Education of a Republican

A royal blue Lincoln Continental swings into the Smart Papers parking lot in Hamilton, Ohio, on a warm, sticky September morning. The passenger door opens and John Boehner steps out. He’s all business—hair in place, crisp white shirt, sky-blue striped tie, gray designer slacks, black shoes. Very neat.

He leaves his jacket in the car, which is driven by Mick Krieger, chief of staff in the Hamilton office of Ohio’s 8th District congressman.

Upstairs in a wood-paneled board room of the turn-of-the-century factory, he shakes hands all around, talks about issues in the Capitol, sips coffee from a Styrofoam cup and, finally, takes a hurried tour of the sprawling plant. He’s got to be in Dayton in an hour.

But for a moment, as he exits into the sunny parking lot, he lets the other John Boehner out of the suit. Reaching into a shirt pocket for a Barclay cigarette, he and Krieger light up and smoke, while Boehner begins telling stories—stories about President Bush’s golf game, and about his boyhood start in business working at the family bar. The people standing around him feel special.

“I started working at Andy’s [Café] when I was 10 years old, Saturday mornings mopping floors. When I got a raise to $2 an hour, I thought I was rich.”

They all laugh.

This right here is the key to John Boehner, one of the most powerful legislators on Capitol Hill. This is how he survived the bloodletting in 1998 that came as a result of his close association with Newt Gingrich. This is how he made a political comeback in 2001, being named chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee. And this is how he scored his greatest coup last January when he drew President Bush to a school just a few miles from where he’s now standing to sign the landmark federal education bill.

People.

From regular guys in steel-toed shoes at a paper factory to well-heeled men in Armani suits on Capitol Hill, Boehner can carry a conversation with them all. He makes them feel comfortable, appreciated, important. It’s a trait that took him from head of his neighborhood association to Congress. And it’s a trait some say could take him to the top.

How Boehner got to such a lofty position is a study in persistence and contrasts, for this is the John Boehner who, if you look back far enough, is not quite a good ole’ boy, but is just this close. This is the man who cut his teeth on the barroom conversations between his dad and the patrons of Andy’s Café in a working-class suburb of Cincinnati. He learned how to get along in the world of men who work the night shift and show up at 6:00 a.m. for a beer, a blue-collar world of Catholic grade schools, large families and Friday night football. He knows how to spin yarns, crack jokes, share opinions, and he has the gumption to smoke in an era when smoking’s not cool.

Some call the 1977 business school graduate forthright, devoted, honest. Others say he’s brazen, unyielding, dogmatic. All, including himself, agree he’s “pretty darn conservative.” Fact is, no matter what he is or how he’s viewed, he’s pretty darn popular back home. Since 1990, he has been reelected to Congress every two years with an average 70 percent majority in all the counties he represents. This includes Butler, just north of Cincinnati, where he lives in an upscale golf-front suburb. His constituents, who are all mostly Republican like himself, love him.

“From here, he’s basically our hero politically and philosophically,” says Butler County Republican Party Chairman Joe W. Schwartz Sr. “He’s in tune with the people of the district. He’s frank, honest, refreshing. Quite frankly, I think John Boehner ought to be speaker of the House some day and, who knows, with his qualities, he could be president.”

Everyone in politics knows, though, that presidents come from the ranks of state governors and cabinet level administrators. Boehner says he wants to remain a congressman until his constituents vote in someone else. His not-so-secret goal is to be speaker, a position many in D.C. say is very possible.

And that’s the curious part, when you consider that Boehner’s rise to power on the wings of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was cut short in 1998 when the party lost five seats in the election. The Republican caucus held Gingrich and Boehner responsible. But because Gingrich, who had led the party to the first Republican majority in the House in 40 years, had already quit, they only had Boehner to blame. The man they had rewarded with the chairmanship of the Republican Conference Committee was toppled from his post and replaced by J.C. Watts.

Many expected Boehner, who in the early 1990s founded the “Gang of Seven” that crusaded against corrupt House banking practices, to quietly fade away. They were wrong.

“I remember walking back from that caucus vote, and I said to my chief of staff, ‘This is a blessing in disguise,’ ” Boehner says. “All through my life things have turned out for the best. Did it bother me? Of course it bothered me. I’m human. But I would never let anyone see that it bothered me. I just went back to my committees and went to work.”

One might expect the two most influential men in Boehner’s life to be Newt Gingrich and President George W. Bush. He calls them by their first names and can tell stories about their golf games.

