Xavier Magazine

Class Time

On Oct. 14, 1840, 13-year-old Joseph Musick stood in line to enroll at St. Xavier College in Cincinnati. The College had been in business for nine years, but Musick was the first to register since its renovation and reopening by the Jesuits who had taken it over from the fledgling Cincinnati Archdiocese.

Though young, Musick was a typical student. With a proper grammar school education, he was prepared for the St. Xavier blend of three years of high school and three years of college that would inculcate in him enough French, Latin, Greek, English, poetry, philosophy and algebra to be considered an educated citizen.

Though some of the courses required of the 19th century students seem antiquated today—such as metaphysics and moral philosophy—they were rooted in the Jesuit educational tradition that’s remained at the heart of the core curriculum of classical instruction since the University’s founding in 1831.

As it celebrates 175 years of Jesuit education this year, the University continues to reflect the mission of the early Jesuits who published in 1599 the Ratio Studiorum, or plan of studies, that drives every Jesuit educational curriculum.

“It was eloquentia perfecta—the ability to read, speak and write in the most perfect way,” says Thomas Kennealy, S.J., associate dean of the colleges of Social Sciences and Arts and Sciences. “The essence of the core curriculum still has it. We’re teaching people how to speak, read, write and think clearly, analytically and critically. That’s the goal of liberal education and of Jesuit education.”

Joseph, from Missouri, studied for two years at St. Xavier, but while in St. Louis in the summer of 1842, was injured in a shooting accident. He returned to Xavier in the fall of 1843.

A typical day for Joseph and his fellow students, who ranged in age from 8 to 21, began early and was very restrictive: At 5:00 a.m., they would rise, study, say prayers, exercise, attend Mass and eat breakfast before going to English class at 8:00 a.m. Then came Latin, Greek and writing classes before the midday meal. After recreation and study, they attended either French or metaphysics, followed by arithmetic, algebra or geo-metry. They would exercise again until 5:00 p.m., study, take two more classes in Spanish, chemistry or natural philosophy and then have supper at 7:30 p.m. The evenings included more recreation, then night prayers and finally lights out around 8:30 p.m.

During recreation in the gymnasium, the students spoke French and English, a practice that disappeared by 1850. They wore black or blue frock coats and pants to distinguish them as St. Xavier students. Classes were Monday through Saturday with none on Thursday and Sunday—a schedule kept until 1917 when Saturday became the day off instead of Thursday.

This program, though modified through the years, remained the basic plan of instruction for St. Xavier students into the 1900s. Those who wanted to go into business took a four-year commercial course of business classes but were not part of the six-year classical high school and college program, which expanded to seven years in 1869—the same year stoves were added to the classrooms. “When you look at the curriculum in the 1840s and 1850s and see the courses for Latin, Greek and others listed, that could be seen as the core of studies back then,” says Roger Fortin, the University’s academic vice president and provost and author of an upcoming history of the University.

“Our courses in philosophy, history, English, theology and sciences testify that this University believes as the College did in the 1840s, that for any student majoring in any field, they’re essential for a more meaningful life. The University has never lost its commitment to a liberal arts education.”

Today’s core curriculum resembles the core from 1840—and the Ratio Studiorum upon which it’s based—in many ways. Though the course of studies expanded and changed through the late 1900s, it remains a demanding and thorough curriculum that students must complete regardless of their major. And while students have many choices to satisfy the core, those accepted to the Honors Bachelor of Arts program adhere to a stricter curriculum emphasizing the classical disciplines of the original Jesuit core. Students in the program, adopted in 1948, take additional philosophy courses plus non-core courses in Latin, Greek and the Humanities.

“The honors program, when founded in the 1940s, was thought to be the reincarnation of true Jesuit education,” Kennealy says. It’s a program even Joseph Musick would recognize.

Xavier Magazine

Xavier Faces

Cyril Whitaker, S.J. 
After teaching 22 years in the Cincinnati area, Whitaker changed careers and became a Jesuit. He then resumed his teaching career at Xavier, leading courses in Latin, Greek and philosophy in the classics program. He earned his degree in classics from Xavier in 1978 and says he feels blessed to give back to the school where he received a “marvelous education.” Beyond teaching, Whitaker says he enjoys collecting antiques, reading and going out to eat.

