World View

As businesses and organizations become more international, Xavier is looking to keep pace, making sure as many international opportunities are offered to students as possible.

The push began in the summer with the hiring of a new executive director for the Center for International Education, Ismael Betancourt. He oversees the academic service learning semesters, the Office of International Student Services and the English as a Second Language program.

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Betancourt came to Xavier after serving as director of education abroad at Northern Arizona University and director for the Office of International Services at Saint Louis University, where he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is pursuing a doctorate in higher education administration.

Warm Memories

Were it not for some clutch matchmaking by his lifelong pal Mike McDonald, Tom Carns may never have met Karen Maschmeyer—and hundreds of Cincinnati school children may never have felt the relief of their generosity.

Carns was a sophomore at Xavier when his date to a dance fell through. McDonald suggested he take the roommate of his date. “It was supposed to be a ‘What the heck, let’s just go out for tonight’ idea,” Carns says. Instead it was true love. Carns and Maschmeyer married after Carns graduated in 1984. Maschmeyer graduated a year later with a degree in education.

Education was important to Karen for a personal reason. When she was a senior in high school, her father became disabled and her family couldn’t afford to keep her in her school. Karen would’ve had to drop out, were it not for an anonymous benefactor who paid her tuition.

When the Carns’ babysitter faced a similar situation, Karen wanted to pay forward the help that was given her. So the Carns set up a scholarship fund to keep children in school whose family had faced a life-changing event and could no longer pay their tuition.

In 2000, the Carns’ storybook romance took a tragic turn when Karen was diagnosed with leukemia. She died a year later. It was a painful time for Tom. But it was also a chance to celebrate her spirit by continuing the work she considered so important. Tom created the Karen Carns Foundation to take charge of the scholarships.

The foundation has grown in the 10 years since Karen’s death. Annual fundraisers have pulled in more than $275,000 to help kids stay in school. Tom says every little bit helps.

“We don’t want to miss a kid,” he says. “I look through the obituaries. If I see a young parent who’s died, I’ve called families out of the blue. They thought I was crazy.”

Tom feels Karen would be smiling at the work being done in her name. “When you look at the values and what we do, it reflects her totally,” he says.

The Hand of Hope

Several images come to mind when Rob Seddon thinks of South Africa— smiling faces, friendly gatherings, rural vistas. But the one that stays is one he has seen again and again—someone dying of AIDS. Just hours after arriving in Mamelodi Township, near Pretoria, on his first trip in 2005, he found himself at a funeral where he was invited to toss red dirt on the grave of a young man who had died of the disease. On his most recent trip in September, Seddon met a man who’d just learned he carries the virus. The man sat alone in his shack, trembling.

The conflicting images of South Africa speak loudly to the complexities of the country—beauty and sadness, hope and death. But they also give Seddon a framework for his new life’s work. Unhappy with his business career, he decided to do something more fulfilling by studying theology and was hired last year to be director of the rapidly expanding mission project between Crossroads Community Church in Cincinnati and its partner church, Charity and Faith Mission, in Mamelodi.

The partnership has already resulted in the construction of a $500,000 AIDS Hospice, but there was a growing desire to do more. So Crossroads asked Seddon to lead groups of volunteers, 300 at a time, to meet church members in Mamelodi, be their houseguests and learn more about the culture. Five groups have gone thus far, building houses, planting vegetable gardens and teaching children.

The next effort is to improve health care in Mamelodi by hiring more health care workers for the AIDS Hospice and the adjoining health clinic. There’s also a goal to build new satellite clinics in rural areas to reach those who have no access to medical care and bring American doctors, dentists and other specialists to Mamelodi throughout the year to provide professional care.

It’s a lot of work, but for Seddon, leading the project is a dream job. “Until you see it and hear people’s stories firsthand, you can’t realize how little hope they have of climbing out unless someone steps in to help.”

And that’s the inspiration Seddon has for the job—hope that the images of sadness and death can be erased from the country, leaving only the beauty. It’s a long-term project, but pieces are already in place. When Seddon was at the home of the man with AIDS, hospice workers came along to give him food and instruct him how to use the AIDS Hospice to get the antiretroviral drugs he needs to live a more normal life.

