The University of Toledo Year In Review

December 26th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in From Our Alumni

Under the direction of President Sharon Gaber and with the support of students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, many great things were accomplished at the University of Toledo in 2016.  Here is a recap of a few of the many newsworthy moments from this year:

January
  • The Ohio Attorney General’s Office awards UT $214,000 to help victims of sexual violence on campus. The funding is used to create the Center for Student Advocacy and Wellness.
  • bubble-tea-guysUT alumni Prakash Karamchandani and Hochan Jang open Bubble Tea in the Gateway.
  • For the 10th year in a row, UT Medical Center receives the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With the Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award.
  • Some 2,000 attend the 15th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Celebration in Savage Arena.
  • UT student-athletes earn a combined grade point average of 3.216 in the 2015 fall semester, the highest department GPA for a semester in school history.
  • The University’s surgical residency program ranks No. 14 in the nation when it comes to outcome-based measures, according to the Journal of Surgical Education.
  • The College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences celebrates the opening of the Shimadzu Laboratory for Pharmaceutical Research Excellence. Shimadzu Scientific Instruments’ gift of $250,000 funds several new state-of-the-art instruments.
  • Total enrollment for spring semester increases to 18,849, according to official 15-day census numbers. That’s up from 18,783 in spring semester 2015.
February
  • 02012016-1861Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Inc., visits campus Feb. 1 for the Jesup Scott Honors College Distinguished Lecture Series and shares the story of how he and Steve Jobs — and their business partner Ronald Wayne — revolutionized the computer industry. More than 3,000 attend the event in Savage Arena.
  • White House National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli visits Scott Park Campus and holds a Toledo Community Forum on Responses to the Opioid Epidemic, discussing evidence-based programs to prevent and treat prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse.
  • Open forums and focus groups take place to gather input for the University’s strategic diversity plan.
  • The UT Board of Trustees approves the merger of the College of Health Sciences and the College of Social Justice and Human Service. The new College of Health and Human Services will be established July 1. Dr. Christopher Ingersoll will serve as dean.
  • To stabilize the University’s budget, division and college leaders are asked to identify a 1.5 percent reduction to the operating budget for fiscal year 2016 and
    3 percent to the entire budget for fiscal year 2017.
  • Will Lucas, alumnus and co-founder and CEO of the technology company Classana, and founder of Creadio, is named by Ohio Gov. John Kasich to the UT Board of Trustees.
  • UT is among eight Ohio universities to receive a total of $1.9 million from the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative.
March
  • beier-2016bThe UT Foundation achieves a 2.3 percent total investment return for the 2015 fiscal year, surpassing the 2 percent average for participants of similar asset size, in the National Association of College and University Business Officers-Commonfund Study of Endowments.
  • Mark Beier, the longtime radio play-by-play voice of Toledo Rockets football and men’s basketball, retires.
  • matchdayA total of 165 fourth-year medical students learn where they will train for their residencies at Match Day.
  • hsuDr. Andrew Hsu, dean of the College of Engineering at San Jose State University, is named UT provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, and will start his new job July 1.
  • Donald Kamm, associate director and Title IX deputy coordinator at the University of Illinois at Chicago Office for Access and Equity, is tapped as director of Title IX and compliance and Title IX coordinator for UT.
  • ut-tps-press-conferenceUT and Toledo Public Schools partner to create a new initiative called Teach Toledo to recruit and prepare the Glass City’s citizens to become Toledo’s teachers.
  • Nearly 1,700 students, faculty and staff spend March 19 giving back to the community during the Big Event.
  • Senior Sammy Richart becomes only the seventh Rocket in program history to qualify for the NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Meet.
  • The Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center is named one of the 2015 top 100 hospitals and health systems with great oncology programs by Becker’s Hospital Review.
  • The women’s golf team breaks a school record by winning its fifth tournament crown of the season with an eight-stroke victory at the Kingsmill Intercollegiate in Williamsburg, Va.
April
  • Dr. Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell starts his new job as associate vice president and dean of students April 4. Most recently, he served as associate vice provost for student affairs and dean of students at Jackson State University in Mississippi.
