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Profile: Melanie Bates

There have been a few firsts in Melanie Bates’ life: first woman in her family to go away to college; first wave of females admitted to the University in the early 1970s; first woman graduate to serve on the alumni board of governors.

There are more. When her kids entered the public school system, Bates sat on the first Cincinnati Public Schools committee to include parents. And last fall, she came in first in a race for a seat on the district’s board of education. But one of her favorites was her first job—first woman bartender on the day shift at Dana Gardens.

Bates, who graduated in 1975, has always been interested in politics. But she’s also interested in education and has found a way to blend the two all the way to the state level.

It began in the mid-1980s when her children were little and she decided to stay home. But during those 10 years, she got fidgety. Her kids—Emma, John and Griffin—were enrolled in the Cincinnati district’s Montessori school nearby, and, she says, “I didn’t know what to do with myself. So I started going to school and found the biggest void was the connection between the schools and the school board.”

So she started attending board meetings and educating herself about the district. She was on a roll. “As a citizen, I could really participate and have an impact on the schools. That started school politics for me.”

As she learned about the bigger issues, she discovered the board did not welcome parents to their planning sessions. It was the time of the Buenger Commission, a panel of local business leaders who were asked by the city to examine the way the school system operates and make recommendations for improvement.

Bates was among a handful of parents appointed to a districtwide committee that explored these reforms, such as ending social promotion and developing academic standards. “It was the first committee that the administration had to actually work with parents,” she says.

Her interest in grassroots politics extended into other areas as well. She was president of her school’s PTA, served on neighborhood civic groups and in area soccer programs. Today she’s the executive director of the Hamilton County Democratic Party.

“It all pointed back to education and politics,” she says. Her first run at the city school board in 1993 ended in defeat. But with encouragement from local leaders, she set her sights on the state board of education—and won. That was 1994. Four years later, she was re-elected. During her seven years on the state board, Bates handled such meaty issues as the DeRolph school funding case, the takeover of the Cleveland City Schools and the launching of controversial voucher and charter school programs.

Says Bates: “I learned a typical soccer mom can impact major national policy.”

She ran for the Cincinnati school board because she wanted to help her own district move forward faster. Her dream: “I want to see kids from any background have a world-class education, and I don’t think we’re that far from it.”

Bates recalls her Jesuit education and its philosophy of service to others as part of the reason why she’s so involved. “What we were really to do with our education was service.”

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Xavier Magazine

From Russia with His Love

For associate professor of philosophy Michael Sweeney, the reminders are all around him–his 3-year-old son Mikhail’s lingering accent, the books on medieval philosophy he’s writing for the Slavonic-Greco-Latin Academy in Moscow, his wife’s longings for her homeland. Everywhere he looks are constant reminders of the nearly three years his family was stuck in Russia, struggling with U.S. immigration officials over visa rules and unable to come home.

The ordeal started when Sweeney met Natalia Zimina, a Russian student who came to the U.S. to study in 1992. Shortly after they married in 1996, they discovered an error made by a U.S. state department official on her visa that required her to return home for two years before applying for permanent U.S. residency. Having no choice, they packed for Moscow.

It took two years and seven months before she finally got her green card and was allowed to return to the states with their son. Last March, she rejoined her husband, who came back a year earlier. During their time together in Moscow, the family endured a bittersweet experience. They were forced to live in what, for Sweeney, was a frightening land, surrounded by political and economic instability, while simultaneously enjoying the security of Zimina’s loving and protective family.

Though he had a one-year Fulbright Scholarship to teach at the Slavonic-Greco-Latin Academy and the Russian Academy of Science, Sweeney couldn’t wait to get home.

“I wanted to get it over with,” he says. “I didn’t have a very good impression of Russia, and I was worried about my son. It was an adventure, but there were troubling moments. I was just amazed how people could carry on during all this crisis. The students said this was nothing. During the attempted coup, when there were tanks in the streets, they just carried on.”

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Writing a Symphony for Different Drummers

Roll Over Beethoven—-and Bob Marley.

