College Life (Revisted)

At 2:00 a.m. I’m squinting through the thick white haze of a smoky joint named Soupie’s looking for my student-host, Constance Fowler. I need her to help me maneuver this under-21 crowd. 

At my advanced age, I’m exhausted and ready to go home. As I sit on a stool next to
a table that needs a good scrubbing, I scan the crowd. Constance’s friend, Melissa Downey, sits perched on a stool nearby, deftly holding a cigarette she’s bummed and chatting with anyone who will listen. Another friend, Amme Hawkins, stands by her, blonde hair in perfect trim, a touch of blue eye shadow setting off her freckles. She’s pretending not to notice the guy she has a crush on because, she glibly told us three hours ago, her mouth turns to mush when he shows his face.

To my back is Keith Jackson, the basketball player. His ball cap is on backward, his pants hang loose, he’s got an easy smile. A girl prances in with her boyfriend. He’s stylish with hair spiking up. She’s in a skirt that couldn’t be shorter and brown suede ankle boots trimmed in white fur.

It’s only Wednesday night, but Soupie’s is a happening place. You have to be 21 years old to drink, but you can come inside if you are 18. The girls scream over the music that I should come on Thursday or Friday, when it’s standing room only. I laugh because I know that won’t be happening. It’s only because of them that I am here now. Constance and her friends agreed to let me spend 24 hours in their shadows, getting a feel for how student life today compares to that of my own.

It’s been 30 years since my undergraduate days in Boulder, Colo. It was in a different place and a different era—the 1970s, the tail end of hippiedom, a time of bad clothes, big hair and such weirdness that they make television shows about it nowadays. Nothing, of course, could (or should) match the style of those days, but it was the structure and substance of college life I was curious about. What do they do with all their free time? What’s dorm life like these days? With a child of my own just a year away from entering college and campus visits on the agenda, can I still offer him an honest portrayal of what he can expect? Or has time consumed what was my reality?

These were questions that needed answers, so here I sit, chasing the decades, hanging out in a noisy bar in the middle of the night in search of how the life and times of today’s college students have changed— or not.

Constance, my roommate for the day, is just turning 20. She has a 3.4 GPA, is at the University on a partial scholarship and, when not at school, lives with her mother, a body shop manager in a small Ohio town. She takes any babysitting or house-
sitting job she can snag to help pay her tuition, in addition to her work-study job. A member of student senate during her freshman and sophomore years and a member of Xavier College Republicans, she’s just been elected to a leadership position in the student government association as the legislative vice president. She relishes the responsibility.
“I like to be leading people and listening to everyone, being a voice, and that position let’s me do that,” she says.

I ask her how she has time for all this. She answers, “I don’t sleep.”
It’s true. Just this morning, she says, she went to bed at 3:30 a.m. and was up at 6:00 a.m. “I’ve been going all day,” she says.

At 3:00 p.m. on a Wednesday, I join Constance for a class on urban administration and public policies. It fits her majors—political science and criminal justice. She plops down her notebook and pushes aside an envelope addressed to Bush Cheney ’04. It holds a student campaign volunteer form that she’s been trying to mail for days. Tuning in to her teacher, she heaves a sigh of relief when she hears that their next paper won’t be due for another two weeks.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering what my story’s going to say. The classes, the studying, the demands of academic life haven’t changed. Ten-page papers are still required, along with quizzes, exams and reading three chapters by tomorrow. Textbooks are still marked up by highlighters. As I ponder, I hear a muffled ring, and Constance dives for her backpack. She yanks out her cell phone, turns it off and I suddenly know. Technology. It’s everywhere. Walking across campus, students hold phones to their ears as they move between the buildings. In Constance’s class, a guy sitting next to her pulls out his cell phone, holds it below the table top and punches in a text message to her. He sends her a picture, too, that she views on her phone. She says she’s heard some kids use their phones to send test answers to each other in text messages. Beats writing the answers on your hand.

After class, we walk across the campus green, right past the mailbox, to Husman Hall. She forgets to mail the letter again. Inside the entrance, she gestures to a notice describing an incident where people vandalized hallways and the basement. As a result, all student residents are to pay $4 toward the cleanup. Those who don’t are charged $10 on their bursar bills. Constance says everyone thinks it was freshman boys visiting from another dorm. They really trashed the place, she says, and now she has to pay for it.

Welcome to college, I think. The worst thing I remember happening in my dorm at the University of Colorado—the first year of co-ed living—was guys slapping on their snow skis and clacking down the stairs at 2:00 a.m. It was funny, and the noise was enough to wake the whole building, but the damage was limited to the skis alone.

Actually, there was something worse, but it didn’t involve me. Twice I witnessed students streaking—running in packs while wearing only sneakers and a smile. I’m still not sure why they did it, but I do remember it got them on the evening news.

Husman is a co-ed dorm divided by wings. Girls on one side, boys on the other, all on the same floor. Constance’s room is on the second floor, east wing. We walk past an empty all-glass study room and down the hall, passing soccer shoes and gym bags stashed against the walls. The girls don’t want their smelly shoes inside, she says.

But there’s another reason. Open the door and you see—there’s no space left in these dorm rooms. Constance’s room, with a window looking out over the residential mall, seems much smaller than what I remember of mine. Perhaps it’s just perception. But there’s very little floor space and virtually no wall space except for one corner. In addition to one set of bunk beds, two dressers, two desks, a sink and a small fold-out sofa, the room is crammed with everything electronic or technological.

Constance’s cell phone goes off. It’s Sirisha. While she talks, I take inventory. There’s a television with a DVD player stacked precariously on a shelf high above. Next to it is a small white refrigerator holding only a tub of margarine, a bottle of salsa, three water bottles and two slices of American cheese. A microwave oven sits on top of the fridge and stashed around it are a jar of peanut butter and a box of popcorn. We were only allowed hot plates in our dorms, and microwaves ovens were barely a household item.

Constance’s roommate Adrienne Blumthal—Ada for short—has a Dell flat screen computer monitor on her desk with a printer shelved above and a stereo higher up that feeds through the computer’s speakers. Over on Constance’s desk, is a Dell
laptop notebook computer, a printer shelved above and a five-CD stereo system on the top shelf.

These girls are wired. Somewhere, there’s a room phone on a land line, but the girls only check for messages about once a week. My 1973 dorm room had an outlet for a lamp and my turntable with speakers. The phone was downstairs in the lobby.

In the last corner of this rectangular space is a small sink. It’s limited surface space is obliterated by sink-type things—toothbrushes and toothpaste, hair clips and curling irons. Someone using the sink blocks the door to the bathroom, which is shared with the two girls in the adjoining room. The tiny bathroom has a toilet and a shower and not much else. A sign on the doors inside the bathroom reminds users to unlock them when they’re finished.

Despite the small dimensions, the arrangement could be considered superior to my own experience. Our dorm rooms all shared a common bathroom with showers way down the hall. I’d throw on a bathrobe, grab my soap, razor and shampoo and hope to find a shower stall not in use.

“You going out tonight?” Constance asks Sirisha.

It’s the question of the evening. Most say no. They’ve got too much work to do. Papers or reading or projects. Ada leaves for dinner at Zip’s—a nearby burger joint—with some friends, while Constance and I head to the cafeteria for food. Over a plate of nachos and cheese, pasta and sauce, a grilled cheese sandwich and frozen yogurt dessert, Constance, who is very skinny, talks about her friends, her classes and her ambitions in student government and politics. Some kids on campus are very religious. Others not so much. She tries to get along with all.

At 7:10 p.m., it’s off to a meeting of Amnesty International where a group of bleary-eyed students in sweatshirts and jeans sits around talking about what to do with the little bit of money left in their budget. A guy with a heavy beard and long shaggy hair—a throwback to the Boulder boys—takes notes on his hand and arm.

Constance leans over. “I’m getting really nervous about my paper,” she says. Fortunately, the meeting breaks up and we arrive back at the dorm as Ada returns from dinner. They both sit down to their computers, as if 8:00 p.m. is the designated homework start time. Ada’s working on a business project for her entrepreneurship class. She cuts and pastes on her Dell. Constance, at her computer, writes and edits her own paper. There is no White Out, no ripping of paper, no scissors and tape.
“Are you going out tonight?” Constance asks Ada. “No,” she says. “I’ve got too much work to do.”

But at 8:45 p.m., Ada leaves to join friends in another dorm room where they watch the show “The OC.” It’s almost as popular as “American Idol,” and she says they never miss a show, reminding me of the weekly afternoon “Star Trek” gatherings when we’d crowd into someone’s room to watch Capt. Kirk and Spock outsmart the Klingons.

At 9:00 p.m., Constance and I walk to the Gallagher Student Center to pick up a financial aid form faxed from her mother. The center is alive with students escaping the chilly weather. They play pool, talk by the fireplace, study in lounge chairs. Back in her room, I help Constance edit her paper while she makes a few phone calls. Amme drops by. She’s from Spokane, Wash., where her family wanted her to stay at Gonzaga University, but she fell in love with Xavier and has never regretted leaving home.

After another phone call from a guy inviting her to a late, late night party at a University of Cincinnati fraternity on Friday night, we go to Melissa’s room. Constance asks them if they want to go out. This group says yes, and Amme goes to take a shower. It’s 11:15 p.m.

While we wait back in Constance’s room, Aaron stops by. “You going out ?” she asks. “Not tonight,” he says. Too much work to do.

By 11:45 p.m., I’m beginning to ache all over. But I wash up, pull on my leather jacket and tell Constance I’m ready. She plans to go out in just a long-sleeved shirt, because she doesn’t like the smoky stink that clings to anything worn in the bar. But it’s really cold, I say—38 degrees. She shrugs. We find Melissa, and Amme finally shows up with perfect hair and makeup. Constance relents and grabs a jacket, and we head for the door. It’s midnight. We won’t stay long, she says. She has to come home early to do her laundry—something I’ve still never done after midnight. After a quick stop at the money machine, we wait for the shuttle. It arrives, but it’s packed.

“Let’s just walk,” she says.

I’m thinking dark streets, late night, group of girls, not a good idea.

“Good idea,” say Amme and Melissa.

So we cross the Cintas Center parking lot, down the sidewalk and along Cleneay Avenue. Nobody’s out except us. And Keith Jackson, who’s standing by the sidewalk that leads to Soupie’s. Constance convinces him to join us, and Jackson, whose season just ended, saunters up as we enter the uproar. Everyone has to show an ID. Even me.
am recalling the cowboy bars and burger joints of my college days in Boulder, where the 18-year-old drinking age put 3.2 percent beer within everyone’s reach.

Soupie’s is one of those places that’s just for the college crowd. The students smoke and share pitchers of beer or soda, talk loud and dance to the pounding music played by a band that’s far too radical for this blue-collar neighborhood. They come in to burn off steam and energy, to shake off the stress, to mingle, to let it all go. They have to, because their days are far too crammed with the demands of professors, parents—and themselves.

By the looks of the crowd inside, you’d never know that no one could go out because they had so much work to do. Maybe they changed their minds. Whatever. Right now, they’re talking and dancing and hugging. They do a lot of hugging. They also smoke, drink and talk loudly.

Two hours later, my eyes burn and I’m nodding into my mug. As the band breaks up, Constance and I walk back to the dorm. The tobacco smell tags along, but the cold night air feels good after the stuffiness of the bar.

As we walk, I feel a certain sense of misplaced pride. I can still do it. I put in a full day’s work after rising at 5:30 a.m., sat through a late afternoon class, edited a homework paper, chatted with friends and, an hour after my body konked out, spent
two hours at a bar.

