Xavier Magazine

Safety Angels

The last thing Ginny Frings remembers as she headed home with her twin toddlers tucked safely in their car seats was pumping gas at a Shell station, getting coffee at a drive-through and merging back onto the highway. She was on her way home to Lynchburg, Va., after a four-day visit with family in Tuscaloosa, Ala. It was around midnight, the kids were in the back sleeping and Frings still had three hours of driving to go. Overall, though, it wasn’t bad. In fact, she liked the quiet of late-night drives. It gave her time to think.

There weren’t too many cars on the highway as she pulled her Chrysler Sebring convertible east onto Interstate 40. But as she sipped her coffee, a pair of headlights loomed up in front of her. It was a car. Going the wrong direction. On the interstate.

Everything went black.

Frings, an accountancy professor at Lynchburg College at the time, remembers nothing of the accident. She awoke seven days later in intensive care with broken bones and internal injuries. She wasn’t supposed to live. The other driver, barreling west in the east-bound lanes, smashed into her head-on while eluding police who had tried for miles to stop her.

Frings has undergone 12 surgeries as a result of the accident—so far. Her entire left side, from her head to her feet plus both hips, had to be repaired. She underwent months of rehabilitation, learning all over how to walk and use her left arm. Just being able to pick up a Cheerio was a milestone. And she loves to tell how she learned to walk at the same time as her toddlers.

Today, seven years after the accident, she’s a mixed bag of healed bone, titanium plates and screws, including a replaced hip. But she has regained her agility. Most important, though, the twins, Faith and Eric, survived unharmed. A sheriff’s deputy remarked at the time it was fortunate they were secured properly in their car seats. That fact and the accident were enough to launch Frings on a crusade to protect all children.

This fall, Frings began teaching business at Xavier, and she brought with her all the promotional materials for Safety Angels, a non-profit group she heads dedicated to educating the public about the proper use of car seats. Frings is a tireless advocate for car seat safety and ticks off surprising facts: 95 percent of child car seats are improperly installed; 81 percent of parents with such seats think they have installed them correctly; car crashes remain a leading cause of child death and injury. The group produces safety fairs, DVDs and printed materials, and sponsors a web site at

Frings is amazed at how far she and the organization have come. At one point, she realized that everything, even the pain, is relative. The whole experience could have been worse, and she’s even writing a book about it. “What got me through was my faith in God, my children and my passion for wanting to help,” she says.

Xavier Magazine

Roving Science

Tony Stentz’s first unmanned vehicle was a 1986 Chevy van that moved a whopping one inch per second. He and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University would sit in the back with their computers, shipping instructions to the van as it crept around a vast, obstacle-free parking lot.

Today, the essence of that same technology is operating two vehicles millions of miles away—on Mars. The rovers Spirit and Opportunity have been creeping around the dusty Red Planet for nearly four years now, benefiting most recently from new software Stentz derived from the original algorithms that drove the Chevy van 21 years ago. They were expected to last three months but have defied the odds and their creators by surviving excessive heat, cold, radiation and dust storms.

Stentz, a 1982 physics graduate, went to Carnegie Mellon for his Ph.D. in computer science. He threw his soul into developing unmanned, robotic vehicles, believing that someday we will drive cars that drive themselves while we sit with our newspapers, laptops and coffee. For now, he concentrates on other automated vehicles—mining machines that extract coal on their own and military robots that sneak stealthily through woods and over mountains without risking soldiers’ lives.

A couple years ago, aware of the work being done at Carnegie Mellon’s robotics institute, NASA approached Stentz and his team with a request for software to improve their communications with the rovers. Stentz adapted the robotics software to work on the rovers. After testing it on earth-bound vehicles, the researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory transmitted it to the ones on Mars last June.

The new software maps the landscape as the rover travels forward—boulder here, trench there. If it gets into a tight spot, such as a dead end, it won’t just keep turning in circles but will actually read its own map of the territory recently traversed and reverse its course out of the jam.

“We were just excited when it actually controlled the rover for the first time,” Stentz says. “It was a milestone for us.”

And a long way from that 1986 Chevy van.

Xavier Magazine

Profile: Tito Castillo

Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Administration, 1968 Retired principal, Fern Creek Traditional High School, Louisville, Ky.

Go West | Castillo arrived in the United States from his native Republic of the Philippines in 1967 to teach at St. Henry High School in Erlanger, Ky. He had $3.75 in the pocket of his borrowed suit, and this lack of funds made the 16-hour flight to America memorable. “They were serving lunch and breakfast. I thought they would charge me so I declined. I was starving.”

Extra Effort | Castillo quickly decided to continue his education and enrolled at Xavier to earn a master’s degree in secondary administration. But he didn’t drive, so he relied on the bus and friends to make the 12-mile journey and recalls more than once arriving on campus dripping wet from rain. He finally moved to campus for a summer, loaded himself down with courses and eventually completed his degree in a year and one semester.

