his 13-year-old daughter, Joslin, sang “Amazing Grace.” ?His family had to pay the New Albany Tribune to print an obituary.
[divider]PART TWO: THE TRIAL [/divider]
The police caught Paul almost immediately. An off-duty detective in the area heard the call come over the radio and intercepted Paul’s pickup at 13th and Elm. Paul turned into an alley, jumped out of the truck and leapt over an eight-foot privacy fence. The officer pursued on foot, and eventually Paul surrendered. He led the officer to his gun, which he had stashed in a trash bag. As his hands were cuffed, he said, “A big black guy was beating up my girlfriend, and I shot him.”
Hours after the shooting, Friel and the Xavier students were sitting in the police station, waiting to give recorded testimonies. Ducky’s wife was there, too, as were Paul and Cousins. “It was like sitting across a living room,” Friel says. The students felt out of place. “We were supposed to just be going to a farm on the Indiana countryside,” Sheibley says.
Looking around the room, Friel thought people must have been wondering, “ ‘Who are these guys in their big white van?’ It was ironic that we, the outsiders, were the firsthand witnesses.”
The Common Thread
Unlikely as it was, Xavier became a common thread throughout the incident. There was the vanload of witnesses. Then there was Paul’s defense attorney, Michael McDaniel, a local lawyer who graduated from Xavier in 1965. And the judge who tried the case, Floyd County Judge Terrence Cody, is a 1971 Xavier alum.
Paul’s trial began on March 30, 2004, two days after Xavier lost to Duke in the Musketeers’ first NCAA Elite Eight appearance. If Xavier had won the game, the trial may have been delayed because one of the student witnesses was traveling with the team in the pep band. Xavier had beaten Louisville two weeks earlier, much to the chagrin of one of the jury members, who was a former UofL player. McDaniel and Judge Cody ribbed him about it throughout the trial.
McDaniel has practiced law in New Albany for 44 years. He has white hair, a toothbrush moustache and round, rosy cheeks. When he laughs, which is often, his eyes disappear into crinkles behind his glasses. His speech is deliberate, and he walks at a pace that’s appropriate for a town with 25 mph speed limits. He played fullback for the Xavier football team and still has a loose vertebrae on account of a hit he received during a punishing loss against the Quantico Marines. He wears a navy suit and drives a 16-year-old Blazer with no air ?conditioning. A carton of Doral Reds rides shotgun.
McDaniel’s courtroom opponent in the trial was state prosecutor Steve Owen, a slick attorney from Gary, Ind. Two jurors pulled McDaniel aside and said, “That boy ain’t from around here, is he?” Owen wore a gold chain on his left wrist and derided the local ?pronunciation of “voir dire” during the first day of jury selection. Later that day, Judge Cody took an opportunity to correct Owen’s pronunciation, when the prosecutor referred to the student witnesses who would be testifying in the trial.
MR. OWEN: They are all from (Eggs)avier University.?
THE COURT: Mr. Owen, it’s Xavier.
MR. OWEN: Xavier.?
MR. MCDANIEL: Thank you, Your Honor.
MR. OWEN: I’m sorry, Your Honor.
THE COURT: You’re offending me.
MR. OWEN: I know. Unintentionally. Xavier University.
Owen was an outsider in New Albany. “He did not resonate with the jury,” McDaniel says. “He has a different accent than we do here.” McDaniel, on the other hand, used familiar vernacular and a mellow Southern drawl. He even got the jury to laugh once or twice. (“You make a jury laugh in a murder case, and they don’t convict a murder.”)
McDaniel was familiar with the individuals involved in the shooting at Bottles Unlimited. Years earlier, he represented Ducky’s father, a truck driver who was killed in crossfire between two people arguing over a $15 debt outside The Climax Café nightclub, in a case. He also represented the man who shot Ducky’s father. McDaniel had even been at the same liquor store, his favorite in New Albany, hours before the shooting. “This is a little town,” he says.
