Xavier Magazine

Trucks and Trash

Monet gained fame with water lilies, Warhol with soup cans. Rachel Maxi is making a splash in the Seattle art scene by painting, of all things, dumpsters.

Not actually painting dumpsters, but crafting elegant oil-on-canvas creations of the rusty, greasy, smelly containers complete with Hefty SteelSaks peering over the lid. They are her water lilies. And if you’re wondering if a dumpster could be worthy of such attention, one critic notes that, “In Maxi’s hands, they have a seductively warm visual appeal.”
There’s only one problem.

“I really don’t want to be known as the artist who paints dumpsters,” says the 1988 fine arts major.

Umm. It may be too late. Her 2002 painting, “Green Dumpster,” which is now in the collection of the City of Seattle, started her on this unusual motif. She later chose to continue them as a “unifying theme” for her work, a theme that seems to strike a chord with the critics. A later painting, “Big White Rusty,” was described as “the glory of the show” in a 2010 Seattle Painter’s Show at the influential G. Gibson Gallery.

Lest you think she has painted herself into a conceptual corner, Maxi describes her work as a “diary of the mundane” and “is interested in the landscape of everyday, contemporary life,” which includes images of sprinklers, swimming pools, empty parking lots and old pickup trucks.

It all began, of course, in the most mundane of ways. “I was the youngest of seven children,” she says, “so my mom would give me crayons and paper to keep me busy. She told me a friend of hers saw me drawing and asked if I wanted to be an artist one day. Mom said I looked up and told her, ‘I already am an artist.’ ”

So where does Maxi go from here? Oysters—featured in sumptuous tabletop still-lifes inspired by 16th century Flemish painters. And though oysters, like dumpsters, may be an acquired taste, when brought to the canvas through Maxi’s consummate skills, they are sure to be irresistible.

View more of Rachael Maxi’s art at her blog.

Xavier Magazine

A French Toast

It was 1939. Europe was becoming a giant battlefield and the world was teetering on the brink of its second great war. Hitler’s Nazi Army was invading country after country and everyone, including a recent high school graduate named Edward Burke, was wondering when—not if—the United States would get involved.

In an effort to prepare for his imminent future in military service, Burke decided to enroll in Xavier’s ROTC program and enter the Army as an officer.

On May 24, 1942, Burke graduated from Xavier and was commissioned a second lieutenant, and on May 25 he reported for active duty. He quickly found himself serving as a commander for a tank destroyer battalion. He stormed Normandy on D-Day in 1944, joining with other Allied forces to free the French towns of Brest, St. Lo and Vire.

Fast forward to 2012. Burke, now 92, points to a black-and-white portrait on a wall in his living room. The framed photograph shows a man in his early 20s, who smiles enthusiastically in his Army uniform.

“That picture was taken last week,” he says, standing level with the photo. He laughs. “Can’t see any differences, can you?”

The portrait was taken nearly 70 years ago, but Burke’s white hair doesn’t distract from his light blue eyes, which stand out, even in the black-and-white photo. Burke already has dozens of awards for his service during WWII, but this past summer, the French government awarded him the Knight of the Legion of Honor medal. The medal is the highest honor that the French government awards to foreign military servicemen. It was presented to Burke for his efforts to liberate France during the Nazi occupation—an effort the French government began in 2004 during the 60th anniversary of D-Day.

When the war ended, Burke was discharged and returned to Cincinnati. He arrived home just after Christmas, and five days later he married his high school sweetheart.

“When I was in the Army, she wrote me a letter every day,” he says. “Now, I’m happy to have 16 grandchildren and 16 great-great grandchildren to keep me company.“

Watch a video of Burke talking about his service in WWII.

Xavier Magazine

Topgun on Wall Street

When Jeffery Lay, highly decorated Naval aviator turned entrepreneur and author, went looking for a new challenge, he found it at latitude 39.148476º North, 84.547505º East—otherwise known as 3800 Victory Parkway.

Of course, Lay’s real world experiences are anything but ordinary, evidence the first paragraph on the inside book cover of his combination memoir and manifesto: “Topgun on Wall Street chronicles one man’s extraordinary journey from the cornfields of Ohio, to the cockpit of an F-14, to the boardrooms on Wall Street … that brings a provocative, ground-breaking advice to the business landscape with a revolutionary answer for stabilizing corporate America: business—the military way.”

