It’s a family affair

November 19th, 2019 Posted in From Our Alumni
Generations of Rockets continue long tradition of education at UToledo

By Laurie B. Davis

Doug Ligibel, who grew up in the Old Orchard neighborhood, remembers being the very last football player to walk off of the grass football field at UToledo before it was replaced with Astroturf. It was the same grass field where both his father, Richard, and uncle, Clarence, had played as Rockets in the 1940s. “We played the Thanksgiving Day championship in the Glass Bowl against St. John’s, and we beat them 7-0.” Ligibel was the captain of the DeVilbiss High School football team when they became the city champions on Thursday, Nov. 22, 1973.

Doug Ligibel grew up just steps away from The University of Toledo campus. His family — mom, Patricia; dad, Richard; and siblings, David and Deborah — lived in Old Orchard. “We would run the campus as kids. It was just two blocks away,” he says.

“Our love affair with The University of Toledo was the Rockets,” says Ligibel, whose uncle, Clarence, and father both lettered in football as UToledo students. “We also were fans of the old Field House. That was a real hangout for us when we were kids because there was a championship basketball team,” says Ligibel, whose family held season tickets. “John Rudley, from the ’60s. Steve Mix played. That’s also when Chuck Ealey was playing [football], and the Rockets had one of the best teams in the country. It was just really magical at that time,” he says.

Ligibel’s siblings, as well as cousins, other extended-family relatives and in-laws, also graduated from UToledo. The parents of two other local families, the Hunters and the Loos, also celebrated the graduations of many sons and daughters. So, what motivates nearly 50 people from just three families to earn 36 degrees in 10 different colleges at The University of Toledo? It has a lot to do with the home of the Rockets being the city of Toledo’s university. What Doug Ligibel calls “the hometown effect.”

This photo shows Angel Ligibel Dandar, her daughter, Colleen, and her husband, James Dandar, following Colleen’s graduation from UToledo. Colleen was active in Panhellenic Council, Leadership U.T., German Club and the scholarship fraternity, Omecron Delta Capital. She also was a Blue Key member and traveled to Germany with an international studies program.

Location, location, location

Doug Ligibel’s first cousin, Ted Ligibel, says part of the University’s appeal was its locality. “You didn’t really think about leaving to go somewhere else, at least not for your undergraduate degree,” says Ted. “You could live at home.” For the Ligibels, he adds, “it’s a long relationship for the family, and now with Brad and Bria, they’re continuing that long tradition,” referring to his nephew and great niece, also graduates.

Ted’s siblings Michael, Rebecca and Angel earned degrees from UToledo, and Ted and Michael were in school at the same time.

Angel and James Dandar’s daughter, Sally, poses with her good friend John Skeldon on their graduation day.

“My first year was his last year, and we would ride together to school,” says Ted, recalling winter drives to campus. “He had a little VW Beetle that never warmed up from West Toledo to the University. We’d have to scrape the windows, from the inside, to see,” says Ted.

Ted, who once worked at UToledo’s Urban Affairs Center, became a historic preservationist and a professor at Eastern Michigan University. He was drawn to UToledo’s anthropology program. “The anthropology department was really well-known and second to none. I had an excellent, memorable and life-changing few years,” says Ted, recalling some of his professors, including anthropology professor Seamus Metress.

In the summer of 1971, the student newspaper, The Collegian, published a photo of Angel Ligibel Dandar and her then-boyfriend, James Dandar, sitting under a tree on campus. The two met in high school and dated all through college, before marrying. They both are UToledo graduates, as are their daughters, Colleen and Sally.

“Our roots are very, very deep here,” says Ted, noting that his grandfathers had businesses in downtown Toledo. Doug’s father, Richard, and brother, David, had local businesses as well. “None of us had that urge to move away,” says Ted.

But Doug and his sister, Deborah, did move away from Toledo. Deborah runs her own business in Florida, and Doug worked in Florida as a rehabilitation and addictions counselor; 15 years of his career were with the San Mateo County and the Hayward, Calif. police department. Even though he and his wife, Dee Dee, have retired in Florida, they continue their tradition of attending Rocket football games. Doug notes a memorable game from decades ago.

“My wife and I were at the Miami game in the ’80s, when Miami was No. 1 in the country. There were 400 of us in the original Orange Bowl, and I was sitting, without knowing it, next to Kenny McGill, who was my dad’s best man at his wedding, and he was president of the alumni association. I was surrounded by all of these people who went to school and graduated with my dad. They were saying, ‘this is Ligibel’s kid.’ It was really cool.”

