Norman Murdock wore many hats during his lifetime—politician, judge, lawyer, anti-tobacco crusader, benefactor, art enthusiast. Murdock, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Xavier in 1955 and a law degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1968, was elected to posts in the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government, serving at the local, state and national levels in a political career that spanned 40 years. He served in the Ohio House of Representatives, and was a Hamilton County commissioner and Common Pleas Court judge. Murdock’s legal career was distinguished by his key role on the team representing Ohio in the case against major tobacco in which the state was awarded $10 billion in 1998. He is survived by his wife, Patricia, six children and 15 grandchildren. He died in his sleep in September at age 78.
In her very first story, Laura Bradford used crayons to make a picture book about a gnome who created his own little town that had a “moleway” instead of a subway. It took her one rainy afternoon when she was 10 years old.
“I knew from that moment on that it was all I wanted to do,” she says. “I realize now that I’m an introvert, and writing is a way to be heard.”
Today, Bradford is being heard loud and clear by an audience of readers who gobble up mystery and romance novels faster than you can say Fabio. She has a contract with Berkley publishing to produce six mystery novels in three years and with Harlequin—yes, Harlequin—for three romance novels in one year. She cranks them out every four to six months.
[Check out a list of Laura’s books, see photos and get her latest news.]
It wasn’t so easy at first. After working as a journalist, Bradford, a 1989 communications graduate, stayed home with her two daughters and decided to try writing a mystery novel like the ones she loves to read. She dug into her childhood vacations on the Jersey shore and wrote a story about tourists who visit a fortune teller on the boardwalk but wind up dead within an hour of their visit. It took about five years to complete.
After only one rewrite, however, A Jury of One was published in 2005 by a small independent press. It came out with a hideous pink cover and a small fee for Bradford, but that was okay. Bradford was finally a published novelist. Then Harlequin bought the rights to the book, reissued it with a new cover and sold 26,000 copies. It was the first in a series that Bradford titled the Jenkins and Burns Mysteries.
Her career was snowballing. In 2008, Berkley Prime Crime, an imprint of Penguin publishers, hired her to write three books for the Southern Sewing Circle mysteries. The first installments—Sew Deadly, released in August 2009, and Death Threads in May 2010—sold so well that they extended her to six books. She wrote these under her pen name, Elizabeth Lynn Casey.
In the meantime, Bradford heard a news story on the radio about a missing letter from the 1940s, discovered behind a U.S. Post Office desk, and wrote a multigenerational romance story based on the letter. Harlequin snatched it up, and Kayla’s Daddy was published in January this year. Then they hired her to write two more.
“Since 2007, I’ve been contracted for nine books,” she says. “I’ve enjoyed the romances more than I expected, but I think I’m still a mystery girl.”
Along the way, Bradford was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Though she’s making a living with her books, it’s tight. Divorced, she’s raising her daughters alone and paying for insurance that covers her monthly prescriptions.
Bradford also keeps up two websites and wants to keep writing as her focus. She’s considering taking a job to increase her income and provide health benefits, but she’ll never stop writing her books, because the ideas that began when she was 10 just keep coming.
THOM (GROSS) BARRY
Class of 1976
Farm-raised | Long before he ever dreamt of Hollywood, Thom Barry was a kid growing up on his parents’ farm in Williamsburg, Ohio. He dreaded the summer vacations because that meant working in the corn and soybean fields from sunup to sundown. But life on the farm taught him the value of labor. “I definitely have a work ethic,” he says. “Acting is nothing compared to what I grew up with. It’s like a cakewalk.”
Golden Voice | Williamsburg High School Principal Michael McEvoy—a Xavier alumnus—noticed Barry’s voice, a sonorous baritone even as a teenager. McEvoy taught him how to project, and Barry, a linebacker on the football team, started announcing the school’s theater productions.