Hot, steamy calypso rhythms and the formal strains of a classical symphony are being intertwined by a pair of Xavier musicians. Associate professor of music Kaleel Skeirik and Bruce Weil, who earned a teaching certificate in Montessori education in 1996 and is the steel band director at nearby Clark Montessori High School, are collaborating on an original symphony to be performed in March by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Clark’s student-led steel drum band.

“We’re making a statement,” Skeirik says. “We’re bringing steel drums and injecting them with a really heavy dose of Western classical tradition. It’s very exciting because the steel drums are just so amplified by the orchestra and the orchestra is so enriched by the steel drum sound.”

The 10-minute score, which requires 30 parts for 140 musicians, is called “Caribbean Voyage: Suite for Pan and Orchestra.” The $9,500 project, partially funded by a grant from 1955 graduate John Grissmer, began when CSO directors asked Weil to audition the band for its children’s Lollipop series. He brainstormed with Skeirik, whose daughter attended Clark, about mixing the two genres. Because so little music exists combining steel drums and orchestra instruments, an original score was created.

The combination, though, allows the steel drum to demonstrate its full potential, says Weil. “It’s the only new instrument created in the 20th century,” he says, “and it’s still an instrument of the people.”

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Xavier Magazine

Saintly Statue

In the waning days of the first semester, when only a few stragglers remained on campus prior to Christmas break, a seven-foot bronze statue of St. Ignatius appeared on a four-foot pedestal in front of Logan Hall.

The replica of the founder of the Jesuits glints golden as it faces the morning sun. He towers above his landscaped surroundings, leaning slightly forward with a stride that seems full of purpose. Cloaked in a robe with a sign of the cross on his collar, his left hand holding a book, he holds his right hand aloft, commanding attention to something important he’s about to say. His bearded face is serious, wise and kind.

The statue, donated by Bernard Downey, class of 1949, and his wife, Jean Ann, was cast by the Demetz Art Studio of Ortisei, Italy. The Downeys ordered it at the same time they ordered the St. Francis of Assisi statue that now stands behind the McDonald Library.

Mrs. Downey says that during the dedication of the Dance of Tears sculpture in the library sculpture garden, they decided a St. Francis statue would look good there, too. She says President Michael J. Graham asked if they had ever seen a statue of St. Ignatius.

“We said, ‘Would you like one?’ and he said it would be nice,” says Mrs. Downey. “Demetz did the research.”

St. Ignatius and St. Francis arrived together in November 2000, but St. Ignatius waited in storage for a decision by the art committee as to where it would be located, says Jim Jackson, director of development. Construction of the Gallagher Student Center and other renovations held up the decision for awhile, but on Dec.19, the statue was placed on the brick base in a very visible area of the academic mall.

A plaque will be added that will identify the statue’s namesake. Mrs. Downey says her family jokingly calls it, “St. Ignatius on the Move.” It is valued at about $23,000, she says.

The statue is an original casting, called a full-round bronze, Jackson says. The Demetz studio, which has been a family business for several generations, specializes in the art of crafting religious figures, mostly in wood but also marble and bronze. Its web site highlights the recent completion of the largest ‘Risen Jesus’ ever made at 27 feet tall.

“The Downey’s are blessed with great financial resources and are very generous people,” Jackson says. “They also renovated the Mary statue in front of Edgecliff hall on the hill. There was no sitting area and it was in bad condition, and they paid for getting it all renovated. We put in cement steps and leveled it out and put in semi-circular brick pavers and benches.

“They love the spiritual part of having those things on campus and they continue to do things for us. They’re very good people.”

Mrs. Downey says her family likes to donate Demetz statues to Xavier because of their beauty. “They do such beautiful work. We give most of them away. We give them to Xavier because Xavier was very good to us and we would just like to return something.”

All 12 of the Downey children attended Xavier, and all but two of them graduated from here. The Downeys live in Chicago.

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Most Wanted

Why, wonders Audrey Martin, would someone turn on the person they married, shared a life with, raised children with, loved throughout the years—and then commit murder? “It’s always been something that fascinated me, how someone can go from being married to someone to then killing them. It just seems extreme to me,” Martin says.

