Brian Grant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, baby, my knee won’t let me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They line up for their 300-yard dash.

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

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

Grant smiles and nods.

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

The boys begin to get weary.

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

They finish in a youthful 48 seconds.

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

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

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

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

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[divider] • • • [/divider]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[View Grant’s career NBA stats.]

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

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

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

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

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

[Read more about Grant’s charitable work.]

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

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[divider] • • • [/divider]

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who is this?” he asked the owner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[divider] • • • [/divider]

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

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

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

“No one,” said Chadwell.

“Let’s keep it that way.”

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

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

[View slideshow of Grant at Xavier.]

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

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

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

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

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

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[divider] • • • [/divider]

Karl Malone called.

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

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

Michael J. Fox called.

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

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

Mark Starkey called.

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

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

“There’s been major results” he says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[divider] More videos of Grant [/divider]

Climbing Mount St. Helen                     Interview on Live Wire radio

mtsthelensvideo livewire-video

Eyes on the Sky

In the waning daylight of a Friday in June 1961, a red and white Ford station wagon rambles down the hilly twists and turns of Zion Road, pushing out beyond the western edges of Cincinnati. The breeze blows through the open windows of the bulky 1957 wagon, brushing along the sleek painted sides and whipping past the pointy tail fins.

To the two young men sitting on the roomy front bench seat, their elbows propped out the open windows, the warm wind across their arms and faces feels like freedom.

Dennis Smith pulls the car into the driveway of an old farmhouse. The gravel crunches under the tires as he maneuvers the wagon into an open field and parks it by three small sheds. He and his sidekick, Thomas Van Flandern, hop out carrying sacks stuffed with Frisch’s Big Boy burgers, onion rings, strawberry pie and sodas. They drop the sacks on a bench in the grass and duck inside each of the small buildings.

Working together, going from shed to shed, they push back the roofs, which are on rollers, exposing to the elements the most advanced astronomical tools of the 20th century—three large telescopes. Two are white, one is silver. Each is slightly larger than the next, measuring 8-inches, 14-inches and 16-inches in diameter.

They point each scope toward the clear evening sky. The two Xavier students have received a request from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., to observe the Transit 4-A satellite, its carrier rocket and two other satellites that are being launched from Cape Canaveral on Florida’s east coast.

It is the middle of the Cold War and the leading edge of the Space Race. Three years earlier, Russia launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, and the U.S. has been trying to catch up and pass the Soviet efforts ever since, filling the skies with more and more artificial stars. The three new satellites being launched tonight are a big part of that effort, and they should appear over Cincinnati about 90 minutes after launch.

The two have time, so they grab their burgers, sit in the grass and talk about what this new world of unmanned satellites circling overhead truly means.

[divider] ••• [/divider]

Smith was in the car with his parents parked at a Frisch’s drive-in for lunch when the news came over the radio that the Soviet Union had just put a satellite into orbit. It was Oct. 4, 1957.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/sputnik.jpg”]sputnik[/lightbox]The news shocked most Americans, but the idea of satellites orbiting Earth so fascinated Smith that his parents took him to the Cincinnati Astronomical Society, a 140-acre site west of Cincinnati near Cleves, Ohio, where amateur astronomers had been observing the stars since the early 1900s. He remembers the president of the group pointing out Sputnik passing overhead on the night they visited.

“It just turned me on to see that up there,” Smith says.

While others were looking at moons and planets and galaxies, Smith was captured by the artificial objects. He began helping out with the Astronomical Society’s Operation Moonwatch team, one of 153 amateur satellite spotting teams around the country that were organized in preparation for America’s first satellite launch. With the surprise launch of Sputnik, however, the teams scrambled to begin observing the beeping beacon in orbit overhead and report their findings to the Smithsonian Observatory.

Before the launch of Sputnik, there was nothing manmade beyond Earth’s atmosphere. But Sputnik broke the silence, followed by Sputnik II, III and IV, while the United States launched Explorer I into orbit in January 1958 followed by Vanguard I and Explorer 3. As the number of satellites in orbit continued to grow, volunteer satellite spotters with the Moonwatch teams stepped up their observations.

Among the most prolific of the early Moonwatch teams in the U.S. was the Cincinnati group led by Smith’s friend, Van Flandern. As a child, Van Flandern loved watching the moon out of the car window and reading the children’s book, The Stars, by H.A. Rey. A subscription to Sky & Telescope magazine furthered his interest, and he used summer job money to buy his first telescope. He fought battles with his mother, who raised him and his siblings alone, to let him go out before sunrise to observe the constellations.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Scan-1-300×218.jpg”]Scan-1[/lightbox]

By the time he got to Xavier, he was doing advanced calculations of astronomical phenomena such as occultations and orbits of comets. Shortly after introducing himself to the Cincinnati Astronomical Society and their Moonwatch team, they recognized his genius and handed leadership of the team to him. He and Smith became fast friends, logging many hours together tracking satellites at the society’s observatory. Smith enrolled at Xavier two years later and helped Van Flandern track satellites from an observatory Van Flandern and his physics professors installed on the roof of Logan Hall. From there he operated a substation for the Cincinnati Moonwatch program with the help of Xavier student volunteers.

