Sharing stories at a winter retreat
When University of Dayton trustees come to town, they typically hang out in conference rooms — not living rooms in the student neighborhood.
Margaret Cavanaugh, Brother Bernie Ploeger, S.M. ’71, and George Hanley ’77 took a spirited dinner discussion that started at their table in the Adele Center down the block to the “Business and Marianist Values” student community on Lowes Street for an evening that some trustees called a highlight of their three-day winter retreat on campus.
“I’m better because of the relationships I formed in college. You have expectations of each other that hold you to your best self,” Cavanaugh, a chemist and former National Science Foundation official, told the business and engineering roommates. “You may be looking at your best friends forever.”
“Be flexible,” advised Ploeger, a mathematician who thought he’d spend his career as a teacher. Instead, he used his analytical and strategic planning skills in administrative roles, eventually becoming the president of Chaminade University before his current role as assistant provincial for the Marianist Province of the United States.
Dressed casually in jeans and a Dayton Flyers shirt and sipping a cup of tea, Hanley, a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, talked about risk, failure — and tenacity. The son of a trader for the Chicago Board of Trade, Hanley lost his initial $1,700 stake in a commodity exchange before going broke two more times in the space of a year. He persevered, of course, and now reflects that “everyone has their trials. Figure out how to be good to yourself when times are tough — and figure out what the lesson is.”
Hanley also urged the graduating seniors to appreciate the “unconditional love” of their parents and aspire to reach high without compromising their values.
“The purpose of life is to be your best self.”
“The purpose of life is to be your best self,” he said. “Having integrity is a big part of being your best self. If you become someone who does the right thing, you’ll find it’s contagious.”
Over coffee, dessert and a smattering of life lessons in other special interest houses throughout the student neighborhood, students and trustees engaged in similar free-flowing conversations about faith and vocation, the core curriculum and the experiences of student-athletes, black students and Latino students.
Debra Plousha-Moore ’89, founder and principal of Plousha Moore Group who served as associate dean of students at the University of Dayton early in her career, visited the BATU (Black Action Through Unity) house with Deborah Tobias ’73 and Michelle Mathile ’15.
“BATU is functioning at an even higher level of engagement than when I was here,” observed Plousha-Moore. “We pierced through the first layer of communication and went deeper into their hearts about their UD experience. They talked about persistence and tenacity and commitment to excellence as students.”
“They talked about persistence and tenacity and commitment to excellence as students.”
The trustees engaged in “a contemporary and relevant discussion” of race relations on campus, according to Plousha-Moore. “They’re champions of an inclusive community and do feel their voices are being heard, and there’s access for their voices.”
While three generations of Plousha-Moore’s family graduated from UD, this experience broadened her understanding of contemporary student life.
“It gave us greater perspective as board members,” she said. “I thought their student experience was genuine and authentic. They were so gracious in sharing their stories.”