Searching the Heavens

To view an audio slideshow that accompanies this piece, click here.

In the Pinaleno Mountains near Safford, Ariz., three hours northeast of Tucson, is a piece of earth and sky that has become a window to the world—and the heavens above. Born of volcanic activity, Mt. Graham rises nearly 11,000 feet from Arizona’s desert floor and still bears trees that date back to the 1200s, long before modern humans began probing the mysteries of the universe.

Now the mountain bears the mark of man. On its peak, where the sky is black and the air is crisp and clear, three telescopes open their eyes toward space. The data they gather feed the research projects of astronomers and scientists worldwide, people who study unfathomable concepts such as black holes, cosmic background radiation and the Big Bang theory of creation.

At the heart of this Mecca for astronomical research in the American Southwest is the Catholic Church—the Jesuit order, in particular. The Vatican itself, under the direction of Pope John Paul II, spearheaded the development of the Mt. Graham International Observatory and funded the construction of its first telescope, painstakingly erected between 1985 and 1993.

The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope is managed by the Vatican Observatory Research Group, established in 1981 by the Vatican Observatory in partnership with the University of Arizona, which shared in the nearly $6 million cost of construction. The Vatican’s 75-percent share was raised entirely from donations. Fundraising continues, as the $3 million endowment is not nearly enough to support the telescope’s $800,000 annual cost to operate.

The telescope is used by a dozen Jesuit astronomers, as well as students from Wheeling Jesuit University and other academic research institutions. Some of the data it gathers finds its way to the desk of William Stoeger, S.J. In his office near the university in Tucson, Stoeger crunches, compares and analyzes the information in his quest for knowledge and truth. A theoretical astrophysicist by training, Stoeger spends his days applying physics to understanding astronomical phenomena.

He used to study black holes, but now he concentrates on cosmological evolution—in short, the Big Bang.

The Next Frontier

The University built it, and they came. Without announcement or invitation. A steady stream of them, says librarian Betty Porter.

As soon as the carpet and furniture arrived in the prototype of the planned Learning Commons, students packed the place.

“They came earlier and stayed later,” says Porter. “They made themselves right at home.”

It was finals week, a full month before the prototype’s scheduled January grand opening, but there they were, packed into the collaborative learning zone—the large, open, technology-laden space that forms about half of the prototype.

Surprising? Maybe. Maybe not. The Learning Commons has been one of the most talked about aspects of the To See Great Wonders capital campaign, and the students spent months watching as the prototype became a reality. The library staff moved all of the books from the first floor in June, and each time the students walked through the building’s main doors they got an update as workmen labored to transform the space into the prototype.

Finally, though, it opened, and that initial positive response brought both a sense of gratification—and a sigh of relief—to those responsible for its success.

“It’s one thing when you think about these things conceptually,” says David Dodd, Xavier’s vice president for information resources and CIO. “But actually doing it is a gamble that your vision is viable. What we’re seeing now is, ‘Oh yes. We’ve got it.’ ”

Of all the components of the Great Wonders campaign, the Learning Commons—a primary cog in the James E. Hoff, S.J., Academic Quad—has been by far the most difficult to define and describe. To get a real sense of the Learning Commons concept, it seems, you have to see it.

Enter alumni-philanthropist Phil Gasiewicz, who provided the lion’s share of the almost $1 million necessary to create the living, breathing, scaled-down model. In fact, much of the furniture and technology found in the prototype will ultimately make its way into the actual Commons. Equally important, the prototype allows the University to fine-tune the concept before building the real thing.

“The Learning Commons will be bigger and will integrate even more services and offices,” says Kandi Stinson, Xavier’s associate provost for academic affairs. “For space reasons primarily, we could only fold three of the components into the prototype.”

Those components are evident just inside the library’s front doors, where visitors first come face-to-face with the Information Resources Center, a large, sweeping desk combining the traditional reference and circulation desks with a technology help desk. It is essentially a one-stop shop that allows students to access resources without disrupting their study.

To the right of the desk is the collaborative learning zone, a quarter-size model of the Commons’ Magis Plaza. A wireless environment, it includes five computer-interfacing, wall-mounted flat-screen monitors, each flanked by a pair of white dry-erase boards, and lots of small details designed to facilitate study. Stinson says the large, open space is designed to promote student interaction, a philosophy reflected even in the furnishings.

“Everything is moveable, with the exception of a couple large stations that are hardwired to allow connections to printers,” Stinson says. “Every table that has a seam can either be pulled apart and/or the leaves can be dropped. In a sense, all the tables are great big jigsaw puzzles that can be quickly pulled apart and put back together again in any number of ways, depending on what they’re being used for.”

