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Buenger Foundation

On a wet, chilly Thursday morning in January, about 500 Catholic school teachers, principals and administrators gather on campus to take part in an unprecedented effort to elevate teaching and learning in Cincinnati’s Catholic elementary schools. They’ve come to hear David O’Brien, an authority in Catholic education from College of the Holy Cross, speak on the future of Catholic education. His focus is on the elementary schools, which are, for the most part, the beginnings of the Jesuit university system.

“We stand at a crossroads in American Catholic history,” he says. “Your voice has to be heard. We need to get back to a strong sense that everyone has responsibility for our schools.”

His talk is a small part of a unique program created by a $2 million gift from the Clement and Ann Buenger Foundation that focuses on building better Catholic schools in southwest Ohio. The core of the five-year program is offering free continuing education to Catholic elementary school teachers and administrators in the region.

So far, 110 educators from 21 area schools are taking the courses that go well beyond the typical professional development programs that generally last a semester or, in some cases, a day. The year-long graduate-level courses are carefully prepared and tailored to meet the unique characteristics of Catholic school environments. Education courses in math, science and executive leadership are the primary focus, although teachers who want to be principals can earn a master’s degree in Catholic school administration.

The response to the program is—as it is with O’Brien—enthusiastic. “He made me proud to be part of it and to be responsible for carrying on,” says Alma Joesting, principal of St. Lawrence School in Cincinnati. “Even with the declining numbers of priests, declining enrollment and rising costs, I’ve got a sense we’re on the right track because our parish schools meet regularly about what can be done.”

The program is expected to provide Catholic school teachers and administrators the additional education they need to improve the quality of their teaching skills and prepare them to be the next generation of Catholic school leaders.

“The members of the Buenger Foundation are very much interested in making it possible for Catholic schools to continue to enrich their educational programs,” says Ann Buenger, director of the foundation. “We believe that together, Xavier and the Archdiocesan school office can make a powerful impact.”

Those studying math, science or executive leadership attend class on campus monthly and during summer sessions, taking a new course each of their three years. Those studying toward a Master of Education degree spend two years on campus. During the initiative’s final two years, selected master teachers go into the schools to work with and mentor the teachers and administrators who attended class at Xavier. They, in turn, can mentor other teachers in their schools.

The schools selected for the program were eager to participate because the opportunity for professional development eludes most Catholic school teachers, whose modest salaries are usually below their public school counterparts. Participating teachers and principals taking professional development courses earn three credit hours and a $1,000 to $1,300 stipend each year. Those in the master’s degree program earn 15 credit hours and $1,000 per year. Each participating school also receives $1,000 a year for math and science materials.

“From what I’ve seen, this is probably the most significant effort to improve Catholic education that has ever occurred in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati,” says Mike Flick, director for the Xavier center for educational excellence. Known as X-CEED, the professional development office for educators is coordinating the initiative.

Those expected to gain the most from the investment, however, are the students in the region’s Catholic schools.

“The principals and teachers selected to participate in the Initiative for Catholic Schools will bring what they learn back to their schools and classrooms, directly benefiting the 53,500 students who attend our schools,” says Brother Joe Kamis, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Cincinnati Archdiocese.

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Xavier Magazine

Ticket Tent

Xavier basketball tickets are in hot demand. So hot, in fact, that seven students pitched tents outside of the Cintas Center ticket office and braved near-zero temperatures for two and a half days in January to get tickets to the game against Temple University. In an effort to make the best of their minimal accommodations, though, the students got creative: They plugged an extension cord into a nearby electrical outlet and set up space heaters, an Xbox and a DVD player.

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Soccer Scores

The University gave its soccer programs a boost this winter when it hired two full-time head coaches. Alvin Alexander took over the women’s team after spending the past two years as the top assistant at the University of Notre Dame, helping guide the Fighting Irish to the 2004 national championship. He is the first African-American head coach in Xavier history. Former coach Ron Quinn stepped down after 12 years to concentrate on his role as director of the University’s sports studies program.