“They said, ‘We’re going to help you through this,’ ” Seddon says. “I prayed with him and told him, ‘You don’t have to be afraid.’ I saw in his eyes relief just knowing there is someone in the world who cares for him and he’s not alone.”

Aiding Autism

If Hillary Ran had a thinner skin, she might have been offended when an autistic 4-year-old so detested her singing that it warranted forming his first complete sentence: “Stop singing, Hillary!” But instead of taking it personally, Ran used it to her advantage. The boy had a habit of grinding his teeth so loud it could be heard across the house. So Ran started singing each time he ground his teeth. It was the perfect deterrent.

Reinforcing good habits and discouraging bad ones are all part of a day’s work for Ran, the founder of a Denver-based company called Exceptional Learners Behavioral Services that works with autistic children and their families. Ran uses Applied Behavioral Analysis to improve the behavior of her autistic clients through rewards and punishments. The ABA method helps Ran tackle everything from potty training to social skills to eating different foods.

Ran discovered her passion for working with autistic children with a stroke of luck and a leap of faith in 2001. An English major, Ran noticed the picture of a 2-year-old boy on a bulletin board. “Hi. My name is Alex, and I have autism,” said the message below. Alex’s parents needed help looking after him. Ran phoned them and got the job.

“I had never met anyone with autism before,” she says. But working with Alex introduced Ran to a new world. Four years later she became the director of the Cincinnati Center for Autism, and in 2008 she started her own company in Denver.

“I love working with the kids,” she says. “I feel like they’ve taught me so much more than I’ve taught them.” One thing she’s learned is that sometimes her singing is a better punishment than a reward. For Ran, that’s just another trick up her sleeve.

A Cup of Tea

Since its opening earlier this year, the Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice has actively expanded the presence of faith and openness on campus. But arguably its greatest effort to date was the hosting of New York Times bestselling author Greg Mortenson in September. The event, “A Cup of Tea with Greg Mortenson: Peace through Education,” focused on Mortenson’s bestseller Three Cups of Tea and his nonprofit organization, the Central Asia Institute and its Pennies For Peace program.

Mortenson has established more than 131 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide education to more than 58,000 children, including 48,000 girls. The schools are in the rural and often volatile regions, where few education opportunities existed before. Mortenson also discussed his new book, Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Food of Life

Ryan Lavalley was scared. Just a freshman, he was sitting in a car with some fellow students headed toward downtown. Their goal: take the sandwiches they made that afternoon to people living in a homeless area known as the Queensgate Camp.

To Lavalley, it was like entering another world. “We walked in and I saw couches and chairs,” he says. “There’s an area for the kitchen and for sleeping, like a house without walls. We’re under this overpass, and it’s someone’s home. I thought This is just weird, there’s dirty men sitting around.”

One of them was named Dog, who sat in the area reserved for games. “Do you play chess?” Dog asked. The board was already set up. So Lavalley, who considers himself a pretty good chess player, pulled up a stool opposite Dog, a rough-looking man, balding, measuring about 6 feet tall. They chatted as they moved their pieces around the board. Dog asked questions about what Lavalley was doing in school. Lavalley held back his game a little to be fair to the homeless man.

“Then he just beat me in 10 moves,” says Lavalley. “That moment, I’ll never forget it, it was the first time I saw them as more than just people who live on the streets.”

Lavalley’s comeuppance became his devotion. And he is no longer scared—cautious, but not afraid. Now he sees the homeless as people, just without homes.

Since that first Sunday evening two years ago, Lavalley has been a vital part of Labre Student Outreach, a group of students whose simple mission is to take food to homeless people every week and let them know they’re not forgotten.

“The people involved in Labre are dedicated and are looking for more than the soup kitchen experience,” Lavalley says. “What we’re doing is walking with these people through their experiences. We’re not trying to save them or make ourselves feel better.”

Labre was founded at Xavier two years ago by Tim Ogoneck, a graduate of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, where Labre began in 2003. The group is named after Benedict Joseph Labre, an 18th century Frenchman who lived among the homeless in Rome.