McDaniel’s defense strategy was simple. “I was trying to make Barnett an aggressive guy who grabbed the girlfriend and prompted Paul to step out and whack him.” The fact that Ducky, Lisa and Bogard had just been over in Louisville buying crack cocaine only helped his case. So did the local support for the right to protect oneself and one’s loved ones by whatever means necessary. “Around here, you almost need to be an evil person to be convicted of a murder,” McDaniel says.
McDaniel knew from the start that Paul was not that sort of person. “Steven was an odd duck,” he says. “His goal in life was to become a pro skateboarder. Better than having a job, I guess. Truth be known, he’s probably a spoiled brat. But I don’t think he’s a guy who will ever get into trouble again.”
But McDaniel’s personal opinions of his clients never interfere with his work as a defense attorney. They can’t. “If somebody isn’t out there forcing the state to present its case properly, then it’s easier to put people in jail,” he says. “Some of those people will be innocent.”
McDaniel argued the case well. At the end of the trial he put Paul on the stand to testify that Ducky was strangling and punching Cousins.
It didn’t matter that none of the other witnesses saw Ducky hit her and that every Xavier witness pointed to Cousins as the aggressor. On April 6, 2004, Paul’s 26th birthday, the all-white jury convicted Paul not of murder, but of aggravated battery.
“I don’t know if he realized what a deal he got,” McDaniel says. “He was never remorseful about shooting Ducky.”
Sheibley and four Xavier students came back to New Albany to testify in the trial. Gibson was one of them. She recalls a moment in the courthouse between testimonies when Ducky’s wife, Lisa, showed them pictures of Ducky with his children. It was the first time Gibsonsaw the victim as a man with a face, a smile and a family.
“It wasn’t until then that I’d thought of him as a person who’d lost his life,” she says.
Sheibley remembers the moment, too. “We were together in a room back there,” he says. “We got to spend a little time with the wife and the friend of the person who was killed. Our lives intersected in a way that they never would have.”
[divider]PART THREE: THE REFLECTION [/divider]
Sheibley and Friel didn’t know exactly what to do. There’s no written protocol for what to do after witnessing a murder. No manual. “The last thing we expected to have happen was to witness what we did,” says Sheibley, who is now director of campus ministry for Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “We made a decision to go ahead and continue on with the rural plunge.”
In retrospect, he wonders if he should’ve given the students the option to turn back. “I hope that I would have at least given them a little bit of a chance to talk about it if they wanted to, to check in with everybody to make sure that they were doing okay.”
But everyone was processing the experience differently. Friel remembers some students crying with the same grief as Ducky’s wife, Lisa. Others, like herself, were still coming to terms with what they saw. “I’m a post-processor,” she says. “I deal with my feelings later. It’s not that I was numb, but I guess I just didn’t let myself be affected at the time.”
When the weekend was over and the group returned to Xavier, the students dispersed. They were an unconnected group. “I really didn’t see them again ’til the lawyers were involved,” Sheibley says. Nevertheless, he paid a visit to the McGrath Health and Wellness Center to speak with a counselor. He wanted to know what he could do for the students who witnessed the killing. It was only in telling this counselor about what they saw in New Albany that Sheibley realized how the experience affected him.
“I wasn’t even really noticing for myself that that was something that really bothered me,” he says. “It struck something down deep. That was really an awful thing, a really tragic thing to see.”
The Last Decade
Ten years later, the witnesses in the van look back on the shooting differently. One of the witnesses refused an interview request, saying it’s an experience she tries not to think about, much less talk about.
But for others, time has softened the trauma. As terrible as it was, Sheibley says he rarely thinks about it. “I can’t say that my life was dramatically changed,” he says. “I wish I had something really profound to say about it. I don’t know that I really do. It’s certainly an unforgettable event. It helps me to appreciate my life.”
In the months after the incident, Friel remembers feeling leery of groups of men on the street. That feeling has eased over the years, but she is raising her three children away from toy guns and video games, and she is sensitive to the way movies desensitize people to violence. Today Friel works with children with physical disabilities and is sometimes reminded of the shooting. She took care of one child from a rough neighborhood recently who tried to run away from home in his wheelchair after his brother was shot.