By 1961, their work tracking satellites was beginning to get noticed by the astrophysicists at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the precursor to NASA. Their notoriety began when the SAO asked them to watch for the new satellites on that Friday night in June.

[divider] • • • [/divider]

As the sun goes down and the sky goes dark at the observatory, Van Flandern and Smith get the telescopes ready. They fix the crosshairs on Polaris, the North Star, and from there they figure the azimuth and altitude.

Then using Van Flandern’s calculations from a computer program he designed using an early IBM computer donated by General Electric—where he had a summer job—they calculate the orbit and time that each object should pass overhead and adjust the scopes so the satellites will fly into their fields of view.

Shortly after 9:30 p.m., they’re looking through the 14-inch scope, waiting for the first satellite to appear. As Van Flandern predicted, they see an object enter the 1.25-degree view circle. He notes the time. Another comes through. Then another, then a pair and then three more. Within 15 minutes, five more objects have been picked up by the scope—way more than expected. By 10:10 p.m., they have spotted a total of 14 satellites. They’re stunned.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/eyes-2.jpg”]eyes-2[/lightbox]Van Flandern sits cross-legged on the bench, pulls out his slide rule and begins scribbling figures madly on a notepad. He looks up at Smith.

“It blew up,” he says.

“You’re crazy,” Smith tells him.

But Van Flandern calculates the time and the rocket’s location by its coordinates and runs into the farmhouse, the society’s headquarters, to send a telegram to the Smithsonian Observatory.

“Rocket blew up,” the telegram reads.

A half hour later, the phone rings in the farmhouse. Gustav Bakos, a leading astronomer at the Smithsonian Observatory, is on the line questioning Van Flandern about his report that the rocket had exploded near the end of its first revolution around the Earth. Van Flandern, it turns out, is correct.

Two days later, Bakos travels from Massachusetts to Xavier to meet Van Flandern. As he tours the rooftop observatory on campus, he asks Van Flandern how he made his calculations so quickly the night of the explosion. Bakos wants his formulas, but Van Flandern refuses to share them. Later, Smith asks him why.

“I need these formulas for later on in my career,” he says.

[divider] • • • [/divider]

Van Flandern graduated in 1962, three months before President Kennedy’s “Moon” speech, and went on to earn a PhD in astronomy from Yale University. The tracking work he did at Xavier with the Moonwatch program helped prepare him for the advanced science he would do throughout his career, including as chief of celestial mechanics at the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Later he founded his own group, Meta Research, where he conducted astronomical research that sometimes bordered on the controversial and caused some to question his genius. Whatever their conclusions, what’s unquestionable is that he left a legacy of curiosity about space and astronomical science at Xavier that continues today. Ray Miller, former chair of the Department of Physics, graduated when Van Flandern was a sophomore, and by the time he returned to Xavier in 1966 to teach, Van Flandern and Smith were gone. The rooftop observatory they created was replaced by a permanent observatory in 1981. But Miller says the stories about Van Flandern and Moonwatch circulated for years, and the work he did laid the groundwork for Xavier’s exploration into astronomy.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/eyes-1.jpg”]eyes-1[/lightbox]“What he did was the first astronomy at Xavier,” Miller says.

After Van Flandern left, Smith kept the Moonwatch program going at both Xavier and the Zion Road location for two more years until he graduated in 1964. But it just wasn’t the same.

“He made me team leader when he left,” Smith said. “But we lost our heart and soul without him. He was the brains behind it all.”

They kept in touch on and off through the years. Smith followed his friend’s career even as he advanced in his own, running the family’s Paper Products Co. in Cincinnati. About five years ago, he rejoined the Cincinnati Astronomical Society after thinking about Moonwatch and what they contributed to the growing knowledge about space.

“We felt we were doing something important, even though I was just having a lot of fun at the time,” Smith says. “I don’t think until I was older and more reflective did I realize this was really important, what we did out here, and it made a major contribution to science.”

[divider] • • • [/divider]

The Cincinnati Moonwatch team set several records for satellite tracking, including making the most observations of satellites for three consecutive months, according to a booklet the society published in 1985.

It says Van Flandern reached his goal of being the best Moonwatch team in the country because of his ability to round up so many volunteer spotters. And it lists Van Flandern’s reporting of the rocket explosion as the team’s greatest triumph, describing it as an “unprecedented prediction” that prompted the Smithsonian to visit.

In their best month they racked up 465 sightings, and in May 1961, the team made 288 observations—the most of any team in the country. On one night alone they saw 22 satellites make 40 transits. Cincinnati always competed against the Moonwatch program in Sacramento, trading the lead back and forth for most sightings.