Each week, about 15 students sign up for the Sunday evening sandwich-making sessions and trips downtown. Xavier Dining provides the food, paid for by donations of meals off students’ meal cards. “The sandwiches are the key into the door of the homeless world,” Lavalley says.

Labre members have been sharing food and conversations with them for so long that they’ve come to trust each other. There are basic rules: Never pressure a person about anything. Don’t carry cash. When people ask for money, say, “We just have food. Do you want to talk?” And finally, students are told to never go off by themselves without another Labre member. The issue of safety is foremost, Lavalley says.

Labre now has about 200 members, and Lavalley is in discussions with Xavier’s Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice to explore how they can work together and become an officially recognized student group. The group’s consistency over the last few years is way beyond most student groups, and its focus on relationships, not just food, fits in perfectly with the Jesuit ideals. By being officially affiliated with the Center, though, it can receive advice, resources and ongoing support that it might not now receive. And, having the stability of an organization behind it can help prepare new students to pick up the mantle of leadership.

For Lavalley, an occupational therapy major with a psychology minor, Labre has opened up new possibilities for the kind of work he wants to do. “Labre changed me,” he says. “I know I want to work with impoverished people who are oppressed and help them regain dignity as a human being.”

But for now, Lavalley is committed to Labre. He organizes the Sunday evening food preparations and transportation, and he and a core group of veteran members also visit the camps during the week to check on the residents. And every week, he goes confidently to Queensgate to bring Dog dinner, share some conversation, and engage him in another round of chess. Sometimes, he even wins.

Sacrifice

The Xavier community celebrated the life of First Lt. Michael Runyan, a 2008 graduate, at a service with Runyan’s family and ROTC colleagues in October in Bellarmine Chapel. Runyan died in July in Diyala Province in Iraq when his vehicle was attacked by insurgents. He was an anti-tank Stryker Platoon leader.

Roses are Read

Nothing says “I love you” like a dozen roses. Except, perhaps, a dozen roses stamped with the words “I love you.” That’s the theory behind Speaking Roses, anyway, a Utah based firm that patented a process of printing words, pictures and logos onto roses, tulips, lilies or any other flower with a square inch of petal space. The idea merges the flower and greeting card industries. They’re all the rage in Hollywood. Tom Cruise melted the hearts of millions when he gave out 225 Speaking Roses bouquets to an audience of single mothers on the Ellen DeGeneres show. Steve Martin, Donald Trump and Janet Jackson are all buyers, and the inscribed flowers have been featured at the Kentucky Derby, the Oscars and the Rose Bowl.

The customizable flowers are marketed for all occasions. Amorous lovers snatch them up for Valentine’s Day or weddings, and dutiful children pay $50-$80 per dozen to spell out their maternal love on Mother’s Day. Meanwhile, businesses from Coca-Cola to Harley Davidson pay to see their logos printed on fresh flowers—a novel promotional gift. The idea caught the attention of Rajeshwar Thota, a pharmaceutical scientist who earned his MBA from Xavier in 2009, and he wanted to start a business. Thota and his wife spent months searching for the right idea until they found the Speaking Roses website. Together the couple established the Ohio franchise of Speaking Roses, which they run out of their home using a secret four-step printing process that involves a computer, a laser and ultra-violet rays. “Flowers have two enemies,” Thota says. “One is pressure. The other is heat. Those two are avoided in this technology.”

Every day brings lessons in small-business operation. “I’m really using my MBA knowledge,” he says. For now Thota is keeping his overhead low and building his customer base. Fortunately for him, the flowers speak for themselves. “People love it,” he says. “Whoever sees the product, they just say ‘Wow, what a great idea.’ ” Plenty of men already know that where words fail, flowers may succeed. Now they can finally hedge their bets with both.

 

Rescuing Leftovers

Every Thursday morning, a truck from the Freestore Foodbank pulls up to the loading dock at American Modern Insurance in Amelia, Ohio, just east of Cincinnati. Matthew Dooley is there to greet the driver. Together, they go into the company’s first floor storage area to collect the food and drinks that are stacked around the room and chilling in the fridge.

