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One day, one hope

Theresa Dear

Theresa Dear (MUND ’90, MSIR ’99) survived the foster care system and eventually became the first African American chair of the board of One Hope United, a a community support organization that serves children and families. Above, Dear spends time in the classroom with students at One Hope United's Bridgeport location. (Photo: Heather Eidson)

A challenging childhood in the foster care system taught Theresa Dear (MUND ’90, MSIR ’99) that if you never give up, anything is possible

By Amanda Friedlander ('18)

"You have two options: fight or flight.” That’s what Theresa Dear (MUND ’90, MSIR ’99) told herself when, at age 17, she decided to leave the foster care system and strike out on her own. After her mother’s death, Dear spent six years in foster care, living in nine different homes—years she says were characterized by abuse and neglect. She remembers one particularly traumatic incident when she was forced to sit at a table for four hours and eat macaroni and cheese, which she disliked to the point of getting sick. She was not allowed to leave the table until the meal was finished. If she got sick, she was spanked.

IGNATIAN HERITAGE

St. Ignatius encouraged his followers to seek God in all things, to serve those in need, and to become people for others. Learn how his mission can be seen in everything we do at Loyola.

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“To this day, I can’t stand to look at mac and cheese,” she says. “That childhood experience still haunts me.”

Through her pain and isolation, Dear kept repeating to herself a simple personal mantra: “one day.” One day, she’d own a nice dress. One day, people would stop teasing her. One day, she’d be a success. And when that day came, she was ready to make it happen.

A long road out

Dear got a part-time job as a telemarketer and a second job as a lockbox clerk at bank, making just enough to leave her foster home and move into a studio apartment. For four years, she lived in an empty, unfurnished apartment. She struggled to pay the rent and buy groceries. But she saved what she could, and she knew the ticket to a better life was getting a college degree.

When she was 10 years old, Dear would often accompany her aunt to her job as a housekeeper for a woman named Dina. During those weekly visits, Dina became the first person to suggest to Dear that she should—and could—pursue higher education. Had it not been for those weekly conversations, Dear says she’s not sure she would have even thought about college.

Those visits helped Dear make another important connection. On the commute from her 63rd Street home to Dina’s house in Skokie, Dear would pass the Loyola ‘L’ stop on the Red Line. When she was ready to apply to college, Loyola still stood out in her memory. A teacher had mentioned the possibility of scholarships to her, which Dear researched and applied for on her own. Building on the minor professional and academic successes she experienced over the years, Dear went from sleeping on a mattress on the floor to earning a 2-year scholarship to Loyola.

The hard work didn’t stop there. In her third year at Loyola, Dear worked overnight shifts at Loyola University Medical Center as a medical records coordinator while she earned her degree. Though she began her undergraduate career as a pre-med student, she was inspired to pursue human resources after taking several classes from a professor who, at that point, had been the only African American she knew with a PhD. “I thought, ‘if I could do half of what this man does, I’m going to be OK,’” she says.

Giving back

Dear’s Loyola education was a springboard to finally reaching the “one day” she had dreamed of years earlier. After returning to Loyola to earn her master’s degree, Dear founded her own successful business, HR4Non-Profits, a human resources and training consulting firm with offices in six states. She’s helped shape policy and advocacy as a national board member for the NAACP for over 12 years, is an ordained minister in the AME church, and hosts her own weekly radio show. Last summer, Dear walked more than 500 miles with the NAACP on their 42-day march from Selma, Alabama, to Washington, DC.

Most recently, Dear was appointed the first-ever African-American chair of the board at One Hope United, a community support organization that offers early childhood education, crisis prevention and intervention, and community-based programs. The new role allows her to focus on her passion for child and family advocacy, as she raises awareness of One Hope’s mission of “life without limits” for children and families.

Dear was even able to work with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, back when Obama was a community organizer. She invited him to speak at her church, then assisted in his senatorial campaigns and both of his presidential campaigns. Coincidentally, the office Obama occupied when he ran for the U.S. Senate is the same office where Dear currently works. She reflects upon her connection with the Obamas as one of the most memorable experiences of her life. “I just think of how rich my life has been, when I could’ve been a statistic,” Dear says. 

She’s also published two books: one about her personal journey, and the other about scripture that empowers women to succeed. Even so, there’s still one thing Dear dreams of: more hours in the day.

“That’s why I’m doing the work I’m doing at One Hope,” she says. “Because I believe there’s more work to do. If I can make it, every child in the foster care system, every child in a broken or fragmented home, can make it, too.”

 Click here to read more stories about outstanding Loyola alumni

Breaking the cycle

KenCygan

Through his work with JUST of DuPage, a nonprofit that offers comprehensive programming to people incarcerated at DuPage County Jail, Ken Cygan (BA ’07) is helping inmates get a true second chance when they leave the facility. “If an inmate participates in these programs," he says, "they have more of a chance to turn their lives around.” (Photo: Erik Unger)

Alumnus Ken Cygan is helping to give inmates at DuPage County Jail a new lease on life

By Kristen Hannum

Ken Cygan (BA ’07) never planned on spending his free time volunteering with a jail ministry. That’s slightly ironic, since he’s a planning specialist. A project management and learning and development leader with Nielsen Co., the measurement and analytics multinational, Cygan is comfortable in the world of business—not inmate rehabilitation. Beyond that, going into a jail, even as a volunteer, is not easy. “Not everyone has the heart for it,” Cygan says. “It’s an unsettling experience.”

Despite his lack of intent, Cygan has found himself as the vice president of the board of JUST of DuPage, a nonprofit working with inmates of the DuPage County Jail. Two powerful motivations brought him to this point, the first being his experience studying at Loyola’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. He chose Loyola because of its reputation for excellence in academics, not because of its Jesuit tradition. But now, he says, the Jesuit mission of service to others is very much a part of him. “You don’t go to Loyola for that, but you walk out with it all the same,” Cygan says.

The other impetus was his family’s story; his father had struggled with alcoholism until entering a transformative program. When Cygan was about 8 years old, his father was able to overcome his alcoholism, giving Cygan the happy childhood he remembers. “Dad went through a structured recovery program at the hospital. He became a loving father with the help of our church and that program,” Cygan says. “I know those programs can work.”

A couple years ago, a friend brought Cygan to a fundraiser for JUST (which stands for “Justice, Understanding, Service, and Teaching”) and there he heard former inmates speak about overcoming their addictions. He understood the full impact of their recoveries, and could almost see the speakers’ children as they told their stories. Cygan wanted to help. For him, it was an extension of his own Christian faith. “We enable life transformation, which we believe only comes from God,” says Cygan. “If an inmate participates in these programs, they have more of a chance to turn their lives around.”

JUST of DuPage began in 1986 when Franciscan Sister Juanita Ujcik got permission to do counseling and Bible studies inside the jail. The nonprofit was officially founded in 1987, adding education and chaplaincy support for the inmates. Thirty years later, there are four staffers and close to 100 volunteers who go to the jail every week, most of them offering courses for inmates. Every volunteer goes through a long vetting process and orientation classes that emphasize safety.

DuPage County Jail, which has 900 inmate beds, isn’t the type of facility that would normally have such an extensive program. One of DuPage’s neighboring counties doesn’t even have a chaplain. Inmates who want to be part of the JUST “recovery pod” simply fill out an application form. But not every inmate is a good candidate for the program, Cygan says. “We don’t have the bandwidth for everybody. The recovery pod is only for folks really serious about their addiction. They have to be willing to devote a lot of time.”

In addition to the “recovery pod” program, JUST offers life-skills classes, one-on-one counseling, and Bible studies. Volunteers are in charge of the classes, which include anger management, decision making, and parenting. Every week a dozen groups meet for worship services.

For Marvin Joiner (not his real name), a journey to redemption began with waking up on a filthy jail floor covered in his own vomit. He’d been in prison before, but that December day in 2014 began the time behind bars that led him to the JUST classes. “I signed up for every class, every week,” he wrote in a testimonial letter afterwards. A month later, Joiner still hadn’t found his way. That’s when Pastor Mary Ann D’Onofrio, JUST’s full-time chaplain, visited him. “Talk about divine intervention,” he wrote.

After talking with D’Onofrio, Joiner began attending meetings through Celebrate Recovery, a Christian recovery program that he says drew him closer to God.

As they’ve worked with inmates over the years, JUST volunteers and staff have found that a majority of inmates have substance abuse issues—at least 70 percent, Cygan estimates. JUST offers a variety of recovery programs, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Celebrate Recovery. “We try not to dictate the program on anyone,” Cygan says.

The substance abuse classes changed how Joiner, who had grown up in a troubled family in public housing on the South Side of Chicago, saw his place in the world. “Despite the hurt I caused myself, my loved ones; the numerous arrests, five years in prison, the stealing and selfishness, I never realized the problem was drugs,” he wrote. “I always managed to blame everyone else — judges, D.A.s, cops, and my parents.” Joiner now sees himself as a survivor. “I know the feeling of words like serenity, responsibility, integrity,” he says.

JUST isn’t only for Christians, as people of other faiths or no faith at all are welcome to apply. But the organization does stress the value of a church community in helping ex-offenders avoid ending up back in jail. The JUST board is working on a strategic plan for re-entry support to ensure that when men and women are released from jail they have access to a church community and additional resources.

“Every church should be looking at how to align with local jail ministry,” Cygan says. “What better opportunity to reach people? They’re at a point where they have so many decisions. In jail there’s that brokenness. Christ can change their lives.”

D’Onofrio says many churches welcome the former inmates—“returning citizens”—and that they can serve as a key resource for people after spending time in jail. “We all need to be thinking about how to help,” she says. “They need housing, jobs, and to heal from the trauma of imprisonment.”

Cygan isn’t inside the jail as often as JUST’s average volunteer. Instead, he supports the ministry through his work on the board, helping to set a strategic plan and ensuring its programs are in line with what inmates need. He’s helped to increase the focus on female inmates, which has yielded great success stories, he says. And in the future, JUST hopes to address the mental health issues at the jail more concretely.

Cygan’s older son, 13, has asked him about all those extra hours he spends working for JUST. “In this, I’m not working, I’m serving,” Cygan tells him.

Another Loyola graduate, Illinois Circuit Court Judge Robert Anderson (JFRC Spring ’69, BA ’71, JD ’74), an adjunct professor at the School of Law, is a JUST supporter from the other side of the bench. He came face to face with the results of its ministry one night in downtown Chicago when he and his wife were out celebrating her birthday. They’d gone to the theater and stopped at the hotel bar before heading up to their room. The waiter who served them recognized the judge, and asked if Anderson recognized him as well. Anderson apologized that he didn’t.

“You should remember me, you sent me to prison,” the man said, and then turned to the judge’s wife.

“I thought it was going to be bad,” remembers Anderson.

But the waiter said that Anderson had been respectful and fair, and going to jail allowed him to find JUST. The program helped him serve his prison sentence with a good attitude and turn his life around.

“JUST’s work does impact people,” says Anderson. “He was a living example. That interaction reaffirmed and deepened my support. Nobody is only the worst thing they’ve ever done. People’s lives really can change for the better.”

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Leading the (water) way

George McGraw

Above: A drill strikes water in South Sudan, one of the locations where DIGDEEP works to make clean water more sustainable and accessible. (Photo: Liz Levacy/DIGDEEP) Below: George McGraw founded DIGDEEP in 2011, drawing on an experience he had as an undergraduate at Loyola.

Young alum George McGraw works for water access in the U.S. and around the world

By Anastasia Busiek 

George McGraw (BA ’09) hadn’t done his research. Part of his honors capstone at Loyola was a research project on a human right chosen from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “I picked water at the last minute and turned it in to [Associate Professor of Political Science] Alex Grigorescu. I got it handed back with a big ‘See me’ on it,” McGraw says. Water, as it turns out, was not on the list and was not, by the dictates of that document, considered a human right.

Grigorescu said, "As punishment, you are going to write about how water should be a human right and how you would protect it,’” McGraw recalls. “I assumed, because there was water running through my taps, that water was a human right. But that hasn’t been the case for most of human history.”

Now, several years later, McGraw is the founder and executive director of DIGDEEP, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit dedicated to making clean water more sustainable and more accessible in every community. McGraw extended the capstone project into his graduate work at the United Nations University for Peace, where he earned a master’s degree in international law. 

“I looked at all treaty-based law that had anything to do with water access—prisoners of war rights, children’s rights, anything that applied,” McGraw says. “Through legal construction, I mapped what would be an international plan for water access rights.”

McGraw published that research in Loyola’s international law review—the only academic without a JD to have done so to date. His research is now required reading in some college classes on human rights. 

After he graduated, McGraw consulted with the United Nations Development Program in Afghanistan, sending out graduate students to investigate water projects, such as wells, that the UNDP had invested in. 

“That was a pivotal moment,” McGraw says. “We found that the projects were failing at a very high rate, for very simple reasons. The planning was done out of the country, and we were basically sending cash and GPS coordinates. Researchers would find villages with a hole in the ground but no pump, or a pump with no holes in the ground. They found wells that weren’t deep enough, or that no one had been taught how to sustain them.”

McGraw found the results demoralizing, particularly in the areas where fresh water did exist. “Some people lost children because they had kids when fresh water was there,” he says. “With compromised water sources, they died.” 

Still, he says, this high rate of failure is not atypical. 

“Water projects fail at 50 percent all over the world, by everyone,” McGraw says. “I decided to refocus not on building wells, but on instructing the community to do so.”

He founded DIGDEEP in 2011. The organization currently has field programs in New Mexico, South Sudan, and Cameroon. 

“Each project is completely unique,” McGraw says. “If there’s a basic process, it’s that we form relationships with communities. We set up locally run partner organizations, and we have no field office. We channel our funds and expertise to build capacity there, using suitable local technology. Those projects are empowered to continue with or without us. That is important because communities change, sometimes quickly.” 

DIGDEEP is the only global water organization in the United States. The Navajo Water Project serves the Navajo community of Smith Lake, New Mexico, located miles from the nearest water or sewage line. Most water is hauled in trucks and kept in drums outside the home. DIGDEEP is partnering with the community to build a new well, deliver clean water via new routes, and build small water towers with solar heaters near every home. The towers will use gravity to feed clean water into sinks and toilets.

Because McGraw views water access as a right, he doesn’t consider DIGDEEP a charity organization. 

“If we continue as Americans to look at water poverty as a charity problem, we overlook a lot of places that don’t fit so neatly into the charity model,” McGraw says. “In South Sudan, for example, we are working on access for villages and schools and clinics, but also for a prison. It can be hard to explain to donors why prisoners need water. But if you look at it as a right, it really is something that’s an injustice to prisoners and people who work there.”

McGraw also seeks to draw attention to the ways in which Americans consume water. 

“As a country that consumes the most of any other country per capita, we need to take this more seriously, not only because it will help us treat others as equals, but because we’re facing our own water crisis here at home,” McGraw says. 

“When you understand water’s true value and what it takes to get to you, it’s like an astronaut seeing earth from space for the first time. You see how small the planet is and how connected.”

To help demonstrate this, DIGDEEP encourages a “4 Liter Challenge,” in which participants attempt to use just four liters of water a day over a span of five days—the amount of water many people in the world (some in the United States) regularly live on. The idea is not just to demonstrate how accustomed most of us are to abundant water and how difficult life can be without it, but to raise awareness (and even funds) for the communities that live without it. 

DIGDEEP is now reaching out to schools, corporations, and other organizations as partners in education and advocacy. DIGDEEP is also actively fundraising to expand its water projects to other communities, including scaling up in the United States. 

“We’re not just trying to bring clean water to communities, but to change the way we look at water on the whole,” McGraw says. “We don’t have to be the organization drilling every well, but we want to help others to do more sustainable, human-rights-focused work. We can’t solve these problems alone.” 

Together, McGraw and the organization he founded, along with new partners and the people they educate, will help bring water access and infrastructure to those who need it most. 

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A giving heart

marie-ginther-story

Marie Ginther (BBA '87) holds a child at the Abandoned Baby Unit of the Port-Au-Prince General Hospital in 2008, before the facility was destroyed by the 2010 earthquake. Below, Marie is pictured in 2012 with, from right, her husband, Ray; their sons Tommy and Matt; and Matt's fiance, Emily. (Photos courtesy of Ray Ginther)

School of Continuing and Professional Studies

An unconventional college path prepared Marie Ginther (BBA ’87) for an extraordinary life of service

By Jenny Kustra-Quinn

Just four years after taking an early retirement at age 54 from her career as a corporate comptroller, Marie Ginther (BBA ’87) was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2011. During those years between retirement and failing health, she committed herself to service projects in the neediest areas of Cairo, the Congo, Cuba, Ethiopia, Haiti, and Vietnam. Back home in New York City, she worked in a soup kitchen and as an end-of-life doula, comforting and advocating for the terminally ill.

Marie didn’t do these things because her time was limited; she couldn’t have known the cruel fate that awaited her. She lived this way, according to her husband Ray Ginther, because that’s just how she is—“a beautiful, giving person.”

The Ginthers both retired early. It was a decision that enabled them to travel extensively, including taking a cross-country bicycle trip, and to make a difference in many lives before Marie’s illness started taking its toll. “I tell people all the time, if you have a chance to do something, do it now,” says Ray. “You don’t know what the future will hold.”

Today, Ray speaks for Marie, who at 62 years old is in the late stages of her disease and living in a full-time care facility near the couple’s home. For those who love Marie, it’s difficult to accept that this independent woman who embraced life must now depend entirely on others. “It’s not fair. She had so much to give,” Ray says.

He says doctors tell him they’re increasingly seeing younger Alzheimer’s patients. “People need to be aware, because the implications are devastating.”

Marie’s story is a cautionary tale, a reminder to live, like she did, with urgency and purpose. She even took this approach in pursuing a college degree, which she started in her home state of Utah. That’s where she went on a blind date and met her future husband, who was working in publishing after graduating from Michigan State University. They married in 1975 and moved to Chicago three years later. Marie began working as a royalties accountant for Playboy and enrolled in night classes at Loyola.

When Ray had an opportunity to work in the home office of Condé Nast in New York City, Marie encouraged him to take the job. They made the move, but Marie was determined to continue her education—and to earn her accounting degree from Loyola.

She found a new accounting job in New York and wanted to continue taking night and weekend classes. Marie turned to an advisor from Loyola to help guide her through the process of choosing classes at New York schools that could be transferred to count toward her Loyola degree. “We’ve always been grateful to Loyola. The way Sandra (the advisor) looked out for Marie was everything to us,” Ray recalls.

Marie never gave up, balancing full-time work with the demands of college. Toward the end of her education, she was also pregnant with her first son, Matt. At three weeks old, he accompanied Marie and Ray back to Chicago for his mother’s graduation. It was 1987, and the Loyola journey that began nine years earlier was finally complete: Marie had earned her degree from Loyola’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS).

Marie went on to have another son, Tommy, and a successful career. She retired as a principal from Renaissance Technologies LLC, an investment management company where she worked for 20 years. Marie Ginther and her family in July 2012

Retirement provided Marie an opportunity to give back. She volunteered in the soup kitchen and at Mount Sinai Hospital. She served on the board of Good Shepherd Volunteers, which sends volunteers to social service ministries to help women and children affected by poverty, violence, and neglect in the US and abroad. She served on the board for HaitiChildren (formerly Mercy & Sharing), which provides healing, education, and hope to Haiti’s most vulnerable people. Marie and Ray made several trips to Haiti to see the results of the organization’s projects, and Ray continues to serve on the HaitiChildren board. Marie and Ray also traveled with Fix It Friends, a group that takes on annual projects.

Marie participated in several projects, including repairing apartments of single mothers in the Cairo slums, fixing up a school in Laos, and building a playground in Haiti. Ray is still involved and will be heading to Zambia with the group in January.

Ray believes that traveling intensified his and Marie’s desire to serve others. “When you travel, you see so much need. And you realize that you can’t fix the world, but you can fix a small part.”

In 2010, Marie received Loyola’s prestigious Damen Award for her leadership and service. She is now being honored again, as her husband has gifted $250,000 for the establishment of the Marie M. Ginther Endowed Scholarship at the SCPS. Loyola will match the endowment to create a $500,000 scholarship.

Ray says he and Marie know how difficult it can be to manage a job while struggling to get an education one or two classes at a time. It takes persistence and dedication, and it can be a financial challenge. But the SCPS makes it possible for students who are taking care of other responsibilities to complete their education.

“We would like to take some hardship away and help people realize their dream, because we realized our dream,” he says. “I’m proud of Marie, and I hope her story can inspire others. Loyola is a special place. This kind of thing is possible.”

Ray and Marie celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in November. They were married Thanksgiving Day, which seems appropriate, given the gratitude that Ray expresses for his wife and their journey together. He says he wouldn’t change a thing. “It wasn’t that we set out to live an interesting life. It’s that we made ourselves available to let it happen.”

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A passionate spirit

Margaret Mullin

Photos courtesy of Margaret Mullin

In nearly a century of life, alumna Margaret Mullin has traveled the world and embarked on many adventures. But her heart has always been with the people she served in a small Canadian town.

By Amanda Friedlander ('18)

Clad in green and gold, Margaret Mullin (MSW ’41) proudly sings along with the music at her long-term care facility. She holds a drink in her hand—the only one she’ll have all year—to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. With the joy and energy of a woman a quarter of her age, she turns to her niece and proclaims, “this is bigger than Christmas!”

In nearly a century of life, Mullin has seen more of the world than most people could ever hope to see, and touched more lives than most people expect to touch. An empathetic and generous spirit drove her career as a social worker in Canada, where she cared for those who were unable to care for themselves for over 40 years before retiring in the ‘70s. Now 99 years old, Mullin’s passion for social work burns just as bright as it did when she first stepped foot on Loyola’s campus decades ago.

“Margaret was a pioneer in so many ways as far as being a female getting her education and being a professional woman in the workforce,” says Marg Waechter, Mullin’s niece. “To pursue an education was a big deal in those days.”

From Canada to Chicago

Born in 1918, Mullin was the youngest in a family of nine. They lived in a small town in northern Canada called Chepstow, with a population of less than 300. After she graduated from college in her home country, Mullin learned that the Catholic Women’s League was offering a scholarship for Catholic girls interested in pursuing a degree in social work. The scholarship was applicable in four U.S. cities: New York, St. Louis, Washington, and Chicago. Since the fastest route home would be a train from Chicago through Detroit, the choice was obvious. According to Waechter, Mullin’s father took out a life insurance policy after she left out of fear that the long trip would literally kill her.

But Mullin survived the train rides, and was immediately fascinated by Chicago's culture. She remembers watching strangers eat as the train passed through, even stopping to sit in the notorious Green Mill restaurant, where Al Capone dined only 20 years prior. On the first day of class registration, Mullin met a woman who turned out to be her cousin. Knowing she had family in the city helped ease her nerves about the big move, and Mullin stayed in Chicago until she graduated in 1941.

After moving back to Canada, Mullin dedicated her time to caring for children and unwed mothers at the Children’s Aide in Toronto. One of her most memorable patients was Leo, a severely ill 15-month-old boy, whom she had to regularly take to the hospital for his treatments. She remembers turning her class ring around to mimic a wedding ring in response to the judgmental stares from other women in the waiting room.

An adventurous life

Social work, though emotionally taxing, had its perks. While working at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Montreal, the hospital’s namesake came to visit. Mullin remembers standing in the second row, mere inches from royalty. She often walked to church, passing men who would later become some of the most influential diplomats in Canadian parliament.  She even occasionally ran into Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister at the time. On a later trip to Rome, she was able to see the pope.

Mullin was not only a passionate social worker, she was also quite the adventurer. In her secondhand Chrysler Royale, Mullin drove out west, down the steep roads of the Rockies. She took two of her co-workers on a European expedition, sailing from England to Ireland over the course of six days, then taking her first flight to Italy. Despite being an anxious flyer, she took many more trips to Switzerland, France, and Germany. While in Europe, she even taught herself how to drive on the other side of the road. Her adventures helped her develop an appreciation for the various cultures she experienced, and she learned to speak fluently in both German and French.

Her faith kept her grounded, though, and she always returned home to a small parade of local children who begged her to take them swimming. She enjoyed singing in church, always in German, and was deeply moved by the organ music her mother would play. When she wasn’t acting as a mentor and friend to the local children, she would read voraciously, and was fascinated by the history of her family and hometown. 

“She was pretty amazing for someone coming from such a small town,” Waechter says. “She never lost her roots but always came back and kept in touch.”

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Jailhouse doc

Tina Richardson

Tina Richardson (BA ’86, MD ’90) stands outside the Cook County Department of Corrections, where she cares for the health needs of female inmates. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Inside Cook County's jail, Dr. Tina Richardson serves a patient population unlike any other

By Erinn Connor

Figuring out a course of treatment for a patient is one of the trickiest tasks of a doctor. But what happens when that patient has just been booked in jail?

That’s the daily job of Tina Richardson (BA ’86, MD ’90), who works as a senior physician in women’s issues at the Cook County Department of Corrections. It’s a job she never intended to stay in for long, yet she’s now spent nearly two decades in correctional medicine. “I just kind of got hooked on the work,” she says. “It was never rote, and it was never boring.”

At first, Richardson says going to work felt like going to a third-world country. But the facilities at Cermak Health Services of Cook County, the health care system within the jail, have improved significantly since she started there. Now more than ever, she feels that she is part of an important public health effort.

Richardson started as an undergrad at Loyola, receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Classics before attending Stritch to earn her MD. She had received a State of Illinois Public Health Scholarship, which came with a four-year post-graduation obligation of working in public health. She and her husband—and Loyola classmate—Dr. Lendell Richardson had both received the scholarship, and both ended up working at Cermak Health Services to fulfill their public health requirement.

As a primary care physician, one of Richardson’s responsibilities is seeing patients once they arrive at Cook County jail, which is normally about 150 people a day. She goes through the available medical history of the patient and determines what immediate care they need. Inmates may have gone a few days without medication, or be going through drug withdrawal. Some have little or no medical history. Richardson also manages patients who are staying in the medical unit side of the jail and need constant medical attention or monitoring.