But Boehner traces his influences back to his home and his days on the Moeller High School football team. Coach Gerry Faust and his father, Earl Boehner, are the men whose wisdom he admires. And when he lost his chairmanship, he recalled the lessons he’d learned at Andy’s Café and on the Moeller gridiron.

“I learned from Faust there’s nothing in this world you can’t succeed at if you’re willing to work hard enough and sacrifice,” he says. “I look over my life and that formula has worked. That was a very important part of who I am and what I am.”

Boehner, 52, grew up with 11 siblings in a two-bedroom Sears mail-order house in the Cincinnati suburb of Reading and is the only one to earn a college degree. As the second oldest, his leadership skills first surfaced in his teenage years when he took charge of some of the household chores that his parents were too busy to handle. He assigned jobs to his siblings while his father ran the bar, which grandfather, Andy, started and which put all the Boehner children through Catholic school.

From early on, Boehner often worked at the bar, now owned by his sister, Nancy Roell. It remains a popular lunchtime and after-hours hangout, just like when his grandfather ran it. They were all Democrats then. Boehner says he became a Republican when, after graduating from Xavier, he paid more in taxes than he earned in his first year working. “Along the way, we all became Republicans.”

Boehner was first a businessman who stumbled into politics. He and his wife, Debbie, had settled into the suburbs of Lakota Hills in the late 1970s before their two daughters were born. His business, Nucite Sales Inc., was a success. Neighbors invited him to join the neighborhood association, where his leadership skills emerged. Soon he was asked to run for Union Township trustee, which led to his election to the Ohio House. In 1989, he was asked to run for Congress to replace Donald E. “Buz” Lukens, forced from office by a sex scandal, and found himself running against former Rep. Thomas Kindness. The decision to run or not was difficult because he’d have to sell his business if he did. First he said no, then he said yes.

“It wasn’t easy when my name looks like Beener, Bonner or Boner, and his was Kindness,” he says. “But I just outworked him. I didn’t know I would win until election night.”

He’s won five times since then and was challenged in November by Democrat Jeff Hardenbrook, who raised less than $5,000 to Boehner’s nearly $800,000. He won again with 70 percent.

“I win because I’m very up front with people about what I’m going to do. All this goes back to my days in the bar with my dad. He’d treat everyone the same.”

Boehner learned that lesson well, says longtime friend Bob Janszen. “People like John. He listens and always has a good word. He goes across the whole country and people are drawn to him. It’s so simple, it’s disgusting.”

Boehner’s skills as a leader were evident early on in Washington, where he came in as a sort of maverick, caught the eye of Gingrich, led the Gang of Seven and helped build the Republican majority by 1994. The next year, he was named to the fourth leadership position as Republican Conference chair.

“John is viewed as a very resilient legislator,” says Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a 1970 grad and fellow Republican. “The view is he probably will make his way back into a leadership position. John has a tremendous work ethic and can get things done legislatively, and that is probably his hallmark.”

Those skills carried him through the down time after he was forced out of leadership in 1998. Instead of sulking, he went to work creating legislation on the less visible subcommittees he chaired. And he worked on the Freedom Project, his political action committee that raises millions for fellow Republicans.

After three years in the shadows, he emerged in January 2001 seeking the top post on one of the top committees. He sent his proposal to caucus members in aluminum lunch pails, underscoring his blue-collar work ethic. (“It got their attention,” he says.) He was rewarded with the chairmanship of the Education and the Workforce Committee at a crucial time for Republicans-Bush was president, and the Republicans controlled Congress.

“He ran one of the most productive subcommittees on Capitol Hill,” says Dave Schnittger, communications director for the education committee. “It was his work as (subcommittee) chair that helped make the case for the eventual chairmanship.”

His appointment over other congressmen in line before him was a sign he had regained the trust of his colleagues, says Cyndy Littlefield, director of federal relations for the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. “Obviously they felt strong enough of his leadership capabilities or they wouldn’t have given him his spot.”

The new chairman was charged with bringing the president’s promised education reform bill to reality-not an easy task considering he and fellow Republicans had, a few years before, advocated the elimination of the Department of Education. Now his job was to pass a bill that not only would increase federal spending on schools but also expand government’s role. Boehner spent most of 2001 putting the bill together and then garnering support for it. At first it appeared destined to fail.

“There was every obstacle in the world-a divided Congress and a president elected by a hair. I had to plot how to work my way through this legislative maze to deliver for the president. On his first full day in office, he says to me, ‘Hi, Boehner. You’ve got the football, just tell me what you want me to do.’ Whenever I needed him, I’d call and he’d show up. He was there in the end.”