Chips, sodas, sandwiches, salads, fruit, cookies, wraps—whatever was served in the company’s conference rooms that week and not eaten is collected and saved for the Freestore truck. The downtown Cincinnati food bank then distributes the food to the growing number of people who need help providing for themselves and their families.

It’s Dooley’s favorite day of the week. “The reward is just knowing that people are being fed,” he says.

Dooley, a 2006 business graduate who also earned an MBA in 2008, came up with the idea last winter after noticing a lot of food and products lying around at the end of a catered team meeting. After asking a few questions, he realized the food did not have to go to waste and put together Food Rescue, a program where he and a team of colleagues gather the leftovers, take them to the first floor storage room and send them to the Freestore for d istribution.

The success of the program lies in Dooley’s attention to details. He made sure the online catering order form allows people to choose if they want the leftovers to go to the Food Rescue program. When he noticed that some people didn’t use the online form, preferring to call in their requests, he asked the caterer to require all orders be made online. The caterer agreed and found it also improved business flow.

And Dooley created a separate email account that notifies him every time someone requests the Food Rescue service. He sends thank-you emails and reports the amount of food donated. Between June and December 2009, the program donated 2,500 pounds of food. Through the first nine months of 2010, more than 4,000 pounds have been delivered.

Dooley, who works in social media advertising, and his team created a motto—“Yours To Spare, Ours To Share”—for Food Rescue, as well as a smiling banana logo. The person or group in the company donating the most food each month gets the Top Banana trophy. Now he’s working on expanding the program to include organizations all over the region. He says it’s rewarding to know the food will not be wasted.

Profile: Jim C. Aranda

Jim C. Aranda
Bachelor of Arts in History, 1968
Partner, Stebelton, Aranda and Snider
Lancaster, Ohio

High School Dropout | As Aranda explains it, he is a high school dropout. Really, he’s as much a seminary dropout. He attended a seminary near Chicago for high school but quit halfway through his senior year. He was still able to get into Loyola University, spending the spring semester there before applying to Xavier. “I was a half-credit short on the science requirement,” he says. “Xavier was nice enough to review my situation and admit me despite that. I wanted to go away to school and was fortunate to get to go to Xavier. I did not graduate from high school. I’m a high school dropout made good.”

Early Career | After law school at the University of Notre Dame, Aranda worked in Chicago and Columbus. The Park Ridge, Ill., native moved in 1976 to his then-wife’s hometown of Lancaster, Ohio, and began establishing his practice. The couple had one adopted child at the time and later adopted a second.

Adoption Law | Aranda’s education and personal interest in adoption created a natural, professional niche. “As a Catholic lawyer in the community with an adopted son, I came to be known as someone who did adoption work and I just kept doing it. I got referrals from a wide variety of people and I had a basic interest in adoptions from my personal experience.”

Best-Known Case | Aranda considers his work in adoption law to be especially rewarding. He is best known for successfully arguing the Ridenour case before the Ohio Supreme Court in 1991. The case established important state and national precedent by holding that adoptions terminate the rights of both biological parents and grandparents. “This case gave adoptive parents the right to raise their adoptive children without interference,” he says. “It’s beautiful because it promised adoptive children a shot at a new life.”

Long-Term Path | Aranda began picking up probate and real estate clients from another Lancaster attorney who eventually sold his practice to Aranda.

Current Practice | Aranda’s practice focuses on “elder law,” a term that describes a wide variety of legal issues affecting senior citizens, such as health care power of attorney and estate planning. He also does Medicaid recovery for the state of Ohio.

Fairfield Legal Clinic | One of Aranda’s favorite ways to give back to the community is through the all-volunteer Fairfield Legal Clinic. He coordinates area attorneys to provide free legal advice on civil matters. “We’re in a rural county without much industry. We have a lot of poor people who would never get their legal needs addressed without the clinic.” In addition, Aranda volunteers for the local Humane Society and is incoming president of the board for the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio in Lancaster.

Greatest Influence | Aranda says his parents and the Jesuits at Xavier have had the most influence on his life. To honor his parents and to help continue the tradition of Jesuit education, Aranda established the “Harold and Bonnie Aranda Scholarship,” which covers tuition at Xavier for one student per year from Park Ridge, Ill., or from Fisher Catholic High School in Lancaster.