Service Charge

Most students spend a lot of time in classrooms but still end up with plenty of free time to do their own thing. Some work part-time jobs. Some sit in the library. Some simply play for the rest of the day. But a select group of students spends time outside of the classroom in nursing homes, orphanages and hospitals. Or in shelters for the homeless, battered women or runaways. Or at soup kitchens, food banks or housing agencies. Or prisons.

In 1989, the University established a program to attract academically gifted students with a track record of service to their community, school or church. Known as the Service Fellowship Program, the organization sends students into the region’s hard-crusted front lines to lend a hand wherever they can, exemplifying the University’s mission of service to others. Twenty service fellows are chosen—five from each academic class. Each one is charged with performing 10 hours of service per week. In return, they receive full tuition, room, board and books. That’s more students on full-tuition scholarship than any other group in the University—including the men’s basketball team. At nearly $25,000 per year for each fellow, that’s about a half million dollars in income the University is handing out so they can go help others.

“I do think it’s an effort on the University’s part to put money behind its ideals,” says Tom Kennealy, S.J., associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences and chair of the scholarship committee. “If we’re committed to service to others, this program bears witness to our commitment in a concrete way.”

“It’s not only the financial commitment, but the expansion of service into the student community,” says Adrian Schiess, director for retention services and mentor in the early years. “The idea was that it would rub off on other students, and they would take on projects that would transcend just going to the soup kitchen but do some things that would be lasting.”

Most perform more than expected, says Gene Carmichael, S.J., associate vice president for mission and ministry and mentor to the fellows. And they carry that performance with them after they leave, giving—and receiving—for the remainder of their lives.

“We don’t want service to be top-down,” says Carmichael. “You have a graced moment to share some time with a person. You share your gifts with people and they share gifts with you so they don’t wind up feeling like they’re just receiving.”

Ask any of the service fellows, and they’ll tell you that they are impacted as profoundly—perhaps even more so—than the people they serve.


“My fellowship empowered me with a very strong sense of advocacy,” says Nick DeBlasio, a 1997 graduate and resident at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati. “It gave me a sense that no situation is truly hopeless and that one person can make a difference.”

Others feel the same way. From the first graduates to recent graduates, serving others remains their charge.

Lea Minniti, Class of 2002, coordinator, Su Casa Hispanic Ministry Center
As a recent graduate, Lea Minniti still isn’t completely sure what life will bring for her. But with a major in theology, minors in Spanish and peace studies, and experience with an Hispanic assistance agency, she knows her mission will include working on behalf of others.

“I want to do some kind of justice work,” says Minniti. “I could see myself working in a similar capacity as what I’m doing now.”

Minniti is on an assignment at the Su Casa Hispanic Ministry Center, an organization that helps young adults strengthen their communities by working with neighborhoods, businesses and government.

Her plans are to attend graduate school after her assignment is complete and study in Guatemala, Spain, Peru or Mexico.

Minniti worked with Su Casa during her service fellowship and spent a service-learning semester in Nicaragua. Now she runs a youth group for Hispanics 18 to 25 years old and helps coordinate medical appointments for Spanish-speaking residents.

“The emphasis in the service fellowship was on relationships,” she says. “It wasn’t just going down to a neighborhood and coming back home. We got to know people. That’s how I try to live my life now.”
Mandy Adamczyk, Class of 1997, teacher, June Shelton Upper School, Dallas
The service fellowship changed everything for Mandy Adamczyk Dockweiler.

“It was such a huge part of my life, I can’t imagine my life without it,” she says. “I don’t know what I’d be. I know I wouldn’t have my current job. I would have taken sign language for fun, but it wouldn’t have turned into a career.”

Dockweiler teaches art at a Dallas high school for students who have learning differences such as dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. She also teaches sign language and coordinates the school’s community service program. A supervisor during her service fellowship told her she’d make a good teacher. “I honestly hadn’t thought of it,” she says.

Growing up, Dockweiler often used signs to communicate with her younger brother, who is developmentally delayed. But a year of service at Cincinnati’s St. Rita School for the Deaf convinced her to formally study sign language. Now, in addition to teaching, she interprets religious education classes and youth meetings for hearing-impaired students at her church.

The school counts on Dockweiler to share her enthusiasm for service. Students there must perform five hours of service per semester.

“The service fellowship was such a gift to me that I have a responsibility to share that experience with other people,” says Dockweiler. “If I volunteer 10 hours, that’s a good thing—if I get 80 kids to give 10 hours, that’s even better.”
Joel Tantalo, Class of 1996, lawyer, Dunn & Krutcher, Los Angeles
Joel Tantalo believes anyone can serve others, regardless of career choice. “I read an article about a September 11 widow with five daughters. It said she hadn’t hired a lawyer to help her because she didn’t want him to take 30 percent of what she got. That cut me,” says Tantalo. “I know what the perception is about lawyers. But I also know that there are many lawyers who care deeply about people and want to make society better.”