And a plum ending it was, with the president showing up in Boehner’s district on Tuesday, Jan. 8, to sign the $26.5 billion education bill at a local school. Called The No Child Left Behind Act, the bill mandates annual testing, requires students of failing schools be allowed to transfer and gives money to schools that are determined to be failing.

Boehner’s politics, of course, don’t please everyone. Democrats say he’s too much in lockstep with his party and has done little to benefit his home base.

“He has not had a significant impact in this region outside his district,” says Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke. “But he clearly has developed a very loyal and strong following, and he has become very difficult to try to unseat.”

“John’s been in Washington quite a while and is very good at playing politics, but he’s not very good at paying attention to his constituency,” says Butler County Democractic Party Chairman Dan Gattermeyer. “He’s not interested in working people or working families.”

He infuriated black committee members last year when he put black higher education issues on a subcommittee with juvenile crime and child abuse. And the education bill has been a target of national teachers’ unions who object to the unfunded federal mandates. But Boehner is working to see the bill expanded over the next few years. He worked closely with Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy to compromise on the education bill and will work with him again on reauthorizing the higher education act in 2004.

Boehner’s politics haven’t changed as much as his style. A friend of tobacco and business, a foe of abortion and gay adoptions, he says he’s a practical conservative mainstream Republican. “I’m not as strident as I was in the early years. I’ve learned there’s a way to say things that aren’t as inflammatory as I might have done.”

He plans to stay in Congress as long as the voters keep him there. He likes the work as much as the storytelling-and the chance to bring those stories back home to places like the Smart Papers parking lot. As Boehner prepares to meet other constituents, the conversation turns back to the one story everyone’s interested in: His golf game with President Bush. “I beat him soundly,” he says.

Oh, and by the way, he adds as he pulls away. Bush still owes him five bucks.

They all laugh.

The Event of the Century

“My favorite story about Pope John XXIII,” says Robert Kaiser, “is when he ran into a group of protestants. He was this real jovial person and he told them they must get together sometime. They said, ‘We can’t get together.’ He said, ‘Why not?’ They said, ‘Because we have different ideas.’ He said, ‘Ideas, ideas, what are ideas among friends?’”

Standing before a crowd of several hundred people in the Cintas Center banquet room, Kaiser offered insights into John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council—the monumental event that John XXIII set into motion 40 years ago this October. The University’s department of theology is celebrating the anniversary of the four-year council by sponsoring one program a year detailing events of the council for the next four years.

“Depending on your age, Vatican II was either a great event that breathed new life into the church and brought great unity among humankind,” says department of theology chair William Madges. “Or, it was an event that brought about a loss of identity within the church and took it down the wrong path, making the Catholic church look too much like the protestant church. Either way, it was the most significant event in the Catholic church in the last century.”

John XXIII announced his intentions for a new council on Jan. 25, 1959, less than three months after his election to the papacy. On Christmas 1961, he signed the document formally evoking what was to be the Church’s 21st ecumenical council. Vatican II, as it became known (Vatican I was in 1869-70), opened on Oct. 11, 1962—the same month as the Cuban missile crisis. The council met every autumn through 1965, producing 16 documents: four constitutions, nine decrees and three declarations.

Kaiser kicked off the series with an overview of the council, which he covered for Time magazine. A former member of the Society of Jesus, Kaiser was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage. He also won an Overseas Press Club Award and wrote two of his 10 books on the council: Pope, Council and World and The Politics of Sex and Religion.

The council, he says, was “the ecclesiastical Super Bowl,” the “climax of a battle that had been going on in the Church for almost two centuries.”

“It was a fight,” he says, “between forces that believed that the Church had been in flux from its very beginning, versus those who believed that the Church could never change. It was a fight between those who believed that the Church is always in need of reform (though it is in the middle of a world that is basically good) versus those who believed the Church’s holiness demanded it condemn a world that is mostly bad. It was a fight between those who gloried in the Church’s humanity versus those who took pride in its divinity. It was a fight between those who heard the Holy Spirit speaking through history and those who considered history as something the Church should try to escape.”

The winner of the fight, he says, was the people. Or at least that’s how it seemed at the time. In the 40 years since, though, it’s become obvious that there haven’t been any winners because the fight is still taking place. The Church hasn’t implemented the charters it wrote. “The Council fathers had a vision—of a Church that was more decentralized and more democratic,” he says. “But they didn’t set up the machinery that would make that vision happen.”