“I had the tiniest insight,” she says. “Not that I can identify with him, but if it impacted me to this degree, it has to have impacted him more. If anything, I was given it so I can have a bit more insight. Now it’s in my bag of experiences that I can pull out and say, yeah, I did experience that.”
Gibson (now Rosie Warburg) had trouble sleeping in the months after the shooting. “I would think about it all the time,” she says. “When I would lie down at night to go to sleep and close my eyes, I would see it play over and over and over again.”
Her most vivid flashback was that of Ducky’s wife, Lisa, standing outside the liquor store screaming. “She came out and saw him lying on the ground, in the bushes. She was clinging to us and crying, yelling, ‘Ducky, Ducky.’ I really felt for her. She had lost her husband.”
But now, Warburg says she feels a strange detachment from the experience. “It really doesn’t feel like something that I saw. It’s almost a story or something I saw in the news. I don’t know if it’s what your brain does to protect you against it, but it’s almost like it wasn’t even real, like we didn’t even see it.”
The shooting is not forgotten in New Albany. The case stands out for both Cody and McDaniel because it was a rare killing in broad daylight in their sleepy town. “It took place literally a block from the courthouse,” Cody says. “I’ll never forget that day or that trial.”
The pair had the chance to reminisce recently over a plate of pasta at La Bocca, an Italian restaurant two blocks from the liquor store. Cody is late, but that just gives McDaniel an excuse to smoke a cigarette outside. “A judge is never late,” he says between drags, “because you can’t start without him.”
When the judge arrives, they take a table. McDaniel orders an Absolut martini, up, one olive. It comes with three, but he doesn’t say anything. Cody gets a water. The two men are close, but their professional relationship hasn’t come without disagreement. McDaniel points to the 19-and-a-half-year sentence Cody dealt to Paul—the highest sentence for an aggravated battery conviction. Cody justified the sentence by saying Paul’s actions constituted the “ultimate battery”—death.
McDaniel protests the sentence. “I always believed you felt the guy got one hell of a break from the jury,” McDaniel says. “I did.”
“And it was an equitable sentencing. I understood that. I always thought we did okay with the jury.”
It’s a strained conversation, even now, even as well as they know each other. In the end, Paul served less than six years. He is now in California, working for a skateboarding company. McDaniel won his case. Cody wonders if justice was served.
The Final Word
The equality of justice was the foundation of prosecutor Owen’s closing argument, which was built upon the idea that justice should be afforded to everyone, even crack addicts in a liquor store parking lot. Preserving justice, he said, is a decision that people make every day—people like the students, who just happened to be stuck in traffic at the unalterable moment when the lives of Paul and Ducky intersected.
“There were a lot of people sitting there at that stop light and across from it,” Owen told the jury. “Probably 50 cars, hundreds of people probably, that saw this incident or parts of it.” Most of them drove on, he said, and never stepped forward as witnesses. It was “just a small handful, the kids in a van, who saw an injustice and wanted to help … They went the extra mile not for their own selves or to try to save themselves, but because it was the right thing to do, to serve justice. Folks, you’re at a crossroad, right now. You’ve got a decision. You can either drive away, or you can be like those kids—stop and ensure that justice is done.”
For Ben Ballard, the football field has always been the scene of both great triumph and great tragedy.
One of the worst days of Ballard’s life, for instance, was Sept. 25, 1971, when he and his Xavier football teammates lost to Marshall University, 15-13, in a game that would be forever immortalized in the 2006 movie “We Are Marshall.”
Contrast that to Feb. 5, 2012. The onetime Musketeer defensive end/linebacker wasn’t on the field that day. Rather, he was in the stands, watching, as his son, Jake, the starting tight end for the New York Giants, was crowned Super Bowl Champion. Parental pride always wins over playing prowess. It immediately became one of Ballard’s greatest gridiron days.
