Xavier Magazine

Letter from the Front Lines

(Editor’s note: Rick knew in high school that he would join the Army. He was a Junior ROTC cadet and enrolled in the ROTC program at Xavier as a freshman. He graduated from Xavier in May 2010 and is a fire support officer for C Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. Rick is deployed to Kunar Province, Afghanistan, and expects to return to his base at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, next April. He was a close friend of Michael Runyan, who was killed in Aghanistan three months after attending Rick’s wedding. Rick sent emails about his experiences to date.)

I went to William Henry Harrison High School in Evansville, Ind. There I joined the JROTC program about a month before 9/11 happened. I was always interested in the Army. My Dad and I are war movie junkies, so that is what I think sparked my interest. As I got closer to graduating high school, I learned more about XU and ROTC.

In JROTC you have no military commitment, but people always asked me if I was going to stick with it because of the war. I didn’t think of it that way. The war wasn’t my deciding factor for whether I was going to do ROTC, and I found it funny, odd, interesting, that people did think that way. I wanted to join the Army for the experience, excitement, adventure and to serve my country. Joining the Army was the best way to do all of those things.

When I graduated high school, I got accepted to XU. My Dad and I went to visit and we both fell in love with the campus and the people. I went in for my ROTC scholarship interview and was given one on the spot. That pretty much sealed the deal for me.

While I was at XU, I met my wife Liz. We both lived in Kuhlman Hall freshman year. We got married right after she finished her Master of Occupational Therapy, and she moved to Hawaii. She has done a great job making the adjustment to Army life. After being here for a little less than four months now, I see that the toughest job in the Army is
that of an Army wife. It takes a strong woman to successfully fill that role. It is something that I have learned over the last two years.

Michael Runyan was a year older than me, and I looked to him as a mentor and role model. My wife, Liz who is also a XU grad for both her graduate and undergraduate degrees, would always say that I was a lot like Mike, and that we even had the same initials. I heard about Mike’s death when I was stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Mike’s brigade was also stationed there.

It was an honor for me to serve with Mike both at XU and then again in the 25th Infantry Division. It is a bond that I will always share with him. To remember Mike’s sacrifice and what he meant to me, I wear a bracelet everyday with his name, unit, day he was killed in action (KIA), and American flag, and the 25th ID patch. It’s just a way to remind me about the sacrifice he made for me and millions of other people he will never meet.

I am the Fire Support Officer for my Company. That means I am the subject matter expert when it comes to artillery, mortars, close combat attack, which is controlling helicopters, and close air support, which is controlling fixed wing aircraft. I help plan
all of these things in support of my company’s maneuvers to give them more firepower. Back in the day, XU only commissioned field artillery officers, so there is a tradition of artillerymen coming out of XU, and I am proud to be part of that.

I have been very fortunate as an artilleryman because I have gotten to do my job quite a bit. We have shot hundreds of artillery and mortar rounds and have dropped dozens of bombs in support of our company. Looking on a tactical level, our mission is to secure a road that runs through our area of operation. Americans use the road to drive out and meet with the populace, do daily patrols and as a resupply route. The Afghans use it just as we use I-71. That is how they get to work, school, the market and to the larger cities in Afghanistan.

However, the bigger mission, and what we have been working on ever since we arrived in country in April 2011, is working with the Afghan National Security Force. We are trying to build up the soldiers and policemen, as well as their systems, so they will have the ability to sustain and protect themselves and the people of Afghanistan after we leave. It is a challenge because we are starting from scratch. Afghanistan has never had a central army or very organized national government to support an army.

Xavier Magazine

Sept. 11: A Look Back at Academic Day

The panel discussion on globalization was wrapping up. It had gone well, and James Buchanan, director of the Brueggeman Center for Dialogue, was excited about the possibilities for interdisciplinary teaching he wanted to explore with his Xavier colleagues. He envisioned a new course of study involving economics, theology, political science and environmental studies.

He closed with an astute observation: “Our future will either be characterized by monoculture, like McDonalds, or Jihad.” Of course, he was saying, it’s our choice how to move forward and embrace the opportunities that globalization can bring or we’ll end up with one of those two undesirable outcomes.