A Taste of the ’60s | In the late 1960s, unrest rocked schools across the country, and Castillo wanted to experience it firsthand. So, with his new master’s degree in hand, he applied to schools in Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and Louisville, Ky. Accepted in Louisville, he asked for placement in the roughest school. “I didn’t know what I was asking for.”

Martial Law | Castillo was assigned to the inner-city Duvalle Middle School. He got by because the students assumed a man from the East must be a martial arts expert—a stereotype he didn’t discourage. “They didn’t mess with me,” he says, laughing.

The Long Climb | Castillo went on to teach at nearby Shawnee High School for two years, then became assistant principal at Louisville’s Atherton High School before moving to the same position at Fern Creek in 1988. Over the years, he applied unsuccessfully for a number of principal positions and began to think that he might never become a principal in America.

Mystery Woman | Still, when Fern Creek’s principal left in 1996, Castillo thought about trying one more time. An hour before applications closed, he received a phone call from a woman, who didn’t identify herself, reminding him of the deadline. “To this day, I don’t know who this mysterious woman was.”

Getting the Call | After 24 years as an assistant principal, Castillo got the call he had been waiting for. He took the helm of Fern Creek in fall 1996 and began changing the school’s poor academic scores and confrontational culture. Fern Creek was chosen as one of the nation’s Top 100 High Schools that Work in 2006, and the Kentucky Association of Secondary School Principals named Castillo 2004 Outstanding High School Principal.

New Horizons | Castillo retired in summer 2007, but he’s already looking for new ways of sharing the knowledge he’s accumulated. He says that people and relationships are the foundation of all success and that perseverance is critical. “My life is full of failures, mistakes, frustrations and rejections. Looking back, all of those provided me a stage to learn.”

Xavier Magazine

Roman Inroads

University President Michael J. Graham, S.J., led a delegation of six University representatives to Rome in October to participate in the inaugural lay conference on Catholic-Jewish relations and, among their many activities, meet Pope Benedict XVI.

Joining Graham were Rabbi Abie Ingber, director for Hillel at Xavier; James Buchanan, director for the Edward B. Brueggeman center for dialogue; Art Shriberg, professor of management and entrepreneurship; Jewish student Michael Loban; and Catholic student Maggie Meyer.

During their meeting with the pope, they presented him with a menorah, a replica of one Ingber helped install at the Vatican in observance of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) in 1999. Replicas have also been presented to the late Pope John Paul II and Graham. The group also met with Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Jerzy Kluger, Pope John Paul II’s closest Jewish friend. They also visited the Great Synagogue of Rome.

The goal of the conference, Ingber says, was to move bridge-building beyond the clergy and “into the pews.” The discussions revolved around identifying areas of “commonality and divide” between the traditions. Lay leaders from 18 U.S. cities attended and laid the groundwork for a network to share ideas and programming.

The group posted blogs and photos from their journey, which can be viewed at

Xavier Magazine

Play Ball

Tim Nichting found himself back in the World Series this year. It was the third trip for the former Xavier catcher. Not a bad accomplishment. Most people are thrilled to make it once.

OK, OK, so he wasn’t exactly in the Fall Classic. And he wasn’t playing with the Red Sox or the Rockies. He was in the Little League version of the World Series coaching a group of 12-year-olds.

But this might have been better. As big as the Little League World Series has become—nationally televised games, free equipment, sold-out stadiums—it was a big deal. Plus, the 47-year-old Nichting had one of the greatest thrills a father could have: He coached his son, T.J., in the Series.

Baseball, as it turns out, is a family activity in the Nichting household. After playing at Xavier, Nichting was drafted to play in the minor leagues for the Montreal Expos in 1982. Released in 1983, his father, Ray, asked him to be an assistant coach on the team he was leading. Nichting saw the chance to help the younger set. “And the next thing you know, I’m there for 24 years,” he says with a laugh.

In 1991, they became the first-ever father-son combo to coach in the Little League World Series. They did it again in 1993 and 1995, when they were one win away before being eliminated—with a team that included Tim’s oldest son, Tony. “It was very sad to go home in 1995,” he says, “but then I get this chance 12 years later and we make it.”

Nichting, a computer programmer by day, coached the West-side Hamilton (Ohio) All-Stars to the Series this year by winning 14 games in the regionals before going 1-2 in the double-elimination Series—the same record as in the two earlier appearances. But this time, with the TV coverage and freebies, it was a whole different experience.

“Surreal would be the word,” he says.

Xavier Magazine

Half and Half

The University received another major gift for the To See Great Wonders capital campaign, this one for $1 million from the Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trust.