Inside Husman, we pass the study lounge where a girl is buried in her books. We find Ada already asleep in the lower bunk. She doesn’t stir as we squeeze around each other getting ready for bed. I fold out the sofa bed. Constance has changed her mind. She’s not going to do her laundry after all. She’s going to study.

At 2:30 a.m., as I’m dozing off, she slips out of the room with her books to spend time reading in the study lounge. She returns at 4:00 a.m. and goes to bed. Four hours later, she’s up again, showering and using a curling iron on her thick hair that she pulls back behind a head band.

In jeans and a Xavier sweatshirt, she skips breakfast, grabs her cell phone and heads back out for the day, which begins with a meeting with her professor at 9:00 a.m. On the way, she slips the Bush Cheney ’04 envelope into a corner mailbox and closes the lid.

As for me, I find my car—a nice white mini-van—and head back into my world, satisfied with the experience but convinced that the college students of the ’70s were much more sane.

From Here to Eternity

On March 1, 1991, James E. Hoff, S.J., walked into his office in the former University Center, and the weight of a university in need fell on his shoulders. It was Day One of his tenure as Xavier’s 33rd Jesuit president. 

His office window overlooked campus and offered a clear view of the challenges before him. Ledgewood Drive and Herald Avenue cut through the heart of the University, splitting it into sections. Three of the oldest and most historic buildings were in deplorable condition, not having been updated in 70 years. The endowment that would allow for improvements was dangerously low—just a fraction of the annual budget.

Hoff, however, didn’t see despair. He saw hope. He was able to envision a University few could fathom, and in his inaugural address he went so far as to say he wanted nothing less than “everything” for the University. For nine years, he worked to make everything a reality. And by the time he retired on Dec. 31, 2000, the University was hardly recognizable to those who stood alongside of him back in the spring of 1991.

The changes were widespread and deep:


Hoff created a unified campus by closing Herald Avenue and Ledgewood Drive, turning them into grass-filled malls where students could play or lounge between classes. He restored the three historic buildings—Schmidt, Edgecliff and Hinkle halls—broke ground on the Gallagher Student Center and recognized the importance of having students live on campus by building Buenger Hall and the Commons apartments.


The University was always strong in this area, but Hoff wasn’t content with that. He increased academic standards for incoming students—average SAT scores rose more than 150 points and average grade point averages rose from 2.9 to 3.46. He created the University’s first doctoral program, in psychology. He rewrote the core curriculum such that it became recognized by the John Templeton Honor Roll for Character-Building Colleges. He increased freshman retention to 90 percent, earned seven straight rankings in the annual U.S. News & World Report ratings and created the weekend degree program for adult students, keeping with the basis of Jesuit ideals to make education available to everyone.


When consultants initially estimated that $60 million was the most the University could hope to raise during the Century Campaign, Hoff balked. “Why not $75 million?” he asked. It seemed like a pie-in-the-sky dream. The most the University had ever raised was $30 million, but when it was over, Xavier had raised $125 million. Hoff took a portion of that and applied it to increasing the endowment so the future would be more solid than when he arrived. It began at $24 million and ended at $86 million. That’s still only half of where financial experts say an endowment should be, but it’s strong enough now to allow the University to make financial commitments toward just about anything—purchasing new properties, financial aid, increasing faculty—that it otherwise would not be able to.


Hoff knew the benefits of a strong athletic program—a rallying point for students and employees as well as a way to make the University known to a larger audience. During his tenure, the Musketeers moved from the Midwest Collegiate Conference to the more prestigious Atlantic 10 Conference. And, more importantly, they moved back onto campus and into the $46 million Cintas Center. Hoff called the arena/dining hall/conference center the project with the greatest impact on the University.


First and foremost a priest, Hoff made sure ethics and religion courses were at the heart of the undergraduate core curriculum. He created the Brueggeman center for dialogue to help foster peace among the religions and started a division of spiritual development within the University. He started the academic service-learning semesters to help students become men and women for others. And he made sure the Psy.D. program had a required social component in which students must concentrate on helping one of three underserved populations.

Perhaps Hoff’s most important accomplishment as president, though, was leaving the University in a position for further growth. Even after his death, the impact of his decisions is still being measured.

“Jim raised the bar at Xavier and set a tone that pushed the University, and all of us associated with it, to dream big and strive to be better,” says University President Michael J. Graham, S.J. “He set the example, academically, spiritually, athletically, in every way, of how to do things right and we will continue to follow his example.”

University provost Roger Fortin agrees. “I’m about to complete the history of the University,” says Fortin, “and in terms of leadership, he and Paul O’Connor are the two presidents who have done the most during the past 75 years in transforming Xavier into the highly respected academic institution that it is. In my judgment, Jim Hoff’s vision and passionate commitment to the University’s mission and the foundation that he has provided for us may ultimately prove to be the most influential in the history of the University.”

• Raising the endowment from $24 million to $86 million
• Constructing the Cintas Center
• Constructing the Gallagher Student Center
• Constructing the Clement and Ann Buenger residence hall
• Constructing The Commons apartment building
• Closing of Ledgewood Drive and Herald Avenue and creating the residential and academic malls
• Renovating the West Row buildings: Schmidt, Hinkle and Edgecliff halls
• Raising $125 million during the Century Campaign
• Joining the Atlantic 10 Conference for athletics
• Earning recognition from U.S. News & World Report and the John Templeton Honor Roll for Character-Building Colleges
• Creating the academic service-learning semesters
• Creating the Brueggeman center for dialogue
• Creating the doctoral program in psychology
• Creating the weekend degree program for adult students
• Creating the national alumni association
• Increasing academic standards for incoming freshmen
(SAT scores from 973 to 1134, GPAs from 2.9 to 3.46)


In the hard light of a March afternoon, the dusty TransNica tour bus pulls into a tiny village on the border of El Salvador. The 14-hour trip from Managua, Nicaragua, has had a numbing effect—the constant hum of the road; the endless dying vegetation of Central America’s dry season; the breakdown of the bus and the wait in the morning heat for its replacement. And now it comes down to this dingy little town littered with refuse, populated by squat buildings, shotgun-toting border guards, locals on bicycles, a few ramshackle food booths and the occasional stray goat.

Irene Hodgson, assistant Dan Marschner and a weary delegation made up of nine Xavier students and University photographer Greg Rust are heading into El Salvador to serve as observers in the country’s upcoming national elections. But here in no-man’s-land, there are problems. Certain elements in El Salvador’s political structure are trying to keep out the observers. Hodgson, a professor of modern languages, begins negotiations. The students wait, sitting in whatever shade is available, some napping on their backpacks. The air hangs heavy with the smell of exhaust from idling buses. Four hours later, after numerous phone calls and some bartering with another bus company, the group is finally allowed to continue its journey.

Nicaraguan service learning semesters have been part of the University’s educational fabric since 1995. But in 1999 and again this year, the students have taken a brief detour to monitor the Salvadoran elections, which are on a five-year schedule. Hodgson has led both trips, which are aimed both at helping create a climate favorable for fair elections and providing students with a valuable learning experience.

“There’s a lot of participation for my students when there are U.S. elections,” she says. “But I think you learn by looking at the process in another country, you learn a lot of things about your own system that you might never see if you didn’t do something like that.”

The students arrive in El Salvador’s capital city, San Salvador, four days before the elections to get acclimated to the country and its culture. They are met by Matt Eisen, a 1995 graduate who lives in the country and works among some of the poorest, most troubled elements of Salvadoran society. During the group’s 10-day stay, Eisen serves as a guide and provides social and historical insight.

Like all Central American countries, El Salvador is poor—60 percent of the population earns just $2 a day; more than half of the money coming into the country is sent by Salvadorans living abroad. Yet San Salvador offers the students a visible contrast to their two months in Managua.

“El Salvador’s a lot hipper than Nicaragua,” says David Cicerchi, a sophomore political science major. “It’s a lot more developed. They have a new highway system, and a lot more Burger Kings and McDonald’s and all that stuff.” They also have a Radisson Inn where the group meets to collect their election credentials—badges carrying the logo “Tribunal Supremo Electoral.”

Although four parties are on the ballot, the elections are billed as a showdown between the incumbent ARENA, a right-wing party favoring free trade and privatization of national industry, and FMLN, a left-wing, anti-free-trade group focusing more on education and housing issues. Some suggest violence is a likelihood by the losing party, so Hodgson makes arrangements for the group to leave before dawn on the morning after the elections and spend a day and a half camping, swimming and visiting sites in the mountains four hours away.

It’s election day, and sophomore Kevin Fitzgerald rises at 4:00 a.m. to the dark heat of the Salvadoran morning. The philosophy, politics and the public major hurries to get ready, then heads to one of two polling places staffed by the delegation. The polls are basic—a series of tables and cardboard voting booths set up at a local school. Outside, walls are covered with placards bearing the names, photos and identification numbers of those eligible to vote. When the doors open at 7:00 a.m., hundreds of people pour in. It’s chaotic at first, people rushing around. It takes a few minutes, but Fitzgerald finds himself relaxing into his role. “To watch over 35-, 40-year-old men and women doing their own electoral process is a little intimidating at first,” he says. “But then when you think about the millions of people who are hoping for fair elections and relying on you, it gives you a little bit more energy—the idea that the one voice the people can have is strengthened by you being there.”

Three times during the day, the students fill out sheets detailing their observances. El Salvador has a semi-literate population, so the ballot is simply four pictures—the flags of the parties. Voters use a black crayon and place an “X” on the flag of their choice. After voting, they dip a finger in a dish of indelible ink to show they cast their ballot.

“It is really amazing to see how many people are out there to vote,” Fitzgerald says. “There are 36 or so tables, and at the end of the day almost every table had an 80-percent turnout vote. In the United States, we get 30 to 40 percent.” The elections run smoothly, although a number of students note the lack of voting privacy. “People can pass behind the person voting and easily see who they’re voting for,” says Joe Hall, a sophomore honors major.

At 5:00 p.m., the polls close. Chaos reigns again. The students are instructed to be the most vigilant now because a lot can happen. They stand in front of a table and watch as the box is opened and every vote counted, slowly and cautiously. People dressed in red, white and blue for ARENA, and red and white for FMLN mingle nearby. Tensions are high.

Ultimately, the elections end with a fizzle instead of the predicted bang. The final tally isn’t close at all: 60 percent for ARENA, 35 percent for FMLN. The other two parties each fail to get 3 percent of the vote, and thus are excluded from future elections, leaving El Salvador with a two-party system. And while some people blare car horns and shoot off fireworks, violence is minor—the students see none.

The following night is calm and clear, the sky blanketed with stars—perfect for camping in the mountains. The elections are past, and the delegation aims to spend another five days absorbing the culture and history of the country. By March 28, the group is back in Managua, ready to resume the final month of service learning.

But the impressions that remain are both powerful and thought provoking. Julia Matson, a junior psychology and art major, says the election process itself appeared fair. But she is troubled by reports that some voters were coerced into voting for ARENA under the threat of losing their jobs.

Fitzgerald says the experience energized him to become involved in the American voting process. “Being 20 years old, I haven’t been able to vote in a presidential election yet,” he says. “And walking away, it really made me feel a little proud of democracy and the fact that my vote does matter. It’s really given me a lot more courage and energy to go and vote in the upcoming election. I’m pretty excited about that.”

That excitement , Hodgson says, is important. “The trip really gives the students an insight into the political process, both in our own country and in other countries,” she says. “This time, it was interesting to me to find out that several of the students had never voted. And I think they will now.”


A Magic Season
The Xavier men’s basketball team’s remarkable rise to the top this season began, of all places, at the bottom. The amazing run that culminated in the most successful season in Xavier history started not on the mountain of past successes or even the level ground of a new season, but in a place much lower-the dark hole of mediocrity.