Martin may be finding the answers to why some people kill the people they’re closest to, among other gruesomely intriguing topics, when she begins an unpaid internship next fall with the FBI Academy at Quantico, Va.

Martin, majoring in both chemistry and criminal justice, is the first University student to be admitted for an internship with the FBI in 21 years. According to John Richardson, chairman of the criminal justice department, students have been trying unsuccessfully since the bachelor’s degree program opened in 1980 to nab one of the coveted internships with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which, he says, has sparingly doled them out over the years. Times have changed, however, and people who benefited from internships at other government agencies are now with the FBI, and they tend to favor expanding such programs, he says.

“In the last 21 years, we have had many students apply for the FBI internship program and she’s the first to get in,” Richardson says. “The FBI has always hesitated to establish an internship program for university students. Historically, they would always say no, whereas now they’re saying yes under pressure from other agencies.”

Martin, 20, of St. Louis, Mo., will study with the agency’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, located near the FBI Academy on the Quantico Marine Corps Base about 40 miles south of Washington, D.C.

Cynthia J. Lent, violent crime resource specialist at the academy, said the agency began marketing the unpaid internships more widely about a year ago. A paid summer internship program for honors students has long been available but is highly competitive.

“For the last year, the unpaid internship has been on the web page so more students are aware of it,” she says. “ It has not been so much an unwillingness but more that the programs were not established.”

Though she technically has enough credits to be a senior, Martin considers herself a junior because she has more than a year’s worth of courses to take to complete her double major. She also is studying for a minor in psychology and carries a grade point average above 3.5. Her strong academic record and her interest in criminal justice, plus a successful interview in November, helped her snare the 14-week internship, Lent says. The academy notified the department of her acceptance in a letter dated Jan. 3.

But it’s not a done deal yet. Martin must go through a thorough background check, drug test and polygraph before her internship is secure. Such steps are necessary to obtain the top-secret clearance she will have as an employee of the academy, Lent says. Such in-depth probing into her personal background doesn’t bother her, though. She says it comes with the territory of the career she has chosen. “It’s necessary when you’re reading and researching on these people, they have to be sure you’re a stable person.”

Martin will participate in research and case studies of various types of violent crime that could include mothers murdering their children, serial killers, child abductors who kill their victims and domestic violence that ends in homicide. She will be assigned tasks that could include researching crimes and gathering, calculating and organizing data, working with police agencies or FBI field offices, observing case consultations with other law enforcement agencies and attending behavioral science classes at the academy.

Rather than being intimidated by the work, Martin is looking forward to all that she’ll learn about criminal investigation. She says her interest in crime-solving was fueled by her father’s career as a doctor. That led her to pair the study of chemistry with her interest in criminal justice.

“I want to do forensic work and crime scene analysis,” she says. “The scientific way to solve anything is appealing to me. They use trace element analysis like DNA, blood and fingerprints. There are different tests you can run on things like paint or fiber or fabrics. There’s a lot of lab work.

“I wanted an internship because it’s a hard field to get into and I do eventually want to work for the FBI, so I thought it would be a good way to get my foot in the door. I like how they do a lot of serial crimes like profiling of violent crimes and I’m very interested in that.”

Lent says about 10 percent of student interns are later hired by the agency. Martin says she plans to first get a masters in forensic science, making her even more qualified for her chosen field.

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Lessons of Life and Love

Colleen Lynch left Xavier with a teaching degree in 1999, eager to take on her first class of students. She never dreamed one of them was about to teach her the most important lessons of her life.

After returning home to Hendersonville, Tenn., to begin her teaching career, she found herself inexplicably drawn to one of her fourth graders, Michael Lewandowski, when life-threatening cancerous tumors snaked their way back into his young body just a few weeks into the 2000-2001 school year. The neuroblastoma–an aggressive tumor that strikes young children–reappeared in his spine, leg, chest and neck for the first time since he was initially treated in first grade.

