Top Honors

In the world of horticulture, Xavier’s Walter Bonvell has earned top honors.

Bonvell, one of three grounds foremen at Xavier, recently earned the designation of Certified Grounds Manager from the Baltimore-based Professional Grounds Management Society, or PGMS. Bonvell is one of only 124 professional grounds managers nationwide to have the designation.

“It’s a very select group,” says Jenny Smith, associate executive director for PGMS. “There are a limited number of grounds professionals who meet the criteria.”

Candidates must have a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in a horticulture-related field and/or a certain number of years of on-the-job experience, including work as a supervisor. Candidates also must pass a two-part test. Founded in 1911, PGMS is one of the oldest and best known of the industry’s professional associations.

Bonvell, who earned his BS in horticulture at Eastern Kentucky University, has been in the grounds management business for 35 years, the last 28 at Xavier. He is responsible for maintaining the grounds within Xavier’s academic and residential malls, University Drive and the

Gallagher Student Center, says Bonvell’s manager, Dick Menke.

Bonvell is active in PGMS as national and regional board member. He also is on the organization’s sustainability committee, which is raising awareness among grounds managers about the value of green roofs and other eco-friendly techniques meant to conserve water and reduce pollution from fertilizers.

“He understands that grounds maintenance is more than cutting grass and trimming bushes,” says Robert Sheeran, associate vice president for facility management. “It’s about maintaining an environment that is home to thousands of students and where hundreds of employees work each day. Managing the green space on an urban campus to the high level that we do at Xavier is quite a challenge. As you walk around the campus you can see the ownership and the passion he has for his work.”

Xavier’s 148-acre campus includes about 20 acres of open space, eight of which are athletic fields. The grounds staff maintains about 50 acres of turf, 25 acres of display beds and 30 acres of paved areas.

Making Connections

Jeff Schneider is a man on a mission. For the past 10 years or so, Schneider has been tirelessly working to raise Xavier’s profile among college-bound high school students in Texas.

“When you look at the makeup of the University, there are a lot of students from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana,” Schneider says. “But about 10 or 12 years ago, I looked at Texas, and it was in 32nd or 33rd place among states as far as the number of students going to Xavier.”

That was unacceptable to Schneider, so he began asking Dallas-area alums and parents of current students to help recruit new students. They sent teams to area college nights. They contacted high school counselors and, working from lists of students who applied to Xavier, manned the phones—an average of five follow-up calls per student over a five-month period.

They called parents of potential students as well, encouraging them to look at retention rates, medical or law school acceptance rates, graduation rates—stuff that parents care about.

And it worked.

“We didn’t used to have a presence,” he says. “Now we do.” Texas now ranks just outside of the top 10 states that send students to Xavier, and why it worked is simple: personal contact.

“When you call the students and talk to them about value in education, it makes them feel that Xavier wants them,” Schneider says. “If you don’t make them feel wanted, some other university will.”

The concept works so well, the University created a similar program with some of its alumni chapters last year that helped bring in the largest class in Xavier history. Known as the Alumni Enrollment Ambassador Program, the effort now involves more than 100 alumni from around the country.

“From an admission perspective, our goal is to connect alumni with parents as well as students to most effectively transmit the value of a Xavier education—the quality of the education for the price,” says Aaron Meis, dean of admission. “Our office tries to focus on outcomes such as graduation rates, placement rates and average starting salaries. What alumni are able to do is tell their story of Xavier in a more personal way, to convey the value of the education they received and how it helped them succeed.”

Schneider, a double graduate—1968 and 1979—and president of the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter, is a case in point. “I got a quality education from Xavier, so for me I get the inspiration in passing that story on to other students. That’s what drives me to do this. I want to make sure Xavier grows in every facet. You can’t sit back and say ‘Last year we were great.’ You have to make it great every year. I want Xavier to be the Jesuit school of choice in the country.”

Students in various regions around the country identified by the Office of Admission are being targeted for calls from ambassadors, although anyone can get involved, says Joe Ventura, executive director of the National Alumni Association. In fact, he says, if there’s one thing the program needs, it’s more volunteers so it can match the rapidly growing number of students who are applying to Xavier.

Last year, volunteers made 107 calls to 302 prospective students. That generated a highly effective yield rate—or the number of students who enrolled—of 40 percent, which is nearly double the yield rate of students who weren’t called by ambassadors.

This year the University added an earlier phase when ambassadors called students who expressed interest in Xavier but hadn’t yet applied in an effort to encourage them to consider Xavier.

