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President's Blog: From the Heart

Full Circle

By Eric F. Spina

John, Shirley, and Chuck Berry didn’t graduate from the University of Dayton, but sometimes friends become a part of the family.

They’ve just committed $5 million to create the new Berry Family Scholarship Program for honors students, the latest in a long line of generous gifts. What inspires them to support our students and programs with such joyous generosity?

Perhaps the answer lies in the career trajectory of faculty member Anne Crecelius ’07.

A physiologist, Anne keeps her undergraduate honors thesis in a treasured place — tucked next to her research studies on a shelf in her Fitz Hall office.

It’s her touchstone — and a constant reminder that without a Berry Scholarship, she wouldn’t have traveled from Minnesota to attend UD, a private school out of her family’s financial reach.

Today, as associate professor of health and sport science and interim chair of the department, she works in the lab with Berry Summer Thesis Institute students studying how the cardiovascular system is regulated. Reminiscent of her own student days at UD, these students are *already* co-authoring research studies.

Anne, one of our most brilliant and dedicated scholars, has come full circle on a transformative journey that knows no limits. Her photo graces the cover of September’s The Physiologist Magazine in a piece about “The Now Generation,” rising stars in the field.

Generations of students, following in Anne’s footsteps, will become tomorrow’s rising stars, thanks, in no small part, to the generosity and foresight of the Berry family. Besides their $5 million commitment, they are giving an additional $250,000 for operating support for the Berry Summer Thesis Institute.

I have gotten to know the Berry family well in my time at UD. Humble, generous, and proud of their association with the University of Dayton, they are an iconic Dayton family who have a deep appreciation for what UD means to the greater Dayton community. Indeed, multiple generations of the Berry family have shown a deep and abiding love for UD over nearly four decades.

In 1980, John and Chuck’s late grandfather, Loren, left $1 million in his will for law scholarships. In 1996, their late, beloved father, John Sr., trustee emeritus and the honorary co-chair of our “Call to Lead” campaign, made a $7.5 million commitment for scholarships for students accepted into the then-fledgling Honors Program. Other generous gifts from the family’s foundation have supported the construction of the Donoher Basketball Center and an early renovation of UD Arena. In all, this deeply rooted Dayton family has invested more than $18 million to UD to help students fulfill their dreams.

And talk about impact.

Today, nearly 300 alumni proudly call themselves Berry Scholars. The intellect, curiosity, and confidence of these students are on full display every summer at the Berry Summer Thesis Institute. It’s not unusual to spot John Berry in the audience listening to undergraduates from all majors present their scholarly research, conducted under the guidance of faculty mentors.

As one of the first Berry Scholars, Anne Crecelius shared the classroom with musicians, biologists, artists, and engineers, developing lifelong friendships. For her honors thesis, she co-authored a peer-reviewed study, with faculty members Paul Vanderburgh and the late Lloyd Laubach, on an age and body weight handicap in 5K runs. And, as a student worker in the Fitz Center, she and other students helped imagine the concept for the Rivermobile, a mobile classroom that travels to schools throughout the Great Miami River watershed. Armed with her UD bachelor’s degree in exercise science and valuable undergraduate research experience, she earned a master’s of science and Ph.D. in cardiovascular physiology from Colorado State University. She came home in 2013 and just last year, she won UD’s top teaching award.

“Receiving a Berry Scholarship changed my life,” Anne says. “From the beginning to now, the Berry family’s generosity has impacted me and my students in positive ways, and I’ll be forever grateful.”

Scholarships, such as the one endowed by the Berry family, attract diverse, talented students who enrich the campus experience for all. “They’re the way,” she says, “we make a good school a great school.”

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