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Xavier Magazine

X Logo Doen’t Always Mark the Spot

Some people live and die with their alma mater’s sports team, but WebCaskets.com is taking the latter part a little too literally. The Georgia firm recently began selling caskets painted in team colors and decorated with the school’s logo.

Diehard Musketeer fans, though, will have to go to their grave with something a little more understated. Logo-laden coffins won’t get the University’s stamp of approval, says Andy Barry, director for athletic ticketing and person through whom all Xavier merchandise requests must filter.

“I’ve heard of toilet seats that play fight songs,” Barry says. “I haven’t seen a request for one, nor would I approve it, but we do see a lot of unusual requests. After a while, you become numb to them.”

Being a medium-sized school, Xavier is spared many of the more bizarre merchandising requests—logo-shaped food, logo-covered cowboy boots, coffins—but still must deal with other logo-related issues, such as counterfeit goods and trademark infringements. One recent counterfeit T-shirt, for instance, misspelled “Musketeers.” Someone also tried to trademark a “Busketeer” logo that was nearly identical to the Musketeer logo. The 130-plus vendors licensed to produce Xavier merchandise are generally conservative, Barry says, and only manufacture items that are likely to sell. Plus, he says, Xavier lacks one of the biggest elements for manufacturing wacky logo-decorated items—football. The sport generally draws more fans, which translates into more sales opportunities. Plus, it’s played in the fall, when people are looking for new clothing.

Barry, however, regularly receives requests to merchandise products related to Xavier football, even though the University dropped the sport in 1973. He won’t do it, though, he says. His only exception is a T-shirt that says, “Xavier Football: Undefeated Since 1973.” It sells extremely well, but since the whole subject of dropping Xavier football is still so controversial, he says, there’s no sense in stirring up old ghosts. Coffins don’t stand a chance.

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Xavier Magazine

Valued Visitor

Monsignor Zdzislaw Peszkowski, a Roman Catholic priest from Poland and childhood friend of Pope John Paul II, visited the Xavier campus on Oct. 10. He came to the United States to be part of a prayer service in New York for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. After the service, he flew to Cincinnati to visit some friends, who included Xavier’s administrative vice president John Kucia.

Kucia met Peszkowski in April while vacationing in Rome. Kucia was in St. Peter’s Square waiting for an audience with the Pope when he began talking to Peszkowski, who was seated two seats down. The two quickly discovered they had common friends in Cincinnati, the Ronald Joseph family and the Jim Gardner family. The Josephs and Gardners are supporters of Xavier, and also are contributors to Peszkowski’s recent effort to recover the remains and build cemeteries for 4,181 Polish military officers who were slaughtered in Russia during WWII.

Peszkowski was one of the Polish military officer captured during World War II, and was imprisoned in a concentration camp in Kozielsk, Russia, along with the others. He, too, was scheduled to shipped from the camp to the Katyn Forest, where all of the executions were performed. He was freed, though, before the last transport out of the camp departed. Only 400 officers in the camp survived.

Of the survivors, Peszkowski is the only one to become a priest. At the end of the war, he began studying at Oxford University in England before attending the Polish Seminary in Orchard Lake, Mich., the University of Wisconsin and the University of Detroit. He earned his bachelor’s degree in theology, master’s of divinity and a doctorate degree in philosophy. In 1954, he consecrated his life to the service of God, teaching pastoral theology, literature and other subjects.

He also felt that part of his calling was to be the spiritual leader for the families of those who were massacred in the Katyn Forest—a place he refers to as Golgatha East. Part of that effort, he says, is the recovery of the bodies.

Peszkowski’s published more than 100 books and articles on theology, literature, philosophy and history, including a recently released book, “Memoirs of a Prisoner of War in Kozielsk.”

In many ways, he says, what happened to the United States on Sept. 11 is not unlike what happened to his country on Sept. 17, 1939 when Russia invaded.

“[The United States is] now a victim of a terrorist act,” he says. “It touched you in such a powerful way. It was the same way with me and Poland. Russia came into Poland like terrorists, nothing else. They came in as so-called friends and just killed people. Three million people were killed. On March 13, 1940, they threw out 40,000 families. It was the biggest terrorist act in the history of mankind.

“I haven’t talked to the Holy Father about his thoughts on what happened in the United States,” he continued, “but his reaction is exactly what I expected. He immediately left everything he was doing and started to pray. Then, the next day, he didn’t allow any sound in the Vatican, none at all, and he ordered candles put in the windows, which is a sign of unity in Poland. In my opinion, he viewed what happened here as something worse than what happened in 1939, which started World War II.”

