Xavier Magazine

Karaoke: The Singing Judge

Karaoke. Just the word might conjure up cringes and a flashback to a long-ago public performance at a bar that shall remain nameless. Or, like Joe Brinkman, you could choose to embrace those electronically enhanced moments of musical magic, which in his case includes being a judge for the World Karaoke Championship.

At an open-mic night in a Cincinnati bar in 2004, his true karaoke epiphany occurred for the noblest reason of all—to impress a woman. “I got crazy. I was running around the bar and sliding on the floor,” he says. And the song? “Back then I was doing ‘La Vida Loca.’” The hot one by Ricky Martin, remember?

One would imagine that this Musketeer, boasting a 2002 degree in physics and an MBA in 2004, might find karaoke a bit too lowbrow. Not a chance. Brinkman not only had the music in him, he also had the talent. “I play multiple instruments—drums, piano, guitar,” he says. He even entertained the thought of majoring in music. “But that would take all the fun out of it. Karaoke is perhaps the funnest expression of music talent.”

Another open-mic performance caught the attention of the local representative of Karaoke World Championships, the largest and most prestigious karaoke competition in the world. Cincinnati hosted the first U.S. championship in 2007 at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds. “We were next to a bear,” says Brinkman, who was one of the judges. “It started out as just Cincinnati and a few local areas. But it grew. We had people coming from both coasts and Alaska.”

Karaoke fever spiked in 2011 with Karaoke Battle USA, broadcast on ABC. Brinkman was not a judge at that event, but while these days, living “La Vida Loca” has taken a back seat to kids and careers, that doesn’t mean his inner Ricky Martin has completely left the building. And for those of you who might one night find a mic in your hand, he has some advice:

“Go with a song that people know and love,” he says. “The best performances are when the singers didn’t even have to work that hard. The audience just stood up with them and sang along. If you can get the audience into it, you’re set.”

Xavier Magazine

Welcome To Lydia’s House: A Home for Moms and Babes

In a sturdy three-story house two miles from Xavier’s campus, Mary Ellen Mitchell Eilerman and Elizabeth Coyle pass between the kitchen and dining room, performing the most mundane tasks—setting the table, sweeping the floor, loading the dishwasher. A pot of soup bubbles on the stove as a handful of guests stream in from work.

The two women are co-directors of Lydia’s House, a transitional housing program for homeless women and their children that also provides a community in the tradition of the Catholic Worker movement. Lydia’s House is their way of living their commitment to the Gospel. “If tomorrow all the housing needs in Cincinnati were met, we would still want to exist as a community that lives out the Gospel together,” Eilerman says.

Eilerman and a third partner, Meredith Owensby, met in college in Atlanta, where they volunteered in a community similar to Lydia’s House. Wanting to do the same in Cincinnati, Eilerman, who earned a master’s degree in theology at Xavier in 2009, started looking for property around 2011. Two years later, they found the classic foursquare-style house with wooden floors, a front porch and a small back yard. It was perfect. After extensive renovations, Lydia’s House opened in April last year. Coyle, a 2005 graduate with English and theology degrees, had moved around the country doing campus ministry but came back to join them when she heard about Lydia’s House from friends.

The house, named for a woman in Acts of the Apostles who opens her house to Paul and Silas, is more than just free housing. It holds up to four women and six children who stay for up to 18 months. Coyle and Owensby live there, too, while Eilerman and her family live nearby. Members also function as a community, sharing meals, chores and prayer. There are worship services and an emphasis on hospitality. And Xavier students come over from campus each week to help clean and cook.

There are also expectations: save a portion of each paycheck, and demonstrate a clear path toward stability. Coyle and Eilerman have been pleasantly surprised at times. One expectant mother asked them to accompany her to the hospital when it was time to give birth. Another who left on less-than-ideal terms later asked the women to serve as godmothers for her newborn. It’s gone so well that they’ve purchased another house nearby. Named for Jean Donovan, one of four American churchwomen murdered in El Salvador in 1980, the house opens its doors this spring.