Steve Driehaus
Community Building Institute
Driehaus is a busy man. Not only does he consult on Community Building Collaborative projects, but he represents the 31st District in the Ohio State Legislature. “[CBI] is a very effective way for Xavier to be engaged in the community and achieve a significant neighborhood development outside of academics,” Driehaus says. “And that’s important in fulfilling Xavier’s mission.” When he’s not away from home, Driehaus enjoys spending time with his three children.

Darrel Burns, S.J.
Campus Ministry
Burns is one of the newest Jesuits at Xavier, arriving in 2005. He writes liturgies in the office of campus ministry. However, he is not a total stranger to Xavier. He taught theater at the University in the 1980s at the Edgecliff campus. He has also served as chaplain at Loyola High School in Baltimore and Scranton Preparatory High School in Scranton, Pa. When he’s not at Bellarmine Chapel, he enjoys eating at all the fine restaurants in Cincinnati.

De Asa Brown
Community Building Collaborative
De Asa Brown began working with the Community Building Collaborative in March 2005 as a liason between the University and the neighboring communities. “The opportunity to be a part of revitalizing the community in which I live, while working with a diverse segment of leaders, is what drew me to the position,” she says. When she’s not working or studying for her M.B.A., Brown enjoys bodybuilding, fashion design and water sports.

Xavier Magazine

Weathering the Holidays

W. Michael Nelson III, a professor in the department of psychology, discusses tension during the holidays and how to overcome it.

Why do you think that holidays bring out hostility and stress in people? Are some people more susceptible to this than others? Many people report an increase in distress, anger and upset over the holidays when they contrast what they perceive as the happiness and joy of others to their own lives where they feel lacking in something, such as a loving relationship, close family, strong friendships or financial stability. Certain individuals tend to be more vulnerable to distress, upset and anger around the holidays than others. Some individuals and their families have a “long history” of disagreements and conflicts. Others may be going through a more acutely trying time in their lives, and become more easily agitated and upset as they attempt to cope with such stressors—e.g., breakup of a friendship or romance, divorce or family separation, death of a loved one, academic problems, or financial stress. All of us also characteristically react to such stress in idiosyncratic ways. In other words, some may deal with such stress by becoming sad or depressed, others anxious and nervous, and still others angry and hostile.

What are some tips that you have for people who are gathering with a family member that they are not on great terms with? Conflicts and hassles are a “normal part of life” and are inherent in being part of a family. In other words, family disagreements and turmoil are often perfectly “normal.” Despite this, some individuals dread having to spend time with others with whom they have not been on amicable terms. They anticipate problems and conflicts. This attitude often results in a self-fulfilling prophecy when they encounter the problematic others. The first tip in “making the best of the holidays” is to focus on your own attitude and expectations. Recognize any hostile intent on your part and make a commitment to “take the high road” in interacting with those with whom you have had significant disagreements. Epitictus, an ancient Greek philosopher, said that “people are more effected by the view they take of things than by the things themselves”. For those interested in Oriental thought, one such philosopher noted “that the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change; but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.” These two similar philosophies suggest that although we may not have any control over what others say or how they act towards us, we do have much more control over how we feel and subsequently how we react towards them. The trick is to develop a positive or “high road” attitude in dealing with others and not to become upset even if things do not work out exactly the way in which we would like.

If confrontation occurs unexpectedly, what should one do? The best advice is to “be prepared” and develop a game plan based on the taking the “high road” philosophy even if others don’t respond favorably to our conciliatory overtures. If sufficiently prepared, we can become much more astute in recognizing when confrontations are brewing and can better “side step” such issues before they erupt. Sometimes, even with the best attempts at anticipating problems, confrontations can occur rather unexpectedly. When this happens, the first step is to inhibit the “knee-jerk” response of striking back in a fashion that will intensify and further inflame the confrontation. Again, keep in mind that we are actually more in control of our own feelings and reactions than we think, and that it “takes two to tango” (or argue/fight). It is very difficult to fight with someone who is committed not to do so. Remember that if things do not work out exactly the way we would like, acceptance of the other individual and “patting yourself on the back” for attempting to side step or better deal with the situation can be helpful. Remember, it is not really terrible or catastrophic if others do not treat us in a way that we would like. And, it is in our power to “rise above” and make the best of even the most problematic situation.