Then Roger Fortin, academic vice president and provost, came up to announce there had been a plane crash in New York. When he did, the mood of the whole day shifted.

The day was Sept. 11, 2001, and the first plane had just slammed into a tower at the World Trade Center. Michael J. Graham, S.J., was in his first year as Xavier’s president, and he had arranged for the University’s first Academic Day when classes are suspended and faculty take a day to concentrate on exploring new directions for academic offerings.

Ironically, the theme of the day was globalization, which was also one of the panel topics. The others were chaos and complexity theory, and community building.

“Not only was the president there, but also the chair of the Board of Trustees, Mike Conaton,” Fortin says. “Someone came up to me and said you should know there has been a crash in the World Trade Tower. All of a sudden a couple of televisions were put outside the Duff banquet room in the corridor where people could watch the event.”

Fortin told a few people in the room, including Graham, and then made the announcement to the gathering. They didn’t suspect then that it might be a terrorist attack, but when he was notified of the second plane crash, Fortin says, “we began to conjecture it was something sinister.”

Adjustments were made to the day’s programming in lieu of canceling. People were offered the opportunity to go home. Most stayed. There were prayers as the day wore on and moments for people to reflect on their sorrow and sadness. The group grew closer, Buchanan says, and became a community.

“There was a sense of solidarity that day,” Fortin says.

“We decided to make it very respectful, and it took on a different tone and moved away from the agenda. We couldn’t ignore what was going on, so we began talking about it and tried to connect what was happening outside to what was being discussed inside. It ended on a kind of dark note, but people commented on the fact that it was good we were all together and united in prayer and remembrance.”

Marco Fatuzzo, professor of physics, said it was difficult to focus on his panel, chaos and complexity, which convened after lunch. And the audience had trouble paying attention to the topic. “It was like an out of body experience,” he says. “I could see in the people’s faces this was not what they were thinking about.”

But the connection between the terrorist events in New York and his panel’s discussion about what happens to systems when the unexpected occurs did not go unnoticed, Fatuzzo says. It was, unfortunately, a perfect example.

Later, as Fortin returned to his office, he got a call from the wife of one of his best friends. Robert Jalberts and Fortin had gone to high school together growing up in Maine. She told him that Robert had been on the second plane.

While Jalbert’s death was a terrible blow, Fortin says the family turned it into a positive outcome when they used their settlement money to set up the Robert Jalbert Endowed Scholarship fund of $250,000 to help students from their high school attend Xavier. The first of those students graduated in May. Another three began as freshmen this fall.

“It’s very meaningful to the family because now they have their father’s memory,” Fortin says.

On the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11, people seem more aware of the responsibilities involved in managing a global community, he says.

“9/11 is a vivid reminder that we are living in a global community, so for globalization to be the first topic (of Academic Day) is symbolically reflected in what 911 is all about,” Fortin says. “It is a reminder of the complexity and of some of the sinister aspects of globalization—that evil can be at our door more immediately than ever in our history.”

All the more reason that Xavier should create a course that looks at all aspects of globalization. Poli Sci 316 does just that. This interdisciplinary examination of the political, cultural, economic, theological and ethical dimensions of globalization is team-taught by faculty from economics, political science and theology, and includes invited guest lecturers from the U.S. and abroad.

“Globalization,” says Buchanan, “is now the most interdisciplinary course on campus.”

Xavier Magazine

Sept. 11- A Personal Reflection

(Editor’s note: Rabbi Abie Ingber is founding director of the Center for Interfaith Community Engagement) 

In February of this year, I conducted a special diversity education session for a colleague with high school educators from the Greater Cincinnati area. I had assembled a team of five panelists from among the student leadership of the Interfaith Community Engagement initiative at Xavier University. The students represented diverse faith, cultural and ethnic traditions including Jewish, Hispanic, African American, Hindu and Muslim. Each offered brief vignettes from their high school and formative educational years. The students were erudite and able to present difficult moments with great humor. The Muslim student shared a story of a high school teacher who had failed even to acknowledge her faith. The two of them chanced to be walking out of the school at the same time just before the winter vacation. “You’re Muslim aren’t you?” said the teacher. The Muslim student nodded. “Then have a Happy Hanukkah,” he said.

