Xavier Magazine

Pay It Forward

Even on the most optimistic day, Denver is a long way from Cincinnati. But for an 18-year-old, deciding to leave the security of home in the high plains to start a new life as a Xavier student amidst the valleys and hills of the Queen City, the decision and the distance take on a larger significance. It’s a decision that requires courage and commitment of so many levels: spiritual, emotional, intellectual and financial.

Matt Robinson knows.

After visiting Xavier on his tour of colleges as a high school senior, Robinson felt like Xavier was the right place. But the biggest barrier before him wasn’t the miles between Denver and Cincinnati, it was the money. How could he afford it?

After applying and being accepted, the answer arrived one day in the mail. He was awarded a St. Francis Xavier Scholarship. Suddenly the gap between Xavier and a state university was closed and his decision made.

“Without it, I can say without a doubt I wouldn’t be here,” says Robinson, a philosophy, politics and the public major who plans to teach in inner-city schools as part of the Teach for America program after graduating in May. “Once it came through, I never looked back. I knew that I had to be here.”

Robinson’s story is, in many ways, a familiar one. One of four siblings—and the third of four to go to college—a school like Xavier could easily have been out of the question. “It just was not financially feasible to go to a place like this without any help,” he says.

Financial aid, in one form or another, has grown in importance in recent years. Now as college tuition costs creep higher nationally, competition for top students tightens and overall economic uncertainty continues, the importance of endowed scholarships at Xavier cannot be overstated.

“An endowed scholarship is, in my opinion, the most important gift somebody can give to the University,” says Peter Owendoff, Xavier’s senior regional director for development. “It’s intangible, but it has so many faces—it effects some many people in so many ways. Getting a loan is a little bit more difficult in the current economic conditions,. Xavier is not an inexpensive institution. It’s the generosity of individuals through scholarships that makes a Jesuit, Catholic education possible.”

The University is highly dependent on tuition, but tuition doesn’t cover the full cost of educating a student. It cost about $34,510 to educate one student for one year at Xavier. Each student pays an average of $17,889 out of pocket, leaving a gap of $16,621. At many schools, that gap would be made up with interest generated by endowed funds. At Xavier, much of that is drawn from the University’s general fund.

In his long association with the University, Gerald De Brunner has seen Xavier through the eyes of a student and as a member of the University’s board of trustees. This combination of inside/outside experiences give the 1959 graduate a long, well-rounded view of the way Xavier works. Looking at the big picture, De Brunner says, scholarships would clearly benefit from an increase in Xavier’s endowment, which has traditionally been far less than the endowments of the schools with which it competes.

“I was on the board of trustees for a long time, so I’m very familiar with the numbers,” he says. “If the University had more of that funded via the endowment, it could use more of that money for other good purposes. Less would have to come out of the general fund.”

As of August 2008, Xavier had approximately 357 endowed scholarships with a total equity of $41.5 million, an average equity just under $116,400 and a total market value of about $61 million. Projections for the 2009-2010 academic year indicate $37 million is needed for undergraduate tuition, and a total of $40 million is needed for all types of financial aid, including graduate tuition and remission. Of this, just $2.3 million will be funded by the endowed scholarships.

When it comes to endowed funds, here’s no question that Xavier is playing catch-up. “We are still behind schools we benchmark—Dayton, Marquette, John Carroll,” Owendoff says. “They had operations in place 20, 30, 40 years before Xavier, so their endowments are much greater than the ours. We’ve come a long way, but we have long way to go.”

Selling donors on the idea of endowing a scholarship can be tricky—at least initially. The concrete, tactile nature of bricks and mortar are often much more appealing, Owendoff says. But that attitude often shifts when donors see the real-life impact scholarships have on students.

Like Jana Clear. The junior marketing major from Hamilton, Ohio, overcame childhood leukemia and entered the University three years ago on an ultra-competitive Service Fellowship.

“For me, coming to Xavier was a choice that I knew I always wanted,” she says. “But having two brothers and being given a private education my whole life financially took a toll on my parents. But they really pushed me academically and gave me the opportunity to apply for this scholarship. I ultimately receive it, and that’s why I’m here. I’m not sure if Xavier would have been an option without the financial aid and the scholarship process.”