  • bancroft-at-podium-smiling-by-danPolar explorer Ann Bancroft speaks April 5 in Doermann Theater as part of the Jesup Scott Honors Distinguished Lecture Series.
  • Students dance for 13 hours at RockeTHON and raise $147,530 for the Children’s Miracle Network.
  • chan-screen-shotThe Dr. Cyrus Chan Endowed Scholarship Fund is established by friends and colleagues of the 39-year-old resident who is battling stage IV colon cancer. Chan passes away April 21.
  • banner-signing-autorgraphs-by-danMore than 650 pack the Student Union Auditorium to hear rapper, record producer, actor and activist David Banner discuss “Diversity in Politics.” His keynote address is part of Diversity Week and Diversity Month.
  • Dan Barbee, vice president for clinical services, is named UTMC interim CEO to replace Dave Morlock, who announces he is leaving the University.
  • Trustees approve the merger of the College of Adult and Lifelong Learning and YouCollege with UT Online to form University College. Dr. Barbara Kopp Miller, associate provost for online education, will be dean beginning July 1.
  • UT and BP partner for the new Rocket Engineering Prep Program that will ensure full tuition and fee scholarships for four years for select Toledo Public School students to attend the College of Engineering in exchange for successfully completing three summers of enrichment and mentoring programs at the University during high school.
  • The University is selected as one of America’s Outstanding Navy Reserve Employers for 2016. Out of more than 100 employers nominated for this recognition, 50 are chosen, and UT is the only higher education institution selected to receive the designation.
  • glass-bowl-turf-project-5A new FieldTurf surface called Revolution 360 is installed in the Glass Bowl.
  • The College of Business and Innovation is listed in the top 100 best undergraduate business schools in the nation by Bloomberg, a global business and financial information and news leader. The college is No. 96.
  • The women’s basketball team finishes 24th best in the country in home attendance, averaging 4,050 fans per contest for the second highest total in school history. The Rockets lead the MAC in attendance for an unprecedented 26th consecutive season.
  • brown-dwarfUT astronomers identify a new object in space approximately 100 light years from Earth, estimated to be roughly five to 10 times the mass of Jupiter and 10 million years old. The free-floating planetary mass object is a brown dwarf and called WISEA J114724.10-204021.3.
  • Don Reiber LectureSavage Arena’s production control room is renamed in honor of Don Reiber, associate professor of communication and director of the Department of Communication’s Media Services, who passed away Sept. 20 at age 68. More than 400 attend a memorial service April 24 to remember Reiber, who spent 36 years at the University teaching television production, live-truck production, and radio production and programming.
  • Golfer Sathika Ruenreong is one of six individuals selected to participate in an NCAA regional hosted by the University of Alabama. She is the first Rocket to compete in an NCAA event in the program’s 21-year history.
  • manilowThe UT Concert Chorale sings three songs with Barry Manilow April 27 as part of his Farewell Tour at the Huntington Center in downtown Toledo.
May
  • UT 2016 Spring CommencementDr. Johnnetta Cole, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, and former U.S. Congressman and physicist Dr. Rush D. Holt address 2,843 candidates for degrees at commencement ceremonies.
  • Stephanie Sanders, an executive consultant at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, a firm that specializes in strengthening higher education enrollment practices, is named interim vice president of enrollment.
  • Five peregrine falcon chicks hatch atop University Hall’s tower.
  • Women’s Golf Head Coach Nicole Hollingsworth, who in March signed a contract that will keep her at the Rockets’ helm through the 2018-19 season, is named MAC Coach of the Year.
  • brown-and-mcketherDr. Willie McKether, associate professor of anthropology who has been serving in a temporary role as special assistant to the president for diversity, is named UT vice president for diversity and inclusion.
  • Former Utah assistant Jonas Persson is named head women’s swimming and diving coach.
  • Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Susan Desjardins speaks in front of 254 candidates for degrees at the College of Medicine and Life Sciences commencement ceremony.
  • UT student-athletes earn a combined grade point average of 3.249 in spring semester, the third highest department semester GPA in school history. The men’s golf team sets the all-time UT record for team GPA with a 3.759 mark.
  • Dr. Amanda Bryant-Friedrich, associate professor in the Department of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry, is named dean of the College of Graduate Studies. She replaces Dr. Patsy Komuniecki, who will retire July 1.