California Dreamin’ | After graduating high school in 1969, Barry joined the Air Force and shipped out to a base in South Korea. Three years later, he returned and enrolled at Xavier on the GI Bill. At the behest of theater director Otto Kvapil, Barry auditioned for Molière’s play, “The Doctor in Spite of Himself.” He landed a leading role and went on to act in and direct more Xavier productions. “I had found something that I loved to do,” he says.
Almost an Emmy | Barry’s first acting award, for a minor role in “Bus Stop” at Xavier, still sits on the mantle in his Los Angeles home.
Riding the Radio Waves | Before heading to Hollywood, Barry first took his voice to radio, working as a journalist and disc jockey at WUBE, a country music station in Cincinnati.
Name Game | Born Thom Gross, Barry changed his name to have a better “sense of rhythm and flow” on the radio.
The Big Move | Barry decided to move to Los Angeles looking for radio and voiceover work. “It was between Chicago, New York and L.A.,” he says. “I picked the warm weather.”
The Gamble | “The beautiful thing about this town is there are no guarantees,” he says. “It may never happen, but it may happen tomorrow. You don’t know if you’re going to make it at all.”
Cold Case Veteran | Barry’s best-known role to date was as Det. Will Jeffries in “Cold Case.” He acted in the show for its entire seven-year run before it was taken off the air in May 2010. Barry’s credits also include “The West Wing,” “Independence Day,” “The Fast and the Furious” and dozens of other movies, TV shows and commercials. Now Barry is venturing into film-production.
Ohio Homecoming | Last summer, Barry came back to Ohio with his two teenage sons for a reunion at Williamsburg High School. “You kind of get a little jaded being here in Los Angles, but you forget how big it is to people back home when you’ve arisen to the place called stardom,” he says. It was nice to see faces from his past and to show his boys the lush Ohio River Valley, but Barry doesn’t plan on moving back to the Midwest any time soon. “I’m not that fond of cold weather anymore,” he says.
Ask his former colleague, and it sounds like Trey Daly got the short end of the career stick. “Trey’s pay is low, his hours are long, and he certainly does not enjoy the glamour, status or perks of private lawyers,” says Andrea Zigman, a former managing attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, where Daly has worked for 20 years.
“Instead,” Zigman says, “the rewards of his career come from persuading people that health care can and should be available to everyone.” Daly can do without the glamour, status and perks. As a public interest attorney, he’d be too busy to enjoy them anyway.
Daly, who earned a degree in political science at Xavier in 1983 and a law degree from the University of Kentucky, joined the Legal Aid Society in 1990 where he began representing individuals being denied Social Security benefits. Now Daly helps hospitals improve their low-income patient care and fixes regulatory oversights that disadvantage the poor.
Daly recently negotiated with Hamilton County Job and Family Services, for example, to help people applying for Medicaid. Before, applicants had to submit their paperwork in person to the Over-the-Rhine office. Parking was expensive, the hours were inconvenient and many fell through the cracks. Thanks to Daly, Medicaid applicants can now fax their forms from any county library.
“That’s another way that we help people to become financially stable,” Daly says, “to eliminate complications that are going on in their life that interfere in their ability to obtain their own financial support.”
In 2009 Daly was one of 10 health care leaders from around the country to receive the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders Award, which recognizes individuals who “overcome daunting obstacles to improve health and health care in their communities.”
“It’s been very fulfilling work,” Daly says. “I’ve been grateful that I’ve been able to stretch the boundaries of what a lawyer gets to do.”
A transplanted New Yorker, John LaRocca, S.J., joined Xavier’s Department of History faculty in 1977 convinced he would return to his native East Coast within two years. He’s been at Xavier ever since.
“After my first semester here I was back in New York for Christmas, and I went to dinner with some Jesuits who had gone through Jesuit formation with me. One of them looked at me and said, ‘You still going to be back here in two years?’ and I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘No, you’re not.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ and he said, ‘You’re falling in love with the school. You have no idea what your face looks like when you talk about Xavier.’ ”
“It gave me a place to teach, and I love teaching. I found some excellent students here and a lot of very good people who allowed me to enter their lives. I also saw myself as someone who wanted to do research, and the University and Jesuit community offered me the support to do that research. And one of the essential parts of who I am is that I am a priest, and they valued the ministry I did as a Jesuit priest on the campus.”