Xavier Magazine

Estate Sales Meet the Internet: Everything but the House

A typical estate-sale experience is: up at 6:00 a.m., arrive on time to find the early birds have already scooped up the best items, leaving only picked-over boxes of tired tablewear and random bric-a-brac. Andy Nielsen, MBA 2013, is changing all that—for both sellers and buyers.

As president and CEO of Everything But The House (EBTH), Neilsen has shifted the paradigm of the classic estate sale and launched it into cyberspace. “We’re taking what’s historically a small, local sale and presenting it to a world-wide audience,” he says.

His pitch is pretty compelling to investors, too. He’s already raised $13 million in venture capital funding for the business.

Judging from their unassuming corporate headquarters, that cash is not being budgeted for tony executive washrooms. Modest beige-toned offices lead to a contemporary space filled with intent young professionals working at sleek office furniture topped with matte-black computers. The next set of doors reveals a classically old-school warehouse filled with neatly organized objects, artifacts and furniture.

A cursory review of current inventory: a circa 1800s lemon-peel leather baseball, a Victorian walnut parlor set and a framed, autographed photo of TV stars Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford from “The Jeffersons.” These, and
hundreds more items, are being perused these days by potentially 100,000 registered customers.

According to Nielsen, what separates EBTH from other estate sale service providers is attention to detail and impeccable customer service.

“We provide a wall-to wall service. We coordinate trash removal, donations and the sale of anything from $5 to $100,000. We’ve also
leveled the playing field for buyers. Gone are the days of showing up at 6:00 a.m. You can bid from a computer, tablet or mobile device. We can pack and ship anything from a coin to a car.”

As far as future plans? EBTH has 13 million reasons for optimism. “We’re in six cities and just launched Atlanta and southwest Florida. We’re sprinting toward another six cities right now. Everywhere from Boston to Los Angeles.”

Stay tuned to online for further developments—and a highly-addictive shopping experience.


Xavier Magazine

Dr. Double Duty

It takes intellectual guts to go after your PhD. To get your MD, it takes a lot of spunk. To go after both is, well, crazy.

But for 2014 graduate and Fr. Finn Award recipient Michael Petrany, it made all the sense in the world. Especially when he learned he was being awarded a fellowship that covers the entire cost of both his PhD and MD programs and gives him enough money to live on for the duration. It’s called the Whitsett Fellowship, and he’s its first recipient.

The fellowship is named after Jeffrey Whitsett, a physician and professor at the University of Cincinnati and a world leader in pediatric research. Its goal is to develop and promote physician scientists to be leaders in both research and hospital settings.

The fellowship supports students for the entire time they are working on their dual degrees in the Medical Scientist Training Program. Petrany, from Huntington, W.Va., began his journey at the University of Cincinnati Medical School at the end of August with the aid of the fellowship. He was inspired to apply after working for two years in a lab with researchers and doctors at Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “I always loved science and I had a real passion for scientific investigation and learning new things,” Petrany says. “But I always wanted to find a way to ground that in service for others.”

The path to a PhD and an MD is long—seven to eight years. There’s two years of traditional medical school, then three to four years of PhD research. The program ends with two years of medical residencies and clinical rotations.

“It’s a challenge,” Petrany says. “You’re learning the language of science and clinical medicine. And you’re responsible ultimately to help bridge the gap between those two things.”

Xavier Magazine

Alumni Profile: Victoria Raymond


Bachelor of Science in biology, 2004
Certified Genetic Counselor, University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Mich.

A Matter of Degrees | Victoria Raymond loved math and biology, but was advised against majoring in both. So she stayed undeclared until she realized a biology degree did not mean she had to go to medical school. There were other options in health care and research.

Clarity | “I did very well once I made the official decision to do biology and not pre-med, but then I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was taking Dottie Engle’s genetics course and doing a research project with her, and it clicked for me that it has a lot of math in it and combines two disciplines I really like. So I began thinking about what I can do in genetics.”

Ground Breaker | No one had ever gone into genetics right out of Xavier’s biology program, but Raymond’s research revealed a developing field in genetics counseling that combines the science of gene research with the humanity of patient care. The best part was it does not involve endless hours flying solo in a research laboratory.

