A New Edgecliff

edgecliffLike most good actors, Michael Shooner’s LinkedIn profile features a strong entrance:

“40 years of theater here, there and everywhere—L.A., Seattle, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Japan!! In 1998, founded a nifty, kick-ass theatre company, New Edgecliff Theatre, here in Cincinnati.”

What motivates a veteran actor to accept an executive director role and bring an historic theater company back to life? In Shooner’s case, Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll (the play, not the lifestyle). Plus a desire to stick around town.

“When I started New Edgecliff, I had just come back from my 17-year odyssey out of town,” he says. “I was tired of being on the road, working travelling shows. I was regrouping, trying to figure out what I was going to do. I happened to come across Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll. It blew me away.”

Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll is a one-man-show in which the actor plays 11 different characters. Shooner knew he had to perform that play. There was only one problem. “When I contacted the Cincinnati Arts Association they asked me what the name of my company was,” says the 1973 Edgecliff College graduate. “I hadn’t thought of it. Right at that moment, that’s what popped out—New Edgecliff Theatre.”

His one-man play ran for five shows to a receptive audience, good reviews and a best actor nomination from the Cincinnati CEA awards. “We damn-near broke even. I thought I was done. Then Jackie Demaline, [theater critic for the The Cincinnati Enquirer], calls me and asks, ‘Well, what’s up next for New Edgecliff?’ ”

 Demaline has followed Shooner’s quest from the first opening night. “He devoted himself to The New Edgecliff Theatre. It was his desire to emulate all the professionalism and excitement of the original Edgecliff. He’s created something that has a history and a life.”

Through it all, Shooner never relished his role as director as much as a role on stage. “Until very recently, we were in a state where we were just surviving, not thriving.” Now entering its 16th season, with new directors and board members, plus upcoming productions in the Fifth Third Bank Theater at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, New Edgecliff’s plot line is shifting away from a cliffhanger back to center stage in the Cincinnati arts community.

The Office: Karl Stukenberg

A psychoanalyst and his couch.

Perhaps, next to a barber and his chair, no other object is more connected to a profession.

In the case of Karl Stukenberg, chair and associate professor for the Department of Psychology—and practicing psychoanalyst—the couch in his Elet Hall office may also be the hardest working piece of furniture on campus.

“It’s the couch on which we also meet when I’m talking to faculty, or to students in my role as head of the department.” In other words, the chair sees a lot people on his couch.

“The pillow is pretty worn out. In fact, I probably should replace the entire couch, which is getting a little threadbare.” But, in truth, the professor confesses to being rather attached to his faithful leather companion.

For the size of the office, the couch is surprisingly large. The furniture arrangement also follows classic Freudian guidelines—the analyst (the person preforming analysis) should be able to sit at the head, and out of the vision range, of the analysand (the person undergoing analysis).

True aficionados will also recognize that the embroidered throw pillow and blanket are standard issues based on Sigmund Freud’s original couch, now on display in a London museum.

As far as how many hours the couch has clocked psychoanalytical sessions? “Probably a couple of thousand hours. One hour at a time, four days a week, for a few years.”

And still going strong, as is its pilot. “I’m the department chair and a faculty member—that’s my job. I also need to keep my chops up in order to teach what we do. This is an art as well as a science.”

Comics Crusader

Alter_Ego_ComicsMarc Bowker is a super hero to comic book lovers.

With special powers attained through a classic liberal arts degree and a devotion to service, his mission is to get more kids reading comics and recast the role of the classic comic book store.

He’s even got a not-so-secret headquarters in Lima, Ohio (named after the city but pronounced like the bean). The store’s name: Alter Ego comics. It’s family friendly, clean and well-lit. Inside you’ll find comics for all ages and tastes, graphic novels and an abundance of action figures. It’s filled with “the world’s finest pop culture collectibles,” although it also includes one collectible Bowker is not about to part with—his 2013 Small Business of the Year Award.

“It was kind of a shock,” Bowker says, “to be recognized by your peers in business when you’re a newer comic book store as opposed to an established business that’s been in existence for generations.”

His work ethic surfaced early. His first job came at age 11 delivering papers, followed by a second job (while keeping the paper route) at age 14 as a bag boy at Kroger. He graduated up through the ranks and eventually became a cashier.

Comics were always his calling, though.

“I was a Marvel guy. My first favorite comic was the Secret Wars series. I grew up with ‘Super Friends’ on TV and ‘Star Wars’ at the movies.”

He grew up in the 1980s a true child of pop culture. “I never grew out of comics and kept reading them in high school, but I didn’t tell anybody because I didn’t want to be considered a nerd.” 

Bowker met his wife at Xavier and they eventually settled in Lima, her hometown.