So we’re here, he says, still slugging it out. People interested in seeing those changes implemented have two options: Start at the top and push for a new council, or start at the bottom and make changes at the parish, deanery or diocesan level.

His recommendation is to push for the creation of what he calls “autochthonous” churches. Autochthonous churches—it’s a “$15 word,” he says, “meaning local”—not only insert the gospel into each culture, but insert the differences of each culture into the gospel. Both are enhanced this way, he says. “The substance of faith is one thing,” he says. “How it’s presented is another. People in America don’t want to hear the same thing as those in Rome.”

He doesn’t have all the answers, he says, but thinks the people do, and thinks the people need to get together, discuss the issues at hand and do something about them. The problem, he adds, is that that would look too much like a democracy from Rome’s point of view, and the church isn’t democratic.

“The church isn’t a democracy, but there are democratic mechanisms that could be put into place,” he says. “In every other segment of society we have checks and balances that we have worked out over time. Why not the church? We can do it easier in America because democracy is the air that we breathe. We have to grow up. We’re used to ‘Father May I?’ and ‘Father’s always right,’ but that doesn’t work for us.”

The people must realize they are the voice of the church, he says, and must insist the bishops start listening.

“We, the people of God, will start with our bishops. The first task ahead of us is clear: we must insist that our bishops start listening. Once they do, we will be able to demand they use their authority not for domination, but for service. And that they make themselves accountable. Right now, they have a childish out: ‘Rome won’t let us be accountable.’ In an autochthonous American Church, we would all grow up. We wouldn’t have to play the game called ‘Mother, May I?’”

(In addition to writing for Newsweek magazine, Kaiser also writes for the British Catholic publication The Tablet and edits a new online publication, justgoodcompany.com. The full text of his talk can be read at that site.)

Step in Time

Within the University’s department of music, six one-credit-hour dance classes teach students the basics of dance and movement, and the fundamentals and techniques of ballet. Meeting in a mirrored room on the second floor of the recently renovated Edgecliff Hall, students have the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and enhance their classroom schooling with some cultural lessons.

Primal Research

After traveling 300 days out of every year to speak to audiences around the world, renowned scientist Jane Goodall has perfected her greeting.

“Oooh-ooh-ooh-aah-aah.”

That, she tells the crowd of 3,000 who gathered at the Cintas Center on Oct. 9, is the distance call of the chimpanzee.

She would know. For the past 43 years, Goodall has spent her life learning the signals, habits and traits of the wild chimpanzees at Gombe National Park in Tanzania, Africa. It’s been a hard life, but it’s the only life she’s ever wanted.

When she was 10 years old, she announced that when she grew up she was going to go to Africa to study animals and write books. Everyone laughed at her for having such a wild dream. Everyone, that is, except her mother, Vanne. “She used to say, ‘Jane, if you want something, work hard, look for opportunities and you’ll find a way,’ ” says Goodall.

Since the family didn’t have the money to send Jane to a university, Vanne advised her daughter to go to secretarial school, telling her she’d be able to get a job anywhere. Goodall took her advice and later was hired to be an assistant for anthropologist Louis Leakey. Impressed with the knowledge she had gained solely from books, he offered her the opportunity to go to Africa to study chimpanzees. “He realized I didn’t care a lot about boyfriends and clothes or hairstyles and parties,” says Goodall. “I just wanted to learn about animals.”

It took a year for Leakey to get the money for her study. Nobody wanted to fund a woman, and the British authorities in Africa wouldn’t allow her to come unless she had a companion. So her mother came and stayed with her for the first few months. She was there to comfort Goodall when she came home frustrated because the chimpanzees were running away from her and she hadn’t discovered anything significant yet.

Then she made a critical discovery. Over time, the chimpanzees allowed her to come closer and she observed one of them taking a branch from a plant and modifying it into a tool to dig for termites to eat. “They use more objects as tools than any other animal except us,” says Goodall. “And they modify their tools. This tool-making behavior was the breakthrough.”

This challenged the notion that man was the only being capable of making and modifying tools. With this knowledge under her belt, Goodall’s six-month stay turned into a four-decade field study and the formation of the Gombe Stream Research Centre. In that time, Goodall’s research has continued to uncover similarities between humans and chimps. “They kiss and swagger and pat each other on the back, and it all means the same thing,” she says. “They have a sense of humor and can recognize themselves in mirrors. Only sophisticated language separates us.”