Ballard, though, isn’t alone in the stands these days. As the end of Xavier football nears its 40th anniversary, its legacy is living on in the next generation with at least one other player as well, Ed Huber. The former Xavier placekicker passed along his powerful left leg to his son, Kevin, who is in his fourth season as the punter for the Cincinnati Bengals.
For the two sons, their paths to the NFL couldn’t have taken more contrasting routes. At 6-foot-7 and 281 pounds, Jake Ballard was highly recruited coming out of Springboro (Ohio) High School. He signed with Ohio State University, where he was a four-year starter at tight end, played in two BCS National Championship games and two other BCS Bowls. But OSU coach Jim Tressel rarely threw the ball to tight ends, and Ballard went undrafted. The Giants signed him as a free agent for the 2010 season, where he spent the majority of the year on the practice squad. But he got his chance in 2011 and won the starting tight end job. (He is now a member of the New England Patriots.)
Kevin Huber, on the other hand, was a three-time all-league punter at Cincinnati’s McNicholas High School, but wasn’t recruited and had to walk on to the football program at the University of Cincinnati. He got very limited playing time, but as a junior in 2007, under new Bearcat head coach Brian Kelly, he got his chance. He led the nation in punting with an average of 46.9 yards, which set a UC record. He was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best collegiate punter and was Big East Special Team Player of the Year. As a senior, he was key performer on UC’s Orange Bowl team and was the first player in UC history to be named First Team Associated Press All-American two years in a row. He was drafted in the fifth round (142nd overall) by the Bengals.
For both players, they ended up at the pinnacle of their professions, and created two proud parents.
The next time you’re in Columbus, go to The Varsity, the epicenter of Ohio State idolatry. Belly up to the bar and make this simple wager: “Name the team that Woody Hayes played at least twice and never beat.”
First the Buckeye faithful will be shocked to learn their hero had a losing record to anyone during his storied 238-72-10 career, which ran from 1946 to 1978. Second, their jaws will hit the floor when you inform them it was Xavier.
Woody got his job at Ohio State by having two outstanding years at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, from 1949 to 1950, after beginning his college coaching career at Denison University. But during those two great years at Miami, he could never figure out how to beat the Muskies.
In 1949, Xavier beat the Redskins 27-19, and then blanked Woody, 7-0, in 1950, handing him his only loss in a fantastic season that culminated in win over Arizona State in the Salad (today’s Fiesta) Bowl.
You might be able to win a similar bet in Ann Arbor, Mich. The other Big Ten coaching deity, Michigan’s Bo Schembechler, also had trouble with Xavier. Not only was he a tackle on Woody’s Miami teams of 1949 and 1950, as the head coach of Miami from 1963 to 1968, he was 2-3-1 against the Musketeers, despite having great teams.
Woody and Bo went on to have a legendary rivalry at OSU and Michigan from 1969 to 1978, where Bo held the upper hand at 5-4-1. They had lots of things in common, but maybe the least know is how they were toughened by the crucible of Xavier football.
Here’s some other interesting facts about Xavier football you may not know:
• When Xavier opened the 15,000-seat Corcoran Field in 1929, it was the third-largest stadium in Ohio behind Ohio State University’s Ohio Stadium and the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.
• Some of the more famous opponents went helmet-to-helmet with include:
George Blanda, University of Kentucky 1946-1948, Pro Football Hall of Famer with the Oakland Raiders
Babe Parilli, University of Kentucky 1949-1951, No. 3 in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1951
John Unitas, University of Louisville 1951-1954, Pro Football Hall of Famer with the Baltimore Colts
Greg Cook, University of Cincinnati 1966-1968, AFC Rookie of the Year with the Cincinnati Bengals in 1969
Ron Jaworski, Youngstown State University 1970-1972, led the Philadelphia Eagles to the 1981 Super Bowl, now ESPN analyst
Many, if not most, Jesuit universities played Division I football at some point during the early to mid-20th Century. And they were good. Marquette played Texas Christian University in the first Cotton Bowl. Fordham, which may be best remembered for Vince Lombardi being one of its “Seven Blocks of Granite,” vanquished Missouri in the 1942 Sugar Bowl. Santa Clara was the dominant western power, beating LSU in both the 1937 and 1938 Sugar Bowl, and the University of Kentucky in the 1950 Orange Bowl. Even Xavier was a power, winning the 1952 Salad Bowl—the precursor to today’s Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Given this success, then, why do only five Jesuit universities still play football—with Boston College the only school playing in at the BCS level? The easy answer is money.