She notes that many female patients are dealing with mental illnesses, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. The female inmates also deal with more chronic health problems in general than men. For a majority of the inmates, Richardson and her colleagues end up being their primary doctors, since most don’t have primary care providers in their community. This makes it difficult to manage chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, and depression. “A lot of detained people come from poverty, are dealing with addiction, and don’t have access to the same health care that we do,” she says.

The care the patients receive in jail can provide important interventions. This may mean finally getting HIV treatments, going through a detox program, or staying on needed medications consistently. Good health care in the prison setting can help get detainees on track to managing addiction, chronic illness, and disease prevention.

Sometimes jail is even the first place where an inmate gets any kind of health care or interaction with a doctor. “This access to care and help with disease prevention,” Richardson says, “can have a positive impact both on the inmate and the outside community.”

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Taking the elevator to the top

MariaHandberg

A chance conversation in an elevator, along with a strong foundation in marketing research, helped Maria Handberg become one of the top young professionals in her field

By Amanda Friedlander (’18)

Four years ago, Maria Handberg (JFRC Fall ’11, BA ’13) stepped into an elevator with a complete stranger and sparked a conversation. Six months later, she was moving across the globe to work for his company in Sydney, Australia.

Handberg was working in the Chicago office of Vision Critical, a market research software company, when Bala Rajan, the company’s vice president of international research, flew in to run a training seminar. Handberg wanted to talk to him but was nervous about doing so. Then she found herself in an elevator with him on his last day in town.

“By the end of the training I found myself wanting to know more—the curiosity was consuming me,” she says. “When he got into the elevator, I had a moment where I thought, well, it’s now or never. I just simply told him I wanted to know more, and asked to stay in touch.”

That conversation led to her landing a spot on Rajan’s team at Vision Critical’s Sydney office, where Handberg is now the company’s senior research manager. In the role, she’s in charge of working with clients to find solutions to business problems. The job requires an ability to inspire clients, while striking a balance between research and creativity. But the best part for Handberg is seeing her work pay off for a client.

“I can walk into the grocery store and point out products I’ve helped to put on shelf, or go into restaurant and see a new burger launched based on customer feedback,” she says. “It’s a really surreal feeling, in a very nerdy way.”

Handberg began as an advertising and public relations student at Loyola, but found her passion in Quinlan School of Business lecturer Stacy Neier Beran’s marketing research course. During the semester, students had an opportunity to work with small businesses around Chicago and conduct research into their business problems. Using various research techniques, the class analyzed each problem, and then presented their findings as well as potential solutions.

Handberg credits Neier Beran as one of the driving forces behind her success. From the marketing research class, she learned the importance of careful and precise analysis, as well as how to be creative in an otherwise methodical setting. The skills and experience she gained from the class sparked a hunger in her to learn more about consumer behaviors, which led her to the job at Vision Critical.

Handberg’s creative philosophy is simple: Treat every idea as a possibility, then narrow down potential solutions and work with others to mold ideas. Her ability to break through the clutter and listen to what clients truly want earned her the Research Industry Council of Australia’s 2016 Young Researcher of the Year award. The prestigious award has helped bolster her already growing reputation as she continues to move forward in her career.

From striking up that first elevator conversation to making the move from Chicago to Australia, Handberg admits that some of the steps that got her to where she is haven’t been easy. But the key to getting ahead, she says, is following your passion, whatever it may be.

“You absolutely cannot fake authenticity,” she says. “If you’re truly interested in something, it doesn’t go unnoticed, and as a result, people choose to invest in you. If you’re hungry for something, just ask.”

Death becomes her

Maureen ODonnell

Maureen O'Donnell (MUND '79) works at her desk in the offices of the Chicago Sun-Times, where she has earned a reputation for perfecting the art of writing vivid life stories for the obituary section. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Writer Maureen O’Donnell found her true calling penning life stories on the Sun-Times obituary page

By Mary Ann O’Rourke (MUND '80)

Maureen O'Donnell (MUND '79) recalls the day she learned that her favorite college professor had died. English professor Michael Fortune, who had instilled in O’Donnell a love of writing and the English language, passed away on New Year’s Eve in 2010. O’Donnell, upon spotting the death notice of her old professor, began composing an obituary for him.

The following month, the Chicago Sun-Times carried this piece of lyrical prose about Fortune's teaching of the Divine Comedy:
"For students encased in a wintry classroom overlooking the whitecaps of Lake Michigan, it was as if they were flying over the golden fields of Tuscany. Mr. Fortune was about to carry them along on Dante's journey to hell, purgatory, and paradise.”

O’Donnell’s skill at drawing out colorful anecdotes from people’s lives has earned her a devoted readership in the obituary pages of the Sun-Times. After graduating with an English degree from Mundelein, she worked her way through a number of news organizations, including City News Bureau, The Washington Times, and the Milwaukee Journal until the Sun-Times hired her in 1989 as a general assignment reporter.

After years of covering education, crime, and politics (and collecting numerous awards along the way), O’Donnell was offered and took the obituary writing job in 2010. In a conference room at the Sun-Times offices on the 10th floor of the Apparel Mart, O’Donnell explains her eagerness to accept the job. “I’ve always known that obituaries have some of the best storytelling,” she says. “When you’re telling people’s life stories, you have a long leash to use more of your skills as a writer.”

O’Donnell’s passion for writing obituaries is fueled by a keen appreciation of a life well-lived. She uses a number of strategies to find interesting Chicagoans who have recently passed, including scanning local daily death notices to find that golden nugget to make the recently-perished larger than life. She also fields calls from funeral directors who have tips on notable deceased persons in their care.

O'Donnell has earned a reputation as one of the best obituary writers in the business. She's currently president of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers, an organization that has given her numerous awards over the years. In 2015, she was recognized for her extraordinary skill and sensitivity in obituary writing with the Anne Keegan Award by the Chicago Headline Club. Judges cited O’Donnell's “gifts of inquisitiveness and eye for the perfect anecdote in her carefully researched and gracefully written obituaries.”

From an early age, O’Donnell was interested in literature. Her father, an Irish immigrant who landed in Chicago’s Portage Park neighborhood in 1952 with a ninth grade education, possessed a curious mind and a love of literature. In addition to some of his favorite Irish authors like George Bernard Shaw and W.B. Yeats, Mr. O’Donnell avidly read newspapers and magazines. “Anything he could get his hands on, he would read,” O’Donnell says of her father. “He knew so much about history and current events.”
That inspired O’Donnell to study English and pursue a career as a writer.

At Mundelein College, she was the editor of both Pace, the creative writing quarterly, and Hotline, the school’s weekly newspaper. She also credits her Catholic grammar schooling with helping to develop her writing talent. “Although most kids hated it, diagramming sentences and spelling bees really paid off for a future writer like me,” she says.

In addition to her love of storytelling, O’Donnell enjoys her latest beat for its regular hours. She and her husband, Mark Rosati, a former journalist (now a non-profit communications consultant and playwright), raised their daughter, Mairead, while juggling dueling late night deadlines.

As an obituary writer, her schedule is less hectic. Now she works four days a week, one at home. “My schedule is more predictable, and that’s a good thing,” O’Donnell says. “Now I have time to sink into a good mystery before bedtime.”

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Head of the class

HarryRossi

Harry Rossi (EdD '85) teaches a certification course in Lewis Towers on Loyola's Water Tower Campus. Rossi, who has devoted his career to education advocacy and supporting students, is a proud Rambler who continues to teach at Loyola's School of Education. (Photo: Heather Eidson)

School of Education

Teachers inspired Harry Rossi to follow his dreams—and to follow in their footsteps

By Amanda Friedlander (’18)

Unraveling his maroon-and-gold Loyola Ramblers scarf, Harry Rossi (EdD '85) makes himself comfortable at one of the Schreiber Center lobby tables and whips out his newest-generation smartphone. The way he sauntered into the building—hair combed back, leather jacket unbuttoned, silver Aviators reflecting the bright overhead lights—Rossi immediately commands attention. But just a few minutes with him reveals this first impression to be deceiving.

When asked to talk about his life’s work, Rossi is quick to deflect the conversation away from himself.  After a few minutes briefly outlining his own education and career, Rossi—who in March received the 2017 American Association of School Administrators Distinguished Service Award—spent the next 20 minutes describing the love he has for his students and for the teachers who shaped his own path. His own high school teachers, he says, were his inspiration for a career in education and school administration. “Teachers saved my life,” he says.

Rossi had humble beginnings. He grew up in a rough neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, where many of his peers didn’t do well in school or go on to college. Rossi excelled in academics and sports, but it was the encouragement of his teachers that determined his future. He remembers them saying he could do anything he wanted to do, and for Rossi, that meant making a difference in the lives of other young people.

Rossi has done just about anything he’s wanted to do; he’s held jobs across the educational spectrum from teacher to CEO of FED-ED, a group that advocates for more than 110 school districts and 500,000 students. He’s also taught Loyola students for more than 20 years as an adjunct professor in the School of Education, teaching one or two courses each semester for graduate students with similar dreams of student advocacy.

Earning the Distinguished Service Award, a national honor given to administrators who have made a major impact in the field of education through service and advocacy, is something Rossi takes in stride. It isn’t the first time he’s been honored for his work, or more accurately, the first time someone has attempted to honor him. He’s been nominated for many different awards but declined each time, not wanting to devote district resources to himself. What makes this award special, he says, is the fact that a former student took the time and put in the effort to nominate him.

Rossi’s passion for Jesuit education, and for helping students from low-income communities, has also made him a supporter of the Cristo Rey Network of high schools. “It’s a wonderful model of giving kids from inner city schools the opportunity to get a really good Jesuit education, work experience, and get them ready for college,” he says. Many of Rossi’s former students are now administrators for Cristo Rey. And along with his wife, Diane (EdD ’05), a fellow Loyola alumna and School of Education faculty member, Rossi helps to provide financial aid for Cristo Rey graduates to attend Loyola through the Harry and Diane Rossi Scholarship Fund.

Rossi’s ongoing commitment to Loyola doesn’t end there. He’s been a longtime member of the National Alumni Advisory Board, serves as president of the School of Education Advisory Board, and was a member of the now-defunct Rambler Varsity Club Advisory Board. You can also often find him at men’s basketball games, where he’s been a season ticket holder for the past 40 years.

These days, he’s starting to step back from his leadership positions to spend more time with his family, all of whom are lifelong Ramblers. His children, Phillip (BBA '00) and Elizabeth (BA '01), both received Presidential Scholarships to attend Loyola, and even his infant grandsons share in the Loyola legacy—Rossi beams with pride when he describes their Rambler onesies.

Though he has chosen to slow down a bit in recent years, Rossi isn’t likely to leave education advocacy behind anytime soon. He insists that as long as he’s in good health, it will always be part of his life.

“I’m not a person who just wants to sit in a rocking chair and move to Florida,” he says. “While I may step down from teaching, I will always be available to help my students.”

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Finishing what he started

JayWoolf

Jay Woolf (BA '16) proudly displays his diploma following his commencement ceremony on May 11, 2017. Woolf started his studies in the 1960s and returned after more than 40 years to complete his degree as an online student through the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. (Courtesy photo)

More than 40 years after leaving college to support his family, Jay Woolf finally earned his Loyola degree

By Deborah Ziff

Jay Woolf (BA ’16) was one course shy of graduating from Loyola when he stepped away to spend more time with his wife and soon-to-be-born son. That was in 1970.

As the years passed, Woolf built a successful career. Yet the fact that he didn’t have a diploma continued to nag at him. “I looked at it as something in my life that I had started and not finished,” he says. “I don’t like leaving things unfinished.”

So after a nearly 45-year break from school, he returned to Loyola, determined to get the one thing that had eluded him the first go around: his degree.

That was then
In 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson was president, U.S. troops were on the ground in Vietnam, and Woolf was a sophomore at Loyola. He had just transferred from Washington University, which had turned out to be a poor fit. A physics-turned-political science major, Woolf was commuting from his home in Skokie, taking the ‘L’ to a bus to the Lake Shore Campus to take classes. At the time, Woolf recalls, there were four buildings besides the chapel: two brick classroom buildings and two Quonset huts, one used as a student union.

In the spring of 1966, Woolf got a part-time job at a brokerage firm, which eventually turned into a full-time job trading over-the-counter stocks. For two years, he continued to take night classes part-time at Lewis Towers on the Water Tower Campus. Between work and classes, he wasn’t getting home until 10 p.m.

At the time his wife, Helyn, was pregnant with their older son. “I wanted to be able to see my child, and I thought that a degree was not going to matter for my future,” he says. So Woolf made the decision to leave school to concentrate on family and work.

Woolf and his wife had another son and he bought a seat on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. In 1985, he moved to Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, where he eventually bought a lumberyard and hardware store. After a successful run, he sold the lumberyard in 2007 and the hardware store to one of his sons.

Woolf has also lived with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia for about 30 years—he even wrote a book about using humor to deal with death, called It IS a Laughing Matter: Coping with Life through Laughing at Death—but says cancer is not the reason he wanted to finally complete his degree.

“When I went back, it was because I wanted to,” he says. “Possibly to finish something I started; possibly just to prove to myself I could; possibly to fill a hole; possibly because I saw not earning my degree earlier as a failure I couldn’t accept.”

A different student experience
From his home in northern Wisconsin, returning to Loyola as a student would have at one time been a near impossibility. But after Woolf retired and began exploring options for finishing his degree, he discovered that it was within his grasp after all.

This time, instead of taking a train to a bus to take classes in brick-and-mortar buildings, he became an online student: logging in from his computer at home, submitting homework via e-mail, and taking part in classroom discussions through “synchronous” online sessions. It was a steep learning curve for Woolf, who admits he’s not a computer savvy person. In the mid-60s, he and his fellow Loyola students used slide rules, notebooks, and typewriters. They physically went to the library to do their research. Doing all of his coursework online was a major adjustment.

“I was very apprehensive, especially the first time, but it didn’t stop at the first time,” he says. “Every time we were going online as a class, I would worry that I wasn’t doing something right.”

Although he had left Loyola with just one course to go, when he returned in 2014 he needed 33 credit hours, or about 11 classes, to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Applied Studies, a field of study geared toward adult students in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Other things were different, too. He found he was not only older than other students, but also his professors. And instead of taking classes with the idea that he would one day apply it to a career, Woolf’s career is now behind him.

After three years as a online student, Woolf completed his degree requirements in December 2016. The following May he returned to Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus—for the first time since 1968—to take part in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies commencement.

Charlie Schutt, who taught a marketing course taken by Woolf during his final semester, is used to teaching adult learners. Most of his students range from those in their mid-20s to students like Woolf, who are returning to their studies much later in life.

Schutt says it’s not uncommon for an adult student to return to school, but it is unusual for someone’s academic journey to take the arc that Woolf’s has. “I think it’s a unique thing to see someone, after 50 years, complete his degree online in a totally different venue and a totally different way than when he started,” Schutt says.

Paving the way to college

Cassandra Gaddo

Cassandra Gaddo (JFRC Fall ’03, BA ’05), herself a first-generation college graduate, has become a leader in helping young women get on the college track through her work with the Chicago chapter of Step Up. (Photo: Murillo Goncalves)

Cassandra Gaddo helps young women become confident, college-bound, and career-focused

By Daniel P. Smith

Cassandra Gaddo (JFRC Fall ’03, BA ’05) remembers the moment she got hooked. It was a Saturday in 2008 when she walked into a downtown Chicago office and saw about 20 young women filling out college applications, writing essays, and working on financial aid forms. Alongside them were a group of professional women who had chosen to spend their Saturday helping the group of high school juniors and seniors navigate the complex process of applying to college.

For Gaddo, herself a first-generation college graduate, it was a light bulb moment. “This was my cause,” she says.

That day in 2008 was Gaddo’s first experience as a volunteer for the then-fledgling Chicago chapter of Step Up, a national organization dedicated to helping teen girls from under-resourced communities fulfill their potential in college and beyond. Gaddo was quick to sign up as a regular volunteer, corralling friends and co-workers to join in her efforts to empower young women around Chicago.

“Here was my pay-it-forward opportunity to help other young women find their way into college,” she says.

Gaddo, a Minnesota native who attended Loyola on a presidential scholarship, discovered her passion for addressing academic inequity during her college years. She became more attuned to social justice issues and aware of how one’s place of residency often dictated their access to higher education. Still, she didn’t expect it to become the focus of her career.

After graduating from Loyola’s School of Communication, Gaddo embarked on a five-year run as managing editor at the since-shuttered magazine Today’s Chicago Woman.

Gaddo’s energy for social involvement intensified as she penned stories of women leading noble civic causes. She learned that only a fraction of the nation’s fundraising dollars support programming for women or children, and Gaddo felt called to do more to make a difference. “I began asking myself how I could use my skills to impact the areas I was passionate about,” she says.

That self-examination prompted Gaddo to move from Step Up’s volunteer ranks into its leadership team in 2012. As the Chicago chapter’s managing director for the last five years, Gaddo has guided every aspect of office operations from youth development programming and fundraising to communications and staffing.

Step Up, which also has chapters in Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas, currently deploys its four-year curriculum in six Chicago schools. The curriculum’s first two years focus on developing confidence, while the final two years cover college and career activation. By 2020, Step Up plans to be active in 10 Chicago high schools, serving upwards of 800 students.

The program has a proven track record of success; more than 98 percent of Chicago students involved have graduated high school and been accepted to college.

“All of these girls have the potential inside of them,” says Gaddo. “So it’s about giving them the tools and resources to advance on this journey.”

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Life in the fast lane

Charles Whittingham

Charles Whittingham built a successful career in the publishing business at both Fortune and LIFE magazines. (Photo: Life Legends Revisited)

Charles Whittingham’s journey from Loyola to LIFE magazine

By Aaron Cooper

Editor's note: Charles Whittingham passed away on March 4, 2017. The following article appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Loyola magazine.

Charles (Chuck) Whittingham (BS ’51) built an illustrious career in publishing, eventually becoming the publisher of LIFE magazine, traveling the globe, and meeting some of the most famous people in the world. But before all that, he grew up in Rogers Park and attended Jesuit schools, including St. Ignatius Grammar School and Loyola Academy, all within a few blocks of his home. 

Whittingham attended Loyola University Chicago on a full athletics scholarship to run track under the guidance of former Olympic champion and coach Alex Wilson. Thanks to Wilson’s coaching, Whittingham set a school record in the 100-yard dash that still stands today. Whittingham majored in English and credits his interest in publishing to the guidance of Professor James Supple. 

After graduating from Loyola with honors in 1951, Whittingham joined the Navy and served on the USS Salem, the flagship of the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. He served for three years, moving through Greece, Turkey, France, Italy, and other countries, recalling the rare treat of dancing with Grace Kelly in Monaco. After returning home, Whittingham remembers standing on the corner of Sheridan and Kenmore in front of Mundelein College, watching General MacArthur come back from the war in his open motorcade.

Whittingham’s magazine career launched in 1956, when he went to work for Redbook. Three years later, he moved to Fortune magazine, where he stayed for  the next 20 years. It was at Fortune—a publication at the pinnacle of its field—that Whittingham earned his self-described “business degree,” as he learned the ins and outs of the business world and rubbed elbows with top-notch business journalists like Max Ways.

During his tenure as associate publisher at Fortune, LIFE (both magazines are owned by Time, Inc.) had won the 1967 National Magazine Award, published a feature on America’s mission to the moon in 1969, and received great accolades. It was among the best-loved and most famous magazines in the world. But like Colliers, the Saturday Evening Post, and other major publications, LIFE couldn’t maintain its large circulation base because they were all competing with television viewership.

The weekly magazine, as it was circulated at the time, published its last issue in 1972. For the next six years, the magazine produced fewer than a dozen intermittent “special” issues to preserve its copyright. In 1978, Time, Inc., selected Whittingham as the founding publisher of the “reborn” LIFE magazine, which returned as a monthly publication.

During his tenure at LIFE, Whittingham was surrounded by some of the most celebrated writers and photographers of the day. 

“At LIFE, when I walked out into the halls each day and went down to the editing floor, I was surrounded by some of the most famous photographers in the world... . There was no job like it,” Whittingham says.

“We held a lunch event one day featuring Tom Wolfe, whom I consider a good friend. He wrote an article for LIFE on the ‘70s that was one of the best-written, most fabulous things. People were fighting to get in the door of the Four Seasons Restaurant to listen to him here in New York. It’s that type of thing—whether they were photographers or writers—I was surrounded by these people.”

Whittingham was acquainted with people famous outside of publishing as well. In the late 1970s, he hosted a lunch honoring Sophia Loren, who asked him to take her on a tour of Studio 54. 

“Studio 54 was probably the most famous place in the world at that point,” Whittingham says. “Nobody could get in unless you had special connections. So I took [Loren] there, and you have never seen a scene like that. At LIFE, stuff like that happened every week.”

Right before he left Time, Inc., after three decades of service, Whittingham helped organize LIFE’s 50th anniversary party in Radio City Music Hall, attended by Muhammad Ali, Bob Hope, Sophia Loren, representatives from the families of Ernest Hemingway and Martin Luther King Jr., and many more. The celebration was broadcast as a two-hour TV special on ABC and hosted by Barbara Walters. 

Whittingham has maintained his friendship with Time, Inc., during retirement. He just finished producing a book for family and friends called Life Legends Revisited, which highlights the 50th anniversary of the magazine. Early in retirement, he served as the senior vice president of the New York Public Library, and he has collaborated on several TV documentaries about the library and American presidents.

Whittingham is also a lifelong supporter of Loyola. In the 1980s, he hosted gatherings of alumni at his Time, Inc., offices in Rockefeller Plaza. In recent years, he set up the Charles A. Whittingham Endowed Scholarship Fund, supported Loyola’s Center for Textual Studies and Digital Media, and designated a bequest for the University. Whittingham also recently supported the bell project at Madonna della Strada Chapel and was present at its groundbreaking. 

“I have nothing but wonderful things to say about Loyola and a liberal arts education, and the campus today is exquisite,” he says. 

In 2010, Whittingham received the Damen Award from the College of Arts and Sciences at the annual Founders’ Dinner. In addition to monetary support, he donated to Loyola’s library a valuable collection of first-edition rare books from Chiswick Press, a London-based publishing company founded in the 18th century. 

In 2012, Whittingham was asked to deliver the keynote address at Loyola’s track and field banquet in front of 200 student athletes and supporters where he recounted his glory days of running for his alma mater. At the close of that address, Whittingham told the audience: “The great treasure you will take from your days at this marvelous university is of course your records and your performance in your sport. But really the education you receive here and for which your parents have sacrificed will be your real treasure. It will be with you all your life wherever you go and whatever you may do.”

Whittingham and his late wife, Jean, are the parents of four children and grandparents of five grandchildren. He lives in New York City. 

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Take risks, take action

Sharon OKeefe

2016 Damen Award recipient Sharon O'Keefe (MSN ’76), an alumna of Loyola's Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, currently serves as president of the University of Chicago Medical Center. (Photo: Heather Eidson)

The philosophy she learned at Loyola has helped Damen Award recipient Sharon O’Keefe (MSN ’76) become a leader in health care

By Lauren Krause (BA '10)

At age 15, Sharon O’Keefe (MSN ’76) received her first job offer—a position at a bakery in Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood. Although it wasn’t her dream job, O’Keefe embraced the challenge.

“There was a notion that you come to work every single day and you do the best possible job that you can within that role, and it didn’t matter what role you were in,” she says. “That was embedded in me early on.”

O’Keefe, this year’s Damen Award winner for the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, credits her Chicago roots as the foundation of her career, including her time at Loyola. “As a Chicagoan, I was proud of the fact that I worked there and received my graduate degree in nursing," she says. "I think it set the stage for everything I did after.”

As president of the University of Chicago Medical Center, O’Keefe handles the integration of patient care and medicine with the research-driven mission of the University of Chicago Biological Sciences Division. She particularly enjoys her walks around the medical center, where she interacts with patients daily.

“To me, it's very difficult to think about being in a service industry such as health care and to not have a deep interest in the lives of everyone,” she says.

As a leader in health care, O’Keefe learned to take risks early in her career, a skill she picked up at Loyola.“You begin to appreciate that both the work environment and educational environment teach you to take risks and take action,” she says.

That philosophy has led her to a successful career in health care, beginning as a staff nurse and transitioning to executive leadership. Her focus, she says, is on creating high-performance health care organizations while developing a culture that fosters creativity, risk-taking, and diversity of thought.

Along the way she's also earned plenty of accolades. In 2013, Modern Healthcare listed O’Keefe as one of the 100 most influential people in health care and one of the top 25 women leaders in health care. In January 2015, Healthcare Purchasing News honored her with its “SURE” Award for Excellence in Supply Chain Leadership.

“Assume responsibility for making change” is another motto that’s carried O’Keefe through her 30-plus years in the health care industry. “That has really been the guiding principle throughout my entire career,” she says. “Drive change, engage people, and leave the organization better than when you started.”

O’Keefe’s parting bit of advice to young students is to keep their eyes open, to be opportunistic, and to laugh. “I think keeping a sense of humor (is what) makes some of the really tough days,” she says. “Have a little fun and value your colleagues along the way.”

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Cancer’s biggest enemy

Richard Pazdur

Above: Dr. Richard Pazdur (MD '76), pictured at the FDA offices in Washington, DC, is a leader in the approval of new cancer treatments in the United States. (Photo: Greg Dohler) Below: Pazdur and his late wife Mary both dealt with cancer on a daily basis in their professions, making them well aware of the struggles they would face when Mary was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. (Photo courtesy of Richard Pazdur)

For nearly two decades, Richard Pazdur has been the country’s key figure in approving new cancer treatments. But when his own wife was diagnosed with the dreaded disease, his job took on a whole new meaning

By Kristen Hannum

Richard Pazdur (MD '76) has been called the closest thing this country has to a “cancer czar.” As a leader in the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of oncology treatments, Pazdur has wielded great power and influence in approving or denying new drug therapies for cancer. In 2015, his work at the FDA even landed him on Fortune magazine’s list of the 50 greatest world leaders. But for Pazdur, 2015 will be remembered for a much more significant event—the loss of his wife after a battle with ovarian cancer.