During his junior year, Tantalo was a court-appointed special advocate at Prokids Inc., an advocacy organization that represents children in court cases. He visited abused and neglected children, worked with foster families and social workers and represented children in court.

“I came from a small town outside of Rochester, N.Y., and grew up in Catholic schools in a middle-class neighborhood,” he says. “Prokids was by far the most eye-opening experience I’ve ever had. I couldn’t believe the things parents do to their kids.”

Tantalo still helps those in need. He and a partner worked pro bono to help make housing conditions better in Los Angeles. Thanks in part to their legal brief, L.A. landlords must pay a fee that funds housing inspections on behalf of tenants. “It’s important to use the gifts God gave you,” he says, “not only to profit personally but to benefit other people too.”

Spring Into Action

Remember the days when a bobbling-headed dog graced the dashboard of Dad’s Chevrolet? Well those days are back with the second coming of the bobblehead craze, and this time it’s Xavier’s mascot whose head is on the spring.

The national alumni association created and is exclusively marketing the hand-painted D’Artagnan bobbleheads, which are made of polyresin and stand 7 1/2 inches tall.

“I thought it was something that we would be interested in providing alumni,” says Joe Ventura, executive director for the national alumni association. “I knew bobbleheads were very popular. I thought it would be a nice keepsake for our alumni. It’s a source of pride. It’s something that can be displayed at home or in the office.”

The bobbleheads can be purchased only through the alumni association at They sell for $20, plus $7.50 for shipping and handling.

Soul Bearing

It happened quite unexpectedly for Leon Chartrand. He was on a solo backpacking trip in Montana’s Glacier National Park. It was August 1997, and the weather was perfect—dry, warm, sunny days and chilly nights. Plodding along at 8,000 feet elevation, he was pondering his decision to quit engineering and become a high school teacher when he stepped around a boulder—and his life changed forever.

There in a meadow, about 60 yards below him, his eyes fell on a big ball of chocolate brown fur foraging for berries in the mid-morning sun. A light breeze played with its shiny coat, brushing it first one way then another. Chartrand froze in his boots, realizing he was nearly face-to-face with a grizzly bear.

“I just stood there and I didn’t know what to do,” Chartrand says, recalling stories of women mauled by grizzlies in the late 1960s in these same mountains.

But the bear didn’t notice him, and his fear soon turned to awe. The transformation had begun.

“Just the sense I felt from it was that the world was such a wild and big place,” he says. “I felt a deep sense of connectedness and faith that there was something more besides what I had always thought.”

Chartrand was so moved that he gave up the idea of teaching high school. He completed master’s degrees in education in 1998 and theology in 2000 and joined the University of Toronto’s Elliott Allen Institute of Theology & Ecology, where he is now a professor and doctoral student. His dissertation subject: the sacredness of grizzly bear recovery. Chartrand says his purpose is to restore a spiritual reverence for all endangered species so that the theory of eco-theology earns a place in wildlife conservation.

“When the human imagination is activated by the wonders of the bear, that deeper experience will invoke new insights in the way we see ourselves in relation to them and also in the way we address their recovery. I believe it will be a more successful recovery.”

But is tying the ecological preservation of grizzlies to the spiritual beliefs of man a bit too extreme? Bear ecologists like Kate Kendall, who developed a method for estimating bear populations by studying the DNA of bear hair, have little time to ponder the spirituality of wildlife.

“I think the thing that’s going to make the difference is focusing on the value of bio-diversity in general. Part of that is spiritual, but that’s not realistic. You can’t force people to think.”

Xavier theology professor Brennan Hill says you can teach people to think, but it takes time. His book, Christian Faith and the Environment, links Christian values with environmental issues.

“It’s a solid field and it’s been going on a long time,” he says.

To put his beliefs into practice, Chartrand is moving in February to Idaho to begin two years of research for his dissertation. He’ll study bear conservation and habitat, preservationists and ranchers. And he’ll spend quiet time in bear country, discovering the spirituality of another time.

Professor in Residence

Living in a student residence hall can be a lot like living in New York City. Both are places that never sleep.

That’s kind of exciting when you’re 19 years old. People continuously coming and going. Lots of commotion. Loud noises. But why would a tenured professor who’s been at the University 16 years want to put herself in the middle of all that?

“It’s important to be integrated with students,” says Irene Hodgson, director of Latin American studies and the University’s 2001 teacher of the year. “It is part of the mission of the University and the peace I have within myself in everything I do.”