Then, bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, he was endowed with super retail power. And, just like any other friendly neighborhood Spiderman, he started on the web.

“I started online first because it was safer. Many people would have been satisfied with that. But I really wanted to have a physical presence in the community, and to improve the image of what a comic book store and comic books were.”

Now Alter Ego’s online presence is “brimming with geek goodness” and offers a nice balance to the bricks-and-mortar store that is celebrating nine years devoted to reading and enjoying comics. Still, there’s more to do. Bowker is now focused on helping others.

“I’m working with a mentoring program for small business; there are a lot of mom-and-pop shops out there struggling to survive.”

This looks like a job for Comic Store Man.

A Trophy Life: Staying in Gear

sensibaughChad Sensibaugh offers career advice you don’t hear everyday—“I interned for seven seasons before I got a full-time job.”

But since that first full-time gig as assistant equipment manager for the Seattle Seahawks, he now has an equally rare perk—a Super Bowl ring.

Sensibaugh’s personal path to success didn’t come with a playbook. He graduated in 2008 with a degree in sports management from a university not known for football, and truth be told, baseball was his first love. As a freshman, he tried out as a walk-on. He wasn’t picked, but they asked him to hang around and help out. He also worked at Xavier’s ticket office and landed a job working at a training camp for the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I busted my tail because you want to make a good impression and you never know where it could lead to.”

It led to a full-season paid internship. And a maxed-out schedule.

“Once football starts, from training camp to the final game, from an equipment standpoint, it’s a seven-day week.”

There’s an easy description for what the equipment manager is responsible for—everything. Everybody from players, coaches, trainers and other personnel have their own specific equipment needs. Down to rubbing the footballs in very specific ways.

”Some quarterbacks prefer a perfectly smooth ball with all the ‘pimples’ rubbed off.”

Watch Sensibaugh at work preparing footballs from his days as an intern with the Cleveland Browns.

And come game day, he says, the players are depending on your skills and the whole world really is watching. “You take pride in it. You’re responsible for how things look and work out there on the field on every play.” And if you’re really, really lucky, at the end of the season you get a ring for your efforts.

Urban Farming

Xavier turned another shade of green this year when it hired Urban Greens, an urban farm business, to convert an acre of land adjacent to campus into a working vegetable farm.

Kevin Fitzgerald, a 2006 philosophy, politics and the public grad, is its part-owner and became Xavier’s first farmer in the flesh. He began work on the farm last July, restoring the land that once sat under a box factory.

Truckloads of hot compost and a layer of topsoil had to be hauled in and left to “cook” over the winter. Greens, beets and radishes were planted for fall harvesting.

Fitzgerald also gave lectures about farming, gardening and sustainability to undergraduate classes during the fall, but has handed his farming duties to another member of Urban Greens, which continues to provide farming expertise for Xavier’s growing number of sustainability and environmental majors now topping 50.

The farm includes a hoop house made of circular pipes covered with plastic sheeting that protects plants growing inside during the winter. Neither lasted long during this particularly harsh season, especially after much of the plastic was stripped away by an icy windstorm in February. The hoop house is being restored this spring with a donation of new sheeting.

Beasts of the Big East

No one knew what moving to the Big East Conference would mean for Xavier’s athletic teams. Could the teams—especially some of the non-spotlight teams—compete at this higher level? Or would they be overwhelmed and become an anchor at the bottom of the standings?

The answer came in February from an unlikely source: the men’s swim team.

The team delivered the University its first Big East Championship—this from a team that never won a conference title. Ever.

Senior Chad Thompson earned six gold medals and was named the Big East Most Outstanding Performer, while fourth-year head coach Brent MacDonald was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading Xavier to the championship.

Roger Fortin Award

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lg_manteroLast year the University created the Roger Fortin Award to honor the longtime history professor and University provost. The award is given to  a member of the humanities faculty who demonstrates outstanding teaching and scholarship.

This year’s award went to professor of Spanish José María Mantero.

“His teaching statement shows that he allows himself to be inspired by his students and by his community engagement,” the award committee wrote. “Specifically, his research is strongly intertwined with his teaching at Xavier and is an exemplary reflection of the Jesuit teaching philosophy and Xavier’s mission.”

Alumni Profile: Jeff Schneider

Jeff Schneider

• Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, 1968; Master of Business Administration, 1979
• President, Jeff Schneider and Associates
• Addison, Texas


Meet the Millers |
“No one was musical in my family. The reason I wanted to play was because of a grade school friend—Glen Miller. (Not the Glen Miller.) His whole family played and he invited me over. His dad said, ‘Jeff, you need to tell your mom and dad you want to play music.’ Now I’m a jack of all instruments and master of none. I play piano, guitar, banjo, and alto and tenor sax.”