If the fellowship opened the door, Clear has worked hard to make the most of it. And she is well aware of what it means to her. “I’m confident that years from now, I will still find incredible value in what I have experienced,” she says. “At Xavier I’ve been taught how to think, not what to think, and that has given me the power to pursue my passions and mature into the young woman I am today. I already have a better understanding of my faith life and a realization of my scholastic ability.”

Of course, there was a time when Xavier students were able to work their way through school. But those days are long gone. The demands on students have changed and so has the face of financial aid.

“When I came here to school, there was no financial aid,” De Brunner says. “The financial aid we had was really the Jesuits, because they were the bulk of the teachers here. You could literally work your way through school by working a job and coming to school. You can’t do that today without financial aid. So in effect, if you’re talking to some of the older alums, they ought to be thinking they’re repaying the Jesuit endowment that they had when they were here.”

Owendoff underscores De Brunner’s point. He says those donors who set up scholarships are often those who themselves attended Xavier with the help of financial aid. Understanding the challenges students face sometimes results in a pay-it-forward attitude. “You cannot work your way through Xavier,” he says. “It’s not going to happen. Because of the rigorous core courses—you know, there are only so many hours in the day. For the actual true cost and what an 18-year-old can earn at Abercrombie and Fitch, it isn’t going to happen.”

This reality is not lost on Robinson. “I don’t know a single student at Xavier who doesn’t have some sort of financial aid or scholarship,” he says. “I feel like Xavier did everything it could to get me here, which was something unique in my college experience. It’s an individual focus. I’ve always appreciated that because it brings a really diverse group in—folks like myself from out of town, people from out of the country, even people from right in town that maybe never thought they could go here. They really get to take advantage of this amazing education because of the generosity of alums and friends.”

Xavier Magazine

Blue Man Land

David Cranston had a dilemma. His astronomy lab was meeting the same night as a men’s basketball game. 

The junior’s a diehard Musketeer fan and hadn’t missed a single game since he first came to campus three years ago from Alphanetta, Ga. So for days, while sitting in class or eating in the cafeteria, he debated his options: Basketball game or astronomy lab? Astronomy lab or basketball game?

While the decision wouldn’t normally be so complicated, there was another factor adding to the anguish: Cranston’s a blue man.

At his first game his freshman year, Cranston saw the students sitting in the front row who cover themselves in blue paint. “That,” he said to himself, “is what I want to do.” So he made some contacts and for every game since, he’s painted himself head to waist with blue paint, sat in the front row of the student section and cheered and jeered players from the time they step onto the court for warm-ups until the final buzzer sounds.

Being a blue man has become part of his identity. In a way, it’s who he is. So in his debate between class and game, he did what any rational basketball-loving college student would do: He painted himself blue, went to the basketball game and then sprinted across campus at halftime just in time to make it to his lab.

“I put a shirt on, but my face and arms were still blue,” Cranston says. “The lab instructor just looked at me, handed me the lab packet and shook his head.”

Welcome to the life of a blue man.

Game Day

Two hours before the tipoff of the Xavier-Temple game, the Cintas Center is quiet. The doors are still locked, the stands are empty, the players are no where to be seen. Only a few workers scurry around the arena taking care of last-minute details. That’s when the blue men—and women—arrive. Coming in through the loading dock entrance where the guards all know their names, they file in and head upstairs to the family restroom on the concourse level. The restroom is large, and a section in back offers sinks, mirrors and plenty of room to prepare.

They spread plastic garbage bags on the floor and break out bottles of cobalt blue acrylic paint that are stuffed into their nylon backpacks. Each week the blue men carpool to Michael’s Crafts to buy the paint. “We discussed buying it in bulk from them,” says Cranston, “but they won’t take customer orders.”

As they slop it on, people pause and snicker. “Moms will bring their kids in and say, ‘Look, honey, they’re painting themselves blue.’ ” The process takes 30-45 minutes, depending on the level of detail they choose. Each blue man has his own unique design, some more intricate than others. The goal is to be done and out in the arena by the time the band starts and the players head out for warm-ups. The freshmen are in charge of cleaning up, which helps explain why the restroom is messy despite their earnest efforts to keep it clean.

“We try, but it still gets all over the sinks and garbage cans,” says Cranston. “After Christmas we came back and it was sparkling clean. We said, ‘What happened?’ That didn’t last too long. No matter how hard you try it gets messy.”