The couple had met in 1979, the first day of his oncology fellowship on a cancer ward at Chicago’s Rush Presbyterian Hospital. Mary Bagby (BSN ’74, MSN ’78) was an oncology nurse there. Though the two attended Loyola at the same time, they’d never met on campus. “I loved my time at Loyola,” says Pazdur, who recently spoke at the opening of the University’s new Center for Translational Research and Education in Maywood. “We had that common bond from the beginning.”

The couple wed in 1982, and they forged a notable partnership in modern American medicine, with Mary taking a job working in oncology at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. “We knew the same people and would talk about the same professional issues,” Pazdur says. “We shared the same friends.”

While some nurses she worked with left the emotionally grueling field, Mary stuck with oncology. Her husband says she stayed, at least in part, because she wanted to maintain their unity.

He joined the FDA in 1999, first as director of the Division of Oncology Drug Products. In 2005, he was named director of the newly formed Office of Hematology and Oncology Products (OHOP), which was created to consolidate the review of cancer treatments. Now Pazdur has again been tapped to lead a new effort—he was recently named the first acting director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence, part of Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative to accelerate cancer research and make more treatments available to patients.

Through it all Pazdur, 64, has crafted and managed the country’s approach to approving drugs that treat cancer—drugs that might give precious extra years to someone stricken, drugs that are the last hope for families in the midst of loss. There are also drugs that might not help cancer patients at all, but rather increase suffering because of their toxicity. If approved, these drugs can make pharmaceutical companies billions. Cancer is feared, deadly, and widespread, and health insurance and government programs pay for expensive treatments that have been approved by the FDA.

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 1.7 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States in 2016; more than half a million will likely die of the disease over the course of the year, making cancer the country’s second leading cause of death. That’s despite a steady stream of breakthroughs, new treatment techniques, and new drugs that are chipping away at the disease.

Pazdur’s tenure at the FDA has put him in the firing line in places as public as a series of columns in the Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages (which excoriated him as being an obstructionist) and as personal as letters from indignant investors and desperate families. On the flip side, consumer advocates have complained that the FDA has been swayed by the relentless lobbying, the pleas of cancer patients—and now, the death of Pazdur’s own wife from cancer.

Ultimately, he has told his staff to go by one metric: At the end of the day, is the American public going to be better with this drug than without it?

The data shows, according to a New York Times article, that under Pazdur’s leadership the OHOP began approving new drugs at a faster rate: at an average of five months instead of six. He says much of the change is because the drugs themselves are better—some of them “slam dunks.” Congress also passed the FDA Safety and Innovation Act of 2012, the same year that Mary Pazdur was diagnosed. It’s a bill that allows the OHOP to work with researchers and act with greater urgency. Still, Pazdur admits his wife’s cancer has changed his thinking.‌

“Her death underscored for me the importance of getting drugs out sooner to patients,” he says. “It also made me understand the importance of drug toxicities. Until you’ve lived with those drugs’ toxicities on a 24-hour basis, you don’t really understand what it’s like.”

Standard product labels, he says, don’t give an accurate picture. He has championed FDA initiatives to include patients’ descriptions of toxicities, written in language people with cancer and their loved ones can understand.

Pazdur notes that cancer drugs are significantly improving and patients are living longer. “This is a dramatic time,” he says. “After years of basic science working to better understand diseases, we have a better understanding of the immune system and can tailor the drugs.” That’s a vast improvement over the previous roulette wheel approach many trials took.

But advances aren’t cures. “I want to make sure we’re not overly optimistic,” he says.

The Pazdurs’ understanding of that reality gave them an advantage when Mary was diagnosed. “We’d seen the movie, we’d read the book,” he says. “Now we were trapped in the story.”

Mary’s friends described her as supportive, practical, and compassionate. She brought that to her final months as well, even though she knew from the beginning of her illness that there was a poor prognosis for her survival. Only about 45 percent of women with ovarian cancer reach the five-year mark after their diagnosis.

She fought to take part in one experimental study with a class of treatment that her husband had no authority over, but when it and other treatments failed, Mary recognized and accepted it. She eventually asked her attending physician to put her in hospice.

“One of the greatest gifts my wife gave to me was how she approached her disease,” Pazdur says. “Cancer can bring out the best or the worst in people. Because of who she was and her religious background, she approached it with great courage.”

A strong faith is another thing the couple shared, and Pazdur recalls a conversation after Mary’s death with a priest who knew the couple well. Pazdur, in his understated way, explains their exchange. The priest told him, “Rick, you’ve gone to Catholic schools, you’re part of a long Catholic tradition. You know that this isn’t the end. Think about it this way: Mary has gone on a long trip to New York. You’ll see her again.”

The priest’s words stuck with Pazdur. He remembers his response, too.

“I said, ‘Father, I hope she’s having fun in New York; I hope she’s maxing out the credit cards. I hope I’ll see her soon. But not too soon.’”

Service with a smile

alicia-torres

Sister Alicia Torres (BA '07) stands in the kitchen at the Mission of our Lady of the Angels in Chicago's West Humboldt Park neighborhood, where she puts her culinary skills to work preparing meals for the community. (Photo: Heather Eidson)

Sister Alicia Torres wowed audiences on the Food Network, but a simple life of serving the community is the young nun’s true recipe for happiness

By Scott Alessi

One afternoon last November, Sister Alicia Torres (BA ’07) set out for a routine walk through her neighborhood to hand out sandwiches alongside members of a visiting youth group from Indiana. Providing food to her neighbors in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park community is a regular activity for the 31-year-old nun, but on this day, something was different. Each person who saw Torres was buzzing with excitement, and not just because of the free sandwiches.

“Oh my gosh, we saw you on TV!” someone shouted. “Sister Alicia, you’ve made us all celebrities!” called another.

One by one, local residents beaming with pride came to greet Torres. For the past six years, she’s been an integral part of the community along with six other sisters and one priest—members of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago—at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels on Chicago’s West Side. But days earlier, her friends and neighbors watched along with viewers around the country as Torres competed on a Thanksgiving-themed episode of the Food Network series Chopped.

By outlasting three other cooks whose culinary skills are also normally reserved for soup kitchens and shelters, Torres was crowned the winner and earned a $10,000 prize to aid her ministry. But the monetary reward was almost secondary. The feel-good story of the “cooking nun” garnered widespread media attention, shining a positive light on a community that is often plagued by poverty, gang violence, and drug trafficking. And Torres, the cheerful Catholic sister whose youthful face is framed by the traditional Franciscan veil, found herself suddenly thrust into the spotlight.

Though her poise and confidence shine through on screen, Torres humbly blushes when talking about all the attention she’s received since her television appearance. “I’m a lot more introverted than I look,” she says. But still, she welcomed the opportunity to highlight the struggles she sees in her community on a daily basis. “It wasn’t about me becoming famous,” Torres says. “It was about how I can use that platform to raise awareness about the epic crisis of hunger in our country and how each of us can respond to that.”

An unexpected calling

The seeds were planted early on for Torres to lead a life of service, though she never expected it would come in the form of a religious vocation. Raised in a military family, she had dreamed of serving her country as a naval officer. But faith was also a big part of her upbringing, from saying prayers before meals to reading the Bible with her mother. Even then, she recalls, something about religious life piqued her curiosity. “When I was little there was kind of this mystique about sisters,” Torres says. “I didn’t even know if they went to the bathroom!”

Some of the mystique faded when Torres attended a Catholic high school in Massachusetts, where she got to know several religious sisters and brothers. Looking back, she says they were an inspiration. At the time, however, Torres had no intention of following in their footsteps.

After plans to pursue a naval career didn’t work out, Torres decided to major in English when at Loyola. She also sought out opportunities to practice her faith on campus, from joining a pro-life club to participating in small faith-sharing groups. Many of the Catholic friends she met through campus ministry were theology majors, and seeing how much they enjoyed their studies inspired Torres to pursue a theology degree.

It wasn’t until her junior year that Torres started to feel God was calling her to be a sister. At first she resisted, not convinced that religious life was right for her.

“I fought with it for a while,” she says. “But eventually I realized the peace and joy that I was looking for came when I was moving in the direction of saying yes to God and saying yes to being a sister.”

Following that path led Torres to Father Bob Lombardo, a Franciscan priest who told her about a small group of men and women discerning religious life at the mission where he served. They were the beginnings of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago, and Torres found their simple life of prayer and service suited her well. Last October the journey came full circle, as Torres professed her final vows with the religious order.

Neighborhood watch

The Franciscans have become a part of daily life in West Humboldt Park. They host block parties and share in community meals, where Torres uses her now-famous culinary skills to cook for crowds large and small. Every Tuesday morning, neighbors can find her at the Mission’s food pantry handing out groceries. And she’s willing to lend an ear whenever someone just needs to talk.

“We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Torres says. “Anything that affects our neighbors, it affects us too, so there’s a real solidarity there with the people we live with.”

Two summers ago, a fatal shooting took place on a corner near the church. Torres was quickly on the scene, navigating her way around the police tape to see how she could help. The next morning she noticed that children in her Bible camp weren’t their usual rambunctious selves, and a parent told Torres that the children had witnessed the shooting firsthand.

Knowing the families had no resources to deal with such trauma, Torres reached out to Catholic Charities to arrange for grief counselors to meet with the children. It is because of the bonds she’s formed in the community that Torres is able to identify such needs and find ways to address them. “If those relationships weren’t there,” she says, “then I wouldn’t be able to connect people to the resources they need to live a healthy life.”

She’s also able to look more deeply at the root causes of problems in the community—why young people get involved in gangs, why people turn to drugs. The solutions aren’t easy, but the Franciscans are in it for the long haul. “You have to be at peace with the fact that this is going to be inch by inch, step by step,” Torres says.

Still, she prefers to focus on the positives of life in West Humboldt Park. The neighborhood is filled with wonderful people, and she’s proud to call them friends. The feeling, it seems, is mutual.

As Torres walks down the front steps of the church on a weekday afternoon, children on the sidewalk smile and wave. Her face lights up with a smile as she makes her way to greet them. Months removed from her brief TV fame, she’s still the same sister who has been their neighbor for six years. And beneath the habit, she says she’s still just a regular person, not much different from the people she’s devoted her life to serving.

“If I thought I was super great and totally sinless, I’d be a terrible sister,” she says. “I realize I can make a mistake just like everyone else. That helps me stay grounded, and it helps me share the love I’ve been given.”

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

The future starts here

clarisse-mendoza-story

One passionate principal is determined to make college a realistic goal for urban youth

By Scott Alessi

The halls of Tindley Renaissance Academy beam with college pride. Pennants representing colleges around the country hang from the ceiling of the urban Indianapolis school, and each classroom bears the name of a prestigious university. A large sign greets the students—or young scholars, as Tindley calls them—each day with a reminder of the school’s motto: “College starts here.” Nearly every aspect of the school day is focused on college preparation—even though the students are still in elementary school.

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Tindley principal Clarisse Mendoza (JFRC Spring ’05, BA ’06) acknowledges that the college-centered mission is unusual for a school that only includes kindergarten through fourth grade. But a decade working in urban education, both in the classroom and at a district level, has shown Mendoza that more traditional structures aren’t succeeding when it comes to preparing students from underserved communities for higher education. She recalls working as a high school English teacher in Washington, DC and encountering students who weren’t even able to read by the time they reached ninth grade.

“I would always wonder, how did it get so bad? How did these young people keep getting passed from grade to grade without really having mastered these foundational skills?” The answer, she says, was that an emphasis on college readiness needed to begin at an earlier grade level. “If we really are going to ensure that our scholars someday walk across that stage not just with their high school diploma but with their college degree,” Mendoza says, “we have to ensure that they have the strongest start to school possible.”

That means providing the students a rigorous curriculum to help them build a solid academic foundation. The Tindley model also emphasizes goal setting and helping students envision themselves one day being in college, developing what they call a collegiate scholar identity.

That mission struck a chord with Mendoza, who left a job with the UNO Charter School Network in her hometown of Chicago to become Tindley’s principal in 2014. The work, she says, can be incredibly challenging. The school is located in The Meadows, a low-income, high-crime neighborhood on Indianapolis’s northeast side. Most students come to Tindley with little or no concept of college. Mendoza puts in long hours and helps with tutoring students on the weekends. “It is not even work,” she says. “It is a lifestyle.”

But Mendoza understands how vital her role is in helping young people in her community succeed. A 2011 study published in the American Sociological Review found that children who grow up in low-income neighborhoods have a significantly reduced likelihood of graduating high school. And according to 2013 data, only 9 percent of individuals from families in the bottom quarter of the income bracket graduate college by age 24—compared to 77 percent among top income earners.

Mendoza isn’t deterred by these statistics. If anything, such realities motivate her to find new ways to make college a realistic goal for her students. And what better way to make college seem more real, she thought, than having students visit an actual university campus?

Like everything about Tindley, the idea was unconventional. Most colleges Mendoza contacted weren’t prepared to host such a young class of visitors. But she turned to her alma mater and found a welcoming group of hosts in students from Loyola’s Black Cultural Center. Mendoza saw this as a perfect opportunity for her students, most of whom are African-American, to meet college students who could serve as positive role models.

Though some of her colleagues scoffed at the idea of taking 78 fourth-graders on an overnight, out-of-state trip, Mendoza was determined to make it a reality. The students organized bake sales, dances, and other fundraisers to help cover the cost. They prepared questions on a variety of subjects—from campus life and choosing a major to being a minority student and living away from home—that they hoped to ask the Loyola students.

But the actual day of the visit far exceeded anything the young students imagined. They were in awe as Mendoza took them around the Lake Shore Campus, showing them buildings where she had taken classes and where she lived. When they came together at the end of the day to reflect on the trip, one student raised her hand to share what the day had meant for her.

“Ms. Mendoza, I didn’t know what college was like,” the student said. “I couldn’t imagine it. But now that we’re here, I can definitely see myself being here. I can do this.”

Those words gave Mendoza goosebumps. It was a confirmation that her outside-the-box idea had exactly the effect she intended: It was a transformational moment that showed the students college was not outside their grasp. “When she said that,” Mendoza says of the student’s reaction, “I knew we did the right thing.”

Mendoza’s voice races with excitement as she recounts the experience of taking her students to visit Loyola, which she plans to make an annual tradition. It is days like these, when students visibly gain confidence in themselves, that keep her going.

Though challenges remain, Mendoza is always amazed at the resilience and dedication of her students. She truly believes that they have the ability to succeed in college and beyond. “It is really hard, but it is worth it to be a part of that growth and to contribute to our future,” she says.

“People say at the end of the day it is just a job,” Mendoza says. “But in keeping with my Jesuit upbringing, this is my calling. This is my vocation. And I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.”

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Urban trailblazer

Beth White

Above, an aerial view shows cyclists entering the western end of Chicago's The 606 at Ridgeway Avenue on the 2.7-mile elevated trail's opening day last June. Below, Beth White speaks at the opening, which was the culmination of a decade-long effort. (Photos courtesy of The Trust for Public Land)

A passion for transforming cities fueled Beth White’s 10-year effort to create one of Chicago’s most innovative spaces

By Daniel P. Smith

Last June, more than 50,000 people turned out for a daylong celebration recognizing the launch of The 606, one of Chicago’s most heralded public projects. For Beth White (MA ’83), that summer day provided a mix of joy, satisfaction, and relief.

As director of The Trust for Public Land’s Chicago office, White spearheaded the $95 million project that birthed the innovative park space—part urban playground, part alternative transportation corridor, part work of art—from a dormant freight line touching four Northwest-side neighborhoods. Over a decade, White guided the project from its infancy to completion, leading a coalition of city leaders, community organizers, artists, engineers, and more. As the ambitious effort’s de facto project manager, White—who earned a master’s in urban studies from The Graduate School at Loyola—led the team through land acquisition, a $40 million fundraising effort, design, and civic engagement. 

“This became the 800-pound gorilla in our office and I was in the catbird’s seat,” she says. “We all knew we had to pour passion and persistence into it and create an inclusive, collaborative process because if people didn’t believe it was their park, then it wouldn’t be well used and well maintained.”

Since its debut, the 2.7-mile trail has earned more than a dozen local and national honors. Among them is the National Planning Excellence Award for Urban Design from the American Planning Association, which hailed The 606 for setting “a new standard for [U.S.] park planning.” Along the way, White has earned her own reputation as one of the country's leading urban park planners, and in 2011, President Barack Obama appointed White to serve on the National Capital Planning Commission.

‌But most importantly for White, The 606 has emerged as a cultural and recreational gem for Chicagoans. “I’m appreciative because not everyone gets to work on something like this,” she says. “It was a rich experience and resulted in something very special that people will enjoy for years to come.”

For White, that’s always the professional and personal hope. She believes open spaces are critical to the health and vitality of cities, and she has a longstanding passion for helping communities through holistic, creative approaches.

White credits her time as a research assistant at Loyola working on The Local Community Area Fact Book with professors Mike Schlitz and Jimmy Fuerst as the spark that fueled her urban planning career. “This is where I got hooked,” she says, “and where I began to understand how looking at community information could inform urban planning in rich, valuable ways.”

After nearly three decades in Chicago’s dynamic civic scene, including stints with the Chicago Housing Authority and Chicago Transit Authority, White relocated to Houston in June. As head of the Houston Parks Board, she’s now tasked with overseeing the city’s daring $220 million Bayou Greenways 2020 Project, which includes renovating existing parks and future green space planning.

The move also represents a homecoming for White, a Gulf Coast native, who was excited to tell her 88-year-old mother that she’d finally be “coming home.” She admits it was tough to leave Chicago, where she developed many friendships and warm memories, but she sees a lot of opportunities ahead in her new role.

“With the scale of what’s happening in Houston, it’s like an urban planning lab,” White says. “There is not a lot of vacant land in cities, so you have to get creative, and I love pushing for more sustainable investments in quality of life.”

Married to service

Daniel and Beth Patton alum profile

Daniel and Beth Patton, pictured at Nazareth Farm in West Virginia, learned the value of serving others during their time at Loyola. The couple, who wed in 2012, have each committed their professional lives to service. (Courtesy photo)

Alumni Daniel and Beth Patton have made a lifelong commitment to one another—and to serving people in need

By Alexandra Jonker

Beginning at freshman orientation, Ramblers learn how to be men and women for others. Beth (Hougas) Patton (BA ’10) and her husband Daniel Patton (BA ’09) are prime examples of those who have followed that call to serve.

Drawing from a childhood of frequent relocation—her father was a physician in the Air Force—Beth found her service-orientated niche early. She served as a First Year Companion in freshman residence halls for three years. “It was a great outlet for my extroverted personality,” she says. “I grew up moving around, and Companions helped me discover how much it mattered to me that people who were new to the school felt welcome.”

It was through this avenue—and after she started leading those students to volunteer at the St. Thomas of Canterbury Soup Kitchen—that Beth discovered her vocation as a social worker. “I felt more fulfilled and engaged in my time spent talking to guests than by my studies,” she says. “Companions revealed to me that my career would need to be centered on serving people on the margins of society.”

Daniel also credits the First Year Companion program as one of the most influential parts of his college years, and not only because that’s where he met his wife. Like Beth, his Loyola experience prepared him with the right skillset to lead a life for others.

“It was everything that an undergraduate experience should be,” Daniel says. “It helped me understand who I was as a person and how I fit into the broader world.”

Post-graduation, Beth and Daniel decided to take their relationship long-distance. For two years they both pursued opportunities to serve others; Daniel at Nazareth Farm in rural West Virginia, and Beth in Detroit, working with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Eventually Daniel decided to move to Detroit to be with Beth, and the couple was engaged soon after. 

Upon arriving in Detroit, Daniel also went to work with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, where he would spend two years traveling throughout the Midwest, sleeping on couches and taking advantage of Jesuit hospitality wherever possible. Beth obtained her master’s in social work from the University of Michigan in 2012—the same year she and Daniel got married—and has since worked at a community mental health agency in their Detroit neighborhood.  

“We help build support systems so that people get the care they need where they need it,” she says. “The work can be hard, but I find deep meaning in what I do.”

For Daniel, after spending five years in the nonprofit sector he recently decided to also get his master’s from the University of Michigan. He’s now looking at ways the for-profit business world can make a positive social and environmental impact. “We are often told that if we want to make an impact we should work in the nonprofit sector and if we want to make money we should look to the for-profit world,” he says. “I think that distinction is deeply flawed.”

Meanwhile, Beth has found peace in using her inherent talents and the skills that she has learned as a vehicle to serve others and as an advocate for societal change. “God calls us all to a life of service,” she says. “Loyola made sure we knew it.”

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Food for thought

Loyola alum Terry Mason (BS '74) is working to improve community health by changing the way we eat

Dr. Terry Mason (BS '74), the chief operating officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health, argues that the biggest threat to our public health is the food on our plates. In this video, Mason talks about the links between nutrition and public health and his efforts—in collaboration with his alma mater—to help people change the way they eat.

Acts of charity

Acts of charity

A group of young alumni are putting a new spin on the concept of community theater

By Tanner Walters (BA ’16)

It’s hard to have a conversation about theatre without speaking about social justice–especially at a Jesuit school. At Loyola, theatre students are of course taught to perform, direct, design, and stage manage. But underneath it at all, Loyola’s rising stars learn about theatre as both entertainment and a powerful tool for social change, one that not only reflects society but provides a platform and outlet for diverse community voices.

Ryan Stanfield (BA ’15), Amy Heller (BA ’15), and Warren Swartwout (BA ’15) took this message to heart when they founded the new CityWorks Theatre Company. During late night conversations in coffee shops, they discussed their common interest in using theater to help struggling communities. “We wanted to create theatre that gave back to communities in a more tangible way,” says Swartwout, managing director of CityWorks.

The group decided they wanted to not only make art that centered around social justice issues but help those already doing work in the community. They would produce plays that spoke to specific social concerns, while partnering with relevant groups committed to fighting for change. Part of the proceeds from each production would go to each organization, impacting them in not only an artistic way, but a financial one. “We wanted to work with organizations to bridge the gap between art and community engagement,” Swartwout says.

With these goals in mind, the artists developed their mission statement: “CityWorks engages audiences in shared experiences to create social change. Viewing theatre as a civic responsibility, we are committed to partnering with community organizations and providing a platform for diverse voices in Chicago."

Though the three had internships, acting, and directing experience between them, they knew that building a theatre company from the ground up was a challenge they hadn’t faced before. Producing a play requires an incredible amount of resources: space, equipment, actors, and designers. But that didn’t deter them. “We broke the whole process down into smaller steps,” says Heller, the group’s director of community outreach. “We’re all busy people, but we sort of kept riding on the idea that the only thing that could get in our way was ourselves. We had to keep the momentum going.”

Fortunately, they weren’t alone. Their mission to help communities through theatre struck a chord inside the Loyola community and out. After starting a crowdfunding page, the group received overwhelming support and quickly met their fundraising goal. But that’s not where the help ended. Loyola’s theatre faculty, impressed by the goals of the recent graduates, offered them Mundelein’s Underground Laboratory Theatre over the summer. With a space locked down, the young company was on its way to producing its inaugural play. The question then was: which one?

Knowing that the first production would set the tone for later ones, the three spent weeks reading plays, even hosting readings in living rooms with friends. Eventually they settled on Fragments, an experimental piece by recently-deceased playwright Edward Albee. The play’s unconventional plot features eight strangers opening up to each other by telling stories, examining the ways in which people connect to one another.

Fragments felt very foundational for the type of theatre we wanted to create,” says artistic director Stanfield. “Although it was written over 20 years ago, its themes of community, identity and sharing stories resonated deeply with us and hopefully with our audiences as well.”

The play felt especially relevant in a time when people with diverse ideas and backgrounds often have difficulty finding common ground. “The narrative of eight people all coming into a shared space and finding commonalities with one another is an increasingly rare occurrence, especially in the current climate of polarized and political divides,” Stanfield says.

The group partnered with Howard Area Community Center (HACC), a Rogers Park nonprofit that assists low-income families in the neighborhood through a variety of services including adult education, employment assistance, after school activities, support groups, and health services. The organization was chosen for its crucial work in the community in and around Loyola. One local HACC member designed music used in the production of Fragments, and CityWorks artists coached young performers for a spoken word poetry event held at the HACC. “We wanted to not only donate to the organization but involve members as much as we can in the artistic process of it,” says Heller.

Performances of Fragments ran from late August to early September, with design and stage management by other recent Loyola grads. Swartwout and Heller joined other actors of diverse ages and backgrounds in the cast while Stanfield directed. After a successful run, they donated half of the proceeds from their ticket sales to the HACC.

Now, the group is focusing on growth and developing a plan for the coming season. In the short term they plan to focus on smaller projects, like staged readings. “We learned a lot from producing Fragments,says Stanfield. “Now, we’re focusing on growing our team to accomplish what we want to do as an organization and as theatre makers.”

Learn more: CityWorksTheatre.com

In the right place at the right time

andrew-trotter

Andrew Trotter (MD '07), a Stritch School of Medicine alumnus, works in a Nepal hospital shortly after an earthquake struck the country in 2015. (Photo: Patrick Adams)

When an earthquake struck in Nepal, Andrew Trotter called upon the skills and experience he gained at Loyola to aid the emergency response

By Lauren Krause (BA ’10)

For Andrew Trotter (MD ’07), medicine has always been a global experience. After his first year at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine, Trotter volunteered in India and later on spent one rotation in Bolivia. These experiences helped shape his idea of a life in international health. After Loyola, he continued his global career while working as a resident at the University of Illinois and an infectious disease fellow at Tufts Medical Center.

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Trotter now works in Nepal, where his skills were put to the test when an earthquake hit in 2015. In this interview he discusses that experience and how his time at Loyola prepared him for a career in international medicine.

What’s been the most gratifying part of your time in Nepal?

First, teaching medical students and nurses. Teaching is a time-consuming and sometimes hard job. It requires a lot of planning and work to be done right. However, I enjoy teaching, both in the classroom and at the bedside.

There is nothing more gratifying than having a student whom you taught be able to give a perfect answer, treatment plan, or differential diagnosis. In medicine, you realize that you can touch and impact more than just one patient at a time—through teaching other students, residents, and nurses.

Second is being able to provide hope and safety to people living with HIV. In Nepal, those people can face stigma and discrimination in almost every aspect of their lives, sometimes quite openly. They are refused jobs, housing, medical care, and education. For many people, this can profoundly affect their ability to follow up on care and medication. I find it very gratifying to provide a place where they can speak about their HIV status openly; for many patients our clinic is the only place they can.

