Golfers Gone Wild

Xavier’s golf program has garnered national attention in the last few years with the success of two of its graduates. Jason Kokrak won five college tournaments for Xavier and qualified for the U.S. Open as a 22-year-old in 2007.

After finishing his communication arts degree in 2008 he joined the eGolf Professional Tour, where he worked his way to the position of leading money winner. He then graduated to the Nationwide Tour. Last year in the Nationwide he was the 4th money leader ($338,092) and the Tour’s longest hitter, with a punishing 318.6-yard average drive.

At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Kokrak is known for his authority on the range. But his short game isn’t bad either, and two wins within five weeks at the end of the 2011 Nationwide season clinched Kokrak a berth on the 2012 PGA Tour. He opened his rookie season with a 75th place finish (and a memorable 362-yard drive) at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Then, in February, he battled to a 9th place finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, ahead of Tiger Woods. He’s earned $217,528 so far this year.

Also, Andy Pope, a 2006 communication arts major, is playing on the Nationwide Tour. He recently finished 28th at the Chile Classic Presented by Pacific Rubiales.

And those two may soon be joined by another Musketeer on the professional circuit, Sebastian MacLean, a senior who recently won his fourth college tournament at Myrtle Beach. MacLean is Bolivian, a fifth-generation descendent of a Scottish sea captain who sailed to Peru in the mid-1800s, met a wife and never went home. MacLean seems to have retained his ancestral predilection for the sport, and he plans to enter the PGA Latin America Tour this year, where he will try to play his way into the Nationwide and eventually the PGA Tour. That’s not MacLean’s only goal, though. He’s also aiming to represent Bolivia at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Golf Goes Inside

Hours after a spring cloudburst, Doug Steiner walks over to a puddle in the parking lot of the Maketewah Country Club, plants his feet in the water and looks up.

“The front door is going to be right…here,” he says.

In front of him are two empty tennis courts and 15 acres of tangled undergrowth. But the director of Xavier’s golf programs sees something else entirely: An indoor golf facility, designed to give Xavier’s golfers a year-round practice area just two miles from campus.

“My players will have exactly what they need to be good,” he says. “That’s a good feeling for a coach.”

He’s been building this dream for two years now. There were times when he wondered if it would be realized, but now the plans are drawn and the shovels hit the soil as soon as contracts are finalized and signed.

“Ah, it’s goose bumps for me,” Steiner says, shaking the ice in his soda and touching his arms. “Truly. It’s pure excitement, paired with relief.”

Steiner’s journey to this parking lot puddle began two years ago when he lost a top recruit to Purdue University, which had an indoor facility.

“All the big programs in this part of the country started building them,” Steiner says. “Kids want to go where they can practice all year round.”

Xavier’s golf program is already highly regarded. Golf Digest ranks it 19th best in the country and No. 1 in the Midwest. It has produced many successful players, including Jason Kokrak (see sidebar), who plays on the PGA Tour and beat Tiger Woods this February at Pebble Beach, and Andy Pope, who plays one step down on the Nationwide Tour.

But Steiner knew if Xavier was to keep pace with other programs, it needed the facilities to attract the best players. So he and his staff started dreaming. “We were drawing things on napkins in the early stages,” Steiner says. They visited facilities at other universities and began raising money. Steiner’s initial goal was $200,000. When he met that, he aimed for $400,000. After 15 months of fundraising, he had $850,000. Maketewah Country Club, Xavier’s new home course, chipped in the rest of the money for a $1.3 million building, slated to be finished in time for winter practice.

“It’s become a necessity now,” Steiner says. “Ten years ago, it might not have mattered. Now it matters if we want to be great.”

It matters to Korey Ward, a tall freshman at the driving range, knocking balls 175 yards in fluid strokes with his seven-iron. An Ohio Amateur Champion, Ward chose Xavier for its golf program, education and proximity to home. He can’t wait to have a year-round practice facility, especially on days like today when pools of rainwater cover the driving range.