Personalized Medicine | “It’s a fascinating field, a hybrid field where the genetics patient is the entire family. So if I find out someone has a mutation, it has implications for everyone in the family. That has shifted how we think about medicine. Genetics is the basics of personalized medicine, which is where medicine is going today.”

Job Ready | About 10 days after completing her master’s degree in medical genetics, Raymond started her new job at the University of Michigan in June 2006. She does genetic counseling with cancer patients, which includes risk assessments and genetic testing for them and their families. She also conducts clinical research studies and teaches at the medical school.

Celebrity Issues | The benefits of genetic counseling got public attention recently when celebrities such as Christina Applegate and Angelina Jolie decided to have double mastectomies because they learned they carry the BRCA gene for breast cancer.

Decisions, Decisions | “Physicians send patients to us wanting to know if there is a genetic risk factor for their disease, and if so, they treat the patient differently,” she says. “Genetics allows us to be more proactive with someone’s health care and make educated decisions. Instead of waiting for someone to become symptomatic and enrolling people in strenuous screening programs, this allows us to detect things earlier and to treat them earlier. We’ve seen a reduction in mortality as a result.”

Xavier Magazine

Poetic Therapy: Healing Wounds Through Words of War

Chris Collins saw a lot of bad things on his tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Explosions. Injured soldiers. Dead civilians. But what haunts him most is the image of a young Afghani boy, about 8 years old, who had stepped on a land mine.

He was manning a checkpoint when a man rushed up carrying the screaming child. The boy lifted what was left of his leg. It was a shard of bone. Both legs had been blown off. Two of his men who were EMTs treated the boy on the spot, trying to stop the bleeding, until the medics could take him away.

“I don’t know if he lived or died,” Collins says. “It was a centering moment for me. He makes an appearance in a lot of my poetry.”

Collins is one of the lucky ones. He survived his tours and returned home undamaged, at least physically. To treat the damage inside, he turned to poetry. He says it’s a way for him to “order the disorder” he experienced in his 12 years as a reserve officer.

“It’s therapy,” he says.

Collins got his start as a writer when he was studying business at Thomas More College. In his sophomore year, he took a creative writing course from the Franciscan writer Fr. Murray Bodo. The course—and the priest—changed his life. “I never had someone tell me I was good at something,” he says.

Collins changed his major to English, graduated in 1998 and taught at a Catholic school while studying at Xavier for his teaching degree. He graduated in 2001 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army. Then Sept. 11 happened, and he was sent to Afghanistan for eight months. He did two other tours in Iraq and left the Army in 2011.

Collins pursued poetry throughout his military career. It was while studying for a Master of Fine Arts from Murray State University that his poetry became linked with war. Now Collins is studying theology at Xavier and teaching high school English in Cincinnati. But he keeps writing.

His work has been included in two poetry anthologies, and he published a chapbook earlier this year titled Gathering Leaves for War: Poems. The title refers to the pressed fall leaves his wife and son sent him while he was in Afghanistan.

In the title poem, the father dies with the pressed leaf still in his pocket. In another, a child’s foot grazes a curb before exploding into mist and confetti. Yet another imagines cauterizing the memory of the injured boy’s legs. The poetry is helping him overcome his anger.

“I hated God for a long time,” Collins says. “How can God allow a little child to be blown to pieces? It’s always the civilian element that suffers.”


[divider] From Gathering Leaves for War [/divider]

Deployment Haiku
Offering us tea
after destroying your door—


At the table of warlords
we sat cross-legged
before a whole chicken
stuffed with rice, dried
apricots and berries.

Our bearded host commanded
Khwrem, and soldiers
shoveled their fingers
into the chicken’s ass
then to their mouth
and back for more.

The young private, eighteen,
part of the security’s detail
said, “Sir” as if apologizing
for his appetite’s loss, averted
his eyes, lowered his head.

Leaning close I whispered
or we’ll die going home.”