She also noticed that, like humans whose culture varies from place to place, chimpanzees also have diversity depending on location. Says Goodall, “Everywhere we’ve studied chimps, there are different tool-making techniques and behavior, which the little ones learn from their parents.”

Not all the similarities are as innocuous though. Like us, chimpanzees also have a dark side and can demonstrate aggressive behavior. Different groups of chimps have declared war on each other with one group’s males killing the other males in order to claim the young females. At first Goodall was told by the scientific community to keep this information to herself because people might feel that mankind’s tendency toward war and violence was inevitable since chimpanzees also demonstrated it.

Goodall’s response to this thinking is “chimps are so like us, capable of warfare, but we must also remember they are capable of love and compassion. Humans have basic aggressive traits—but we’ve also inherited traits of love and altruism. Aren’t we sophisticated enough to choose which traits to follow?”

Goodall is banking on mankind being smart enough to choose its compassionate nature over its aggressive one when it comes to chimpanzees and their habitat. According to her, even the future of the Gombe chimps, who live in a protected area, is uncertain.

“Fifteen years ago, European and Asian logging companies moved in, and the last pristine forest opened up and hunters from town could now ride on logging trucks. Deep in the forest there are hundreds of people who were never there before. They’re paying Pygmy hunters to shoot food for the logging staff. It’s totally unsustainable hunting.”

It’s not just foreigners wreaking havoc on the land. In an effort to feed their families and survive, natives are cutting down trees in order to plant crops. Even though the natives know clearing the land will cause soil erosion, they continue to do so out of desperation. “There are more people living on the land than the land can possibly support,” says Goodall. “People are struggling to exist.”

In an effort to combat this day-to-day struggle, she started a program in the village near Gombe that helps women find work, and offers AIDS prevention education and family planning counseling. It also helps conserve the land and even repairs some of the damage. “It’s turning around,” says Goodall. “Hills that were once bare now have new green growth.”

Seeing the return of foliage to a once barren field gives Goodall hope, something she’s often found lacking in the younger generation. “As I traveled, I was talking to young people who had lost hope and were angry because they thought we had corrupted their future,” she says. “We have.”

This inspired her to create a program for schoolchildren called Roots & Shoots. The program is active in 60 countries with all kinds of children: inner city, suburban and rural; rich and poor. Roots & Shoots is also in retirement homes and prisons. It teaches people how to make a better community, how to make the lives of animals better and how to help protect the environment. “It brings hope to me,” says Goodall. “I get a lot of energy from the program. Everywhere I go there are kids with shining eyes who make the world a better place.”

More than 300 children from nine local schools created a book of poems and artwork for Goodall while she was in Cincinnati. She had come to town to promote her Omnimax film Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees, which runs through Feb. 14, 2003, at the Cincinnati Museum Center. She also spoke at a fund-raising event to benefit both the museum and the Cincinnati Zoo. Wherever she goes, though, she asks people to think about what they can do to make the world a better place and then to go out and do it.

“It gives me greater reason for hope that more people are getting involved,” she says. “I’m trying to grow a family of caring people. Every one of us makes a difference every day.”

Out of Africa

Assistant basketball coach John Groce was just making idle conversation when he asked Romain Sato how his summer league game went.

“Honestly,” Sato said, “I don’t think there’s anyone in the country who can stop me from getting my shot off.”

Groce was stunned. The answer was so unlike Sato. The junior guard from the Central African Republic is quiet, polite and humble. He’s not some brash kid who struts around campus bragging about how good he is. This is a young man who thanked the coaching staff repeatedly for feeding him passes during a workout when head coach Thad Matta first arrived at Xavier a year ago. So when Sato said what he did, even if he said it in a matter-of-fact manner, Groce couldn’t help but take notice. It was as if he had just witnessed a revelation in his young protégé.

“I think he understood for the first time that, ‘Hey, I have a chance to be really good at this game and possibly use it as a vehicle professionally,’ ” Groce says.

David West, Xavier’s senior All-American forward, remains the heart and soul of the Musketeers. But Sato, a second-team All-Atlantic 10 Conference selection who made 41 percent of his three-point shots last season, has emerged from the shadows and is ready to stand in his own spotlight. He’s poised to burst onto the national scene after learning not to rely exclusively on his deadly jump shot, but to expand the limits of his game by driving to the basket and creating his own scoring opportunities.

And this newly developed versatility has not only equipped him to ease some of the offensive pressure on West—the focal point of every defense the Musketeers face—but gives the team a new tool that will push it to a higher level.