“Sacramento was the one to beat,” Smith says. “They were better only because they had better weather. But Tom was fiercely competitive. He was always saying, ‘You gotta beat them, you gotta beat them.’ ”

The observations at the Zion Road location were the highlight of Smith’s and Van Flandern’s time at Xavier. It was especially exhilarating for the budding young astronomer.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/eyes-3.jpg”]eyes-3[/lightbox]“It was so exciting to catch a satellite in those days,” Van Flandern told the American Institute of Physics in 2005. “The idea that man had put something in space so captured the imagination of the public. It was almost inconceivable. It’s something no human being had ever done before. And everyone was interested in satellites. And when we would catch one it was a very exciting affair. Especially since they weren’t well predicted at all, and we would just have a vague general idea when we might hope to see one, and sometimes they would show up and sometimes not.”

[Read Van Flandern’s interview with the Institute.]

Smith acted as Van Flandern’s deputy, helping set up the equipment and record each sighting. They would send telegrams to the Smithsonian reporting the name of the satellite, their Cincinnati station number, the time and the coordinates—altitude and azimus—for each sighting. Van Flandern would know how many satellites were expected in a night, and they would watch for them from dusk to dawn.

“Sometimes we had to look at two different satellites at the same time. And some satellites came three to four times a night,” Smith says. “We would set them up and run from scope to scope. We’d sleep in between sightings and goof off, too, throw blackberries at each other. Those were some of the best days of my life.”

[divider] • • • [/divider]

Over the years, Smith often wondered if Van Flandern ever thought about the importance of what they accomplished with Moonwatch. He was so busy doing such high-level science that perhaps spotting satellites as young college students had lost its allure.

Smith never asked—and then lost the opportunity. Van Flandern died in 2009 at age 68 of cancer.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/sign.jpg”]sign[/lightbox]Smith wanted to commemorate the work of the Moonwatch program, though, and he told the society about his idea to erect an historical marker. He began working with the Ohio Historical Society, and on Oct. 4, 2012—the 55th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik—a marker was dedicated at the old site on Zion Road, where the old telescopes still sit in covered sheds in the open field. There’s now a fourth telescope on the site, and the old 8-inch scope is now protected by a small round dome. A real observatory.

The marker was erected. Words were spoken. Tears shed. Van Flandern’s son, Michael, and widow, Barbara, attended.

“We had the feeling that we were doing something productive for society as well as learning lives and careers for ourselves,” Van Flandern told the Insitute in 2005. “For that reason alone, Operation Moonwatch was a wonderful thing to happen.”

The Circle of Life: Women and Business in Africa

Josephine Lando began making dresses in high school. It was a hobby at first, but soon her friends began asking her to make them dresses, too. By the time she finished boarding school and returned to her home in Rongai, Kenya, she was making more than dresses on demand. She was making money. It wasn’t a lot, but it whet her appetite for business.

Lando already knew something about business. Her mother had a small business making chapati, the traditional bread in Kenya. She used to get up early to help her mother prepare the bread so she could sell it to office workers who took it with their tea. Later, Lando realized her mother was paying more for the flour and other supplies for her bread but was reluctant to raise her own prices.

She saw how hard it was to make money with a small business. She wanted to learn not just how to do it right, but also how to help other women learn how to succeed with their small businesses. But to do that would require education. And that wouldn’t be easy.

Enter the Zawadi Africa Education Fund, a scholarship program that sends bright, disadvantaged Kenyan women to college. Lando applied to several colleges and picked Xavier. As an international undergraduate business student majoring in accounting, everything was going well. She was on target to graduate in December 2014, and she was chosen to be a Brueggeman Fellow, a prestigious honor that would allow her to study the empowerment of women business owners.

But that’s when things started to turn. Already supplementing her Xavier scholarship with loans and a work-study job, she found herself struggling even more when aid from a family friend dried up. Suddenly, her enrollment and Brueggeman Fellowship were in jeopardy.

That’s when things started to turn again. As a resident assistant in the Commons Apartments, she often saw University President Michael J. Graham, S.J., when he passed her office on his way to his apartment. One day last spring he stopped in and asked what she was working on. She told him of her Brueggeman project and her financial troubles. Graham suggested she contact Susan Mboya, a Kenyan businesswoman at Procter and Gamble who founded the scholarship program that sent Lando to Xavier.

Now with Coca-Cola, Mboya heads up a program that works to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs in developing countries by 2020 with training, finances and networking. Called 5by20, the program dovetails neatly with Lando’s goal of helping women with their businesses.

Graham emailed her, and Mboya became so interested in Lando’s project that, in April she awarded her an internship with the 5by20 program in Nairobi, about 20 miles north of Rongai, her home town. At the same time, Lando learned she won the annual Antonio Johnson Scholarship Award at Xavier, which provides full tuition for her senior year.

Lando went back home to Kenya for her 10-week summer internship where she gathered data about women entrepreneurs, studied their businesses and taught them the basics of accounting, bookkeeping and business planning. For her project, she created a handbook of business practices to help women manage their small businesses.

At first, she complained about the long ride between Nairobi and Rongai—the traffic congestion, the hours on the bus, the crowded roads. Soon she reveled in the trip because the road is lined with women selling everything—water, fruit, chapatti, even dresses.

