School Days

The voices of school children playing outside drift in through Jim Boothe’s office window. The tinkling laughter and chatter from the adjacent Montessori school serve as a lighthearted backdrop for the serious work he does as chairman of Xavier’s department of education. Some might view the sounds as a distraction, but to Boothe they are a constant reminder of why he’s in the business of educating teachers.


“It brings you back to the real world, looking out to see all these little kids running around,” Boothe says. “It reminds you what you’re here for.”

Boothe, a Xavier graduate, basketball player, high school teacher and college professor who’s been working at Xavier for 18 years, hardly needs any reminding. That’s especially true now, as the department he leads undergoes a major transformation, growing from the University’s largest department into its first and only school.

As the new school of education, its four programs now become their own separate departments, each with its own individual chair. The change was brought on by education’s phenomenal growth since Boothe took the helm 12 years ago, and is part of an even bigger change within the newly named—and reorganized—College of Social Sciences, Health and Education. By reorganizing the disciplines under its purview, the new college shifts its focus from an emphasis on traditional Jesuit liberal arts to its integration with the pursuit of social science-based professional degrees. These include education and areas dealing with health—physical, social and mental. Political science, which does not fit this model, moves to the College of Arts and Sciences.

“The new name reflects the maturity and growth of the various disciplines,” says Neil Heighberger, dean of the College of Social Sciences.

The changes go into effect in June and also bring with them changes in leadership. Heighberger, who has been dean since the College’s inception in 1988, is retiring. His replacement will then be charged with hiring someone to succeed the 71-year-old Boothe, who is serving as interim dean of the new school of education.

During his tenure as the college’s only dean, Heighberger’s seen a lot of change: the creation of the department of occupational therapy and its growth into a master’s program; the expansion of the department of nursing from a two-year program to one that now offers multiple master’s degrees; and the conversion of the physical education major to a department of sports studies that now includes athletic training. In addition, the department of health services administration has gained national attention for its graduate-level program; the department of psychology now offers the University’s only doctoral degree; and the departments of social work and criminal justice continue to grow in popularity.

But the greatest growth has been in education. When Boothe took over in 1994, there were 400 undergraduate majors and 935 graduate students. There are still about 400 undergraduates each year, but the number of graduate students has grown by 42 percent to 1,332 students enrolled this fall.

“Education was much too large to be a department,” Heighberger says. “The number of students has grown, and the programs have blossomed. Now we can serve the students better. There will be more personal attention for students, and we can focus more directly on their needs.”

With the realignment, Boothe and his four administrators now preside over the departments of secondary and special education, educational leadership and human resource development, school and community counseling, and childhood education and literacy, which includes the nationally known Montessori program.

The new dean of the school of education will have his hands full, Boothe says. With increasing competition from other institutions, Xavier is challenged to keep finding fresh new ways to help working adults become teachers or add to their credentials. It already offers programs off-site, in summers and that blend online work with class time.

“It’s going to be a fight,” he says. “We have to market our programs and design them to meet our students’ needs. We’ve had a very good percent of the market, and if we can continue that, we’ll continue to be a leader in graduate education.”

Boothe’s successor will also have a dual role as associate dean of the new college, which provides opportunities Boothe could only wish for—time to focus on national issues and attend conferences where such topics are explored. “We need someone at that level who can focus on the national dialogue,” Heighberger says. “The department chairs can take away the day-to-day administrative operations, and the dean can focus on the larger issues and where we fit in that discussion. This increases our visibility and our engagement with the larger educational community.” Boothe will help define the goals of the new school, but it’s possible he’ll return to the classroom with a larger teaching load, leaving the administrative decisions to someone else. And Boothe is OK with that, because, as the children’s voices remind him daily, he can never forget why he’s here.

Worldly Education

Matt McGrath knew he wanted to leave the country as soon as he graduated from college, so in 1996 he became certified to teach English overseas and landed a job in Surabaya, Indonesia. His first experience living abroad proved both shocking and fascinating but, more important, led to even more unique cultural experiences. He’s not only worked as a camp counselor in Western Siberia, for example, but has visited India, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Turkey and sub-Saharan Africa.


Now McGrath, a 1999 M.Ed. graduate, teaches Global Issues—a mix of political science, geography, macroeconomics and world cultures—at an all-girls Catholic high school in Northern Kentucky.

“My travels are where a lot of the material for the class comes from, and that’s really why I love teaching it so much. It combines the two parts of my life together,” McGrath says.

His travels, however, are far from over.

This year the U.S. Department of Education awarded McGrath and eight other teachers from around the country a four-week Fulbright-Hays trip to Jordan.