“Teams have to guard him,” West says. “They have to respect the fact that he can shoot the ball better than anybody in the country.”

A New Concentration

Rabbi Abie Ingber sits quietly, his hands under his chin, contemplating how to explain his experience. The board member of Xavier’s Brueggeman center for interreligious dialogue and Hillel rabbi for the University’s Jewish students was part of a 10-person congregation from Xavier that had just returned from the Center for Dialogue and Prayer in Oswiecim, Poland. For 10 days, the group toured the former Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau. They dialogued with Christians and Jews from Germany and Poland, heard stories from survivors and visited the city where Ingber’s father was taken by the Nazis.

“I expected it to be like going to the dentist for a tooth extraction,” he says, “but it turned out to be one of the most amazing events ever.”

Ingber is sitting around a table with others from the group who are recounting the trip and trying to express all the emotion they felt then and in the two weeks since their return. For Ingber, it was especially emotional. Both of his parents survived the Holocaust, meeting at a displacement camp after the war. But he lost all of his grandparents and numerous extended family members in the camps.

“It was really very risky for me to go,” he says, “but I thought I could add something to the trip—color. For me, Auschwitz was going to be black and white, evil vs. good. But I thought I might be able to bring some colored paint brushes, so when we toured towns where no Jew has lived for 60 years, I could paint a picture of what it used to be like with thousands of Jews walking the streets.”

He pauses.

“And, I thought I would spend every second that my feet were on the ground being angry over what happened to my family. But I ended up feeling a tremendous sense of love and embrace. And that was not something that I gave, but was something the people I was with pulled out of me. I’ve spoken about this a lot, and what keeps coming back to me is seeing this place of my family’s destruction with these people who hold the keys to every family’s redemption.”

That, in fact, was the purpose of the trip and the reason the Center for Dialogue and Prayer was formed 10 years ago. Twice now the center has created international dialogues. The University of Notre Dame was previously the only university from America invited to attend the dialogues. Xavier and Hebrew Union College were invited this year. Xavier’s invitation came as a result of Elizabeth Groppe, who joined the University’s theology faculty last year after completing her doctorate at Notre Dame. She went on the first trip, and was extended an invitation by Rabbi Michael Singer, Notre Dame’s distinguished chair of Jewish studies. The opportunity, says department of theology chair William Madges, was too great to pass up, especially after the Brueggeman center agreed to pay almost all of the cost.

Because of the overwhelming interest once the trip was announced, the theology department created a selection process that required the submission of a one-page essay and an interview. Six students were selected, along with Madges, Ingber, Groppe and assistant professor of theology Sarah Melcher.

And to a person, what they thought they might experience or learn once they got there proved to be completely wrong. It was, they say, too mentally and emotionally overwhelming to comprehend. They celebrated a Jewish Shabbat service in a synagogue that hadn’t held a religious service since the Nazi occupation. They listened to a survivor talk about her experiences. And they walked through the gas chambers, barracks and crematories.

“The problem was just being able to take it all in,” says Madges. “We spent 4 1/2 hours in Auschwitz. It was like walking through an outdoor museum. Then we spent four hours in Birkenau, which held more than 90,000 people and had four gas chambers and four crematories. After that we had a chance to go to a Franciscan monastery that had an exhibit about the Holocaust, and I couldn’t go. I couldn’t take any more. It was just that intense.”

“You almost become obsessed with trying to make sense of it all,” says senior Mindy Kuhlman. “I’m one of the few Jewish students at Xavier. I’ve always been taught about Auschwitz and had a couple of opportunities to go to Poland, but I didn’t think I was emotionally ready or mature enough. But I needed to see the magnitude of that place that practically erased my entire religion. I couldn’t understand how they could house that many people and no one realize something bad was going on. But now I can see how they did it. I can’t bear witness to it entirely, though, because what I saw was a place with grass and trees. The barracks were museums. There weren’t bodies laying in feces. No dead bodies. But I am a witness to Germany and Poland trying to grow as countries. I walked the camp with a 25-year-old German who was crying the same as me, a 21-year-old Jew.”

“I can’t say the trip was enjoyable,” says graduate theology student Maimi Johnson. “It was enlightening. I went there trying to determine what makes one group try to make another group subservient. From an African-American perspective, I see that as similar to what happened to us. Families were destroyed, homes ravaged. I’m still left with the question ‘Why? Where was God? Why did He let this happen?’ ”

Even for Groppe, who already visited the camps, seeing the place where more than 1 million Jews were slaughtered doesn’t get any easier the second time around.

