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President's Blog: From the Heart

Great Joy

By Eric F. Spina

I love this time of the academic year, with all its pomp and circumstance — and its great joy.

In front of beaming families and friends at UD Arena, a record 2,000-plus students will revel in their moment in the spotlight when they hear their names called, signaling their transition to proud Flyer alumni. As part of a time-honored tradition, I will shake each and every hand as the graduation marshals hand our newest UD graduates the prized parchment.

It’s always a touching weekend, one that will be made even more special this year when the University awards an honorary doctor of fine arts degree to Ro Nita Hawes-Saunders, CEO of the world-class Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC), a pillar in the Dayton community and a very dear friend of the University of Dayton. She is richly deserving of this rare and prestigious honor.

Ro Nita is a model for what it means to live a life filled with great purpose and deep faith in what’s possible.

She literally built two local community-oriented radio stations from the ground up before stepping into the leadership role at DCDC 14 years ago when the dance company needed stronger financial footing, deeper partnerships throughout the Dayton community, and greater presence on stages worldwide.

Ro Nita has used the platforms of radio and modern dance to build community across diversity, to lift people up, to be a partner for the common good. Our students from many majors and all levels of dance experience have greatly benefitted from our partnership with DCDC, showcased most visibly each year at the Celebration of the Arts on the Schuster Center stage.

Since arriving in Dayton nearly three years ago, Karen and I have been simply mesmerized by the riveting performances of DCDC. In 2016, DCDC received the prestigious Bessie Award, considered to be “the Oscar” of the dance world, followed by last year’s Irma Lazarus Award from the Ohio Arts Council. The energetic troupe has toured the world, dancing for appreciative audiences in Bermuda, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia, and South Korea. It was our privilege to co-chair DCDC’s 50th anniversary gala last weekend and pay tribute to this local treasure.

As the dance troupe’s behind-the-scenes leader, Ro Nita empowers others to reach high. She’s an exemplar for the class of 2019, who know their University of Dayton degrees carry a responsibility — to build community, to work across differences, to make a difference.


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