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.
This year, Kailyn Cripe has her class reading The Count of Monte Cristo, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Odyssey, among other works of literature. A good dose of the classics—just what every high school student needs, right? Except this: Cripe’s students are sixth graders.
Cripe, a 2008 middle childhood education graduate, has spent the last two years teaching at Renaissance Public Academy, a small charter school in rural Oregon whose curriculum is rooted in the classics. “What we believe is that through the ancient teachings, the classical writings, we can actually use these people as the teachers,” she says. “We can use these characters and their flaws and traits to teach what it is to be morally just.”
When her students read Julius Caesar, for example, Cripe asks them whether a moral argument can be made for killing Caesar. And on the matter of valor, Cripe’s students debate whether Odysseus or Achilles was the greater hero. (“The boys love Achilles, just because he’s a warrior,” Cripe says.) It doesn’t matter to Cripe which character her students pick, as long as they are talking. “If I can pull moral questions from the book and we can have discussions about them, that, to me, is where the learning takes place,” she says.
Renaissance Public Academy is a small school, 15 minutes from a farming community called Molalla that grows Christmas trees. “It’s in the middle of nowhere,” she says. “We’re 1,800 feet up in the mountains. We get a lot of snow. We get a lot of wild animals: the occasional bear, the occasional wild mountain cat warning. Definitely deer. It’s very beautiful. Cows wander through the parking lot.”
Cripe commutes two and a half hours roundtrip every day from Portland, a city she moved to on a whim after a stint at an international school in Panama. She found the teaching position on Craigslist and despite the commute, it appealed to her immediately.
Cripe attended a high school in Maryland with a similar classical education. The school instilled in her a love for writers like Charles Dickens and Herman Melville, and philosophers like St. Augustine and Cicero.
Renaissance is only 2 years old but is growing. Cripe’s sixth-grade class grew from 13 to 24 students this year. That means even better discussions, and a happier Ms. Cripe. “The curriculum and the classical philosophy, I just love them,” she says. “I don’t know that I could teach at a school that doesn’t implement something similar.”
Like many teachers, Kevin Dockery took a vacation this summer. But while he sank his toes in the sand of a Charleston, S.C., beach, he was also teaching a government class in a school district 500 miles away. All he needed was his laptop and cell phone.
“I’m pretty flexible,” says Dockery, a 1994 communication arts graduate in Nashville, Tenn. “I’ve given kids phone calls and tests over the phone from my son’s lacrosse games or sitting in the car in a parking lot somewhere.”
That’s par for the course for Dockery, who teaches online government and Advanced Placement U.S. history classes to high school students in a virtual school launched last year by the Metro Nashville Public School District. Virtual schools are popping up around the country as tech-savvy and time-strapped teens are finding online classes an attractive alternative to brick and mortar classrooms. Nashville’s virtual school offers classes in everything from psychology to algebra to economics—even physical fitness.
Many of Dockery’s students also attend a physical school. They use the virtual school to make up a class they missed or because it better suits their schedule. For some it’s to get ahead on credits or because they have a job. One student enrolled so she could look after an ageing relative. The flexibility of the model is the key to its success—students can do their coursework in a time and place of their choosing. Once he gave a telephone test to a student who was sitting in a McDonald’s.
Dockery, who spent five years teaching history in a Georgia high school, doesn’t miss the logistics of brick-and-mortar education. It’s not all sunny in cyberspace, though. He has to be prepared to answer student questions at all times of the day. The Internet makes it hard to employ the Socratic method and generate engaging discussions, and some students don’t adjust well to the self-directed learning. Plus Dockery misses the face-to-face interaction with students. But he’s pleased to see technology creating more learning opportunities for teenagers.
“I think it’s a sign of the times,” he says. “The technology opens up doors that weren’t there 10-15 years ago.” Is it the wave of the future? “I don’t know if it will ever be exclusively this way,” he says, “but I do think it will be something that’s available for a lot of kids.”