“In the first week of October, he started to have pains in his legs and I asked if it was from playing hockey, because I thought it was just a bruised bone,” Lynch says. “But it got worse and I remember he was sitting in class one day and I looked over at him and he’s crying at his desk. I said, ‘Michael, what’s wrong,’ and he says, ‘Ms. Lynch, it just hurts so bad.’ It was deep inside his bone.”

The worst day was when Michael was in so much pain he couldn’t walk to the bus. In an effort to help, Lynch put him in her chair and wheeled him gleefully through the halls and out to the curb.

When Michael went to Vanderbilt University Children’s Hospital for treatment, Lynch made her commitment to stick with him. Beginning that October, after she wrapped up her daily classroom duties, she gathered the day’s schoolwork and drove 45 miles to the hospital, where she taught him the day’s lessons.

“I just felt the need to be with this child,” she says. “He was missing so much school and tutoring wasn’t going to do it.

She continued the daily visits when he was recuperating at home, but she became frustrated every time he went to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City for additional treatments because she couldn’t be with him.

“To be with him is phenomenal,” she says. “God brought me home from Cincinnati, and if I had not done that I would never have met him. The child has this indomitable spirit that just won’t die. The way he made me feel, it made me want to be around him more. For the first time I knew what it felt like to be a parent. It’s just the way a child can get into your heart. To love a child is an amazing experience, but to be loved back by one is an experience all its own.”

Lynch continued tutoring him over the summer so he could complete fourth grade, and the parents of the children in his class raised money to pay for her trip to New York in June so his schooling wouldn’t be interrupted while he continued treatment at Sloan-Kettering. She took him Mickey Mouse ears on her first day and he looked at her groggily and said, “How did you do that? How did you get here?”

Michael recently moved with his family to Charleston, N.C., and is now in the fifth grade. He’s sick again, and Lynch misses him terribly. Still, knowing he’s gone because he moved with his family is better than losing him to the cancer, so she’s content to visit him sometimes and stay in touch through email. What lives on in her are the lessons he taught by the way he lived through all the treatments, the pain, the baldness and sickness.

“He actually taught me how to love,” Lynch says. “At our talent show for him, I told the crowd to imagine something they loved more than anything else and to multiply that times a million, and that’s the way Michael makes me feel. I never thought a child would teach an adult how to love, but he did it and it made me a better person.”

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Doctor’s Discovery: The Heart Matters Most

Dr. Brian Vaughan is in his first year of orthopedic residency at North Carolina Hospitals, but he already knows what’s at the heart of being a physician—human life.

The 1997 graduate, who finished first in his class at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, learned about the value of life—and death—in September, when he was charged with the post-operative care of an 80-year-old man suffering from pneumonia and an aortic aneurysm. The man never recovered from surgery, leaving Vaughan to discuss with family members whether to discontinue care or keep the man alive with a ventilator.

“I was very comfortable being able to discuss both sides of the issue with the patient’s family,” he says, “because Xavier gives you that compassion and ability to think. We came to the decision he would have a good death. They trusted me, but they understood their father’s wishes.”

Vaughan, 26, is just beginning his five-year residency at the Chapel Hill, N.C., hospital, which often includes 100-hour weeks. He’s learned to add a dose of coffee to his cup of perseverance, though. He’s also learned to pull from his past. His biochemistry class at Georgetown, for instance, was mostly a review of a similar class he had at Xavier, he says. And the life-and-death issues he now faces daily are simply practical applications of his philosophy, theology and ethics classes.

“All of the truly great physicians have not only been men of science,” he says, “but also men of great compassion and thought. The core curriculum at Xavier is at the heart of this process.”

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Profile: Steven Easley

Steven Easley remembers vividly the moment his life turned around. It was the day he arrived by bus at Valley Forge Military College in rural Wayne, Pa., expecting to take a tour but discovering it was actually check-in day.

He had nothing with him–no bags, no papers, no parents. Not even a toothbrush. School officials were astonished. But because he had registered by mail in their ROTC program, they were able to process him through.