At the session, a number of the teachers kept pushing for ‘take-homes.’ As we neared the end, I suggested they would be best served integrating their 3:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. lives with their 7:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. lives. “Live your after-school hours just as you teach during your classroom hours and you will find even greater meaning when you return to the classroom the next morning,” I offered. One teacher asked for an example. Some of the earlier questions about what we had learned from 9-11 were still ringing in my mind, so I shared the following personal story.

“On Sept. 11, when the airplanes hit, all I wanted was to be with my daughters. The next day, coming back to work I noticed the new Middle Eastern restaurant that had just opened a few doors from my office. I walked over to warn the new owner, a Palestinian, of the possibilities of hateful repercussions from the attacks. I entered, introduced myself to Kallid, the owner, and explained that some people might lash out against him and his Middle Eastern eatery. I told him that if someone entered intending to do him, his workers or his restaurant harm, he should leave the dangerous situation immediately and quickly come to my Jewish Center for protection. When he asked why I was doing this, I replied that no one had done it for my parents (who were Holocaust survivors). I gave him my business card signed “to my friend Kallid.” He was visibly touched and I returned to my office, hoping his situation would not deteriorate.

“A few days later, one of my Jewish students asked why my business card was displayed in the front window of the new Arab restaurant. I did not understand, so I went up to the restaurant to see for myself. My business card was indeed taped to the inside of the window, exactly as my student said. Kallid apparently felt that the card of friendship from a Rabbi might deflect some of the venom directed at him and had placed it as somewhat of a protective amulet in his front window. It stayed there for years.”

When this story was finished, I thanked our panelists and the assembled educators. As my students and I were leaving, my Muslim student told me she was so excited she almost interrupted my story. “Rabbi, my mother worked in that restaurant. I remember for weeks she kept telling our family of a Rabbi who had come into the restaurant and offered his protection for our safety. This Rabbi was a hero in our home and I never knew who he was,” she replied.
It was a tearful hug of incredible holy proportions. Ten years had flown by until a magical Xavier reunion. Perhaps 9-11 didn’t change us only for the worse.

Xavier Magazine

Sept. 11- 10 Years Later

(Editor’s note: James Buchanan is director of the Brueggeman Center for Dialogue at Xavier.)

In the days and weeks immediately following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we all experienced a range of intense emotions. From the initial shock, we moved through sadness, grief and fear to confusion and anger. Some of us thought that this great national tragedy needed to be a time to begin a new process of reflection about America and a new conversation about our past and our future, and about the values upon which those should be founded. The prayer services and dialogue sessions which began in earnest in those days quickly faded as the country set itself on a course of justice, which too often resembled revenge, embarking on a new “war on terror,” which has led us to Afghanistan and Iraq and finds us engaged in the impossible task of nation-building all over the world. After 10 years, we are emotionally, spiritually and financially exhausted, we feel less secure than ever and we know that American values, leadership and prestige are in question, if not under full-scale attack, all around the globe.
It is time to begin a new national conversation—the one which we should have begun 10 years ago but for which we clearly were not ready. These are precarious days for the United States. Economically, we face a situation that, regardless of what the politicians of every party tell us, has no real fix, at least not one that we have yet found. Business as usual will not solve our problems this time because they are too deep and too systemic. Both the market and the government seem to be wholly corrupted by greed and power. How do we turn to either? What we know is that the middle class is suffering the brunt of the economic downturn; our cities are decaying; our families and communities are disintegrating. Samuel Huntington’s prediction of a “clash of civilizations” seems to be coming true, even if not as he predicted. The U.S. faces the challenges of China on the one hand and the Muslim world on the other. The developing countries are rightly demanding to be heard and to have equal opportunity. Many choose to believe that 9/11 had mostly to do with religion. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was about the use of religion in profoundly non-religious ways and for non-religious purposes. 9/11 was not about religion, it was about a global political and economic struggle that we are right in the middle of. We all feel this deep sense that we are in a time of seemingly unending crisis. Clearly it is time for a new conversation.