During his 33-plus years at Xavier, LaRocca has taken on many responsibilities beyond teaching history courses. He has twice served as chair of the history department and has been a member of and chaired numerous University committees. He’s been chaplain to athletes, continues to take turns presiding at Bellermine Chapel Masses, and is well known for his Friday night pasta dinners at Kuhlman Hall and his beloved beagle, Isabella, whom he routinely walks on campus. He is an avid, opinionated Xavier basketball fan. Most recently he was named trustee emeritus to the Xavier Board of Trustees and completed a six-year term as rector of the Jesuit community at Xavier this past fall.
LaRocca says he enjoyed serving as rector because he got to spend time with his Jesuit brothers, to find out more about their lives, their hopes, expectations and disappointments. Still, he says he’s relieved to be free of the paperwork and regional traveling associated with the job. He hopes to spend his newfound free time—liberation, he calls it—doing research for a book on the theology of Mary Tudor and the Council of Trent.
“I’ve been on all sorts of committees that have done things from the trivial to the really important. I was on the core curriculum committee 20 years ago, the academic vision statement committee, the first one. I was chair of the faculty committee when we purchased Edgecliff College. Is that more important than when I presided at liturgy at Bellarmine Chapel or visited a suicide victim on life support in the hospital? I don’t know what’s more important. Maybe God knows that, and maybe I haven’t done it yet.”
To be sure, one lasting legacy of LaRocca’s is an endowed scholarship he established in 2008 for a first-generation college student. The Joseph and Constance LaRocca Scholarship is named in memory of the only child’s first-generation Italian-American parents.
“I figured they aren’t going to have any grandchildren or great grandchildren to remember them, but at least at Xavier University, somebody will remember that these people once existed, and there will be a college student who benefits.”
Cathy Rosevear’s third and fourth grade students spend all year on their grade-school lessons. But in May, they go to college. That’s when Rosevear converts her classroom into Xavier University and doles out majors for the kids to explore.
It’s called Imaginary University, something that the Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Cincinnati, has practiced for six years. For a month, classrooms are converted into a college campus, and the students study different majors to get a taste of what college is all about.
Last May the Blue Blob, Xavier’s furry blue mascot, showed up and played with the kids, while three women’s basketball and one volleyball player talked about what it’s like to be a college athlete. For the 24 third graders, hearing star athletes talk about how they, too, can go to college was eye-opening, says Rosevear, a 2006 MEd graduate.
“A lot of the children were just shocked that real athletes were in our school and that the girls said they play basketball so they can go to college,” says Rosevear. “A couple of the children started talking about what they want to do in college.”
Most of the children live in a lower-income neighborhood of Cincinnati with families for whom college education has never been an option. So Rosevear builds their interest by decorating her classroom with all things Xavier—like pennants and pompoms. And she presents the practicality of majors—showing how business knowledge applies to managing your income or buying a house. She presents one major each week, such as zoology, medicine, engineering and government.
“Our overall purpose is opening our students’ eyes because where they come from is not college-based,” she says.
When Xavier began studying the possibilities of acquiring Edgecliff College in the late 1970s, one of the components that made the idea so attractive was Edgecliff’s nursing program. Xavier didn’t have a nursing program, the need for nurses was growing and the whole concept of nursing fit in seamlessly with the Jesuit philosophy of serving others.
What no one at the time could have possibly foreseen, though, was what an important component the nursing program would become to Xavier, not only to the academic vitality of the University today, but also to its future.