At the beginning of the academic year, Hodgson moved into an apartment in The Commons, the student apartment building across from the Cintas Center. She is the first faculty member to embark on a new program the University developed that has professors living among the students.

While the University’s Jesuit priests have always lived on campus—including several who live in dorm rooms and serve as residence hall advisors—the idea is new among faculty. Hodgson, though, was a perfect fit for faculty inclusion. The Spanish professor is a self-described 24-hour teacher who has always been a night owl, and living on campus gives her the opportunity to more fully let her personal and professional worlds overlap. She’s simply continuing to be available for her students and establishing concern outside of the classroom, she says.

She lives on the building’s fourth floor, immediately adjacent to University President Michael Graham, S.J., who set the tone for the idea by having his apartment designed into the building when it was constructed two years ago. Hodgson’s apartment has two bedrooms, a washer and dryer and a small living room.

The lease she signed with the University’s office of residence life calls for her to live in the apartment for two years. She participates in various building wing socials as well as all-hall events where the entire dormitory is invited. The participation resembles the idea she had in mind when she first approached the University about having professors live on campus. Her idea was to create service wings or social justice wings in various dormitories. The wings would house students and a faculty member who had a particular interest in a certain academic/social program to begin programming within the residence halls.

This idea is a little different, but the concept is the same. And even though the education of the students was the impetus behind the idea, Hodgson is finding that she’s also receiving an education. For instance, she says she didn’t realize how tranquil the campus becomes on Friday evenings and the weekends. And that students—at least in this building—aren’t that noisy.

“If the noise is not worse than the night of the Crosstown Shootout, its not that bad,” she says.

She’s also amazed at the number of students who go out on Thursday rather than Friday.

There have been some obstacles and annoyances to overcome, though. The prerecorded message that echoes over the outside speakers at the Cintas Center during basketball games was irritating, for instance, but she has learned how to muffle the sound. With the mix of television and music, the repetitive and boisterous voice becomes a soft background noise. And the numerous and random unauthorized fire alarms that were set off the previous year have been extinguished. (Cooking classes for students reduced that problem substantially, she says.)

Overall, she says, the move hasn’t been as bad as she expected.

“I am pleased with the way things are going,” she says, “and depending on the available space, I hope the program can expand to other faculty members.”

Parental Interest

There’s one more semester until graduation in May. That gives your student only 20 weeks to pay that growing stack of parking tickets, order invitations, buy a cap and gown and get sized for that class ring—a daunting time frame considering the speed at which most seniors move.

But, the alumni association is once again sponsoring what is fast becoming one of the more popular and beneficial events on campus: Commencement Countdown. The event allows seniors to take care of all their graduation needs in one day and in one spot.

Commencement Countdown 2003 takes place March 25-26 from noon to 7:00 p.m. at the Cintas Center. Booths on hand include the bookstore, financial aid, graduation portraits, career and leadership development, the bursar, the registrar and the senior legacy program.

“It’s a one-stop shop,” says Dianne Fisk, director for parent relations. “It’s nice to let parents know about it so they’re aware it even happens. It’s truly a service done by the University for the students. It’s also fun. The students get to win all kinds of prizes, and they can find out what’s available from the national alumni association after they graduate.”

For more information about Commencement Countdown, call 513 745-3337 or 800 344-4698, ext. 5.

Movin’ Up

Once again, Xavier is among the country’s best universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Only this time, the University is perched a little higher up the ladder.

The magazine’s “Best Colleges” issue ranks Xavier as the third best university in the Midwest—trailing only Valparaiso and Creighton universities—up from seventh place, where it’s been for the last three years.

Adding to that consistency, this year it also ranks as the 14th best economic value among Midwest universities in the magazine’s “Great Schools at Great Prices” article.

The results, says Xavier President Michael J. Graham, S.J., confirm the University’s ongoing efforts to enhance the overall quality of the institution. “The results are very satisfying to all of us,” he says.

Liturgical Artist

The liturgical calendar, observing religious traditions such as Advent at Christmas, has been an important element in Josy Trageser’s life. So incorporating religion into her art seemed a natural thing to do.

And for a while in the late 1960s, the 1961 Edgecliff graduate with a master’s degree in art from the University of Notre Dame had a business that produced more than 200 chalices and other church items such as tabernacles and processional crosses. But business dried up after the death of Pope John XXIII, whom she credits with opening up new opportunities for church art.

Since then, she’s kept busy teaching art, including 11 years at Xavier from 1973 to 1984, and working as an independent artist with frequent trips to her native Menton on the French Riviera. She also perfected her favorite medium—enamel art—the fusion of glass on copper at 1,500 degrees.