One half of the grant is to go toward funding the new Williams College of Business building, with the other half going to increase the value of the Jacob G. Schmidlapp Endowed Scholarship Fund. Established with a grant of $100,000 in 1977, the grant benefits undergraduate students in pre-medicine or nursing and graduate students in health services administration. The money designated for scholarships is being issued as a challenge grant designed to motivate increased giving from others. The grant will be awarded after Xavier raises an additional $500,000 in scholarships, which is expected to be achieved by fall 2008.

Xavier Magazine

The Big Picture

In the 1994 President’s Report, then-vice president for financial administration Richard Hirté led readers on an imaginary tour of campus in the 21st century—transformed by the XU2000 strategic master plan and the $100 million Century Campaign. On the tour, he describes the newly refurbished Schmidt and Hinkle halls and the new academic mall, which removed most of Ledgewood Avenue and brought together the two sections of campus the street divided. He takes his visitors through a renovated University Center, which actually became the Gallagher Student Center. Finally he tours the grand dame, a new Convocation Center, which became the Cintas Center.


“We did just about everything on that list,” he says. “To say we transformed the campus is a fair statement. We incorporated non-architectural components to make sure our presence on Victory Parkway looked good, and the grass was green, and it had a better definition to it so when people came to the campus, they knew they were in a beautiful place. A large part of people deciding to come here or not is the touch and feel of the place. Is this a nice place where they want to live or work?

Or is it a dump? For awhile, people here weren’t making the investment in the infrastructure.”

For Hirté, who’s retiring at the end of the year to focus on teaching finance courses in the Williams College of Business, those changes also mark the part of a long list of achievements that have defined his career. In his time at Xavier, he’s overseen the daily financial dealings of the University, the economics of two capital campaigns—the $100 million Century Campaign and the $30 million Cornerstone Campaign—and the growth of the endowment from near-nothing to more than $125 million.

So as he prepares to hand off his share of responsibilities for the new $200 million To See Great Wonders campaign, he offers a unique perspective on the direction of the University as a whole. The campus’ transformation continues as the construction of the Hoff Academic Quad and new Williams College of Business building further advance the integration of the University’s educational process with its Jesuit mission. And the 20-acre Xavier Square development on the east side completes the conversion of the former industrial fringe of campus into a lively area that will benefit both students and the adjacent community.

“Overall, it’s hard to envision the impact it’s going to have,” he says, “and we probably have underestimated the assets the University is bringing to bear.”

Xavier Magazine

Man of the Year

Dominic Pitocco is no stranger to volunteer work. But two years ago, the 1991 M.B.A. graduate became involved with the for the most personal of reasons—his daughter Kellie, then 12, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, a cancer of the lymph system.

Pitocco began his involvement by raising money working in beer booths at A Taste of Cincinnati and participating in the society’s annual Light Up the Night walks. So when he was nominated as a candidate for the organization’s Man of the Year Award for 2007, he was more than ready.

Once nominated, candidates have 10 weeks to raise as much money as possible “through legal activities.” The individual who raises the most money in each category receives the award.

To aid in his effort, Pitocco reached out to family, friends, coworkers and even old high school classmates. He launched e-mail and letter campaigns and held a series of fundraisers. When the smoke cleared, Pitocco’s juggernaut raised almost $54,000, enough to garner the title.

That was good news, of course, but not as good as knowing Kellie has been cancer-free since March 2006 and that a research grant will soon be named in her honor. As for Pitocco, it also means more volunteering—he’ll soon become a member of the society’s board of directors. “When you have a sick child, the best thing you can get is someone giving you a big hug,” he says. “That’s what the society is all about.”

Xavier Magazine

Strong and Steady

The men’s basketball program once again found itself ranked among the nation’s elite, with Basketball Times magazine ranking Xavier among the top 10 programs in the United States for the quality of the program both on and off the court. Xavier officially ranked ninth, joining Duke, North Carolina, Florida, Stanford, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Creighton, Kansas and Illinois in the top 10. The rankings take into effect six categories over a 10-year period: winning percentage, program cleanliness, head coach ranking, current NBA players, graduation rate and U.S. News rankings. The magazine does the study every five years, and Xavier is one of only four men’s programs ranked in the top 10 since 1997 along with Duke, North Carolina and Kansas.

Xavier Magazine

Library Access

If you thought your library privileges were revoked after graduation, think again. As a Xavier alum, you can still access the library’s online databases from home.

So, if you want to read about, say, genetic studies of Easter Island natives or the history of the Chinese stock market, all you have to do is go to, log in using your alumni ALL Card number, choose “Databases A-Z” and select either the Academic Search or Business Source database. Academic Search is designed for the research needs of post-college professionals, while Business Source provides nearly 1,100 full-text business magazines and journals. Best of all, there are no due dates and no fines.