How did the Nepal earthquake affect your work?

When the earthquake happened, I was at home. After the initial tremor stopped, I went to a basketball court, which was a gathering point for the people in my neighborhood. People were in shock, and no one was quite sure of what to do. 

Once I got to the hospital, I realized the true effects of the earthquake. There were patients everywhere: on beds, on chairs, on tables, on the floor. Many had broken bones, head injuries, punctured lungs, and back injuries.

Over the next few days, I spent my time helping take care of patients and supervising the medical residents, but the patients kept coming—first just from Kathmandu but then from the outlying areas—I had never seen anything like it.

How did your training at Loyola prepare you to deal with that kind of situation?

There were a lot of traumatic injuries, which as an infectious disease specialist and internist, I don’t see often. I realized later that the trauma assessment and triage skills I was using came from Loyola during my trauma surgery rotation.

As a medical student, I still remember staying at the hospital overnight and being paged by the surgery residents late at night. I would rush to the trauma area of the emergency department at Loyola and the residents would make us perform the trauma assessments.

I remember being so nervous and unsure about doing the assessment myself, but I now know that I was able to respond the way I did during the earthquake because of those surgical residents at Loyola when I was a medical student.

Do you have any advice for doctors who want to work internationally?

I would tell them to try to get as much experience as soon as possible. International health can mean a lot of things, not just the location but the type of work you do and your role. You need to figure out where you fit. Do you want to work in an office and liaise with governments to make policy, or do you want to work in the field? Do you want to work in large international organizations?

No amount of classes or schooling can show you that. You need to get the experience to understand what you want.

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

The possible dream

renee-frodin-story

Renée Suzanne Frodin (BBA ’97) shares a laugh with sons Jon, right, and Dave. After her husband passed away, Frodin completed her degree while raising her four children and is now a successful entrepreneur. (Photos: Natalie Battaglia)

Quinlan School of Business

A college degree may have seemed out of reach for Renée Suzanne Frodin, but that didn’t stop her from trying

By Aaron Cooper

As a teenager, Renée Suzanne Frodin (BBA ’97) faced challenges that far exceeded the “normal” growing pains of her peers. She grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago in a poor family. During her high school years, she dropped out of school, got married, and started having children. By age 21, she and her husband had four young children with no prospects of building a solid future for their family.

Despite Frodin and her family living on food stamps, she eventually earned her GED. But she knew that would only carry her so far. “Everyone I knew who had a good life for their children and was successful was also educated,” says Frodin. “They had more than a GED, and they were able to make a better life for themselves and their children. Despite my circumstances, I wondered what I could do to make a better life for my kids, because that wasn’t how I envisioned them growing up.”

Frodin applied for grants and got into Prairie State College, a community college based in Chicago Heights. She worked hard and earned good grades. Again, she found herself wanting more. A student there told Frodin that Loyola University Chicago offered a Presidential Scholarship and encouraged Frodin to apply.

“At first I thought, ‘That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,’ ” says Frodin. “Why would a prestigious university like Loyola want anything to do with someone who got a GED, had a bunch of kids, and went to junior college? But I also thought, ‘What would it hurt to apply?’ ” So Frodin did apply, and one day a letter from Loyola arrived telling her that she had been accepted to the University—and awarded the scholarship.

“It was like the skies opened up,” she says. “I just couldn’t believe it. It was the best break I’ve ever gotten in my life. To go someplace like Loyola was unthinkable for a person like me who had the life that I had. Many people thought it was ridiculous that I even tried.”

At the time, Frodin and her family lived in Richton Park, Illinois. She took the train to class every day, about an hour commute each way. Two of her children were in day care, and the other two were attending school.

“I was very tight with my schedule,” she says. “I’d wake up and get the kids off to school or day care, run to the train, take three classes in a row on Monday through Friday, pick up my kids, and go home. There wasn’t time for anything else.”

Frodin studied finance at the Quinlan School of Business. During her final year, and with only a semester left to earn her degree, Frodin’s husband passed away unexpectedly. Facing an even more uncertain future as a single mother of four children, Frodin feared she would lose her scholarship, because the Presidential Scholarship is only for full-time students.

“I couldn’t attend full time anymore after he passed, because I needed to get a job,” Frodin says. “But I still wanted to finish my degree, because I was so close. I wanted to graduate from Loyola and didn’t want to have to go someplace else.”

Frodin wrote a letter to the University asking if there was any way the scholarship could be continued so she could finish her final classes despite not being able to continue on full time.

“Loyola said yes, and I am forever grateful,” says Frodin. “Not only for myself but also for my four children. My kids needed me to finish that degree. I knew if I didn’t that nothing would change for us. I might still be on food stamps. I couldn’t bring my husband back, but I could graduate. It was the only way I could see for us to ever have a better life.”

Frodin is quick to point out the impact of that decision. “Loyola helped us all—five people, not just me,” she says. “All four of my kids have graduated from college. And I don’t know where we’d be if I hadn’t finished my degree.”

Frodin went on to a successful career in investment operations, accounting, and finance. As she established her career and could better provide for her family, she began donating money to Loyola, particularly in support of scholarships.

“I like to give back to the University any way I can,” Frodin says. “I always envision someone like me who wouldn’t be able to attend Loyola without some assistance, and I hope that he or she can graduate and have a better life because of their education and pay it forward.”

Frodin lost her job last June, and after 20 years in the corporate world she decided to pursue a coaching certification. Now she is working diligently to launch a new full-time business as a certified personal coach with a specialty of helping women who are frustrated with dating.

Frodin has always been passionate about improving one’s life and personal development and doing the best one can with what one has. She had been wanting to pursue a different career path for several years, so when she lost her job, she felt that was a good opportunity to follow this new calling and develop a career she felt strongly about.

“I am a big believer in lifelong education,” says Frodin. “Learning something difficult and not giving up really tests your mettle…"

“I had a pretty rough childhood, and the kindness that was extended to me by the University made me believe the world could be a good place and that good things could happen to good people,” says Frodin. “I am grateful for the opportunity to give back to Loyola, and I hope the University will continue to make the education it provides available to as many people as possible.”

Learn more about how to support current Loyola student scholarships

Brewing with purpose

Patrick Conway

Patrick Conway (JFRC '73-'74, BA '74) and his brother, Dan, founded Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland in 1988. The company's mission is focused on economic, social, and environmental sustainability--as well as tasty beer.

Brewer Patrick Conway wants to make great beer, but he's just as concerned with protecting the environment

By Anastasia Busiek

In a way, it’s all in the name.

“One-fifth of the world’s fresh water is contained in our Great Lakes,” says Patrick Conway (JFRC ’73–’74, BA ’74). “We have to be the protectors of it.” As co-owner of the Cleveland-based Great Lakes Brewing Company, along with his brother, Dan, Conway sees the company as providing much more than tasty microbrews. In fact, the successful brewery has adopted what it calls a “triple bottom line”—defined as “economic, social, and environmental practices that achieve a sustainable yet profitable business.” The three waves in the company’s logo represent water—the largest ingredient—but also the three components of the “triple bottom line.” It’s less a list of initiatives, although there are many, than it is a philosophy.

It was while studying at the John Felice Rome Center that Conway encountered great European styles of beer, traveling and sampling in the UK, Germany, and Belgium. Years later, while working in Chicago as a teacher and social worker, Conway couldn’t stop thinking about opening a brewery. His brother Dan, then working as a loan officer at a bank, had attended the Rome Center twelve years after Pat, and the experience had resonated equally. “My wife said, 'Do it or don’t do it, but stop talking about it,’” Conway recalls. The two brothers founded Great Lakes in 1988.

Travel exposed Pat Conway to more than just great beers. It also informed the social and environmental missions of the brewery. Time spent in developing countries—after attending graduate school for social sciences at the University of Chicago—showed Conway how people with few resources make the most of them. “We’d see people using newspaper as insulation or a tin can as a shingle. It was eye-opening to me,” Conway says. “I knew that we had to make better use of our resources at home.” He worked for a time at a recycling operation in Chicago, and resource management and sustainability were core principles of Great Lakes from the outset.

Loyola roots

Patrick Conway's ties to Loyola run throughout his family tree. His wife Jeanne (BA '77) and all eight of her siblings are also Loyola alums. Jeanne's father, Dick Matre, was also dean of faculty at Loyola for several years. Pat's some Emmett (JFRC Spring '10, BA '11) and Dan's daughter Clare (BA '13) have continued the family tradition by bringing another generation of Conways to the Loyola campus.

“We were doing environmental work, supporting nonprofits, being very careful about our financial status and trying to have measured growth and common sense business plans, even before we called it the ‘triple bottom line,’” Conway says.

There are a number of sustainable practices and facilities that set Great Lakes apart from the crowd. They include a retractable roof and straw bale walls with a heat-radiant floor and fireplace, as well as 12 solar panels and an energy-efficient boiler, at the company’s brewpub. The deep fryer grease fuels a shuttle bus (the “Fatty Wagon”) which transports customers to sporting events. The brewery operates two farms that use composted kitchen scraps and used grain from the brewery. The spent grain is also fed to worms that produce castings used to fertilize the farms. Great Lakes also sponsors the Burning River Festival, an annual event that has raised close to $400,000 for groups that work in the area of water quality and sustainability. The company recycles glass, paper, hops, and brewer’s barley, and makes many of its paper goods from recycled material.

Although these measures can be expensive to put in place, Conway believes that they are entwined with the company’s success. “Our customers are looking for inspiration,” Conway says. “They don’t want to see ‘greenwashing;’ they’re looking for companies that are real models of responsible sustainable practices.”

He appears to be right. The brewery’s sales are up close to 25 percent this year. “I think these are indicators of a customer base that supports us beyond our award-winning beers,” Conway says.

And he intends to keep trying new things, even if they aren’t all successful all the time. “When you’re innovative and trying different things, you’re not always going to bat 100 percent,” he says. “We built a greenhouse that was flawed and never panned out. The solar panels are doing well, but not as well as we’d thought. Our first attempts at working with local farms were abysmal failures, although we are now on track with two farms and they are instrumental in our restaurant having achieved record sales.” It’s being unafraid to fail, he says, that keeps the success coming. “It’s part and parcel of being innovators—you make mistakes,” Conway says. “But we aren’t daunted. We move ahead.”

At a recent company summit, Great Lakes committed to giving back 1 percent of sales to social causes and the arts, and another 1 percent to the environment. “It’s up to us to protect our resources and our community,” Conway says. “It’s part of how we were raised. We want to be successful, but we also want to have fun, to look out for others, and to be generous in spirit.”

Cheers to that. 

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

Shedding light on darkness

Susan Candiotti

As a national correspondent for CNN, Susan Candiotti (BA ‘76) reports from wherever history is being made—from the Justice Department to the aftermath of natural disasters. Through accurate and compassionate reporting, she shows viewers what’s going on in the world and allows those involved to tell their stories.

Susan Candiotti, CNN national correspondent, reports on events that shape our history.

By Jenny Kustra-Quinn

Susan Candiotti (BA ’76) has had a front seat to history for the past 20 years, interviewing current and former presidents and playing a significant role in covering some of the most important and memorable stories of our time. As a CNN national correspondent, she has helped viewers make sense of tragedies that have reverberated throughout the country and beyond—from the Oklahoma City bombing to 9/11 to the Sandy Hook shootings.

Candiotti, who specializes in terror cases and law enforcement reporting, says she always has gravitated toward stories involving crimes or tragedies, not just to report the events, but also to give a voice to those affected. “When you cover these kinds of stories, there’s the horrific event, but there’s also the people who suffer from it,” she says. “There are victims whose stories need to be told.”

And when a big story breaks, Candiotti is aware that viewers can be hanging on a reporter’s every word. “You have to take your role very seriously and make sure you get it right, because people are counting on you,” she says.

In spite of how difficult it can be to continually be part of people’s worst moments, Candiotti says she is doing the work she was meant to do. She grew up in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Era, and she believed that the TV reporters who covered the events of the day were fortunate to witness history in the making. 

“They were trying to make a difference by telling me what was going on in the world around me. I remember thinking that was what I would like to do,” she says.

Candiotti was born in Long Island, New York, and grew up there and in Cleveland. She attended high school in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and then went to Loyola to pursue a degree in communication arts mass media. She was part of the honors program and spent a year at the John Felice Rome Center. She’s thankful to her parents for giving her these opportunities, which provided the foundation she needed and taught her to communicate with different kinds of people in different settings. 

“Loyola helped instill a sense of the world around me and helped me see how each one of us can make a difference,” she says.

After graduating, Candiotti spent four years in Binghamton, New York, where she learned firsthand how to be a TV reporter. She then worked at a station in Buffalo, followed by two local stations in Miami. In 1994, CNN came calling, and she took a job in the network’s Miami bureau.

During her 15 years in that bureau, Candiotti covered earthquakes, hurricanes, political conflicts, economic issues, hostage takeovers, and plane crashes in Florida, Central and South America, and the Caribbean including Cuba. She traveled with US troops on a mission to Kuwait in 1998.

On 9/11, Candiotti was in Miami. She quickly learned from her law enforcement sources that the hijackers had been living in the area, and she was the first reporter to break that part of the story. She spent weeks investigating who they were and how they trained. A month later, she was sent to Washington, DC, to cover the Justice Department’s 9/11 investigation.

In 2002, Candiotti’s CNN investigative team received a National Headliner Award for continuing coverage of 9/11, one of several journalism honors throughout her career. In 2008, she transferred to the New York City bureau. 

She was the first CNN correspondent on the scene of the 2012 Sandy Hook School shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Candiotti says she tried to do her part, “by honoring those who were lost and talking to brave parents who wanted everyone to know what their children meant to them.”

Candiotti says these stories stay with her long after they are regular fixtures on the news. She doesn’t try to avoid emotion while covering a story. “It’s normal to be sad. You can’t help but feel someone’s pain,” she says.

Many of the high-profile events that Candiotti has covered have changed the world. But when asked to name the most important stories of her career, she recalls a lesser-known assignment from her first job. While she was working at the TV station in Binghamton, a fire claimed the lives of all the children in one family. Candiotti was asked to interview their mother. She says she still remembers how difficult it was to approach the woman, who eventually was able to share her feelings about the loss.

Candiotti says this early experience shaped the way she views her role as a journalist. “To this day, I look at these situations as giving people an opportunity to remember and honor their loved ones,” Candiotti says. “In a way, this enables all of us to help them heal.” 

Candiotti repeatedly has been inspired by people pulling together to help others in the aftermath of misfortune. And she has learned how resilient the human spirit can be. Many people get stronger in the face of great obstacles, perhaps even to the point of becoming activists, she says.

This past summer, the University honored Candiotti at the annual Founders’ Dinner. She received the School of Communication’s Damen Award, recognizing her as a distinguished alum with leadership in industry and the community, as well as in service to others.

Candiotti hopes to continue to make a difference as a trusted source of news and information. Newsgathering is evolving, she says, and it’s an exciting time to be in the industry, even though no one knows exactly what the future will bring. One thing that will not change: “There’s a thirst for knowledge that will always be there,” she says.

Candiotti feels lucky to be in the position to share people’s personal stories with the world, whether triumphs or tragedies.

And she’s always ready for the next big story. She has a bag packed at all times, in case she needs to jet off in pursuit of the facts. “I look at every day as an adventure,” she says. “Anything can happen at any time. I never know what a day will bring.”    

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

 

 

A dream fulfilled

Keith Muccino

Keith Muccino, S.J., (MD ‘77) works in the Stamm Procedure Training Room and Bedside Teaching Lab in the Center for Simulation Education on Loyola's Health Science Campus.

Priest, physician, and educator Keith Muccino, S.J., (MD ’77) had multiple callings in life, so he chose to follow them all 

While a student at the Stritch School of Medicine, Keith Muccino, S.J., (MD ’77) found himself attracted to several specialties and chose to do a “rotating internship” to allow himself more time to decide. When he found himself still unable to choose between internal medicine and emergency medicine he applied to residency positions in each.

Muccino ultimately matched in internal medicine and completed his residency in Connecticut. As he finished that training, the hospital in Pennsylvania where he had done his internship contacted him, seeking a board-certified internist to staff its emergency department. He took the job, recognizing that an opportunity to be “both” was now presenting itself. Thus began his career path of being, not an “either/or,” but an “and.”

“Over the seven years that I did emergency medicine, I was as ‘happy as a clam,’” says the New England-born Muccino. "I looked forward to going to work every day, and no matter how crazy the day, I came home feeling satisfied.”

Practicing in a high-intensity environment, Muccino saw the need to find ways to nurture his spirit, so he became involved in his local parish teaching religious education and made an annual retreat. Although happy in his work as a physician, he began to feel a call to priesthood. “But it created a dilemma,” says Muccino. “There was no way that I was going to give up medicine! If I was going to make any change in my life it would be to add priesthood to medicine. But it wasn’t clear to me how to create this combination.”

While on his retreat that year, Muccino was introduced to a Jesuit priest who was also a physician and suddenly he realized that it could happen. “In becoming a Jesuit, I could be an ‘and,’” he says. “I knew then that there was no looking back.” 

Throughout Muccino’s Jesuit formation and seminary training, he remained active in medical practice either as an internist or as an emergency physician. In 2005, he came to work at Loyola, where he has continued his tradition of flourishing in more than one role. He is an assistant professor of internal medicine, as well as associate dean for clinical performance. He is also director of continuing medical education and executive director of Stritch’s Center for Simulation Education. And he just completed his recertification in emergency medicine.

“Returning to my alma mater has been the fulfillment of a wonderful life-journey," he says. "I didn’t know specifically what I was going to be doing when I came here 10 years ago. It didn’t matter, since I knew that I would be happy doing whatever was needed.”

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

Health care from the heart

Marian Adly

Marian Adly (BA '03, BS '06) cared for her father after serious brain trauma. Her experiences have shaped her career as a health care advocate. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Marian Adly (BA ’03, BS ’06) merges personal experiences in caretaking with her vision for health care

By Anastasia Busiek

Marian Adly (BA ’03, BS ’06) was set on a career in health care from the beginning. She planned to follow a pre-med track when she entered Loyola as a freshman. But she didn’t know then how personal experiences with health problems—and the health care system—would shape her life and her work.

During Adly’s sophomore year at Loyola, she was diagnosed with cancer. While in treatment at Loyola in Maywood, she began to rethink what she wanted to study and what goals to pursue in life after graduation. “We all think we’re masters of the universe until something happens,” Adly says. “We don’t realize how fragile we are. Everyone, regardless of how little money or how much political power you have, experiences vulnerability in the same way. I knew that I wanted to protect the vulnerable.”

Adly graduated with a BA in philosophy, political science, and international relations, and a BS in chemistry. After graduation, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study public health in Toronto—specifically the city’s response to the SARS outbreak. During the second year of her Fulbright program, while Adly was planning to go to China to study SARS in the context of the Chinese health system, a health emergency interrupted her studies once again. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer. “I moved home overnight,” Adly recalls. 

She stayed there for a year, taking care of her mother as she underwent difficult but ultimately successful, treatment. Meanwhile, Adly’s research in Toronto had been noticed by officials in Illinois. Based on that work, she was asked to brief the Illinois Terrorism Task Force in Springfield.  

“It wasn’t in my plan,” Adly says. “I wanted to go to China. But I thought, ‘God’s telling me something.’ By working here, I could stay close to my mom, share my work with my home state, and gain experience at the local level. I decided to follow the path God put me on.”

She presented her work in Springfield and was brought on as a consultant at the Illinois Department of Public Health, advocating for a bottom-up approach to public health preparedness, based on lessons from her work in Canada. She traveled the state organizing town hall meetings and engaging faith and community-based organizations. 

“I don’t know why public health and private health care have taken such divergent paths when they should be more synergistic,” Adly says. “They should be coordinating and collaborating more often. I wanted to achieve that through this program.” 

In 2008, with her mother’s health stabilized, Adly moved to New York City to work on a pandemic preparedness report for a United Nations conference in Egypt and to finish writing her thesis on her studies in Toronto. 

Then again, disaster struck. In January of 2009, Adly’s father slipped on ice and hit his head.  “My mom called and needed advice—she said he had a bad headache,” Adly says. “I made it to the hospital just in time to see the surgeon in the hallway.”

Adly’s father survived two and a half hours of brain surgery, but, a few days later, he fell into in a coma. Adly didn’t leave her father’s side. She made his medical decisions and monitored his progress relentlessly. “I wouldn’t leave him for a moment,” she says. Adly’s academic work, not for the first time, had taken on a more personal meaning. 

“In Toronto, I had spoken to individuals who had made critical decisions in times of crisis,” Adly says. “I asked how they made decisions in the face of conflicting interests and agendas, how they allocated resources and determined priorities. I collected and analyzed that information for my research, but it ended up informing how I made decisions for my father—how I allocated limited resources and made decisions to protect him and keep him alive.”

Adly’s father underwent a second surgery, and, in March, his eyes slowly began to open. 

“Incrementally, I saw my father reboot as a human being,” Adly says. “He would just stare ahead. I held up pictures of our family. He didn’t start making sounds until June.”

After a third surgery, Adly’s father moved to a nursing home. 

“Dad’s situation was complex. He was more fragile than a baby,” Adly says. “We stayed there for six months working on his rehabilitation. I put him in bed, changed him, gave him a bed bath. I never thought I would do that for my father, but these were things he did for me when I was a child.”

Adly lived in the nursing home with her father, sleeping in another bed in his room. “I got to know the staff; they became our family,” she says. “I managed his medications and exercised him by lifting his arms and legs, which was a workout for me too. I was constantly engaging my father.  Keeping him alert and supporting his recovery. For six months we did that.”

Adly had been trying to get her father into inpatient rehab facilities all over the nation, but her applications were repeatedly turned down. Finally, after multiple applications to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, a vice president of the institute agreed to interview them in person.

“He said to my father, ‘follow my commands,’” Adly recalls. “Dad looked him in the eye. He said, in broken words, “Why are you commanding me? I have a degree in nuclear engineering.”  Adly’s father was accepted. He spent the next month in rehabilitation.

“Our original goal in the spring was to get him home in time for his birthday on October 21,”  Adly says. “We got him home October 19.”

Since that October in 2009, Adly has managed her father’s care at home. Although he is still wheelchair-bound, she says the progress he’s made has defied all expectations.  

“He understands things. He still has a sense of humor. If you’d seen him years ago, you wouldn’t believe it to see him now.”

Today, Adly is focused on advocacy for caregivers and now works on ventures to improve the lives of the disabled, while still taking care of her father.  

“What I’ve been doing is working on restructuring health care so that it is more accessible to individuals and meaningful to individuals receiving care like my father,” Adly says. “Health care and policy have turned into something very personal for me.”

She is also working on a series of endeavors to serve the disadvantaged and protect others from existing gaps in health care, spanning from academic to community to startup environments.

“My parents and I were homeless in the health care system,” Adly says. “Through my work, I’m trying to create a model that does what I did for my parents—where individuals and their families would coordinate care between providers, nurses, community-based services, and specialists. Health care is unnecessarily complicated, and we need a system that works for us all.”

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

On a mission of mercy

mission-of-mercy

Jacquelyn Pavilon (JFRC Spring '10, BA '12, BS '12) presents a book of photos from her work with Syrian refugees to Pope Francis. Pavilon, who works for Jesuit Refugee Service in Rome, had a personal meeting with the pope as part of a major campaign to provide education to refugees. (Courtesy photo)

College of Arts and Sciences

At home in Rome, dancer and mathematician Jacquelyn Pavilon found her true calling in providing support to refugees

By Alexandra Jonker

During her time at Loyola, Jacquelyn Pavilon (JFRC Spring ’10, BA ’12, BS ’12) explored a wide range of interests. She interned with a refugee center in Rome, served as the U.S. liaison to a Ugandan children’s rights group, studied math, and practiced dance. After earning a dual degree in mathematics and global and global and international studies and political science with a dance minor, Pavilon hoped to continue working abroad but instead took a job as a mathematician for a gaming company in Chicago. The job provided security and a steady income, but Pavilon told herself it was only temporary.

Eventually an opportunity in Rome came calling, and Pavilon jumped at the chance to return to the Eternal City. She joined the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), where she’s now helping to run a $35 million campaign to provide education to refugees.

In this interview with Loyola magazine, she discusses life in Rome, her passion for service, and her personal meeting with the pope.

How did you get interested in working with refugees?

When I was a student at the John Felice Rome Center, I took a human rights course and my service learning placement was at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center. My first day on the job, an Iraqi man came up to me, handed me his documents, and said, “Please help me, I need asylum.” It was the most moving experience to work with him on his asylum process.

I always wanted to work in international human rights but I didn’t know particularly what I’d do. When I studied abroad and did that internship, I knew I wanted to work specifically with refugees.

How did you go from being a mathematician to working at JRS?

I was graduating in a terrible economy. My best friend and I applied for the same job at JRS upon graduation and we were the last two candidates. In the meantime, I had been recruited to work as a casino mathematician, which is something I never thought I wanted but it was a really good job opportunity. The JRS ultimately offered my friend the position.

I told myself I would work for the casinos for two years maximum. Two years later my friend was finishing her contract at JRS and they were looking for her replacement. I reapplied and was offered the job as international communications assistant. Due to some staff transitions, I was eventually offered the job as the international communications coordinator, which is the head of communications for the international organization.

What is the JRS currently doing to help refugees?

We work in 45 countries, and our mission is to not only serve but also accompany and advocate for refugees worldwide. Our primary services are in education and psychosocial support, although because of the crisis in the Middle East we are doing a lot of emergency work as well as providing food and non-food items.

Right now, we are running a campaign called “Mercy in Motion” to provide educational services to an additional 100,000 refugees worldwide, which was actually a brainchild of Pope Francis.

How did you get to meet the pope?

This giant campaign was brought to our organization, and as a precursor to the launch, we had a private audience with the pope for our staff, some of our donors, and some refugees with whom we work. He spoke about the importance of education for refugees and how to show mercy in a concrete way.

I had just a few months prior been working in Lebanon with the Syrian refugees. I had a collection of photos of Syrian refugee children holding drawings of before, when they were in the war in Syria, and after, when they are at our educational center in Lebanon. I presented the pope with a book of these photographs and asked if he would pray for Christians and Muslims together in a very interfaith way.