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Xavier Magazine

Student Search Goes Global

Lisa Wendel is going hunting on two continents this fall. Her prey: smart students. Armed with a passport and admission applications, the University’s director for international recruitment is spending two weeks in South America in Sept-ember, followed by a three-week, six-country jaunt to Asia. The excursions are part of the office of admission’s push to increase the Univer-sity’s cultural diversity. Currently, just 1.4 percent of Xavier students are from outside of the United States.

The office began targeting Latin American countries in 1999 as its inroads into international recruiting. The countries have a strong Catholic presence, but aren’t flooded with other universities competing for the top students. Last year, two of the 10 new international students enrolled as a direct result of the push; this year four new students can be traced to the efforts. The recruiting trip to Asia will be the University’s first formal recruiting effort there in at least 10 years.

While recruiting costs to such distant locales are greater than they are regionally, attracting one new student covers the expenses, says Wendel. Plus, the University gains in diversity and international exposure.

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Xavier Magazine

Nurses Get a Rocky Start

If a trip to Aspen, Colo., doesn’t cure whatever ails you, then perhaps a student nurse can. This summer, the department of nursing began a cooperative internship program with Aspen Valley Hospital in which two nursing students spend 10 weeks in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains learning the bumps and bruises of hospital life. If they do well, they’re offered jobs after graduation.

Department chair Susan Schmidt created the program along with Aspen Valley’s assistant administrator, Linda Karaus, a 1989 M.B.A. graduate. “We’ve been trying to get something like this set up with local hospitals but haven’t had any success,” says Schmidt. “I was talking to Linda at a cocktail party and she went back and put the whole thing together on their end in about a week.”

The hospital benefits because it gets first shot at hiring the best nursing students, says Schmidt. The University benefits because it has a great incentive to offer potential students. And the students benefit because, well, who wouldn’t want to live and work in Aspen?

Illustration by Dave Beck

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Xavier Magazine

Ill Children Reap What New Math Class Sew

The department of mathematics recently added to its bottom line. The course: women in mathematics. The class introduces various types of math by first studying different women mathematicians. Before studying modular systems, for instance, the students learned about Sarah Flannery, the 16-year-old Irish girl who used the system to invent a method of converting computer code that is 22 times faster than standard methods. “It was different,” says Sheila Doran, the associate professor of math who created the course. “We dealt with things the students could relate to and used real-life aspects of math instead of memorizing algebra rules or something and then moving on. And we worked really hard at not making it a history class, but a math class that had the added interest of history.” The class is geared toward those who traditionally struggle with math. It also offers the option of a rather untraditional final project—sewing a geometric quilt with a mathematics theme. When given the option of sewing or writing, much to Doran’s surprise, almost the entire class chose to make the quilts. After the quilts were graded, Doran donated them to Project Linus, a nonprofit group that provides security blankets to seriously ill children. The class is being offered again this fall. It immediately filled its 28 seats, and will be examined this winter to see if it can become a permanent offering.

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Xavier Magazine

Almost Ivy

Almost Ivy Xavier was named by The Wall Street Journal as one of the top 50 schools in the nation not in the Ivy League. The article deemed the schools “the new safety schools,” saying they were safe alternatives to the Ivies, yet still distinguished themselves from thousands of other universities around the country because of higher academic standards. “With competition soaring, colleges that top students used to consider backups have become as selective as the Ivies,” the article said. “[These are] where straight-A students are scrambling to get into now.” Among those joining Xavier as a “safety” school: Duke, Boston College, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin.

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Xavier Magazine

Center for Entertainment

The opening of the Cintas Center immediately made Xavier one of the area’s hot spots on the concert and lecture tours. Among the many high-profile events at the center this year were:

• Rap singer, community activist, actress and author Sister Souljah, who lectured on “Black History on a Predominantly White Campus” in February.

• Christian author Max Lucado, who closed out his national tour with a storytelling performance in March that was simulcast to 650 churches around the country.

• Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of MTV’s popular “Loveline” show, who spoke in March about alcohol and substance abuse, relationships, the necessity for instinct and integrity in making healthy decisions, and the need for edu-cating young people about issues challenging them today.

• Multifaceted singer Sarah Brightman, who christened the Cintas Center’s concert stage with a performance in March.

• “Saturday Night Live” come-dian Jimmy Fallon, who performed a stand-up routine and wide assortment of celebrity impressions in April.

• Pop groups Blessid Union of Souls and Fastball, who shared the stage in a high-energy concert in April.

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Xavier Magazine

Excuse Me?

When Diana Staab was a student in the early 1990s, she found herself in a position all too familiar to anyone who’s ever taken an exam—she knew the answer to a question, but no matter how hard she tried, she just couldn’t spit it out. So after a few minutes of brain beating, she got creative.