Out of crisis comes hope because it is in times of crisis that we are driven to the struggle of discovering again what we truly hold to be of value. What is the United States and who are we as Americans? How do we honor America’s commitment to religious liberty and pluralism?  How do we balance our democratic aspirations and our economic aspirations? What should America’s role and character in the world be? Have we lost the sense of who we really are?

It is time to come back home and look inwardly, to discover those core values that will renew our communities and ourselves. Instead of responding to this period of crisis and stress with the strained and shrill voices of ideology and hatred, we need to find that national voice that strives to speak as “we the people.” We need to talk about and revel in the diversity of our nation, not use that diversity as a cause for fear and bigotry. We need to have a serious conversation about the relationship between liberty and security—liberty for all and security for all—and the sacrifices we, each of us, are willing to make to ensure both. We need to be in serious, constructive dialogue with China, the Muslim world and the developing South, we need them as partners not adversaries. We need to figure out how to transform the “clash” of civilizations into a collaboration of civilizations. All of this demands a new global conversation, but first it demands a new national conversation.

The sad truth is that we no longer have a national conversation; we have a national shouting match. A shouting match in which no one listens, no minds are ever changed and all that seems to result from the shouting is more strident ideology and greater divisions. So before we can really have a national conversation about what is of real value to our country and to our lives, we first have to commit to even having a national conversation. We have to be willing to risk our presuppositions and our prejudices. We have to be open to the possibility of being transformed by such a conversation. We have to listen.

Ten years after, let’s use this moment to begin anew, to commit to a new conversation, to honor this most significant moment of our past by reflecting deeply upon our values, our identity and our hopes for the future.

Xavier Magazine

Of God and Grizzly

We’re halfway up the hillside when we first see the footprints. Grizzly bear. The dirt around the edges of the prints is still loose, not compacted by the recent rain, meaning the tracks are fresh. Meaning the bear is here. Somewhere. Somewhere close.

Your senses tend to sharpen in the wilderness.  Your vision gets clearer.  You smell the pines, the mud, the decaying leaves.  You hear sounds that otherwise wouldn’t register. Your senses tend to sharpen even more when there’s a grizzly bear nearby.  Your heart also tends to beat just a little bit faster.

“The Forest Service says you should wear a bell or talk or make noise so a bear will hear you and run away,” says Leon Chartrand, our group’s leader. “That’s exactly what we’re not going to do.”

We continue up the hill, slowly, stopping frequently to search for other signs—broken twigs, snagged fur, scat. As we emerge from the woods into a clearing, Chartrand puts an end to the search. We have, he determines, reached our classroom. Priorities prevail.

[lightbox link=””]41[/lightbox]Chartrand is a visiting professor of theology and is leading 12 of us—10 undergraduate and two graduate students—in a theology course through the wilds of Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. The course’s focus is on experiencing nature as primary sacred and sacramental reality, something that isn’t going to happen sitting in Alter Hall.

He pulls the group together and explains the day’s lesson, then sends us out to private spots in the area to craft a daily reflection paper. In more Jesuit terms, we are trying to find God in all things, and for the moment, at least for me, that thing remains the grizzly bear.

After a few minutes of trying to focus on the day’s lesson, my eyes and mind begin to wander up the still-uncharted hillside to the top of a ridge, where the bear is. I have to know what’s beyond it, so that’s where I go. I put down my notebook, pick up my backpack and begin walking up the hill.

The ridge, I discover, opens up to a large, open field dotted with patches of trees. Fresh bear scat litters the ground. Nothing stands between me and the woods that continue about 100 yards to the north. I stand there at the edge of the field, alone. I feel open, exposed, vulnerable. I look around but can’t see anything. But I can sense it. The bear is here. Somewhere. Watching. Watching me.


Grizzly bears have a notoriously ruthless and arguably unfair reputation. They tolerate wolves (and are mutually tolerated) but otherwise have no real enemies except for man. Mostly, they are solitary creatures that avoid contact with humans. The occasions where bears attack people are almost always for defensive purposes, either of themselves, their cubs or food. Our failed relationship came about not because bears started infringing upon our territory, but because we infiltrated theirs.