At 6:30 a.m. on a Friday in April, Virginia Hewan pulls up to the gate of the Dayton Correctional Institute with about 30 members of a prison ministry group. It’s time for their security screening.
Then come three days of programming during which they gather with about 20 incarcerated young women for home-cooked meals, singing and dancing, praying, Bible readings, testimonials and storytelling skits.
“Our goal is to let the women know that people care, and they are loved,” says Hewan. “Even if they’re at the lowest they’ve ever been, they’re not alone.”
Hewan is a volunteer with Epiphany Ministries of Ohio, a Christian ministry that sponsors three-day ecumenical programs for men and women serving time in Ohio’s prisons. Twice a year, Hewan heads from her home in Northern Kentucky for a long weekend away, delivering messages of hope to women who are serving time. The overriding themes of love and forgiveness are intended to help the women realize they can change their lives. Lessons on Christian living show how to do that and reinforce the idea of how much they are loved.
Hewan has been Xavier’s director for certification and licensure in the School of Education since 1991. She began as a secretary in the graduate programs office in 1984, earning four degrees along the way, including a master’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in education with a concentration in agency and community counseling. Internships for both degrees gave her experience working with women coming out of prison, with delinquent teenage boys and as an advocate for parents of murdered children.
About seven years ago, the pastor of her church, Northern Hills United Methodist Church in the suburb of Finneytown, learned of the Epiphany prison ministry program. Hewan, wanting to put her pastoral counseling knowledge to use, signed up. She now spends one or two weekends a year at a pre-release center for women formerly in Columbus, Ohio. The last trip in April was to the new location in Dayton.
After three days of eight to 10-hour sessions, each woman is given her own Bible. Monthly follow-up visits reinforce the experience with music, song and prayer. Hewan says she’s always moved by the women, who she says are no different from the young college students she sees every day at Xavier.
“Often their faces remind me of our students,” she says. “We want to bring them hope so they will be able to face life’s challenges inside or outside the prison walls.”
When Kristi Zuhlke was a marketing and entrepreneurship student at Xavier, she couldn’t wait until graduation to start her own business. So she didn’t.
During her sophomore year, she and two classmates pooled their resources, business knowledge and free time and opened FliX, a video rental store on campus. It was Xavier’s first student-owned and operated business. Two years later, she walked into a job at Procter & Gamble with a belief in herself and some leeway to innovate within the brands she was assigned. After a few years, though, her entrepreneurial spirit grew restless.
“I was starting to really get the itch to start my own business,” she says, “and I knew the timing was right.”
So Zuhlke consulted the notebook of business ideas she began keeping at Xavier and found the one she felt most passionate about: a phone app that helps detect signs of melanoma. It’s a personal passion for Zuhlke, whose husband fought the cancer. “He’ll never be in the clear,” says Zuhlke. She tried to keep track of his moles but quickly realized she could use some help. “I can’t remember where I put my keys let alone if his mole had changed from a month ago,” she says. Zuhlke talked to a programmer at MIT, and together they created Mole Detective, an app that analyzes photographs of moles to detect the symptoms of melanoma.
Users pinpoint the location of their mole on an anatomical diagram. Then they measure and photograph the mole with their phone’s camera. The app analyzes the picture and delivers its verdict. Whatever the conclusion, users are encouraged to schedule regular checkups, and the app lists nearby dermatologists. The app, which sells for $4.99, has received positive reviews from dermatologists, and from Shape and Glamour magazines. But it’s the testimonials of people who have used the app to detect problems early that mean the most to Zuhlke. “That’s been the rewarding part of this,” she says. “I’d really like to continue to develop tools that help people monitor their health.”
By all accounts, Jeremy Miller was one of Xavier’s all-time best tennis players. His name still stands several times in the record books—10th in all-time singles wins with 63, 10th in all-time doubles wins with 51, 6th in overall wins with 114.