“Seeing this motivates me to create something that will be beneficial to them,” she says. “When I see a woman sitting by the road or in the market selling fruits, I see her taking her children to school with the money she gets. I see smart children growing up healthy, with a good education and learning the value of investing back into their communities. I see the cycle continuing.”

Alumni Profile: Victoria Raymond

VICTORIA RAYMOND

Bachelor of Science in biology, 2004
Certified Genetic Counselor, University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Mich.

A Matter of Degrees | Victoria Raymond loved math and biology, but was advised against majoring in both. So she stayed undeclared until she realized a biology degree did not mean she had to go to medical school. There were other options in health care and research.

Clarity | “I did very well once I made the official decision to do biology and not pre-med, but then I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was taking Dottie Engle’s genetics course and doing a research project with her, and it clicked for me that it has a lot of math in it and combines two disciplines I really like. So I began thinking about what I can do in genetics.”

Ground Breaker | No one had ever gone into genetics right out of Xavier’s biology program, but Raymond’s research revealed a developing field in genetics counseling that combines the science of gene research with the humanity of patient care. The best part was it does not involve endless hours flying solo in a research laboratory.

Personalized Medicine | “It’s a fascinating field, a hybrid field where the genetics patient is the entire family. So if I find out someone has a mutation, it has implications for everyone in the family. That has shifted how we think about medicine. Genetics is the basics of personalized medicine, which is where medicine is going today.”

Job Ready | About 10 days after completing her master’s degree in medical genetics, Raymond started her new job at the University of Michigan in June 2006. She does genetic counseling with cancer patients, which includes risk assessments and genetic testing for them and their families. She also conducts clinical research studies and teaches at the medical school.

Celebrity Issues | The benefits of genetic counseling got public attention recently when celebrities such as Christina Applegate and Angelina Jolie decided to have double mastectomies because they learned they carry the BRCA gene for breast cancer.

Decisions, Decisions | “Physicians send patients to us wanting to know if there is a genetic risk factor for their disease, and if so, they treat the patient differently,” she says. “Genetics allows us to be more proactive with someone’s health care and make educated decisions. Instead of waiting for someone to become symptomatic and enrolling people in strenuous screening programs, this allows us to detect things earlier and to treat them earlier. We’ve seen a reduction in mortality as a result.”

Poetic Therapy: Healing Wounds Through Words of War

Chris Collins saw a lot of bad things on his tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Explosions. Injured soldiers. Dead civilians. But what haunts him most is the image of a young Afghani boy, about 8 years old, who had stepped on a land mine.

He was manning a checkpoint when a man rushed up carrying the screaming child. The boy lifted what was left of his leg. It was a shard of bone. Both legs had been blown off. Two of his men who were EMTs treated the boy on the spot, trying to stop the bleeding, until the medics could take him away.

“I don’t know if he lived or died,” Collins says. “It was a centering moment for me. He makes an appearance in a lot of my poetry.”

Collins is one of the lucky ones. He survived his tours and returned home undamaged, at least physically. To treat the damage inside, he turned to poetry. He says it’s a way for him to “order the disorder” he experienced in his 12 years as a reserve officer.

“It’s therapy,” he says.

Collins got his start as a writer when he was studying business at Thomas More College. In his sophomore year, he took a creative writing course from the Franciscan writer Fr. Murray Bodo. The course—and the priest—changed his life. “I never had someone tell me I was good at something,” he says.

Collins changed his major to English, graduated in 1998 and taught at a Catholic school while studying at Xavier for his teaching degree. He graduated in 2001 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army. Then Sept. 11 happened, and he was sent to Afghanistan for eight months. He did two other tours in Iraq and left the Army in 2011.

Collins pursued poetry throughout his military career. It was while studying for a Master of Fine Arts from Murray State University that his poetry became linked with war. Now Collins is studying theology at Xavier and teaching high school English in Cincinnati. But he keeps writing.

His work has been included in two poetry anthologies, and he published a chapbook earlier this year titled Gathering Leaves for War: Poems. The title refers to the pressed fall leaves his wife and son sent him while he was in Afghanistan.

In the title poem, the father dies with the pressed leaf still in his pocket. In another, a child’s foot grazes a curb before exploding into mist and confetti. Yet another imagines cauterizing the memory of the injured boy’s legs. The poetry is helping him overcome his anger.

“I hated God for a long time,” Collins says. “How can God allow a little child to be blown to pieces? It’s always the civilian element that suffers.”

.

[divider] From Gathering Leaves for War [/divider]

Deployment Haiku
Offering us tea
after destroying your door—
hospitality.

________

Meeting
At the table of warlords
we sat cross-legged
before a whole chicken
stuffed with rice, dried
apricots and berries.

Our bearded host commanded
Khwrem, and soldiers
shoveled their fingers
into the chicken’s ass
then to their mouth
and back for more.

