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'Strength you didn't know you had'

'Strength you didn't know you had'

Michelle Tedford '94 November 02, 2022

I know a lot of Flyers; it comes with the territory. First, there are those I know from my four years on campus as a student. I feel like nearly every one of them could have been found on a fall night in 1991 streaming onto Chambers Street for a living room concert hosted by me and my housemates. That performance by Hot Metal Trains still lives in my memory — and reminds me that occupancy limits on houses are indeed a prudent idea.

And then there’s my job. There’s not an issue that goes by where I don’t recognize names in Class Notes and In Memoriam. They are people I’ve interviewed for stories, as well as those I’ve shared a park bench with on a warm June evening during Reunion Weekend — two Flyers, the span of years between us melting away in shared nostalgia.

That’s one reason I was so surprised to get a call from The New York Times asking to confirm that Julianne “Julie” O’Connell Beckett was a University of Dayton graduate. I had not heard of her. I searched our alumni database: Class of 1973, master’s in history. And then The Washington Post emailed the same request.

President Ronald Reagan meets Katie Beckett, along with her parents, Julie O'Connell Beckett ’73 and Mark Beckett, Sept. 20, 1984.
President Ronald Reagan meets Katie Beckett, Sept. 20, 1984.


You may also not know of Julie, but those with a family member struggling with disability or disease have her to thank. In 1978, Julie’s infant daughter, Katie, suffered an infection that required her to use a ventilator to breathe. When the family exhausted its private health insurance, Medicaid said it would not pay for Katie’s in-home care.

Julie was determined not to let her daughter grow up in a hospital.

“There sometimes comes a moment in parenting,” The Washington Post reported Julie as having said, when “you discover strength you didn’t know you had — all because your child needs you.”

Her advocacy reached President Ronald Reagan, and the Becketts were granted a waiver to receive Medicaid benefits while caring for Katie at home. She celebrated Christmas in 1981 there with her family.

Today, every state has a Katie Beckett Waiver program so Medicaid patients can receive care outside of the hospital. Julie and Katie continued her advocacy throughout their lives. Katie lived to age 34. Julie died May 13, 2022.

Flyers use their education, passion and faith to discern solutions to problems beyond their own doorsteps.

Maybe it’s because I know so many Flyers, but I find Julie’s story extraordinary and familiar at the same time. Flyers use their education, passion and faith to discern solutions to problems beyond their own doorsteps. They rise up to meet challenges and create not only solutions but community in the process. This issue is full of their stories; for starters, check out the Alumni Awards on Page 46.

We can never know the names of them all, but we can be sure Flyers are out there discovering their strengths and working to make the world better for us all.


P.S. This is the final issue featuring the exceptional work of our long-time production director, Jeaneen Parsons. Known as the Class Notes Queen, she connected with more Flyers than the rest of our staff combined. She fawned over every Flyer baby birth, celebrated reunions with housemates, and encouraged brides and grooms to send her their wedding photos. And she carefully read every Flyer’s obituary. “I may be the last person to ever read this,” she said. “It has to count.” Enjoy retirement, dear friend.

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