The more nuanced answer is the growth of the NFL and the NCAA’s early television policies.
Frank Gifford, the Hall of Fame running back who played college at the University of Southern California and in the NFL with the New York Giants, summed it up in a 2009 interview: “I played from 1949-1951 for USC before 50,000 people at the LA Coliseum. I was drafted in the first round by the New York Giants, who were playing before only 8,000 to 10,000 in the NY Polo Grounds. The NFL was just a step above pro wrestling. My salary was $8,000 per year and we heard every week the Mara family that owned the Giants, was going broke. Things started to change in 1956 when the Giants moved to Yankee Stadium. The Giants fortunes really took off in 1958, when we lost in a thrilling overtime game to Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts in the NFL Championship game. It was the first NFL game to be broadcast nationally. [Former Commissioner] Pete Rozelle used the game to set up network TV packages and the pro game exploded.”
Prior to 1956, Yankee Stadium was reserved for big Army, Notre Dame and Fordham games. The Green Bay Packers played at 25,000 seat City Stadium from 1925-1956, which they shared with Green Bay East High School. The Packers dressed in the high school’s locker room. Average NFL attendance was 25,000 in 1950. Thanks to players like of Gifford and Johnny Unitas, and coaches like Vince Lombardi, average NFL attendance grew to 40,000 in 1960 and 52,000 in 1970. Average NFL attendance has been more than 65,000 since 2000.
The NCAA also did not know how to compete against the television-driven NFL. The NCAA feared, if it broadcast a lot of games, ticket sales would suffer. It showed one regional game each Saturday and an OSU/Michigan and USC/UCLA doubleheader late in the season. This tended to reinforce the existing rivalries at the big state universities. The Big 10 became the “Big 2 (Ohio State and Michigan) and the Little 8.”
The problem was exacerbated in Cincinnati when the Bengals came to town in 1968. The team even played its first two seasons at UC’s Nippert Stadium before the opening of Riverfront Stadium in 1970. Both UC and Xavier struggled with the new competition for the local entertainment dollar, but much smaller Xavier suffered the most, running up a $200,000 annual football deficit.
Nevertheless, it’s a safe bet to think most Xavier alumni like the University’s current policy of focusing on and excelling in college basketball.
If Ed Kluska’s 1949 to 1951 teams represented the “golden age” of Xavier football, Ed Biles’ teams of 1962 to 1968 represent its “silver age.”
Biles had a solid 6-4 first season highlighted by two of the greatest season-ending, back-to-back victories in XU history. On Nov. 17, 1962, Xavier took on the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. UK had won the previous six games between the team by a combined score of 179-6, and it looked like another onslaught was pending when the Wildcats took the ball 66 yards in nine plays on its opening possession for an easy score. But Biles made defensive adjustments and that would be UK’s last offensive score. Xavier, meanwhile, opened the second half by marching 50 yards on 15 plays capped by a two-yard sweep by Jim Korb for a touchdown. A failed 2-point conversion made it 7-6 UK, but with 5:12 left in the fourth quarter, Korb scored his second touchdown. Adding a two-point conversion, XU took a 14-7 lead. The clever Biles took a game ending safety to make the final score 14-9.
A thrilling 7-6 victory over UC climaxed the year and set Biles up for even better things in the years to come.