Also in the prototype are an experimental classroom and faculty lounge, which correlate to the Commons’ Center for Teaching Excellence. The classroom includes four wall-mounted flat-screen monitors, a Smart Board, multiple ceiling-mounted cameras and flexible furnishings. It’s a simplified version of the three experimental classrooms planned for the Learning Commons, Dodd says.

And, the library garden is gated off, effectively extending these new work and study areas outdoors.

With all of the physical changes, though, the key remains fine-tuning that one unpredictable component: the human element. As Dodd points out, it’s people who ultimately deliver the services. In some cases, that involves bringing together staff members who, while they may have been under the same divisional banner in the past, have never had to work closely together in the ways the new facility requires.

“I think this is essential for us to have this prototype,” Porter says. “We’re getting over some of the growing pains now, which is good.”

Current staffing issues also mean the prototype isn’t open around the clock, as the Learning Commons will be. But whatever the limitations, the students who packed the collaborative learning zone during finals week didn’t seem to care.

“We were a little surprised at how well they responded to it,” Stinson says. “In hindsight, we should have known they would just find it and make it their own.”

Night Movers

To view a slideshow that accompanies this piece, click here.

If New York is the city that never sleeps, Xavier has taken a bite out of the Big Apple. In an era of never-ending options, the campus has become a 24/7 community, with more and more night classes, workers toiling through the graveyard shift in an effort to keep up with the demand, and students active and (mostly) alert through the wee hours. Then, before the dawn breaks on another day, ROTC students and others are up exercising, taking classes and setting the whole mass into motion once again.

For many students, studying doesn’t begin until late into the night after all of the day’s activities are complete. Some stay in their rooms. Others find quiet and solitude elsewhere on campus.

After the library closes at 1:00 a.m., students flock to the Gallagher Center, which they successfully lobbied to have stay open 24 hours a day. There, studying continues until the early morning hours—with occassional breaks for games or snacks.

The students aren’t the only ones awake, though. Campus police continue their patrols. Workers clean the University’s buildings. And chefs in the Hoff Dining Hall keep the ovens warm throughout the night. In order to clear the kitchen for preparation of the day’s meals, all desserts are made the night before.

While the pace of campus slows a bit compared to the daytime, the quiet of the night is often interrupted by events, such as basketball games or guest speakers.

At dawn, while most students are finally sleeping and employees haven’t flooded the campus yet, Army ROTC students are put through their paces, undergoing physical training and learning military routines. They finish around 8:00 a.m.—just as the day’s first classes begin.

Profile: Tara Coyt

TARA COYT
Bachelor of Science in Natural Science, 1987
President, Coyt Communications
Atlanta

Pretty Legs | When she was 5 years old, Coyt saw a line of white women dancing across the TV. She asked her mother, “Why don’t black women have pretty legs? They have all these pretty women on TV showing their pretty legs but no black women, so they must not have pretty legs.” Her mother said all the women in their family had pretty legs. “That’s why it’s always been important to me to affect the black image. How black women are portrayed in music videos is really a concern of mine.”

Oprah Wannabe | By age 10, she wanted to be the first black woman to have her own TV talk show. But Oprah beat her to it. She watched carefully as Oprah’s star rose. “She started that sensationalism talk show, and it became so popular. That’s what I wanted to do.”

No-Med | By the time she came to Xavier, though, she was thinking medical school. But the Oprah influence brought out her outgoing, creative side as she participated in numerous clubs and events on campus, accepting invitations as mistress of ceremonies and introductory speaker.

Continuing Ed | After four years of working in uninspiring jobs, she went to The Ohio State University for an MBA in marketing—the closest thing to studying the cable television industry she could find. That led to a short stint in Atlanta and a marketing manager job with a cable company in Chicago.

Southbound | After six months, however, the cable job folded. So she started her own company, Coyt Communications, in 2001, picking up clients in the fashion, media and music industries. She moved back to Atlanta in 2003. “I felt that Atlanta was more entrepreneur friendly and would be a better place for me to grow the business.”

Diversity | The business has  grown. Her focus is multicultural marketing, and she’s done work for the State of Georgia and several corporations such as Porsche and Western Union. She’s also created a training program for aspiring entrepreneurs. Her web page at www.taracoyt.com lists her as a marketing consultant, speaker, author-coach and writer-editor.

Rewarding | Coyt won the Atlanta Business League’s 2004 business achievement award for her entrepreneurial efforts. One of her notables was publishing a book about succeeding in marketing. She also was in a recent video by Procter & Gamble aimed at raising the image of African-American women. The project, titled “My Black is Beautiful,” was a perfect fit for Coyt’s goal of changing how black women are portrayed in all media.

Let’s Talk | Coyt also hosts a weekly online news program she hopes will eventually lead to her own talk show. “My talk show will be a mixture of contemporary, positive, topical issues, nothing degrading to anyone, but about empowering people and presenting positive images.”