In the early 1900s, nearly 100,000 grizzly bears roamed the lower 48 states. Today, the number is reduced to less than 1,000.  The 2.6-million acre Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park corridor in Wyoming’s northwest corner is as far south as the bear now roams. The numbers are higher and healthier in Alaska and the mountainous areas of  Western Canada, but even those numbers—estimated at 30,000—are only a fraction of what they once were.

[lightbox link=″″]fleming1[/lightbox]

Seeking solitude or pursuing profit, we started building homes in the woods or at the edges of mountains, which brought with it an open invitation for unwelcome encounters. And encounters have happened. Chartrand can bear witness to that. While researching his doctoral dissertation, he served as bear biologist for five years for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, trapping, relocating or—in the case of those bears who became conditioned to believe that food could be found near humans—euthanizing them.

At one point, as we drove through Grand Teton National Park, he pointed out a home that a bear broke into and caused extensive damage as it rummaged for food. Among its take, he says, was a bowl of Jolly Rancher candy. After trapping the bear, the homeowners started feeling remorse, knowing the animal was facing death. They started questioning if it was the right bear, hoping Chartrand would relocate it instead of kill it. Knowing bears don’t change their habits and can be dangerous if they no longer fear humans, Chartrand had to wait another 12 hours until the bear emptied its bowels, at which point he positively identified it by the undigested plastic candy wrappers in its scat. The proof was in the pooping.

For those like Chartrand, though, the bear isn’t something to be feared, but to be respected and, in some ways, awed. That’s how he felt after his first encounter with a bear while backpacking in Glacier National Park. There was no confrontation, just a revelation. “Things made sense to me,” he says. “My place in the world. My sense of connectedness to the land. The sense that the world is much bigger than my ability to understand. It was a transformative moment.”

Now, his goal is to share that same feeling with others, to show the correlation between ecology and theology. So he teaches.

“To put it into a theological perspective, consider that we’ve long identified the notion of The Holy,” he says. “Two characteristics associated with The Holy are fear and fascination. Interestingly, there’s a correlation between the fact that people are drawn toward bears because of fear and fascination.”

[lightbox link=””]07[/lightbox]


While my classmates continue to spend their time reflecting, I stand silently, still searching for the bear. There’s something inexplicable about its presence that has captured me, beyond, even, all of the other experiences the course has brought.

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” wrote Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins back in 1918. To most, the phrase is a piece of poetry. To the Jesuits, it is a mantra. To those of us trekking through the Tetons and wilds of Yellowstone, it is a self-evident truth.

Throughout the week we paused for times of meaning and reflection alongside rushing rivers, at the shores of glacier-fed lakes and atop mountains. We encountered bald eagles, bison and blue heron. We watched carefully as a coyote strode past just a few feet away. We examined the skeletal remains of two young elk that offered a reminder that peril and beauty live side by side in nature. We saw towering waterfalls and boiling mud pits and snow-covered woods.

On our first day we paused in a clearing littered by the still-charred trunks of lodgepole pines felled by a forest fire in 1988. Lodgepole pines are an interesting species. Their seeds can only be opened by extreme heat, meaning the only way the trees regenerate is if the previous generation is destroyed by fire. Its life, in other words, can only be revealed through death. Grandeur, indeed.[lightbox link=””]25[/lightbox]

Consider the tree, we were told as we sat among the pines. What do you see when you look at a tree? Its leaves, its branches, its bark. What don’t you see? Its roots, the nutrients flowing through its trunk, the fact that it takes in carbon dioxide and gives off oxygen. Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there or not vital to its existence.

Cannot the same argument be made for the existence of God?

To be conscious about something is to be aware of it, no matter if it’s the inner workings of a tree, the fragility of the wildflowers or, really, the existence of God. Must we always see to believe? Might being in the presence of something be sacred enough?

[lightbox link=””]10[/lightbox] Thomas Berry, a Passionate priest and one of the most brilliant minds in the field of eco-theology, once wrote about a similar revelation he had about nature and religion—not with the mountains or woods of  Yellowstone but of a simple Midwestern meadow. “Religion, it seems to me, takes its origin here in the deep mystery of this setting,” he says. “The more a person thinks of the infinite number of interrelated activities that take place here, the more mysterious it all becomes. The more meaning a person finds in the Maytime blooming of the lilies, the more awestruck a person might be in simply looking out over this little patch of meadowland.”