In 1965, Xavier had a fantastic 8-2 record, its best since 1951. XU was led by quarterback Carroll Williams and legendary receiver Dan Abramowitz of Steubenville, Ohio, who at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds and 5.0 speed in the 40-yard dash did not strike fear on the hearts of defensive backs in pregame warm ups. But he ran brilliant patterns, had great hands and an innate ability to get open. The two combined to lead the Muskies had thrilling wins over Dayton and UC, but the most memorable game was against Miami and Bo Schembechler. In his first two years at Miami, Bo was 0-1-1 against XU and he wanted the game badly. It looked like he had the victory in hand when Miami took a 28-7 into the fourth quarter. But Williams began to weave his run and pass magic and Xavier scored two unanswered touchdowns, pulling the score to 28-21. Then with just seconds left in the game, Williams scampered in for a TD from the Miami 17 to make the game 27-26 Miami. The gutsy Biles went for a two-point conversion. Williams hit Walt Myers with a pass to propel XU to a 28-27 victory.
(Four years later, Schembechler was being interviewed on TV just after his new team, the University of Michigan Wolverines, upset heavily favored No. 1-ranked Ohio State 21-12. The sideline reporter asked him if this was the most exciting game he ever coached, and without pause Schembechler replied, “NO. It was the 28-27 loss to Xavier, while I was at Miami in 1965.”)
In 1967, Biles was after his third consecutive win over the Bearcats and UC alumni were looking for blood. Biles, though, knew how to motivate his team. Ken Blackwell, then a sophomore on the team, described Biles’ plan. “We were having a light Friday practice when Cincinnati Police cruisers with flashers and sirens screaming came tearing out on the practice field. They grabbed Biles, spread eagled him against the cruiser, cuffed him and roughly threw him in the back of the car. We watched in amazement as the cars pulled away, to what we assumed to be jail. On Saturday, as we were dressing for the game at UC, there was still no Biles. All of a sudden he burst into the locker room and yelled, “THOSE DIRTY UC ALMUNI HAD THE COPS KIDNAP ME, BUT I ESCAPED. Now go out and beat those dirty UC bleeps.
“We knocked down the locker door and beat UC 15-10 for the third series win in a row. Years later when I was mayor of Cincinnati, I checked with the police chief about this 1967 kidnapping. Being older and more experienced, I found what I kind of expected. Ed Biles was a very good coach and motivator but he was a peerless showman.”
In 1968 XU had one of its most exciting seasons. Offensive guard John Shinners would become XU’s first consensus All-American. Shinners was also selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints, joining Dan Abramowitz, who was building a record breaking All-Pro NFL career. Thrilling wins and crushing losses had XU fans taking their heart medicine the entire 1968 season, which ended at 6-4. Biles accepted an offer to join Shinners and Abramowicz with the Saints as an assistant coach in 1969.
Fordham had its “Seven Blocks of Granite.” Notre Dame had its “Four Horsemen.” In the 1950s, Xavier had the “Three Musketeers” of Mike Conaton, Jim Brockhoff and Steve Junker.
Their battles on the gridiron prepared them well for later life. Conaton became vice chairman of The Midland Co. as well as chairman of the Xavier Board of Trustees for 17 years. Brockhoff became Xavier’s longtime tennis coach. Junker went on to the National Football League and is still one of the most beloved sports icons in Detroit history and the only Xavier player to earn an NFL Championship ring.
The three played during a challenging era for Xavier football, but came away with some great stories. In 1952, for instance, Conaton was on the kickoff team when Xavier played the University of Louisville. A bandy-legged sophomore in black high tops shot past him on his way to returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown. This sophomore was also Louisville’s quarterback, safety/linebacker and punt returner. After a great career for a weak Louisville program, which never beat XU, he was a ninth-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was cut by the Steelers but picked up by the Baltimore Colts, where he went on to become “Mr. Quarterback,” Johnny Unitas.
In 1954, the three were all members of a team that won just two of its 10 games, although one of those wins was quite memorable.