Eighteen games into the season, the team was shoulder-deep in a self-dug pit of nothingness. They had just been blown out by 21 points by George Washington University, a team they hadn’t lost to in three seasons. It was the team’s fourth loss in five games and what members of the team would later deem an embarrassment to the University. With the toughest stretch of the schedule ahead of them, the team-and the season-was in jeopardy of imploding.

And it sent senior guard Lionel Chalmers over the edge.

As the team stumbled into the locker room, Chalmers exploded. He kicked chairs. He punched lockers. He screamed and shouted.

“I just kind of went off” he says. “I lost it a little bit.”

Facing the end of his college basketball career, he wasn’t going to allow himself to go out like this or break the tradition of winning the University was known for. He was the point guard. This was his team. He challenged everyone to step it up.

They did. The team would lose its next game to the University of Dayton, but it found itself in the process. It lost just one other regular season game and stole the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament title by winning four games in four days, something no other A-10 team and only eight other teams in NCAA history had done before. And it handed No. 1-ranked St. Joe’s its first loss of the season-a 20-point blowout.

“We had a feeling there wasn’t a team in the country that we couldn’t beat, but we had to prove it,” says sophomore guard Dedrick Finn. “That game proved it.”

Having won 13 of its last 14 games, Xavier earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament-an accomplishment that wasn’t even a dream six weeks earlier-as one of the hottest teams in the country. Its task was daunting. But not impossible. One by one, the Musketeers knocked off whomever was placed before them-Louisville, Mississippi State, Texas. The only team that kept them out of the Final Four was Duke, and barely.

Could they have won? Should they have won? It doesn’t matter. What matters is what was learned, what was accomplished and what can be gained.

It was a storied season for the fans, who got the thrill of a lifetime. It was a storied season for the University, which was placed in the national spotlight. And it was a storied season for 14 players who discovered who they were in a locker room back in January-a team. “I couldn’t have drawn things up any better,” says Chalmers. “We made a wonderful run. We really did.”

Just-In Kindness

It was unexpected and unsolicited. A letter. It arrived on the desk of University President Michael J. Graham, S.J., shortly after the men’s basketball team returned from its NCAA Tournament appearance in Atlanta. While it was just one of dozens of letters that he received regarding the team, this one stood out because it detailed an encounter between a fan and Justin Cage, one of the team’s players.

Jim Collins IV and his wife, CeeCee, are season ticket holders and occasionally follow the team on road games. Excited over the team’s appearance in the Sweet 16, the Collins’ took their children, Cameron, 7, and Calvert, 6, to the tournament. On Saturday, they noticed Cage sitting in the hotel lobby with his family. The kids approached him and asked if he would autograph a hat.

What came next was a surprise to everyone. It was unexpected and unsolicited. An offer. Cage not only signed the hat, he volunteered to take it and have it signed by the rest of the team. The kids were stunned. He took their names and room number and promised to return it to the family fully signed-as if he didn’t have enough to do to get ready to play against Duke.

It was past 11:00 p.m. by the time Cage finished with the team dinner and meetings and was able to return the hat. Unfortunately, says Collins, the children were asleep. More unfortunately, he adds, was that Cage wasn’t able to see the look on their faces when they woke up and saw the cap.

“Christmas in March in Atlanta,” he says. “We certainly enjoy and appreciate the winning ways of the 2003-2004 men’s basketball team. We are more appreciative and impressed with Justin Cage and the young men that Coach Matta is helping to produce.”

The full letter can be read on the Xavier magazine web site,


“No team had a bumpier road than Xavier. To have to face Louisville, Mississippi State, Texas and Duke-and play well enough to win each of those games-is remarkable. Compare Xavier’s slate to that of UConn, Duke, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State. It is hard to argue that Xavier didn’t play as tough a tourney schedule, and almost as well, as any team in the Final Four.”

The New York Times “With many underclassmen leaving teams early for the pros, and some high school seniors skipping college altogether, a senior-laden starting lineup has become a rarity in college basketball. Chalmers and Sato represent an envied chemistry, one that has helped conferences like the Atlantic 10 make a national impact.”

The Chicago Tribute From a story about which of the Sweet 16 teams had the most fashionable uniforms:

“Although Texas earns points for the scale of its numbers to its lettering, its blandness was its undoing against Xavier’s bold design. And, as one judge said, ‘I like that X.’ ”

The Washington Post “Of the 16 teams still in contention for the NCAA championship, only four-Duke, Kansas, Vanderbilt and Xavier-posted graduation rates of 50 percent or better in men’s basketball, according to the latest graduation data issued by the NCAA.”

Did You Know? 

Xavier has been in the NCAA Tournament 15 times in the last 22 years. Only 13 teams have been there more often.

In the past five years, only seven schools have sent a men’s and women’s team to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament: UConn, Duke, Oklahoma, Purdue, Texas, Stanford and Xavier.

Xavier’s Elite Eight game against Duke earned an 8.6 television rating and an 18 share, the highest ratings in that time slot since 1999.

Xavier has won at least 26 games in each of the last three years. Only three other teams have won that many: Duke, Illinois and Pitt.

Xavier has won at least 20 games in each of the last eight seasons. Only seven other Division I schools have a streak of that length: Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Charleston, Maryland, Stanford and Duke.


The spotlight shines brightly on the teams that advance to the Sweet 16, and it covers an area much wider than the basketball court. The Chicago Tribune, for instance, wrote a story for its leisure pages this year on which team’s uniforms were the most fashionable. Xavier’s “X” got an “A” from the paper’s design team.

Each year, at least one newspaper also shines the spotlight on one area that many universities prefer to keep in the shadows-graduation rates of their players. Often perceived as the soft underbelly of college athletics, graduation rates reveal a lot about an institution’s priorities and which part of the term “student-athlete” it chooses to emphasize.

This year The Washington Post examined the rates and found that only four of the final 16 teams had graduation rates of 50 percent or better-Duke, Kansas, Vanderbilt and Xavier. Xavier tied with Duke at 67 percent. The rates included all scholarship players over a six-year period, including those who transferred.

For those basketball players who stay at Xavier for four years, the University’s graduation rate is well documented-100 percent dating back to 1986. Of the four seniors on this year’s team, all earned their degrees. Point guard Lionel Chalmers, a fifth-year senior, spent the past academic year in graduate school. Of the 10 former Xavier players to play in the National Basketball Association, all 10 have their degrees, including last year’s National Player of the Year, David West, who graduated a semester early.

Lessons Learned

Challenging Viewpoints: Trudelle Thomas, English

When I signed up for the class, I remember hearing from friends that the professor, Trudelle Thomas, had a slight reputation as a “feminist.” That term might have been passé then; it’s certainly archaic now. Whether Thomas would dispute that label, I do not know. But I was a 19-year-old male student, and this idle talk convinced me that I would not like her or her course, and that I would hardly learn anything I needed to know. I never even entertained the idea that she might have any lasting influence on my life.

I was emphatically wrong. She did not teach by pushing ideologies down the throats of impressionable underclassmen, nor did she spout off riffs from her own personal manifesto on how things in the world should be. What she did do was challenge me more than any teacher I had, not only to excel in communicating my viewpoints effectively, but also to understand why I thought what I thought in the first place, and to have confidence in my own voice.

But Thomas did something else for me that I value even more. She helped me to identify and pursue what I consider to be my vocation: writing. As a direct consequence of her course, I became interested in writing, expressing my thoughts and ideas on paper. And, because she insisted we keep a journal, I also discovered my creative impulses in a new light. I went into the military following graduation, but I never forgot her course or her influence.

Seven years after taking her course, and with her help, I hasten to add, I enrolled in graduate school to study creative writing. Today I have a Master of Fine Arts degree, and writing is a daily part of my life. I still think of her when I think about why I bother trying to write, and I have a feeling she would be disappointed if I ever gave up the craft I love.

I am now 33 years old with a wife and daughter. I have published an essay in a national magazine, and I am very grateful to Thomas for her faith in me. Perhaps the best tribute to her influence lies in the fact that today, more than 12 years later, I still think about her energy, spirit, intelligence and compassion. I remember her class; I remember her voice, her gestures and her assignments. I doubt I will ever forget her as a teacher or person-and I can think of no better tribute to an educator.
Jude Joseph Lovell ’92 BA, writer

Going For It: Carol Tatham, Management

I was a senior at Xavier doing some interviews for my potential career in retail management, and one of the interviews was with Toys R Us. Prior to the interview I felt sick, but I was told that it was just butterflies and I should go on in and show them what I was made of. Well, evidently I wasn’t made of much. I went into the interview and proceeded to vomit.

About a week later, I was preparing to give a speech and was feeling really nervous. My professor, Carol Tatham, called on me to be the first presenter. What luck. I explained that I would rather not go first, and she said to me, “Chelle, you have thrown up all over someone who was interviewing you not just for a job, but for your potential career. What could be more embarrassing than that? Now that you have your life’s most embarrassing moment out of the way, go for it.”

I hadn’t told her of my interviewing mishap, so obviously I was a laughingstock and topic of gossip on campus. I can’t remember what my grade was, but I did go for it and did fine.

I have gone for it every day since and until recently was the vice president of operations at a local marketing research firm. I am now an independent marketing research coordinator. Tatham was in marketing research and in a later discussion shared her excitement for her field, another piece of advice that shaped my life.
Chelle Precht ’85 BSBA, marketing research coordinator

Commitment: John LaRocca, S.J., History

The person I am today is due to John LaRocca, S.J., and his penchant for pasta. Each Friday he would open his Kuhlman Hall apartment to students and cook a pasta dinner for whoever arrived with a fork and plate in hand. Well into the first semester of my sophomore year, I had yet to declare a major. While leaning toward history, I wanted to take the Western Civilization class without actually declaring history as my major. The only catch was that I needed the professor’s permission to enroll in the class, because it was reserved for history majors only. The professor was LaRocca, and he scared the beejeebers out of me.

Eventually, on a fall Friday in 1997, I found myself sitting on the couch in LaRocca’s living room, eating pasta and building up my courage to ask for his permission. I remember his large brown eyes reflecting an odd combination of weariness and humor staring back at me as he very succinctly stated that if I wanted to take his honors history class, I had to commit to a decision and declare the major.

I am defined by the number of professors at Xavier who taught me to think, to analyze, to question and to listen. Professors I met because of a two-minute conversation over pasta, and professors who taught me to take a chance.
Joan M. French ’99 BAU, Assistant Counsel for the Department of the U.S. Navy, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command

Self-worth and Balance: Kent Anger, Psychology

I didn’t attend college immediately after high school. No one in my family ever had, and it seemed to be an out-of-reach option for one of 10 kids of a steel mill worker living on a small farm in Indiana. So, in 1973 I went to a technical school for a year and a half to learn some marketable skills, then got married and settled into a routine as a housewife with a preschooler and a part-time job.

My husband, however, was college-educated with a graduate degree, and as the years began to pass, I thought more and more about going back to school and having a meaningful career of my own. I enrolled part time as a non-traditional student at Edgecliff College, which merged with Xavier just before I graduated. I didn’t really fit in with the younger student population very well, but I was determined to be there and did well in my classes. My son, who was 2 years old when I began, tagged along with me, spending many happy hours playing in the dorm with his student babysitters. I took a few classes each semester and made steady progress.

Eventually, to meet my social science requirement I enrolled in an experimental psychology class led by an adjunct faculty member, Kent Anger. I loved it-I couldn’t get enough of the class or the topic. Anger recognized and encouraged my enthusiasm, supplying me with journal readings, discussing his research efforts and inviting me to attend local research seminars. I decided to double-major in psychology and biology, and increased my course load so that I could take every available offering and still progress on a reasonable time schedule.