“As a trained co-systematic theologian, I thought some things would become clearer,” she says. “But when we walked through the gates of Auschwitz, any kind of processing that I thought I had come to before all crumbled. It became more complicated, more complex.”

The Center for Dialogue and Prayer only holds the international events every two years, but Madges wants to find a way to take a group of students to Poland every year because the trip proved so powerful.

“No organ was pulled from except from the heart,” says Ingber. “No brain, no bile, no feet to run away. Just the heart.”

Profile: Thomas Dierker

Bachelor of Science in Business, 1990 | Executive director, Matthew Kelly Foundation in Cincinnati; Wife, Ann Marie, is a 1999 M.Ed. graduate

Road Untaken | He took a pre-law concentration but never pursued law school. Instead, he worked for seven years as a fund-raiser for St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati and two years selling investments.

Last Supper | “My wife and I used to take some of the Jesuit priests out to dinner, because we thought they would appreciate having someone treat them as regular people. We were having dinner with a former Xavier professor, Matt Gamber, and he said, ‘I have this guy, Matthew Kelly, coming to speak at Bellarmine Chapel. You should come see him.’ ”

Instant Connection | The energetic, Australian-born Kelly uses the problems of the modern world as the backdrop for his distinctly Christian, Catholic message. “I never heard anything like it in church. I introduced myself to Matthew and gave him my card. I told him if I could help him in any way to give me a call. He did.”

Lightbulb Moment | “I started helping him, and I found myself wanting to spend all my time on his work. After a year, I realized it was time to go.”

Down to Business | “Once I heard him, I knew there would be an incredible demand for him. But he was only doing 30 events a year because he didn’t have any staff and was trying to do everything himself. So I started handling the business details and some fund raising.”

Daily Grind | Dierker begins his work days at 6:45 a.m. He used to travel a lot with Kelly—who spends four months a year in Europe and Australia—but cut back after his son, Jude, was born last year.

On the Job | “People here call me the ‘Chief of Stuff.’ I spend 20 percent of my days meeting with the staff, 40 percent fund raising and 40 percent on publishing.”

Book Marks | Kelly has his own publishing company, Beacon Publishing, which Dierker runs. Kelly’s seven books are available in seven languages. “Every time we go to a high school, we give everyone a free copy,” says Dierker. “That’s also why we do fund raising. Many Catholic organizations survive on the benevolence of others, but 100 percent of our fund raising goes toward reducing the costs of the books so we can afford to get them to young people.”

Profile: John J. Curro

Bachelor of Science in physics, 1976; Master’s and Ph.D in materials science/polymers, University of Cincinnati, 1982 | Joined Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati in 1982; Became the 25th member of P&G’s Victor Mills Society in 1998 for innovations resulting in 35 patents.

In the Beginning | He worked in the diaper division developing softer, drier, lighter, stretchier diapers. Favorite line: “I was in diapers for 18 years.”

Benefits | His inventions allow Procter & Gamble to supply developing countries with a lower-cost diaper that has fewer amenities than diapers here, yet still provides the basics. “It’s one of the things I’m most proud of because of the benefit to the world’s consumers.”

And Now | His research stretched into creating new uses for a synthetic fabric he invented out of polymers. It’s used in products such as sanitary pads, Thermacare heat wraps and Dryel home dry-cleaning sheets.

The Invention | A new way to treat plastic sheeting such as that used to make plastic bags. The process, solid state formation technology, makes the material stronger, more elastic, porous and soft.

What Good Is It? | By adjusting the process, it can be made light and gauzy, perfect for making spiderwebs at Halloween, or thick and stretchy, good for bandages or diapers, or heavier and softer, like a baby’s blanket.

Other Uses | Curro’s team of researchers is seeking solutions to problems people don’t even know they have.

Theory of Work | “I took Tae Kwon Do lessons at Xavier, and the mental side of that is that failure is not an option. That’s what I bring to a project.”

Work of Theory | He’s usually told to make something three times stronger, twice as soft or half as costly.

Survival of the Funniest | “We’re exploring to see if we can provide value to the science of dead chickens,” he says about absorbent meat packaging. His deadpan face breaks into a smile. “You have to have humor. This is tough work and a sense of humor can help.”

Lock It Up | His is the only locked office on the floor. The counters and shelves are strewn with test fabrics, papers and equipment. He told his bosses: “If I had a clean desk policy, I would have a clean mind policy, and there would be nothing coming out.” So he got a lock.