Bleeding Blue

The blue men are actually just the radical fringe of the larger group of crazies that fill the student section known as the X-treme Fans. First created 10 years ago, X-treme Fans is actually the largest student club on campus with nearly 1,000 members. Its goal is simple, says president Matt Robinson: Support all Xavier athletics, even the lesser-known sports.

But it does a lot more. The 10-member executive board organizes on-campus viewing parties during March Madness. It creates and sells the X Shirts, the annual must-have fashion statement among basketball fans in which the proceeds—usually more than $5,000—go to a local charity. This year it organized a $23,000 road trip to New Jersey for 152 students so they could watch Xavier play Duke. It also does a lot of the little things, like rolling up all of the posters that given away at games or taping Skyline Chili coupons on the back of 10,250 seats. This year’s blue and white night in which alternating sections wore blue or white shirts was the club’s idea and execution.

“We’re the sanity behind it all,” says Robinson.

Life in Blue Man Land

A few years ago, the students were so rowdy and unflattering in their comments that University President Michael J. Graham, S.J., had to apologize for their behavior. Now, security guards sit in front of blue man land and monitor the tumult and the shouting. “We scream at the players, but you really can’t say much,” says Cranston. “You can’t swear. You can’t say they suck. We’ve been told to calm down and we’re being too loud.”

So the students did what they had to do: They turned to sarcasm. “Welcome fellow scholars,” became a banner aimed at an opponent not known for its studious athletes. “We really just try to be annoying,” says Cranston. “We yell at the other players. If they say something back, we don’t let up. Sometimes you can get in their heads. After the Duke game one of the players pointed at us. When we played Tennessee, Chris Lofton looked at us and started laughing.”

Does it make a difference? Sean Miller thinks so. So do the players. After the game, it’s become a tradition for the Xavier players to offer a high five or fist bump the blue men on their way into the locker room.

And it’s all worth it—despite the post-game effects. “Normally,” says Cranston, “you have a headache and can’t talk after the games.”

Xavier Magazine

Northern Exposure

The academic highlight of Shane Hughes’ college career began, of all places, on Craig’s List. For sale: 1986 Subaru GL, manual transmission, 218,000 miles, $600.

Perfect. It met his two requirements—four-wheel drive and within his college-student budget. He bought it, changed the oil and transmission fluid, flushed the radiator, replaced the outer tie rods, adjusted the engine timing, replaced the timing belt, rebuilt the carburetor, and added four new tires and a windshield.

Then, in a car that was built three years before he was born and had more than 200,000 miles on it, Hughes set out—alone—for the Yukon Territory at the edge of the Arctic Circle to meet and study the native Han people of the First Nation tribes. The trip was part of a Brueggeman Fellowship, which sends students on research projects around the world. He was curious to know how the Han were preserving their culture, and the only way to find out was to go there and ask them.

So he put his rebuilt car in gear on June 21, and took off, making his way through the Klondike highways into Alaska and the Yukon.

It was an adventure only a college student could—or probably would—embark upon. Hughes, a senior majoring in history and theology, dined on canned food, a lot of beans and the best Oreo cookies ever. When the front wheel bearings on the Subaru went bad, he changed them in the parking lot of a Napa Auto Parts store in Montana.

The car soon became his home. Around 1:00 a.m. somewhere in South Dakota, the thunder and lightning drove Hughes from his tent into the refuge of his car. While he was dozing off, he felt a small tugging on his pajama legs. Convinced it was a mouse, he zipped up his sleeping bag and flicked on the flashlight. But the creature was gone. He didn’t really mind that the mouse, like himself, was using his car to get out of the rain. But he didn’t want it suddenly scrambling up his shins. So the next day, he wore his pant legs tucked into his socks. It didn’t matter. He never saw the little guy again.

The mouse was the first of many wild creatures Hughes encountered, along with bison, elk, caribou, moose and grizzly bears. But research was the main objective, so Hughes’ first stop was Dawson City, Alaska. The Han are an indigenous people who relied on hunting and fishing, mostly caribou and salmon, before gold rush prospectors and settlers cut the trees, thinned the game and salmon runs, and built cities where Han people now live.

“I was disappointed in what I found,” he says. “I started at the cultural center. But everything seemed to go downhill from there. The language is all but gone. There are only two people left who speak it fluently in Dawson.”