And that night, as he lay in bed, the 18-year-old boy heard the sweetest sound he could imagine–silence. No sirens, no gunshots, no swearing, no partying. Just silence. It was a stark contrast to the life he knew in the inner-city neighborhoods of Buffalo, N.Y.

“When I went to military school was the first time I realized everyone didn’t live like that,” he says. “I always thought everyone had raggedy cars and lived in gang neighborhoods with vacant lots.”

Though Easley lived like that from the age of 8, it wasn’t always so. His aunt, the most important person in his life, raised him from infancy through his first eight years. She provided him a stable family life on Cincinnati’s west side, taking him to church, and constantly pushing his remarkable academic ability.

“I got a real sense of confidence from her,” Easley says of his aunt, Brenda Williams, whom he still calls Ma. “She always pushed me to get good grades. For me it was no B’s. She said I could always do better and it stuck.”

Williams says it was tough raising her own three children by herself and taking in Steven and a cousin. But she was determined. “Mine wasn’t a very good childhood and it taught me the importance of family and love and to always try to achieve,” she says. “I would tell Steven all the time, you can be anything you want. I just didn’t want him to be nothing.”

That solid home life fell apart, though, when Steven’s father, whom he’d never met, suddenly appeared, taking the boy to Buffalo when he was 8. The dominoes then fell in rapid succession. His father, a drug user, moved out after one year, leaving Steven in the care of a stepmother who hardly knew him. His own mother lived nearby but had little to do with him. He regularly saw drug dealing in his neighborhood and once saw a man shot in the head outside his stepmother’s house. He died in the driveway. Of the 18 boys he hung out with in the neighborhood, only three, including himself, aren’t dead or in jail.

By the time he was 14, an angry and rebellious Steven moved out of the house and in with his 16-year-old sister, whose home was a crack house. He would tire of the noisy all-night parties and drug-dealing and go up to his attic room, throwing the covers over his head to shut out the noise and, if possible, the reality of the life that surrounded him.

Still, he was able to graduate from an exclusive public high school for high-achieving students, even though, with no parent around, he often skipped school.

By the end of his junior year, Easley was realizing he didn’t want to live this life and began thinking of military service as a way out. He joined the Army after graduation but scored so well on the entrance tests that he was steered to a session on military schools, where he learned about Valley Forge. He applied and was accepted on a full scholarship for the two-year associate degree program.

Easley distinguished himself at Valley Forge with a 3.93 grade point average, finishing at the top of his graduating class and becoming the school’s first black valedictorian. He started a black student group, played football, and participated in ROTC. Aunt Brenda came to his graduation and through tears pinned his medal to his uniform.

Then he was accepted to Xavier where he completed bachelor degrees in information systems and marketing with the class of 2000. Now he’s a technology and information systems coordinator for Xavier and, at age 23, has started his own data-processing business as well.

Now married to his high school sweetheart, who was 13 when they met, Easley is looking forward to a family of his own. He’s begun by offering to pay for his 15-year-old brother, Grant, to attend Valley Forge, and by writing to his father, who’s serving time in Michigan for robbery and rarely writes back.

“The thing I wanted most was somebody’s time, and that’s what I want to give my family,’’ he says.

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Profile: Bryan Reinhart

The first time Bryan Reinhart traveled in a foreign land, he went for fun–backpacking, scuba diving, and surfing for five months across New Zealand and Australia. The second time, he reflected on his life and his goals while traipsing across South America. During those three months, he realized the thrill of experiencing other cultures is an adventure in itself – and sure beats sitting in an office all day.

Now Reinhart, 28, is embarking on a third adventure that has the word “mission” written all over it. This time it’s to Kenya with the Franciscan Mission Service for a three-year tour that will place him in a home for orphaned boys. The goal is to serve others, but in doing so, Reinhart hopes to discover himself.

“I’ve been praying to God to reveal to me what my passion is. I want to be like a baseball player who wakes up doing what he loves,” Reinhart says. “I think I’ll get there and there will be something that will speak to my heart, whether it’s helping AIDS victims or teaching impoverished people or working in an orphanage. I don’t know what it is, I’m just confident this is leading me to the right spot and I’ll bump into it and I’ll embrace it and do it feverishly.”