“It was such a delight to talk to these young students who are so full of promise,” says William Wester, a 1987 graduate and president of the Chicago alumni chapter. “You just try to let them know what a great place Xavier is. If they decide to attend, great. If they decide to go somewhere else, well, Xavier’s not for everyone. You just try to leave them with a good impression of Xavier because maybe they have a brother or a friend who might be interested. You never know how it might pay off.”

Living the Dream

It is one of those secret guy fantasies: Retire, open up a cozy little bar and hang out with friends.

Bill Burke is living that fantasy.

Three years ago, the longtime marketing executive got tired of being retired and opened Billy’s Tavern, a brightly lit, 150-seat bar one block off Route 1, in the quaint Down East village of Thomaston, Maine. But for the 70-year-old Burke, his tavern is not a flight of whimsy. “It is a business,” he says. “You have to treat it like that. It can’t be a hobby. I work a lot of hours. But it’s better than sitting around watching television.”

Burke is no stranger to running his own business, though. He owned Burke Advertising in Cincinnati while he was earning a master’s degree in humanities from Xavier in 1982 and later started his own marketing and brand consulting firm in New York.

While he was working all those years, though, Maine ran through his veins. He forged a deep connection to the state back in the 1960s when, as a budding actor, he was cast in an Avco children’s TV special filmed in Boothbay Harbor. The family vacationed there almost every summer thereafter.

So when Burke retired five years ago, he and wife Louise—who was director of career planning at Xavier for more than 20 years—decided to settle there for good. Almost immediately, though, Burke realized he needed something to do. He already knew a lot about the restaurant business from consulting numerous troubled restaurant operations. Combine that with the secret guy fantasy. Why not?

“One of the things I learned not to do is have a landlord,” he says. “So, my son and I bought an old Grange hall and got to work.”

They took advantage of the wealth of skilled craftsmen and woodworkers who build yachts and fishing boats along Maine’s Midcoast. They hired the local talent to craft a bar, tables and other decor. “We wanted to create a place that looked like it had been there forever,” Burke says. “We wanted that cigarette-color stain.”

But dingy it is not. The tavern quickly earned a reputation as a family-friendly hangout for the villagers dotted with toys and games for the kids. It has an Irish theme with Celtic music, fish ’n’ chips, local oysters and, of course, Guinness beer.

“The Irish guys who come in tell us we pour the best Guinness this side of Ireland.”

Home Works

It’s not unusual for young couples headed down the aisle to think about building a house. But building three houses–finished within a month of the wedding? With no intention of moving in? That’s enough to make the blood pressure cuff explode. But that’s exactly the plan Joliene Cummins, a 2006 grad, and her soon-to-be husband Chris Garlich hatched to mark their June 2009 wedding.

“We already had a house that Chris previously bought,” says Cummins, who works in Xavier’s Williams College of Business in admissions while she finishes her MBA. “We didn’t want a bunch of gifts. But we did want to start our lives together by giving to others.”

Chris’ family had a tradition of holiday gifting through Food for the Poor, providing international direct relief assistance in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic, where Joliene and Chris were headed for a honeymoon.

“We thought that if we were going to go and use their country to have fun on our honeymoon, we wanted to somehow help the people there,” she says. So they contacted Food for the Poor, which set up a “registry” web site for donations to build a house—costing about $2,700—on the island. “We could not think of a better way to spread the love we feel for each other than by giving others a place to call home.”

When invitations went out for a shower, a note about the web site replaced the usual retail registry. “To get some to understand was a stretch.”

So instead of china, crystal and slow-cookers, within a month of their wedding, the couple got photographs of not just one, but three, new houses with the proud owners in front. “It turned out the houses were about 15 miles south of where we stayed,” says Joliene. And now for all those thank you cards.

Healing Talk

Cathy Creger Rosenbaum opens with a bombshell.

“My philosophy,” she says, “is that prescription medicines are ruining our lives.”

Perhaps what makes that so shocking is Rosenbaum is a pharmacist—and that she wants people to know it.

“I think it’s important for people to know that I’m a pharmacist,” she says, “and there’s a better path to healing through integrative holistic medicine.”

She wants everyone to know so much that last fall she created a weekly radio show on WMKV-FM (89.3 FMi in Cincinnati called “Your Holistic Health,” which streams live on at 5:30 p.m. Mondays. The show highlights local and national holistic services experts, focusing on services that are affordable, credible and evidence-based. Topics include yoga, acupuncture and infertility, homeopathy, sleep health, emotional health and massage.