“We’re all very excited about it,” he says. “It will give us a chance to practice in the winter. It will be pretty spectacular, from what I hear.”

Judging by the plans, Ward won’t be disappointed. The tri-level, 10,000-square-foot building includes men’s and women’s locker rooms, a 3,500-square-foot putting green, four covered hitting bays and a Cobra-Puma fitting center. It will also have a kitchen, conference room, trophy room and study lounge. And a short game area behind the building allows players to practice their putts, chips and wedges.

“It’s kind of like our own clubhouse,” Steiner says. “My dream is that a player, on a snowy day in February, can take a two-minute drive and stay all day. They can putt, chip, drive, make something to eat and study for class.”

Steiner says Xavier’s recent successes and talented young recruits bode well for the future of the golf program. As he talks, he checks his phone for news updates—Kokrak just teed off at the PGA Transitions Championship in Florida.

“One of my dreams as a coach was to have a guy make the PGA tour,” Steiner says. “My next dream is to win the Masters. What would it be like to have a Xavier guy win the Masters? It would be big. It’s possible.”

More immediately, Steiner is looking forward to the new building that will elevate the golf program among its competitors and even within the University. “It gives us a home,” Steiner says. “This will be our Cintas.”

Student Scholars

All that work inside—and outside—the classroom paid off for two students, Anna Robertson and Margaret Weidner.

Weidner, who graduated in 2011, was awarded a Fulbright research fellowship for work she began her senior year as a Brueggeman Fellow. Her research focuses on the global water shortage and if public or private financing is the best path for just distribution. The accounting graduate spent four months in India conducting research, and then returned, passed her CPA exam and got a job with Ernst and Young. She returned to India to study Hindi for two months before starting her job, and is now spending a year conducting more research in India.

Robertson, a junior theology major, was one of just 162 students nationally to be named a Newman Civic Fellow for her commitment to creating lasting change for the betterment of communities. Some of her activities include working with Voices of Solidarity, Contemplatives in Action, Students for Economic Justice, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Crayons to Computers

Ironman, Iron Mind

If exercise is an addiction, then swimming was Bryan Krabbe’s gateway drug. Krabbe’s mother, a nurse, is responsible.

She instilled healthy eating and fitness habits in her kids from an early age, and enrolled Krabbe and his sisters in swimming lessons. Krabbe developed a taste for the sport. He swam through high school at St. Xavier, and in college he dabbled in water polo.

It wasn’t until he was getting his master’s in nutrition at the University of Cincinnati that Krabbe started running. A friend training for a marathon turned him on to it. Krabbe, now a student in Xavier’s PsyD program, started jogging with her. “Nothing extreme,” he says, at first. “It was difficult. I ended up getting a lot of shin splints. I wasn’t used to that long-distance stuff.”

But it got easier, and soon he was training for marathons himself. “It gave me a goal,” he says. “A reason to exercise.” The more he ran, the faster he became. In 2004, he qualified for the Boston Marathon. “That was enjoyable,” he says. But before long, even marathons lost their luster. He hankered for a bigger challenge.

“One of my friends suggested triathlons,” Krabbe says. “He knew I was a swimmer and had been running. But I didn’t have a bicycle.” So he went out and bought one. “That might be fun,” he thought. “Something different.”

He started cycling with people, building up his distance. He entered some shorter triathlons, and then, in 2006, he signed up for the Ironman race in Madison, Wis., an exercise binge that packages a 2.4-mile swim with a 112-mile bike ride followed by a full marathon. Did he ever doubt he could do it?

“I didn’t really think about it that much,” he says. “That helped.” Two other things helped, too: the knowledge that a friend had done it, “and maybe some arrogance on my part.” The race began and 11 hours and 23 minutes later, an exhausted Krabbe crossed the finish line. It was a memorable high.

“This peace overcame me,” Krabbe says. “This huge sense of accomplishment and confidence that I can do pretty much anything I put my mind to.” The feeling went beyond fitness. It also inspired Krabbe to get his doctorate in psychology at Xavier, where he is, fittingly, president of the Student Health Advisory Council.