Scary Moment | When physics professor John Hart told his father on graduation day, “Your son has made a terrible mistake. He’s wasted his time studying physics and should instead become a stand-up comedian.” Hart laughed, and his father realized it was a joke. Only then did Curro breathe easy. He has been ever since.

Profile: Jeanne Hamilton

Bachelor of Arts in political science, 1988; law degree, Indiana University, 1991 | Became the first female judge on County Superior Court No. 2, Hancock County, Ind., in 2001.

Getting Benched | “When I was 14 years old, I took a day off from school and went to County Superior Court in Indianapolis. A judge there was a friend of my parents, and my dad asked him if I could shadow him for a day. He sat me right next to him on the bench. I was right in the middle of everything. I found it so interesting that ever since that day I’ve wanted to become a judge.”

Benching Others | “I love it when students come to court. I’ll sit them next to me on the bench so they can have the same experience. Having students in the courtroom is almost like a scared straight program. It really shocks them to see prisoners in orange jumpsuits and leg shackles.”

Young Blood | “I think I’ve had more to prove because I’m young than because I’m female. Because I look young, people assume I don’t have much experience. But I’ve been in the business for 11 years, and as soon as I open my mouth I prove I know what I’m doing. That’s what I love about law. What you look like, what color you are, whether you’re short or tall doesn’t matter. When you get into a courtroom and start to speak, that’s when you prove what you know.”

Helping Hand | “In the morning, my court is pretty serious because the cases are for drugs and alcohol. I view my job as helping these people try and become clean and sober. In the afternoon, though, I’m dealing with restraining orders and small claims court, which are where you find your Judge Judy cases.”

Law Reviews | “Quite often, defendants write me letters and tell me how I changed their lives, that they’re now clean and sober. Or they’ll write from jail saying it’s the first time they’ve been sober in 20 years. On the other hand, I get death threats in the mail. If it’s not a thank you letter one day, it’s a death threat. I get a lot more thank you notes than death threats, though. People say I’m tough but fair. I don’t think there’s a better compliment a judge can receive.”

Start Your Engines | “I grew up going to the Indianapolis 500 time trials and the races. I can remember my dad taking all six of us kids. I’ve been to the last 20 Indianapolis 500s. I love the speed, the technology and the competition.”

Down Home | Hamilton relocated to Hancock County, a rural farming community, from Indianapolis in 1998 as part of a law firm merger. Three years later she was named judge. “It’s different out here, but it’s a welcome change. This is a people job. I have at least 50 people come through court a day. I enjoy the fact that I help those people and, in turn, help the community.”

Profile: Daniel C. Tjo

Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, 1996 | Assistant vice president, Fifth Third Bancorp, Cincinnati.

Quick Climb | After only three years with the bank, Tjo (pronounced Cho) was promoted to assistant vice president. Now 28, he’s responsible for securing the business of some of the nation’s largest Fortune 500 companies. He started in the commercial credit department as a credit analyst. A year later, he was promoted to junior lender focusing on medium-sized businesses. Two years later, he was sent to the corporate division as a treasury manager.

How’d He Do That? | “I was told the time frame it took for me to get to this level is the shortest some have ever seen. But I knew I wanted to get into some sort of business application.”

The Job | He focuses on companies on the East and West coasts and parts of the South.

Client List | Includes Gannett Corp., Circuit City, Cinergy, Kroger, Gateway Computers, PetSmart, the Cheesecake Factory and the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio.

A Good Thing | “I like my job. It definitely fulfills one aspect of my life—providing financial stability.”

Something Else | His passion, though, is coaching boys basketball. He now coaches fifth- and sixth-grade boys from a local school. “I love coaching and educating kids in terms of values.”

Life-Changing Event | While a student, he spent the spring semester of his junior year studying at Sophia University in Japan.

Road Trip | “It wasn’t a decision I analyzed. I just said yes. There was a sense of excitement and adventure being completely on my own in a foreign country, and that experience shapes my thought processes now. It opened up my world, and I gained so much perspective on different things. That was the experience that completely changed my life.”

Lifelong Struggle | As an American-born son of Korean immigrants, he considers himself American but is struggling with his Korean identity. He admires his father for seeking a better life in America by working his way through college as a bartender and becoming a computer programmer and business owner in Atlanta.

On Korea | “I don’t know if I’d want to live there. The way of life in the states is a lot different. Everything is bigger here. It’s a very rich country.”