The young private, eighteen,
part of the security’s detail
said, “Sir” as if apologizing
for his appetite’s loss, averted
his eyes, lowered his head.

Leaning close I whispered
Khwrem,
or we’ll die going home.”

________

Deployment Haiku
A child’s torso
like a speed bump only slows
the crowded market.

[Gathering Leaves for War can be purchased through Finishing Line Press.]

 

Drawn to Xavier: It was Blob at First Sight

Drawn to Xavier is an historically accurate* account of life at Xavier. It is quite possibly the world’s only cartoon blog that is both dedicated to a venerable Jesuit university and to the proposition that humor is not quite as close to godliness as cleanliness, but it is a lot funnier.

(*Well…mostly.)

––––

For we mere mortals, a great nickname is an enduring handle that carries on long after our mortal coil has sprung. But trying to hang a nickname on an institution can be problematic.  From Aggies to Banana Slugs, Artichokes to Zips, every nickname also carries with it the obligation that a costumed mascot personifies that nickname.

For a Tiger, there’s a Truman, for a Buckeye there’s a Brutus. And for a Musketeer? At first, it was a shoe; specifically a jaunty brogue featured in The Xavierian News:

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/muskateershoefinal.jpg”]muskateershoefinal[/lightbox]

Hello boys! The copy breathlessly informs us that “Like the players it’s named after it’s a real winner…Comfortably feeling the first day as a touchdown in the first quarter and full of endurance like a 200-pound linebacker…No interference from us as we only signal for 6 bucks.”

The Musketeers were born in 1925 from the fertile mind and benevolent soul of Father Finn. He even equipped Xavier’s new identity with a rousing fight song, first appearing in an October 1926 edition of The Xaverian News:

THE XAVIER MUSKETEERS CHORUS:
Three rousing cheers
For the Musketeers,
“All for one and one for all,”
For they have the Xavier spirit
Ever ready at her call.
For the blue and white
They will fight, fight, fight—
So back them with your cheers.
Give a rah! rah! rah!
And a Tiger, ah! (shout “RAH”)
For the Xavier Musketeers.

A tiger? Why this sudden retreat back into the mascot jungle? A letter to the editor in the same newspaper, fairly frothed with excitement over the birth of the Musketeer: “Colleges all over the country have adopted titles for the favorites. The animal kingdom has been ransacked for inspiration, yes, mythical beasts have been invented to typify the spirit of this and that school! Yet how paltry they appear in comparison to our new chosen name! Here are no zoological specimens! Here are valiant gentlemen, sporting bloods, keen blades. Here are the Musketeers—all for one, one for all!”

Ironically, Xavier’s first living mascot was not a Musketeer, but a mutt. A spirited terrier named Hooks prowled the football sidelines for a single season in 1940. Legend has it his early retirement was precipitated by an onset of canine gout exacerbated by the abundance of hotdogs offered to him by the adoring home side.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/hooksfinalrevise.jpg”]hooksfinalrevise[/lightbox]

So what is it about a Musketeer that made this mascot more palatable as concept rather than a living personality? A historical review of D’Artagnan sightings at sporting events down through the years proves to be more mysterious, and just as dyspeptic, as the ingredients of a hot dog.

For decades, Xavier was a Musketeer in spirit, but not in the flesh. Perhaps D’Artagnan’s cavalier character was a bit too flamboyant for der Cincinnati.  D’Artagnan’s backstory can be traced to Xavier’s earliest beginnings. Finn found his inspiration in the real person of Baron Louis Paul Drualt, a relative of Xavier’s first president John Elet. Alexandre Dumas fashioned his D’Artagnan character by repurposing the real life (and rather roguish) escapades of Charles de Batz-Castelmore. On paper D’Artagnan was the cat’s meow. The real problems began when D’Artagnan became real.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/live-dartagnan-final.jpg”]live dartagnan final[/lightbox]

Few would have guessed that dressing up like a spirited swashbuckler and prowling the sidelines of a football game would be fraught with dangers far beyond a self-inflicted sword wound.

But there’s no keeping a good Musketeer down. In a Frankensteinian attempt to create new life, D’Artagnan rose again in the early 1980’s, eventually morphing into a mammoth-headed variant. This version of the Musketeer exuded undeniable power and élan vital, but unfortunately frightened children and even the occasional doe-eyed cheerleader.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/fallen-dartagnan.jpg”]fallen dartagnan[/lightbox]

Though probably apocryphal, Xaverian legend has it that the top-heavy proportions made this mighty musketeer somewhat unsteady, and one night he toppled to the floor, his Mount Rushmore-like noggin barely missing a cheerleader.

Which brings us to peeling back the blue fur of myth and revealing the joyous mysteries of the Blob.

Tantalizing clues behind what brought this mysterious mascot to life remains scant. One narrative that gains and loses traction on a regular basis is that a super-secret subcommittee named The Super Secret Subcommittee for Reasserting Musketeer Mascot Mojo quietly reached out to various departments for suggestions on an alternative mascot.