Marching to Xavier | “I got to Xavier and I was in the marching and concert bands. I didn’t want to be a music major, but I wanted to be in the music program. I was able to study accounting and do the music as well.”Schneider

King Accountant | “I graduated and went to work for Arthur Young. One of our clients was King Records. I had no association with them while I was at Xavier. I couldn’t even find it when we were supposed to meet there.”

Studio Sounds | “We arrived at what looked like an old garage. It looked like money had been spent on the recording studio itself, but most of the building was in its original condition. The rooms we were in were really small and we were working on card tables. When we heard the music, we asked, ‘Hey, can we go listen?’ ” 

Godfather Encounter | “We were behind the glass so they couldn’t hear us. The lead singer was maybe 15 feet away. He was wearing jeans and a loosely fitting dress shirt. He had a pompadour haircut and was sweating because he was dancing as he sang. When they finished he asked, ‘Who are the three guys in the suits?’ The engineer told him, ‘These are the auditors.’ And I thought, ‘Hoo-boy, here we go.’ Usually when someone finds out we’re auditors, the conversation goes downhill.’ Instead the guy asked me, ‘Do you play an instrument son?’ I said, ‘I play the guitar, sir.’ He said, ‘Then come on out here. You can play with us.’ I thought, ‘Oh my God.’ Fright went right through me. But I walked right out there. There were two or three guys with guitars, and one guy just handed me his. He said, ‘Here, have fun.’ “

It Felt Good | “The song was ‘I feel Good.’ They cranked up and away we went. I’m playing along. I could read music so I could tell what they were doing, and I played in a dance band for about a year, so I could keep up. When we were done he came over, gave me a high five and said, ‘Son, you’re pretty good.’”

Naïve Fun | “I came back and asked the engineer, ‘Who is that guy?’ He said, ‘That’s James Brown.’ I was so naïve, I didn’t recognize him. I’m sure the recording ended up on the studio floor, but it was great fun.”

Off the Field: Students of Service

landynFans are still filing out of the Cintas Center after watching Xavier beat Providence as Landyn rolls his wheelchair out onto the court.

His brother and sister grab basketballs and start tossing them wildly toward the basket that towers several feet above them. Inspired by their efforts, Landyn steps out of the wheelchair and joins the fun. It’s a struggle.

The 6-year-old has spina bifida, a degenerative spinal disorder that makes it difficult for him to walk, much less play basketball. 

As he works on his game, Matt Stainbrook, Xavier’s 6-foot-10 starting center, walks out onto the court, still in uniform, and offers him a little help. He lifts Landyn onto his shoulders and turns toward the basket. With the new height advantage, Landyn easily scores.

Landyn was brought to the game by SAAC, Xavier’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council, as part of a fundraising effort to send him to Disney World through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Each year for the past three years SAAC has singled out an individual to help go on a Make-A-Wish trip. 

Three years ago it raised about $1,000 to send a boy to Disney World. Last year it raised roughly $2,100 to send a boy to the Bahamas to swim with the dolphins. And this year through raffles, donation tables and general awareness, it raised more than $5,000 for Landyn and his family.

Although each of Xavier’s 18 sports teams always holds at least one community service project each semester, a resuscitation of SAAC three years ago ramped up the amount and level of community service performed by Xavier’s teams. As part of his hiring, Erik Alanson was asked to turn SAAC into something more than an organization on paper. He recruited soccer player Andy Kaplan and golfer Ariel McNair to represent and organize Xavier’s 300-plus student-athletes. Their goal was threefold: 

One, to represent Xavier’s student-athletes at the conference and national levels. The NCAA, for instance, asks for input from student-athletes whenever it is considering policy changes. 

Two, to take student-athlete concerns to the administration. Some professors, for instance, have a zero-tolerance policy about missing a class, which is not a possibility for student-athletes due to their extensive travel schedules. 

“I know saying we represent the interest of student-athletes sounds a bit entitled,” says Kaplan, “but it really is a huge group of people working full-time jobs and going to school.” Xavier’s 300-plus student-athletes represent about 7 percent of the overall undergraduate population.

And, three, to increase the level of community service. The group opens up its monthly meetings—which can’t take place until around 9:00 p.m. because that’s the first time during the day when none of the teams are practicing or committed to another activity—to ideas. Helping Make-A-Wish was one idea. All teams are now involved with mentoring and tutoring at the Academy of World Languages. In November, an idea was brought up for a canned food drive for St. Vincent DePaul. More than 1,000 cans were collected.

“That’s one of the best things about this—you have 300 Type-A competitive people involved trying to out-do each other,” says Kaplan. “When Ariel and I started, we did everything. We struggled to get people from each team to the meetings. Now we don’t have enough room.”