The University also hired alumnus Dave Schureck to lead the men’s team. Schureck, a 1995 graduate, replaces Jack Hermans, who resigned after 14 years. Schureck was a four-year starter in goal for Hermans. He spent the last eight years at the University of Dayton, the last five as its head coach where he won nearly 70 percent of his Atlantic 10 games and led the team into the conference tournament four times.

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Rife’s End

Despite being one of the most successful sports at the University, the rifle program was discontinued due to budget cuts. Xavier was one of just 18 schools nationally with a men’s and women’s varsity rifle program. Under head coach Alan Joseph’s guidance, the program produced 51 All-Americans and two Olympians. It qualified for the NCAA Rifle Championship every year since 1990 and was one of only two teams to finish in the top five in that event each of the last five years.

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Hoff Honor

Former President James E. Hoff, S.J., joined an elite group when the University retired a jersey in his honor prior to the game against a fellow Jesuit institution, Creighton University, where Hoff was previously a senior administrator. Hoff is the only non-player to have a jersey retired, joining Jo Ann Osterkamp Henderson, David West, Tyrone Hill and Byron Larkin. During his 10-year tenure as president, Hoff created the vision and raised the funds for the Cintas Center and oversaw growth in the athletic programs.

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Making Waves

In the interim just before daybreak—the neutral ground between night owls and early birds—members of the Xavier crew team stagger out of warm beds, rubbing sleep from their eyes as they trek across the silent campus toward Bellarmine Chapel. At 5:00 a.m. they pile into vans for a 45-minute ride to East Fork Lake, where the blue light of dawn begins to glitter on the water’s surface.

A troop of eight gently lifts one of the long, thin sculls from its blocks, hoisting the fiberglass shell onto their shoulders. In a carefully choreographed routine, a coxswain guides them down a shadowy path to the lake’s edge where they step precariously into the water until they’re hip-deep in the murky waves.

The rowers heave themselves into the boat and slowly pull away from shore, the coxswain barking orders from the stern. Blades rip through the water, propelling them forward. Power travels though each part of the body—feet and thighs, stomach and back, arms and shoulders—as they perform drills and scrimmage against each other’s boats. Meanwhile, the sun peaks over the horizon, illuminating the cool mist rising from the water.

They eventually row back to land, their bodies dripping with sweat and backsplash. After tucking away the boats, they fight rush hour traffic on their return. By 7:45 a.m. they’ve slipped back onto campus, unnoticed as usual.

“A lot of people don’t even know about the crew team,” says former president Kevin Gravett, a 2004 graduate.

Despite its anonymity, last year’s team included 32 men and women and received the most funding of the 17 active clubs under the University’s club sports program. Seasonal budget requests have come close to $40,000—rugby, the second most expensive club sport, only receives between $10,000 and $12,000 a year. New boats, which cost $20,000 each, van rentals, equipment, travel, regatta fees and coaching salaries add to the growing budget numbers, offset by the team’s fund-raising efforts.

However, apparel sales, dues and working concessions at sporting events defray only part of the cost: “Crew fund raises far more than any other club sport,” Gravett says. “But the team does it because they are so dedicated to the sport and their team. Crew takes so much time, but everyone works so hard to make it all come together.”

And team members have been tested often since crew’s founding in 1983 when two graduate students formed the club with little money and even less experience in managing a team. Graham Coles, an English import who rowed in college, and fellow student Steve Santen first advertised the crew team at Club Day on the Mall.

“We had maybe 10 committed guys and 10 committed gals,” says Matt Brodbeck, a 1986 graduate and one of the team’s first captains. With a shoestring budget, the team purchased two used boats—one from a high school in New Jersey and another raced in the 1976 Olympics—which Brodbeck estimates cost a total of $1,000.

“We were so focused on saving money that when we went to the regatta site, we would make a bunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” he says. The team practices five days a week year round, alternating between land and water on East Fork Lake or the Ohio River. This year they began practicing in the evenings.

“Convincing everyone to meet at 5:00 a.m. and drive down to the river for a workout is tough—especially when it’s so cold,” says Brodbeck. “It’s not a fun, casual sport. You have to be very, very committed to it to achieve any level of success. You have to be fairly dedicated to it just to become competent.”