Anger continued to provide career guidance and mentoring long after I completed his class. As I neared graduation, he surprised me with an offer of a part-time job helping his staff conduct neurobehavioral research at the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health. I jumped at the chance. Working in his lab became the springboard to my career as a behavioral scientist. His recommendations and mentoring opened doors for me, leading to promotion opportunities, my pursuit of a master’s degree in experimental psychology at Xavier and, eventually, selection for a highly competitive long-term training program that led to my doctorate in social psychology.

Anger has long since left Cincinnati and now directs research programs at the Oregon Health & Sciences University.

While, at best, we may only exchange Christmas letters now, I will always hold him in high esteem and credit him with influencing some of my most significant life decisions. How amazing when you think about it: A part-time faculty member had a dramatic impact on a young mother struggling to find her self-worth while balancing home, work and school. Now, I teach psychology classes part time at Xavier. Every so often, I find myself putting a little extra effort into advising and encouraging a promising student or one who is struggling to balance work, home and school. It’s a small thing for me to do, but I hope it makes a difference for them.
Carol Merry Stephenson,’EC81 BS, ’91 MA, NIOSH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Second Chances: Richard Deters, S.J., Dean of Evening Studies

I arrived in Cincinnati as a 15-year-old refugee from Cuba and, while my command of the English language had grown to conversational, it was still far below the requirements of college work. I tried studying at Villa Madonna College in Covington, Ky., but in an era before English as a second language classes or remedial language tutoring, it was a great struggle. My grades were below passing and the Villa Madonna registrar suspended me and suggested I get acquainted with a leaf blower.

One balmy September evening, I found myself in front of Richard Deters, S.J., who was dean of Xavier’s evening studies program, making a heartfelt appeal for a second chance. This would be the first of many meetings with Deters as he tried to untangle some salvageable grade to transfer from my Villa Madonna transcript. Fortunately for me, he found enough there to allow me to enroll.

Not without struggles and setbacks, I completed my Bachelor of Science four years later and found meaningful and fulfilling work that progressively led to a position as director of business development for Lockheed Martin Corp. In some indirect way, Deters also led to the opportunity, 20 years later, for my daughter also to graduate from Xavier and to become a practicing attorney.

The memory of Deters’ patience and charity-allowing me that second chance-has colored my whole life and will influence generations to come. I, in turn, have had the opportunity to assist others, so that his gift continues to flower.
Luis A. Sastre ’69 BS, director of business development, Lockheed Martin Corp.

Looking Within: Tyrone Williams, English

“But will you be happy?” he asked.

I hadn’t even considered the question. I had merely considered myself incredibly fortunate to have a job after graduation. Taking a job at an insurance company was perfectly logical. I had connections there. I had experience, stability and a reasonable salary. But I hadn’t stopped to ask myself if it was what I wanted. It took Tyrone Williams to challenge me to consider that.

It really should have come as no surprise. Without exception, Williams’ courses were the most challenging and difficult in my Xavier career. He incessantly pushed me to more complex levels of thinking and writing, and he certainly had no trouble bursting my bubble on any number of papers or exams.

So here he was, pushing me again-being the thorn in my side. Being a nagging voice in my head. Being, in fact, a true friend and mentor.

I did take the job with the insurance company, but I also started working toward my master’s degree in education at Xavier. Eventually, I chose to leave both fields to build my family, and I have never regretted it. And, although I haven’t spoken with Williams in years, I often think of him asking me, “But are you happy?” And I smile back and say, “Yes! And thank you so much for asking.”
Toni Otto Alander ’94 BAU, homemaker

Another Second Chance: Richard Deters, S.J.

I graduated in 1966 and like Luis Sastre, I too am one of Fr. Deters’ reclamation projects. He allowed me to transfer into Xavier from University of Kentucky-Extension, Covington 60 credits and the now longtime defunct Chase College of Commerce about 15 credits. Additionally, my life was really a mess by the time I was a teenager, and the only good thing I had done was join the Army when I was 18. I really needed a chance, and Fr. Deters cut me a fantastic break.

At the dinner for evening college graduates, Fr. Deters handed my an envelope and told me to read it the next day. The short letter began with the words, “We are happy to tell you that you have been accepted into the MBA program…” and so forth. Please note I had never applied because it was beyond my budget. Moreover, I had never discussed graduate school with anyone. Attached were my completed application for the graduate school and eligibility and application for VA benefits. I was completely unaware, I had recently become eligible for VA benefits. On top was a hand written note from Fr. Deters, “Sign all this stuff and get it back to me ASAP.” I did and received my M.B.A. several years later. While in graduate school, I also became a C.P.A. and am now retired after seven years in public accounting and 30 years with Internal Revenue Service.

If it had not been for Fr. Deters’ kindness and faith in me, I certainly would not have done as well as I have both in my professional life and personal life. I am happily married for 41 years and I am a father and grandfather.
Clyde Denney Foster ’66BBA/’73MBA

Early Times

The westbound road into the Northwest Territory was no more than a trail worn smooth by the Indians when Col. Ebenezer Zane began slashing trees in 1796. He cleared a path from Wheeling, W.Va., southwest to Kentucky, creating the only road in the region when Ohio became a state in 1803. Just wide enough for hunters on horseback, Zane’s Trace, as it was known, was the path followed when the farmers and land breakers from Germany and Ireland began streaming in with their wagons and wives and children, looking for a fresh start.

One was Jacob Dittoe, a German Catholic who settled in 1802 at Somerset in southeast Ohio, about two miles off the road. On a fall day in 1808, he took an axe into the forest and began chopping at the oak and hickory trees dotting his fertile land. The sound of the blade biting into the trunks echoed through the woods until it caught the ear of a lone man on horseback plodding on the road to Baltimore. His white robe draped over the back of his saddle, and a crucifix hung on his chest.

The man was Edward Dominic Fenwick, a Dominican priest recently sent from Maryland to Bardstown, Ky., and the only Catholic parish serving the settlers of Kentucky and the Northwest Territories of the Great Lakes. This was Fenwick’s first trip into Ohio, and at the request of the U.S. bishop, John Carroll of Baltimore, he was looking for Dittoe.

Fenwick turned his horse toward the sound of the axe and found the farmer hard at work. His arrival became a celebration for the three families that had settled there—and a pivotal event for the eventual establishment of the Catholic church in Ohio. It led to construction of the state’s first churches, appointment of Fenwick as Ohio’s first bishop and erection of the territory’s first Catholic university, which would become Xavier.

Fenwick’s encounter with Dittoe and the Somerset settlement also marked the beginning of his life as a missionary to the growing number of Catholics in Ohio and the Northwest Territory. Dittoe had made several appeals to the bishop to send a priest and help his little settlement build a church. They had young people who wanted to marry and babies who needed baptizing. It had been years since the Catholic settlers had had the ministrations of a priest.

With Dittoe’s people that day in 1808, Fenwick said the first official Mass in Ohio. By 1818, the Somerset families had built Ohio’s first church on land Dittoe donated. The little log chapel had a dirt floor and a rough-hewn table of unpolished wood for an altar. A brazier of small coals at Fenwick’s elbow helped keep the wine from freezing in winter.

Fenwick’s life as a missionary suited him, but it bore little resemblance to his original plan schemed after graduating from the Dominican college and seminary in Bornhem, Belgium. Son of a wealthy Maryland plantation family, Fenwick was taught early by the Jesuits and completed his education in Belgium. He wanted to bring the order home to the New World by establishing a Dominican community and college in Maryland.

Fenwick would eventually get his college, but it wouldn’t be in Maryland, and it wouldn’t be Dominican.

Assigned instead in 1805 to tend to the needier Catholics on the Kentucky frontier, Fenwick happily adopted the life of a missionary. He called himself “the itinerant preacher” and wrote about his solo travels to visit the settlers, when he often had to bed down for the night in the forest with his horse tied to a tree, his saddle for a pillow and “bears on all sides.” After 1808, he visited many budding settlements in Ohio, including Chillicothe and Gallipolis.

He also began visiting Cincinnati, where in 1811 he most likely offered the first known Mass in the city to about 12 Catholic families gathered at the home of Michael Scott, an Irish Catholic architect and builder. “Scott was a generous supporter of Catholic activities. In his home he provided hospitality to missionaries on their visits to Cincinnati,” writes Roger Fortin, Xavier’s vice president for academic affairs, in his book Faith and Action: A History of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati 1821-1996.

The group’s enthusiasm for Catholic life led to construction of the first Catholic church in Cincinnati, and the third in Ohio, on a lot at Liberty and Vine streets just outside the city. The simple plank frame church—55 feet by 30 feet—was completed in 1819, just in time for its first Mass on Easter Sunday, attended by 100 worshipers.

At the time, 250 to 300 Catholic families lived in the state, totaling about 3,000 people, all served by Fenwick and his Dominican nephew, Nicholas Young. The bishop of Bardstown began appealing to Rome to establish a diocese in Cincinnati, and on June 19, 1821, Fenwick was appointed bishop of Ohio. When the news arrived he tried to reject the assignment, Fortin writes. “Though Fenwick never became convinced that he had the qualifications for such an exalted position, he finally reconciled himself to the burden of the office.” He once described himself as “the least worthy of men,” Fortin writes. “This low opinion of himself was a consistent part of Fenwick’s character throughout his tenure.”

Fenwick’s new diocese was widely scattered, rapidly growing and extremely poor. He raised scarcely enough money from his German and Irish congregation to pay his rent. Regardless, Fenwick decided the church had to be closer to its parishioners near the river, so he reconstructed the frame church on a lot he bought on credit and renamed it St. Peter in Chains Cathedral. Its basement served as a home to Fenwick and his clergy. The lot on Sycamore Street would serve the diocese until 1845 when a new cathedral was built nearby. The lot also would become Xavier University’s first home in 1831.

But before Fenwick could build the college of his dreams, he had to find money. In October 1823, he met with the new pope, Leo XII, in Rome. Leo gave him two new priests, $1,200 and religious supplies. Fenwick netted another $10,000 and long-term financial support from wealthy European donors. Upon his return in 1825 he began building a new cathedral at the Sycamore site to replace the little frame church. The new Gothic-style church, completed in June 1826, included a seminary inside the original frame structure. But it lacked a professor, and Fenwick had to wait again for his college and seminary.

Fenwick’s health suffered in the late 1820s, but the scarcity of priests meant he had to continue traveling. In 1826, he had nine priests in Ohio and four in Michigan. But the immigrants kept coming. Desperate, he opened a seminary in 1829 in the old frame church behind the cathedral. Named for St. Francis Xavier, one of the earliest Jesuits, it had 10 seminary students in its first class. In time, Catholic laymen began attending as well. Almost immediately, Fenwick began planning new buildings for the college and seminary. Donations helped him buy an adjacent lot and, on Oct. 17, 1831, the two-and-half story Athenaeum opened.

“Catholic secondary and higher education had their beginning in Cincinnati with the founding of the Athenaeum,” Fortin writes. “It became the first Catholic institution of higher learning in the Northwest Territory.”

Fenwick was pleased with the progress of his flourishing diocese, which now had 24 priests, 22 churches, a seminary, a college, a Catholic newspaper and upward of 25,000 Catholics—8,000 of them in Cincinnati. Just 14 years earlier, there were no churches and only himself to serve the state.

