Take Two

Russell Goings has been busy this winter. In January, the 1959 graduate saw 13 years of writing, rewriting and revising rewarded when Simon and Schuster published his epic griotsong, The Children of Children Keep Coming. There followed a number of books signings and some very special events—Columbia University staged a theatrical adaptation of the piece and hosted a separate discussion around it in February. And in January, the New York Stock exchange honored Goings by inviting him to host a signing and ring the closing bell. Goings was one of the first African-American stock brokers on Wall Street and started the first black-owned, fully operational brokerage company to own a seat on the exchange.

The Children of Children is a 256-page poem that draws on African oral traditions—griots are oral historians—and a combination of mythical and historical figures to trace the arc of the African-American experience from slavery to today. Goings began the piece when he decided to take up creative writing and enrolled at Fairfield University. The book also features rare drawings by the late African American artist Romare Bearden, a longtime Goings’ friend.

Spiritual Life Behind Bars

Gene Carmichael, S.J., has been at Xavier nearly 30 years, serving the University in a number of capacities, currently as interim vice president of Mission and Identity. Recently, he began taking his skills as a Jesuit priest outside of the University, volunteering as the Catholic priest for the Lebanon Correctional Institute, a level-three prison. 

“What I do is provide the Catholic services in more than one spiritual direction for them.”

“There is a movement called Kairos in which people lead retreats for prisoners. I was helping out with this movement three years ago doing confessions and one of the guys said, ‘You know, we haven’t had Mass here in five years.’ I checked with the deputy warden and he said ‘That’s true.’ The diocesan priest who had been there full-time for many years left and there had not been Mass since. One thing led to another and now I’m the one that goes up there.”

“After the authorities got to know me, they gave me a silent alarm that I wear on my belt so if I think I’m in trouble and I push it, supposedly I would be surrounded by guards and be protected. The value of having that and having a badge is I have a right to be anywhere in the walls of the prison, including the ‘hole.’ That means if any of my guys are in there I can go in and visit with them.”

“There are two types of guys: guys who had been Catholics all their lives and want to learn more about their faith, and guys who are interested in becoming Catholic. Last summer Archbishop Pilarczyk came in and baptized and confirmed 10 of our men. If you look at the faces of these guys, there’s no doubt that a number of them are in prison for some mean and nasty things, but once you get to know them, you realize that they are, really, very good people.”

“Their being in prison is, just about always, I would say, the result of one of three things: drugs, alcohol or Vietnam.”

“Drugs and alcohol are understandable, but Vietnam—for some guys who came out of Vietnam, they were taught to kill. Hand-to-hand combat in Vietnam was very important to know. One guy was out with his platoon and most of his platoon members were killed, and he felt terrible guilt that he lost so many men and he should’ve done more to protect all the rest of them. He was so agonized over it that they sent him back to the States. He got off the boat in San Diego and was at a bar talking to some young woman and I suppose drinking alcohol. Some guy came up and made fun of the man and was demeaning to the woman so, without even thinking, he just did what he did in Vietnam and killed him. He didn’t want to kill this guy, but it was spontaneous. So he’s in for life, with no possibility of parole.”

“I’m not saying we should free all the prisoners or something, but I think we should be dealing with the guys who are in prison in very humane ways to the extent that I can spend a little time with them or the volunteers who come in. It brings a dose of reality to their lives.”

Searching the Past

Xavier University has a rich history, and thanks to the generous support of 1968 graduate Phil Gasiewicz and 1974 Edgecliff graduate Beth Surkamp Gasiewicz, the history has been digitized and much of it is now available to alumni online. Through the digital collections homepage, www.xavier.edu/archives, alumni can browse yearbooks dating back to 1924 and student newspapers dating back to 1915, as well as photos from the Xavier archive collection and other digital media.

The site affords the user an insight into Xavier campus life—persons, places and events at different time periods in Xavier’s history—and is a rich source of information documenting student life and activities. Even the impact of national events on the Xavier campus can be studied, such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy or life on campus during World War II.

Both the newspaper and yearbook collections may be searched either by browsing the collections or by keyword. The digital collections homepage is an ever-expanding site with new photos, newspaper issues and other materials being added on an ongoing basis.

The Xavier archive staff is also actively seeking older issues of both publications and other archival materials to expand the present offerings. If you have something that might be of interest, call 513-745-4821.

Retirement Rx

Dr. Richard Wendel looks at retirement and sees what many people don’t: opportunity. The trick, says the 1997 XMBA grad, lies in the planning. That’s how Wendel came to write Retire With a Mission, published by Sourcebooks early this year. “I think a lot of people go into retirement without adequate planning,” he says, “and they don’t realize how many options they have.”

