Bind Ambition

Vicky Weaver Prahin’s classroom is the world. Each day, she sits behind her home computer and teaches Latin and English to students around the globe—China, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Africa. With the different cultures and different beliefs, it’s a massive undertaking.

Factor in the one aspect Prahin and all her students have in common, though, and suddenly the world shrinks—they are all blind. Remove sight from the equation, and the difficulties and dilemmas they share easily overcomes the distance and differences between them.

“What’s fascinating to me about students from other countries is that they seem to be more motivated and do better than American students,” says Prahin, a 1977 graduate. “They don’t take for granted the opportunities we do, especially people who are blind in other countries. They don’t have many opportunities. We provide a lot of services for those folks.”

Prahin teaches for the Hadley School for the Blind, a correspondence school outside Chicago. Blind since age 2, she knows the hurdles placed before the blind. She teaches life skills courses that are adaptable to any country, in addition to teaching the standard academic fare. While mostly using Braille—an international language—to communicate with her students, she also uses e-mail, audiocassettes and the telephone. “One of the advantages I have since I’m not in front of a traditional classroom is that I can give the students individual attention,” she says. “In my opinion, it’s more rewarding because you get to know the individuals. You find out about people and what they’re all about.”

Bookmark

Any married couple with children will tell you that once kids come along, life becomes much more complicated. Less time is devoted to nurturing the marriage as more time is devoted to raising the children. However, according to Xavier graduate and marriage counselor Anthony J. Garascia, strong bonds between spouses can withstand all sorts of trials and transitions. To thrive, a marriage requires not only skills, but also “an act of the imagination.”

Garascia is the author of Rekindle the Passion While Raising Your Kids, a book designed to help married couples through periods of transition (the birth of a child, for example), to teach them communication skills, and to help them reflect on the many dimensions of married love. The book’s chapters deal with such themes as the need for intimacy, effective communication for problem solving, and the maintaining and sharing of personal values. Each chapter also provides fictional examples of “real life” problems that may occur in marriage as well as a spiritual reflection on the chapter topic.

Garascia graduated from Xavier in 1975 with a B.A. in education. He went on to earn a master’s degree in counseling, and now practices marriage and family therapy in Granger, Ind. He has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame and has written several journal articles.

Weekend Degree Graduate Fulfills Personal Goal

When he began classes at Xavier, Robert Limoseth set a unique goal for himself—he wanted to graduate with a better GPA than his daughter had when she graduated college. Not only did Limoseth achieve this goal when he graduated summa cum laude in May, he also completed the Xavier weekend degree program in just two and a half years.

For Limoseth, it was a goal long sought after and recently fulfilled. “In my life, I’ve done most of the things I’ve wanted to do, just not in the right order,” he said. After attending classes at Drake University and the University of Cincinnati, he left school for the workplace, later becoming a vice president and regional manager of Deluxe Check Printers. When the company downsized, though, it rekindled his desire to return to school.

As nontraditional student, Limoseth initially had some misgivings when he began the weekend program in August 1998. His concerns, though, were quickly put to rest. “I really enjoyed the program and the interaction with other adults,” he said. At last May’s graduation, he received a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts with a concentration in business administration.

Limoseth is also a history buff and an amateur Civil War historian, currently serving as treasurer of the Cincinnati Civil War Round Table. Since graduation, he has spent the summer traveling around the eastern United States visiting family and Civil War historical sites while he decides what is in store for him.

President and Police

Xavier University President Michael J. Graham, S.J., gave the keynote address to the 90th graduating class of the Cincinnati Police Academy on Friday, June 16. In the address, given at the Masonic Temple in downtown Cincinnati, Graham encouraged the 29 new police officers to be courageous and compassionate as they go about their jobs of protecting and serving the community.

“You’ve been trained well,” he said. “It’s now time to take all of the learning and put it to the true test, where the risks are real and you have to live up to the ideals you’ve been sworn to uphold, whether you want to or not.

“You will not serve anyone who is not a sister or brother of yours,” he added, “so let compassion be your constant companion. Your training will teach you what to do, but let your heart guide you. … Maybe you won’t get a lot of public recognition for what you do and the decisions you make, but you will know, your family will know, your friends will know, your community will know and your God will know. That’s not a bad audience.”

Graham’s invitation to address the police academy class comes on the heals of his being asked by Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken to chair one of the six teams that comprise Cincinnati-CAN, a task force assembled to recommend and implement policies to improve racial equality in the city. The task force was created following the three days of race riots and social unrest in the city that were sparked by the shooting death of a black man by a white police officer. Graham will chair the police and justice system action team, which is responsible for addressing police-community relations, police department structural reform and racial disparities in the justice system.

In addition to going out into the streets to uphold the law, he told the graduates, they are also being thrust into the complex, sensitive and highly strained issue of police-community relations. Although they may not like that part of their new job, he said, it is very clearly a fact of life that they must deal with. It is not unlike the Xavier grads, he added, who work hard to get into medical school, only to have their ideal of the medical profession unraveled by the realities of HMOs and managed care.

“It is too bad that so much attention is focused on the police-community relations,” he said. “It is a flash point that is beyond your control and that you are unable to change, yet for which you are held accountable. The Chinese symbol for chaos, though, is also the symbol for opportunity. Perhaps I’m just a starry-eyed optimist, but I see this as our opportunity. For the city to be healthy, though, all of its parts must be healthy as well. That comes down to its individuals, its people. And you, for better or worse, are more important than any elected official, because you are the people who are out there and dealing with the community face-to-face on a daily basis.”