Death became a daily event in Cincinnati the following summer as the cholera epidemic took hold. Still, Fenwick headed for the territories, first touring Ohio, no doubt via Zane’s Trace. On July 14 at Sault Sainte Marie, the cholera found Bishop Fenwick. Ignoring the chills and fever, he continued his travels, covering more than 2,000 miles. Weak and sick, he headed home with a companion and stopped at a Wooster, Ohio, inn on Sept. 25. As the sun reached its zenith on Sept. 27, 1832, Fenwick died. He was 64. There was no priest to attend him, and he was quickly buried for fear of the cholera spreading.

Despite his unheralded death, the college and seminary he founded remain permanent fixtures in Cincinnati. But the financial troubles dogged the diocese for years. In 1840, Fenwick’s successor, Bishop John Baptist Purcell, frustrated by the lack of funds, offered the Athenaeum to the Jesuits who renamed it St. Xavier College. It remained downtown until it moved to the suburbs in 1919 and became Xavier University.

But the itinerant preacher who had ministered to thousands, who achieved so many of his goals, but who gave himself no credit, could not lie still for long. Five months after dying in Wooster, he was on the road again as his remains were placed in a vault under the cathedral in Cincinnati. He was moved again 15 years later when the new cathedral was built. Finally, in 1916, his remains came to rest in a mausoleum on Cincinnati’s west side. Surrounded by no less than six Catholic churches in a neighborhood of Irish Catholics, the work of Ohio’s first Catholic missionary was at last complete.

A Course in Religion

The course catalogs of Xavier’s early days, when it was known as The Athenaeum and St. Xavier College, reflected the thinking of the times. Latin and Greek, poetry and rhetoric, chemistry, botany, mathematics, physics, geography, history and “mental and moral philosophy,” plus all the European languages, were studied to great depth beginning in the 1830s.

But not religion. Though founded by a Catholic bishop and run since its earliest days by the Jesuits, Xavier didn’t have a department of religion throughout the 19th century. In the 1830s, when the city’s Catholic population was still small and most of the students were Protestant, the college’s administration offered chapel and Mass for its Catholic students and a religion-free curriculum for everyone. It wanted to attract the non-Catholic students who were needed to raise the educational level on the frontier as well as to pay the bills. It was hoped, however, that some of the school’s Catholic influences would wear favorably on them.

The first religion class didn’t appear until the time of the Civil War, specifically right after Charles Darwin published his Origin of the Species in 1859. The name of that first class was Evidences of Religion. It’s listed in the 1863-1864 catalog.

The course name, says William Madges, chair of the department of theology, likely grew out of the reaction to Darwin’s research, which, to some, was an affront to long-held religious beliefs.

“Darwin’s views not only challenged the traditional view of humanity, that we were different from animals, they also challenged the Bible, which was understood literally, and the Christian idea of providence rather than natural selection,” Madges says. “Where’s the guiding hand of God in all this? This is the college’s response.”

Religion continued to be taught throughout the century. The course catalog from 1885-1886 lists religion in the philosophy curriculum. By 1905, mandated religion courses had crept onto the downtown campus. All Catholic students were required to take a Christian doctrine class, attend chapel and make an annual retreat. By 1920, the college had moved to the Avondale campus and evidences of religion had grown into a separate department offering eight courses. In 1930, it was called the department of religious evidences and offered 13 classes. In 1938, it was renamed the religion department, and all students, including non-Catholics, had to take religion. The banner year was 1952, when the catalog listed for the first time a theology department, though the curriculum didn’t change. But the University emphasized that every course address the topic of religion.

The department’s curriculum and staff have undergone many changes since then, but the discipline of theological studies has remained a major focus of the University. All students still take a specific number of theology courses, though they have a wider range of choices today.

For God’s Sake

It’s a cruel riddle. Virtually all religions teach tolerance and love. And yet, for centuries men of all religious backgrounds have committed unspeakable atrocities in the name of God. If Sept. 11, 2001, underscored the dangers of extremist views, it also revealed a deep, complex web of historical, political and economic factors that forces us to reexamine not only the world outside our own borders, but the uncharted territories of our own hearts as well, and to address once again an old question: Will we ever stop killing one another in the name of religion?

In search of perspectives on this question, we approached eight faculty members from four faith traditions—Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu.

Joseph Bracken, S.J., Jesuit priest, professor of theology and former director of the Brueggeman Center for Interreligious Dialogue

My only answer would be we’ve got to change our concept of God. If the prevailing concept of God allows us to, commit violence to one another in God’s name, there’s something wrong with our concept of God. The Christian understanding of God is that of a God of love. We find the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Christ was explicitly non-violent. He refused to use violence to save his own life, and many theologians would argue that the most important revelation of the nature of God given to us by Jesus was his suffering on the cross, his self-giving love for others. Rather than exerting violence to overpower people, he was going to persuade them by total self-giving both to the will of his father as he understood it, and to assist his fellow human beings to overcome their passion for domination and control.

If you read the Gospel narrative, you’ve got the very best portrayal of a man of peace. And it is interesting, in the early Christian centuries, Christians did not serve in the armed forces of the Roman Empire. Some of that seems to have been pacifism, or something very close to it. Then when Christianity became an officially recognized religion, all of a sudden the bishops said, “Well, we’ve got to defend ourselves.” That’s not to say that they endorsed every kind of violence, but the just-war theory came out of a kind of linkage of church and state.

Now I should also add that I’m not a pure pacifist in the sense that, at least right now, I don’t think you can just disarm the police, disband the military and expect things to suddenly get better. Right now I think we have to use the ideal of pacifism to control the violence. It’s an admission that you can’t have the best, and you might have to settle just simply for the good, which is a real effort to restrain violence, even in the name of something good and worthwhile.

I also think we should start critiquing our own media and their preoccupation with stories of violence. Prime-time television, movies, even newspapers are certainly glorifying violence, or at least rendering it routine so that it’s no longer an exceptional reality or an outrage. I think that clearly has to be addressed, that we are living in a culture of violence, which in some ways is media-inspired, and which desensitizes us to violence. It has to be the extraordinary act of violence that catches our attention anymore.
Yaffa Eliach, Jewish scholar from Lithuania and 2003 Brueggeman Chair

Yes. I’m a great believer in human beings. God gave us a choice. I said it years ago—that we would never have a terrible event in America if we would teach properly about togetherness and about life. I didn’t know it would be Sept. 11, but I was afraid that something would happen because I felt that we are not properly presenting important material. In my research I’m always looking for the positive elements that existed between Jews an non-Jews, because people always focus only on the negative elements.

For instance, when they teach about Jews in Europe, mostly it’s centered on the confrontations that existed between Jews and non-Jews. And in my book (There Once Was a World) and in my teaching, I show just the opposite. I show how they were also together. And it’s extremely important to see that for hundreds and hundreds of years, people were together. Of course there were problems, but we also must teach about the positive elements, how even there were laws in Judaism, that when Christians were poor in your vicinity, make sure to give them money for a wedding so their daughter can get married, just like it was for the Jewish people. And people don’t know about that; it’s not presented.

I was a small child during the Holocaust, and saw the murder of most of my family and so many other people—even after liberation my mother was murdered with my baby brother. My father had a tremendous affect on me. He was an exceptional person. Even in the most difficult times, he always focused on positive elements. When my mother was killed, my father helped the Russians find the White Poles who killed her so that they could be brought to trial. Then he was arrested by the Russians because he was a Zionist and Jewish. I was going to be 7 years old, and a Russian Cardinal we took me to the jail to say goodbye to my father. And my father said to me, “My child, you must remember the terrible murder that you saw. But my child, you should know that in Judaism, life is the center. You must focus on life, you must learn, and you must love good people.” And in the most difficult times, my father’s statement about life would always come to my mind, that indeed, you must always focus on life. We must focus on togetherness, not only on the confrontations and death.

In 1979 we were in Krakow, and we were in the synagogue. A man stood up and he said. “God is responsible for the suffering of the Holocaust, not people.” I said, “No, God gave us human beings the possibility of choices. That is why this is wonderful that God made us human beings different from anything else—that we have a choice.”

Paul Knitter, professor emeritus of theology and internationally known Catholic author, lecturer and peace advocate

I don’t know if we’ll ever come to a full halt, but I sure as hell hope that there can be less of such killing. I have reason to hope because I think at the heart of every religion is the message that we are called to and capable of higher things, that the state that we are in doesn’t have to stay the way it is. It can be different. But if it’s going to be so, it’s going to require my cooperation.

While religion has been a source of violence and hatred and a source of war, I think it has a greater potential to be a source of unity and compassion and concern for each other. And I’d say that even if you could prove to me—I don’t think you can do this—that the amount of hatred or the amount of killing religions have justified is greater than the amount love, I would still believe that it’s because we haven’t listened to the message of Buddha and Mohammed and Jesus.

And when you say, “Why should we expect that people will listen to them more than they have in the past?” I say, “Because we’re in such a mess.” I mean, we’re threatening the ecosystem. We’re dealing with terrorists now who can maybe carry around nuclear weapons in briefcases. I think maybe the kind mess we’re in might be an occasion to listen a bit more carefully to what these very wise people have told us.

We’ve got recognize that while in the past our religious traditions have invoked and justified violence, we now have to ask whether we can continue, whether that is still God’s will. It calls for a new way of interpreting our scriptures. In other words to say what was said in the Bible at one time may have, in some way which we can’t understand, been justifiable. But we can’t justify it today, and it’s no longer what God wants us to do. It calls for a new way of interpreting the Bible.

I believe that despite our horrible record, we human beings have the capacity to find our true happiness in caring about each other, that we are called to and we are oriented toward love rather than hatred. We’re happier loving other people than hating them. There’s a psychological side too, you don’t have to be religious: When you’re loving people, you’re better off. You sleep better.

Hans Kung, a Catholic professor who has done much for interreligious dialogue, has said “There will be no peace among nations without peace among religions. And there will be no peace among religions without a greater dialogue among religions.” Dialogue: That’s what we need today. That’s my hope. More than ever, we need the religions to come together to work for peace. And we work together to stop the people in our own religious traditions who are violating the message of Mohammed and the message of Jesus and using them for violence.

Farid Esack, Muslim scholar from South Africa and Besl Family Chair in ethics/religion and society

Sadly, no. I’d like to believe that we would get to a point where we’d stop killing each other in the name of religion. And as a Muslim it is certainly my responsibility to work toward such an end. But as an actual human being, as a realistic human being, I don’t think we will ever get to that point.

The problem is that religion is just far too powerful an emotive force to not invoke for one’s deepest angers, whether these angers are personal or whether they are ideological. It’s like this whole thing about “I was an atheist until I started drowning.” When you are at the cutting edge of your deepest anxieties, it is often then that people find religious language very, very powerful. So religious rhetoric is far too powerful for it to not be invoked, and for the lowest depths that you can actually go to, which is the killing of other people. It is far too attractive a force for it to never be used.

The texts also lend themselves to be used as pretext. If it was, as in the case of the Jains, where non-violence is the absolute principle—there’s no possibility of interpreting any Jain scriptures in a violent sense—then it is different. But whether it is the just-war theory or the jihad story or the survival of the Jewish people, the difference is that all of our religions do lend themselves to being used as pretexts for violence. Until it’s too easy, I think for religious people to just walk away and think that, “Oh it’s not Islam; it’s not Christianity; it’s just the way it’s being used.” That’s too easy an option. Our texts are far too messy, far too problematic.

Hem Raj Joshi, a Hindu from Napal and an assistant professor in the department of mathematics and computer science

Why not? But it’ll take time. I don’t think any of the religions preach violence or killing each other. They teach tolerance, regardless of whether people are rich or poor, or whether they’re from the same religion or not. You are born on this earth, not to up bring only yourself, but others also. So whoever is in need, provide some help to your best level. For example, if you are eating and somebody comes, you try to share whatever you have. Nobody knows when the god is going to come in front of you.