Written in conversational, reader-friendly style, Retire With a Mission takes a global look at planning a successful retirement. There are chapters on building a smooth transition, writing a personal mission statement, building on past pleasures, making life inventories, psychological perspectives, sexual intimacy, drawing on family support, estate planning and more. The last two sections of the book include multiple chapters addressing retirement activities and ways to protect your retirement money. The book is off to a strong start, selling more than 5,000 copies in its first month.

A practicing urologist for 31 years, Wendel was always “a bit entrepreneurial.” He is also a certified gemologist—“an avocation that got out of hand”—and for a time operated a jewelry business alongside his medical duties. He graduated from the XMBA program at age 60, and following retirement from medical practice, he wrote a book on medical practice management, published by the American College of Physician Executives.

Now a full-time volunteer with organizations such as the Global Affairs Council, Leadership Cincinnati, SCORE and others, Wendel’s own retirement reflects the upbeat tone of his book. “My life right now is perhaps as happy as it’s ever been,” he says with a chuckle. “The downside is, I don’t have a secretary. I have to be my own gofer.”

Life Out Loud

Sara Elizabeth Timmins isn’t shy. “My mantra is, ‘Dare to live life out loud,’ ” she says. That’s how I’ve always lived my life. If you follow your dreams, jump in, take a risk and embrace what you believe in, the results can be amazing.”

Timmins jumped in and began following her dreams right after graduating with a degree in communication arts in 1999. Desiring to get into the movie business, she started her own production company—which she aptly named Life Out Loud Films—in Cincinnati, producing amongst other pieces the film “Tattered Angel,” which included former “Wonder Woman” TV star Lynda Carter in the cast. The film won several film festival awards.

Encouraged, six years ago she headed for Hollywood. She has produced more than a dozen independent films since then while also acting on stage and in TV shows. Still, in December 2007, she admits, she was feeling unfulfilled.

“I was stuck in that go-go-go of Hollywood, and I was stressed, confused and a wreck,” she says. She spent Christmas with her parents in Smith Mountain Lake, Va., pausing at one point to walk around the lake. “It was life-changing,” she says. “A clarity came over me. I made a lot of personal vows to myself.”

Among those vows: producing a movie set at the lake. Tentatively titled “Lake Effect,” the film is a drama about a lakeside family and the challenges they face. And, thanks to enthusiastic pledges of donated services, she’s pared the cost down from $1.8 million to $500,000. She plans to film the movie this fall and hopes to have it ready for release in 2010.

“It’s a film that will make people think about their lives,” she says. “My company is focused on films that make people leave the theater wanting to make life better.”

Jesuits in the Sudan

Paul Besanceney, S.J., waited until after his 50th birthday to go on his trip of a lifetime. By then he already accumulated multiple degrees—including a bachelor’s degree from Xavier in 1947—taught high school, chaired the sociology department at John Carroll University and served as the Provincial of the Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus.

But that apparently wasn’t enough for the Toledo-born Jesuit. In 1980, he decided to get back into teaching, this time, though, in a classroom halfway around the world. He joined the faculty of St. Paul’s Major Seminary in the war-torn country of Sudan, where he taught sociology to the Sudanese priests. In the 28 years since he began, though, his workload has increased. What began with 60 priests has grown to 450 priests.

“I am delighted that I had something to do with that,” says Besanceney, who also served as the provincial of the Jesuit’s five-nation Eastern Africa Province from 1988-1995.

None of it has been easy, though. The endless wars took their toll on the seminary, which was forced to move several times, from Wau in southwestern Sudan to Juba in the south and finally to Khartoum in the north where it’s been since 1991.

Still, Besanceney remains upbeat and active. Now 84 years old and living in Nairobi, Kenya, he turned his teaching duties over to the next generation and keeps busy writing and staying in touch with his Jesuit brothers in Khar-toum. And traveling. The region’s wild animals, he says, “are stimulating to see.” And why not? After all, he’s still on his trip of a lifetime.

Hopeful Dancer

It may seem quite a “jeté” from ballet dancer to psychotherapist, but Robin Arthur made that soaring leap with ease. The former Cincinnati Ballet dancer says it was a “natural extension” of who she was to become chief of psychology at the new Lindner Center of Hope mental health center in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason. 

“When you’re a ballet dancer, it’s the interaction between you and the audience that moves people,” she says. “In psychotherapy, it’s the interaction between you and the patient that moves people.”

Arthur says overcoming mental problems requires structure in life, and her training in ballet made her an expert on regimen.

“Ten years of my formative life were spent training four hours a day, six days a week,” she says. “Those years taught me a lot about human behavior and developed my interest in studying psychology.”

Arthur received a master’s degree in psychology from Xavier in 2001 and a doctorate in psychology from Xavier in 2004. She was a member of the founding team that designed the Lindner Center, which has the appearance of a lodge in a park. “For a patient, you feel like you’re going into a nurturing place. Our model is set up to be therapeutic and not hospital-like, although you get all the benefits of a hospital.”