Crew attracts a decidedly mixed group of athletes—most of whom have never rowed before. High school football players, cross country runners, volleyball players and those who have never belonged to a school sport begin on an even playing field. They don’t receive regular accolades because regattas usually take the team out of town as far as Boston and New Jersey to compete against varsity teams.

“How this team survived 22 years is really a testament to the students because it’s just nothing but dedication that keeps these kids going,” Brodbeck says. “I’d really like to see one of my sons become the first legacy oarsman.”

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Roman Roads

For years prior to his unexpected death in May, Paul Cioffi, S.J., taught a weeklong seminar to veteran Catholic priests in Vatican City in Rome. So when Leo Klein, S.J., got the news about his dear friend Cioffi, not only was he saddened, but he got another surprise as well. The call came with a request: Prepare the lessons from scratch, fly to Rome and teach the seminar. “I enjoyed it, though it really was something to prepare for,” says Klein, the University’s vice president for mission and ministry. “It was a different level of teaching from undergraduate and graduate students. I was trying to get these people to dig into their own experiences.”

Klein arrived in Rome and took an apartment in Vatican City. During the day, he taught 35 American priests who were on a four-month-long sabbatical, delivering two sessions a day. Klein’s seminar covered Christian life and worship—the Eucharist, the liturgy of the Word, scripture and the sacraments—all in five days. At night, he sampled pasta, pizza and Italian wine at nearby bistros. He needed the break from the all-day lectures and group discussions he monitored, though the topics and feedback were engaging. “I was amazed with these people and impressed with how serious they were,” he says. “They said they were stimulated, and they raised other questions. We got into some pretty heady theology.”

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Politically Correct Women

Ida B. Wells’ essays on the practice of lynching African-American men in post-Civil War America have remained somewhat unknown. Until now. Twelve women faculty from three universities are studying the works of female political writers in a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

It isn’t just the horrors Wells wrote about that intrigues them; it’s that Wells, a black journalist from Mississippi, had the courage to speak out at a time when blacks and women were denied full participation in American society. She risked her life to make her point. The other writers being studied also took risks: Russian novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, 14th century French essayist and novelist Christine de Pizan and Chicago social reformer Jane Addams among them.

“This gives us an opportunity to reinvigorate our thinking,” says Christine Anderson, co-director for the office of gender and diversity studies. Anderson and Gillian Ahlgren, professor of theology, Nancy Bertaux, professor of economics and human resources, and Carol Winkelmann, professor of English, discuss the readings monthly and are incorporating them them into their courses. The project, titled “Nation, Family and State: Women’s Political Writings,” includes women faculty from the University of Cincinnati and Purdue University, which each are holding a workshop this year.

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Leapin’ Lizards

For more than 30 years, biology professor Stanley Hedeen has tracked the migration patterns of a foreign invader. Sporting black and white outerwear in a herringbone pattern, the four-inch-long natives of Italy have fascinated Hedeen as much for their survival skills as for their ability to literally ride the rails in their quest for new territory.

The story of the Lazarus lizards, whose scientific name Podarcis muralis translates into “wall lizards,” has long been a subject of local Cincinnati lore. Until recently, the details of their arrival were sketchy, but it is now known that a child of the Lazarus family, owners of the Lazarus department store chain, pocketed some lizards while on a vacation in northern Italy in the early 1950s and slipped them through U.S. Customs undetected. The boy, George Rau, let about 10 of the lizards go at the family’s home in the O’Bryonville neighborhood of Cincinnati.

In the 50 years since, the lizards not only survived but thrived, spreading about six miles eastward and into some neighborhoods to the north, including onto Xavier’s campus. Their main venue for mobility: the city’s railroad tracks.

“The Lazarus lizard is interesting because it came over and made it even though it’s a foreigner,” Hedeen says. “But the European wall lizard is a very urbanized lizard. Centuries ago it moved out of the rocky Alps and adapted itself to the cities because people built with rocks and mimicked the landscape. It had already jumped from a natural landscape into a humanized, urbanized landscape, so coming to Cincinnati in the pocket of a child was no change at all.”