About four years ago, the requests for religious items began pouring in again, and Trageser was ready. What triggered the resurrection of her liturgical art, in part, was a commission in 1999 to create a personalized chalice for Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati on the 25th anniversary of his appointment as bishop. She also made him a matching paten—the plate that holds the communion hosts—and an oil stock to hold holy oil.

She also completed a mural for Ursuline Academy in Blue Ash, where she once taught art. Then St. Columban Church called. The Loveland parish north of Cincinnati wanted an artist to create a tabernacle for their newly built church. She got the job. The church liked it so much, it also hired her to do the stations of the cross.

In her Wyoming, Ohio, garage, which hasn’t see a car in years, Trageser painstakingly prepared each 12-by-12- inch brightly colored piece, plus a larger colored panel for each piece to be mounted on.

Each panel, mounted between the windows of the church, depicts a stop on the way of the cross, the story of Jesus’ death by crucifixion.

To make each picture, she used a stencil to sift colored glass onto the copper, then added gum tragacanth to hold the powdered glass in place. Then she fired the panel in the oven to melt the glass.

“Each piece is fired 13 to 15 times,” she says, while describing the ribbon of color she created that, like a rainbow, moves through all the colors from red to green to purple and back to orange.

“I did these colors because that’s what was coming to me. It was a marvelous project. Artistically it’s like being in heaven. I used every color available.”

Leading Man

Coaching others is Dan Murphy’s forte. During the day, his company, The Marketing Alliance, teaches business owners to lead more effectively. In his free time, he coaches his kids’ soccer teams. And now, the 1985 graduate is coaching fellow alumni as the new president of the national alumni association.

His goal: To strengthen the chapters through leadership development.

“Chapters are only as effective as their leader,” says Murphy. “Training people to lead is my passion.”

Murphy, of Cincinnati, also hopes to be a voice for the 50 chapters.

“I believe they need to be heard at the highest level of the University,” he says. “We’ll get feedback on what alumni need so that their voice is represented.”

Aiding him is Los Angeles chapter president Rod Rodriguez, Class of 1968.

“It shows we’re not a Cincinnati-based network, but are truly national in scope. He’ll bring diversity to the board, which reflects Xavier’s mission.”

Just for Laughs

The next time you flip on the daytime version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” check out the faces in the audience. If they’re smiling, R.C. Smith has done his job.

Smith—known as Ron when he graduated from the theater program in 1982—is a stand-up comic and recently began working as the game show’s warm-up act, priming the audience with his humor so they’ll better enjoy the experience.

The job is not Smith’s final answer when it comes to work, however, but is really just the latest in a series of upswings for a career that’s been long in the making.

“I’ve managed to take the college lifestyle and turn it into real life,” he says. “It’s brutal getting up every day at the crack of noon. That’s why I look so young. I really don’t do anything. I have no stress.”

Smith moved to New York in 1984 to pursue an acting career and was soon “doing a lot of really bad off-, off-, off-, off-Broadway shows for free.” He switched to stand-up comedy in 1990, holding down odd jobs during the day so he could hang out in clubs until 2:00 a.m., hoping to be noticed.

“It was miserable,” he recalls. “No one knows who you are, and you’re not funny. Then one day it just clicks. Suddenly your act is developed.”

Smith now performs nationally, with regular appearances at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. He also garnered a nomination for a 2001 New York-area Emmy Award for his regular segment on “New York Central,” a weekly TV magazine.

Now with the luxury of bookings stretching well into 2003, his goal remains modest.

“I just want to keep doing what I’m doing,” he says, “and keep normal society at arm’s length.”

History Notes

While researching her thesis for a master’s degree in humanities, Mary Ann Yannessa learned enough about slavery and the abolitionist movement to write a book. So she did.

With the help of Friends United Press, a Quaker publishing house in Richmond, Ind., she converted her 1995 master’s thesis into a book about Levi Coffin, a leading abolitionist Quaker whose tireless efforts to aid runaway slaves earned him the title of president of the Underground Railroad.

“My interest in Quakers came out of a history course I took from [University President Michael J. Graham, S.J.]” she says. “Slavery’s a lifelong interest of mine.”

Levi Coffin, Quaker: Breaking the Bonds of Slavery in Ohio and Indiana is a concise history of the man who lived in Cincinnati from 1847 until his death in 1877 and successfully helped nearly 3,000 slaves escape to freedom. Published in 2001, the book chronicles the efforts of Coffin and his wife, Catharine, to hide runaways heading north.

She includes details such as how Quaker women secretly sewed clothes for the escapees who were hidden in their houses, and how Coffin himself took a man to court on charges of kidnapping his escaped slave in Ohio.