He interviewed about 15 Han people. None live the way their ancestors did but instead live in modern houses, work jobs and buy their food at the grocery store. “There is a desire to preserve tradition, but it’s now more of an acceptance that it’s going away and not coming back,” he says. “The older generation I talked to, I got the sense their culture is going away and they’re sad.”

He put 10,000 miles on the Subaru, and except for a broken exhaust pipe that roared the whole way home, the car was intact. So was he, if not a bit thinner and sleep-deprived.

It took Hughes a while to realize the extent of what he’d done. “While reading about the Han in Cincinnati, they seemed so distant. And then getting there and realizing these people actually exist and meeting them in person was really extraordinary.”

Now he catches himself thinking back to his days in the gold country, where the sun never sets and motorists usually find themselves alone on the limestone highways, wondering what delightful gift of nature will surprise them next.

“One time I had my windows down, and I came on a bear on the side of the road. I stopped. Suddenly he sits up really fast, and I rolled up the windows. But he was just rolling over.”

To Hughes’ relief, this wild creature stayed where he belonged—outside the car.

Xavier Magazine

Profile: Gayle Heintzelman

Master of Human Resource Development, 2008
President and CEO, Mercy Clermont Hospital
Batavia, Ohio

Bottom to Top | Thirty years ago, Gayle Heintzelman began working part-time at Mercy Clermont Hospital as a relief telephone operator. Today, she is president and chief executive officer of the expanding hospital. “Mercy has been wonderful to me. I have been presented so many opportunities to do different things. They believed in my talent.”

Rural Relief | Heintzelman began answering the phone in 1979 to avoid boredom. “My husband and I bought an old farmhouse on 16 acres in Clermont County. I’m sitting out there, no neighbors, nothing, and I thought, ‘I am going to go nuts.’ So I wondered, ‘What can I do to get out of the house for awhile?’ I figured the hospital had to have something. I went to the hospital and became the relief telephone operator. If somebody called in sick or a vacation needed covering, I worked. That was my start.”

Opportunities Evolved | “What is interesting is that I never, per se, planned anything. It was never anything like, ‘OK, I want to do this, that’s where I want to be and I’m going to become CEO of this hospital.’ Everything sort of evolved as people crossed my path or opportunities opened.”

Dual Jobs | “I did registration in the emergency department. I saw what was going on there, and I asked if I could be a nursing technician and a unit secretary because I thought I would like to do both jobs. Nobody had ever done dual jobs. They allowed me to take that opportunity. When I saw what the nurses were doing, I thought, ‘Well, I’m interested in that.’ ” So, Heintzelman, who had an undergraduate degree from the College of Mount St. Joseph, pursued a nursing degree at Raymond Walters College. She went on to become director of the emergency departments at both Mercy Clermont and Mercy Anderson hospitals and served as vice president of nursing and patient care services at Mercy Clermont before becoming CEO.

The Mercy Touch | Heintzelman says she believes the faith-based, community-oriented system of operation sets it apart from some other hospitals. “Probably every hospital provides excellent, competent care, but the piece you need to provide to patients is that extra hand-holding, that sitting and listening to them, because when a patient walks into a hospital, they don’t know what the outcome is going to be. They’re scared. I like to call what we do ‘The Mercy Touch.’ ”

Human Potential | Heintzelman became CEO in 2008 just as she was wrapping up her graduate studies at Xavier. “I started to go back to school online, and I did that for six months and I thought, ‘I’m not an online person. I need the interaction and the classroom and talking to people.’ ” She says her studies provided an important link to her work at the hospital. “Human potential is the biggest thing any organization deals with,” she says. “If you don’t have your human potential aligned, it’s very difficult to meet your goals.”

Xavier Magazine

Profile: Jean Lydon-Rodgers

Master of Business Administration, 1992
Vice President, GE Aviation

Engineering Meets Business | Jean Lydon-Rodgers is in charge of developing the most sophisticated fighter jet airplane engine in aviation history. She blends two areas of expertise—engineering and business—to meet the challenges of her twin jobs. She is president of the GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team, a unique joint venture between the two otherwise competitors formed to produce the F136 engine for the F35 Fighter. She’s also GE vice president and general manager of the F136 project.