“The brain cell containing this answer is damaged,” she wrote in frustration in place of an answer. “The information is presently in transit to another location and cannot be accessed at this time.”

“I knew the answer, and I knew I knew the answer,” says Staab, now an academic advisor in the center for adult and part-time students. “But it was as though the information had slipped out of my memory bank. Too many withdrawals and not enough deposits, I suppose. Anyway, the minute my toes touched the sidewalk, the answer popped into my head. All I could do was laugh.”

Apparently, the professor did as well, giving Staab half-credit simply for the creativity of her answer. Typically, students aren’t given as much credit for their creativity as Staab, but they certainly try. When it comes to offering up excuses for missed questions, missed exams or failure to make it to class, students’ creative juices often flow wildly free. It’s an aspect of education that faculty everywhere deal with regularly, including those at Xavier.

Take, for example, the student who told her professor she missed a test because she was—seriously—kidnapped. When the professor asked her how she got free, the student said that she was let go because the kidnappers meant to capture her twin sister.

“Uh-huh,” the professor said. “And just how long will it take you to prepare for the make-up test?”

“Oh, I’m ready now,” she said. “When they kidnapped me, they let me bring my books so I could study.”

Considerate kidnappers. Go figure.

As it turns out, some excuses don’t die, they just get modernized. In the old days, it was the dog who ate the term paper. In today’s computer-dominated world, the excuses are much more high-tech, as one M.B.A. student proved when he told a professor why he didn’t turn in an assignment. “My wife and I are in the middle of a messy divorce,” he said, “and she reformatted the c-drive on my computer and wiped out my paper.”

Or, consider the message a professor received during her first year at the University. A call came from Kinko’s on the morning a 10-page paper was due. The Kinko’s employee had phoned the professor to tell her that one of her students came into the store to print her paper, but had problems with the computer disk. “That was the only time I had Kinko’s provide an excuse for a student,” the professor says.

Car problems are a common excuse. Twice, a professor recalls, he had students call and leave the message that they went out of town and couldn’t get back in time for a test because of weather or car trouble. “I’ll bet you can guess where the calls came from when I checked my caller ID,” he says.

An education professor recalls having two graduate students who were working for initial certification in elementary education call and leave a message that they were in an automobile accident and couldn’t make it to class. They were pretty shaken, they said, and didn’t think they could concentrate in class. Shortly after receiving the message, though, the professor left to run an errand and spotted the two walking up the hill to the main gate of campus. When she saw them the following week, they asked what they needed to do to make up the work they missed. Simply complete the activities, the professor said, and turn them in with a copy of the accident report.

“The accident report,” one of the students exclaimed. “Are you kidding?”

“No,” the professor responded. “The course requirements state missed assignments need a valid excuse. Besides, that shouldn’t be difficult since the drivers always get copies of accident reports.”

Stunned, the students confessed they skipped class because they had a tough exam to study for in the next class. “I had to laugh at that point,” the professor says now, “and tell them I’d seen them and wondered what the real reason was. Then, they really were embarrassed.”

Another education major was given an assignment to attend a school, observe and then teach. “I can’t do it,” he said. “I don’t get up that early.”

Student excuses aren’t always confined to the classrooms. When a hall director asked a student why he continually broke the dorm rules that prohibit drinking, the student compared himself to Jesus Christ. Jesus was a rebel and didn’t follow the rules of the time, the student explained, and he wanted to be more like Jesus. Maybe if he could turn water into wine, the excuse might be valid. Otherwise, it’s just another lesson in student creativity.

Illustraion by David Slonim

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Xavier Magazine

Uncertain Future for Schmidt Field House

When Schmidt Fieldhouse opened in 1928, it was a first-class facility far superior to those of many other colleges and universities. The University of Cincinnati played in a lesser building, McMicken Hall. So did the universities of Kentucky and Louisville. Schmidt held more than 3,000 fans, making it a big, raucous, intimidating place when the Musketeers were winning.

And the Musketeers won there a lot, beating visitors more than 70 percent of the time. They knocked off Cincinnati in the first game played there, in 1928. And they upset No. 2-ranked Louisville in 1956 while on their way to their second straight NIT appearance.

The quality and standards expected of today’s arenas, however, long surpassed those available at Schmidt, leaving the once-grand facility limited in its usefulness and, quite possibly, its life. With the Cintas Center now housing the department of athletics and the basketball and volleyball teams—and a limited supply of available real estate on campus—antiquated facilities such as Schmidt seem destined for destruction.

“Any plans involving Schmidt would probably also address the Armory and O’Connor Sports Center,” says Ron Slepitza, vice president for student development. “This would come as part of the next strategic plan, which isn’t in place yet. Clearly, the sports center needs to be evaluated, but we’ve done what we can for now, and it’ll probably be four or five years before anything else happens.”