So unsettling were theses suggestions, they’ve never been revealed to the public, and were probably destroyed. We shall never know. But that doesn’t stop us from speculating. Through extensive research and conjecture, Drawn To Xavier now presents what might actually have been some of those suggestions, plus the committee’s reaction. Readers are invited to draw their own conclusions.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/screamfinal.jpg”]screamfinal[/lightbox] [lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/white-blood-cellfinal.jpg”]white blood cellfinal[/lightbox] [lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/fan-in-the-Gray-Flannel-Suitfinal.jpg”]fan in the Gray Flannel Suitfinal[/lightbox] [lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/blotfinal.jpg”]blotfinal[/lightbox]

Here are the factoids: On a warm September morning in 1985, the Blob was not born, but arrived, in a handcrafted wooden crate featuring distinctive cabriole legs and festooned with international shipping labels indicating a Viennese origin. Two immense eyes and the distinctive aroma of sarsaparilla emanated from the dark recesses within. Enclosed care instructions (which had to be translated from a cryptic Austro-Bavarian dialect) directed that an included special “gel” be mixed with noncarbonated root beer and administered every four hours to minimize the stress of shipping and recover vitality. Standing just over three feet tall, weighing approximately 34 pounds and still covered in juvenile down, the shivering blue creature was rushed to an undisclosed location (some speculate a stock room at Dana Gardens, based on bathroom wall carvings at that location) and nursed back to health.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/blobcratefinal.jpg”]blobcratefinal[/lightbox]

The first actual meeting of The Blob and D’Artagnan is also a grab bag of hazy recollections. What few details available point to an early November 1985 exhibition game at The Cincinnati Gardens between Xavier University and The Grippos All-Stars—a ragtag collection of barnstormers with a taste for salty snacks. An usher recalls “seeing this little blue ball of fur cowering behind the first row of seats” mesmerized by the terrifying antics of the giant D’Artagnan. The crazed Musketeer’s antics of swinging from the center court scoreboard while swallowing his own sword sent all the children in the first seven rows screaming in terror. Except for the Blob, who scampered out onto the court, making a beeline for the teetering musketeer. The result? Love at first Blob.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/DArtagnan-and-blobfinal.jpg”]D'Artagnan and blobfinal[/lightbox]

So there you have it. The Blob or, to use D’Artagnan’s term of affection, “La Bloobé,” is actually female and instantly became the object of our mighty musketeer’s chivalrous affection. And like all great stories, this is not just a story of team spirit, but also a love story and a tale of mascot redemption—starting as a shoe, morphing into a dyspeptic dog, shifting into high-gear as a guy running for his life in girl’s tights, to finally a maniacal Musketeer with a monstrous head—and heart. All it took was the courtly love of a Blue Blob to re-direct D’Artagnan’s swashbuckling swagger in his service to the Queen City’s most inscrutable fur sack. If you ever happen to see them dancing together at center court listen closely; you might even hear D’Artagnan singing—“Bloobé…I got you Bloobé.”

The Lesson of Life: Joe Pichler’s Climb up the Food Chain

Joe Pichler calls himself “the luckiest man in the world.” It wasn’t always so.

The man who would one day lead one of the largest grocery chains in the country began life happily enough as the fifth of six children in a family led by Anton Pichler, an Austrian who served the Austro-Hungarian empire as a soldier and emigrated in 1911 to the United States, where he found work as a waiter at Schumacher’s Restaurant in St. Louis. His long days waiting tables eventually allowed him to buy the business.

But the world of the happy, working-class, Catholic family came crashing down when Anton suffered a stroke that affected his speech and his ability to walk—and work. Pichler was only 11, but he remembers how everyone had to pitch in to help their mother, Anita, who had to manage the business by day and her family at night.

The family’s resiliency was challenged again three years later when their mother developed cancer and died. When Anton died a year later, the three brothers and three sisters turned to each other.

“It was the family supporting each other that made life not only livable but actually joyful,” Pichler says. “My sisters and brothers taught me to take life as it comes and to celebrate it.”

Pichler has been celebrating life ever since. The life lessons he learned from his parents and the Jesuit teachers who educated him about hard work and caring for others are lessons he carried into his adult life. “My parents are my heroes,” he says.

The fact they never gave up was not lost on him or his siblings. And the glue that connected them to each other after their parents were gone is what helped Pichler get through college and get his start in life. When he was accepted to the University of Notre Dame, Pichler’s older brother, Frank, and sister, Rosie, helped pay his first-year expenses with money they were saving for their own children. Pichler also worked odd jobs—21 in all—to pay his way through college, even after he was awarded a scholarship, earning his business degree in 1961. He followed that with a scholarship to the University of Chicago where he earned an MBA and a PhD in business in 1966, and a position as a tenured professor at the University of Kansas for 15 years, including six years as dean of the business school.

[divider] A lifetime of honors [/divider]

• Watch: A video from Pichler being named a “Great Living Cincinnatian” in 2008.
• Watch: A video from Xavier honoring Pichler with the Founders’ Day Award in 2013.
• Watch: A video of Pichler being honored by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.