Do you still find time to dance?

I actually still dance a lot. I train at an underground studio two stories beneath platform 24 of the train station called Termini Underground. I train with a lot of hip hop dancers there, and I’m really involved in the underground community.

What is it like to live in Rome?

I love Rome. It has a lot of history and layers and complexities that are interesting, and I have a great life here.

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

Voice lessons

voice-lessons

Jeffery Austin (BASC '13) competed on NBC's The Voice, surviving several weeks of competition before finishing in fourth place. He's now leaving behind a career in PR to pursue singing stardom. (Photo: NBC)

Success on NBC’s hit singing competition set alum Jeffery Austin on a new career path

By Lauren Krause (BA ’10)

Loyola alumnus Jeffery Austin (BASC ’13) admitted at his audition on The Voice last summer that he hadn’t performed in front of an audience in over six years. The former public relations worker is performing a lot more frequently now after finishing in fourth place on the hit NBC singing show.

Taking advice from his coach, musician Gwen Stefani, the 24-year-old singer delivered performances on the show that were honest and authentic, ranging from covers of Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down” to Cher’s “Believe.” Austin praises Stefani for encouraging his music. “Working with Gwen was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in any career path I’ve been on,” he says. “She never critiqued me on vocals, she was never too pushy with song choices, and she really pushed me as an artist.”

Austin, born Jeffery McClelland, attended St. Charles North High School before coming to Loyola, where he majored in advertising and public relations. “Going to school in Chicago allowed me to make connections with the PR industry that wouldn’t be afforded to me at other schools,” he says. His professors offered hands-on advice that he was able to use during job interviews. “I felt really prepared when I went into the workforce and I was working above my level because of my education.”

After Loyola, Austin worked for Edelman, a major PR firm in New York, where he was assigned accounts at a global level. Edelman was Austin’s dream job, but he still felt a tug to explore a career in music. And although he previously auditioned for singing shows, he never made it past the early rounds. “I never thought I would make it through,” he says. “But it turned out to be way different and it snowballed into a career that I’m so grateful to have now.”

As far as preparing him for a singing career, Austin credits his degree and experience in PR. “On The Voice, I was prepared for production interviews, was able to schedule my own press, and could tell my story in a way that other contestants may not have been able to handle in the early stages,” Austin says. “Now that I’m off the show I’m still securing interviews and maintaining a public image.”

With little-to-no experience as a performer, Austin struggled with putting himself “out there.” But thanks to The Voice, Austin stretched himself to lose that fear and connect to the music: “When you’re forced to do that in front of 14 million viewers each week, those nerves kind of fade away,” he says.

Now a full-time resident of Los Angeles, Austin left public relations to focus on music. “My first priority is to build a team and to take this platform to create some really awesome material to hopefully put out as an album or EP,” Austin says. In the meantime, he is pursuing his career dreams with scheduled performances around the country. 

When offering advice, Austin urges young performers to lose fear of not being good enough to accomplish a career in music. “Someone will connect to you and someone will listen to you and feel affected, and that’s what has made it worth it to me,” he says. “I don’t think you can live with yourself knowing you’ve never tried something you’ve always wanted to do—whether it ends up being a success or failure.”

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

Air of generosity

air-of-generosity

Bob Munson (MD '85) and wife Pam have lived an adventurous life, and the couple credit Loyola in helping them get to where they are today. (Courtesy photo)

Physician, pilot, and alum Bob Munson (MD '85) and wife Pam are supporting the next generation of students at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine

By Alexandra Jonker

A rainy and cold Chicago drive to Maywood in a “crummy rental car” after a long flight from Germany was the prelude for Bob Munson (MD '85) to his interviews as a prospective medical student at Loyola. That dreary day was to be contrasted with the personal attention and kindness of Loyola staff, a first impression he clearly remembers to this day.

“I wasn’t a great candidate, on paper anyway,” he says. “My GPA at the Air Force Academy was 3.09. I hadn’t taken any classes in eight years, but Loyola granted me an interview, and everybody I encountered wanted to be helpful to me.”

After graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1973, Bob and wife Pam wed later that year and he became a pilot. After flying tours in Southeast Asia, Colorado, and Europe, he applied to many medical schools, but in the end Loyola proved the best fit. When the Stritch School of Medicine accepted his application, the government awarded him the Health Professions Scholarship to assist with tuition. Pam also began working at Stritch as a medical technologist to make ends meet.

“Though a non-Catholic, I appreciated the Jesuit leaders-in-service theme that went along with our education,” says Bob. “I always felt that the staff and the educators at Stritch sought to instill in us a common sense of our responsibility to help others. It fit well with the Air Force core values of ‘integrity first, service before self, excellence in all that we do.’”

Bob carried with him the ethic of service during his 30-year career as a physician and pilot with the U.S. Air Force, primarily in research and development but also in combat aeromedical evacuation during the Gulf War and on exchange to the Royal Air Force’s Institute of Aviation Medicine in the United Kingdom. For his work developing improved concepts in medical evacuation, he was named the Air Force Physician of the Year in 1998.

Bob and Pam now devote much of their time volunteering to support a wide variety of nonprofits in their community and elsewhere in their home state of Colorado. For example, on many Mondays Pam can be found working at their community’s food bank while Bob provides care in the Air Force Academy’s Internal Medicine clinic, pro bono, as a Red Cross volunteer.

“Since I don’t have to meet output metrics, they give me one-hour appointment slots, and I handle their most time-consuming patients,” he says. “The patients and staff appreciate it.”

The responsibility to give back still drives the Munsons’ life choices. Bob and Pam support the Teresa Wronski Medical Student Scholarship Fund at Stritch. They both also decided to include a significant gift to Loyola in their estate plans to support additional student scholarships, with special consideration to be given for applicants with some military background or affiliation.

“Loyola helped us get to where we are today,” says Pam. “It had a very positive effect on our family, and when we came back for the class reunion last September, we were impressed by the students we met and how the school has grown. We know that by giving this gift, we can help others even beyond our lifetimes.”

“Whether we realize it or not, we all succeed on the shoulders of others who have supported us in the past,” says Bob, “and that should provide us all with a sense of responsibility to those that follow us.”

Learn how you can support scholarships for current students

All in the family

all-in-the-family

Chicago-area OBGYN Susan Scanlon (JFRC ’84-’85, MD ’91) comes from a proud Loyola family. Her father Patrick Scanlon (MD ’62) and grandfather Edward W. McNamara (MD ’37) (pictured below) are both Stritch graduates, and her father's personal and professional philosophy had a big influence on Scanlon's medical career. (Photos: Natalie Battaglia)

For third-generation Stritch School of Medicine alum Dr. Susan Scanlon, providing exceptional health care is a family tradition

By Alexandra Jonker

“I want you to reach outside of your community.” Those are the words Susan Scanlon (JFRC ’84-’85, MD ’91) remembers hearing as a student at the Stritch School of Medicine from her father, Patrick Scanlon (MD ’62), who was then chief of cardiology at Loyola University Medical Center. “Do something more,” he said. “Try to reach beyond something that you think is possible. That’s what I want you to do.”   

Scanlon, today a leading Chicago-area OBGYN, grew up in and around the Loyola medical community. Her grandfather, Edward W. McNamara (MD ’37), graduated from Loyola Medical School one year before it was renamed the Stritch School of Medicine, making her a third-generation Stritch alum. Her uncle, Jack Scanlon (MD ’65), and cousin, Matt Scanlon (MD ’92), are also Stritch graduates—but it was her father’s influence that had the most impact on Scanlon’s career.

She would often join her father as he worked in the cardiology catheterization lab in Maywood, and she credits the experience as being a significant part of her decision to attend Stritch after completing her undergraduate education at Boston College. “I loved the experience and I loved the people at the medical center,” Scanlon says. “It was such an exciting place to be, with world class researchers on staff and cutting edge technologies being developed.”

Scanlon family photosWhile her father was working as a physician at Loyola University Medical Center, Scanlon and her sister joined him on a medical mission to St. Jude Hospital in St. Lucia. Even as a college student, Scanlon says the trip made a profound impact on her career goals. “We were exposed to the world around us and saw medical care being practiced in a completely different way than what happens here in America,” she says. “It was a big part of why I chose to become a physician and gave me a foundation for what I wanted to do in life.”

‌‌Aware of the enormous impact such missions can have on young people, Scanlon decided to take her own family—her college-age son and two high school-age daughters—on a medical mission to Ecuador this past summer. “It was a fantastic experience for me as a physician,” she says. “But it was also a chance to expose my children to the world of medicine and how fortunate we are to have access to excellent medical care in our country, like at Loyola, and why it’s so important to give back to those who have less than us.”

Closer to home, Scanlon has just finished her most recent project, The Gyne’s Guide for College Women: How to Have a Healthy, Safe, and Happy Four Years, a how-to book for young women on handling the health and social issues they may encounter in college. The work is accompanied by a series of hands-on workshops in the Chicago area that build on the book’s message.

“I have two daughters in high school that will be going to college in the next few years, and I was unable to find a book with smart strategies for handling health and safety issues that young women face away from home,” Scanlon says. “This is my 20th year in private practice. I’ve taken care of thousands of girls, and I know that they need more information before they go to college.”

Reaching beyond one’s self—a philosophy her father instilled in her as a med student and one that has been exemplified by Scanlon’s own career—was the inspiration for the Patrick J. Scanlon, MD, Cardiovascular Research Fund. The fund supports research at Loyola's Cardiovascular Research Institute, mainly focusing on physiology, pathology, and pharmacology issues.

“My father felt that research was an important part of not only being a physician but also for the academic center as a whole,” Scanlon says. “He always encouraged his team of Loyola physicians to conduct cutting-edge research, advance medical knowledge, and seek out cures for the benefit of their patients.”

The family hopes that, as a University, Loyola will continue to grow its research in the field of cardiology and cardiovascular disease. “I love Loyola, it’s a great place,” Scanlon says.  “And I think that it really fosters my father’s way of thinking—to provide excellent medical care to patients and then reach beyond to make a difference in the world.”

For information on Dr. Scanlon’s book, visit thegynesguide.com. To learn about her practice visit mcwhc.com.

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Immersed in service

annemarie-barrett-story

Annemarie Barrett (BA '12), bottom right, poses for a photo with some of the friends she's made during her time as a lay missioner in Bolivia. (Photo: Courtesy of Annemarie Barrett)

School of Communication alum Annemarie Barrett finds a second home serving in Bolivia

By Anna Gaynor

After spending three years as a lay missioner in Bolivia, working and learning alongside the locals in her community, Annemarie Barrett (BA '12) still thinks her biggest accomplishment might just be the decision to come to South America in the first place.

The St. Paul, Minnesota native’s desire to volunteer abroad was planted after a study-abroad experience in El Salvador. From those four months in Central America—and with some help from Loyola’s Campus Ministry office—Barrett decided upon the Franciscan Mission Service after graduation.

Not only was the School of Communication graduate thrilled by the opportunity to head to Bolivia, she also found inspiration in the organization’s approach. It focuses on getting to know locals and following their lead on what work needs to be done. That meant Barrett traveled to Bolivia with no firm job in place.

“My first six months to my first year here were focused on relationship building and getting connected with people in the local community—and then some of that involved getting connected to local work that was already happening,” she says. “I was doing a lot of listening and a lot observing in the first year, and from there I took on a support role.”

That support role took shape when Barrett joined a team pursuing and promoting urban farming. After spending her first six weeks taking Spanish classes, another lay missioner put her in touch with a Bolivian woman who offered families an opportunity to strengthen their communities and reclaim a part of the life they left behind in el campo, or rural Bolivia.

In Barrett’s city of Cochabamba, farming families from rural Bolivia have been migrating to a more urban life. There are a number of reasons for moving—better education opportunities, climate change, industrialization, financial reasons—but there are just as many reasons why relocating doesn’t turn out the way they expect.

From the language they speak, their skin color, their clothes, and even the way they eat, many migrants face both economic and social challenges. “A lot of our work is about valuing the culture that they’re coming from,” Barrett says. “Life before they migrated is often much healthier or much more vibrant than what they find when they come into the city. A lot of the families have migrated into the city with this vision of ‘I’m going to have a better life—a better life for my kids.’ The development of the city is going to open me up to all these resources that I didn’t have before—when in reality, a lot of what they find is that they experience much more social challenges and discrimination.”

As a part of La Pastoral de la Madre Tierra (the Mother Earth Pastoral Team), Barrett works with 15 families in the Santa Vera Cruz Parish. Often she assists women who have undergone an adjustment of their own. Instead of working alongside their husbands every day as they had on their farms, these women suddenly find themselves alone taking care of their home and children. Showing them how to take advantage of their small garden space, the project gives them the opportunity to start growing everything from potatoes to peaches and peppers to beans.

While Barrett’s work addresses the practical concerns of saving money and giving access to organic foods, she also knows there’s a spiritual side to it as well.

“When they produce their own food, it really is a huge self-esteem booster, because they are able to provide more vegetables and healthy food for their families,” Barrett says. “They’re also able to recuperate a knowledge that they’ve always had but are in a crisis of losing—because so many people believe that they can’t produce the same way in the city. These women are producing themselves with just support from us more than anything.”

Barrett has now been living in the city for three years and officially renewed her contract for a fourth with the Franciscan Service Mission. For doing work that relies so heavily on building relationships, Barrett has found the longer she stays the deeper her ties to the community become.

“There’s so much joy in the work that we do,” Barrett says. “That’s a really beautiful thing that I hope to share with the people who are supporting our work. When it’s based on relationships like this work is, the work that we do is incredibly joyful.”

Read Barrett’s blog about her work in Bolivia at franciscanmissionservice.org/author/ambarrett

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All about attitude

Kerry Obrist

Above, Kerry Obrist is pictured in her Chicago apartment. Below right is one of Obrist's photos, "Ode to the L.S.S.," which shows a lighthouse off of Navy Pier.

Kerry Obrist (BS ’91, MEd ’96), who is legally blind, works on behalf of others with disabilities

By Anastasia Busiek

Kerry Obrist (BS ’91, MEd ’96) was working as a school psychologist in Chicago’s south suburbs when she realized she was losing her vision faster than expected. Recognizing that some activities were going to become more difficult for her, Obrist decided to challenge herself. 

“I specifically did things that were outside my comfort zone. I wanted to experience things that I thought I might not be able to do later on,” Obrist says. She traveled to South Africa, Egypt, and Turkey. She participated in a 500-mile bike ride. She took up photography. She learned how to rock climb. She went downhill skiing. “Which I probably shouldn’t have done,” she notes.

Obrist was diagnosed with a genetic vision loss condition at age 23, and by age 30, the loss was disabling. In 1998, when she became legally blind, she had to stop driving. She became unable to recognize faces. While Obrist’s vision loss made many things tougher, she says it changed her for the better in unexpected ways. 

“I know I became much more interesting as a visually impaired person,” she says. “I think I was maybe fun beforehand. But I became much more gregarious. In a store, I have to ask someone if clothes match. I have to be more open to asking for help and being willing to admit I can’t do everything.”

Obrist went through rehabilitation, learning how to navigate the everyday by relying more heavily on her other senses, such as putting a key in a lock by mechanical memory, instead of by lining up what she saw with her eyes. 

“It’s not like other forms of rehab—you’re not getting the vision back,” Obrist says. “It was just learning to use your mind in a different way. I’ve become a much better problem-solver. I have to be creative.”

Despite finding new ways of doing things and making resourceful adjustments, the vision loss made it challenging for Obrist to continue working as a school psychologist. Doing classroom observations of students from a distance and working with printed materials became impossible, and so Obrist left her position.  

“It was frustrating, because I saw what I had been doing in a different light. I thought I was an effective school psychologist before, but I know I would have been even more so with the disability,” Obrist says.

She volunteered with various organizations and went on interviews, but found that employers seemed to lose interest once she disclosed her disability. “After I divulged the issue, the atmosphere in the room would change,” Obrist recalls. “You could just hear the air go out. And it’s like, ‘OK, thanks for coming in.’ And it would be over.”

But, after three years, Obrist found a way to turn her job-seeking experiences into an opportunity—for herself and for others. She started working at a nonprofit called Second Sense (at the time, the Catholic Guild for the Blind) which serves adults and children with vision loss. She worked as the education coordinator for two years, eventually becoming the director of services and developing career readiness programs that would help people with vision loss who wanted to return to the working world.

“I developed a program based on what I would have wanted during those three years without a job,” Obrist says. “I knew that I had the skills and the intellectual ability to do these jobs, I just didn’t know how to present myself to an employer. I think it was because, in the beginning, I had lost my confidence. I think I was defensive at times.” 

She wanted to instill in those she worked with a sense of agency and confidence, along with practical tips—such as how to dress professionally for interviews. She also worked with senior citizens experiencing vision loss on how to navigate their homes and daily routines. 

“We’re all human. We all have challenges. But we’ve all been given gifts,” Obrist says. “It’s that kind of attitude I want to share with other people who have been beaten down by life or the system or whatever. I think it really comes down to whether you perceive yourself as being in control of your life and your destiny, or if you’re going to be a victim of it.”

Obrist worked for Second Sense until 2009, when she started her own disability consulting business, consulting with various organizations about how to serve both customers and employees with disabilities.  

“With a lot of advocacy organizations, the main goal is to get people with disabilities hired. We all need jobs. That’s all fine and good,” Obrist says. “But until employers and the general public are comfortable with people with disabilities, it’s an uphill battle. I had this brainstorm one day, and I thought, ‘I’m going to make these companies money.’”

Obrist thought if she could show companies how to welcome people with disabilities as customers, it would also go some way toward destigmatizing those disabilities. “Many Americans have a disability. It’s a huge market,” Obrist says. “And no one, or very few people, actually market to this group. People with disabilities need the same products and services. They want to go to dinner or the movies and enjoy life. But no one’s tailoring to them.”

Obrist has spent the last several years working to make organizations more open to and accommodating of people with ‌disabilities. In 2014, she took a six-month position at DePaul’s Center for Students with Disabilities, working with staff to help them better understand their students and local employers to encourage them to think about hiring students or graduates with disabilities. She also started a job club for students, helping them to hone interview and self-advocacy skills.

Ultimately, Obrist says she is eager to continue her work helping others with disabilities and educating those without disabilities about how to be more accepting. She continues to create photography, and her work has been accepted into numerous juried art shows. She also hopes to travel more, as she did when her vision had started to worsen, despite the challenges that might present.

“I’ve become much more of a risk-taker over the years than I was before I lost the vision,” Obrist says. “I think because I don’t take life for granted now, or what I have.”  

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Cycle of pride

cycle-of-pride

Charles Lafkas (BS ’94), right, and his father Robert proudly display their Loyola jerseys on a 2013 cycling trip. (Photo: Courtesy of Charles Lafkas)

Loyola alum and avid bicyclist Charles Lafkas (BS ’94) found a unique way to show his Rambler spirit

By Aaron Cooper

Charles Lafkas (BS ’94) used to marvel at how much attention he got when he would wear a cycling jersey from his father’s alma mater. So Lafkas, a Cincinnati-based clinical project manager in drug development and an avid bicyclist, decided to create a Loyola version to showcase his own alma mater. He kept the project a secret from his father, Robert, until the two went on a planned cycling trip in 2013—which provided the perfect opportunity for the younger Lafkas to surprise his dad with his very own Loyola jersey. 

A unique project
Lafkas enlisted a little help to make his idea a reality. “I was introduced to a local designer, Diana Puppin of dp Design, who’s also a bicyclist," he says. "With Loyola’s blessing to commence the project, followed by the University’s continued input and final approval, we created the jersey.”

The jersey proved to be a hit not just with Lafkas’s father but with other cyclists as well. “We were in eastern Oregon for a week with 2,000 other people who had come from all over the world. So I gave my father this Loyola bicycle jersey, and he was absolutely stunned," says Lafkas.

"We were with another friend, whom I gave a jersey to also, and about half a mile out of our camp that morning, while riding someone yelled to my father, ‘Hey, Jesuit!’ He rode up to my father and named all the members of the ’63 Loyola championship basketball team. All three of us that day each received half a dozen comments, all positive.” 

Service through science
Lafkas, a biology major during his time at Loyola, manages drug trials for pharmaceutical companies as they’re working toward FDA approval, ensuring that the trials are done ethically and objectively. “I take as much pride in the drugs that we’ve been able to help get to market as the ones we’ve been able to help kill, knowing that they shouldn’t get any further than they did. It’s about protecting the rights and welfare of the people who are participating in these trials.” 

Giving back
As part of Loyola’s Access to Excellence: The Campaign for Scholarships, Lafkas endowed a scholarship to provide financial assistance to one or more students, particularly those studying biology, physics, or chemistry.  

“I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I’ve become financially successful enough that I can give back in this way," he says. "Because Loyola gave me a good start, I enjoy being able to help someone else attend Loyola, and hopefully they in turn will get off to as good a start as I did and take that experience out into the world.” 

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Host with the most

Catherine De Orio

Law school alum Catherine De Orio (JD '01), is host of the WTTW show "Check, Please!"

Catherine De Orio (JD ’01) went from Loyola's law school to hosting the popular Chicago restaurant review show Check, Please!

In 2013, Catherine De Orio (JD '01) outshined hundreds of hopefuls to be cast as the new host of the restaurant review show Check, Please! The WTTW show sees De Orio moderate a rotating panel of reviewers who visit local Chicago eateries.

De Orio comes from a family of doctors and lawyers—her father, Anthony De Orio (BS '67, MD '71), and brother, Joseph (MD '99), are both graduates of Loyola's Stritch School of Medicine—but she decided to take a different path after graduating from law school. Here she talks about how her love of cooking led her to discover her dream job.

How is your new job going?

It’s a dream job. I’ve been working toward something like this. To see my dream become a reality—well, I have to pinch myself.

Why did you decide to leave law?

After law school—which I went to in order to work within the arts—I did nonprofit work with artists, settling things like licensing or tenants’ issues. Then I worked at a small litigation firm in Chicago. It didn’t quite fit.

When I wasn’t at work as a lawyer, I threw parties. I did a tiki party and turned my loft into a tiki hut. There were fish in the bathtub, I covered the bar in raffia, and I sourced real vintage tiki glasses. I served Polynesian food. These creative parties and cooking for my friends were what really made me happy.

There were a few things I loved about working in law—you have a skill set that can help people. Sometimes you can change lives. But I had one of those moments where I thought, “Is this what my life is going to be?” My heart was in cooking, and so I decided on culinary school.

What was that experience like?

That was an interesting time. I kept my job at the firm and had to do night and weekend school (at Kendall College). I’d fly out the door from work to get to my car and change into my chef’s whites at stoplights. I wouldn’t get home until midnight.

How did you get involved in television?

I got recruited as a product spokesperson. I started doing television appearances around town, then I started traveling, and that spiraled. I’d do cooking demos, recipe development, things along the lines of “What else you can do with cheesecake?” I did food styling for catalogs. I took everything I could, even unpaid jobs. Over time, that built my network, and I could focus on what I liked, writing restaurant columns, and so on.

Was it hard to adjust to being on camera?

Practicing law was actually a great background for this—doing a Rachael Ray segment isn’t that different from doing your opening and closing in front of a judge. The first time I went in front of a judge, my leg was shaking like a jackrabbit. But I got used to it over time.

What would you choose for your last meal?

I’d want things that remind me of my family. My grandmother’s gravy over bucatini. My mom’s red velvet cupcakes.

Do you have any regrets?

I believe if you don’t try to change your situation, you lose your right to complain about it. To anyone considering a career change, I say, have the courage to do it. You have the power to change your life, and not in a new-agey way. It’s hard work, but I never regret it. I love it. 

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A family tradition

Jolett Rod

Jolett Rod (BS '13) transferred a work ethic from her family's cattle farm to Loyola.

Coming from her family's cattle farm and a graduating high school class of 28, Jolett Rod (BS '13) took her turn in college while her brothers cared for her herd 

By Anastasia Busiek

Jolett Rod (BS ’13) kept plenty busy in her time at Loyola. Majoring in biology with three minors (anthropology, bioethics, and neuroscience), she completed 150 credit hours in four years. She also became EMT-certified through Loyola and worked as a volunteer on-call 24 hours a day, responding to emergency medical calls on campus. But then, Rod is no stranger to hard work. Growing up on a cattle farm instilled a healthy respect for long days and commitment to a task.

The family lives and works on their cattle farm—Rod Farm—in Sublette, Illinois, about two hours west of Chicago. They rent out pastures and breed cattle to show and to sell. Rod’s father, Rodney, started a herd in his 20s. When each of his three children turned 8, he gave them two heifers from which the children went on to grow their individual herds—Jolett’s now numbers around 20.  Jolett began showing cattle at age 8, as did her older brothers. Although many farms stick to one breed, the Rods have a little bit of everything: Shorthorns, Maine Anjous, Herefords, Simmentals, and more.

Although her brothers, Rodney and Brody, did what she describes as “most of the hard labor,”—feeding and calving in rain, sleet, or snow—Jolett was responsible for the show cattle during the summers. It went something like this:

Get up before dawn. Take the cattle to the wash rack; tie them to their post. Soak, scrub, and rinse them. Take them inside, dry them with the industrial dryer, comb and brush them, tie their heads up so they stand, and feed them.  Rod showed at county fairs, local 4-H shows, and the Illinois State fair. When she was in 6th grade, her family started to yearly attend a livestock exposition in Louisville. Rod loved it all.

When each of her older brothers left home for college, the other took care of his herd during the school year. When Jolett left for Loyola, her brothers did the same for her, giving her the practical support and peace of mind required to keep up with her rigorous school schedule.

“I knew my brothers were at home maintaining my cattle herd so that I could focus on my studies,” Rod says. “It’s what allowed my success.” She returned home in the summers to work with the calves.

Her first two years at Loyola, Rod was still within the 21-year age limit and was able to show cattle. Those days are over now, but, in a way, they set her to her current path. Rod’s love of animals and gross anatomy influenced her childhood aspirations to be a veterinarian. Then, her senior year, Rod took a forensic osteology class with Professor Anne Grauer and discovered she loved working not just with animal anatomy, but also human. She’s starting chiropractic school in Portland, Oregon, this fall. And although she’ll be far away from both her cattle and her family, neither will be far from her mind.

