Xavier Magazine

In Tune With Technology

Cathy Kalla doesn’t play piano. She plays clarinet. Yet with a little brain work and the press of a button, she can hear the lilting notes of a choral piece she just wrote played out on the piano—without ever touching the keys.

In this case, a computer program in the Brew Piano Lab on the second floor of Edgecliff Hall converts the notes Kalla wrote on her personal computer screen, which resembles sheet music, into four piano voices. The result, broadcast from two ceiling-level speakers, is an astonishing, lovely collection of piano chords and notes that ends all too quickly.

“It’s really nice I can hear it back, because I just wouldn’t be able to play it,” says Kalla, a sophomore who’s minoring in music.

Professor Kaleel Skeirik says the computerization of the music lab two years ago greatly improved the way he teaches and how his students learn. The pace is quicker and the learning is deeper because students can hear their work played back immediately. Sitting at Baldwin electric pianos—each equipped with an Apple Macintosh computer, music software and a special musical interface that lets the pianos and computers interact—students can compose music on their screens, hear it played through headphones or speakers and make corrections right away.

The lessons also can be displayed by Skeirik on an overhead screen, allowing students to learn from each others’ mistakes as he analyzes their work.

“It’s a win-win,” says Skeirik. “I take less time correcting the draft, and the student immediately hears the music. He learns more within the time frame of the class, and more material is covered more deeply.”

Of course, with every high-tech improvement come challenges. Skeirik has learned the lab works only when it’s maintained, and a system as complex as this requires maintenance by everyone. When the system is down, it’s back to the old days, he says, when he goes back to teaching one-on-one with each student at his own keyboard while the others listen along.

Xavier Magazine

He’s Got Game

The University hired Kevin McGuff as its new head women’s basketball coach in June, replacing Melanie Balcomb, who left in May to take on the head coaching job at Vanderbilt University.

McGuff, 32, was an assistant coach at the University of Notre Dame for the last six years, and was on a European tour with the team when he heard about the opening.

“I was in Italy at the time,” he says. “The phone rang at 2:30 a.m. It was a friend of mine, and the first thing he said was, ‘The job is open.’ I knew instantly what job he meant, because this is the job I always talked about wanting.”

The native of nearby Hamilton went straight to his computer and e-mailed athletic director Mike Bobinski. He interviewed upon his return. Bobinski was impressed.

“We looked for three things: A good person, someone with a passion for this job and someone who’s been successful at a high level. He had it all.”

Xavier Magazine

Going to New Depths

He was supposed to spend his life looking at teeth, but Paul Naber realized in college that he wasn’t interested in following in his father’s footsteps. Dentistry just didn’t cut it for him. Quite by accident, he discovered that law enforcement does. Now he focuses on taking a bite out of crime.

Naber, who earned a bachelor of liberal arts degree in 1991, is a patrol officer for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, but he’s spending more and more of his time in hot water. Or cold water. Or, most likely, muddy water. Naber was recently accepted to the sheriff’s Underwater Search and Rescue Unit, which searches for weapons or submerged cars or bodies in the murky waters of the area’s rivers and lakes.

Naber attended the University on a swimming scholarship and is a certified scuba diver, and he just couldn’t get his love of the water out of his blood. The water he dives into now, though, is often so mucky it’s like swimming in liquefied dirt, he says. The place he trains, for instance, is so muddy that a flashlight shining directly into his eyes is not visible. He knows. He tried it once.

Naber says his most difficult dive was his first training dive at a quarry last winter. He and his diving buddy donned their 100-pound diving suits and jumped in together. But his buddy panicked when he began sinking and was unable to adjust the valve that controls the air in his vest.

Naber adjusted the air for him to slow his descent. They spent about two minutes on the bottom, bumping blindly into rocks and tree stumps in frigid water, breathing air pumped in from the surface through a helmet that doubles as a face mask and radio communicator.

“It could have been a bad training accident, but it wasn’t,” Naber says. “At the surface I said, ‘Did you panic?’ And he said, ‘Dude, you saved my life.’ ”

Naber says he knows he’ll find a body on one of his dives, and he’s prepared for that gruesome reality. But he feels he’s doing work that helps others. And that’s something he can sink his teeth into.

Xavier Magazine

German Kudos

He’s no Wayne Newton, but Fred Irwin probably felt like belting out “Danke Schoen” as he stepped up to the podium last year to receive the German Service Cross–First Class, one of the highest awards issued to civilians by the German government. The last American to receive the award was Henry Kissinger.

Irwin, who earned his bachelor’s degree in 1964 and an M.B.A. in 1967, is vice president of Citibank e-Business in Germany. Since 1991, he’s also been president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany, where he advised both countries on economic and investment matters during the German reunification process.

The position of president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany is the most visible and important position for German-American relations along with the U.S. ambassador, says Roland Koch, who presented the award on behalf of the president of Germany.

“It is a tribute to Mr. Irwin that he is the longest-serving president in the chamber’s 99-year history,” says Koch. “It speaks well of his character, business acumen, and diplomatic and political skills.”

Xavier Magazine

Feet Don’t Fail Me Now

Julie Isphording is finally footloose and fancy free. Well, sort of. The 1983 accounting graduate, 1984 Olympic marathon runner and host of WVXU’s talk show “On Your Feet” was off her feet for most of the last winter after undergoing double foot repair surgeries.

She had her left foot fixed in October and her right foot repaired in January. In between, she crawled, was carried or used crutches to get around—a traumatic experience for a woman who’s made a career out of running and fitness.