Xavier Magazine

Stem Cell

Robert Baumiller, S.J., a professor in the department of philosophy, discusses stem cells and their impact and controversy.

What are the potential uses of stem cells and what scientific breakthroughs have resulted from them? Stem cells hold the possibility of restoring any injured or deteriorating tissue due to disease or age. The ability to re-grow tissue has been demonstrated in mice and, in a limited way, in humans. Further out is the possibility of growing an organ, such as a heart or kidney in vitro.

In humans, there are isolated reports of success in treating stem cells. One area where stem cell treatment is growing is in certain cases of heart diseases, such as heart failure and cystic fibrosis, In an October [2005] edition of Newsweek, there was a story about hundreds of cases that have been treated in Europe and elsewhere, producing amazing results.

Why is stem cell research such a hot topic for debate? The debate about stem cells arises because the most easily attained stem cells are from embryos or fetuses, but must be killed to harvest the stem cells. Most embryos or fetuses from which stem cells would be harvested, would die even if they are left with their un-harvested stem cells. Some believe it is permissable to kill and harvest, while others believe it is never right to kill a human organism. The best stem cells would come from an embryonic clone of the person needing the replacement cells. Many believe it is wrong to clone a human for any purpose.

With new technology and advances in science making it possible to alter nature, do you think stem cell research poses a threat to nature? Human ability to alter nature poses a growing threat. However, it also holds out an ever-growing promise to feed and cure a hungry and ailing mankind. Humans must wisely control sciences’ ability to change nature and not to destroy it along with us in the process.

Xavier Magazine

The Real American Hero

David Vennemeyer, an artillery commander from Victoria, Texas, is an ex-wrestler with a fast temper. And, according to his military file, he can “single-handedly mow down a squadron and keep on going without breaking a sweat.” Of course, he only stands about four inches tall—and has trouble standing at that.

Plus, he’s not even the real David Vennemeyer. He’s really just a G.I. Joe figure created by the eponymous sculpture manager at Hasbro. The 1995 graduate lent his name and likeness to the plastic action figure, which also goes by the name Major Barrage.

Vennemeyer—the real one, that is—studied ceramic sculpture at the University and landed a co-op with Kenner Toys (now Hasbro) his senior year. That evolved into a full-time job after graduation, and he’s been there ever since. For the past 10 years, Vennemeyer’s primarily worked on the Star Wars line, but has also sculpted figures for G.I. Joe, Jurassic Park, Batman and numerous other brands and movies.

It takes about two weeks to finish sculpting an average figure, and Vennemeyer uses handmade tools and a lot of dental instruments to detail the hard, wax-based material.

“I enjoy making something that so many kids and adults get excited about—it really is quite infectious,” he says. “I also still get a charge about things that I have sculpted showing up on retailer shelves around the world, from London to Australia, or even back at home in Cincinnati.”

Xavier Magazine

The Main Event

Alumni now have a place to call their own. In September, the University completed the Surkamp Family Welcome Center located inside the Alumni Center on Dana Avenue. The glass-enclosed center acts as a hub for visiting alumni and dignitaries, and creates additional campus meeting space. The lounge area—replete with chairs, computers, phones and a large-screen plasma television—is adjacent to a 20-person conference room available for alumni meetings, seminars and workshops. On display are photographs of Xavier’s campus throughout the years so alumni can reminisce and still feel connected to their alma mater.

“This has been in talks for many years and now, finally, it’s like a dream come true,” says Joe Ventura, executive director for the national alumni association. “Alumni have a place to go to feel like they’re home.”

The University opened the center by honoring Phil and Beth Gasiewicz, who donated the funds, and Beth’s parents, Dick and Betty Surkamp.