Madison didn’t kick Krabbe’s exercise habit, though. Six triathlons later he had shaved one hour and 40 minutes off his Madison time, finished second in his age group and qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. He went there to join the world’s top endurance athletes in the 2011 race. “Being there, seeing the professional athletes, it was a dream come true,” he says.

With all that behind him, it’s hard to imagine any higher fitness aspiration for Krabbe. But he’s signed up for another triathlon this summer, one he hopes to win. He’s also helping friends and fellow Xavier students get hooked on exercising. Maybe not a triathlon right away, he says, but how about a 5K? Go on. Just try it.

Non-traditional Students

Xavier students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and a wide geographic range. Here are a few of the most non-traditional.

Native American

Robert Corritore represents a different twist to the idea of a non-traditional student. Corritore is a Native American, a member of the Umpqua band of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in Western Oregon.

He mostly lives in San Francisco with his mother, but often visits the reservation, where his father now lives. His ties to the tribe are tight. When he was a newborn, he was given his Indian name, Keesch-Koo Parazoo, which means “Second Son,” at a naming celebration on the reservation.

Corritore, a junior majoring in economics, picked Xavier for a change of location and the business school. But he’s been most inspired by a theology class he took in Assisi, Italy, tracing the pilgrimages of St. Francis, an account of which he wrote for his tribal newspaper, Smoke Signals. He’s hoping to get an internship at the paper, which would allow him to live on the reservation and get closer to his heritage. “Being Native American is definitely something I’m very proud of.”

Hawaii

Images of Hawaii usually drum up dreamy visions of crunchy coconut and juicy pineapple rings. Not for Michael Louis. He dreams of home. And Spam.

“It’s a treat in Hawaii,” says Louis, one of three Hawaiians attending Xavier this year. “They fry it and put it on steamed rice. It’s actually pretty good. They usually wrap seaweed around it so it’s like sushi.”

The treat started during World War II when Spam was the only meat available on the island. But don’t think he’s unhappy at Xavier without Spam—or ocean breezes. He’s just adjusting to the culture shock of life in the chilly Midwest.

Louis chose Xavier because he was looking for a school on the mainland, preferably in the Midwest or on the East Coast, that offered a strong history program and Army ROTC. He found both at Xavier, arriving for the first time on campus last August for orientation.

Luckily, the Hawaiian candy and treats he brought along helped break the ice with his new classmates.

 

Northern Mariana Islands

As the only Xavier student from the Northern Mariana Islands, RyAnne Camacho gets the questions a lot: Where in the world are the Northern Mariana Islands, and how did she find Xavier? Answer: Northern Mariana is a group of 14 islands east of Japan that used to include Guam. It is a commonwealth of the U.S. The largest of the islands is Saipan, where Camacho lives, followed by Tinian and Rota. Camacho was looking for a Jesuit college somewhere other than the islands, and her family wanted her to experience the U.S. mainland. She’s undecided about her major but expects to go into some form of health care. “I was supposed to go to Chaminade in Hawaii but when I was making my deposit there, I found out I got into Xavier and that changed my mind because I didn’t want to be on another island.”

Making a Splash

Bethanie Griffin’s success isn’t singular among the Musketeers. Xavier swimming has been lapping up victories recently—thanks to solid training, talented new recruits and what head coach Brent MacDonald considers the right blend of individual attention and team spirit.

The team’s family atmosphere begins on Day One. “When they walk on campus as freshmen, they pretty much automatically have 40 new friends,” MacDonald says, which is markedly different from his own college memories. “I remember friends going to college who barely knew their roommate.”

With 40 total swimmers, Xavier’s program is smaller than most other universities, and more inclusive. “Everyone who is on the team is a part of the team,” MacDonald says. There is no traveling squad of elite swimmers; the whole team practices, travels and competes together.