“I wanted to go into the heart of the Middle East because it’s integral to the class and I had never been there before,” he says. “The Fulbright program offered me a way to learn about the Arab world in a comprehensive way that I never could have done independently.” McGrath left in June for Jordan, where he took Arabic language lessons two hours a day, met with members of the Hashemite royal family, attended lectures, visited biblical and cultural sites, snorkeled in the Red Sea, camel-trekked in the Wadi Rum desert and took a walking tour of the Al-Baqa Palestinian refugee camp near Amman. He’s now taking what he learned back to his classroom.

“The overall goal for me was to gather as many materials as possible for the Global Issues unit on the Middle East and then disseminate that info as widely as I can.”

Who’s your Search Daddy?

Quick. What are the 12 most important words in your business? If you don’t know, you may be losing sales you didn’t know you had. Well, Paul Darwish knows just what to do. The 1987 graduate with a Harvard M.B.A. has a new business that guarantees your company’s web site will show up at the top of an Internet search page.


Darwish and a partner founded last year and have already signed on 20 clients, including Fifth Third Bank, Rookwood Properties, Drees Homes and Richter & Phillips jewelers in Cincinnati. There’s also Le Pavillon Hotel in New Orleans and Guaranty Trust in Nashville, Tenn. The goal is 100 clients before branching out to more cities nationwide.

“We’re helping clients capitalize on a very important media space,” says Darwish. “You need to be where your consumers are—online.”

After a wildly successful first business followed by a total loss in a second, Darwish says this is his last start-up. Ever the entrepreneur, he took the plunge again after learning that consumers spend a third of their media time searching the Internet and that most businesses spend their marketing dollars in traditional media—newspapers, TV and billboards.

Now he spends time looking for clients while his technology director, Brian Geraghty, a 1997 Xavier graduate, finesses clients’ web pages. By making sure key words are prominent on their sites—like “gold,” “jewelry” and “Cincinnati” for Richter & Phillips—SearchDaddy can get the company positioned at the top of a Google search page and, hopefully, catch the eyes of potential customers—which of course is tops for any business.

Team Jesuit

John McGruder didn’t want to just watch men’s basketball games or attend Mass for an hour on Communion Sunday; he wanted to do something. The retired 1968 graduate thought of a new way to unite fellow Florida alumni—and it only required a little paint and elbow grease. The Sarasota-Bradenton chapter, of which McGruder is president, teamed up with Brush Up Sarasota, a non-profit outfit that provides volunteer opportunities throughout Sarasota County, to participate in the national Make A Difference Weekend in October.

McGruder took it even further by writing to every Jesuit school in the country to ask for their participation. Out of 28 colleges and universities, 25 pledged to spread the word to their alumni. The aptly named “Team Jesuit Colleges and Universities” worked on projects such as helping build a Habitat for Humanity house, cleaning up a beach, working in a homeless shelter, visiting a nursing home and giving blood.

Superior Talk

To help the University celebrate its 175th anniversary, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus, visited campus on Oct. 3. After flying in from Brazil, he gave a talk on “The Service of Faith in a Religiously Pluralistic Society” during the afternoon session of Xavier’s sixth annual Academic Day celebration. “Interreligious dialogue is one of the most powerful responses to the global cultural malaise,” he said. “It will take the cooperation of the world’s religions to address adequately dehumanizing cultural forces.” It was the Superior General’s second visit to Xavier. To read his speech or see a video of the talk on how the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are used in higher education by University President Michael J. Graham, S.J., visit the web site

Serving up the Works

Scott Gordon and his wife, Jamie, were walking down the Loveland Bike Trail in suburban Cincinnati four years ago when they passed the old Loveland waterworks building. Built in 1905, the red brick structure with a belfry on top was an icon in the city beginning in the days when the steam locomotives would stop there and fill up with water. It later served as a firehouse and a public works building, although in recent years it’s just been empty.

“Remember back in high school when we used to build the homecoming floats inside there?” Scott said. “And then we would sneak around back and make out?” They laughed at the memories and kept walking. “You know,” Scott said, “that’s a cool old building. Someone ought to turn that into a restaurant.”

Someone did. And much to the surprise of both Scott and Jamie, that someone was Scott. Three years ago, Scott left his job, took out a loan and opened The Works, a brick-oven pizza place and bar that serves up more than a dozen crispy crust pizzas—including a breakfast pizza and a caramel apple dessert pizza—as well as a whole assortment of other items from toasted ravioli to “pasghetti.”

Never mind that Scott, a 1989 BSBA graduate, had no restaurant experience. Or that the research he did and numbers he crunched all said he was crazy. He’s always gone where life’s taken him. After a stellar career playing baseball at Xavier where he was an academic All-American and set seven school records for both pitching and hitting, he was scheduled to enter law school. But the Toronto Blue Jays drafted him, so he decided to try life as a minor league pitcher.