June
  • Graduate student Holly Embke is the first researcher to discover direct proof of grass carp, a type of invasive Asian carp, spawning in a Great Lakes tributary.
  • A group gathers to celebrate the Merger Anniversary.The 10-year anniversary of the merger of The University of Toledo and the Medical University of Ohio is celebrated.
  • Trustees approve the $737.8 million budget for fiscal year 2017.
  • The board also approves the merger of the College of Languages, Literature and Social Sciences and the College of Communication and the Arts.
  • Dr. Jamie Barlowe will serve as dean of new College of Arts and Letters starting
    July 1.
  • UT is selected to join the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. The association operates world-class astronomical observatories and works to promote observatories and facilities that advance innovative astronomical research.
  • Lawrence R. Kelley, who has been interim chief financial officer, is appointed to the position.
  • balbinotVeteran sports broadcaster Brent Balbinot is the new “Voice of the Rockets.” This fall, Balbinot will serve as play-by-play broadcaster for football and men’s basketball, and host the respective coaches’ radio shows.
  • Dr. Rebecca Schneider, professor and chair of curriculum and instruction, receives two state grants to train local high school teachers to teach college courses to their students as part of an expansion of the state’s College Credit Plus program.
  • Fiscal year 2016 ends with a total of 10,529 donors giving $18.5 million to the University. It is an increase in donors of nearly 17 percent and an increase of nearly 10 percent in dollars.
July
  • As part of the Academic Affiliation, UT learners on the ProMedica Toledo and Toledo Children’s Hospital Campus begin occupying a new academic space. The renovated area provides classrooms, on-call sleep rooms, a lounge, lockers and shower facilities for students and residents.
  • arboretum-july-2016-by-danStranahan Arboretum is No. 40 on the 50 Most Beautiful College Arboretums by Best College Reviews.
  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich names Alfred A. Baker, a retired vice president from Owens Illinois Inc., to the UT Board of Trustees.
  • appelDr. Heidi Appel, senior associate director of the Honors College at the University of Missouri, is named dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College. She will start her new job Aug. 15.
  • The Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center and UT Physicians are selected to participate in a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services pilot program designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of oncology specialty care.
  • A Helicopter lifts steel beams that are being used to reinforce the bell tower.W.R. Meyers Co. of Napoleon, Ohio, uses a helicopter crane to deliver steel beams that will be used to reinforce University Hall’s iconic tower.
  • UTMC is recognized by the National Health Resources and Services Administration as a platinum-level partner for its efforts to promote organ, eye and tissue donation as part of the Workplace Partnership for Life Hospital Campaign.
  • Domino’s opens at the Gateway.
  • art-on-the-mall-close-up-2016-by-danMore than 10,000 attend the 24th annual Art on the Mall, presented by the University of Toledo Alumni Association.
  • Business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi holds a ceremony in honor of Sierah Joughin July 30 in the Student Union. Joughin, who was entering her third year as a student in the College of Business and Innovation, died last month at age 20. About 100 attend the event, which includes a candlelight vigil.
August
  • The University and the city of Toledo announce the Toledo Talent Keeps Toledo Great internship program to allow all students the opportunity to earn experience working in city offices and provide local government with additional talent to serve the community.
  • A total of 173 medical students receive their white coats and recite the pledge of ethics at a ceremony Aug. 4 in the Lois and Norman Nitschke Auditorium.
  • Dr. Frank Calzonetti, vice president for government relations, is appointed vice president of research. He led the University’s research operations for a decade before moving to government relations in 2011.
  • Former Rocket quarterback Bruce Gradkowski opens Social Gastropub Aug. 15. The renovated eatery replaces Gradkowski’s.
  • bridge-shot-by-danClosed since March, the new David Leigh Root Bridge on Stadium Drive opens. The span features UT’s signature lannon stone and six-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides of the road.
  • Carlson Library’s $3 million renovation of the third and fourth floors is celebrated Aug. 18. Funded by state capital investment funds, the renovation includes the creation of more than 20 new group study rooms on the floors.
  • Male student-athletes are the recipients of the 2015-16 MAC Faculty Athletics Representative Academic Achievement Award for the highest overall grade point average for all men’s sports.