“We were hammered by UC, 33-0,” says Brockhoff. “The offense was invisible as we only posted a few first downs in the whole game. Even worse we had to play an undefeated Boston College team in Boston the following week that was in the driver’s seat to win the mythical Eastern Football Title and maybe even the National Championship. We were all just dumb kids and we got over the UC shelling pretty quickly. We were excited because we were flying to Boston and most of us had never been on a plane. The game was going to be broadcast back to Cincinnati on WSAI and the game, because of BC, was getting national coverage. But the Boston press was as nasty in 1954 as it is today. They called Xavier a ‘Dress Makers School.’ I guess they were calling us girls. They rightfully did not give us a chance to win the game.”
Fenway Park was cold and rainy. Predictably BC got out to a 14-0 lead, but XU halfback Bob Konkoly exploded for a 63 yard TD run to make the score 14-6, and halfback Fritz Bolte bolted for a 29 yard TD to make the game 14-13. In the fourth quarter, Xavier got the ball on its own 18 yard line. Facing the No. 1 defense in the country, and time ticking down, the Muskies relentlessly drove the ball down the field. With less than three minutes left in the game, Xavier pushed the ball to within four feet of the goal line. Boston College held Xavier on the first three plays, but on fourth down, fullback Don St. John pushed the ball over the goal line. With 1:30 left in the game, Xavier held on for a thrilling 19-14 victory.
I arose early on March 19, 1963, and downed a quick cup of cappuccino and breakfast roll in anticipation of attending the Beatification of Luigi Maria Palazzolo later that afternoon at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. But first I had a full day of classes to attend. About 100 students were studying at Loyola University’s new Rome Center from various U.S. universities including two of us from Xavier. John Felice, S.J., Director of the Rome Center, acquired some front row seats for the Beatification, which promised the likelihood of close proximity to Pope John XXIII. Fr. Felice had a knack for getting things done that seemed out of reach to most people. Perhaps it was his distinguished service with British intelligence during WWII that gave him the tools. He was especially effective in navigating Vatican politics.
Armed with my Kodak box camera, I was a young man on a mission to get a good picture of the Pope. But St. Peter’s is big and dark, and I was down to my last flashbulb. Not certain from which direction the Pope would arrive, I planted myself where no columns would interfere with my line of sight. Suddenly loud cheering and clapping arose from those attending as they spotted the Pope. He was in red and white vestments being carried on a black and gold throne through the congregation. And he was headed right at me. I peered down into the viewfinder as the Pope’s image danced around in it. The flashbulb winked in the dim light and I wasn’t sure if my mission was accomplished.
Several days later I walked briskly from our campus in northwest Rome excited to retrieve the negatives I dropped off at a small photo lab nearby. In those days, to save money, we would select which negatives we wanted to be developed. One negative appeared to have captured the Pope’s image very well but I wouldn’t know for sure until it was printed. Not trusting such an important matter to this local lab, I decided to take the negative home with me and have it printed in the U.S. Three months later, upon my return home, I eagerly searched through my clothes, souvenirs and books, but couldn’t find the negative. And then I searched again and again. It was lost.
I was angry with myself for being so careless. And I have periodically scolded myself ever since, especially when drinking a cup of cappuccino.
Pope John XXIII was affectionately known as “Good Pope John” and may be the most beloved in history, although his reign was less than five years. To great excitement he called an ecumenical council, The Second Vatican Council, which lasted from 1962-1965. This electrified the church and made Rome seem again like the center of the world. But it was on a much smaller scale where Good Pope John made his mark on the people. For example, he visited sick children and stopped by the prisons. He told the inmates, “You could not come to me, so I came to you.” And he was known to sneak out at night to walk the streets of Rome earning him the nickname, “Johnny Walker.”
In mid-May 1963, two months after the Beatification ceremony, Fr. Felice once again worked his magic and arranged for Rome Center students to attend a private audience with the Pope. No cameras were allowed other than a professional photographer from a news service. We had heard the Pope was quite ill and were not sure he would join us until almost the last minute. We waited in one of the Vatican’s ornate reception rooms. A door opened and a smiling but frail Pope John walked in. He wanted to know where we were from and what we were studying.
