Romeo, Romeo

David Hellkamp was in Aruba when the idea hit him. “My wife and I were watching interviews of World War II vets,” says the professor of psychology. “And there was a guy in the Midwest who had started a ROMEO club—Retired Old Men Eating Out. I got such a kick out of it that I called Don Cosgrove, a retired professor in our department, and we started having breakfast every week.”

That was four or five years ago, and the group has now grown to eight members—not all of whom are retired—with the addition of Bob Hadden, John Dorfmeister, Robert E. Ryan Jr., Thomas S. Grogan Jr., Philip Breen, Paul F. Brinker and Ed Comer.

The ROMEOs meet every other Tuesday at the Café on the Pike in Norwood. “We’re kind of perceived as regulars,” Hellkamp says. “The waitresses know who takes decaffeinated or regular coffee, and they know our orders pretty well. It’s kind of an early morning ‘Cheers’ atmosphere with coffee rather than beer.”

But in a more serious light, Hellkamp says the regular breakfasts also serve to keep members in touch with one another and with the news of the day. They also occasionally involve themselves as a group in charity work.

“Most of us have known each other for many years,” he says. “We respect everybody’s opinion, and we listen. There’s a wealth of experience there.”

Rockin’ Campus

Pop star Jason Mraz added himself to the growing list of musical acts to rock the University, joining Ben Folds, Bob Dylan, Talib Kweli and four groups during MTV’s Rock the Vote tour, among others. The 28-year-old Mraz, who performed at the Cintas Center in October, is known for his energetic live performances and his classically trained voice. His latest CD, “Mr. A-Z,” debuted No. 1 on several charts.

Road Warrior

Brad Burris has covered a lot of ground in the past six years. Since 1999, the freshman, his parents and younger brother, Brian, have visited all 50 states, driving through the lower 48 and flying to Alaska and Hawaii.

The idea for the trips originated on a family vacation to Florida, when Brian, looking at a puzzle in the form of a United States map, asked if the family could see the whole country before he graduated from high school. It seemed like a good idea, so each summer the family plotted out a section of the country and hit the road in their trusty Ford Explorer. Most of the trips spanned two or three weeks, and the time spent in each state varied—from two or three days in larger states to a brief stop for some of the smaller ones.

Along the road, some indelible images burned themselves into Brad’s memory—the excitement of large cities like New York and Seattle, the near-absurdity of South Dakota’s Corn Palace and the army of outlandishly coiffed youth dining at the Jack-in-the-Box drive-in in Needles, Calif. The long ride—and some of the shorter stops—only whetted his appetite for more. “Spending a short time in each state makes you want to go back because you didn’t get to do all the things you wanted to do,” he says.

Recent Guest

In the last few years, Xavier University has hosted a wide range of well-known guests, from political leaders to religious leaders to entertainers to journalists. Among those gracing campus:

Former President Bill Clinton
Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson
Author/motivational speaker Stephen Covey
Naturalist Jane Goodall
Actress and model Jennifer O’Neill
Conservative columnist Walter Williams
Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins
Conservative talk show host Sean Hannity
Writer and filmmaker Michael Moore
Reggae band O.A.R.
Singer Ashanti
NPR talk show host Diane Rehm
Former Muslim leader W. Deen Mohammed
Politician Ralph Nader
Movie director/producer Spike Lee
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez
Space shuttle Challenger whistleblower Roger Boisjoly
Singer Bob Dylan
Politician John B. Anderson
Rapper Sister Souljah
Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi
Comedian Jimmy Fallon
News reporter Cokie Roberts
PBS journalist Ray Suarez
Sports talk show host Jim Rome
Jesuit Superior General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.
Environmental activist Cesar Chavez
Dead Man Walking author Sr. Helen Prejean
Political activist Benjamin Chavis
Pop star Ben Folds
MTV’s Rock the Vote tour
Comedian Dane Cook
U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao
Princeton University professor of religion and African-American studies Cornell West
Hip-hop artist and socially conscious rapper Talib Kweli

Peaches and Cream Dream

Peaches and Cream Cake by Maria K. Fisher

Cake 2 1/4 cups cake flour, sifted 1 1/4 cups sugar, sifted 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup vegetable oil 7 large eggs, separated, plus 3 additional egg whites 1/3 cup peach syrup* 1/3 cup water 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon almond extract 1 1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar

Peach Puree 1 1/2 cups peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced 1/4 tablespoon lemon 1/4 teaspoon almond extract 1/8 teaspoon vanilla

Peach Cream 1 1/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin 1/2 cup Peach puree 1 cup heavy whipping cream 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Peach Filling 6 tablespoons sugar 1/4 vanilla bean, cut into 1-inch pieces 2 cups peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced 1 tablespoon water 1 tablespoon flour 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Frosting 18 oz. cream cheese, softened 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted, divided 9 tablespoons butter, softened 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon almond extract 3 tablespoons peach syrup, divided* 3/4 cup + 6 tablespoons chilled heavy whipping cream *For peach syrup, use Torani Peach Syrup.