If you talk with Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jews, it doesn’t matter. We all share the same things. We were not born with violence in our mind. When a child is born, he doesn’t come with a religion or anything, you know? He comes as he comes. When I was born, I had no idea what Hinduism is. So it is with you. You didn’t know what Christianity was. Later on, your parents took you to church, and my parents said “Well, let’s go to temple.” That’s how we become this.

For example, if I give you two pounds of wheat flour, you’ll try to make bread. But if you give me two pounds of the same thing, I’ll try to make chapatti. It’s the same thing, right? Your taste is bread; my taste is chapatti. Both are used to calm your hunger.

But it’s my view that people interpret things the way it best suits their interests. And that’s creating the problem. Some people take advantage of that for their own benefit. If you think back, those people who are killed are not leaders. They are very simple people who have no clue what’s happening. But somehow these leaders will put some fuel on them and they will make them very hot, you know? Then the leaders are sleeping in a five-star hotel or some very safe place, and those people are out in the street, and they get killed. Have you any seen or heard of any big leader who got killed in any of these religious riots? No. I haven’t heard. Only the very simple people, only people who have not too much political interest. I think it happens everywhere. If you got killed they say, “Oh you are a martyr, you did a great job.” But for what?

The difficult thing is how to stop it. The idea is reduce the crowd who will follow this stream. If you look at wherever religious wars are going on, there’s often a lot of illiteracy and poverty. More educational and economic opportunities would definitely help. If people see some light at the end of tunnel, then they believe that, “OK, I’m going to go that way.” But if they have dark everywhere, then they say, “Well, head in any direction.”

Elizabeth Groppe, a Christian and assistant professor of theology

I would like to rephrase the question if I might, so that it’s not “Will we ever” but rather “How can we stop killing each other in the name of religion?” I think Martin Luther King was right when he said our choice today is nonviolence or nonexistence. We have to make a concerted effort to work for an end to violence in the name of religion or in any other name, and make the decision that that’s what we are going to do.

Religions—Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism—all have historically proven that they can foster compassion, empathy and ego-transcending, pro-social behaviors. It was this inspiration that was at the heart of people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Marc Gopin, a Jewish scholar and a senior associate in the preventive diplomacy department at the Center for Strategic International Studies in Washington, D.C., says that we need to analyze our traditions and identify what it is that makes them violent, then identify how they can be a source of nonviolence and how we can cultivate that capacity.

There are ways of doing that specific to particular traditions. For example, if you look at the historical records that have survived concerning the first 300 years of Christianity, those Christians were adamantly opposed to participation in violence in any form. Their reasons were fidelity to the teaching and example of Christ and a commitment to the Christian conviction that Jesus Christ was in fact the promised Messiah. According to Isaiah, the Messianic era was going to be a time when nations would no longer make war with one another. So if we believe in this Messianic vision, then we have to do something to make that vision happen. We have to ask, “What can Christians do to make that more credible by the way that we ourselves live?”

Gopin also says that one of the functions of every religion is to give us a meaning system that makes sense of the world and our place in it. And when someone challenges your sense of that unified, meaningful whole because they’re not part of your religion, you feel threatened, which in turn can generate violence. It’s been argued that religions need to consciously counter this tendency by making a place for the person who is not part of their tradition. That person then becomes part of your universe of meaning and is not as likely to be a spark for violence.

The other thing that I think is important is to recognize the religious attraction violence has. René Girard, who teaches at Stanford University, has a theory—based on his study of anthropology, literature and the history of human civilization—that religion originated through violence. He says that human society is structured in such a way that there is a desire for things simply because another person has them. Inevitably that’s going to lead to classes, conflict and social dysfunction. And the way that is resolved in primitive cultures is by scapegoating one person, who in some cases is actually literally physically sacrificed.

Girard finds similar dynamics in more modern religions. And he argues, I think rightly, that what we have to do is recognize the fallacy of that and hear the innocence of the victim of our sacrificial action. But beyond that, we must also work constructively to have religious experiences that bind us in the terms of religion in a way that’s not pitting us against another, a way that’s inclusive and doesn’t victimize anyone.

Bob Rethy, a Jew and the chair of the department of philosophy

My simple answer is I reject the premise. People certainly use religion as a pretext for their actions. But there is the kind of subsidiary idea that if they didn’t have religion, they wouldn’t be doing this. And I think that history—not to mention our experience as human beings—is teaching us otherwise. In other words, perhaps people would be more virulently murderous without religion.

I think the 20th century is a wonderful, horrible example. The ideologies of the 20th century were more or less explicitly atheistic, or certainly hostile to the traditional religions, Communism, very explicitly, and Nazism, to a great degree. And I think that those were deeply murderous. I think that the 20h century is perhaps the most quantitatively murderous century. And all of these murders were done not in the name of religion, but to a large degree of secular ideology.

People use religion as a rationale for violence, and one can understand how that happens because the absoluteness of the claim leaves no alternative: You’re either with us or not with us. You’re either one of the saved or the damned, and the damned don’t deserve to live anyway. And I do think if you look at it historically, we would see that a lot of the anti-religious rhetoric comes out of kind of the enlightened hostility to religion. Writers like Voltaire in the 18th century who point to the crimes that are committed in the name of religion—they use that to try to undermine religion. But I think that it’s very easy for religion to say, “The crimes committed in my name are not acts that I, myself, approve. They are simply acts committed in my name that for the most part religions refuse to associate themselves with.”

I think that religion is essential to the process of humanization, and that the question is a true response to the limitations of religion. Religion can only humanize us so far sometimes. So I think those people will use religion as an excuse for violence. However, I don’t, myself, feel that it makes sense to blame religion for violence at all.

There are a couple of other things that I think are kind of interesting from a Jewish perspective. In Judaism, peace stands at the end—the Messianic age is the end of time. So what that means is that peace is an accomplishment. We have to work toward peace. Peace is not a state that we can expect to have within the usual life of labor. And in fact, an example of that is in the Jewish Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath, which is a day of peace, comes at the end of the week. After you’ve worked, you rest. There’s peace after you work.

Peace has to work itself out. To attain to the proper kind of fullness and completeness, things have to come to their proper place. And what that sometimes means is that you have to take things out of their improper place, right? Disorder has to be transformed into an order, and the incompleteness has to be made complete. And that’s sometimes a violent process. There’s the idea that a bad peace is not necessarily better than a good war. That’s because a bad peace has not allowed for the proper kind of completion. I think that’s often a religious view—not only the Jewish religion but religions as a whole—that after we admit our problems, we have to fight through our problems in order to come to our own individual salvation, our own individual perfection or peace with ourselves.

Anas Malik, a Muslim and an assistant professor of political science

I‘d like to think that’s possible. But as a world community and as local communities in many places, I think there’s significant evolution that’s needed before we arrive at the time where we can stop killing people in the name of religion. Enlightened understanding of what religion is and what roles it can and should play in people’s lives is a necessary piece of the picture, a necessary step that’s needed. And so is education.

But there’s a second issue, which is that frequently religion just provides a convenient language or an appropriate idiom that acts as a vehicle for other kinds of grievances. And so what might be political violence often takes a religious cloak because of the religious context that it happened in. That’s where, I think, a greater ethic of critical thinking about what religion is about and what it should be about will help prevent that kind of activity.

I see that happening in great measure on the Internet. There’s been a good deal of soul searching, especially after 9/11—which was a catastrophic event for Muslims—about how to understand the events, how not to deny that they were done by Muslims, and how to evaluate the credibility of religious justifications for violence. And that process of soul searching, I think, has at least has raised in the public consciousness a good deal of that kind of process.

The kind of thing I’m talking about is more the development of a personal and social and community ethic of not only searching out constructive ways of dealing with problems, but also evaluating whether and how something is credible form a religious point of view. I think this has been a problem for Muslims in many contexts for several reasons. One of them is that the state of education in the Muslim world is terrible. It’s just extremely behind where it should be, especially as compared to much of the more developed world. Much of the Muslim world happens to be in the Third World. And the consequence is that people become easy fodder for recruitment.

That’s one aspect. And I think that there’s also the fact that there’s a kind of anarchy of religious law and the sources of what should constitute a legitimate religious argument have become obscured. One of the problems right now is that in many people’s minds it’s not entirely clear who or which arguments they should privilege. This is not just with Muslims—it is a universal issue.

I also think one of the critical areas that needs more attention everywhere is working out mechanisms for resolving, addressing or at least hearing political grievances in some sort of effective manner, both inside countries and in the international community. Because I think it’s the absence of those mechanisms that produce the suppression of what many people see as their legitimate political aspirations. And the consequence of this over time is either silencing or some sort of violent outburst or a strategy of violence. I think that’s a layer of development that could really influence things in terms of whether violent options are pursued.

Finally, I think that generally somebody who’s willing to try to use religion as a justification for violence usually cannot do it on their own. They need recruits and they need followers. That’s why I’m emphasizing this thing about the ability of other people generally to think critically and hold others to account for their thoughts. Because I think it’s the equivalent of—I don’t want to sound like I’m a Beatles fan or anything—but John Lennon said this thing about what if they had a war and nobody came. That’s what I’m talking about.

Forming the Foundation

A fleet of 22 canoes glides past a long bend in the Ohio River. The mammoth hand-hewn pirogues holding at least 10 men each fill the channel as they slip past the hilly banks. Dipping their paddles into the clear water, where sturgeon fish float visibly beneath the surface, the men cautiously scan the hillsides for signs of life—animal and human. As they move downriver, they come to a junction where the Great Miami River yawns into the Ohio. Complaining of its shallow bed, the French explorers name it Riviere de la Roche—River of Rock. Shouts go out to pull to the shore, and into the mud and onto the glimmering stones the men disembark. Among the travelers are 180 Canadian citizens, about 30 Iroquois warriors, a band of Miami men, women and children—and one Jesuit priest.

It was Aug. 31, 1749. The first Cincinnati settlers wouldn’t arrive for another 40 years, and Xavier University wouldn’t open its doors for another 82. But the seeds of their founding were being planted that day as Joseph-Pierre de Bonnecamps, S.J., stood among the group, recording the event in his journal.

With his traditional ankle-length black gown rustling in the warm August breeze, and his wide-brimmed black hat shielding his face from the sun, the French Jesuit took notes as the men anchored a leaden plate bearing the coat of arms of King Louis XV into the ground.

As perhaps the most educated man on the journey, Bonnecamps’ role was more than just a scribe, however. A mathematician and teacher of hydrography at the Jesuit College in Quebec, he was the expedition’s scientist, its missionary and its interpreter. But he had another, more vital role—cartographer. Using latitudinal and compass readings, he meticulously calculated and recorded the most accurate map of the Ohio River at the time—a map used by later explorers to open up the frontier.

Today, as Xavier prepares for its 175th anniversary in 2006, it can trace the roots of Jesuit influence on the region not just back to when the order took over the University, but to a time when one priest ventured into the unknown and charted the way for others to follow.

A lot can happen in 250 years. The hill on which Hinkle Hall now stands was once part of a rich fertile land, a forest inhabited by bear, deer and a few scattered Indian clans. Claimed first by the French, then by the English, the region was finally taken by the new Americans after many bloody battles. For all of them—early European explorers, fur traders, soldiers—it was the Ohio River that opened it up.

According to the earliest journals, the river was a gem, a ribbon of crystal clear water that was a ticket through the wilderness. The French called her Beautiful River, or La Belle Riviere, after the Iroquois word for Great River, which the French explorers translated as “Oyo.” It became the link between the fledgling French colonies in Canada and a new French community taking shape along the Gulf of Mexico. Everything in between was up for grabs, and the French, wary of the English settlers pushing west from the colonies, were determined to keep the entire territory, which they called New France, for themselves.