After three years and a hurt shoulder, he gave that up and, of all things, joined the Marine Corps. “I figured I could throw grenades,” he says with a laugh. He went through officer training camp, was sent to Bosnia and left five years later as a captain because, well, Jamie was tired of the military. “We had an agreement,” he says. “She said, ‘If I hate it, will you get out?’ I said OK.”

So they returned to their hometown. Jamie, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Xavier, began teaching math at Loveland High School. Life, meanwhile, led Scott to be a supervisor at a local manufacturing plant. “I thought that would be a perfect fit for a former Marine,” he says. “I show up the first day and find out I have 100 women reporting to me. It was a sewing factory. But it worked out well. Some of those women were the toughest women you’d ever want to meet.”

Life led him to another job that was miserable but paid well—well enough, he says, to fund the start up of the restaurant. “Some things happen for a reason.” It took eight months to renovate the old building—he created the menu, built the bar and even made all of the tables. And for three years it’s been, well, a hit.

“One of the things the Marine Corps taught me,” he says, “is that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it well, whether that’s being a Marine or running a restaurant.”

Rookwood Pottery

About 10 years ago, railroad buff Patrick Rose went looking for a rare set of Rookwood Pottery bookends that were modeled after Cincinnati’s Union Terminal. Along the way, the 1986 graduate discovered something even more valuable—that Rookwood’s assets, which had disappeared with the company in 1961, were sitting unused in the hands of a Michigan dentist.

Suddenly Rose had a new mission—to bring Rookwood home. Initially the dentist, who bought the company to save it from liquidation, refused to sell. But promising to keep the company intact and in Cincinnati, Rose prevailed, and three years later, he and a group of investors purchased the assets, including the original molds and trademarks for unique glazing formulas that made the pottery world famous at the turn of the century.

The venture was a coup. For many people, Rookwood is a household name that reflects a bygone era of Cincinnati history. The Rookwood Pottery Co. was founded in 1880 and produced art pottery that was relished by the rich as well as architectural décor that graced city buildings and public schools. The pottery’s work brought it international fame, and its pieces have become more valuable since its demise—a Rookwood vase sold recently for $375,000.

Now the investors, including Rose and his brother, Christopher, are counting on the Rookwood name and Cincinnati’s renaissance as a center of art for Rookwood’s successful return. Local artists have been hired, and the group expects to be in business early this year, producing high-end decorative tile designs and fireplaces as well as other art pieces in the Rookwood tradition.

“A large chunk of its value is its authenticity,” Rose says. “We have a responsibility to all those who came before—the owners, the artists, the collectors and the city. We take that very seriously.”

Plethora of Praise

The University continues earning acclaim from outside publications. In the last few months:

The Williams College of Business was once again named an outstanding business school by The Princeton Reviewin its 2007 edition of “Best 282 Business Schools.”

The Williams College of Business’ part-time M.B.A. program was ranked 24th best in the nation by U.S. News & World Reportas part of the magazine’s “America’s Best Graduate Schools 2007.”

The University was ranked the 11th best school for entrepreneurs by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine.

The University was named one of “The Best 361 Colleges” by The Princeton Review.

The University was ranked No. 2 among Midwest master’s-level colleges and universities by U.S. News & World Report in the magazine’s 2007 edition of “America’s Best Colleges.” It’s the 12th year in a row the magazine’s ranked Xavier in the top 10.

Outside the Box

The refrigerators of the 1950s were an improvement over the ice box—but not by much. If they weren’t so cold that layers of frost covered the inside, then they were so hot their motors burned out. Enter John J. O’Connell, a World War II Navy veteran who was part of the wave of soldiers returning to Xavier on the GI bill. Earning a physics degree in 1950, O’Connell took his skills to General Electric, the Crosley company and, eventually, Frigidaire. There, he garnered a majority of the 21 patents that bear his name, including the automatic ice maker’s belt and bucket process, for which he is the lone patent holder. He perfected the ice maker by adding the bucket in the door and the traveling belt that moved the cubes to the bucket. His first patent, however, was the meat tender. The drawer had an independent control to keep meat at a constant 32 degrees without drying out.

“That was fun,” he says.

He also improved on the design of the Frost Proof refrigerator by developing the single fan that prevents ice crystals from forming. It may have been his most important work.

“It freed people up from having to take all their food out, letting the ice melt and then putting the food back in,” says his son, assistant professor of counseling Bill O’Connell. “With these refrigerators, that job became obsolete.” Now, if they could just make refrigerators self-cleaning.

Mr. Muskie

When posters first went up advertising the inaugural male beauty pageant, no one knew what to expect. Students were relieved, however, to find that the aptly named “Mr. Muskie” was, in fact, a mockery of conventional pageants.

Well-dressed gentlemen strutted their stuff in the cafeteria with theatrical panache to laughing audience members who were finally in on the joke. At the end of the night, the judges selected three finalists, but it was junior Trent Engbers who took the crown. Pictured is freshman contestant Kevin Carpenter.