But during his career at Xavier from 2003-2007, the one-time standout discovered a different kind of love than that found on the tennis court. The philosophy major felt called to become a priest, and this past spring, as the tennis team was preparing for the Atlantic 10 Tournament, Miller was being ordained into the Order of the Diaconate at the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral in Toledo, Ohio.
Miller, who was one of five candidates being ordained, was accompanied by Xavier’s archivist, Thomas Kennealy, S.J., as a Vestor.
Longtime tennis coach Jim Brockhoff was in attendance for the ordination, as well as for Miller’s first homily, which was given on Palm Sunday in Port Clinton, Ohio, near Miller’s hometown of Marblehead, Ohio. A former classmate, Sr. Kate O’Leary, a Franciscan novice in Chicago, was also there.
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.)
Maj. Mark Smydra
Bachelor of Arts in organizational communications, 1995
Master of Education in agency and community counseling, 1996
Strategy and Plans Officer, Department of Defense
Walk On | Smydra walked onto Xavier’s campus in 1991 and, after a year, onto the basketball team. He played four seasons, including his last as a graduate student. “I had a year of eligibility left, so I asked Coach Prosser if I could play as a fifth year walk-on, and he said I was welcome.”
Spot On | “I remember Prosser took all the tryouts into a room and said, ‘If you want to be a walk-on, you can’t get hurt, you can’t get sick, you have to get good grades and if not, then don’t try out.’ I played in 15 games, including against Georgetown in the first half of the NCAA Tournament game in 1995. We ended up losing by three points. Prosser said I would get to play, but I had caught some bug and just felt horrible when I got into the game.”
Military Liaison | After graduation, Smydra completed the Marine’s Infantry Officer Course and Scout Sniper School, among others, before a colonel recommended him for deployment to Kosovo with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in 2000. From there he was sent to Bosnia to support military operations and then to Latvia to support Latvia’s desire to enter the European Union and NATO. “We spent our time scheduling experts to train and assist the Latvians.”
SOCOM | After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Smydra was assigned to U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., which helped provide information to special operations units in Afghanistan. “The office I was in was specifically set up to support special ops units engaged in the War on Terror.”
Moving On | Smydra was assigned as the Marine Attaché in Pristina, Kosovo, in 2003. His unique experiences in special operations and foreign affairs led to additional assignments as the U.S. liaison to Turkish Special Forces in Iraq and as the Marine Attaché to Ukraine.
Fired Upon | In 2006, he went with Turkish Special Forces into Iraq and was fired upon by Peshmerga snipers. Smydra stopped his Toyota Landcruiser when one of the convoy’s Kurdish soldiers fell out with a gunshot to the head. They picked him up and sped to a hospital. “I saw him a few weeks later and he’d made a full recovery.”
The Pentagon | Now assigned to the Pentagon, Smydra drafts policy and makes recommendations affecting Marines. In short, he writes a lot of briefs and executive summaries for military and civilian leaders. “You have to be articulate, brief and effective, so all the writing and speaking skills I developed at Xavier were fantastic.”
Promotion | Smydra has been selected for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel this year. He expects to continue sharing his unique experiences with other military members, while also spending more time with his wife, Karyn, and son, Max.
Col. Paul Fellinger Jr.
Bachelor of Arts in international affairs, 1990
Garrison Commander for the U.S. Army Garrison at Presidio
Army Brat | Paul Fellinger Jr., has been moving since before he had motor skills. His father, Paul Fellinger Sr. (see Paul Sr.’s profile on page 41), was an Army man. So they moved from base to base, house to house. “I was born in Cincinnati and probably within six months had moved for the first time. I’ve probably lived in 30-35 different houses throughout my lifetime. My favorite places growing up were Germany and Virginia.”
International Education | As a lover of both academics and athletics, Fellinger enjoyed high school. For his first three years, he studied at the International School of Hamburg, in what used to be West Germany. There, he befriended students of different backgrounds and was exposed to cultures from places as far away as the Middle East and Asia.
