Xavier Magazine

Acting the Part

Bob Herzog grew up watching his father practice medicine. Patients, hospitals and medical jargon were an everyday part of life. So it seemed only natural for him to enter Xavier as a pre-med student. Then he had a chemical reaction.

“Sitting in organic chemistry it was like a bolt of lightning hit my head,” says the 1996 graduate. “I realized that I didn’t want to be a doctor and sit through this stuff. I didn’t have a passion for it.”

So he traded in his medical major for one in communications. A better fit to be sure for Herzog, who prefers interacting with people to poking and prodding them. But there was still something missing. “I hadn’t found a home yet,” he says. “Then I found it in theater.”

A shy boy growing up, Herzog first came out of his shell in high school when he did a stand-up comedy routine for a talent show. “That was how I got started,” he says. “It was great. I loved being in front of an audience and connecting with them. When you reach people on an emotional level, that’s special.”

He got his chance to rediscover that love and sense of belonging when he was cast as George, the lead in Xavier’s production of “Our Town.” He was hooked. After graduation he attended Chase College of Law. In between studying legal cases, though, he made time to squeeze in gigs such as commercials for Nike basketball and Papa John’s pizza, playing Lancelot in “Camelot” and King Arthur in “The Sword and the Stone,” and giving traffic updates as a reporter for a local television station’s morning news show.

During his final year at Chase, Herzog received his first big break. Another local television station, WB64, hired him to host the Saturday matinee movie lineup from noon to 6:00 p.m. “I come on during the commercial breaks and try to be funny and informative. It’s pretty neat to get to talk about the shows that are going to be on the WB that week.”

Meanwhile he’s waiting to hear the results of the bar exam he took this summer. But all that law education isn’t going to waste. In fact, it can be looked upon as research for his latest role as Horace Gilmer, the prosecuting attorney in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a joint production between the Xavier Players and the Cincinnati Children’s Theatre. Even though he plays a character that prosecutes an innocent man just because of his skin color, Herzog is savoring the role.

“Usually when I’m in a show I’m cast as the guy next door,” he says. “I was really excited to get the role of the prosecutor. Everyone thinks the same thing—the bad guy. But he’s just a guy of his time. The first couple of reads I wasn’t racist enough, and then I was too racist. Now it’s more of a natural part of the character.”

Herzog might take his entertainment experience to work in the industry as an agent. On the flip side, he says, he didn’t totally hate his real estate law courses. But as long as he keeps getting work as an actor, he’ll let his legal career wait in the wings. “I really want to pursue full-time television. My window for TV is a lot smaller than that to be a lawyer,” Herzog says. “But if nothing opens up for me then I’ll pursue a legal career.”

Xavier Magazine

Sculpting a New Life

Annie Swantko earned a bachelor’s degree in theology in 1982, so she knew the Biblical analogy about life being like clay—formable, functional, fragile. It wasn’t until after a horrible accident, though, that she came to truly understand about life and clay.

Shortly after earning an M.B.A. in 1988, Swantko’s car was hit by a truck. She spent the next three years in rehabilitation. Looking for something to keep her occupied, she began molding clay. Its malleability was therapeutic, and her sculpting skills helped open a new door for her—figuratively and literally. In 1996, she opened Annie’s Mud Pie Shop, a 78-square-foot pottery store in Cincinnati. Today, the shop’s 24,000 square feet and attracts about 200 students a week.

“I love the challenges of developing a small business,” she says. “I worked 80 hours a week for five years, but the opportunity to get your life back and define who you are gives you a strength you may not otherwise have had.”