For the cake, combine the flour, all but 2 tablespoons of the sugar, baking powder and salt and beat 1 minute. Make a well in the center. Add the oil, egg yolks, peach syrup, water, vanilla and almond extract and beat until smooth.

In another large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy, add the cream of tartar, and beat until soft peaks form. Beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised. Gently fold in the egg whites into the batter with a whisk until just blended.

Pour the batter into four greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Run a small metal knife through the batter to prevent air pockets. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean and cake springs back lightly when lightly pressed in the center. Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes on wire racks. Then turn cakes out onto wire racks to cool completely.

For peach puree, process peaches in food processor until broken up into liquid. Press through a strainer to obtain a smooth puree. Combine the puree and lemon juice in a heavy saucepan and simmer until reduced. Cool and stir in the extracts.

For peach cream, in a small heatproof measuring cup, place the gelatin and 1/4 cup peach puree and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Set cup in a pan of simmering water for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until the gelatin in dissolved. Remove from pan and stir the gelatin mixture into the remaining puree, then add 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar. In a chilled bowl beat the cream until it mounds softly when dropped from a spoon. Add the sweetened peach puree and beat until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised.

For peach filling, blend 1/2 cup sugar and vanilla bean in food processor until vanilla is finely ground. Sift vanilla sugar into small bowl, discarding excess vanilla bean pieces. Add peaches, 2 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons flour; toss to coat. Cook in saucepan until bubbling, breaking up peaches with the back of a spoon. Cool and stir in almond extract.

For frosting, beat cream cheese, 2 cups powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, almond extract and 1 1/2 tablespoons peach syrup in a large bowl. Beat whipping cream, 1 1/2 tablespoons peach syrup and 1 cup powdered sugar in another bowl until mixture holds medium-firm peaks. Fold into cream cheese mixture in 3 additions. Chill until firm by spreadable.

To assemble, spread a thin layer of frosting, then a layer of peach filling, top with peach cream on bottom cake layer. Repeat until cake is assembled. Then spread frosting over top and sides of cake.

If you have peach filling and cream left over, layer them in a parfait glass as a bonus dessert.

Yield: 12 servings

Chocolate Cake with Bavarian Cream, Toffee and Caramel Layers.

New Tone in Town

Tech-savvy alumni now have a new way to show their Xavier spirit without visiting the bookstore for more sports regalia. All they have to do is receive a call on their cell phones. Cingular now offers its customers the option of downloading the Musketeer fight song as their ringtone. The song costs $1.99 (a mere fraction of a coveted Crosstown Shootout ticket) to download. The Xavier logo can also be downloaded as a screen backdrop. Visit www.cingular.com/media/ringtones_graphics for more information.

Mascot History

The Musketeer mascot was selected by Francis Finn, S.J., during a contest in 1925 to choose a name for University athletics. Yet it took 40 years before a swashbuckling version of Finn’s vision first appeared at a University game. And in the 40 years since, a lot about the mascot has changed.

Today, the Musketeer pacing the sidelines during basketball games is a caricature of the real thing, with its oversized head and cartoonish demeanor. It even has a goofy sidekick, the Blue Blob, to keep little fans happy. But both are a far cry from the version Bill Peters introduced at the Homecoming football game in 1965.

Peters was a member of the student advisory board for his Class of 1968, which was brainstorming what their class should give the University. “We’d always had a Musketeer title but never a mascot or logo,” says Peters, a military contractor in Dale City, Va. “One guy said, ‘Every class gives a gift when they leave. Why don’t we give a gift while we’re here?’”

They decided on a victory bell and a mascot. The theater department at Our Lady of Cincinnati College created a costume that billowed and flowed. There were blousy knee-length pants of navy blue corduroy with a black stripe and silver buttons, a brown-suede vest and white shirt with blue pleats, a royal blue cape that hung to the knees, shoe covers that looked like knee-high boots, a black hat with a big gray and white feather and a brown sash that went from right shoulder to left hip and had a sleeve for a sword. Peters, who paid for its cleaning, was proud to wear it.

“When they played ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ I’d always salute the flag with the sword,” Peters says. “The mascot kept me in college. It was a responsibility, and I could do things that were fun that would make the image of Xavier better.”

Peters and the Victory Bell became a fixture at football games. He would run the length of the field with his sword flailing, cape flowing and sleeves and pantaloons billowing, cheering and revving up the crowd while grabbing at his ill-fitting girls’ tights that kept slipping down.