Going Back | Later in life, Fellinger returned to Germany, but this time, it was for his assignment—not his father’s. He spent two years there with his wife and two daughters. “We lived in southern Bavaria and spent a lot of time in town interacting with locals, buying their food and practicing their language. I’m glad that my girls spent some time living there and getting to know the lifestyle. I don’t know how much they appreciate it yet, but they will when they get older.”
Active Duty | Since 2004, Fellinger spent nearly three and a half years on assignment in the Middle East. While in Afghanistan, he assisted in establishing local military and police forces. He also assisted the Department of State to develop rural and war-torn areas, which included involvement in the construction of schools and roads.
Snapshot | “Many people in Afghanistan, at least where I was in 2010, lived in mud huts. They’re good at building these structures, but it’s a lifestyle that we as Americans don’t think is possible. Many people there don’t have electricity. They’ve got no sewage, no plumbing. Very different from the world that we live in. But that’s their life and that’s just how they live. It’s not bad or worse than ours, just different.”
A Good Sport | “I’m a huge fan of sports and have been my whole life. When I was deployed, Xavier basketball was my connection home. I would have a bad day in Afghanistan, and if I was lucky enough to have a cable TV, at the end of the day I could pull up a Xavier basketball game. It’s something that was and still is important to me.”
There’s No Place Like Home | “During one deployment I was the commander of a squadron of just under 1,000 soldiers. My school spirit must have rubbed off on them at some point, because many became fans of Xavier basketball. Whenever I visit Cincinnati, I pick up some Skyline Chili and buy Xavier garb for them. They love it.”
Lt. Col. Paul Fellinger Sr.
Bachelor of Arts in history, 1967
Blue Bloods | Four generations of Fellinger freshmen have now passed through Xavier’s doors—Raymond Fellinger, an English student who went on to become Xavier’s registrar; Paul Sr., a history major; Paul Jr., an international communications graduate; and Hannah, a current theology student.
Xavier Roots | “I remember when I was little and would go to the basketball games in Schmidt Fieldhouse with my dad. The building only held like 3,000 people, but it was a fun place to be during a game. The students would line the floor on temporary benches, and we would stomp on it and drive the place crazy.”
Service | When Fellinger Sr. started college, Xavier was still a field-artillery school that required all incoming students to join the ROTC program for at least two years. For his junior and senior years, Fellinger decided to stay enrolled in the program. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the U.S. Army and soon after was sent to Vietnam. After returning from his tour in Vietnam, he accepted an assignment in Germany—where his wife and children joined him.
Found in Translation | “Coming back to Cincinnati after living in Germany, you gain an appreciation for traditions from other cultures. For example, people in Cincinnati often say ‘Please?’ instead of ‘I didn’t hear you.’ That’s a total German thing. When German-speakers can’t hear what you’ve said they respond by saying ‘Bitta?’ which is the German word for please.”
Military School | Fellinger Sr. moved to Philadelphia to earn his master’s degree while simultaneously teaching for Widener University’s ROTC program. “The course I taught was called Ethics in Military Environments, and most of what I taught had to do with leadership. The class showed the theory of leadership, and I actually made the students make decisions. It might be as simple as marching a group of people, but they figured out how to navigate a group of men by practicing.“
Boot Camp Advice | “Before they enlisted, I told my two sons that, one, the officers aren’t intentionally trying to kill you, and, two, if the person to your right can keep going, and if the person to your left can keep going, then you can keep going, too.”
Soldiering On | Fellinger Sr. retired this spring from his second career as an administrator at Shriver Co., a tax firm based in Cincinnati. “I’m enjoying retirement and staying busy. My wife and I still have friends in Germany, and my son (see Paul Jr.’s profile on page 43) just moved to California. So I’m sure we’ll be doing some traveling.”