What’s even better, says Alanson, is that not only has SAAC grown, it now has grown to include specifically designed roles and responsibilities, which gives student-athletes job-specific experience they couldn’t get otherwise.

“We didn’t want SAAC to simply be a bullet point on a résumé,” says Alanson. “It’s much more intentional. All of these student-athletes are going to have to compete for a position of employment after they graduate, but being a student-athlete works against them. Traditional students have time for internships; student-athletes don’t. So we asked: What are some of the things SAAC can do that can give them experiences that is applicable to the real world?”

“As much as I’d love to get an internship with Procter and Gamble, that’s just not realistic,” says Erin McGualey, a sophomore soccer player who’s co-president of SAAC this year with Stainbrook. “Time really is the biggest issue with student-athletes.”

“It really does turn it into an internship,” says Adi Taraska, SAAC’s community service manager.

Art majors, for instance, are put in charge of all design work. Public relations majors handle press releases and social media. Communication arts majors are in charge of SAAC’s next project—the remaking of a video that shows new student-athletes what it means to be a Xavier student-athlete and what kind of commitment they have made.

In the end, unlike their games, everybody wins: The student-athletes get valuable experience, the community gets support—and a 6-year-old boy with spina bifida gets to go to Disney World.

A Different Business Approach

Larry Blanford was walking through the hallways of a Catholic high school in Guatemala, checking out how his company’s strategic business plan was working.

The 1984 MBA graduate was president and CEO of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and carefully etched into the company’s mission and corporate strategy was a goal to, yes, make a lot of money, but also to make sure that its financial success was felt by more than just shareholders.

The people in the small Guatemalan town weren’t just coffee bean pickers. They were human beings who played an integral part in the company’s success. As such, the company felt they should enjoy its rewards as well. So they paid them fair trade wages and provided support for the local school so its workers’ children could get a better education.

As Blanford walked, he was approached by one of the students, a senior, who asked to speak to him. Because of the support his company gave the school, she said, she was accepted into nursing school. She would have to leave the community, but as soon as she received her nursing license she was going to return to the village and give health care to the people.

Today, several years after the fact, Blanford nearly tears up as he retells the story. It was, he says, a transformative moment—a confirmation that his philosophy and approach to corporate leadership were correct. Leadership, he says, is about using business to make the world a better place. Make a lot of money and then share the rewards. “Do good by doing well,” he says.

During his six years at the helm of Green Mountain, he not only put such beliefs into practice by implementing everything from fair trade practices to packaging its products in biodegradable bags, but he also changed how analysts understand this idea of helping others. Rather than continue with the common terminology of “corporate social responsibility,” he changed it to “sustainable business practices.” The first, he says, is more secondary in nature, something done as an aside to the business, while the latter implies that the idea of helping others is not only built into the business mission but is required for long-term survival. Although he admits his approach to business is “somewhat different from how business is frequently done today,” he in no way admits that his approach is wrong. Quite the contrary, in fact. And he’s not alone in that belief. Corporate Responsibility Magazine recognized him as the Responsible CEO of the Year—twice. 

That’s not to say he overlooked the foundational aspects of business. Hardly. He grew Green Mountain at a compounded annual rate of 75 percent, with sales quadrupling to $1.4 billion in just three years and the stock price growing 1,500 percent during that time. 

But maintaining a moral compass in a world where money is god can be daunting. “A failure of values can lead to egocentric, unethical leaders,” he says. “That invites stifling regulations and increased costs. I would say that a majority of CEOs are trying to do the right thing. But every one of them has the power to do what’s right. That’s why teaching values to business students needs to be the foundation of their education. It’s critical for business and for the country.”

For Blanford, such a belief came from the collection of experiences he gained—in part—during his climb up the corporate ladder. He actually began as a chemical engineer for Procter and Gamble but became intrigued with business. That led him into a variety of management positions including, eventually, the head of several businesses. He was president of Maytag Appliances, Philips Consumer Electronics and Royal Group Technologies before being tapped for the Green Mountain position.

“I was learning and growing all along the way,” he says. “By the time I got to Green Mountain, I was in a unique position to bring to bear all of the experiences I gained from all of the companies where I was CEO.”

But his business beliefs were equally formed during his days in Catholic school in suburban Dayton, Ohio, and in church.

“Somehow people think you must check your faith at the door when enter the workspace,” he says. “But you have the opportunity to live out faith with every person you interact with. And the Church has much to offer business with its call to advance the condition of the human spirit. We are all called to a greatness greater than ourselves. It’s like Pope Francis reminding us of our responsibility for those less fortunate. Or like the comment [Catholic motivational speaker] Matthew Kelly makes—and I truly believe this—that when you use your talents to help others to be the best they can be, that is a moment of holiness.”