Pioneering Engineer | Lydon-Rodgers majored in electrical engineering at Penn State University. More than 400 electrical engineering majors were in her 1985 graduating class and fewer than 10 percent were women.

Revving up Engines | After graduation, she joined GE and began in the firm’s aerospace business working on power supplies and control systems to support U.S. Navy projects. Selected a year later for a GE corporate training program, she moved to Cincinnati and transferred from aerospace to engines. “I didn’t know anything about engines, but I really liked this business, so I learned what an engine was, how it worked, how it was built and what it took to tweak it for optimum performance.” She spent eight years acquiring, as she puts it, “my functional experience.”

Business Needs | It was during that time she earned her MBA. “I was gaining a lot of functional depth by being steeped in the technology at GE Aviation, but I recognized that if I wanted to lead and use my technical knowledge in a way that could be translated to winning with the customer, I needed to be more business savvy.”

Unique Venture | It’s that business savvy that helps her navigate the complexities of leading the GE and Rolls-Royce team. “This is a joint venture with our competitor in every other market but this one. It brings together three cultures—our culture at GE Aviation in Cincinnati, Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis and Rolls-Royce in the United Kingdom. The three cultures operate somewhat differently, but obviously we all have the same goal: to be successful with developing the F136 engine and getting it into service. So, it has been interesting to bring the different teams together and play to everybody’s strengths.”

Complex Design | Some 800 engineers and technicians are involved with developing the engine. Besides powering conventional takeoffs and landings, the F136 engine is also capable of handling short takeoffs and vertical landings. “So you can well imagine the complexity of the design.”

Big Opportunity | “Lockheed Martin expects to produce about 200 aircraft a year when they get into peak production. You expect the planes to be in service 30 -40 years, so they’re planning on a little over 3,000 aircraft just for U.S. services and eight international partners. When the opportunity presents itself for foreign military sales, that number could go to 4,000 or 5,000 aircraft sold, so it’s a tremendous opportunity.”

Xavier Magazine

Profile: Karen (Smith) Wells

Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, 1989
Vice President of Strategy and Menu, McDonald’s

Team Player | Karen Wells was a member of the Xavier women’s basketball team from 1986-1989, a position that, in hindsight, turned out to be a slam-dunk for her career. As vice president of strategy and menu at McDonald’s, she leads dozens of executives in charting the mammoth restaurant chain’s future and its menu offerings. “It was a great foundation for my corporate career,” says Wells. “At Xavier, the focus was more on academics than athletics, and it taught me how to balance priorities. My job is all about building coalitions, relationships, teams and the ability to influence. It helps that I’m competitive because I play to win.”

Career Catapulted | Wells joined McDonald’s in 1992 as a marketing supervisor, rose to regional marketing manager and in 1997 was selected for the McDonald’s executive training program. “That gave me the opportunity to get an accelerated look at the operational side of the business, where it typically takes quite a while to move through the ranks. Their bet on me was that I would become competent in the important skills of leadership, and it proved to be career-changing. I moved through the ranks pretty quickly, received the highest award in McDonald’s—the President’s Award—and my career catapulted.”

Rising Star | Wells served as director of operations for more than 450 restaurants in the Atlanta region and later became vice president and general manager for the Indianapolis region, where she oversaw a $1 billion-a-year business involving more than 600 restaurants in six states. Currently, she’s in charge of formulating plans for the next five to 10 years and supervises menu offerings for the more than 26 million U.S. customers McDonald’s serves each day. She recently was named a “Rising Star” by Fortune magazine.

May I Help You? | “Our foundation will continue to be fries, shakes, burgers and soft drinks, but we’re always looking for ways to stay in touch with our customers. For instance, there’s an increasing consumption of chicken and we’ve been focusing on making sure there’s a variety of choices—from fruit and walnut salads to strawberry and blueberry parfaits.”

Volunteer Service | Wells leads a busy life apart from McDonald’s. She is an executive board member of the Quad County Urban League, an advisory board member of the Power Girls of Atlanta and a board member of Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, N.C. Wells also spends one or two full days each month volunteering for various charitable organizations.