The season begins with the fall semester, and ends at the A-10 championship meet in February. The team practices almost every day in between, and for eight days over the Christmas break, they are in Florida for intensive training. “You get a chance to swim

outside,” MacDonald says. “The weather’s nice. You can put a lot more stress on your body.”

Good team dynamics are important, but swimming is often a solitary sport, and Xavier’s coaches help each swimmer develop individually. “At our level, you’re not getting the same kid over and over again,” says MacDonald, who has been coaching at Xavier since 2007 and head coach since 2008. “Every swimmer is different.” The individual attention has paid off—under MacDonald’s, tutelage Xavier swimmers have broken every school record except the men’s 50-yard freestyle.

MacDonald says recruiting new swimmers is made easy by the welcoming nature of the squad. “Once they get on campus, our student-athletes do a great job of showing them what it’s like to be a part of a team,” he says.

Xavier’s swimmers also shine in the classroom. “How they compete is important, but it’s also important that at the end of four years, they’re ready to graduate and get a job,” says MacDonald. As a result, the men’s and women’s collective GPAs are high, and Xavier is a regular recipient of the Team Scholar All-American award from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America.

Given the team’s past success, the future looks rosy for MacDonald. “We have a lot of young talent on our team, especially on the women’s side,” he says. “We’re poised to take the next step and get a lot faster this year.”

Studying Abroad Opens Students Eyes

In June, I studied abroad in Italy about the life of St. Francis of Assisi in an exhilarating course offered by Xavier University.

The pilgrimage began when our class converged in the Fiumicino Airport, just outside of Rome. We then took a bus to Greccio, a small town where St. Francis created the Nativity scene. Later we ate a terrific traditional dinner at San Francesco Bar and Ristorante in Assisi, the city we stayed in for most of our journey, where we conversed and learned a lot about the life of St. Francis, the beautiful city we were in and each other.

The following day we traveled to Perugia, the city Assisi was at war with when Francis was in the military and visited the area where he was held captive for a year. On Wednesday and Thursday, we stayed in Assisi to learn about Francis’ life and visited the shop his father once owned and the house he grew up in.

The main event that occurred during this two-day period was when we toured San Damiano, the church that St. Francis said God called him to rebuild after being in ruins for so many years. On Friday, we took a bus to La Verna, the site where St. Francis miraculously received his stigmata, which are identical wounds to those of Jesus after being nailed to the cross.

LaVerna was a nice and quiet area tucked away in the mountains of central Italy. We stayed there overnight and experienced firsthand what savory authentic Italian cooking is truly all about.

Sunday was our day to explore all that Assisi had to offer, which two classmates and I did by hiking to the top of the largest mountain in the area, Ali Subasio. The view from the peak of the mountain was spectacular and provided great photographic memories and an overwhelming sense of peace in nature.

On our last day in Italy, several classmates and I took the train to Rome. The architecture in Rome is beautiful and it was a humbling experience to be able to touch all of the magnificent buildings I had previously only seen in books and on television.

This experience in Italy, and Assisi in particular, opened my eyes to how immeasurable different parts of the world are and it sparked the explorer in me. I will never forget this journey, or our remarkable professor Dr. Gillian Ahlgren and her vast wisdom. I made a great many connections along the pilgrimage which I’m certain will be lifelong.

I hope to one day return to Assisi and revisit all the sites that I did as a 20-year old college student. It will forever be ingrained in my memory and I am so appreciate everyone that made this lifelong lesson possible.

Student Life: Daring to Dream

When Bernard Pastor arrived on campus for freshmen orientation, his small group played a game of two truths, one lie. “My last name is Pastor and my dad’s a pastor,” he said when it was his turn. “I speak three languages. And I was on national news recently.”

No one guessed his lie: Pastor doesn’t speak three languages.

Pastor’s father is, in fact, a pastor, and just months before he enrolled at Xavier, young Pastor was making headlines while Congress debated the Dream Act—immigration legislation that would directly affect his future. At that time, Pastor was also in jail.