So how did the concept of business the military way dovetail with business the Jesuit way? To Lay’s surprise, quite neatly. He readily identifies with “original entrepreneurial spirit” of the founding Jesuits. And their enthusiasm. “I believe in the Jesuit mentality. The founders were shot out of a rifle.”

It’s not a stretch to imagine that a religious order occasionally referred to colloquially as both “God’s Marines” and “The Company” would resonant with a retired Navy lieutenant commander turned businessman. Plus the environment of open and free inquiry at Xavier also appealed to Lay, allowing him to express and put his Topgun business philosophy to the test.

“It allowed me to challenge myself through a frank and open dialogue that the Jesuit method is famous for. I liked being encouraged to have an intellectually challenging conversation.”

So while a priest may never graduate from Topgun, Lay sees numerous commonalities between the military and ministry in developing a total person.

“I’m a big servant-leadership fan. A lot of corporations are hiring veterans thinking they’ll be getting highly motivated and discipline employees. Which is true. But what’s even more important is that these people grew up in a military system that put service before self. A Jesuit education is very much the same. It’s centered on the idea you’re here to serve.”


Xavier Magazine

Promoting Nonviolence

Eunice Ravenna, Kristen Barker and Sister Alice Gerdeman refer to themselves as bodyguards. And in a sense, they are.

The three women comprise the staff of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (IJPC), a small, non-profit organization created to protect underserved communities and promote nonviolence in Southwest Ohio.

Since its founding in 1985, the Center has been involved with women’s rights campaigns, environmental campaigns and economic inequality issues. And while the Center responds to any and all social issues, the staff now focuses most of their efforts on the anti-death penalty movement, immigration reform and conflict resolution training.

On the morning of each execution in Ohio, the three women, alongside students and volunteers, gather outside the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility for a prayer vigil service. They pray for the inmate who is scheduled to be executed, they pray for the inmate’s family, they pray for the victim and victim’s family, and they pray for the executioners. The prayer vigil is held so that “there can be healing among all,” says Gerdeman.

Ohio, which reenacted its death-penalty policy in 1999, ranks as one of the states with the highest number of inmate executions per year. In 2002, a woman whose brother had recently been executed called the IJPC looking for resources and support. The staff responded by organizing the Families That Matter (FTM) campaign, which connects families of death-row inmates to legal advice, anti-death penalty advocates and other families of Ohio death-row inmates.

“It’s a most wretched experience to think that your loved one is going to die in two weeks, two months or in the near future,” says Gerdeman. “And by connecting people with folks who have already gone through the same thing, or just by lending a listening ear, we can help.”

The Center’s most recent endeavor involves compiling the stories of 12 Ohio death-row inmates into a document that the staff plans to distribute to churches, elected officials and other families. The mission of the project is to tell the stories that often are left unheard, and to connect and advocate for families of death-row inmates.

In addition to the Center’s anti-death penalty activities and organizations, staff members focus on immigration policy reform. They help struggling immigrants in the Cincinnati area by providing legal advice, creating connections with other people and establishing an emergency relief fund for those referred to the Center by social agencies.

The three women also coordinate the YES campaign (Youth Educating Society), which equips young adult immigrants with the skills necessary to advocate for themselves.

“It is a leadership training program based on the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” says Gerdeman. “Because the people who suffer the most from unjust policies become the next leaders in change.”

The Center’s third focus is on peace, nonviolence and conflict resolution training. The purpose of the program is to educate people on how to develop skillsets that promote peace, like active listening and nonviolent intervention techniques. The Center also provides information on military recruitment, hosts lectures and holds open dialogue discussions on nonviolence and militarism.

“We want to help create a beloved community,” says Barker. “That means creating a community where all voices are heard, everyone is respected, conflicts are resolved peacefully and resources shared equitably.”

And while the staff takes steps toward making the world a more just and peaceful place, Gerdeman recognizes the breadth of the Center’s mission. She says its success can’t be quantified monetarily, but it can be quantified by the number of people who care.

“We can’t say that the world has become peaceful, but there have been enough signs of people caring, enough steps made in the right direction, that the work becomes a rewarding experience.”

Xavier Magazine

Piano Man

Kevin Cranley had a moment of panic in the middle of his junior year. He wasn’t sure if he wanted a future in the music business, which is like a Kennedy not wanting to get into politics or a Rockefeller not wanting to get into business.

Music was the family’s legacy. His father, after all, was the president of Willis Music, the largest music store in Greater Cincinnati. Before that, his grandfather ran the company after acquiring it from Mr. Willis in the 1950s.