[divider] • • • [/divider]

While at Kansas, Pichler served on the board of the Dillon Companies, a grocery store chain. In 1980, they asked him to join the company as executive vice president. That meant leaving academe. “It was a hard decision, but I decided it was an opportunity to run a New York Stock Exchange company.” After two years, he was named president, just before Dillon merged with Kroger in 1983. And in 1986 he was appointed president of Kroger. That’s when he and his wife, Susan, moved to Cincinnati with their four children.

“It was a company of high integrity, and I thought I could live the Jesuit mission here, being people for others, in maintaining the integrity of the company and recognizing we are an important industry because we feed people,” he says.

Outside the company, Pichler and Susan plunged headfirst into Cincinnati’s charitable communities. Joe serves on the board of The Salvation Army and was a leading figure on Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine development group that oversaw the revitalization of Washington Park and its surroundings. Susan, a former teacher, has volunteered for years as a reading tutor at schools supported by the Catholic Inner-city Schools Education Fund (CISE), which they also support financially. And together they founded the CISE Scholarship Fund that helps pay high school tuition for students from CISE elementary schools.

The combination of service work and corporate leadership caught the attention of former Xavier President James Hoff, S.J., who approached Pichler in 1993 with an offer to join Xavier’s Board of Trustees. “He was irresistible, and I had great admiration for Xavier and I was honored to be asked,” he says.

Pichler has been on the board for 20 years, including five years as chairman. This year, he agreed to chair the development committee of the board, which is preparing for the next capital campaign. Just a few months ago, he was recognized for his contributions to Xavier as the recipient of the Founders’ Day Award.

“In addition to a rigorous liberal arts curriculum, St. Louis U. High School taught us the Ignatian gifts of spiritual reflection, ethical behavior, compassion and service to others,” he said upon receiving the award. “We learned to ‘open’ ourselves in order to become ‘men and women for others.’ Does that sound familiar? I think you will find those same virtues embedded in Xavier’s ‘Mission, Vision and Values Statement.’ These ideas form the foundation for a fulfilling life. They provide perspective for considering the events of this world and they urge us to take action that all serve the common good. For Jesuits, the action word is Magis: ‘More…always more.’ There is always more good that we can do if we are open to the call.”

[Read Pichler’s complete Founders’ Day speech.]

Thinking about how far he’s come, he says, “My father would be amazed.” But he never takes full credit, because there have always been others helping him every step of the way. Which is why he considers himself so lucky.

“My reward is the knowledge that I’m at least trying to be a person for others, and that’s the code I started out with in high school,” he says. “People have been very generous to me, and I would feel absolutely negligent if I weren’t generous to others.”

 

Future’s Market: Mentoring neighboring school children

It’s an early spring afternoon and Bryan Cannon, principal of the Alliance Academy charter school, hits the streets with about a dozen seventh and eighth graders in tow. They turn right on Montgomery Road, then hang a left onto Dana Avenue.

Their destination—the polished wood, widescreens and brushed steel of the Fifth Third Trading Center, crown jewel of the Williams College of Business. Scheduled is a biweekly meeting with the student managers of Xavier’s D’Artagnan Capital Fund to discuss all things financial. And yes, there is pizza.

The meeting is part of the Financial Literacy Program, a student mentoring program masterminded by associate professor of finance David Hyland. For the past two years, he’s partnered with Alliance Academy to introduce middle school students to college students—and to the world of commerce. Together, they cover everything from balancing a checkbook to maintaining a stock portfolio.

“We get neighborhood kids who go by this place all the time and see this imposing thing they could never think of,” says Hyland. “We invite them on campus and tell them, hey, there are real people here, too, and there’s no reason why you can’t come here, or somewhere like here.”

“Last year my kids learned about stocks, investment and even basic things about banking and budgets,” says Cannon. “It was so beneficial for them to learn something they weren’t familiar with.”

The program is run by the Xavier students who also manage roughly $1.6 million of the University’s endowment through the D’Artagnan Capital Fund, which Hyland also oversees.

Why mix college business majors with middle school city kids? One reason is to add a human touch to a world that’s typically perceived as being driven by numbers and a bottom line.

Plus, Hyland clearly enjoys his role of mentoring mentors. “I’m a big believer in delegating. I view my role as more of a facilitator.”

But Hyland had only just begun to facilitate. Amid the professor, principal, middle-schoolers and college students, he added real-world experience in the person of Robert Donelan, a retired Fidelity Investments executive. Hyland wanted Donelan to bring his street-level perspective on finance to the pizza party.

“[Hyland] was like, ‘Hey, we’re doing something with the Alliance Academy, would you like to help me put something together on financial literacy?’ So I put a course curriculum together, which included things like: What are the basic things to do to get a job? How do you manage money? How do you invest money?”

They arranged for the kids to go to Fidelity’s operations in Covington, Ky., where most of its U.S. transactions are processed—a facility large enough to warrant its own zip code and where the glamour of Wall Street meets the reality of the back office. It was a trip, Donelan says, that gave the kids insights that everyone could use.