It all started with a fender-bender one rainy night in 2010, a few months after Pastor graduated from a Cincinnati high school. After delivering some Spanish Bibles to the cooks at a Cincinnati Chik-fil-A, Pastor rear-ended a white Chevy Malibu at a stoplight. It was a minor collision, but a defining moment in Pastor’s life.

Pastor had no driver’s license or Social Security number. In 1995, when he was 3 years old, Pastor’s parents came to the United States from Guatemala without documentation. They applied for asylum in Missouri, explaining that they were fleeing persecution in Guatemala, which was ending its three-decade civil war. The judge denied their asylum and they moved to Cincinnati.

Pastor can’t remember Guatemala, and his parents don’t talk about it much. He grew up as an American, and never gave much thought to his citizenship. “I was just living like a typical teenage American,” he says. “I grew up loving everything everyone commonly loves.”

One of his earliest memories is playing Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt on Nintendo. He played four years of varsity soccer for Reading High School, leading the team to its first undefeated season. He was voted “Best Dressed” at his senior prom and was a Homecoming King nominee. To his friends, he was the consummate gentleman. “I don’t think there was a person in school who didn’t like him,” says Jenny So, a friend since seventh grade. “He has the biggest heart I think you’d ever meet in someone.”

So everyone was shocked to hear that Pastor was in jail. No one had known he wasn’t a U.S. citizen. A police officer on the scene of the fender-bender realized Pastor was undocumented and put him under arrest. Pastor spent that night in jail. The next day he was transferred into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who informed him he would be deported to Guatemala, a country he had never known.

Word spread quickly of his detention, and a network of friends, former teachers and local immigrant rights groups joined together to advocate for his release. “When he got into trouble, I was contacted by one of the ministers I know in town,” says Rabbi Abbi Ingber, Xavier’s director of interfaith community engagement. “I was asked if I could be helpful. My answer was, ‘I don’t know, but I could try.’ ”

Ingber joined other supporters in vigils protesting Pastor’s pending deportation. Pastor’s case drew national attention, because while he sat in jail, the Dream Act was making its way through the U.S. Senate, legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants of good character who were brought into the country before they were 16, if they enrolled in college or enlisted in the military. Pastor was a perfect example of the young immigrants the legislation was written for—someone whose only home was America.

With the help of an immigration lawyer, and perhaps the national spotlight his case received, Pastor’s deportation was deferred. He was released from jail one month after his arrest, with permission to stay and work in the United States for one year and a chance to renew that permission on a year-to-year basis.

A day after he was released, the Senate was due to vote on the Dream Act. Pastor flew to Washington, D.C., with his lawyer and a supporter to join other young immigrants like him at the vote. (Pastor used a Guatemalan consulate card as ID for the flight—his first time on an airplane.) After meeting with Ohio senators to lobby his case, Pastor watched from the Senate gallery as the Dream Act was voted down. Pastor was disappointed, but not dismayed. His faith in God gives him hope. “I honestly don’t worry about anything at all,” he says.

“That’s just the way I am.”

After Pastor was reunited with his family in Cincinnati, Ingber suggested he apply to Xavier. Pastor was accepted, and he enrolled last fall as a business major. “We’re just so lucky to have him here on campus,” says Ingber. “He deserves to be just another student at Xavier University. But he is sensitive and committed enough to understand that he is really charting new territory.”

Meanwhile, Pastor’s future remains uncertain. In December, he was granted another year in the United States, but his status here could change at the whim of a future government. Ingber, for one, hopes that someday a version of the Dream Act will become law. “Our own children have grown up in classrooms with these young people,” he says. “We should be recruiting them as opposed to deporting them.”

Saving Students

Two years ago, Mark Costello did the unthinkable. He went to the financial aid office and told them he was getting ready to withdraw. He wondered if there was anything more they could do for him.

“I had started looking into transferring to Bowling Green.”

Costello was sad. He fell in love with Xavier when he arrived in 2008 with big dreams of becoming a doctor. He was a good student in high school and earned a Trustee scholarship plus two smaller grants that whittled his balance to a manageable amount.