Rosenbaum, a 2001 Executive MBA graduate, spends her days as a clinical effectiveness and safety officer at Bethesda North Hospital in Cincinnati and has been a pharmacist for more than 35 years. Her journey from academia to the pharmaceutical industry to hospital-based practice to holistic medicine was influenced by a trip to China about a decade ago to study herbal medicine.

“My life was changed in China,” she said. “I felt a tremendous touch for the Lord over there. I didn’t know I would be called, it’s almost a ministry. I realized that the holistic model exists and was moving from Eastern culture to the West, and I wanted to be on the crest of the wave.”

That doesn’t mean Rosenbaum sees no use for prescription medication. But, she believes, it is just one of six or seven balance points—along with dietary supplements, nutritional health, sleep, exercise, emotional health and spiritual health—that she sees as equally important to a client’s health model.

The spiritual component includes praying with, or for, her clients with their permission. “I believe a relationship with God is a component in healing,” she said. Her spiritual perspective is Christian, but she works with people of various faiths, “looking for a common denominator.”

She stresses, though, that she’s not practicing medicine. “My job is to build bridges with doctors at the head of the ship,” she says. “The doctor is still in charge. I’m actually trying to help people enhance their health experience, to honor their health goals.”

Google-ING China

Google Joe Van Deman’s name and the first hit you get is a travel blog he created this past summer. In terms of content, it’s still sparse. But the 25-year-old Van Deman should have plenty to write about now. In October, he moved to China for a six-month assignment for his employer—Google—to set up an advertising sales office in the Chinese capital of Beijing. He and his three-person team are hiring and training 100 Chinese citizens to sell ads for the Internet search engine giant.

While the move is a great career boost, in some ways it’s a return to the past. As a Xavier MBA student—which he became after earning a bachelor’s degree in international affairs at Xavier in 2005—Van Deman spent a summer studying at Peking University. Part of his daily routine included biking past the Beijing office of Google every day.

But a lot has changed in that short time. The bicycles that were ubiquitous last time are being replaced by luxury cars, and a gleaming new subway system now carries more than 3.5 million riders a day. Despite the progress, Van Deman had a few hesitations when his bosses told him he was headed to China.

“It’s a developing country, and it’s one of those places that’s not always a comfortable place to be,” he says.

There are business challenges as well. Chinese authorities block access to YouTube, the Google-owned video-sharing web site that’s an important part of its advertising strategy. And the dominant search engine in China is a home-grown effort called Baidu, while Google controls less than 30 percent of the market.

“I can walk up to people and tell them I work for Google, and they have no idea what that is,” says Van Deman, who’s been based in the company’s Ann Arbor, Mich., office since joining the company two years ago. “That doesn’t happen in the U.S.”

Founder’s Day Award

Ann McCabe Buenger, a Cincinnati philanthropist and longtime supporter of Xavier, was given the 2009 Founders’ Day Award, which honors individuals whose outstanding contributions to Xavier help the University better serve students and society. Along with her late husband, Clement, a 1953 Xavier graduate, the couple’s support includes the Clement and Ann Buenger Residence Hall, which houses students in the University Scholars and Honors programs, as well as the Clem and Ann Buenger endowed scholarship and a wide-ranging array of projects including the Initiative for Catholic Schools, the renovation of the Alumni Center and the creation of the Gallagher Student Center, among many others. In 2004, Xavier honored Ann with the St. Francis Xavier Medal, its most distinguished award.

Extra Credit: John Heim, S.J.

John Heim, S.J., arrived at Xavier in 1975. His first job was working in campus ministry and as the chaplain of Brockman Hall. In those early days, Heim also served for five years as chaplain for the basketball team, was associate pastor for Bellarmine Parish and headed the Parents Club. But the initiative for which he’s best known began in 1976, when he launched Xavier’s Music Series.

“I came from Springfield, Ohio. The arts and culture were not so deeply ingrained in that local population. And when I came to the Society, I met the more cosmopolitan types from Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland. They had a liking for classical music. I would hear them listening to it. That’s how I got started.”

“When I went to Chicago to teach at Loyola Academy, I was oftentimes the recipient of free tickets to Symphony Orchestra Hall or the recital series. When I came to Cincinnati, I couldn’t find a recital series. It dawned on me that we had a theater in Brockman Hall, so I said, ‘Let’s try that.’ I scrounged up $3,000 and we had a series of six concerts and paid everybody $500.”