Profile: Kathy Mueller

KATHY MUELLER
Master of Business Administration, 1981
Volunteer Outreach Coordinator, Radiology Mammography International
Fort Mitchell, Ky.

The Dream Job | When Mueller graduated with a nursing degree from Ohio State University, she worked for a short time in public health before taking time off to raise her four children. At 40, she pursued her MBA and later landed a job at Bethesda hospitals working in government relations. “It was a dream job for me, because I was a real extrovert, and I have a way with people.”

Field Work | After a large-scale layoff, Mueller worked with Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. “I was a field representative for 20 counties in Kentucky, so I was on the road. I was his proxy when he wasn’t around.” Four years later, she parlayed her legislative experience into a management position at Mercy Health Partners, a hospital system in Cincinnati. “I developed a women’s center at Mercy Hospital-Anderson and I was the manager.” She retired after seven years, but now does consulting work with the Himwich Group, which helps hospitals build women’s centers.

Mission Trips | In addition to consulting, Mueller travels to underserved—and often unregulated—countries on two-week mission trips to teach people about breast cancer, osteoporosis and heart health through a group called Radiology Mammography International, founded by Dr. Richard Hirsch. Mueller travels with two radiologists, including Hirsch, and three mammography technologists. They often bring their own mammography machines.

The First Journey | Mueller first traveled to Bulgaria. “We educated more than 600 women and we went all over the country giving talks to the Roma women, which would be the gypsy women. We mostly did breast self-exam. I gave a talk, and I would give statistics, like the number of women diagnosed and how to reduce your risk. Then we get the models out, and then I have each person in the audience demonstrate that they know how to do breast self-exam.”

Nursing Education | Mueller also received a request to discuss the tenets of compassionate care in diagnosing breast cancer with a group of Bulgarian nurses—a topic usually covered in the early stages of nursing school. “When women are diagnosed in Bulgaria, they are told to report for surgery and to bring their own sheets, medicine and food with them. And that’s it. None of these countries have a screening program, either. So the only people who get mammograms are people who have found a lump. And usually it’s pretty large at that time.”

Giving Back | So far, Mueller has traveled to Macedonia, China, Bulgaria and Serbia, and is planning a trip to Kenya. “Dr. Hirsch is Jewish, and he calls this his ‘mitzvah’ and it’s like a ‘giving back’ for a good life. And he says it’s my ‘mitzvah,’ too, even though I’m Catholic. But it’s been a wonderful culmination of my career. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”

Profile: John Cox

JOHN COX
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, 1968
CEO, Halfacre Construction
Sarasota, Fla.

Starting Out | After graduation, Cox landed a job as a financial analyst trainee. “My first job was with NCR, and I got it out of the recruiting office. I was only there a year. They kept on promoting me but told me that I would have to wait two years for my next promotion. I said, ‘I’m not waiting that long.’ ”

Switching It Up | He eventually found himself developing commercial property in Columbus, Ohio. “The market was so horrible in Columbus. That’s when the interest rates were sky high, so I decided to try a new approach, and I decided to come to Florida.”

Buying a Company | In 1984, Cox bought Halfacre Construction, a regional general contractor headquartered in Sarasota. Cox grew the business from $4 million in sales to more than $40 million. “Halfacre became a household name. We’ve built a number of shopping centers, industrial buildings—large ones, small ones—and done work at the Port of Tampa and the Port of Manatee.” One of the company’s largest projects was a 420,000-square-foot, $10-million manufacturing facility for PGT Industries.

Outside Interests | After arriving in Florida, Cox took an active interest in the Sarasota community and raised money for a number of organizations, including the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides free education to children of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps Special Operations personnel who are killed in a mission or training accident.

Special Athletes | In 1996, Cox founded the Special Athletes Boosters to provide money for Sarasota County Special Olympics to run their programs. He raised $60,000 that first year.  “We had a tennis tournament two years and we got the proceeds from a boat race for two years. We got a county grant and now we have a golf tournament.”

Building Dreams | Five years ago, Cox oversaw the building of the Gene Whipp Sports Center Complex for Special Athletes—a 5,000-square-foot fieldhouse with an outdoor eight-lane, all-weather track in nearby Venice. “It’s totally their facility. I got most of the work donated. Actually, we didn’t pay for anything except for the steel.” Today the facility is used by more than 400 athletes, a huge increase from the 50 athletes when Cox first got involved. Members of the Sarasota County Special Olympics dedicated a street to him, named John Cox Way, at a special unveiling ceremony last May.