In the 10-year period between 1996-2006, the program’s enrollment more than quadrupled, making it the second-largest undergraduate program at the University behind liberal arts, and the fourth-largest graduate program at the University. What makes nursing so vital, though, is that it has also become a leader in integrating and innovating its courses, offering video classes for nurses in rural areas, creating cutting-edge programs such as the clinical nurse leader and forging interdisciplinary dual degrees with Xavier’s master’s programs in business, education and criminal justice.
[See a listing of Xavier’s health-related programs]
And that fits perfectly with Xavier’s future goals. In light of successful programs in nursing, pre-med, health services administration, among others, plans are being developed to increase Xavier’s visibility as an institution known for its health-related programs.
“It’s become apparent to a number of people that health-related programs are one of our strengths, and you can see that manifested in all three colleges,” says academic vice president and provost Roger Fortin. “These programs, collectively, reflect and are very much in keeping with our Jesuit, Catholic identity and mission.”
It also ties in perfectly with the academic vision University President Michael J. Graham, S.J., set forth when he took over leadership of Xavier 10 years ago: Grow the academy through such areas as interdisciplinary courses, academic innovation and program development. That progress can be seen in such areas as the Williams College of Business and the School of Education, both of which had strong foundations upon which they built their progress in the last decade. While health-related programs are not concentrated in a single college or school, they have the same strong foundation and an even greater potential for growth. And, says Fortin, that will happen.
The effort is actually being driven not by the administration but by the faculty. With some sort of health issue woven into nearly every program, the faculty are the ones who either create new individual programs or work together to create the interdisciplinary programs.
“We should be expressing this health focus more strongly as part of our identity,” Fortin says. “We should be developing new programs. We should be aligning ourselves with those things that we do well. We should be asking ourselves, What can we do better? There’s a consciousness about this now, and you are going to see a more intentional effort to do these things.”
Communications professional Jean Palmer Heck is proof that being in the right place at the right time pays off. The place? Japan. The time? 1987.
“I gave a speech at an international women’s conference. I was emcee for the day,” says Heck, a 1974 communication arts alum, who spent her early career as a radio talk show host and TV anchor before working as a corporate spokesperson.
Heck made such a favorable impression that a company at the conference hired her as an international communications strategist. That opened more doors and led to more clients. The communications consulting business Heck started at home in Indianapolis took off during her five years abroad. She made a name for herself coaching Asian executives who needed to express themselves to English-speaking constituents and customers.
“It was my dream, really,” says Heck, a working mother of two who was in Kobe, Japan, because of her husband’s job transfer there. Heck also capitalized on her ability to shoot video, augmenting her communications business as a videographer.
In the years since her return to Indianapolis, Heck hasn’t stopped adding to her résumé. She recently published her first book, Tough Talks in Tough Times: What Bosses Need to Know to Deliver Bad News, Motivate Employees and Stay Sane.
Will Allen, a 2008 MacArthur Fellow and one of Time magazine’s “The World’s Most Influential People,” educated Xavier students on “Growing Power and the Urban Farming Revolution” as part of this year’s Ethics/Religion and Society lecture series. Allen is co-founder and CEO of Growing Power, a nonprofit organization focusing on urban agriculture, low-cost farming techniques and bringing fresh, healthy food to low-income areas. Growing Power’s farm sits on two acres of land within Milwaukee’s city limits and produces vast amounts of food for local residents. The organization empowers urban residents to establish their own farming initiatives.
Xavier University is undergoing a comprehensive evaluation by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The Commission is one of six accrediting agencies in the United States that provides institutional accreditation. Xavier has been continuously accredited by the Commission since 1935. As part of the evaluation, the public is invited to submit comments regarding the University to the Commission. Comments must address substantive matters related to the quality of the institution or its academic programs. They should include the name, address and telephone number of the person providing the comments, and must be received by March 1, 2011. Comments are not treated as confidential.
Send comments to: Public Comment on Xavier University, The Higher Learning Commission, 230 S. LaSalle St., Suite 7-500, Chicago, Ill. 60604.