The problem, he says, is that we are cast into our urban jungles where towering buildings create concrete canyons. We are overwhelmed by eye pollution generated by neon signs, by ear pollution caused by screaming cars and by nose pollution caused by the belching smokestacks of industry. We live in many different worlds and, unfortunately, none of them teach us how to read the book of nature. It’s become a lost skill.[lightbox link=””]46[/lightbox]

“We live in a political world, a nation, a business world, an economic order, a cultural tradition, a Disney dreamland,” Berry says. “We live in cities, in a world of concrete and steel, of wheels and wires, a world of unending work. We seldom see the stars at night or the planets or the moon. Even in the day we do not experience the sun in any immediate or meaningful manner.

“We have silenced too many of those wonderful voices of the universe that spoke to us of the grand mysteries of existence. We no longer hear the voices of the rivers, the mountains or the sea. The trees and meadows are no longer intimate modes of spirit presence. The world about us has become an ‘it’ rather than a ‘thou.’”


Time is turning and the sun isn’t far from setting. Dusk and dawn are the two most active times for bears, and despite our previous disregard for Forest Service recommendations about making noise, leading a group of college students down the side of a mountain after dark with bears in the area is fraught with too many liabilities. Wiser heads prevail.

As the others start back down the hill and onto the next lesson, I turn back one last time, giving the area a final scan, hoping—praying—that I might see the bear. Still, nothing. Disappointed and perhaps a little disheartened, I slowly rejoin the group and head back down the hill as well.

One of the funny things about life that I’ve learned, though, is that the obvious isn’t always obvious at the moment. Often time is needed to reveal what isn’t seen in the moment. Sometimes reflection. Perhaps prayer.

As the night comes upon us and the next day dawns, the openness of the field and the presence of the bear keeps replaying in my mind. Where was the bear? Why didn’t it reveal itself?

Then the revelation hits:  The time spent tracking the bear up the hillside and searching for it in the open field wasn’t at all a disappointment. In fact, it was just the opposite. It was perhaps the most meaningful and educationally enlightening part of the entire journey. It pulled together all the elements of the class—man and nature, fear and fascination, God and grizzly. Nothing, in fact, could have been more theological.

Like the bear, God leaves his footprints everywhere for us to follow. It’s up to us to awaken our senses, to look for the signs, to see them. And they always lead us to a place where He is. But, like with the bear, that doesn’t always mean we will recognize the encounter or receive our visual desire. We can stand there, open, exposed, looking—praying—that we will see God. But, all too often, nothing. So, disappointed and perhaps a little disheartened, we move on, missing the mystery and meaning of the moment. That God is there. Somewhere. Watching. Watching us.

Xavier Magazine

Home Time

It took a year and a half. That’s all.

On Dec. 16, 2009, the Board of Trustees approved the building of a new residence hall and dining complex as a means of addressing the growing number of students on campus. A month later, bonds were issued to finance the project and on March 3, 2010, demolition of homes on the site took place and construction actually began.

On Aug. 19, 2011—a mere 17 months since construction began—the doors to the second largest building on Xavier’s campus opened. The time—or lack thereof—it took to build the 245,000-square-foot complex, the second largest building on Xavier’s campus, is only one of the interesting numbers that come with the building.

Dining Hall
700 seats
155 tables
12 booths
8 leather armchairs
6 TVs
2,100 forks
1,800 plates
1,392 knives
864 bowls
360 coffee mugs
100 pizzas baked per day in the stone-hearth oven, which cooks at 500 degrees and is so massive it had to be intalled early becuase it would not fit through any of the doors.
125 flavors available in the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines, allowing students to mix and match varieties through touch-screen buttons.
300 hamburgers grilled per day
300 cookies baked per day

Residence Hall
4 buildings, which are independent but connected through common areas
108 suites, a combination of four-person and six-person
18 suites that are fully ADA compliant
12 washing machines, which send an email when the load is finished
535 beds
125 bathrooms

6,500 electrical outlets (13,000 plugs)
3,500 gallons of paint used to cover the rooms
60,000 cubic yards of concrete poured to build the complex
2.4 million pounts of reinforced steel integrated into the structure
35,000 square feet of window glass
158,400 bricks in the paver walkways
840 cubic yards of topsoil atop the green roof
140 tons of sand underneath all of that topsoil to allow drainage
437 lawn sprinklers

Xavier Magazine

Inside the Vault

Prior to his Xavier speech, LaVaughn Henry, vice president and senior regional officer for the Cincinnati Federal Reserve Bank, offered a reporter a rare insider’s tour of the Fed bank vault.