“You’d be surprised,” he says. “There are doctors and lawyers who haven’t got a clue as to how to manage their retirement savings. And the earlier you start kids, the better.”

The Alliance/Xavier partnership began in the spring of 2012 as, of all things, a simple stock market game. Cannon picked students from his own after-school male mentoring program to go to Xavier and play. Hyland, though, found himself looking forward to these meetings as much as the students.

“Every week the kids would come over, we’d have pizza or snacks, then fire up the computers and start looking at the stock market.”

With programs like Squawk Box on the wide screen, plus the dedicated D’Artagnan Fund streaming ticker, it felt like a real trading floor. “It’s fun for our Xavier students, because they get a chance to teach. For example, last year, one of the eighth graders wanted to buy stock in the Army.”

While trying to buy stock in a branch of the armed forces and field trips to massive fulfillment centers constitute—especially to an eighth grader—the glamorous side of big business, at the end of the school day, it’s becoming comfortable with the working world that’s most important to Hyland.

“We talk about budgeting and looking for a job and what kind of place might hire somebody their age,” he says. “And get the kids interacting with the college kids. We’re trying to get them to think about building a résumé, what sort of things can we do in the next four to five years that’s going to help them in college and with their careers.”

50 Years Later: The JFK Assassination

Xavier’s campus was quiet at 1:30 p.m., Nov. 22, 1963. Clouds and rain were rolling in. The temperature hovered at 58 degrees.

Students were registering for spring semester classes and heading into Thanksgiving weekend. The football Muskies were gearing up for their final game at Bowling Green.

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Those listening to 700 WLW heard Fred Bernard interrupt his show “Tunepike” with this message: “There’s a bulletin just handed me from Dallas. An unknown sniper fired three shots at President Kennedy. Kennedy seriously wounded.”

Those watching “As The World Turns” saw their live television broadcast program replaced with the voice of Walter Cronkite: “President Kennedy has been shot by a would-be assassin in Dallas, Texas. Stay tuned to CBS News for further details.”

To those who were on campus and recall that day, the impact may have been softened by time, but the impressions remain.

David Hellkamp, longtime professor of psychology, was a graduate student at the time and recalls, “I had just walked into the office of my thesis chairman, John Marr, to discuss possible topics. There was another fellow sitting there, a neurologist at UC. All of a sudden, there was a knock at the door. A woman was standing there, crying. She blurted out, ‘President Kennedy has just been shot.’ We were stunned. The neurologist, however, then asked, ‘Where was he shot? Do you know?’ She said, ‘In the head.’ And I remember him saying, ‘That’s not good.’ ”

For psychology professor Earl Kronenberger, this was the best and worse of days. “On Nov. 22, 1962, I got married. Fast forward, it’s Nov. 22, 1963. In the morning, I said to my wife, ‘This is our first anniversary. We’ll go out to dinner and be happy.’

“I can still see myself sitting there, working at the office. Somebody came running into our office and said Kennedy was shot. We were all shocked. This is what happens when you have a tremendous trauma.”

[Read the Xavier News Special Edition from November 1963 about the assassination.]

Hellkamp saw and felt the same shock. “Students, faculty, staff just spontaneously starting to walk toward the chapel.”

Professor Gerald Quatman felt the same group reaction.

“We were just so shocked. We thought of Kennedy as being the perfect president—young, handsome. The savior of the country because of the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

And despite deep political divisions prevalent on campus at the time, Kronenberger remembers how, “Everybody empathized with what was going on. There was no such thing as politics. There was more of a feeling that something was happening to the United States that wasn’t allowed to be. But yet it was.”

The Physic of Getting Hammered

For a physics major, finding the moment of inertia for a cylinder is as easy as I=1/2 MR2, but what about the concept of righty-tighty/lefty loosey?

Physicists are famous for having heads wrapped around theories, but it’s been laboratory technician Dennis Tierney’s task to make sure they keep their feet planted on the ground, or at least on the floor of the Department of Physics’ machine shop, by fabricating a hammer as part of their Xavier experience.

XUXU3547“If it’s not on a computer, or connected to a Bluetooth, most students today aren’t interested,” says Tierney. “And it is important that even a physics major knows which way to turn a screwdriver because sooner or later a physicist will probably have to work with a machinist. And many of our students have never had a shop class because they were too busy taking AP physics. But even if they never pick up another screwdriver, they at least have some vague idea what it takes to set up the machines used in an experiment.”

Two at a time, students report to Tierney’s shop and learn the basics—and a typical 4H project this isn’t. The proper-sized drill bit, proper tolerances, correct tap size, thread pitch and more, are all based on a blueprint and specifications of .003 of an inch in all dimensions.

The project takes eight to 12 hours of lab time. Tierney, final arbiter as to whether the finished hammer passes muster, offers them this advice: “Pay attention to detail, watch what you’re doing and you’ll save a lot of time down the road. And that’s true with everything else you do in life, too.”