Halfacre Future | As for the future of Halfacre, Cox began taking on an advisory role last year, allowing his son to run the day-to-day operations of the company. “Working with him is very good. He’s a very smart and intelligent person. And we get along very well because we both don’t have big egos.”

John Cox died of unknown causes the day before this magazine went to press.

Profile: Brian Vaughan

BRIAN VAUGHAN, M.D.
Bachelor of Science, 1997
Anesthesiologist, Anesthesia Associates of Cincinnati
Cincinnati

Providing Care | In addition to his medical practice, Vaughan is founder and head of the Foundation for International Medicine, a non-profit organization aimed at improving the health care of people in developing countries by getting providers there. It achieves this goal by matching interested doctors with agencies working in undeveloped countries, then providing those doctors with grants to help pay down their educational loans while they’re practicing internationally.

Early Inspiration | During his formative years, Vaughan found inspiration in the work of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning medical missionary who spent most of his life in Africa. “He influenced me to give back all that I had been given for no other reason than being born to the right people.”

School Days | After graduating from Xavier, Vaughan attended medical school at Georgetown University. There, he graduated first in his class in 2001. He then went on to do his residency at the University of North Carolina.

Search for Service | Before starting medical school, Vaughan began researching opportunities for international service. He discovered that, although there is an estimated shortage of about 4 million health care providers worldwide, most doctors owe an average of $140,000 on educational loans and can’t afford to work in undeveloped countries for a long period.

First Steps | Finding no organizations that allow physicians to do international service and pay off their debt, Vaughan decided to act. He began planning the Foundation for International Medicine with his cousin, Dr. John Kedany, who was involved with international public health and had ties to the World Health Organization. But his plans suffered a major blow when Kedany died just before Vaughan completed his residency.

Starting Over | Vaughan eventually found an ally in Xavier. Although it is a separate entity, the foundation will work under the umbrella of the University’s Peace and Justice Programs.
Jesuit Footsteps | “Xavier brings the foundation some credibility and some infrastructure, as well as the Jesuit tradition and all that brings with it,” Vaughan says. “And this is another way for Xavier to express its mission in a concrete way.”

Life’s Work | Along with his duties in local hospitals, Vaughan now works to solidify the foundation’s board of directors and raises funds through donations and private grants. His own service work in Tanzania and Paraguay has only strengthened his commitment. “It’s always uncomfortable to come back from these trips, knowing there are so many with so little. That’s my goal, trying to find that balance with my life, and to leave the world a little better place.”

Major Benefactors

Phil Gasiewicz is the man—and money—behind a growing number of curtains at the University. The 1968 graduate has, in the last four years:

•   Provided $650,000 toward the creation of the Surkamp Family Welcome Center in the Alumni Center.
•   Provided funds to allow the library to digitize all Xavier yearbooks, newspapers and other history references.
•   Given $225,000 for transformation of the first floor of the University Library into a prototype of the Learning Commons.
•   And, most recently, given $1 million toward the development of the new Williams College of  Business building.

In a recent interview concerning the Learning Commons prototype, David Dodd, associate vice president for information resources and chief information officer, praised Gasiewicz. “Thank God for Phil Gasiewicz,” Dodd said.  “He believes so strongly in our faculty and students that he paid for a great deal of this himself. It gives us the opportunity to learn by doing, to hone and tweak and keep evolving the Learning Commons concept in a strong direction.”

Big Numbers

In recent years, student phonathons have set one fundraising record after another. And this year is shaping up as more of the same. In fact, this year’s effort is on pace to demolish previous records. As of year’s end—with four months to go—the phonation had already surpassed $820,000 in pledges, well within range of its $915,000 goal. The existing phonathon record is $891,000, which was set last year.

While the numbers themselves are impressive, what makes them truly remarkable is the leadership behind the effort. For the first time, the University hired three students to completely run the campaign. The trio oversees the student callers, organizes the callings and collects the pledges and payments—and, judging by the numbers, are lining themselves up for bright futures.

Kohlhepp Honored

Robert Kohlhepp’s leadership, generosity and commitment to Musketeer athletics have long been a part of Xavier lore. So in November, the University showed its gratitude, partnering with the Cintas Corp. and the Farmer Family Foundation to honor the 1971 MBA graduate through the creation of the Sr. Rose Ann Fleming Endowment for Student-Athlete Academic Advising.

The endowment, which recognizes Kohlhepp’s work at both Xavier and Cintas, is named in honor of Fleming, who for more than two decades has served as the academic advisor for Xavier student-athletes and has guided Xavier to national recognition for student-athlete graduation success. It ensures Fleming’s current position will continue in perpetuity.

In addition to the endowment, Kohlhepp, who is vice chairman at Cintas and a member of the University board of trustees, was honored with a plaque near the Kohlhepp Family Auxiliary Gym, which was named in his honor.