This isn’t the sanitized version provided to school kids, who only get to peer through one bulletproof glass window far removed from the actual action. This tour goes inside the vaults—many, many rooms, with many, many nice gentlemen who could be named Smith and Wesson.

There’s enough money here to make Ebenezer Scrooge blush. Stacks of $20 bills tower toward the ceilings. Trolley carts are loaded down with heavy bags of coins. The only thing missing is gold bullion, and who knows, that could well be here, too. The 30 minutes spent inside the vaults only covers about half the rooms. Many are sealed.

An airtight Plexiglas tank sits off to the side in one part of the vault area, half filled with “reject” money. “That’s the stuff that came in contaminated,” said one worker. “It can be the sensors detected blood on the bills or something else.”

For the contaminated bills, it’s off to a one-way trip to a local crematorium. The rest of the aging, torn or counterfeit money is “disposable income,” shredded on-site.

The new money to replace all this “unfit” currency is hauled in directly from the Bureau of Engraving. Old money out, new money in.

In the old days, if any given bank ran out of hard cash on hand, it immediately closed its doors to the public — not exactly sending a sound message of stability to customers, even though the bank likely could obtain more hard dollars within a few days. The Federal Reserve, founded in 1913 by an act of Congress, is there to make sure the hard cash is available within hours.

All this shuffling of bills back and forth has become a necessary gear in the clockwork of the American financial system. The Fed was the nation’s first central bank, though its mission has since expanded into fostering a healthy economy through interest policy.

As the official In Plain English: Making Sense of the Federal Reserve brochure, states: “Reserve banks are the decentralized components of the Fed’s structure, meaning that they operate independently.

“Reserve banks are often called the ‘banker’s banks’ because they store commercial banks’ excess currency and coins. … Each Reserve bank also has its own board of directors.”

Back in the executive suite, just down the hall from the Fed cafeteria, an associate of Henry’s shows off a virtual money museum on the walls—currency dating back a century, to the days when they engraved the words “Dayton” or “Cincinnati” on fresh $20 bills, so everyone knew where they were originally issued. A circular stone “yap” imported from a Pacific island, a full foot in diameter, is displayed as the earliest known form of currency.

From his executive office, the Fed-head can overlook the Cinergy building directly across the street, with its fantastic panorama of rusty air vents and four steaming furnace units on the roof. “Yes, indeedy, it’s quite a view,” joked Henry.

It’s safe to say that relatively few people get into his office, buried as it is far inside the stronghold that is the Cincinnati Fed. Multiple armed guards in the lobby put visitors through the paces—metal detectors, identification checks—long before a floor pass and security swipe card can even be issued. And don’t even ask for a map of the building. Not that you’ll have much need for directions, since you’re never without an “escort”—or two or three on some floors.

Xavier Magazine

In Memoriam: George Wilson

Former Xavier football player George Wilson Jr., who went on to become a rookie phenom of the 1966 Miami Dolphins, died on Aug. 6 at the age of 68 of throat cancer. A native of Detroit, Wilson initially attended the University of Notre Dame on a football scholarship but transferred to Xavier after beer was found in his room.

A graduate of the Class of 1966, Wilson earned his Bachelor of Science in physical education. He was a second-string player on the football team from 1964-1966, was a member of the Detroit Club and the Economics Club, and participated in intramural sports.

Wilson began his professional career in the American Football League as a back-up quarterback, playing under his father, George Wilson Sr. The Dolphins were 0-5 when Wilson started, and he helped the team to two of their three victories, defeating Denver 24-7 in Miami and Houston 20-13, the team’s first road win. These two spectacular wins showed off his impressive passing game, including 67-yard and 80-yard touchdowns, which added to Wilson’s pass-completion percentage of 58 and earned him recognition as the sixth overall best passer in the league. He was also the league’s third-ranking punter, with an average of 44 yds. per kick.