Deployment Haiku
A child’s torso
like a speed bump only slows
the crowded market.

[Gathering Leaves for War can be purchased through Finishing Line Press.]


Xavier Magazine

50 Years Later: The JFK Assassination

Xavier’s campus was quiet at 1:30 p.m., Nov. 22, 1963. Clouds and rain were rolling in. The temperature hovered at 58 degrees.

Students were registering for spring semester classes and heading into Thanksgiving weekend. The football Muskies were gearing up for their final game at Bowling Green.


Those listening to 700 WLW heard Fred Bernard interrupt his show “Tunepike” with this message: “There’s a bulletin just handed me from Dallas. An unknown sniper fired three shots at President Kennedy. Kennedy seriously wounded.”

Those watching “As The World Turns” saw their live television broadcast program replaced with the voice of Walter Cronkite: “President Kennedy has been shot by a would-be assassin in Dallas, Texas. Stay tuned to CBS News for further details.”

To those who were on campus and recall that day, the impact may have been softened by time, but the impressions remain.

David Hellkamp, longtime professor of psychology, was a graduate student at the time and recalls, “I had just walked into the office of my thesis chairman, John Marr, to discuss possible topics. There was another fellow sitting there, a neurologist at UC. All of a sudden, there was a knock at the door. A woman was standing there, crying. She blurted out, ‘President Kennedy has just been shot.’ We were stunned. The neurologist, however, then asked, ‘Where was he shot? Do you know?’ She said, ‘In the head.’ And I remember him saying, ‘That’s not good.’ ”

For psychology professor Earl Kronenberger, this was the best and worse of days. “On Nov. 22, 1962, I got married. Fast forward, it’s Nov. 22, 1963. In the morning, I said to my wife, ‘This is our first anniversary. We’ll go out to dinner and be happy.’

“I can still see myself sitting there, working at the office. Somebody came running into our office and said Kennedy was shot. We were all shocked. This is what happens when you have a tremendous trauma.”

[Read the Xavier News Special Edition from November 1963 about the assassination.]

Hellkamp saw and felt the same shock. “Students, faculty, staff just spontaneously starting to walk toward the chapel.”

Professor Gerald Quatman felt the same group reaction.

“We were just so shocked. We thought of Kennedy as being the perfect president—young, handsome. The savior of the country because of the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

And despite deep political divisions prevalent on campus at the time, Kronenberger remembers how, “Everybody empathized with what was going on. There was no such thing as politics. There was more of a feeling that something was happening to the United States that wasn’t allowed to be. But yet it was.”

Xavier Magazine

Playing with the language of math

Associate professor of education Deborah Kuchey had a small amount of summer homework: Read 60 preschool math books translated from Korean into English and edit them for language and math concepts.

She did it in a month.

Kuchey, a math education specialist, was hired by Eye Level, a Korean company that offers special math and language programs for preschool children ages 3, 4 and 5. With headquarters in Korea and now New York, the company is expanding into the U.S., and Kuchey was asked to make sure their Play Math curriculum reads well and meets American standards of preschool math instruction.

Kuchey used the new common core standards as her guide for aligning the Play Math concepts, which included number sequencing, counting, matching, naming shapes. Everything but subitizing. Subi what? That’s teacher terminology for counting from a random number, rather than starting always with number 1.

“Subitizing is part of counting and cardinality,” she says. “I told them it was missing.” Now, hopefully, children at Eye Level programs are learning how to count no matter where they start.

Xavier Magazine

Healthy Approach

Lynn Oswald still recalls her days as a registered nurse in the newborn nursery of The Fort Hamilton Hospital, in Hamilton, Ohio. This was 1980; dads-to-be still smoked and paced in the waiting room, and newborns were kept in an observation nursery.

But there was one little boy Oswald will never forget. “Newborns choke a lot as they’re getting used to the outside world and get a little blue around the lips. You intervene and they’re OK. With him, the color changes were critical. The blue came up his chest and his neck.“

She put him into an incubator and called the pediatrician. “He told me the only reason I wanted to put the kid into an incubator was because I didn’t want to bother with taking it out to the mother. Back then, doctors were in charge, and nurses did whatever they said, no matter what. But I told him if I was going to take him out of the incubator, it would be from his direct order. So the doctor let him stay.”