“I don’t know how many artists we’ve had—several hundred. Most of them have been classical pianists, and about half that many have been classical guitarists. Then recently we started the swing series, so it’s becoming harder to count because some of them have five or six people, and some of them have 15 people.”

“Some musicians have told me tales that I cannot repeat. I became very close to a great jazz guitarist named Joe Pass and Jean-Ides Thibaudet, who’s a very fine classical pianist. We helped get him started. He’s a good guy and sometimes even likes to come in and play at no cost. He says, ‘You can’t afford me any other way.'”

“New York is a different place than Cincinnati in the sense that Cincinnati only wants to hear what is tried and true, whereas in New York, they’re excited about new talent. Cincinnatians are very conservative, as an audience.”

“When they tore down the old theater on campus, I was worried this new one wouldn’t be sound effective. But from the very beginning, it’s been just fine. We didn’t have to tweak it much at all. It’s great.”

“I think everybody likes music. It’s like breathing. It’s like language: You’ve got to know at least one. I don’t exactly know what’s the chemistry, the soul part, how they meet and combine, but it makes a nice aura.”

“I tried to play the piano for about eight years. The best I could come up with is that I could appreciate somebody who could do that. My first couple of years, my mother was my teacher, but we can’t blame her because then she sent me off to the nun at school where I got my weekly lesson for 50 cents, and that didn’t work either.”

Egg Roll Economics

Sisters Susanna Wong-Burgess and Angela Wong Miller have come full circle—back to the family restaurant business that nurtured them.

It’s a circle that began back in 1972 when their father, Mike Wong, came to the United States after escaping the communist Chinese regime. For three years he worked to bring over his wife, Helen, 3-year-old Susanna and 3-month-old Angela, who were still in Hong Kong. When they arrived and settled in Cincinnati, the family launched what has become one of the region’s dining staples, the Oriental Wok.

While the girls spent much of their youth playing in the restaurant and working while everyone else was eating, their parents emphasized education first and foremost, says Angela, and “never held a gun to our heads and made us work here,” adds Susanna. Nevertheless, they understood that “this is how you eat.”

“We still think, ‘How many egg rolls do you have to sell to buy…’ whatever it is we’re looking at, such as a pair of shoes,” says Angela.

“Dad really discouraged us from working in the restaurant business,” says Susanna. “He wanted us to have choices. But we both missed it, and we’re back in the business by choice.”

Although not without some exploring first. Susanna spent time earning an MBA in 1997. Angela earned a bachelor’s degree in international business in 1994 and lived in Japan for four years. “A Chinese girl teaching English in Japan—I wasn’t what they expected,” she says.

But they both returned and now exude the same passion for their patrons and attention to detail their father had—from his “Wok of Fame” wall of Hollywood-type stars that showcases loyal customers to servers who are taught to sing “Happy Birthday” in Chinese. They’ve grown the business to three restaurants, assembled an Oriental Wok Sauce collection they’re selling at local grocers and online, and are working on expanding the menu.

They’re also expanding the family heritage. Both sons-in-law are involved. Susanna also has a 6-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter, and Angela has a 3-month-old son. After all, the next generation has to eat as well.

Building Unity

We are all created in God’s image, the Scriptures tell us, and it’s a message University President Michael J. Graham, S.J., takes to heart—and puts into action. In his nine years at the University, Graham has led a number of initiatives that have made the University—and, in some cases, the city of Cincinnati and the nation—more inclusive and more open to all people regardless of ethnic, racial or religious backgrounds.

And his efforts are being recognized. In October, Graham was given the Tree of Life Award from the Jewish National Fund—the highest award bestowed upon an individual by the organization. That honor came just weeks after he accepted a community outreach and partnership award on behalf of the University from the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP.

One of Graham’s first initiatives after he become president in 2001 was the creation of a “University as Citizen” plan in which Xavier became more integrated into the local community. (To read more about Graham’s efforts and accomplishments in this area, see the story in the President’s Report in the back of this issue.)

“Father Graham’s life work is an example of what the Tree of Life Award is all about,” says JNF President Stanley Chesley. “As president of Xavier University, he demonstrates his skill as an amazing leader of the student population. He is also a great interdisciplinary leader caring about each and every member of the human community at large, expanding borders at every opportunity. He is a warm and gracious testament to American-Israeli friendship.”