Arthur says she has found professional fulfillment at the center. “It is a marriage of all my talents,” she says. “I get to use my creative outputs to develop programming. I get to use my therapy skills to do therapy and all of my industrial organizational psychology pieces to be an administrator.”

Growing the Association

In January, alumni from around the country spent part of their days and nights on the phone, telling people what a great place Xavier is to attend college. While that’s not so unusual—alumni brag all the time—what made it out of the ordinary is the people they were talking to were high school students. The alumni were taking part in a new “alumni ambassadors” program in which they help the University recruit students. Who better, after all, to sell Xavier than alumni?

The program is one of the many notable changes put into place this year by the National Alumni Association in its effort to “grow and flourish in support of Xavier University,” says executive director Joe Ventura. Following a yearlong effort, the association rewrote its constitution and bylaws so it is poised to provide leadership in three areas critical to University success: alumni engagement, student recruitment and development. This is the first major realignment since the current National Alumni Association was ratified in 1993. While the association has had great success in that time—growing the alumni network to include 50 chapters, for instance—“it is now time to look beyond all of our success and forge a new, more powerful and strategic partnership with our beloved alma mater,” says Ventura. “As the University keeps reaching new heights, the National Alumni Association needs to keep pace as well.”

Among other changes alumni may notice is a shift to a more regional network of chapters, with a regional director overseeing the individual chapters. This not only allows for mentoring of new chapter presidents, but creates a consistency nationwide. “That’s not something you may notice immediately,” says association president Mike Hanpeter, a 1996 graduate and president of the Washington, D.C., chapter, “but something you’ll notice down the road. And by having only the regional directors on the board, this will allow us to be more of a working board and help the University with more strategic goals. I really think these changes will enhance the National Alumni Association.”

Green Worker

Whenever someone drinks a clean glass of tap water or enjoys a scenic drift along the Ohio River, he can thank Thomas J. Conway. On the recommendation of Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, the 1968 graduate is now one of 27 commissioners of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission—more commonly known as ORSANCO—the interstate water pollution control agency that oversees the 981-mile Ohio River Basin and its tributaries. During his six-year term, Conway is focusing on keeping the waterways sustainably pure and naturally beautiful.

“The commissioners set policy for ORSANCO with a budget of $2.4 million per year to focus on the Ohio River and its tributaries,” says Conway. “The big issue is the drinkability of the water and, more broadly, the safety of the water. Can you swim in it? Can you fish in it? Can you eat fish from the river? Is the river safe for barges, yachts and recreational vehicles? That’s our focus.”

Since 1948, ORSANCO has worked to improve water quality in the Ohio River Basin so that the river and its tributaries can be used for drinking water, industrial supplies and recreational purposes while supporting a healthy and diverse aquatic population. As commissioner, Conway brings 19 years of experience as president of Conway Co., in which he consults for non-profit organizations in their fundraising efforts. He’s helped raise more than $200 million for environmental groups, hospitals and independent schools.

“In a way, this is a culmination of decades of interest,” says Conway, who spends his spare time as an environmental photograher. “I wanted to bring people to forests and parks through my photography; to draw people into greater experiences with nature. You want to preserve it, expand it and make sure you can hand it on to the next generation.”

Free Rides

Thanks to Ted Bergh, thousands of poor people in Cincinnati can get to their jobs, the doctor or anywhere else in the region—free. Bergh—a 1991 theology graduate who spends his days as chief financial officer of Metro, the bus company that services Greater Cincinnati—was the brains behind an independent charitable foundation that not only found a way for people to ride the buses for free but is also garnering attention from around the country.

“When energy costs were high, we had to raise our fares, and we were concerned that low-income riders would have difficulty getting essential services,” says Bergh. “So, we started this charitable foundation.”

Known as Everybody Rides Metro, the foundation raises money to pay for bus ride tokens that social service agencies distribute to people in need. The project started in 2006 and by the end of 2008 the foundation raised $1.25 million, including a $700,000 matching grant from the Federal Transportation Authority. After a one-year pilot program, the effort became fully operational in the spring of 2008 and provided 120,000 free bus rides in six months. The foundation’s goal is to give 70,000 free rides a month by 2009.

To try to make sure the free rides go to people who really need them, the foundation relies on the expertise of social service agencies that work with the poor.

“We don’t want to be the ones to decide who gets served,” says Bergh. “There are a lot of agencies out there that already do that. We partner with the agencies and they decide who gets help and they hand out the tokens.” That allows the foundation to concentrate on raising funds to keep the program thriving.

The program is the first of its kind in the country and the American Public Transit Association was so impressed that it awarded the foundation its national 2008 Innovation Award, meaning it felt the program represented the greatest innovation in public transportation in America during the year.

Those who receive free bus rides also praise the program. “We’re hearing some pretty good stories from people who say this really helped them get a job or keep a job or get to health care,” says Bergh. “We want to keep expanding the program in Cincinnati. And, we’re having discussions with several other cities interested in starting a similar program.”