Oswald took care of the baby, and he had no further problems that night. But when she came back the next day, the baby was gone.

“I asked what happened to him and was told that he had died from a congenital heart defect. It wasn’t anything anyone did. They just couldn’t fix it. Today they can. But that really left a mark on me. I felt very bad about what happened.”

Oswald then dedicated herself not just to health care, but also to changing the administrative culture. “Decisions made regarding patient care should also include the perspective of those who working directly with patients.”

After earning her Master in Hospital and Healthcare Administration in 1986, Osborne remained at Fort Hamilton, moving into management and eventually becoming its CEO. When ownership of the hospital changed and senior administration replaced, she found herself in unfamiliar territory—without a job.

“I decided no matter what my opportunities looked like, I would not discard any of them.” That’s when the phone rang. It was Dr. Paul Keck at the Lindner Center of Hope, a nonprofit mental health center.

“Fort Hamilton and the Lindner Center of Hope are at two ends of the spectrum,” she says. “I thought, Oh no, it would be so difficult. But from my first interview I was taken with their mission and people. I knew it was right for me.”

Oswald has been the executive vice president of the center since 2011, carrying on her mission to bring expertise and compassion to health care administration. “I’ve always felt I could do something different and I could be a person who could change things.” And even change herself in the process.

Xavier Magazine

Parent Approved: Saving a School

When Janeece Docal was handpicked to be the new principal of Powell Elementary School, she had to wonder if the superintendent and school board didn’t like her.

Along with the keys to the office, she was handed a failing building with declining enrollment, chronically abysmal test scores and a host of angry, if disengaged, parents. It was enough to make anyone wonder, What did I do to deserve this?

But Docal persevered, and four years later enrollment has doubled, parent involvement has exploded and achievement ratings have gone up. Docal, though, isn’t satisfied. And she won’t be until every child in her Washington, D.C., public school is testing at proficient or higher levels. Her goal is to increase the life chances of the children in her school by instilling in them the self-motivation they need to succeed.

 Her philosophy of leadership is simple: “Remove all barriers. No excuses. Make it happen.”

 What that means is she and her staff do whatever it takes to guarantee each child succeeds: keeping the building open every day until 6:00 p.m. for tutoring and homework sessions plus extras like art, theater, gardening and soccer; providing breakfast, lunch, snack AND dinner for those who stay after school; visiting the students’ homes so that every child and parent meets their teacher face-to-face.

It also means providing services that families—especially from lower-income Hispanic communities like those attending Powell—might need, including a social worker, psychologist and school nurse. They are there when Docal invites parents in for weekly coffee and conversation. She believes that by providing such services, and including the parents, the school becomes a center for the community, a place where all possible barriers to educational success can be removed.

Docal began developing her philosophy when, as a student at Xavier, she worked with immigrant students in a summer service program and also with orphans in Nicaragua during a Service Learning Semester. “This is what started to inspire my mission of education,” she says. “It led me to believe that education is my calling.”

After teaching English at a high school for 10 years, she was named Powell’s principal in 2009. She started by hauling away three UHaul truckloads of stuff. Fresh paint, a dual-language program and a new curriculum model boosted the school’s image.

Since then, test scores have risen and enrollment has doubled to 425 students this year. And though this year’s scores of 48 percent in reading and 67 percent in math are far better than those that put the school in the bottom of the district’s six-tiered ranking system in 2009, they’re still not at 80 percent proficiency. But Docal believes it won’t be long before the school, now ranked second from the top, achieves the top ranking.

While the school has garnered numerous awards and recognition for its improvement, more important is that 98 percent of parents are satisfied, compared to 50 percent when she arrived. There’s now a waiting list, and parents flock to the school to help, to learn or just to be where their children are experiencing so much good.

“It tells me the community has renewed confidence in this school,” Docal says. And, obviously, in her leadership.