Bonnecamps’ journey in 1749, led by Pierre-Joseph Celoron de Bienville, was a mission to reinforce these French claims. From the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania down the Ohio to the Great Miami near what is now the western side of Cincinnati, Capt. Celoron planted six plates laying claim to the land, the river and all its adjoining tributaries. As they paddled and portaged, Bonnecamps mapped the river, improving upon another map drawn from a French expedition 10 years earlier. He fixed exact geographical locations of major tributaries and noted on his map the locations of the plates, only three of which have since been found. After carefully sketching the bend in the river where the Cincinnati settlement would be built, he and the expedition turned north, heading up the Great Miami toward Detroit, across Lake Erie through Niagara and home to the city of Quebec. The journey lasted five months and 18 days.

Bonnecamps and Celoron set off with more than 200 men, and except for the loss of one man, who died when his canoe careened over a waterfall on the third day, returned with the group intact. But not without adventure or danger.

In his journal, Bonnecamps describes the hardships of carrying canoes and gear along dry riverbeds, the severe storms that suddenly raised the river levels, and the constant worry about hostile Indians and English soldiers. At one point, two officers were sent ahead to meet with the Shawnee Indians. They were greeted cautiously, then attacked and bound to a stake. They would have been killed if not for an Iroquois Indian traveling with the mission who convinced them the French meant no harm.

He also writes about the environment, describing unusual trees such as the cottonwood or sycamore and the bean tree or honey locust. He tells how 29 men took their meal inside the hollow base of a giant cottonwood tree. He meticulously describes the seven rattlesnakes they caught, the first he’d ever seen—detailing their varying colors and segmented tails—and points out the fatality of their bite.

Toward the end of his journal, written as a report to the French territorial governor-general, Bonnecamps, ever the scientist, regrets missing the salt springs at Big Bone Lick downriver in Kentucky, where he would liked to have studied the elephant bones preserved in the pits.

“This news greatly chagrined me; and I could hardly forgive myself for having missed this discovery,” he writes.

Finally, he makes note of Detroit, a developing post on the frontier, which he suggests will be valuable in lending assistance to other areas, including the Beautiful River, “supposing that settlements be made theron.”

Settlements were, in fact, made theron. Bonnecamps, who eventually returned to France, couldn’t have known what lay in the future for the region that would become Cincinnati, but he expected his chart of the Ohio River’s course would help later explorers and settlers find their way. And it did.

“There were previous expeditions to the area and the French claimed it, and this expedition was to strengthen their claim,” says Jacques Monet, S.J., of the Canadian Institute of Jesuit Studies in Toronto. “Bonnecamps was to draw this map and report on the territory. The map was important. It contributed what the French knew of the territory.”

History would have it that neither the French nor the English would lay final claim to the territory. Rather, that honor would go to the new American revolutionaries, who renamed the region the Northwest Territory.

Still, the French left their mark in the names they gave to the rivers and towns of New France—now largely the Midwest. For his part, Bonnecamps may be the only Jesuit known to have come through the area until 1831, when a future Chicago bishop visited Bishop Edward Fenwick in Cincinnati and his newly opened school, the Athenaeum. Then in 1840, eight Jesuits arrived to take over operation of the school at the request of Bishop John Purcell, who was struggling financially to keep it open.

The school, located just seven blocks from the long bend in the Beautiful “Oyo” River, was renamed St. Xavier College. Later simplified to Xavier University, it has been charting its own course for nearly 175 years.

Family Matters

By 10:30 p.m., dinner, homework and baths are finished, and the kids are in bed. Now—finally—Dianne Ceo-DiFrancesco can get back to work. At a time when most people who’ve been up since 6:00 a.m. are turning in, Dianne is grabbing a cup of hot tea and trotting down to her office in a carpeted corner of the basement. She logs on to her e-mail, finds a submission from her partner on a Spanish textbook they’re co-authoring, and begins editing what will be the final chapter.

As she edits, holding the cup of tea on her lap, she begins to relax. Her toes curl into the soft fibers of the carpet, which extends to the linoleum across the room where the kids’ toys lie randomly abandoned. Jerking suddenly to the sensation of warm tea on her legs, Ceo-DiFrancesco realizes she’s nodded off. It’s 12:30 a.m.

Usually one to work until 1:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m., she decides to call it quits. The fifth-year assistant professor of Spanish has been going all day—driving the kids to school, teaching, driving them home and returning to campus for an evening class. She got home at 10:00 p.m. Her husband, Mark, a physicist who also worked all day, handled the dinner and chores. She makes her way upstairs and finds him slumped on the kitchen table, asleep. It’s been an exhausting day.

Most days seem to be much the same—squeezing the responsibilities of parenting into the work day and the demands of work into life at home. For university professors, the unique demands of the academic world pose a particular dilemma: While their work schedules can be more flexible, the expectations that they also publish scholarly work eat up any extra time that flexibility may create.

“The pressure is very heavy in the first five and a half years, which is when most faculty have their first kids,” says William Madges, department of theology chair and a father of two. “Two of my three new hires this year have young children. Most young parents say they can still teach, but when they go home, they’re not getting much scholarship done.”

From the University’s perspective, it’s a challenge as well—how to attract talented young faculty with families without sacrificing the quality of its demanding programs. Either way, both faculty and administrators agree on one thing: Family matters.

Most faculty teach three to four courses a semester, which, with preparation and planning time, can take 30 or more hours a week, Madges says. Grading, meeting with students and University duties are all extra. Research and scholarship also must occur-and be published-to be considered for a tenured position. All in six years.

The work load alone can be daunting. When a baby is thrown into the mix-perhaps on top of other children-a professor’s life can become chaotic. Jennifer Beste, a new assistant professor of theology, earned her doctorate from Yale University and is eager to complete her research into the Catholic Church’s response to trauma victims. But her work stalled this fall when 18-month-old Anna couldn’t adjust to a new babysitter. Anna would get sick on the ride to the sitter’s, and Beste would arrive frazzled.

“I’m pretty speechless right now about how to do it without hurting my child,” she says. “I’m shocked at how hard it is.”

When the babysitter quit, fellow theology professor Van Pham agreed to watch Anna while Beste taught. Now there’s a crib in Beste’s office and a play table in Pham’s. It’s only one day a week, but Anna is happier and Beste is relieved. Yet now she worries about relying too heavily on Pham and the willingness of Madges, her chair, to let the arrangement continue. Madges says he wants his faculty happy at home and doesn’t want to lose talented new teachers.

“Xavier needs to convince them this is the place you want to stay, and if that means cribs or playpens on occasion in the office, then that’s what we should do,” Madges says. His approach meets the Jesuit ideal of caring for the whole person. On the flip side, however, the department can’t be a day care center. And the arrangement means Pham has to make up her time in other ways.

“It relies on the goodwill of others and could change at any moment,” says Madges. “It’s too tenuous to bring peace of mind to the parents.”

The situation reminds Madges of his own experience 16 years ago when his daughter was born prematurely. Katie could not be exposed to anyone for a year, so his wife, Marsha, a public library director, went part-time, and Madges’ chairman, Kenneth Overberg, S.J., allowed him teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Madges stayed home with Katie the other three days, rising at 5:00 a.m. to work. He put in more hours in the evenings. Still, his new parenting duties cut into his research. Once, he arrived for a department meeting carrying Katie in a soft pack on his chest. Katie went into full-time home care the next year, and Madges made tenure, but he’ll never forget the adjustments both he and his department had to make.

Ever since, Madges has been an advocate for on-campus day care, which, he says, would reduce travel time and ease parents’ worries about their child’s well-being and their own work. Two earlier proposals-one in 1983 and one in 1993-were considered and shelved. In May, Madges submitted a revised proposal to the University committee on the status of women, and a subcommittee took it to President Michael J. Graham, S.J.

“He’s very supportive of the concept,” says chairperson Dawn Rogers. “We really felt that probably the biggest barrier would be finding the right place and getting it started.”

While the administration considers child care on campus, it’s also weighing a proposal to stop the tenure clock for one year for every new child in the family. Faculty who opt for the extension would continue to work and get paid but would have an extra year to complete their published work. Approved by the faculty in 2002 and backed by the administration as “affirming Xavier’s mission,” the measure went to the University’s board of trustees in December.

Some assistant professors already have successfully petitioned to stop their tenure clocks because of maternity issues, reflecting the holistic approach of department chairs who care about their faculty members’ personal lives. With board approval of the new policy, however, tenure extensions would become a right of all tenure-track professors.

“I want to do everything I can to further their professional careers and show I value family life,” says Jo Ann Recker, department of modern languages chair.

That may mean creative scheduling-strictly night classes for instance-to give faculty chunks of time to do research at home, or letting them bring their kids to work periodically. With the increase of new young faculty on campus, it’s not unusual to see children coloring in their parents’ offices or strolling to Burger King for chicken fingers and fries.

Stopping the tenure clock is not a new idea. The University of Iowa adopted a policy in 1993, the University of Texas in 1986 and Stanford University in 1971. And the trend continues. The American Association of University Professors in 2001 recommended extending tenure by up to two years for each child born. And a University of Michigan survey found 49 percent of universities have some form of tenure extension for professors.

Extending tenure may offer relief to harried new parents, but it also has its downside. It extends the time for promotion and salary increase. And there’s often a stigma attached.

“The view becomes they should have done more because they had an extra year or two,” says Daniella Sarnoff, an assistant history professor who’s expecting her second child in January. She’ll be on leave this spring but will return to do research in Berlin in July. With a baby on the way, she’s eyeing tenure extension.

“It’s one of the things I’ve kept in mind,” she says. “But if I can meet what I need to do without stopping the clock, then I won’t.”

Theology professor Gillian Ahlgren accomplished tenure while raising her son, Matthew, mostly as a single parent. It was exhausting, and her health suffered. Matthew was 3 months old and still not sleeping through the night when she returned full time for the fall semester 10 years ago.

“What I remember most is I would look in the mirror and just see black and blue lines under my eyes,” says Ahlgren, who cut her sleep to about four hours a night.

With her three children, ages 3, 7 and 9, still so young, Ceo-DiFrancesco is in the middle of her toughest years. She’s mastered the art of tweaking to keep everything functioning, occasionally picking up Vincent, her youngest, at noon from the Montessori Lab School on campus and walking him to her Schott Hall office. He eats lunch at a table while she works at her computer.

Recently he taped big sheets of colored construction paper to the cabinets. When they went to Recker’s office on business, Recker put chocolate Kisses in his hand. Later, they dashed out to get his brother and sister and head home for homework, dinner, baths, bedtime-and midnight tea in the basement.

She’s grateful for the support, she says, but something always suffers. “The house is a mess or you don’t get all your work done.”

The worst is when they’re sick. She has no family in town, so last winter, when Vincent had a high fever, she had a student watch him in her office while she taught. “You feel really bad because you know to be a responsible parent, he should be in bed,” she says.

As she tweaks, though, the tenure clock ticks. Her book nearly finished, she still has two more articles to do in a year. Still, she’s been fortunate. When Vincent was born, Recker offered her a one-year tenure extension, which she gratefully accepted.

“Dianne came to me nervous to tell me she was pregnant with Vincent,” Recker says.

“She was almost apologetic. I told her, ‘Congratulations.’ ”


Poetic Justice

It’s 4:00 a.m., a crisp October morning on New York’s Upper West Side. Silence hangs thick in the air, punctuated only by the occasional wail of sirens rising up from the streets below. In his 16th-floor apartment, Russell Goings Jr. has been writing for an hour. Clad in a gray ball cap, gray T-shirt and black shorts, he sits in a small pool of light at his writing table, his 6-foot-plus, 255-pound frame ensconced in a plain oak kitchen chair, his pen moving silently over a sheet of paper. He was up late last night watching “Martin Scorcese Presents: The Blues,” and his allergies are giving him a little trouble. He sniffles as he roughs out verses inspired by the series, part of a larger piece with the working title “I Have Known.”