Not allowing the address to be bogged down with such a heavy issue, Graham joked with the graduates and the several hundred friends and family members who filled the auditorium, that he was well suited to serve on the Cincinnati-CAN task force and to address the graduating class because “your profession and my profession are two of the oldest professions in the world. They aren’t THE oldest profession,” he joked, “but they’re ancient nonetheless.”

He added that he was also well-suited for being the ceremony’s principal speaker because he was still fresh off presiding over his first University commencement as president, and because he now lives with their brethren. Graham’s current residence used to be on the second floor of the University’s honor’s house. The honor’s program was relocated, however, and the University’s police department moved into the space. Now, he says, instead of walking into a house with a painting of Madonna and Child on the wall, the first floor is decorated in “early squad room” and the walls adorned with pictures of police uniform patches, Barney Fife posters and a Norman Rockwell painting of a police officer sitting at the counter of a diner. “And, I might add,” he said, “there isn’t a doughnut in sight.”

Following the speech, the police division thanked Graham by making him an honorary member of the Cincinnati police academy.

Flying with NASA

Ann Thompson, a producer at the WVXU 91.7 FM, will be accompanying a team of University of Cincinnati students to NASA headquarters in Houston, Texas on Aug. 9 to document their participation in the “NASA Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program.”

The program is a yearly competition sponsored by NASA that selects university teams that have designed an experiment to be conducted in a “micro-gravity” environment. Selected teams are then invited to Houston for the competition and have the opportunity to fly on a specially designed NASA plane that creates a zero-gravity environment. The plane, deemed by NASA as the “Vomit Comet,” climbs to more than 32,000 feet before diving at a 45-degree angle. The dive creates about 25 seconds of near-weightlessness and allows the teams to conduct their experiments. Several dives are made over the course of the flight.

Teams are permitted to include a journalist to record the experience, and the UC engineering program chose Thompson due to her involvement in a daily WVXU program called “Focus on Technology,” which often features projects by UC students. The micro-gravity experiment they are conducting involves finding a way to enable nano-satellites to fly in formation in space. A nano-satellite is a much smaller version of a conventional satellite.

Upon her return, Thompson will produce a half-hour long radio special on the experience for WVXU.

Father Hoff Says Goodbye

From Xavier magazine, Fall 2000
By James E. Hoff, S.J.

My final months as president will be a marvelous opportunity to thank many people for their great contributions to the University. As I reflect on my years at Xavier, I become more and more grateful for the many wonderful, dedicated people who make Xavier what it is today. I receive a lot of credit for what has happened here. My principal feelings are  gratitude that I have been able to be part of  the Xavier experience. A university is only as good as its people, and the people I have worked with have been outstanding. There  are so many people to thank. I owe the greatest debt of gratitude to Mike Conaton, the chairman of the board. Professionally, we worked together. I relied on him for everything of importance that happened here. Personally, he became a brother to me.

Next, I want to thank the board of trustees, who have supported me professionally and personally and who have supported the University financially. Their contribution to the advancement of Xavier has been inestimable. So have the president’s advisory councils been most faithful and helpful in recommending and confirming University planning and procedures. Then I must thank the vice presidents. Two of them were here when I came, Richard Hirté and John Kucia.

Xavier is in an excellent financial situation operationally because of Richard and his staff. We have had a balanced budget every year I’ve been here. People talk about the renaissance of the Xavier campus. Let us give credit where credit is due. Richard has been the leader in making all the physical changes happen. John Kucia’s job has grown so much here. In the past 10 years he has been responsible for many projects. He oversees the athletic department. He put XU2000, our strategic plan, in place. He worked on the sales of suites and seats in the Cintas Center. He managed the commercial contracts in Cintas, helped acquire new land at the site of the former BASF plant and the lease of 22 acres for the parkland project.

The academic environment here is absolutely first class. We have Jim Bundschuh to thank for that. He championed faculty development and promoted the enhancement of faculty salaries. One of his finest accomplishments is in undergraduate research, where there is now great emphasis on research between students and faculty. Another great achievement is in the area of enrollment. Ten years ago Xavier was scrambling for students. Today, Xavier is in demand, and the quality  of our students is the best in Xavier’s history.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Leo Klein, S.J. He is highly respected in so many ways. As vice president of spiritual development, he is responsible for the pastoral care of faculty, staff, students, even alumni. He has promoted and shared the Jesuit heritage with faculty, staff, administrators, students and trustees so that it is much better understood. He has also helped create our service learning programs.

Ron Slepitza has done a great deal to ensure that a culture of personal care exists   on campus. Ron has been instrumental in promoting student organizations and service activities in the tristate area. Ron is now in charge of two huge building projects—the Gallagher Student Center and new residence hall. Xavier owes a great deal of gratitude to Mike Graham and Gary Massa for their leadership in university relations. The gift income is over four times what it used to be. Alumni and friends have been so gracious in supporting Xavier and me.

There are so many others I could thank. Countless faculty  and staff. The Jesuit community  at Xavier. People in the Cincinnati community. So many people have supported Xavier and me. Where would the president’s office be without Mary Lang, Arlene Coffaro and Eileen Corder?

I believe the most important contribution I made was putting the focus on the mission of the University—to prepare students intellectually, spiritually and morally to take their places in a rapidly changing global society and to work toward the betterment of society. It is so important that this mission has been widely disseminated and accepted. All planning and the allocation of resources have been governed by the mission.

I am so pleased that Mike Graham has been able to gain the experience necessary to become the next president. I feel the University could not be in better hands. Momentum has been created. Xavier will only grow stronger under his leadership. I think one of the responsibilities of a president is to prepare a successor and then to step back. So I am. Thank you for all your support.