“I was wondering what I was being called to do from a spiritual aspect,” says Cranley. “So I went to Fr. Bill King (S.J.) and I spoke to him about it. He said, ‘Kevin, there are very few people that can be involved in a business that leads to a more fulfilling life for your customers. You’re going to sell music. You’re going to sell something that really leads to a more enriching life.’ ”

The spiritual—and family—crisis was averted, and today the 1980 marketing graduate approaches every day as an opportunity for him and his employees to give people the gift of music. Since its early days in downtown Cincinnati, Willis Music has sold instruments, sheet music and music lessons. It’s expanded to include seven stores located throughout Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky. And this summer, under Cranley’s direction, it acquired a Steinway & Sons piano dealership, making it the exclusive Steinway representative in the region.

Today, Cranley walks around one of the locations and greets all of the employees by name.

With his tall stance and uncanny knack for face-name recognition, Cranley makes the job seem effortless, even expanding his duties to serve as a chairman for the National Association of Music Merchants and as a part-time instructor for Dale Carnegie Training. He parallels his leadership-training work at Dale Carnegie to his work at Willis, saying that he’s glad to have jobs that help people lead better, more fulfilling lives.

“It’s about being able to help people achieve something they’ve always wanted to do,” he says. We conduct a yearly Gallup poll, and 85 percent of Americans who do not play a musical instrument wish they did. Our challenge is to reach those people and show them that they can make music.”

Xavier Magazine

Profile: Jill Perry

Bachelor of Education, 1995
Chaplain, Fellowship of Christian Athletes
Athens, Ga.

Spiritual Coach | Jill Perry figured one day she would coach for a living. Indeed, the former Xavier volleyball player and lifelong Southern Baptist never really left the gym. But the brand of coaching she practices isn’t what the average fan might expect. The one-time Musketeer is now a spiritual coach with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for some 300 female athletes and their coaches at the University of Georgia.

What’s Important | “I gave up the idea of being a college coach a long time ago because I realized that biblical truth and information were a lot more important for me to pass along than teaching a girl how to pass a volleyball and win volleyball matches.”

The Good Play Book | Perry is content to work behind the scenes. She spends much of her time in training rooms and at practices on the Bulldog campus but with a Bible in hand, not a clipboard and whistle. “We call it a ministry of presence. At Georgia, we have tutors, a sports psychologist, academic advisers and the added component FCA provides—a spiritual component.”

Under Pressure | That spiritual component is meant to provide emotional support to the athletes and coaches who want it. Athletes often are consumed by self-doubt as they strive to meet the relentless and sometimes fickle expectations of fans. Coaches endure the same kind of pressure, she says.

A Reminder | “In the pressure-filled environment of sport—where the mentality is ‘What have you done for me lately?’—I like being the source of encouragement that lets players and coaches know, or reminds them, that they have access to a heavenly father who loves them unconditionally, regardless of their performance.”

The Message | “The majority of my time is spent leading student team leaders,” adds Perry, explaining the “discipleship” approach she uses to spread the Christian message that God remains ever present in our lives both on and off the court. “I multiply myself, as Christ empowered 11 or 12 men to do the same for him.”

In the Beginning | Perry was introduced to FCA in 1995 as a result of her first job after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education from Xavier. She was a high school health and physical education teacher in North Carolina. The principal asked Perry to serve as the school’s teacher-sponsor for FCA.

The Revelation | “I’m not sure what prompted the principal to ask me if I was interested in the FCA sponsorship. I said, ‘What’s that? Are y’all allowed to have that at a public school?’ He said, ‘Oh, yes. The students initiate it and lead it. They meet in the mornings before school.’ I told the principal that I would love to do that. Little did I know that as the years went on, I would learn more about FCA and eventually work full time for the organization.”

Xavier Magazine

Best of Benefits: Liberty Mutual Insurance

The bigger the group, the bigger the savings, which is why Xavier’s National Alumni Association became part of Liberty Mutual Insurance’s Group Savings Plus plan—to give alumni the chance to group together with other Musketeers and save money on home and auto insurance. Go to to find a detailed list of savings and discounts available through the plan. Other items include policy add-on information, a free coverage estimator, a free insurance estimator, a home replacement cost estimator, renters insurance information, a list of online services and a series of videos on crash test ratings for cars, emergency preparedness, policyholder benefits and what to do if you’re in a car accident. More information can also be found at local Liberty Mutual offices or by calling 800-901-4216