Daughter completes a mother’s dream

This year, Maria Denning’s family and friends surprised her with a belated graduation party and invited President Sharon L. Gaber to join them.

Maria (Hunter) Denning says that for her family, “the connection was that I and all of my siblings put ourselves through school, and we all lived at home. Neither of my parents graduated from college. My mother was the salutatorian of her class at Central Catholic High School.” Denning says her mother had a full scholarship to the College of St. Francis in Illinois, but dropped out during WWII to help support her family. Once she married and started having children, attending college drifted out of the picture. “I know she regretted it all her life,” says Denning. “It was a real loss to her.”

Denning’s college story was similar to her mother’s, except that she did return to school and earned a UToledo degree in interdisciplinary studies in 2005, allowing her to focus on finance. Her mother had encouraged her to finish school. “At that time, both of my parents were in Elizabeth Scott Community, a nursing home. I graduated on Mother’s Day in 2005, and I was able to go in my cap and gown to the nursing home to show them that I had graduated.”

Nine of John and Mary Hunter’s 13 children received degrees from The University of Toledo.

After receiving her master’s degree in English in 1979, Maria’s older sister, Annette Hunter Lee, posed with the Hunter family’s patriarch, John Raymond Hunter.

Denning, a Toledo resident, is the youngest. Since graduating in 2005, she has worked for McDonald Partners LLC and is currently a senior registered investment associate with the company.

What made her college years so memorable is that her Pi Beta Phi sorority sisters remain her best friends to this day, including Rebecca Ligibel. “We were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings, and she’s one of my lifelong best friends,” says Denning. “I was the only one who was active in Greek life,” in her family, she adds. “Those are my best memories because none of my other siblings were in school when I was there.”

In thinking about her degree and those her siblings earned, Denning says “the most important thing to me is the pride that my mother had in our history at The University of Toledo.”

Maria Denning’s nephew, Samuel Hunter, poses with his then-fiancé, Cariss Reece, during UToledo’s spring 2018 graduation. They met on campus and were married in June 2019. Sam is the son of Maria’s brother, Kevin.

When the American dream comes true

John Loo describes the University as the school he and his sisters and brothers thought they should attend because of their economic circumstances. Their parents, Harry and Gan Park Loo, immigrated to Toledo from Canton, China, in 1926. They arrived with few resources and spoke little English. Loo says his parents worked hard and sacrificed throughout the Depression era to eventually open the Nanking Restaurant in Toledo.

Harry and Gan Park Loo gathered with their six sons and four daughters for a family portrait.

“None of us had a lot of resources at that time,” says Loo about his college days, and he and his brothers spent many long hours working in the College of Engineering labs. He and his nine siblings all graduated from the University, with 18 years between the earliest graduate and the last child to graduate in the Loo family. “We knew education was the means to get ahead economically. And we are thankful to the University for providing us the opportunities,” says Loo.

Fortunately, four of the Loo siblings, Edward, William, Peggy and John, received scholarships.

During Homecoming week in early October, John, Peggy and Virginia Loo visited their alma mater and rode in the Homecoming parade. The three siblings, graduates of UToledo, were able to see the bench that John Loo gifted to the William and Carol Koester Alumni Pavilion. The bench features a plaque that honors their parents, Harry and Gan Park Loo. John’s sister, Linda, visited campus to see the bench two weeks later.

Loo says he had a four-year scholarship from Toledo Edison. Peggy Loo, who graduated summa cum laude, earned the Scholar of the Year designation from the University and was written up in a story in the Toledo Blade, highlighting her perfect A average throughout four years of college.

The graduation of Linda Loo in 1968 also drew attention because she was the last of 10 Loo children to graduate from UToledo. Stories in the Toledo Blade and the Cleveland Plain Dealer highlighted the family’s academic success. Nearly all of the Loo siblings moved to California, where they found jobs in the aerospace industry and raised their families.

Upon his UToledo graduation, John attended the University of Pittsburgh to get his MBA, before also heading to California to attend law school.

This year, John Loo (Eng ’66) made a gift to support the William and Carol Koester Alumni Pavilion, which included the installation of a commemorative bench with a plaque that honors Loo’s parents, Harry and Gan Park Loo. The Loos’ 10 children, including John, graduated from The University of Toledo.

Now a resident of Los Angeles, John Loo is a retired attorney.

He and his two sisters, Peggy and Virginia, recently returned to UToledo for Homecoming. After riding in the Homecoming parade, the three siblings went to see a commemorative plaque that honors their mother and father and adorns a bench in the William and Carol Koester Alumni Pavilion. The sentiment notes that their parents had lived the American Dream through their children’s and their succeeding generations’ academic achievements.

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