“After 20 years of running, both feet had totally collapsed inward,” she says. “I had been living in pain for four years and had learned to deal with it, but it got to a point where I could have had a horribly serious time after age 50.”

The surgeries involved seven procedures on each foot. Bones were broken, joints were fused, pins were inserted, tendons were sewn and the Achilles tendons were lengthened. Isphording, however, remains typically upbeat and annoyingly cheery about the ordeal—although admitting to tears and feeling down at times.

To keep herself going, she insisted on doing the radio show, despite having to be carried into the studio for a while. Isphording fully expects to run again, although there are no more marathons in her future—she’s already 40—and she won’t run competitively, either. She thinks.

Xavier Magazine

Ex-Grid Star Starts Over

It was early spring when Cheryl Dawson made headlines. Not that she wanted to. The single mother of three children was stabbed to death in a downtown Cincinnati parking lot allegedly by her estranged husband, who was stalking her. She made requests for protection and had court orders to keep him away, but it did no good.

And now her three young children are paying the price. They are without their mother. But they are not alone.

The children, ages 3, 5 and 7, were taken in by their grandfather, Walter Mainer, a former Xavier football star and 1966 graduate, along with his wife, Lorrayne. The couple raised eight children of their own, and now are starting over.

“We were talking about retiring in a couple of years, but now we joke about getting a part-time job,” says the 58-year-old Mainer. “We’ll make it. It’s for the children’s sake, and with the grace of God, we shall complete it. Maybe someday they’ll take care of us.”

Mainer’s classmate and football teammate Roger Thesing is collecting contributions for a trust fund set up for the children at Fifth Third Bank—the Dawson Children’s Trust Fund—to offset some of their expenses. It was a move that surprised Mainer.

As for the children, they’re adjusting, Mainer says, but there are issues. The oldest one is angry and keeps asking why his father had to hurt their mother. “What did she ever do to hurt him?” the boy asks his grandpa. And the 3-year-old thinks his mom will come back from Heaven “when her injury is finished.”

“They miss their mother,” Mainer says. “They’re good children, and the tragedy of it is they have no mother or father now. But we’ll do the best we can to offset the loss of both parents.”

Xavier Magazine

Double Play

“Baseball is in serious trouble,” says history professor John Fairfield. Strikes and lockouts, overpaid players and greedy owners—they’ve all whittled into our fondness for the great American pastime. And the future of the game is in question, he says, unless changes are made.

Fairfield should know. Each summer he teaches Baseball and American Culture, an intense one-week course on the history of the game. Students explore the game’s intricate link with the social, economic and political history of the United States. And how baseball symbolizes and exemplifies all that is good—and much that is wrong—with America. Baseball is the venue where the public gathers to witness a showcase of its best values—cooperative teamwork, skilled craftsmanship, successful business ventures. But it is also where we see the fallout from too much money—rich owners and salary disputes.

“Baseball is not quite as beloved as it once was,” Fairfield says. “With the competition of other sports, and since the 1980s with the labor problems, baseball is in serious trouble. Free agency made it more competitive, with more teams winning and bringing a whole new set of fans to the game. It’s not less popular, but high salaries have changed the nature of the experience.”

He argues, however, that the game is worth preserving, if only for its permanent presence in the development of our culture. That may require wresting the teams from private ownership and placing them in the hands of nonprofit organizations or municipalities—returning the game, so to speak, to the public, where it began.

“We let this coterie of rich people run it, and it’s insane,” he says. “There’s a fundamental tension. On the one hand, it is a public thing with civic aspirations, the national pastime. But there is also this marketing commodity that is being exploited for profit.”

It was just that tension that led to the game’s darkest moment, the 1919 World Series scandal in which members of the Chicago White Sox—or Black Sox, as they later became known—felt they were underpaid and took money to throw games. That somber moment came after the game’s heyday as a sport and public institution, Fairfield says. The historic baseball parks were built during the country’s progressive period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the game offered an outlet from the new industrialization. While more people left the farms to work in enclosed, tightly run factories, baseball was a pastoral event, an outdoor experience, where skill and craft were still valued and men had an element of control.

During the five days of the two-credit course, Fairfield covers several major themes, including:

• How baseball serves as a myth of industrialized America, with people seeing it as a model of work—skilled craftsmanship in a competitive economy.

• The game’s most famous players, Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, who are among the most influential Americans because each dramatized major cultural shifts—blue-collar workers demanding a higher standard of living, and the beginning of the end of racial segregation.

• And, of course, the trouble with the game today.

Xavier Magazine

Diving In

Some people like to take the family car for a drive. Jamie Schade likes to go for a spin in the family submarine.

“We’ve got to be the only people in the Midwest who can say we own a submarine,” says Schade.

The 1996 graduate and his family are investors in Atlantis Submarines International. The company takes tourists below the ocean’s surface in specially built 48- or 64-seat passenger submarines, giving them a firsthand look at coral reefs, shipwrecks, sunken war planes, or up-close looks at sharks, whales, stingrays, dolphins and all kinds of fish.

Schade’s father, Don, first invested in the company 12 years ago. Atlantis now operates in 11 locations around the world, including Guam, Aruba and the Virgin Islands, among others.

“It’s amazing the kinds of things you see off the coast of Hawaii,” says Schade. “To me, it was a surreal experience to see the ocean floor. You see an extraordinary amount of sea life. It’s awe-inspiring.”

The first time he went 150 feet below sea level, a fish gave him a look like, “What the heck are you doing down here?” The answer, of course, is simply checking out the family investment.