After graduation, Peters handed over the box containing his beloved costume to his replacement, Bob Rice, who graduated the following spring. The mascot was seen at games into the early 1970s, but then disappeared after the demise of football in 1973.

Art Shriberg, professor of management and entrepreneurship, took over sports services in 1983 and began rebuilding support for athletics, which included cheerleading, spirit squads—and bringing back the mascot. His assistant, Sally Watson, designed an early version of today’s mascot with a large prefabricated head. By 1985, however, realizing that children were frightened by the large-headed Musketeer, Watson designed the soft, furry Blue Blob.

Today, five or six people are selected to wear the Musketeer costume, says Jim Ray, director for recreational sports, and two or three for the Blob. They are chosen for their ability to play the role and get the crowd into the game. The costumes are kept by recreational sports, which also repairs and cleans them. That’s something Bill Peters would have appreciated.

Letters to the Editor

Another Side of Bill Smith
This letter is about your “Faculty Spotlight” on Professor Bill Smith (Fall 2005).

I had Mr. Smith as an accounting teacher in 1961. I remember you had to come prepared and pay attention to keep up with Professor Smith as he tried to instill in us the lessons of “LIFO” and “FIFO.” He’s right when he says he is a “damn good teacher.”

There’s another side to Bill Smith that deserves to be mentioned. A close friend of mine who was an accounting major at X.U. passed away in the middle of the 1990s, some 30 years after graduating. I don’t think Mr. Smith had any contact with him after he left college, but somehow he had followed his career and wrote his family a letter of sympathy. He told them how he was as a student—early for class, prepared and hard working—and that he could tell this young man would be a success in life. This letter is special to them, a tribute to their father from someone they never met.

So, thanks, Mr. Smith, for your many years of teaching, and exceptional memory and, more than anything, thanks for your kindness and compassion.

Tom Brennan, Class of 1965

More Praise for Bill Smith
I’d like to add a comment to your article on Bill Smith, a truly great accounting professor. In my senior year, as luck would have it, I was in his Principles of Accounting class along with both of my brothers, who were two years behind me. Bill would return graded tests in numerical order—passing out the highest, down to the lowest. It turned out that my brothers and I all had the exact same score on the test (truly a fluke) and none of us had even come close to passing the test. (OK, so we’re not CPAs.) It was rather embarassing, but Bill never skipped a beat…just said, “You guys shouldn’t study together and NEVER do your own taxes.” It was a good comic moment that deflected the embarassment we all felt.

In 1996, I ran into him at my 25-year reunion. He asked, with a twinkle in his eye, how the “family accounting firm” was faring. I was amazed that he remembered. Not many profs would have that kind of memory for three obscure students, but that was Bill. Good job on the article.

John McTigue, Class of 1971

Legacy Licence

When Joe Ventura, executive director for the national alumni association, instituted the collegiate license plate program 11 years ago, he knew it would someday do more than just promote Musketeer pride. And he was right.

In October, the alumni association created the legacy scholarship fund, which awards two, renewable $3,000 scholarships to entering freshmen directly descended from Xavier graduates, from money generated through the sale of specialized Xavier license plates. “The license plates not only demonstrate school pride but directly benefit legacy scholars who attend Xavier University,” Ventura says.

Awards are based on academic achievement, demonstrated service and leadership, and an essay on a selected topic. And the more alumni license plates sold, the more students will benefit.

“My goal has always been to provide a legacy fund,” Ventura says. “It’s just taken a long time to build the program.”

It’s Oscar Time

William Hagerty, an associate professor in the department of communication arts, discusses the Oscars.

While the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences claims to not promote political matters, there may be more political action at this year’s Academy Awards than, perhaps, ever before. Could you comment on this trend? The Academy has done a fair job trying to eliminate political and social bias from its picks after years of criticism. Aside from possibly giving some extra attention to a Spielberg film (Munich—a true Hollywood insider), nothing else this year seems truly out of line. The usual critique has been the Academy is too liberal (three nominations for George Clooney?), and this will always be true to some extent.

Hollywood ticket sales are down significantly in recent years. Is this decline a result of substandard films, or evidence of soaring theater prices? I really don’t think there are too many substandard films (anymore than in recent years), but ticket prices—and ridiculous concessions prices—certainly contribute to the downtrend in ticket sales. More folks are simply waiting for the DVDs to come out—especially those with big digital TVs.

Many great films are never nominated for a single Academy Award. Do you think any films were left out of the nominations this year? I don’t think there were any big surprises this year in the films or actors nominated. I don’t see a third as many films as I used to when I was reviewing films for newspapers.