Costello helped out by working part-time and summer jobs. The money was good, but it wasn’t enough. So he was totally surprised one day when his advisor told him he won a scholarship he hadn’t even applied for—the Joseph J. Peters, S.J., Endowed Scholarship for deserving junior and senior biology majors.

“I was speechless,” he says.

The scholarship, $5,500 a year for his junior and senior years, allowed Costello to stay at Xavier. Now a senior, Costello is preparing to graduate in May and has already been accepted to two medical schools.

Costello wanted to thank the donor, Dr. Joseph Marr, who set up the fund and named it after Fr. Peters, a former biology professor and chair of the department. So he wrote him a letter:

“Without your extremely charitable donation, there is no doubt in my mind that I would not be where I am today. People like you are the reason that many students are able to achieve their calling in life.”

It’s something Marr knows all about. Marr was only 16, a baby-faced teenager who finished high school early and came to Xavier for its pre-med program. He never had a biology class, but was expected to do college-level science. Help arrived in the form of Fr. Peters, who became a mentor for the young student.

“He taught us not only science but the philosophy of science and critical thinking and judgment and intellectual honesty,” Marr says. “He expanded the realm of the possible, and he instilled a love of learning and mental inquiry that has lasted my entire life.”

Like Costello, Marr paid his way through Xavier with scholarships and a part-time job working the night and weekend shift at the McGrath Health Center. But his ties to Peters were sealed when Marr faced a life decision he was unable to handle on his own. At the end of his freshman year, he got a letter from the U.S. Naval Academy welcoming him into the next year’s class. He asked Fr. Peters what to do.

“He said to project yourself forward about 20 years and look back and see which route you wish you had taken. I did that and decided I would rather have been a physician than a naval aviator,” Marr said. “He was very helpful because he forced me to make the decision.”

Marr finished his medical degree at Johns Hopkins University and practiced internal medicine for 20 years. He also earned a master’s in microbial biochemistry at Saint Louis University, taught at Washington University and served as head of infectious diseases at Saint Louis University and the University of Colorado. He entered the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry just before retiring in 2008.

Marr believes he owes his success to the people who made his education possible through their scholarships—and to Fr. Peters, who died in 1998. Wanting to show his gratitude, Marr set up a scholarship fund in Fr. Peters’ name.

“I thought I really wanted to help others the way I had been helped,” Marr says. “And I wanted to put Joe Peters’ name on it because he helped me and many others.”

Marr gave a lead gift of $20,000 and made a round of calls to former classmates, generating donations. It now totals about $250,000, but he hopes to build it to $700,000, the amount required to fund a full scholarship every year.

Receiving letters like Costello’s makes it all worthwhile, he says. “I’m glad he could be helped like that. It’s a good use of the money,” he says. “Someone helped me in the past, and I am passing it on. That’s why people should contribute to endowments. You’re putting this money into educating good citizens, and that’s one of the best uses of money.”

Double Double

Growing up in the spotlight with three brothers who look alike, Jason Furtick is enjoying his anonymity at Xavier. “The great part about Xavier is people don’t recognize me,” Jason says.

Anyone watching television in the mid-1990s might remember a Tide commercial featuring the Furtick quads rolling around in the dirt. The boys also did commercials for Levi’s jeans and Wendy’s. “We walk up to Dave Thomas and say, ‘Chicken nuggets, please.’”

They also appeared on talk shows and became a favorite of Oprah’s, who invited them to her last show in October. Conceived without fertility drugs, the quadruplets gained a lot of attention. Yes, they were cute. But cute only gets you so far. The boys grew up, finished high school, and went to separate colleges. Jason initially picked Kentucky State.

It was OK. But when he visited a friend at Xavier, he thought, “This is what college should be like.” So he transferred as a communications major.

He rarely lets on who he is, and most students on campus today are too young to remember. “It lets me focus on what I think are more important things, and lets people form opinions of me without preconceived notions.”