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The sky is no limit

The sky is no limit

David James (PhB '49) sits in his Andersonville home. His wife, Mary, is pictured in the framed photo behind him to the left. Below, a photo shows James during primary training in Tuskegee in 1943. (Photos: Natalie Battaglia)

Civil rights advocate, lawyer, and World War II vet David James (PhB '49) has made a life of breaking barriers

By Anastasia Busiek

“Man is by nature a terrestrial animal,” says David James (PhB ’49). “He doesn’t belong in the air,”

He is speaking from experience. James served as a military pilot and a member of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. He went on to become, among other things, the first African American salesman at the Burroughs Corporation, the first African American attorney hired by the American Bar Association, the first African American homeowner in Winnetka, Illinois, and a lifelong civil rights advocate.

James had always been captivated by aviation. As a child (one of 10 siblings), he would take the streetcar from his home in the Woodlawn neighborhood to the airfield at Midway to watch planes take off. He remembers Italo Balbo’s landmark flight from Rome to the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.

 “I have a souvenir from the flight, bringing greetings from the king at that time,” James says. “Mussolini was of course the premier. It was a big feat—a daring expedition and a demonstration of the potential of aviation. It was amazing. It was wonderful.”

In 1942, shortly after enrolling at Loyola, James joined the Army and went to Tuskegee, Alabama, to train as a pilot and a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviators in a racially segregated military. James learned to fly at Moton Field in a Boeing Stearman, a biplane with an open cockpit and virtually no instruments, save an altimeter, a tachometer, and a magnetic compass.

“Flying was very primitive in those days,” James says. “I often say that the first automobile I drove didn’t have a self-starter, and neither did the first airplane I flew.”

Primary training lasted six weeks, after which James graduated to a more advanced plane with an enclosed cockpit, a radio, stabilizers, an artificial horizon, and a gyroscopic compass. “It was a big leap,” James says. “You have to learn lessons in humility—your senses aren’t reliable, so you learn to depend on your instruments.”

David James as a Tuskegee Airman in 1943In the final stages of training, James and his class learned firsthand about the importance of oxygen. “The airfield had an oxygen chamber—huge, maybe five stories—that simulated altitudes from sea level to 30,000 feet,” James says. “To impress upon us that you need oxygen, they put us in this enclosed chamber and the guy conducting the experiment said, ‘Half of you go up with oxygen masks, and half without.’ I volunteered to go without. I thought, ‘I can handle anything.’ We watched those guys putting on their masks, and we started making fun of them, laughing, saying they looked funny. Then we started going up. At 5,000 feet, we felt good. At 10,000 feet, we felt great. I kept thinking, ‘Higher, higher!’ The next thing I knew, I woke up and the guys with the masks were laughing at us. We had all passed out.”

The experience stuck with James for the rest of his life. “The only thing that I guess I have a fear of is not having enough oxygen,” he says. “I can be in a situation, and I know it’s totally psychological, but I think, ‘I wish I had a mask.’ I know what oxygen can do.”

James and the 332nd Fighter Group flew skillful combat missions over North Africa, Sicily, and mainland Europe until the war ended in 1945. They risked and sometimes gave their lives for the Allied cause, despite the discrimination they faced both inside and outside the military.

After the war, James was eager to return to Loyola, where he studied the classics: Latin, Greek, and philosophy. He was one of just six African American students at the University, and he recalls being treated well.

“There weren’t enough of us to cause a fuss,” James says. In 1946, while in school, James began to volunteer at Chicago’s Friendship House, a Catholic apostolate devoted to interracial justice and race relations. It was there that he met a young lawyer named Mary Genevieve Galloway, who asked him to join a sit-in at a Walgreens lunch counter.  “I thought, I must have some homework or something to do,” James says. But he went anyway.

The two married in 1949 and went on to have six children. Mary, who came from a well-off family in Wisconsin, was inspired to work for racial and economic equality by a walk through a poor Chicago neighborhood on her way to catch a train at the LaSalle Street Station.

“She just couldn’t believe people lived like that,” James says. “She had never seen poverty before. She started asking questions, and the answers she got were very stupid, like, ‘They want to live that way.’ Nobody wants to live like that if they have a choice. She wanted answers, and she spent a lifetime trying to figure them out.”

Upon his graduation from Loyola, James went to work for the Burroughs Corporation, a business equipment manufacturer, as the company’s first African American salesman. He chose the company because of its work in developing electronics, which James believed to be revolutionary. “I decided that computers were the wave of the future,” James says.

In 1967, James became the first African American lawyer to be hired by the American Bar Association, where he worked until 1984. He and Mary continued their work for Friendship House, and through his connection with the organization, James met Martin Luther King Jr. when he came to speak at the Village Green in predominantly-white Winnetka, Illinois, in 1965. King had been invited to speak by a group of citizens concerned about housing discrimination and a lack of diversity in North Shore communities.

“I drove him up to the speech. There were eight to ten thousand people on the Village Green. I said, ‘Good luck,’” James says. “But it didn’t precipitate a riot. Martin said, ‘These folks are incredibly receptive. Someone’s got to break the ice and move in here.’ At the time, I hadn’t the foggiest notion of moving to Winnetka.”

But, in 1967, move into the area he did, becoming the first African American homeowner in Winnetka. That same year, he and Mary founded the Together We Influence Growth day camp, which brings children from the South Side of Chicago together with children from the North Shore each summer. In the early ‘70s, James helped found the Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs, which works for housing equality.

His legal career took him from the US Department of Labor to private practice until his retirement in 2000. Mary passed away in 1996.

Harry Truman signed an executive order ending racial segregation in the military in 1948. In 2007, George W. Bush honored the Tuskegee Airmen with a Congressional Gold Medal for their service six decades earlier. In 2009, James, along with more than 100 other Tuskegee Airmen, attended the inauguration of Barack Obama by special invitation.

David James has lived a life touched by war and discrimination, but also by love and an unceasing commitment to justice. And through his bravery and determination—both in the air and on land—he has changed for the better the country he loves.

Editor's Note: This article appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of Loyola magazine. David James passed away at age 92 on July 23, 2016.

Back to the soil

Dave Miller and Stephen Rivard

Dave Miller (BS '75), left, with business partner and longtime friend Stephen Rivard (BS '75, MD '79).

Dave Miller (BS '75) and Stephen Rivard (BS '75, MD '79) founded Iroquois Valley Farms, which converts farmland back to an organic state. 

By Anastasia Busiek

In 2007, Dave Miller (BS ’75) left a 30-year career in banking and real estate finance management and moved into organic farmland investments. He had reconnected with friends and family who had been doing organic farming, and he decided to purchase his uncle’s ten-acre farm near Danforth, Illinois, in Iroquois County. He wanted to make a new career out of buying farms, managing them, and converting them back to organic. Miller brought his idea to Stephen Rivard (BS ’75, MD ’83), a friend since high school and his roommate at Loyola.

“Dave and I have been dear friends all of our lives, effectively,” says Rivard.

Rivard, who at the time ran the emergency medicine department at Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, was interested in organic farming on the basis of its health implications.

“The chemicals that are now in the DNA of our food are poisonous,” Rivard says. “We can neither digest nor assimilate these chemicals. If what we eat has no contaminant and is not modified, it’s healthier for us.” With Miller’s business experience and Rivard’s medical expertise, the two came up with the concept that became Iroquois Valley Farms.

Miller and Rivard put together ten friends and family members to buy 142 acres in Iroquois County. They now have over a hundred members and buy about a farm a month. Miller is CEO of Iroqouis Valley Farms, and Rivard is the Chair of the democratically elected board.

Iroquois Valley’s business model is to buy farmland and lease it out to mostly organic, mostly young, farmers. “You’re an organic farmer, either currently in operation or thinking about it,” Miller says. “You need 80 acres, but you can’t afford to buy it outright. So we buy it, you lease it, and you’re off and running.” The plan is that that farmland will remain with that farmer for years to come. “When we buy a farm, we don’t intend on selling except to the farmer,” Miller says. “It’s our intention that the farmer will have that land for the rest of his or her life.” Iroquois Valley develops relationships with farmers looking to transition land to organic, and doesn’t move to buy land until they have a tenant prepared to farm it. As Miller puts it, “We’re not a trading company; we’re a food company helping to impact the next generation of farmers.”

It takes three years to transition conventional farmland back to an organic state. A farmer cannot use pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or other synthetic toxic chemicals, and must use no genetically modified seeds, in order to meet USDA standards. Planting a diverse rotation of crops naturally rebuilds the fertility of the soil. Microbacterial life returns, and earthworms—which Miller calls “the livestock of the soil”—flourish. The farm can now produce foods and feed that are certified organic.

“When we change the soils that we farm, we change the foods that are grown from those soils,” says Miller.

Initially, the primary crops were hay, corn, soybeans, and wheat. Now farmers are starting to grow specialty grains, like spelt, and edible beans. New farms provide organic feed grain, hay, and pasturelands for organic dairy production. It is up to each farmer to determine what to grow and sell within the local market.

After seven years of leasing the land, Iroquois Valley will provide a purchase option to the farmers, although the farmers they don’t have to buy it. “In this business, historically, people have intended to sell the land,” Miller says. “You would take the money, take in investors, and then sell after five to ten years. We designed a company in which you don’t sell the land; you sell the stock.” If the farmer doesn’t buy the land after the initial lease, Iroquois Valley can continue to hold it. “It takes time and energy to show investors this, and to make them into believers,” Miller says. “Investment capital isn’t always enlightened about sustainability or its importance. We provide that enlightenment.”

 “We’re encouraging people to invest as an alternative to investing in the stock market,” Rivard says. Although bringing committed investors on board can take years, Miller and Rivard are bolstered by the growing trend toward socially responsible investing. “How do we change the world? Eat healthier and invest in what you eat,” Miller says.

Through this combination of education, purchasing power, and commitment to sustainability, Iroquois Valley Farms has cultivated a social enterprise business model that works—and one that Miller and Rivard hope will change farming, investing, and public health for the better.

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Going for the gold

Donald Gallagher

Donald “Taps” Gallagher (JD ‘83) hopes to help the 1972 US men’s basketball team secure duplicated gold medals for the game they officially lost to the Soviet Union. (Photo: Getty Images)

Donald “Taps” Gallagher (JD ’83) has spent $75,000 and eight years on an unusual quest: He hopes to secure duplicate gold medals for the US men’s basketball team that—officially—lost to the Soviet Union at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

“I watched that game the summer of ’72 before going to college,” recalls Gallagher. “Whenever they talk about the biggest blunder, the worst ending ever in sports, this game is No. 1 every time. I said to myself, ‘This isn’t right. If I ever become a lawyer, I’m going to try to get them the gold medal.’” 

To recap: The US team and millions of television viewers thought the Americans were on their way to gold when Doug Collins made two free throws to give the US a 50-49 lead with three seconds remaining. The Russians inbounded the ball, but there was confusion as Soviet players and coaches ran onto the floor and play stopped. That’s when R. William Jones, president of the International Basketball Federation, bounded out of the bleachers. Rulings that Jones made regarding time on the clock resulted in the Russians getting two more chances to win the game, which they did, 51-50, on a last-second layup.

Afterward, the US team refused to accept their runner-up silver medals, a stance they have stuck by ever since.

Gallagher, a native New Yorker, is a 6-foot-7 attorney in Clarendon Hills. He has been involved with basketball his whole life as a player and coach. In 2006, Gallagher began to focus on the “injustice” he’d vowed 34 years earlier to set right. He began researching and interviewing the coaches and 12 players from the 1972 team. In 2012, his research led to the publication of Stolen Glory: The U.S., the Soviet Union, and the Olympic Basketball Game That Never Ended, with co-author Mike Brewster.

Gallagher doesn’t want the Soviet Union to return its gold medals; he wants the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to award duplicate golds to the U.S. team due to improper interference with game officials.

Toward that end, Gallagher hopes that Artenik Arabadjan, one of two living referees who worked the controversial game, will soon sign an affidavit citing “undue influence” from Jones.

So far, the IOC has denied Gallagher’s appeal for a hearing. When Gallagher met with a former IOC vice president in Montreal, however, he was told that if he got the affidavit, the door will be open.

If the IOC slams that door, Gallagher has one last option in his playbook: a request for a hearing from the international Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“Every one of these players said, ‘I won a gold medal,’ but they weren’t sore losers,” Gallagher says. “They said if the game had been played right and they lost, they would gladly have accepted the silver medal.”

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Shaped by water, expressed in song

Kate Quinby

Half of the album's proceeds will be donated to schools in Uganda through the Down Madiki Partnership.

Kate Quinby’s life is defined by two songs on her debut album, Tribute to Water. The first is the title song, inspired by the spiritual feeling she experienced after visiting the breathtaking Sipi Waterfalls in Uganda. The second song, “Katrina,” recounts her memories of New Orleans, which she was forced to evacuate following the devastating hurricane.

By John T. Slania

“I didn’t really think about it until the album was complete, but my life in many ways has been touched by water,” Quinby says.

When she came to Loyola in September 2005, her name was Katie Scrantom, a sophomore from Loyola University New Orleans. She, and some 250 other students displaced by Katrina, were accepted to Loyola in early September 2005 for what was supposed to be one semester. But Quinby immediately fell in love with Loyola.

“I had been studying Spanish Literature and Education in New Orleans. Loyola Chicago had this new program called Bilingual Elementary Education, and I ended up with a scholarship,” she says.

While at Loyola, Quinby helped to start Invisible Conflicts, a student organization dedicated to shedding light on global issues which don’t receive major media attention. One of the group’s cornerstone projects is the Dwon Madiki Partnership, which raises money and conducts service missions to northern Uganda, where residents are trying to rebuild after war destroyed their villages.

Quinby had long been involved in music as well. She learned piano and flute as a child and sang in the high school chorus. She learned to play the guitar as a teen and began writing her own songs. At Loyola, Quinby began performing at open mic nights at local venues such as the Heartland Café and Uncommon Ground.

 After she graduated in 2008, Quinby spent six months as a substitute teacher in Chicago before traveling to Uganda to work with the Dwon Madiki Partnership. When she returned, Quinby decided to pursue her musical career instead of being a teacher.

 “I was offered my ideal teaching job. But my gut was telling me it wasn’t right,” Quinby explains. “I said, ‘This is great. I spent all this money, and four and a half years of school, and I don’t want it.”

Instead, Quinby performed her music at night while spending her days as a Family Support Worker at the Howard Area Community Center, a social service organization in Rogers Park. She recently quit that job to focus on her musical career full time.

“It was kind of scary at first,” she says. “But I’ve come to believe that whatever comes in life, you need to immerse yourself in it. You can try to envision what your life is going to be like, but you can’t really predict what’s going to happen,” she says.

The songs on Tribute to Water combine folk, soul, jazz and blues. Quinby hopes that her music can be an instrument for something positive.

“My hope is to keep playing music to promote peace and social justice,” Quinby says. “I think music has always played a role in bring people together, and I hope to continue that.”

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Making a difference in health care

Carmen Velasquez

Carmen Velasquez (BS '63) founded Alivio Medical Center in 1989. The center now serves nearly 27,000 patients a year.

Carmen Velasquez (BS '63), founder of Alivio Medical Center, changed the face of health care in Chicago 

By Anastasia Busiek

It was 1987, and Carmen Velasquez (BS ’63) saw that Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood needed a community health center. Many individuals and families were uninsured or undocumented, or faced language barriers and were simply not receiving the health care they needed. “There was a clinic on 17th and Ashland,” Velasquez says. “But so many people needed care that there was a waiting list of about four to six months, which is not acceptable—and the staff were not Spanish-speakers, nor bilingual and/or bicultural. So I decided to do something about it.”

Velasquez, a former community activist, social worker, and educator, had no medical background. In spite of this, Alivio Medical Center, a federally qualified, bilingual, nonprofit community health center, opened its doors on Western Avenue in 1989. For 26 years it has been serving its Latino, predominantly Mexican, neighborhood, and the working poor, uninsured, and immigrant communities. 

Velasquez’s first move toward opening Alivio was to identify people who were equally passionate about the cause. She called on her friend Ann Garcelon, MD, an internist who was on staff at Mercy Hospital. The two of them approached Sr. Sheila Lyne, then the CEO of Mercy Hospital and Medical Center. Sr. Sheila had been looking for ways to improve health care for the Mexican community but hadn’t found the right partners. Velasquez needed someone who would sit at the table and see the process through to the end. As Sr. Sheila stated, “The rest is history.”

“I said, ‘I’m looking for a partner who is really going to be a hands-on person,’” Velasquez says. “When I make calls to Mercy, I want them to know that the CEO of this institution embraces the purpose of our collaboration.” Sr. Sheila said yes, becoming an integral part of Alivio’s foundation. Velasquez and her partners began to define what they wanted Alivio to provide.

“We wanted a comprehensive community health center,” Velasquez says. “We wanted access to health care for all, we wanted immigration reform, and we wanted to address the lack of bilingual and bicultural health professionals—not only physicians and nurses, but also social workers and case managers. The questions on the table were, ‘How many fluent Spanish-speaking speech therapists do you have in the public schools? How many fluent nutritionists in the Department of Health?’ The need was great and we wanted everything.” 

Velasquez and her partners put their vision on paper, and they secured a $989,000 grant from the Chicago Community Trust for operations. But they still needed a space, and so they went in search of it on foot.

“We went from door to door asking about properties,” Velasquez says. “As we were heading north on Western Avenue, I saw a property that said ‘Velasquez Muffler Shop,’ so I thought to myself, providencia divina, divine providence! I do believe in that. To make a long story short, we went back to our core group, and at the end of the day, we bought that land, furnished it, and opened our door for service on January 4, 1989. We raised $2.2 million to do that.”

If  Velasquez and her partners underestimated one thing, it was the demand that patients would have for Alivio’s services. The patient list at the health center on Western Avenue grew so rapidly that Alivio had to look for a new site. The second, and larger, Alivio community health center opened in Pilsen in 2000. A third freestanding clinic opened in Cicero in 2008, and there are three school-based health centers in the Alivio network. In March of this year, a new facility opened in Berwyn, and another school-based center in Benito Juarez High School is about to open. 

Alivio serves nearly 27,000 patients annually, regardless of ability to pay. Many of Alivio’s patients receive vital services—such as primary care, prenatal care, dentistry for children, and health education—that they would otherwise struggle to afford, or not receive at all. The center also hosts community health fairs and classes, and the in-house pharmacy provides reduced-cost medication. Alivio’s bilingual, bicultural providers create a welcoming and respectful environment for their patients and at the same time provide cost-effective and high-quality care.

“Part of our whole goal was that we wanted that commitment to advocacy,” Velasquez says. “If you look at what we developed, there’s an incredible involvement with and commitment to the communities we serve. It’s not only primary care and health education; it’s all the things that impact our patients’ quality of life on a day-to-day basis. As we say on our business cards, we have an active presence for a strong community. We are ever-present.” 

Velasquez has received numerous awards for her tireless advocacy, and will be honored with the Damen Award at Loyola’s Founders’ Dinner this coming June. In 2013, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn proclaimed October 2 “Carmen Velasquez Day” throughout the state. 

Velasquez retired in March of this year. Among the things she plans to do in retirement is advocate on behalf of the immigrant community seeking inclusion in the Affordable Care Act.  

After a long career of advocating for the underserved and fighting for access to health care, Velasquez gained valuable insights about how to get things done. 

“First, you have to have the passion and that fire in your belly to go after something,” she says. “Second, you can’t let anybody drive your car. I knew where I wanted to go, and I knew also where I didn’t want to be taken. But you don’t do it by yourself. You do it with a staff and board who support the day-to-day operations, with stakeholders who support the services we provide, and a core group of people who believe in the mission and have the same passion to do what is right.”

Thanks to Velasquez and those who work at Alivio, tens of thousands of people have access to affordable, respectful health care.     

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Art from the heart

Mercedes Martinez

Mercedes Inez Martinez (BA '11) teaches music, creates art, and is the founder of a cultural arts center in Pilsen.

Teaching and building community through the arts 

By Aaron Cooper

When Mercedes Inez Martinez (BA ‘11) walks into the classes she teaches at John Barry Elementary School on the northwest side of Chicago, her main goal is to help a child learn music and performance. But Martinez, who is part Mexican and part Spanish, also passes on her knowledge of Latino culture to the predominantly Spanish-speaking student body.

One minute, she’s teaching children about basic music theory, like note-reading, singing techniques, rhythm, harmony, melody, and vocabulary. The next she’s teaching them Aztec drumming and about the Aztec legend of the white eagle, the founding of Mexico City, and how that all relates to images depicted on the Mexican flag.

In addition to her teaching career, Martinez founded and is artistic director at the MAGI Cultural Arts Center in Pilsen. She also a vocalist, guitarist, and accordionist who performs with various groups, including the Mexican folk band Son Monarcas (“they are Monarchs” in Spanish), referring to Monarch butterflies. She also does freelance scenic design and painting of sets and backdrops for theatre companies.

Martinez grew up in El Paso, Texas. She got to know Chicago during her summers in high school while attending improvisational comedy workshops at the Second City and working with sound and lights at the Lookingglass Theatre. In Chicago, she would stay with her older sisters, one a professional dancer and choreographer and the other an actress.

When her senior year ended, Martinez had one more class requirement to fulfill—her language requirement. She traveled to Spain and studied Catalan and guitar. The lessons were intense, especially since Spanish is her second language.

Soon after her trip to Spain, she befriended a Latino composer and learned some traditional Mexican songs, and she began to play a few public gigs, eventually landing a regular gig at the Mainstage Theatre.

It was then that she discovered an empty building space in Pilsen and applied for funds from a nonprofit organization called MAGI (Modesto A. Gomez, Inc.), a social enterprise based in El Paso. Her proposal was accepted, and thus was born the MAGI Cultural Arts Center.

“Since I am involved in music, theatre, and visual art, I thought a new cultural arts center in Pilsen would be the perfect outlet to help artists of all different forms and allow me to express myself and work in a studio,” says Martinez. “I thought it would be a perfect way to bring people together in the community.”

She began hosting concerts and traditional performances called fandangos. Fandangos are community celebrations that showcase Son Jarocho and Son Huapango music and dance and feature traditional folk instruments and Spanish lyrics. Performers dance zapateado-style (percussive foot tapping) upon a tarima, or raised platform, around which people circle and sing, everyone moving in syncopation with the music.

“It’s beautiful music, and it can go on forever. It’s based on improvisation,” says Martinez. “The fusion of music from Spain, rhythms from Africa, and poetry from indigenous people comes together in a fandango. It’s an Afro-Latino connection that’s relatable and teachable—a folk music of the people, and those who experience it can learn and comprehend it.”

Martinez understands the therapeutic nature that art and music can have on people in her community who have seen hard times, especially children. 

“People don’t realize how powerful expressing themselves through the art is,” she says. “If they can strum a guitar and sing, they’re going to feel empowered, or if they create a drawing they realize they can create something. Art provides an outlet that a lot of people don’t delve into. So I tried to create a forum where that was possible, where you could try new things and allow yourself to create.”

Whether she’s singing, teaching, painting artwork for a play, or learning about her heritage, there’s a clear passion that motivates her life’s work.

“The reality is that what you’re passionate about—if you’re serious about it and you follow it—you can do something with it,” Martinez says.

Learn more about Martinez, and view samples of her work at www.mercedesinez.com.

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Leader of the pack

Shane Davis

As head coach, Shane Davis led the Ramblers to victory at the NCAA championship—a first for the program. (Photo: Steve Woltmann Photography)

Shane Davis (BA ’03) took the team he once played for to the NCAA Championship—and won

By Anastasia Busiek  

Shane Davis (BA ’03) was 23 years old when he took over as head coach of Loyola’s men’s volleyball team. He had just graduated with a degree in marketing.

“I said I wasn’t that interested in [the job],” Davis says. “I didn’t know if I wanted to coach. And I had no idea what I’d be doing if I did. I said I’d take it for a year until they could find someone qualified to do it.”

After 11 consecutive seasons as coach, Davis led the Ramblers to win their first-ever NCAA championship—in their home stadium, no less. It wasn’t the first time a change of plans had worked out pretty well for him.

“My first love was football,” Davis says. “I come from a small town in Iowa. The whole town shuts down to watch a game. I played every sport, just so we’d have enough players to make a team, but I really wanted to play football. And I was pretty good.”

Colleges started recruiting Davis, but he became interested in volleyball and thought he might have a brighter future in that sport. He redshirted at Loyola his first year and then played for the Ramblers for four years. When he took over as head coach, he had three years of experience as team captain under his belt. 

“The AD said, ‘Here are the keys. You know where the office is,’” Davis recalls. “I unlocked the office and sat on the other side of the desk. In front of me was the chair I sat in for many years as a player. The old coach had given me a running list of what I should be doing and getting together and planning, and I jumped in.” 

Many of Davis’s players were also his former teammates, but the transition wasn’t as difficult as one might think. “These guys were my best friends, and now I was coaching them,” Davis says. “I did have to create some separation. I moved out of the area. I didn’t spend time with them off the court. But I was a three-year captain, so I was used to leading. That didn’t change much. Giving them instruction, telling them how to do something, finding the right wording—that came naturally.”

What didn’t come naturally was recruitment. Davis, who had been immersed at the college level for years, was unused to evaluating high school players.

“It wasn’t what I was used to,” Davis says. “I thought no one was talented. I couldn’t believe where people were going. That was the biggest challenge. And when I did get kids on campus, and their parents are sitting across the desk from a 23-year-old, that was another challenge.” 

But he got the hang of it. He talked to other coaches. He watched more kids play, and got a better sense of what to look for. He watched old recruiting tapes from previous coaches, remembering where those players eventually went and comparing them to what they looked like then. 

Davis, and the volleyball program, grew stronger. Last year’s team advanced to the national semifinals. This year’s team went all the way.

“I knew we were good,” Davis says. “I knew we had a shot. My moment this year of grasping it was the first weekend when we played UC-Irvine, BYU, and USC. We lost to USC, but I knew if we kept improving, we’d be tough to beat. It was all part of the plan, from 2011 when [senior associate athletics director] Carolyn O’Connell put the bid in to host the tournament. All I had to do was get the right guys.”