Four Roles | Even though Wells has zipped through the corporate fast-track, she says her job is only one of four roles she plays. “My first role is that of a wife. I’ve been married for 17 years. Without his support, I would not even be here. My second role is mother, and it is one of my favorite roles. My third role is as a sister. I come from a family of nine children, with three sets of twins. I have a twin. And fourth on the list is an executive and mentor. I think it’s my duty to mentor people to one day take my place.”

Xavier Magazine

Profile: Jane Cooper

Master of Business Administration, 1994
President, Herschend Family Entertainment,
Park Management Division, Atlanta

Expert Guidance | At Herschend, Jane Cooper oversees corporate growth potential and provides management for the company’s regional theme parks, water parks, public and private partnerships and other business developments. Its attractions include Dollywood, Stone Mountain Park, Silver Dollar City, The Showboat Branson Belle, Celebration City and Newport (Ky.) Aquarium.

Hard Work | Cooper started on the ground floor of Kings Island amusement park near Cincinnati and zoomed to the top floor. While in high school, she began working as a sales clerk at the park the year it opened. A few years later, she was chief executive officer of Paramount Parks, which owned Kings Island and several other parks. She says her fast track to success was simple: Hard work. “Young people today ask how you did it and what advice you have for them, and I say, ‘You really need to work hard. There’s not a lot of replacement for that.’ ”

Short Retirement | After 26 years with Paramount Parks, Cooper semi-retired to spend more time with her family. She also chaired the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. “After that, it was my intent to stay retired and find other things to do.” But she re-discovered that the amusement park business was a big part of her life. Herschend asked her to help with some projects. It then asked her to be president of the park management division. “I’ve been with them three years now and am pretty much right back in the middle of the park business. I think I decided through it all that I really do like the work.”

Fast-Paced Business | Cooper’s love of the amusement park industry began when she was a teenager at Kings Island. “I think what I liked about it was that it is very fast paced, and at a very young age they gave us a fair amount of responsibility. That’s what really drew me to it.” Cooper continued working summers at Kings Island while attending the University of Cincinnati. “I became a supervisor my second season and made a fair amount of money. I almost paid for college on my own because I worked a lot of hours. I went to college to become a tax accountant, if you can believe that, but when I graduated, Kings Island offered me a full-time job. I thought, ‘Well, I’ll try this for a year and see how it goes.’ It took me 25 years to leave.”

Clerk to CEO | After working a couple of years as a buyer in the merchandise department at Kings Island, the park’s owners transferred Cooper to Great America Park in San Jose, Calif. As retail director, she was in charge of food and merchandise. Two years later, she was promoted to general manager of the facility. When the company was sold to Paramount Communications, Cooper moved to Charlotte, N.C., where she became president of Paramount Parks and then chief executive officer.

Education Volunteer | Cooper also makes time to volunteer to help improve education. She serves on the board of trustees at Central Piedmont Community College, one of the biggest community colleges in America. “I am really passionate about education, and that’s how I volunteer my time. To those of us who have been successful, we have an obligation to continue to nurture the younger generation and give them the benefit of our experience. We need to contribute in any way we can to those great institutions that helped us get where we are.”

Xavier Magazine


Receiving a scholarship often plays a large role in a student’s decision to enroll. Xavier offers a wide range of scholarships, including:

  • Endowed scholarships: Xavier has more than 100 endowed scholarships, which are named after the donors who created them. The scholarships vary in value. The minimum requirement to create an endowed scholarship is $25,000, which generates approximately $1,000 annually.
  • Academic scholarships: Xavier offers six academic scholarships—St. Francis Xavier, Chancellor, Trustee, Schawe, Presidential, National Merit—that range from $13,000 annually to full tuition.
  • Service Awards: The Xavier Community Engaged Fellowship is a four-year scholarship valued at $18,000 annually that’s awarded to 10 first-year students who demonstrate leadership of initiative in community engagement or service.
  • Multicultural Scholarships: Xavier offers two multicultural scholarships—Migel Pro and Francis Weninger—to students who are committed to the promotion of diversity in our society and who demonstrate leadership in the classroom, on campus and in the greater community.
  • Departmental Scholarships: Xavier offers departmental scholarships for business, chemistry, classics, history, math, modern languages, physics, nursing and Honors Bachelor of Arts.
  • Performing and Visual Arts Scholarships: Xavier offers four scholarships for music and performing arts, ranging up to full tuition.
  • Alumni Scholarships: Xavier offers four special alumni scholarships: the Edgecliff Alumni Awards, the James E. Hoff, S.J., Scholar award, the Indiana Alumni Scholarship and the Legacy Scholarship.
  • Special Scholarships: Xavier offers two special scholarships: The Broering Scholarship and the Benjamin D. Urmston Family Peace Studies Scholarship.
Xavier Magazine