Hedeen’s academic interest in the lizards is to learn how they survived in a foreign environment. It doesn’t happen often, he says. Most foreign species die off because of two factors: a hostile environment and competition from native species.

The Lazarus lizards encountered neither. In an article published in Herpetological Review, Hedeen points to the nearly identical climate, rainfall and habitat of northern Italy and Cincinnati as the major factors that allow the lizards to survive. On a visit to southern Europe, he observed the lizards clinging to stone walls, sides of houses, piles of rocks and railway embankments. In Cincinnati, they are seen on stone walls, limestone rock outcrops and railway trestles.

In addition, though, lack of competition from Cincinnati’s three native lizard species left the region up for grabs by the Italian conquerors. The native eastern fence lizard and the broad-headed skinks prefer slightly different terrain than the dry, rocky landscapes of the Lazarus lizards. But development in Cincinnati has ushered the local lizards into ever-shrinking locales such as the forested California Woods Nature Preserve on the eastern edge of the city.

Now Hedeen visits the preserve to see if the Lazarus lizards have reached the skinks’ habitat. They haven’t met up yet, but he expects it’s just a waiting game as the lizards have been spotted just a few hundreds yards from the park. When they arrive, it won’t be pretty.

“If Lazarus moves into the forest, it’s bad news for the skinks,” Hedeen says. “Two different species will not intermingle and over time, one will displace the other. At the boundary between their two habitats, there might be some competition in which Lazarus can still win, or the native skinks can hold their own.”

How the Lazarus lizards are getting to the nature preserve is another topic of study for Hedeen. Initially, the lizard population exploded throughout parts of O’Bryonville, which became known as Lizard Hill, and then spread into nearby neighborhoods. But their most prevalent migration has been eastward via the old Pennsylvania Railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill.

“They hit that track and said this is nice because of the rock ballast and the dried-out ties, and they walked along the tracks. Each generation moves farther down the track,” Hedeen says. “They ride these rails. At some point, the European wall lizard will have moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific, just like the starling, and we’ll study the effect on the natural environment.”

That trip might take a few more decades. In the meantime, Hedeen, who’s retiring this spring, plans on following the little creatures into the skinks’ territory and writing about the encounter. In the world of science, the lizards’ survival is worthy of note, he says, because it’s an unnatural migration.

“The invasion of a foreign species in a northern location like Cincinnati is considered an oddity, because it’s rare for a temperate organism to get across the Atlantic Ocean,” he says. “It’s the only foreign reptile to have made it in the Midwestern U.S.”

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Xavier Faces

Bill Jones

Philosophy Jones, who has been at the University 35 years, teaches the courses Ethics as Introduction to Philosophy and Business Ethics, both of which are in high demand by students. Jones received his Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame and an M.B.A. from Xavier. He began teaching at Xavier in 1969 and said that he has learned from teaching thousands of students that “each class is different and the key to being a good educator is adapting to their style.”

Norman Berg

Psychology Berg, who has been at the University for 35 years, teaches classes in general psychology, abnormal psychology, and crime and personality. What keeps him coming back each day, he says, is the “close, personal and ongoing contact with his students.” Additionally, Berg says he believes that the faculty and staff at the University make his job even more enjoyable. His hobbies include music, art, automobiles and mechanical wristwatches.

Mary Papania

Bookstore Papania, who has been at the University 35 years, is the textbook manager and assistant manager at the bookstore. She talks to professors about what books they would like to have for their classes and then places their orders to the publishers. In addition, she buys books back from the students. When Papania has time to relax outside of the bookstore, she enjoys reading and is learning to play Texas Hold’em poker just for fun.

William Hagerty

Communication Hagerty, who has been at the University 35 years, is a communications professor teaching speech and film classes during the day and is a movie critic for the Cincinnati Suburban Newspapers by night. The message he tries to convey to his students is to “appreciate more than the technical skills in the art, such as the acting or directing, but it’s the messages in the art that hold its true beauty.”

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