The Ramblers played a great season, and on May 1, 2014, the tournament kicked off in Gentile Arena. “Being there in the Final Four—it was one of the best moments of my life,” Davis says. “It was a wild week.”

Assistant Coach Mark Hulse was named Assistant Coach of the Year. Davis was named Coach of the Year. The Ramblers beat Penn State in the semifinals, and went on to drop Stanford for the championship. Two days later, Davis’s wife Andrea gave birth to their second daughter.

For Davis, there’s no complicated formula for success. “Win,” he says. “And not just on the court. Be the best in the classroom or at whatever you’re doing that moment. Do volunteer work and community service.”

Naturally, success is a team effort. Davis is quick to praise his players, assistant coaches, and staff, in whom he places the same confidence that allowed him to thrive in his role as head coach.

“From day one, I’ve been afforded a tremendous amount of responsibility and freedom in doing my job despite not having the longest coaching résumé,” says Assistant Coach Mark Hulse. “That’s putting a lot of stock and trust in potential, but I imagine someone felt the same way about Shane when he was offered the head coaching position 12 years ago. Sometimes the best way to learn is just to dive in headfirst.”

And, of course, there are the fans. “We couldn’t get it all done without the support of our fans and administration,” Davis says. “We appreciate it.”

On the heels of victory, Davis is gratified and excited for the next season. “Every once in a while a great team comes along. You win a national championship,” Davis says. “It takes a while to get back to that, but we’ve reloaded. I don’t see us taking steps back. We’re trying to build a sustainable powerhouse.”

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Cardboard with a cause

Eduardo Barrientos

Eduardo Barrientos (MBA ‘13) is a partner in and advisor for Give Back Box, which allows consumers to reuse boxes to ship donations to charity.

Through Give Back Box, Eduardo Barrientos (MBA ’13) helps consumers send items to charity free of charge.

Eduardo Barrientos (MBA ’13) was planning to open a microbrewery—it was his capstone project at the Quinlan School of Business. A friend introduced him to Monika Wiela, a marketing executive who agreed to help him set up the brewery’s website and online store. 

As the two became friends, Wiela mentioned an idea she had for a new business. She had been walking down Michigan Avenue when she saw a homeless person with a sign asking for shoes. She had access to women’s stilettos, but those wouldn’t do. She brought men’s shoes to the same place the next day, but couldn’t find the man she had seen.

Frustrated by her inability to match her resources with a person who needed them, she came up with Give Back Box.

“I was like, 'this is amazing,'” Barrientos says.  “It’s gonna fly.” The microbrewery fell by the wayside.

Give Back Box, in which Barrientos is now a partner and advisor, provides online retailers with prepaid addressed mailing labels. When a consumer buys something online from a participating retailer, the retailer sends a label along with the box received by the consumer. The consumer can then fill the box with goods to donate, put the label on it, and mail it free of charge via UPS. 

“I’m thrilled about this, because now what I’m doing professionally aligns with what I want to do with my life,” Barrientos says. “This is such a simple concept, but I think it can make a sustainable social and environmental difference as more than 10 million boxes are shipped by retailers daily in the U.S.

"Loyola planted the seeds for social responsibility in me, and I’m grateful to have a way to use my degree to that end.” 

Right now, all goods sent through Give Back Box go to Goodwill. You don’t have to make a purchase to make a donation. Print a prepaid mailing label from givebackbox.com, and follow the instructions on the site.   

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Mind, body, and spirit

Eric Boria

A referee’s intense holistic training takes him to the World Cup

For soccer referees, participating in the World Cup is the pinnacle of achievement. Only three referees were chosen to represent the United States during this summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Eric Boria (MA ’02, PhD ’06) was one of them, going as a reserve assistant referee. It was the culmination of years of training and study, including three years of FIFA training that specifically develops prospective World Cup candidates.

Boria’s path to the World Cup started at the age of 13. He took classes with his father, an avid soccer fan, to become a referee.

“Soccer’s been in the family for a long time,” Boria says. “We followed the Italian league. A game at 3 in the afternoon in Italy was at 8 in the morning here. We’d travel to Stone Park, IL, [from Hammond, Indiana] where a radio station had a satellite feed. We’d sit in the technical room in the back and watch the game on a little black-and-white screen.”

Boria continued playing and refereeing soccer through college, at which point he became a professional ref and had to forgo playing—it was too easy to get injured. About seven years ago, he decided to get more serious about his refereeing career, so he applied his academic research skills. He studied the physical, mental, and sociological aspects of the game.

“I started studying nutrition, physiology, and how to improve physical performance while lowering the risk of injury,” Boria says. “I studied the game and how it’s played in different countries. Knowledge about a culture and how people use gestures is very helpful. I’ve also been studying psychology of players and referees. That’s helped me just as much as studying the game and physiology.”

In 2012, Boria was identified as a World Cup referee candidate. This began a program of intense physical and mental training and assessment. 

“We were assigned a fitness trainer who gave us a training plan to be completed daily,” Boria says. “We reported back our heart rate monitor data showing that we completed the exercise, how we felt, and any treatments. FIFA contracts a clinic in Zurich [Switzerland] where a doctor monitors our progress, status, and health.” 

The idea is to increase aerobic capacity so that the referee peaks in time for the tournament.

In training, Boria studies every aspect of his athletic performance. 

“I use a heart rate monitor during both workouts and games. I use GPS to get distance data. A lactic acid test shows how well I’m recovering. A sweat test shows your level of electrolytes,” Boria says. “By putting all that information together, you can adapt your training so that during the game you never really get to that level of fatigue. Because when your body’s at a high level of fatigue, the first thing that goes is the thought process.”

The thought process is the part of the job that truly fascinates Boria. A good referee, Boria says, knows how to be in the right position to get the most data, knows how to interpret that data, and also knows what extraneous data to push aside.

“You have to know whether the data you input into your head are trustworthy or untrustworthy,” Boria says. “There’s the moment you hear contact with the ball, and the moment you see it. But there are also other data that you don’t want to focus on. There is sun in your eyes. On May 9, in Denver, we had a game in the middle of a snowstorm. You have to focus through the snow, not on it—on the shapes moving through it.”

Boria uses computer programs that are specifically designed to improve concentration and focus. One program tests peripheral vision and awareness by testing recall of a letter and object that are flashed onscreen for only a tenth of a second. He also watches videos with simulated game situations where he has to make a decision in real time.

“What happens is that the subconscious can process a whole lot more information than the frontal lobe can,” Boria says. “Referees talk about having a feeling for the game. You can feel a foul, feel it’s a red or yellow card—and that comes from being in the right position. Your subconscious tells you what the right answer is. But it takes a lot of training to get that feeling clear.”

Boria also credits meditation with helping him to clear out non-useful information and focus on what he needs to in a game.

“There are some times where we have a very close call,” Boria says. “I’m looking at it, and I say, ‘He has to be offside.’ I’m telling myself that. But my body is running with the play, and I become aware of my body running. I tell my mind to quiet down and I keep going with it. In cases where I am in the right position and my feeling conflicts with my thought, in reviewing a play, usually my feeling will be right.”

A third aspect of Boria’s study is his academic specialty—sociology. Understanding and navigating the ways that people from different cultures interpret the rules and gestures of soccer is a crucial part of being an effective referee.

“One thing I’ve been doing is studying the league in each country and what they consider fouls,” Boria says. “For example, African countries often make strong tackles, even stopping the ball with their cleats. However, if you jump through a tackle with high cleats in Latin America, players take exception as that is not normal play for them. Even though, as referees, we apply the laws the same to all teams across the planet, you have to work with players who may, in the same game, interpret the laws differently. This requires knowledge of cultural differences in styles of play and only comes with study and hard work.” 

During the World Cup, Boria was on the field for four games as a reserve assistant referee. “It was a great experience to work with and learn from the best referees from all over the world. And it was a proud moment as well to be there when Mark Geiger, Sean Hurd, and Joe Fletcher became the first USA-based referee crew to advance to the round of 16.”

Boria plans to continue his career as a referee and hopes to continue teaching. He spent last year teaching many classes, including the history and sociology of sports at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois. “That was a fantastic year of teaching,” he says. “I got to put all the personal research, experience and study I’ve been doing into the classroom.”

Boria is grateful to have had the learning experience of the World Cup, but now he is preparing for upcoming matches. “I have the same goal I did before the tournament: I want to improve every single game.” 

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Finding a silver lining

Hollye Harrington Jacobs

Hollye Harrington Jacob's new book offers insight into breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery

By Anastasia Busiek

When Hollye Harrington Jacobs (BSN ’97, MSW ’06) was diagnosed with breast cancer, she wanted to communicate with family and friends about her experiences in a way that wouldn’t take too much of a toll during a stressful time. And so she started a blog, TheSilverPen.com. The Silver Pen grew from a personal communique into an internationally read blog and a valuable resource for others experiencing breast cancer and treatment.

During treatment, “I didn’t have the physical or emotional capacity to talk on the phone or meet in person, so I wrote,” Jacobs recalls. “With the blog, I could write at 2 p.m. or 2 a.m. I was able to communicate in the way that was best for me.”

Jacobs wanted The Silver Pen to be about more than cancer. She wanted it to be about the things and people she loves as well as her disease.

“I didn’t want to write or read about cancer every day. I wanted to share what I loved in life: travel, books, fashion, child development, and cooking,” she says.

Since cancer was now a big part of Jacobs’ life, she came to find that writing about it was not only therapeutic for herself, but that it could help others navigate the many challenges—physical, emotional, and administrative—that can accompany breast cancer.

 Jacobs offers insight not just as someone who has been treated for cancer, but as a pediatric and adult palliative care nurse and social worker with graduate degrees in bioethics and child development.

“When it came to cancer, I wrote about my personal experiences through the lens of my professional ones,” Jacobs says. “My clinical background gave me a great deal of insight. Right after I was diagnosed, I put on my professional hat and thought, ‘What would I say to a patient or a friend?’ It allowed me to navigate the system in a more productive way.”

Jacobs started as a nurse at Loyola, working in the adult intensive care unit before segueing into hospice care. She also completed a fellowship in bioethics at of the University of Chicago. She then earned Master’s of social work and ran a national program training nurses in pediatric palliative and hospice care.

Jacobs’ clinical background shaped her experience as a patient. And the experience was harrowing.

“Just about everything that could go wrong, did,” she says. There were complications with surgery and with her response to chemotherapy. Jacobs wrote about these painful and scary experiences on her blog. Three years later, and on the other side of treatment, Jacobs is publishing a book, born out of her experiences, her expertise, and her blog: The Silver Lining: A Supportive and Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer.

The Silver Lining is a mix of memoir, practical advice, and encouragement. The title refers to the mental attitude and choices that kept Jacobs going even when times were hard.

“When I was in a deep and dark place, I would think, there has to be a silver lining,” Jacobs says. She doesn’t imply that there is anything good about breast cancer—just that there are personal choices that can help a person get through the experience.

“Silver linings don’t take away a diagnosis or nausea,” she says. “They don’t take away isolation or pain. They provide balance and perspective that allows people to get through difficult days. Day upon day, I would try to find something to help me endure.” It could be anything—a hummingbird outside the window, a favorite poem, or a kind gesture.

“I remember one story in particular. I was in my bathroom and I couldn’t get the six feet to bed,” Jacobs recalls. “I was a bald skeleton, and I felt so sorry for myself. I thought, ‘Ok, Miss Silver Lining, where’s your silver lining now?’ At that precise moment, my black Labrador, Buzz, came in and curled up next to me. Then my husband came in and sat with me and put my bald head in his lap. It was a low moment, but the silver lining was that they gave me the support and the love that I needed in that moment of vulnerability.”

The Silver Lining will offer both honest and uplifting information—a sort of compassionate roadmap—for people facing a daunting diagnosis. Each chapter is broken into two parts: the first part is memoir, studded with “lifelines”—pieces of advice or wisdom or humor—and the second is a guide to the practicalities of navigating the treatments.

“It’s a supportive guide to going through cancer,” she says. “I’m writing as someone who’s been a clinician on the side of the bed and a patient in the bed. The practical matters of contending with a cancer diagnosis and treatment can be overwhelming. There is so much information out there, and I’m curating it in a relatable way. For example: How do you ask the right questions and assemble a team of people to care for you? How do you change treatments? How do you handle needle-phobia or pack for chemo?”

Jacobs also writes about the emotional struggles that accompany illness.

“I have been in the bottomless pit of chemo despair. I have been on isolation island. And I write about what helped me get through it,” she says.

Jacobs lives in Santa Barbara, California, with her husband, Jeffrey (JD ’74), and their daughter. She still blogs five days a week and she speaks publicly about her experiences.

“Silver linings don’t take away the rain that comes with diagnosis, treatment, and recovery,” Jacobs says. “But they do provide an umbrella.”

The Silver Lining: A Supportive and Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer is published by Simon & Schuster and available wherever books are sold.

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A smart balance

Mark Satkiewicz

SmartWool president Mark Satkiewicz (MBA ’95) proves profits and purpose can mix in a competitive business climate

By Daniel P. Smith

For Mark Satkiewicz (MBA ’95), corporate social responsibility is less 21st-century buzzword and more real-world action.

As the president of SmartWool, one of the globe’s top outdoor brands, the Glenview, Illinois, native directs an organization hailed as a shining example of how profits and purpose can stand side-by-side in today’s corporate world.

“A lot of companies have great products, but we’re going to bring purpose to all that we do,” says Satkiewicz, who credits his MBA experience with inspiring him to blend his passions for business and outdoor recreation with vibrant corporate culture and sustainability principles.

SmartWool’s mission statement champions comfort, quality, and lasting value, but also actively contributing to the communities that sustain the organization. The company’s core values, meanwhile – humanity, humility, and integrity among them – guide Satkiewicz’s decision making, particularly as it relates to SmartWool’s 120 employees.

In August, Outside Magazine named SmartWool one of its “Best Places to Work,” an annual tally recognizing American companies that foster a positive work-life balance. It was the Colorado-based company’s sixth consecutive year on the list.

“People are what really matter and their long-term approach to working with us is critical to our success,” Satkiewicz says. “Our people are fulfilled; they respect their co-workers; and they have the right skill sets to push our business forward.”

Yet, life at SmartWool hasn’t always been that way, he admits.

When Satkiewicz arrived at SmartWool in 2006 following an 11-year career at Nike, the upstart brand had just been acquired by Timberland and claimed about $40 million in sales. It was, he says, transitioning from an entrepreneurial venture to a professional company.

“SmartWool looked great from the outside – quality products and a loyal consumer following – but it was not a great work environment. It was disorganized and communications were inefficient,” Satkiewicz says.

As the vice president of sales, Satkiewicz helped shift SmartWool’s culture with its customers, even personally visiting the brand’s 500 biggest accounts, and – most importantly for the organization’s lofty aims – its employees.

“When people can like who we are and what we stand for, that’s powerful stuff,” says Satkiewicz, who ascended to SmartWool’s presidency in 2009.

SmartWool places a strong emphasis on community and, in Satkiewicz’s words, “enabling people to have the life they want to live.”

The company directly integrates employees into decision-making, including elected employee committees formed around sustainability, service, culture, and advocacy, the latter of which has sparked SmartWool to donate more than $1.6 million to organizations encouraging outdoor recreation for kids.

Employees also receive 40 paid hours away from work each year to volunteer, license to escape the office early in the summer for play, and enjoy regular group bike rides and runs as well as Happy Hour events. Twice each year, SmartWool also closes its office for service work.

And in a true sign of SmartWool’s all-in-this-together spirit, dozens of employees, including Satkiewicz, annually bike more than 300 miles from the company’s Steamboat Springs, Colorado, headquarters to the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show in Salt Lake City, cheering for one another at the end of each day’s ride.

All of this, Satkiewicz says, promotes an engaged workforce, unified movement, and a vibrant corporate culture, critical elements as the enterprise grows and hustles toward $150 million in annual sales, a near four-fold increase from Satkiewicz’s arrival seven years prior.

“If we didn’t do it this way, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Satkiewicz says. “It’s the hard way, but it’s the right way … and we’re committed to running the business this way no matter how big we get.”

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Living in refuge, away from home

Grace Swanson

Loyola senior Grace Swanson interviewed officials and Syrian refugees in Jordan to learn about the challenges of life as a female refugee.

Loyola senior interviews Syrian refugees in Jordan about their new way of life

Refugees fleeing the ongoing civil war in Syria now number in the millions, over half a million of which are registered in nearby Jordan. Loyola senior Grace Swanson spent a semester in Jordan, where she interviewed officials in a Syrian refugee camp and as well as women living in the urban Amman area receiving support from UNICEF.

Swanson, who studied abroad with Loyola’s SIT Jordan: Modernization and Social Change program, focused her research on three categories: the social challenges of adapting to new surroundings, financial challenges, and safety challenges. Swanson met with older women with children as well as young women between the ages of 17-21. She also interviewed representatives from the United Nations refugee agency and other aid organizations.

“They were in different stages of life, and challenges varied that way,” Swanson says. “Working women, who had to support their families, found financial challenges to be the most prevalent. The younger women who are of the age where they might be looking for a husband reported more safety challenges.”

Regarding safety, Swanson looked in particular at the effects of patriarchy on the safety and perceived safety of women.

“Young women with fathers there who were a part of their lives felt safe,” Swanson says. “Women whose fathers had passed away or who were still in Syria felt unsafe, because of lack of male figure. A male figure was a big factor in whether they felt safe.”

A prominent safety challenge in the refugee camp, according to Swanson, results from arranged underage marriages, as well as rape and sexual harassment especially for women not accompanied by men.

“Some parents who can’t afford to take care of all their children will try to get their daughters married for financial security,” Swanson says. “This can lead to unhealthy marriages with older men, which can result in dangerous situations for women.”

She says that women living in urban areas reported quite a bit of harassment as well. “Sometimes women will be forced to turn to prostitution or similar means as a result of financial desperation,” Swanson says.

As for social challenges, Swanson found that many of the Syrian women were self-conscious about their living situation. “They felt embarrassed in comparison to Jordanian women, and they know they are adding pressure to the Jordanian economy,” Swanson says. “They felt bad for challenges they’re causing these people, but they don’t have anywhere else to go.”

The refugee camp Swanson visited was well over its intended capacity—by three times, in fact. Overpopulation has made community-building difficult, although the UN is working to help build community as the numbers of refugees continue to rise. Some of the women Swanson interviewed said that they enjoyed UNICEF-sponsored art and music classes. “They really looked forward to it,” Swanson says. “They said that taking part in artistic endeavors helped them to cope.”

Despite the difficulty of their situation, Swanson says that the women she met were kind and open.

 “They were truly remarkable,” she says. “They had suffered through extremely traumatic circumstances, but were not at all bitter or jaded. I was consistently amazed by their warmth and sincerity in the midst of such difficulty.”

During her time abroad, Swanson, an international studies major and dance minor, lived with a Jordanian family in the capital city of Amman, which allowed her to practice her Arabic. She also spent a week in the desert with a Bedouin family. Although she has no set plans, Swanson hopes to return to Jordan in the coming year.

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With truth and compassion

Patricia Matuszek Drott

Patricia Matuszek Drott (BSN '63) works to increase awareness and compassion for those living with HIV/AIDS

By Jenny Kustra-Quinn

When Patricia Matuszek Drott (BSN '63) was working as associate director of Loyola's Student Health Services in the early 90s, no one wanted to talk about HIV/AIDS, much less learn about it. "Everyone assumed it wasn't happening here at Loyola," she recalls. "But it was."

A young man who was HIV-positive came to Student Health Services and said he wanted to help educate his fellow students. Around that time, Pat had two friends pass away from the disease. And as she learned about their experiences and those of the Loyola student, she became aware that little was being done to support those living with HIV/AIDS and address the stigma and misconceptions associated with the disease. Pat took training from American Red Cross and helped launch a series of educational efforts at Loyola. It was the beginning of a new passion for her.

In fact, years later, her experience at Loyola influenced her decision to accept a position as Catholic Charities HIV/AIDS Liaison to the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Pat, who recently received the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing's Spirit of Ignatius Award, worked for 16 years as a public health nurse and nursing supervisor at the Cook County Department of Public Health. She also worked as a visiting nurse and went on to earn her MS in public health nursing at the University of Illinois at Chicago, graduating in 1984. She taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago, North Park University, and the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, among others.

Ten years ago, Pat left teaching for the Catholic Charities position, a role that combines her expertise as a nurse, educator, and HIV/AIDS activist. She is a resource to the Cardinal, parishes, and schools, and the Catholic Charities staff. She works to increase awareness, dispel myths, and reduce discrimination. She encourages people to get tested and learn their status. She wrote and produced a DVD called The HIV/AIDS Pandemic and the Christian Response, which was distributed to parishes in English and Spanish. Pat notes that the mandate for the Archdiocese's response to HIV/AIDS came from Joseph Cardinal Bernadin, who was "at the forefront of stimulating education, sustaining awareness, and encouraging compassion amidst all of the fear."

"All of our activities are directed by Catholic social teaching,” Pat says. “I sometimes encounter people who are critical because of teachings of the Church, but, as a nurse, I'm in a unique position. I'm professionally bound to give accurate medical information."

More than 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pat says the outlook is different than it was many years ago when that young man approached her about raising awareness. A diagnosis is no longer a definite death sentence.

"There is hope, which is a word that has not been identified with the pandemic in the past," Pat says. "But what has not changed is that we are still fighting the ignorance and the stigma." Although attitudes have evolved over the years, Pat says there are still a lot of misconceptions about HIV/AIDS.

She recalls a dinner out with a friend who asked her, "Why would you want to work with them?" Pat replied, "It's not us and them. It's we."

Pat says her friend's question reflects the attitude that many people continue to have, which is why it's important for the Archdiocese to take a leadership role in promoting understanding. "It's part of our mission as Catholics. We offer compassion to all persons—the vulnerable, marginalized, and poor. In many cases, this includes people living with HIV/AIDS."

Public health has been a focus for Pat since she became a nurse 50 years ago. Caregiving also continues to be a big part of her life. Her husband of 44 years suffered a massive stroke eight years ago, and she is his primary caregiver. Pat, who has two children and six grandchildren, says her varied experiences throughout her career have prepared her for this challenge, as well as difficulties she faces in educating the public about HIV/AIDS.

"It's been quite a journey," she says. "Sometimes it's frustrating and you feel like you're beating your head against the wall. But even if I reach just one person, it's all worthwhile."

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Corps values

Matthew Thielker

Matthew Thielker, MPH, RD, is currently serving with the Peace Corps in Cambodia, where he's working with local families to help them improve nutrition, maternal-child health, and sanitation. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Thielker)

For Peace Corps volunteer Matthew Thielker, serving others is an international endeavor

By Zoë Fisher ('17)

After earning a certificate in Food and Nutrition–Dietetics from the Niehoff School of Nursing last year, Matthew Thielker, MPH, RD, headed halfway around the world to begin a two-year stint with the Peace Corps in Cambodia.

Thielker, who spent most of his life in Nebraska, plans to pursue a career in international development and is hopeful that his time with the Peace Corps will allow him to better understand communities around the world and how members of those communities overcome the challenges they face. His goal, he says, “isn’t to save the world, but to help other people’s voices be heard.”

Before embarking on his trip, Thielker shared a few thoughts about his passion for volunteering, his Loyola experience, and his hopes for the future.

Why did you decide to join the Peace Corps?
I wanted to understand what situations were like on the ground in different communities. It’s not a simple process to decide to leave your comfort zone, but it just felt right. I am still a little uncertain about how things are going to work out, but I am looking forward to being out of my element and being challenged.

Did you choose Cambodia as the place where you wanted to serve?
When I applied I asked to go to Peru, but they decided I was needed more in Cambodia. But of course, I'm more than happy to serve anywhere.

Do you have any concerns about going to Cambodia?
I was born Deaf, so one of the things I expect to be most challenging will be immersing myself in a culture that might not have the same attitudes towards people with deafness. The U.S. is pretty unique in that Deaf people are relatively well-supported and visible. People living in other places might not have as much interaction with those who are Deaf and might not realize Deaf people are very much capable of the same things that they are.

What are you going to be focusing on while you're there?
I’m sure a lot of it will vary from day to day, but generally we’ll be providing nutrition, maternal-child health, and sanitation education to local citizens who will then disperse that information within their own communities.

What tools did Loyola give you to prepare you for your trip?
Being a Jesuit institution definitely has a tangible impact on the focus of Loyola’s programs. The dietetics program had a public health focus that provided a more holistic way of evaluating a person’s health, the health of communities, and the connections between the two.

When I studied at Loyola, the questions of “how can we best serve others?” and “how can we make things better?” were in the forefront of the things we did. Being immersed in that mindset makes you keep asking those questions well after graduation.

What inspired you to go into service?
The culmination of interacting with people from different cultures and places I’ve already been to has really inspired me. It showed me there’s more than one way to look at things.

What would you tell people considering joining the Peace Corps?
If anyone has an interest in service and isn’t sure what to pick, I would definitely say go for the Peace Corps. It involves a time commitment of at least two years, which seems daunting, but it is just long enough for volunteers to really get to know the communities they serve and figure out how to contribute most effectively.

In general, I'd say serving your community makes you a more complete person. Volunteering has been more rewarding to me than most people would realize. I don’t think I'd be the same person if I didn’t give back to my community. 

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Helping people make healthy choices

Monica Joyce
Alumni Spotlight

Monica Joyce (BS '73) has made a career out of helping people make healthy choices. She’s the author of Too Busy to Diet, a book on eating well with a busy schedule. 

“The explosion of interest in nutrition and eating healthy is exciting and welcome," says Joyce. "There is a paradox at the same time—we have unreliable sources of info. Diets that aren’t based on science are sometimes harmful. What’s most important is that people do their homework and know the facts.”

Joyce says she felt there was a need to address the dietary concerns of busy people, which prompted her to write her book. "Planning is the most important thing," she says. "That surfaces every single day. If you haven’t planned and shopped, what are you going to eat?”

Exercise is also an important issue. One thing she learned is that people spend too much of their day sitting down. This is especially a problem with people who work long hours sitting at a computer. "They’re sitting still for much longer than I ever was as a young person," Joyce says. "How much you move, fidget, and walk around during the day is just as important as 45 minutes at the health club.”