Learning Commons honor Mike Conaton

Xavier University’s new Learning Commons is being named in honor of Michael J. Conaton, a 1955 graduate, former acting president of the University, chairman of the board of trustees from 1985-2004 and current board member. The naming of the building came about through a request by 1960 graduate Charles P. Gallagher, whose generous gift is helping build the building. Rather than naming it after himself, Gallagher requested the building be named after Conaton as a means of honoring his longtime support of the University.

“I was honored to be given the naming right and it was a simple decision,” says Gallagher. “Mike Conaton and [the late] Father [James] Hoff had a vision for moving Xavier forward, a vision that we are seeing come true today.”

“I am truly grateful and humbled by this honor,” says Conaton.

Conaton is retired Vice Chairman of the Midland Co. He earned his Bachelor of Science from Xavier University and was later awarded both the Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa and the Paul L. O’Connor Leadership Award for his contributions to the University.

“Mike is truly a man for others,” says Xavier President Michael J. Graham, S.J. “He is an example of the type of person we want our alumni to become—someone who uses his gifts and talents to make the world a better place.”

Gallagher is also a longtime Xavier supporter. His $9 million matching gift helped build the $18 million Gallagher Student Center in 2002. He also sponsors a scholarship program known as the Pacesetter Program that helps underwrite the education of 40 inner-city students from his alma maters, St. Martin de Porres and Central Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio.

“When you get right down to it, Charlie’s shoulders are some of the shoulders upon which the future of Xavier University is being built,” says Graham. “We are a better institution because of Charlie’s contributions and extremely grateful for his commitment and generosity to Xavier.”

The multi-faceted Conaton Learning Commons is a one-stop shop of integrated academic, technical and professional services, and a collaborative setting for classroom and spontaneous learning that includes the:

  • Center for Teaching Excellence, a professional development facility and support unit to assist faculty in enhancing teaching, scholarship and research through new and emerging methods and technologies.
  • Center for Student Excellence, which provides students a central point of academic support and services to help them attain excellence in their academic endeavors and career preparation.
  • Eigel Center for Community Engaged Learning, which builds on Xavier’s history of community service by creating more deliberate and strategic community engagement and service learning opportunities.
  • Conway Institute for Jesuit Education, which assists faculty in further incorporating the University’s Catholic and Jesuit character into the learning environment, providing a deeper context for a creative and intelligent engagement with questions of ethics, moral principles and social values.
  • Information Resources Center, which is a one-stop location for information and support services for students and faculty.
  • Magis Plaza, which serves as a center point of connection and collaboration for the entire Learning Commons.

The Conaton Learning Commons is part of a larger campus construction project known as the James E. Hoff, S.J., Academic Quadrangle, which also includes a new state-of-the-art Williams College of Business and a new central utility plant. The total cost of the Quad is estimated at $100 million.

Xavier Magazine

Campaign at a Glance

To See Great Wonders: The Campaign for Xavier will enable the University to revolutionize the student learning experience and dramatically enhance the campus environment through:

Creation of the James E. Hoff, S.J., Academic Quad.
The centerpiece of a sweeping campus transformation, the Hoff Academic Quad will enable Xavier to meet the learning needs of 21st century students as well as any college or university in the nation. The quad includes the modernization of the library and Alter Hall classroom building and features two new facilities—the Learning Commons and a new home for the Williams College of Business.

• The Conaton Learning Commons will serve as a hallmark for Xavier’s future and be recognized as a unique facility within American higher education. This high-tech, highly social center for learning outside the classroom will provide students with the facilities, technologies and services to best prepare them for lives of distinction and service.

• The new Williams College of Business building will be a world-class, technologically rich resource featuring a trading room, data-mining laboratory, presentation studio and centers for ethics, entrepreneurship and investment research.

Growth of the Endowment and Annual Fund.
Long- and short-term funding increases will provide vital support for student financial aid and the operational growth of the institution.

For news, videos and virtual tours of the campus transformation,