However, the surprise success was short-lived. A shoulder injury in his second game caused Wilson’s stats to plummet. At the end of the season, his father traded him to Denver where he was cut three days later. Wilson then played in the Canadian Football League before signing with the Pottstown Firebirds, a minor league team in Pennsylvania. He ended his professional career in 1969.

Wilson lived across the country and worked various jobs, including as an investment broker in south Florida and selling real estate in Michigan, before retiring to Weeki Wachi, Fla., in 2004.

Read more about Wilson’s life in the St. Petersburg Times and about his 1966 season in Time Magazine.

Xavier Magazine

In Memoriam: Bill Jones

William “Bill” Jones, a longtime Xavier professor of philosophy who was respected and loved by both students and peers, died on Jan. 13 at the age of 68. Jones joined the Xavier faculty in 1969 after earning bachelor’s degrees in Latin and philosophy from Marquette University. After completing a Doctor in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame, he was promoted to assistant professor in 1970 and was granted tenure in 1973.

In 1987, Jones earned an MBA at Xavier, which helped strengthen the philosophy department’s offerings in business ethics. Having the highest degree of education in these two fields, Jones fused the two disciplines into a single class that was so popular that every class was filled before the first day of class registration ended.

Jones was recognized with the Teacher of the Year Award in 1973 and the Outstanding Faculty Service Award in 1976. He went on to chair the Faculty Committee in 1977 and 1982. Beyond the awards and honors, the true testament to Jones’s character was the respect he engendered from his students, as reflected in a remark one student made before his retirement.

“Dr. Jones was the best teacher I had in my four years being here. He was smart, compassionate, and a good person. Xavier University benefits 100 percent from having Dr. Jones. I would be upset if anything ever happened to him. At times he was a teacher, friend and even a father figure.”

Jones retired in 2008 after 39 years at Xavier and lived at home with his wife, Betsy. in Cincinnati.


Xavier Magazine

A Storied Career

The best thing that ever happened to Thomas Hoobler was the day his boss—the nun in charge of the school where he taught—called him into her office. “We’ve had complaints about your hair,” she said.

Hoobler was stunned. It really wasn’t that long. It was clean and combed. Besides, this was the early 1970s and longer hair was the fashion. It didn’t matter. She told him to get it cut. Hoober had a decision to make. “I was thinking, Maybe Cincinnati isn’t the place for me.”

Hoobler put his teaching career behind him and moved to New York where his career—and his life—took off. “I met the woman who would be my wife and collaborator and partner the rest of my life,” he says. Together, Tom and Dorothy Hoobler began a team-writing career that has reached about 90 books to date, including a lot of juvenile fiction and, most recently, more adult-oriented, richly researched historical narratives.

[Check out all of Hoobler’s books]

Their most recent book, The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft and Detection, traces the rise of crime in late-19th century Paris and includes a story about the little-known theft of the “Mona Lisa” from the Louvre in 1911. The story caught the attention of Vanity Fair magazine, which printed an excerpt. Its movie rights have also been optioned.

The book also delves into the cutting-edge crime scene investigative techniques—mug shots, crime scene photos—developed by Alphonse Bertillon, the head of the Paris police investigative unit. Juicy stuff, just the kind of thing the Hooblers love to dig into—together. Dorothy coordinates the research, sending Thomas to different libraries to follow interesting threads they trip over. He does most of the fiction writing, she does most of the non-fiction. One writes the first draft, the other does the rewrite. The trading continues until they’re ready to send it to the publisher. “I tease people and say we have a word processor with twin keyboards,” he says.

Hoobler’s interest in writing is rooted in his love of reading—and in his father’s printing business in Cincinnati. By age 9, he was proofreading the calendars produced in his father’s shop, and by eighth grade he’d started a school newspaper. Today, he and Dorothy squirrel away in the cluttered office they’ve carved out in their rent-controlled apartment on the west side of Manhattan where they’ve lived since 1973. It’s where they raised their daughter and where they keep digging deep into history, always searching for that next great story. After all, he says, “History has all the best stories.”