I have known the inward and the outwardness of the blues …

I have known the different colors of the blues.

I have known the shape of the blues.

I have known the arch of a man’s foot that pats the blues.

I have known the blues that filled the cathedral of a man’s mouth. …

From the shadowy walls outside the sphere of light, works by renowned black artists Romare Beardon and Jacob Lawrence stand watch, providing a ready flow of inspiration. On the table, a pile of reference books—The Elements of Style, World Poetry, The Poetry of Black America and The Poetry of the Blues—share space with a darkened computer screen. Just beyond, a large window looks out over rhythmic rows of streetlights, pulsing into the distance with an energy that finds its way into the words.

The 1959 graduate has always been an early riser, and today, as usual, he started working a little after 3:00 a.m. Behind him on the couch, four stacks of handwritten manuscripts sit in mute testimony to his passion and dedication, the same passion and dedication that have marked most of his life’s pursuits. Among the titles he can claim are professional football player, pioneering black stockbroker on Wall Street, founder of one of the first black-owned companies to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, key player in the founding of Essence magazine, first black chairman of the Studio Museum in Harlem, dealer and collector of African-American art, crusader for black empowerment, rallying force for alumni of the Jesuit honor society, Alpha Sigma Nu, and inner-city school volunteer.

And now there’s the writing. In 2001, he completed “The Children of Children Keep Coming,” an epic 309-page poem that draws on the traditions of West African griots to sing the history of blacks in the United States. It’s a fairly new passion, but one that has grasped his soul. At 71, an age when most are beginning to look backward, Goings is still focusing on the future, still searching for new ways to improve his life and the lives of those around him intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.

“I try to enrich the moment,” he says. “That’s what I got from the Jesuits at Xavier. If you enrich the moment, you get the other stuff.”

n hindsight, perhaps the amazing aspect of Goings’ life isn’t all that he’s accomplished, or that he’s lived this philosophy, but that he was determined enough to discover and embrace it in the first place. He started life impoverished and wanting, living the kind of life that makes young men hard and angry.

From time to time, young Russell and his family took his little red wagon to the rail yards of his native Stamford, Conn., to gather the scraps of coal that littered the ground. The scraps fell from the steam locomotives with each earth-shaking arrival and departure, creating a cold-weather treasure trove for the shivering poor and allowing the family the chance to light the stove they otherwise couldn’t afford to feed. To his lasting embarrassment, the wagon also saw duty collecting supplies in the welfare line.

Goings’ parents, Russell Sr. and Rose, came north from South Carolina in search of opportunity. But in spite of his high school vocational training, Russell Sr. was denied entry to the unions and wouldn’t find steady work until World War II.

Against this backdrop, Goings entered first grade and immediately ran into trouble. Offended early by “Little Black Sambo,” the youngster turned away from reading and began reacting physically to the taunts of white classmates. “I was in the slow-to-retarded class until sixth grade,” he says. “I got into a lot of trouble.”

But at the end of the sixth grade, with reform school looming, a school psychologist discovered something about Goings: He’s dyslexic. The psychologist began teaching him to read using comic books and, playing on the youngster’s love of sports, exposed him to successful black scholar-athletes. Goings grabbed the ball and ran.

At critical turns in his life, Goings has always found mentors-enrichers, he now calls them-who have taught him what he needs to know to go forward. Fittingly, Rose Goings was her son’s first enricher, and, finally, the high standards she set for the oldest of her six children in the bleakest of times began to pay off. His new enthusiasm for education connected with a lesson learned in a local stockbroker’s office.

“I was shining a man’s shoes and he took a telephone call,” Goings says. “By the time I was done, he had made $200. Then he gave me a quarter. The same amount of time was spent. The difference was I was on my knees, and he was sitting in the chair.”

Goings resolved to sit in the chair. A teacher told him blacks couldn’t be stockbrokers, but he wasn’t buying. “I never understood what my blackness had to do with it,” he says.

In 1951, America was a hard place. It would be four years before Rosa Parks ignited the civil rights movement by refusing to give up her seat on an Alabama bus, and 13 years before Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. But Goings had grown used to the hardness, even if he hadn’t accepted it, and was looking forward to graduating from Stamford High.

He had reason to be optimistic. He was, after all, an outstanding football player with a pair of state championships under his belt, and he’d developed into a solid student as well. So when the invitation came to visit an Ivy League university, he didn’t see any signs of impending disaster. “I was the only black person in this group,” he says. “They served hors d’oeuvres. They gave me Gouda cheese, and I ate the paraffin. They kept giving it to me. Nobody told me. Finally they bring something I recognize-a bowl with a piece of lemon in it. I ask for some ice. I make myself some lemonade. They called for more. I didn’t know it was a finger bowl. I drank the stuff. I told the story, and my high school counselor cried.”

Embarrassed, Goings abandoned his college plans and joined the U.S. Air Force, where, he says, “I spent four years learning how to sit down at a table.” Well, not exactly. Goings was selected to study martial arts at the Kodokan in Tokyo, and he became an escape, evasion and survival instructor. By the time he left the service in 1955, Goings had a wife and a full scholarship to play football at the University-the latter courtesy of Xavier head coach Harry Connolly, who was from the Stamford area.

“It was the best decision I made in my life besides my family,” Goings says of his University experience. “The Jesuits took me by the hand and got me to knock the chip off my shoulder about being black. They showed me I could learn anything.”

At the University, he found enrichers in the persons of University President Paul O’Connor, S.J., English professor Paul Sullivan, S.J., and business professor Thomas Hailstones. After a rough academic start, Goings rose in his class and became a member of Alpha Sigma Nu. Ultimately, he completed his undergraduate work early and earned a graduate scholarship to study marketing.

His football career blossomed as well. A linebacker and guard, he was named the team’s outstanding lineman in his final season, and upon graduation, headed to Canada to play for the Saskatchewan Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League. In 1960, he was offered a shot playing for the Buffalo Bills of the fledgling American Football League. “Toward the end of the pre-season, I hyperextended my leg,” Goings says. “The coach wanted to shoot me full of painkillers so I could play on it. I packed my clothes and went to Wall Street.”

Goings was ready for Wall Street, but to say Wall Street in 1960 was less than ready for Goings is beyond an understatement. Blacks were virtually invisible on the Street. One major firm told him they just hired their “first Jewish broker east of the Mississippi,” so he’d have to get in line. Undaunted, he landed a job with a small firm, J.W. Kaufmann & Co. His first month’s salary was $37.50. But he found another mentor in Kaufmann, and soon developed into a rainmaker-the designation given to brokers who impact the course of business.

Drawing on what he knew best, Goings courted black athletes and entertainers, then largely ignored by the financial establishment. He recalls staking out the Grand Concourse Hotel, where visiting football teams stayed, and playing cards with names like Jim Brown, Ernie Green and Bobby Mitchell.

“I networked,” he says. “New York was the jazz music capital of the world, and a lot of the best musicians hung out at a place called Jim and Andy’s. I would hang out at the bar, then go to recording sessions with them, and they would become my clients. Later, I had a contract as a financial advisor with the National Basketball Association Player’s Association.”

These were heady times. By 1968, Goings was a branch manager for Shearson Hammill, a New York Stock Exchange firm. And he began turning his attention to helping young black entrepreneurs, convincing his superiors at Shearson Hammill to offer advice and invest in some of the ventures. One venture involved a young banker, Edward Lewis, who envisioned a magazine aimed at black women. In a single meeting, Goings helped him assemble the elements to start Essence magazine. He later served two years on its board.

“I call him ‘The Godfather of Essence,’ ” says Lewis, who’s now chairman and C.E.O. of Essence Communications Partners and publisher of Essence. “He’s a visionary. He’s tough, charismatic, articulate, to the point, and can be off-putting. He’s well-read and has an incredible wealth of history in terms of what has happened to us as African Americans in this country. He’s also very clear about what’s right and what’s wrong. He’s a role model.”

In October 1971, Goings bought the Shearson branch and renamed it First Harlem Securities Corp. Another company, Daniels & Bell, narrowly edged First Harlem to become the first black-owned company of any kind to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. But Goings says First Harlem was the first fully operational, self- contained black-owned company to have a seat.

But the ride was about to end. Goings sold shares in First Harlem, and when he wanted to restructure the firm, some stockholders disagreed. The fight turned ugly, and Goings was charged with misappropriating funds. Although the charges ultimately came to nothing-indeed, the stock exchange has no record of the case-the fight cost Goings virtually all his assets, and in 1976 he decided to leave Wall Street and find a new passion.

On Saturdays and holidays, crowds of visitors flock to New York’s art museums. And beginning in the late 1970s, Goings reserved those days for his own visits. But he never went alone. He had long been developing an interest in art, and he convinced Bearden, one of the country’s best African-American artists, to show him the way.

Goings had spent the first half of his career helping establish a beachhead for blacks on Wall Street and in the halls of financial power. But that was behind him now, and he turned his attention to yet another cultural issue-he became a dealer in African-American art. Once again capitalizing on a largely untapped field, he also realized his influence could stretch beyond simply buying and selling to helping determine which artists lived on as masters.

Goings met Bearden around 1970, and the two became close friends, a relationship that lasted until the artist’s death in 1988.

In challenging Goings to learn about art, Bearden enigmatically challenged him to begin writing. “He told me that when he died, he was going to sit at the big table,” Goings says. “He asked me where I was going to sit. I wanted to sit at the big table, too.”

Writing became an increasingly serious goal in 1994 when an unrelated personal mission-to rally Alpha Sigma Nu alumni and get the Jesuit message out to African-American schoolchildren-took Goings to Fairfield University. There, he met Thomas Regan, S.J., a professor of philosophy and the newly appointed president of the society, and Kim Bridgeford, an English professor and award-winning poet. Both would soon join the ranks of the enrichers. Goings showed Bridgeford some of his writings and began taking classes.

“The Children’ just leapt off the page,” Bridgeford says. “It’s one of the most impressive pieces that I’ve ever read. It’s just so clearly great art.”

Meanwhile, Goings and Regan became a formidable team, reaching out to corporate sponsors and taking the society to new levels.

“You don’t say ‘No’ to Russell,” says Regan, who is now provincial for the Jesuits’ Northeast Province.

Regan and Goings identified several New York schools as focal points of their mission to reach out to minority children, including St. Aloysius Middle School for Girls, which Goings took under his wing. He started a philosophy club, loaned more than 50 pieces of art by Bearden and Jacob Lawrence to the school, brought in numerous speakers in publishing, writing, editing, poetry and film making, staged workshops on writing and poetry, and entertained student art-discussion groups at his home. In typical fashion, Goings took his interest in education one step further by starting a production company-Praise Song on a Shoestring Inc.-to make classroom-ready videos about African-American artists and thus give black children greater insight into, and appreciation for, their cultural heritage.

As the first hint of daylight colors the autumn sky, Goings puts down his pen. Each day at 6:00 a.m., he joins a friend for coffee, sliced tomatoes and a toasted English muffin at a café down the block. Later, he’ll write some more, then maybe indulge in another passion-tennis. His goal remains what it’s always been: to keep growing, to keep contributing to the future.

“I want to make the earth that I’m around a little better than it was before,” he says. “I came in with nothing, and I’m going to leave the same way. Worldly things are fine, but it’s the moment that’s important. You must try to enrich the moment, and hopefully it touches somebody as it goes past.”