He seemed to grow in strength as he engaged with us. He blessed us, turned to leave, paused and then looked back at us and said, “Most of you will return to America and begin your careers and earn a living. You will need to use your head to put to work the knowledge you have acquired.” As he placed his hand on his heart he continued, “But remember to also use your heart with all those with whom you come in contact.” These words stayed with me over the years of my imperfect life and helped me sort through some of the challenges we all face.
Pope John XXIII died two weeks later on June 3, 1963, and the bells of Rome tolled sadly. We later learned that our private audience was Pope John’s last one. The newswire photographer’s picture of our private audience found it’s way to the front page of newspapers around the world as this was his last public appearance.
In preparing for the 50th anniversary of the Rome Center in September 2012, a call has come out for mementos and pictures from that time so many years ago. I recently searched through our basement and discovered a “Rome” box containing letters, pictures and postcards I had sent to my parents during this time, as well as various papers, train and airline tickets, and a host of other material that brought back many fond memories. There was even the empty PanAm ticket jacket. I was in the midst of tossing it out when I was possessed to stop and pull back the inside flap. A two-inch square negative was tucked in the corner. Could this be the lost negative? Yes.
I took the negative to the local pharmacy and the photo technician advised me to take it to a lab with a darkroom. And he added his concern about the deterioration of the negative. Anxious but undaunted, I finally located a darkroom lab about 20 miles away. I may have set a new land speed record en route to the lab. The technician, Rachael, and I stood in the darkroom heavy with the smell of chemicals and waited for the fragile, orange colored negative to develop. I shared with her the background of the negative and our tension was palpable as we waited. Slowly his image began to emerge, the colors grew stronger and a magnificent picture of the now Beatified Pope John XXIII came to life before our eyes. We both whooped with joy. Other employees and customers came running to see what the fuss was all about. I ordered several more prints of the picture and returned a couple of days later to pick them up. The clerk shouted to the back of the store, “Hey Rachael, the Pope picture guy is here for his prints.”
Frankly, I didn’t mind at all having my identity distilled down to these three words. So the mystery of the lost negative is solved and a bit of my self-esteem is restored. And I can now drink my cappuccino in peace.
Reflecting about this time so many years ago illuminates how much the world has changed. The American dollar was king in 1963 and went far in Europe. As an example, room, board and tuition in Rome per semester was $780. Transatlantic and overland transportation from Chicago to Rome and back was $400, and this included a two week tour of Europe on our way home. But for a casual conversation I had one day in 1962 with one of our Jesuit instructors at Xavier I never would have been alerted to the new Rome Center.
This incredible learning experience broadened my perspective and prepared me to function in various settings, both domestic and international, throughout my career. And although it took almost 50 years, this is one instance where a negative truly turned into a positive. Since that first class of 100 students, more than 15,000 have attended the school.
(John Poynton is a member of the Xavier Class of 1964.)
Shortly after exams were over in May, three students packed their bags for an eight-week getaway. But this was no vacation.
The students were part of Xavier’s first statehouse internship program at the state capital in Columbus, Ohio, that put them in the heart of the Ohio State Legislature.
Associate professor of political science Mack Mariani says this year’s pilot program was so successful it will be offered again next year. “We wanted to take advantage of the fact we have this big capital two hours from our campus, and we have these alumni there doing great things whom we are able to partner with. It strengthens connections with our alumni in Columbus and allows us to give students skills to take into the job market.”
Xavier has similar internship programs in Cincinnati and Washington, D.C.
The program came about after an alumnus working at the statehouse contacted Mariani and Gene Beaupre, a professor in the Philosophy, Politics and the Public honors program, suggesting they take advantage of the number of alumni in Columbus who could help place students into legislative internships.
“It took us a few weeks to get it going. It was such short notice that only three got to do it,” Beaupre says. “I think next year we’ll have at least eight.”