Xavier Magazine

The Great Debate

The questions began rattling around in Tarek Kamil’s mind as a 14-year-old: “What if Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan was able to go head-to-head with Hall of Fame slugger Babe Ruth? How would they stack up? Would the end result be a strikeout or home run? What if the 1927 New York Yankees played the 1976 Cincinnati Reds? What if the Packer Sweep went against the Steel Curtain? What if …”

Kamil wasn’t alone in his wonderings, though. Such questions have been the center of debates among sports fans for decades. While it’s impossible to really answer the questions, Kamil wasn’t satisfied with just simple barroom bickering. So he took his wonderings, his self-taught computer skills and his M.B.A. from Xavier and founded, a web site that uses simulation technology to pit together sports teams and players from different eras.

And the result has been a sports junkie’s dream. In five years, the site’s registered 350,000 users and won a Webby Award for best sports site on the Internet. Plus, in September, Fox Interactive Media approached Kamil about buying the company and making him a vice president at the media conglomerate. He couldn’t say no. Kamil’s still in charge of the business and can only envision how far it will go now that it has Fox’s resources behind it. But what he does know is that it’s been a wild ride since he first began wondering “What if …”

After earning his M.B.A. in 1997, he formed his own software company, Insigna. While on an airplane to a software engineers conference at Microsoft in 1999, the wonderings of his childhood suddenly came back. It was an epiphany.

“That was all I could think about while I was out there,” he says. “My pen didn’t stop the entire week. They thought I was taking notes on whatever it was they were saying, and I was actually drawing screens and plans. WhatIfSports was coming to life. I was obsessed with it.”

And now no one is left wondering what if …

Xavier Magazine

The Art of Friendship

Russell Goings loves to share the art and memory of his friend, renowned American artist Romare Bearden. So in the fall, Goings, a 1959 graduate, brought “The Unseen Romare Bearden,” an exhibit of 94 works in a variety of media, to the University art gallery in the A.B. Cohen Center.

The exhibit was unique in that it featured pieces never before shown together, including the 22-collage “Odysseus Suite” and the “Alvin Aily Dancers” drawings. Bearden’s work incorporates a rich montage of influences from American, African, Asian and European art and culture, capturing themes drawn largely from the artist’s African-American heritage.

Probably best known for his collage work, Bearden was fluent in a variety of media, as attested by the wide range of drawings, paintings, prints and works in marker included in the exhibit.

Goings and Bearden met in the 1970s in New York. Goings was a pro-football-player-turned-entrepreneur who helped break Wall Street’s color barrier, and Bearden an artist who spent most of his life as a social worker. But they forged a bond that lasted until Bearden’s death in 1988. In the process, Goings and his wife, Evelyn Boulware, came to hold the largest single collection of Bearden works.

“He was my mentor,” Goings says. With “The Unseen Romare Bearden,” Goings both honored a friend and helped perpetuate a mentor’s powerful legacy.

Xavier Magazine

Sweet Rewards

Five years ago, Maria Fisher entered two cakes into the Kentucky State Fair and won second place for her amaretto buttercream chocolate cake. Since then, the Louisville resident and 1993 graduate has won ribbons at the fair each year for her confections, as well as the coveted Sweepstakes Award—an engraved silver platter and large rosette ribbon—this year for earning the most points of any cake exhibitor.

She’s also learned an important secret—how to judge the judges. “I have learned over the years, by observing what has won in the past, that the judges really favor cakes with fruit,” says Fisher. It was knowledge put to good use. Over the course of two days during the summer, Fisher turned her galley-style kitchen into a production line, hired her mother as a sous chef and produced five cakes, including a peaches and cream concoction that went on to win first place.

For inspiration, Fisher scours cookbooks and magazines, and watches food shows to find new flavor combinations. “I will use a chocolate cake recipe from one cookbook,” she says, “but I will combine it with a filling that I saw in another cookbook. Then I’ll make a family recipe for the frosting. So the end result is new, but the individual components may not be.”

Xavier Magazine

South Hall

To accommodate the influx of servicemen on the G.I. Bill in the fall of 1946, the University constructed military barracks on campus. Most of the barracks were used to house students. Two of the structures, known as North Hall and South Hall, provided a lounge and theater (South Hall) and classrooms and science labs (North Hall). Students often met in South Hall for informal talks with Jesuit faculty, to get a bite to eat or simply relax.