Reinhart has faced physical challenges in his past travels. But this time, he’s putting himself to a true emotional test, entering a country that is smothered in death, where coffins are sold on street corners and people tote them on their bicycle seats. The AIDS epidemic has devastated the Kenyan people to the point where their mantra has become, “Eliminate AIDS before it eliminates most of us.”

Reinhart says he’s not afraid to live in a country where the infant mortality rate is 59 deaths per 1,000 live births and the life expectancy is 47 years. The government has declared the AIDS epidemic a national disaster and estimates 760,000 people have developed AIDS since 1984, and most of them have died.

And politically, Kenya faces turbulent times with the possible replacement of President Daniel Arap Moi during elections this year. Moi has led the country since 1978.

“I will try to just be smart about what I do. There are certain places you don’t want to be at certain times. It’s true of anywhere in the world you go. You have to be smarter there, not because it’s more dangerous but because you’re unfamiliar with it.”

Reinhart left Dec. 31 for Kenya and won’t return until January 2005. He doesn’t expect to come home during that time because of the expense. He’ll live in Nairobi in a center run by a Cincinnati priest, the Rev. David Lemkuhl, who’s been in Kenya nine years as head of the National Catholic Youth Association of Kenya. Father Lemkuhl lives at the boy’s home, the National Catholic Youth Centre for young men ages 12 to 22. Reinhhart will be one of his assistants, and the only other American there.

The work will be a world apart from the jobs Reinhart has held so far. After graduating from Xavier in 1995 with a BS degree in finance, he became an account manager for a San Francisco company that manufactured CD Roms. He left after four years to take his first trip, then invested in a start-up company in Columbus selling Yellow Pages advertising. The company was sold last February.

After his second trip through South America, he spent time thinking about his future. “Through a lot of prayer and research I decided I wanted to get into some sort of Third World help work. I wanted to learn the language and culture. I wanted to do something more noble and not as ridiculous as the Yellow Pages.”

Franciscan Mission responded immediately to his on-line query, and by August, he was at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., for three months of training. He studied Kenyan history and culture, learned Swahili and trained in the works of St. Francis of Assisi. Where it all will lead him he doesn’t know, but he believes Xavier’s focus on service to others had an effect on him.

“I might come back and get a masters in economics or work for the UN, but I don’t want to do anything until I have a clear understanding of what I’m excited about, and when I know, I’ll put a path together,” he says.

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Career Choices

Teacher education programs across the country are reporting increasing numbers of students who want to become teachers—especially among older applicants who are switching careers. What’s bringing about the increase? A New York Times story linked the increase to not only the slumping economy, but also to the increase in soul-searching among mid-career adults following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Whatever the reason, the University is no exception to the increase. James Boothe, chair of the department of education, says the increased interest in adults switching careers and moving into the classrooms began showing about five years ago. Now, about 80 percent of students studying to become high school teachers are people who already have degrees and plan to teach that subject.

 

“People who have degrees are linked naturally to their subject matter like math or chemistry or English,” Boothe says. “The reasons are the private sector world out there is not as interesting as it used to be. A lot of companies have cut back and it’s not as much fun, and middle management compensation is not what it used to be. They may not make more money as teachers, but they’re going to enjoy life more.

 

“One of the things happening is people are taking stock of their materialistic views, and when we’re in a crisis like Sept. 11, people are thinking that maybe life is a lot more tentative than they thought it was and what do they want to do?”

 

Of the 1,350 graduate level students studying for their master’s in education, about 400 are people who have decided to switch careers, says John Cooper, director of graduate services. Though more plan to teach at the high school level, there is also a lot of interest in early childhood and Montessori education, and overall, the number of graduate level students is up. But new Ohio standards requiring more hours of study to earn a state teaching license have started to cut into the numbers of career-switchers, Cooper says.

 

“I know more and more back out after seeing the required hours,” he says. But the department is trying to address the problem by making the required courses more readily available.

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