Joyce is also the founder of a basketball camp for children with diabetes. “Diabetes is one of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century," she says. "I saw a need to educate children about it in a fun way and came up with the idea of a basketball camp. I was thinking about the children that couldn’t afford to go to expensive camps or had transit issues, and I knew we needed to set something up for them.”

Joyce discussed the idea of starting a basketball camp with a patient who had the perfect connections to make it happen: Her husband, Bob Judelson, was on the board of the Chicago Bulls, and he took it to Jerry Reinsdorf, the chairman of the board. They loved the idea.

The Bulls helped establish the Moses E. Cheeks Foundation Slam Dunk for Diabetes Basketball Camps. The camps are free, and Slam Dunk for Diabetes is a nonprofit organization designed to educate campers about the relationship between food, exercise, and insulin while teaching basketball skills. After 10 years, the camp continues to grow because of grants, donations, and fundraisers. Slam Dunk has five locations in the Midwest, and a sixth camp opened in Memphis, Tennessee. 

“We found a need, and the children love it," says Joyce. "My philosophy is that I want this to be fun, and I want them to learn while they’re doing."

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Living the mission

Kerry Slattery

Kerry Slattery (MBA '13) addresses the Business Ethics class she teaches at the National University of Management in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

After a study abroad experience, an alumna now calls Cambodia home

Three years ago, Kerry Slattery (MBA '13) had just moved to Chicago with a degree in biology and wanted to switch jobs. This past fall, she packed her bags and went to teach international marketing at the National University of Management in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

“Two things changed my life,” Slattery says. “Getting my MBA with a business ethics concentration and the Southeast Asia study abroad trip with Professor Shultz.”

In January 2012, Slattery attended Quinlan's Southeast Asia study abroad program, a 10-day consumer behavior course in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, led by Clifford Shultz, PhD, Charles H. Kellstadt Chair of Marketing. She immediately fell in love with Cambodia.

After returning home, Slattery began researching education and women’s issues in developing countries and how to use business to achieve social goals. Then, as she started looking for jobs, she found herself thinking back to Cambodia and decided to turn to her professor for help.

Shultz tapped into his vast overseas network to help Slattery land her first global gig. “If we really believe in this mantra ‘preparing people to lead extraordinary lives,’ Kerry is the poster child of that,” Schulz says.

Slattery teaches Business Ethics and International Marketing at the university. “For me, it’s exciting to be in the middle of the education system and watch certain superstars of the next generation present their business idea at an entrepreneurship competition or argue their side during a debate,” she says.

Slattery will be in Cambodia for at least two more years, and possibly longer if things continue to go well. She would eventually like to move toward social entrepreneurship in her newfound home, but first, she is working to recruit recent Quinlan graduates to join her in teaching at the National University of Management in four-month stints. “My passion is fueled by the knowledge that it’s a perfect match between supply and demand,” Slattery says. In April, she made the trip back to Chicago and hosted three information sessions on campus. 

“She’ll clearly be a good ambassador,” Shultz says. “I’m hopeful this becomes the early bricks in the foundation for other Quinlan students.”

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A woman for others

Kathleen Howlett

Kathleen F. Howlett (JD ’85, LLM ’94) has deep connections to Loyola's School of Law, which have helped to shape her distinguished career in the legal profession. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

For Kathleen F. Howlett, a successful career in the law has been fueled by a passion for serving others

When Kathleen Fitzgerald Howlett (JD ’85, LLM ’94) is asked to talk about herself, the first thing she mentions is her late husband, The Hon. Michael J. Howlett Jr. She talks about her husband’s impressive career as a lawyer and Cook County Circuit Court judge, his years as a popular professor at Loyola’s School of Law, his advocacy for lawyers and students battling addiction, and even the time he served as a running mate to Adlai Stevenson III in their unsuccessful bid to be Illinois governor and lieutenant governor.

Howlett also proudly talks about how the law runs in her family, describing her father and grandfather’s commitment to law practices during the Great Depression and beyond. She boasts about her equally successful daughters—Elizabeth (JD '99), Melissa (JD '03), and Catherine (JD '11)—all Loyola Law alumnae who practice law in public service. She speaks enthusiastically about the people she met at Loyola and her deep connections to the school. And lastly, if pressed, Howlett will talk about her own accomplishments.

Howlett’s sense of gratitude and her connections to the legal profession go hand-in-hand. She grew up watching others in her family become attorneys, which instilled in her at a young age the value of a Jesuit education and practicing as a Catholic lawyer. After starting a family she was at first content to watch her husband practice law while she cared for their children, but she eventually decided to continue the family tradition by applying to law school herself.

She began law school at a university with a graduating class that was less than 20 percent female. But then she transferred to Loyola, where more than half of her graduating law class were women. She found that the University had a set of values that would shape her own career.

“I remember that in my last semester of law school, I was pregnant and the baby was due right before graduation,” she recalls. “I had my youngest, Catherine, and I came to class with her in a buggy. James Faught, the associate dean of the Law School, came up to me and said, ‘You go to class, I’ll stroll the baby around.’ That, to me, really epitomized the intangible support Loyola has had for its students. I suspect Dean Faught probably doesn’t remember the incident, but it made an impact on me.”

Howlett has practiced for 32 years, both in public and private practice. She also served as an adjunct professor and lecturer in law at Loyola Law School. She began as a law clerk to Judge William J. Bauer, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and ended her career at Taft, Stettinius & Hollister as a senior counsel in May 2016.

“My husband wrote a poem when he was a circuit judge. It ended by saying ‘abide with me, and from the chill of nonchalance, safeguard my soul,’” says Howlett. “Sometimes we can’t just stand by and do nothing if there’s something we can contribute.”

In January 2017, Howlett founded Rights and Regs, a nonprofit designed to connect people with free legal services. The organization is still in its infancy, but Howlett hopes that by the time the website is completed in May, it will serve three functions. First, it will be a triage for people in search of legal organizations to assist them. People in need would call or e-mail Howlett and she would connect them to local organizations that specialize in whichever area of law is most relevant to the person’s needs.

Second, Howlett hopes the website will serve as a directory of lawyers and law firms who are willing to do pro bono work and take on cases requiring more resources. They would be divided by specialty and Howlett would make the first contact. And finally, Howlett hopes the site will provide reliable legal information.

“It’s less about reinventing the wheel,” she says, “and more about trying to develop some kind of neighborhood outreach, where the rollback of regulations tends to hurt those who are most vulnerable.

“There’s so many people doing good things, maybe this is the time to advertise who those people are,” she adds. “Maybe one person can’t do everything, but a lot of people can do many things.”

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Lighting the Way

Jacek Helenowski

The Helenowski residence was designed and built with the goal of modern sustainable living. Carefully calculated window overhangs make efficient use of sunlight. Solar panels further harness the energy of the sun. A geothermal heating system is supplemented by heat from wood pellets.

Owner, Square 1 Precision Lighting, Inc.

Jacek Helenowski (BS ’84) specializes in American-made Large Mass Cold Cathode lighting, an energy-efficient and long-lasting light source. His lighting projects, many of them high-profile, are installed throughout Chicagoland and around the world. Helenowski’s home in Chicago is considered one of the greenest buildings in the world and received one of the highest green ratings by LEED (which has a presence in 120 countries) and a whole-building Energy Star rating.

Walking the walk   “The idea for the house was, ‘Practice what you preach.’ I believe in sustainability and in using locally made, sustainable products. That being said, the greenest building in the world is a mud hut, but do you want to live that way? I wanted a modern, comfortable, sustainable building.” 

Labor of love   The house was a weekend and weeknight project. It took 12 years from start of research to finish. 

To name a few   Among many others, the green features of the Helenowski residence include a green roof, recycled drywall, soy-based insulation, geothermal heating and cooling, a vertical axis wind turbine, solar panels, and LM Cold Cathode lighting.

From the ashes   “Instead of using a wrecking ball, we took down the old home by hand and salvaged all dimensional lumber we could. The rest of the wood came from a loft building that burned down in 1995. Since it was built in the 1880s, it was made from old-growth wood. Even though it burned all night, only about an inch and a half of the wood was ruined. We shaved off that burned wood and salvaged the rest of it, a one-and-a-half year process.”

Friends in the right places   “A friend had a wood pellet plant, so we collected the sawdust from the house construction and made wood pellets that we burn to supplement the geothermal heating.”

The sunny side of the street    “On the south side of the house, where you get the greatest sun exposure, we have deep overhangs. We calculated the shadow, so that in the summer, when the sun is high, you don’t get direct sunlight in the windows, which helps keep temperatures down. In winter, when the sun is lower, 80 percent of the windows’ area gets direct sunlight, which helps heat the house.”

Toward a new day   Helenowski holds several patents in efficient lighting, many of which are in LED (light-emitting diode) lighting products. Since those patents were filed, Helenowski has moved away from LED lighting, which contains arsenic, toward a light source called LM Cold Cathode, which does not. 

Notable projects   Square 1’s lighting has been installed at the Chicago Cultural Center, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, the chapel on Loyola’s Health Sciences Campus, Water Tower Place, and Michael Jordan’s house, among many other locations.

National pride   Square 1 Precision Lighting created and built a large illuminated United States flag as a 9/11 memorial, which was the official flag for the Salt Lake City Olympics and Paralympics. The Olympic committee estimated that this flag was seen by one-quarter of the people in the world. 

What’s in a name?   “My wife, Marta (a medical doctor), had the idea to name our daughter Luxa. For those who don’t know Latin, lux means ‘light.’” 

Lighting the way   “Sustainability is for our children, grandchildren, and all future generations. We can’t leave them a toxic, depleted world. That’s the reason I do this.”

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The stories she tells

Lucia Mauro

Lucia Mauro (JFRC ’85, BA ’86), lifelong lover of Italy and a through-and-through Loyolan, wrote her new film based on a man she met while traveling in Rome.

Lucia Mauro's new film is inspired by a lifelong love of Rome—and a chance encounter while there

For Lucia Mauro (JFRC ’85, BA ’86), all roads lead to Rome—and to Loyola. A second-generation Italian American, Mauro has always been drawn to the culture and history of Italy. She studied the language for four years in high school, and the Rome Center was a big part of why she chose to attend Loyola where, in addition to her English and communication majors, she studied art history and the Italian language and literature. Her time at the Rome Center cemented her love for the place.

“That sent me on my journey. It really shaped my life,” Mauro says. She went on to become an arts writer and a theater/dance critic, writing for Chicago magazine and the Chicago Tribune, among others, but she also wrote a lot about Italy. She wrote for TravelAge magazine and for Fra Noi, an Italian-American newspaper, and published two books of her Italian photography. 

Mauro has visited most of Italy and has traveled there many times since she attended the Rome Center. It was a chance encounter in Rome in 2009, in fact, that inspired her latest endeavor. 

“I was standing in front of the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square waiting to meet a film colleague,” says Mauro. “A young American man leaned against the railing near me. We struck up a conversation, and I noticed that he was wearing a pair of shoes that didn’t fit him properly and were practically torn to shreds—as if he had walked halfway around the world in them.”

Mauro asked what had brought the man to Rome. The answer so touched Mauro that it stayed with her for years.

The young man’s brother was a Marine who had been killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He had hoped to backpack with friends through Rome, but died before he had the chance. 

“So [his brother] took it upon himself to fulfill that dream,” Mauro says. “He put on his brother’s favorite shoes, which were too tight, and vowed not to take them off until he visited all the sights his sibling would have wanted to see in and around Rome. I was so moved by this encounter, I felt compelled to share this man’s story.” 

Mauro recently wrote and directed a short film, In My Brother’s Shoes, based on this chance meeting. The film’s main character, Danny—a part written for stage-screen actor Danny McCarthy—dons his brother’s combat boots and travels to Rome, where he processes his grief and better understands his own capacity for sacrifice through the diverse people he randomly encounters. A crucial scene was shot just outside the JFRC’s entrance at the foot of its iconic tree. Mauro’s husband, Joe Orlandino, encouraged her to pursue screenwriting, and eventually produced the film, as part of Atlas Media Group, together with Polymyth Productions. 

It took several years after meeting this man for Mauro to make the film. She was immersed in other projects. In addition to her arts writing, she taught dance history at Loyola, and also taught at the Rome Center. But in 2012, Mauro was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and her life changed. 

Mauro received treatment from Ronald K. Potkul, MD, FACS, FACOG at Loyola. “He saved my life. I love this man,” Mauro says. “Loyola is pivotal in my life. I just can’t speak enough about the care and the compassion and the professionalism of Dr. Potkul and the nurses and his staff.”

As Mauro went through treatment and recovery, she couldn’t stop thinking about the man she’d met in Rome.

“Certain things were on hold,” Mauro says. “I couldn’t really teach at that point. My own experiences were filtering in. I said, ‘When I get through this, I’m making this film.’ That’s what sustained me through my treatment, just thinking about it.”

In the spring of 2013, Mauro decided to return to Italy.

“When you go through something like that—surgeries and chemo, you get nervous about a 10-hour flight,” Mauro says. “But I needed to challenge myself. I took this trip and I was ok. I never got sick. When we travel, when we walk around and take trains, we meet people, and we will most likely never see them again, but they stick with you. That happened to me. From my own journey, I was able to build the story and other characters around Danny. The truth of the matter is that Danny is the brother of the fallen Marine, but he’s also me, moving on with my life.”

Because of the subject matter of the film, and because of her own challenges, Mauro wanted to do something beyond the movie. Proceeds from the film will benefit veterans’ organizations, including the Pritzker Military Museum & Library’s Veterans Information Center, through a nonprofit, also called In My Brother’s Shoes, Mauro created.

Mauro is now screening In My Brother’s Shoes and submitting it to major film festivals. A screening at the Lake Shore Campus is planned for this fall. She is also working on a film about Anita Garibaldi, the wife of Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi and a revolutionary in her own right—from the perspective of an interview with American journalist Margaret Fuller. The film was inspired by Anita’s statue on Rome’s Janiculum Hill.

“We never quite know where life is going to take us,” Mauro says. “Loyola and Rome have been constant influences in my life and career, and my life keeps circling back to both.” 

Read about Mauro's latest film, One Year Later, inspired by her own recovery from cancer

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What keeps him running

Bob O

At Loyola, Bob O’Connor (BS ‘68, MA ‘73, PhD ‘76) was named a three-time all-American.

Triple alumnus overcomes an injury to compete again

Bob O’Connor (BS ‘68, MA ‘73, PhD ‘76) wasn’t going to let a ruptured Achilles tendon stop him from doing what he loves to do. And what he loves to do is run.

O’Connor, a psychologist and professor, has been a competitive runner for more than 50 years. Like so many good things, it started by accident. 

“I thought I was going out for gymnastics, but I showed up in the wrong place,” he says. “It turned out I had a gift for running.”  

In his years as an undergraduate at Loyola, which he attended on a track scholarship, O’Connor was named a three-time all-American and excelled at 600 yards. He still holds several school records. In 1968, having just graduated, O’Connor was an Olympic hopeful. As luck would have it, he was able to attend the games as a spectator, watching many athletes against whom he had competed. Among the historic events he witnessed in person were Bob Beamon’s long jump, which beat the previous world record by almost two feet, and John Carlos’s and Tommie Smith’s iconic Black Power salute.

O’Connor continued at Loyola as a graduate student, teaching undergraduates in the psychology department, and running, training, and coaching part time—although he competed with the University of Chicago Track Club, a national powerhouse. In 1969, he set a world record in the two-mile relay with that team.

Despite many successes, O’Connor says that some of his most memorable races offered lessons in defeat. In 1967, he competed at the invite-only Melrose Games. There were only four people in his event—600 yards—and he had recently missed the world record by a tenth of a second.

“I was the skinny guy in lane 4,” he recalls. “I was so pumped and so anxious, and I ran so fast that I was far ahead of the world record at 400 yards. I could hear the footsteps behind me, and I thought, ‘There’s no way I could lose this.’ I came up the last turn and it felt like someone shot me in the leg. All four of us hit the line at the same time. I came in fourth.”

As O’Connor completed his education and moved into his career as a clinical psychologist and professor (he taught at Loyola from 1969–72 and 1985–97), he continued running, eventually expanding his repertoire to include marathons. In 2000, he ran the Chicago Marathon and competed in the Senior Olympics. In 2001, he ruptured his Achilles tendon. Surgery was successful, but the wound became infected. The surgeon told him he’d never run again.

“I was on crutches for two years,” O’Connor says. “I literally had to learn how to walk again. Then I could jog a few steps.” In 2003, he began to be able to run. In 2005, he started to compete again. In November 2013, he completed his first marathon since the injury. 

These days, O’Connor teaches at Dominican University and is in private practice. He has four children and four grandsons. His wife, Maureen, is an alumna of Mundelein College. O’Connor coaches track and cross-country at a grade school in River Forest and runs every day with the Oak Park Runners Club. He was recently named a Personal Best athlete by the National Senior Games Association. And although he also bikes, swims, skis, and does yoga, it’s running that has Bob O’Connor’s heart. 

“I love the peace and solitude of it,” he says. “I love to have my body in motion. I love running. It’s my thing.”

It certainly is.

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Far afield

Lindberg

Ruth Farrales Lindberg (MD '03) speaks to a gardener and friend in the greenhouse while holding her son, James.

Ruth Farrales Lindberg (MD '03) and Doug Lindberg (MD '03) spent three years running a hospital in the foothills of the Himalaya in Nepal

By Anastasia Busiek

Ruth Farrales Lindberg (MD ’03) and Doug Lindberg (MD ’03) arrived in Kathmandu with their 3-year-old daughter, Maddie, in 2009. They needed to immerse themselves in Nepali language and culture before moving out of the capital city and into a rural area in the foothills of the western Himalaya, where they would go on to run a 50-bed mission hospital, providing clinical care, taking on administrative, fundraising, recruiting, and training duties, and participating in a community health outreach program.

“Kathmandu was hard,” Doug says. “We spent however many years between college, medical  school, and residency establishing a skill set, becoming good doctors. But in Kathmandu, we were like children in a new place. We weren’t doing what we were good at. There was culture shock and the stress of being away, and we placed a high value on assimilation, because we needed to be able to communicate effectively. It wasn’t an easy chapter.”

Doug and Ruth met in medical school at Loyola. They interviewed on the same day. They both felt called to work overseas and among the poor.

“We had several friends at Loyola who were of the same mind,” Doug says. “The emphasis on service there was an important part of our time there. In the first few years that was cemented, and then Ruth and I started dating and committing toward heading overseas.” They married in 2003.

They first visited Nepal during their third year of residency in family medicine. They found the hospital to be a good fit, and returned, after more training in the States, through a US-based organization called TEAM—a Christian mission organization that facilitates healthcare work overseas.

In Kathmandu, the Lindbergs took one-on-one Nepali language lessons during the day, trading off sessions watching their daughter. They lived in a few places for a month or so each before settling into an apartment for a year, adjusting to a very different way of life. In June of 2010, in a truck packed to the gills with all their belongings, Doug made the 26-hour overland drive—through flat southern Nepal at first, and eventually on windy mountain roads—to their new home and life in Dadeldhura in the western part of the country. Ruth and Maddie flew from Kathmandu to an airport 4 hours outside of Dadeldhura to meet him.

Dadeldhura sits at about 6,000 feet of elevation in the Himalayan foothills.

“There is a paved road coming up from southern part of country, the main artery,” Doug says. “The one road went right past the hospital, so many people could get to it. It’s a beautiful place. You could see the high Himalaya on clear days off to the north.”

The climate is temperate—highs in the upper 80s in the summer, dry in the winter, and usually not below freezing for more than a couple weeks a year, although homes are not climate-controlled, and neither is the hospital. Dadeldhura’s 50-bed hospital serves a population of about a million people.

 “It was the only hospital where a woman could get a C-section in an area with the population of metropolitan Dallas. People traveled for several days to get there,” Doug says. A month after the Lindbergs arrived, the senior doctor and former medical director moved on, leaving Doug—then the senior clinician—unexpectedly in charge.

“We jumped in with both feet,” Doug says. “The medicine was challenging. For the first six months, never a day went by where we didn’t see a disease we’d never seen or a pathology advanced past what we’d seen before. There were jaw-dropping presentations. And there was no orthopedic surgeon down the street.”

Because it was the only hospital around, the Lindbergs treated all kinds of patients and symptoms. “We saw everything from preemies to grandmas and grandpas,” Doug says. “Whatever problems people had, we did our best.”

The Nepali staff had worked there for years, and although most didn’t have the Lindbergs’ credentials on paper, they had skills and experience that the hospital needed.

“They were wonderful,” Doug says. “I would bring someone in as a medical assistant to walk me through surgery when I had to cut off a leg.”

Ruth spent time working in the hospital as well, but shortly after arriving in Dadeldhura, she became pregnant with their second child. With their daughter at home, and eventually their son, James, as well, Ruth spent a good amount of time at home doing support work.

“She did fundraising, communication, built the website, and supported the volunteers,” Doug says. “She made it possible for me to do hospital work 70 hours a week.”

The Lindberg family spent three years at the hospital, the staff of about 65 people frequently changing. At times, the Lindbergs were the only Americans around.

“The American community fluctuated a lot in three years we were there,” Doug says. “There were 32 doctors who came and went, as well as therapists and nurses. We’d have junior doctors—interns and residents—who would spend six months at a time as part of their training and then move on. At times, we’d have Nepali doctors who would come for a year. There were usually about 8-10 people who were expats, from Sweden or Ireland, Trinidad or Australia. A nun from Kenya who was also a plastic surgeon came to work with us. She was 75 years old. She was awesome.”

One of the Lindbergs’ close friends from Stritch (and Doug’s former roommate), Jeremy LeMotte (MD ’03), brought his family to the hospital as well. LeMotte led the community health efforts and spent half his time in the hospital.

In what little spare time the Lindbergs had, they enjoyed hiking and getting together with friends for tea. They played board games. Doug would get up in the middle of the night to listen to Bears games streaming on the internet in his office. The Lindbergs were involved with the local church and helped show short-term volunteers the ropes.

The Lindbergs had planned to make Dadeldhura their long-term home, thinking they might return to the US when their children entered high school. Their original assignment ended in March 2013, and they returned to the States, where they planned to stay for a year before going back to Nepal. Two months after arriving back in the US, the Nepali government nationalized the hospital, taking over the staff and supplies. The Lindbergs hope to return to Nepal to work elsewhere, although their plans are not set. In October 2013, they jointly received the Early Career Achievement Award at the Stritch Awards Dinner, which coincided with their ten-year class reunion.

They Lindbergs do keep in touch with their friends in Nepal.

“It is amazing the world we live in now,” Doug says. “Even in remote rural Nepal, people have Facebook. With all the people who came and went, we stay in good touch via the internet.”

It is those connections that will likely draw the Lindbergs to write the next chapter in their lives, if and when they return to Nepal.

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'Something I was meant to do'

Jeffrey Bulanda

Jeffrey Bulanda (MSW ‘04, PhD ’08) displays a gift given to him by students he taught at a university in Sierra Leone.

Teaching and living social work in Sierra Leone

Jeffrey Bulanda (MSW ’04, PhD ’08) knew he wanted to work in sub-Saharan Africa. But he didn’t know where.

“I started contacting universities, and it was challenging,” Bulanda says. “Many universities don’t have a website or e-mail. It was by chance that I found out about Sierra Leone—the university there was starting its first-ever social work program.”

Bulanda received a Fulbright award to spend the 2013-2014 academic year teaching the subject, although that’s only part of what he ended up doing.

Sierra Leone, located in West Africa, emerged from a civil war in 2002. Social work education  and policy, focusing on mental health and violence prevention, are in their formative stages. 

“It was a great experience in that social work isn’t yet defined there, so we got to have a small part in defining it,” Bulanda says. “Working with students to see what they want it to be and what they need—putting together knowledge and understanding—it was great.”

Teaching conditions at the university, however, presented some challenges. 

There were no textbooks and no electricity. Class was sometimes held outside.

 “Many students had poor writing skills,” Bulanda says. “Class sizes were large—the smallest class I taught had 60 students. A lot of students weren’t computer literate.” 

Bulanda taught social work courses two days a week and held office hours three days a week. 

“Holding office hours there was different from what it means here,” Bulanda says. “It meant teaching them how to write and how to set up e-mail addresses. I wanted to offer them guidance and support, but I also had to be firm. I said, ‘I understand your struggles, but if you want to work at UNICEF or Save the Children, you’re going to need to know these things.”

In addition to his teaching duties, Bulanda conducted research on mental health needs of university students and how war impacts their educational trajectories. He also created a youth empowerment program, Pikin Padi, which means “friends of the children” in Krio, a local language. Among other things, the youth of Pikin Padi Network conceptualized and created a documentary on child labor. In exchange, Bulanda paid their school fees (required for secondary education). He also worked at an elementary school.

 “I really felt like it was what it meant to be a social worker in the purest sense,” Bulanda says. “You develop programs where you see need and empower people to impact their community.”

During his time in Sierra Leone, Bulanda lived in a village outside of Freetown, the capital city. 

“There was electricity about 5 percent of the time, and everyone walked far for water,” Bulanda says. “I prepared myself for challenges, but living next door to people in utter poverty—you never get used to that. I had neighbors living in rusted-out metal structures. During the rainy season, I would walk down the street and people’s roofs were blown off during the night. People had 25 cents a day to eat. It certainly transformed the way I think about what I spend five dollars on.”

Bulanda returned to the United States in July of this year and is now teaching at Aurora University, but his work in Sierra Leone is ongoing. Bulanda is an adjunct professor at the University of Sierra Leone, advising students as they write their senior theses. He continues to serve as the executive director of Pikin Padi and is sponsoring the educations of a number of students. He oversees two interns from afar. 

He remains in touch with many of those he worked with while in the country. The proprietors of the elementary school at which Bulanda volunteered renamed the school after him—Jeff Bulanda International Academy.

Bulanda hopes to visit Sierra Leone in December, although that is contingent on the status of the Ebola crisis. Regardless, he will spend May and June of 2015 there.  “I’m looking forward to going back,” Bulanda says. “My work there is something I was meant to do. It’s who I am.”

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