“Something has to be done with O’Connor in the short term,” says Jim Ray, director for recreational sports, “and then we have to have a long-term plan for something new. The University needs to catch up and build a recreational facility that allows us to have a first-class retention and recruitment tool for students. It’s the same as with the athletes—students base part of their decision on where to attend on the facilities.”

The problem, though, is this: all three facilities are still used regularly by athletics, students, faculty, staff and outside organizations. Plus, no space exists to temporarily relocate everything while something new is built.

“What we have right now with Schmidt is the opportunity to do some things for sports besides basketball and volleyball,” says Mike Bobinski, director for athletics. “Men’s and women’s soccer were previously infringing upon recreational sports. Baseball was practicing in the Armory, and we’re lucky guys didn’t lose their lives in there with all the balls flying around. We’ve renovated the locker rooms and we’re making things better for our other sports.

“Whether Schmidt, in its current design, is the best place to accommodate them in the long run, I don’t know. As we move into the next planning cycle, I think the whole complex will receive attention. Does that mean tearing it down? I think it’s way too early to say. Maybe a complete gutting would be the answer.”

Given its history, it’s hard to imagine the building disappearing completely. It’s one of the oldest, most storied structures on campus—it was home to men’s basketball and graduation for more than 50 years, and women’s basketball for 29 years. But the University has many needs, and old buildings aren’t always accommodating to adaptation. “It’s lived a wonderful life,” says Ray, “but we need something new.”

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Xavier Magazine

Murder Proves Academic

Credit O.J. Simpson with creating some of the University’s most popular classes. The messy murders, dream-team lawyers and Inspector Clouseau-style police work brought to everyone’s attention the fascinating world of forensic science.

DNA testing, bullet and weapon breakdowns, organic and inorganic tissue analysis, fiber and hair testing, toxicology and blood studies—the little things that comprise the physical evidence now make up a specialized field of law enforcement. They’re also the subject of a three-course series of electives at Xavier—and some of the most popular courses on campus.

Although a forensic science class was first offered in 1981, it’s grown considerably since the O.J. case six years ago. Today, it’s a series of criminal justice classes taught in conjunction with the department of chemistry that feature daylong workshops led by experienced “participating faculty” like Phil Vannatter, the lead investigator with the Los Angeles Police Department in the O.J. case.

Class sizes are near 50 students and feature lengthy waiting lists. Only about half of the students are criminal justice majors, says Jack Richardson, who chairs the department. The rest come from other departments, drawn mostly by word-of-mouth accounts. What attracts the students is the fascinating, sometimes gory aspects surrounding a homicide, and the workshop speakers.

Some of the experts who have taught a workshop include:

• Clarence Caeser, the senior crime scene analyst for the Cincinnati Crime Lab and a graduate of the FBI school. The 68-year-old Caeser spent more than 40 years as a homicide detective;

• Daniel Shoenfelt, a graduate student and narcotics officer for the Cincinnati Police Division. He shows a surveillance video of a drug purchase and bust, and talks about topics like how methamphetamine labs are made from everyday products;

• Richardson’s wife, Marilyn, who has a master’s degree in molecular biology from Purdue and teaches about DNA and rape evidence analysis;

• Beth Murray, a forensic anthropologist who examines bones and badly decomposed bodies for evidence;

• David W. Jones, the Kentucky state medical examiner in Frankfort; and

• Jim Dibowski, a postal inspector and handwriting expert.

It was in the 1960s that physical evidence first surpassed eyewitness accounts of a crime to become the true identifier of guilt, says Richardson. Since then, major scientific discoveries involving physical evidence collection have come about. Now, forensic science impacts almost all of the areas that employ criminal justice majors—law enforcement, courts, corrections.

An example of the impact of forensics, says Richardson, is the Elwood Jones case. Jones was convicted of brutally murdering an elderly woman in a Blue Ash hotel in 1994. While he was beating her, though, she bit him. Four days later, Dr. Jack McDonough, a 1953 graduate and hand surgeon, examined Jones’ badly infected hand, which he claimed he had cut on a Dumpster. McDonough discovered the wound was actually a bite mark. At the same time, Pete Aldervecci, a longtime adjunct faculty member, was the chief investigator in the case, and had Jones’ home and car searched for evidence—blood, hair, fibers, anything—linking him to the murder.

The victim’s necklace was found hidden in Jones’ car, but what cinched the case was McDonough’s testimony and two pieces of forensic evidence discovered by the medical examiner: a facial bruise that matched Jones’ walkie-talkie, and a chest bruise that matched Jones’ boot sole.

“Forensic science begins at the crime scene,” says Richardson, “and cases are won and lost because of it.”

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