  • UT wins the 2015-16 MAC Institutional Academic Achievement Award for the best GPA in the conference. UT’s 377 student-athletes post a school-record grade point average of 3.235.
September
  • Enrollment for fall semester increases by 267 students, marking the first gain in six years. Total enrollment for fall semester is 20,648, according to official 15-day census numbers. UT had 20,381 students enrolled in fall semester 2015.
  • The facilities master planning team holds open forums to receive feedback on scenarios.
  • Trustees conduct their first performance review of President Sharon L. Gaber and voice their full support of her leadership.
  • steak-n-shake-construction-signUT extends its contract with Aramark for six years and announces Steak ‘n Shake is scheduled to open in spring 2017 and replace Rocky’s Grill in the lower level of the Student Union.
  • A memorial service is held for Dr. Lancelot C.A. Thompson, professor emeritus of chemistry and 55-year UT veteran, who died Sept. 10 at age 91. President Gaber announces the Student Union will be renamed in his honor. A trailblazer, Thompson was the first African-American full-time faculty member at the University, the first black to receive tenure, the first African-American vice president, and the first person to hold the post of vice president for student affairs.
  • The University is ranked among the world’s top research schools in the 2017 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
  • UT helps launch the White House mentoring program called My Brother’s Keeper in Toledo, which will prepare local students for college and career readiness.
  • The University hosts the 13th annual International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference.
  • strategic-planning-dinnebeil-by-danThe UT strategic planning committee holds its inaugural meeting Sept. 27.
  • Dr. Xin Wang, associate professor of psychiatry, receives $3.38 million from the National Institute of Mental Health to study the brain for early signs of post-traumatic stress disorder after an injury.
  • youngAndrew Young makes history come alive at the Edward Shapiro Distinguished Lecture Sept. 29 as he shares his 60 years of experiences in the civil rights movement, the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, and as mayor of Atlanta. More than 500 attend his talk in Savage Arena.
October
  • kellersUT alumna Janet Keller gives $1 million to support generations of future teachers. She and her husband, the Rev. Gerald Keller, are inspired to advance the Judith Herb College of Education’s strong reputation as it celebrates its 100th anniversary.
  • The Ohio Senate presents a proclamation honoring the Athletic Department for earning the 2015-16 MAC Institutional Academic Achievement Award.
  • Trustees approve Oct. 10 the issue of $30 million in bonds to address maintenance needs on Main Campus and Health Science Campus. Parks Tower and other academic and administrative buildings will be renovated.
  • The Center for Student Advocacy and Wellness receives a U.S. Department of Justice $299,202 grant to prevent and address sexual assault victimization on college campuses. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine awards UT $286,782 to continue operations of the Center for Student Advocacy and Wellness.
  • chapmansGeorge and Leslie Chapman donate $1 million for the construction of the new basketball office complex in Savage Arena.
  • The Toledo Rockets win the Battle of I-75 for the seventh consecutive season with a thrilling 42-35 Homecoming victory over the Bowling Green Falcons Oct. 15 in front of 30,147 fans in the Glass Bowl.
  • Daymond John, an investor on ABC’s Emmy award-winning reality television series “Shark Tank” and founder and CEO of the clothing line FUBU, speaks Oct. 18 in front of a capacity crowd in the Lois and Norman Nitschke Auditorium. He shares his success story as part of the Jesup Scott Honors College Distinguished Lecture Series.
  • Strategic planning open forums are held to gather input from the campus community.
November
  • UTMC is again verified as a Level I Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma.
  • The 16th annual Great Lakes Water Conference focuses on “Safe Drinking Water: A Tale of Three Cities” Nov. 4 in the Law Center.
  • thompson-exterior-sign-by-danThe Student Union is renamed Nov. 7 in honor of Dr. Lancelot C.A. Thompson, the longtime UT professor and administrator who devoted his career to student success.
  • UT is recognized as a top school for supporting student veterans. Victory Media, publisher of G.I. Jobs®, STEM JobsSM and Military Spouse, gives the University the 2017 Military Friendly® School designation. Military Times lists UT in its Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings, and Military Advanced Education & Transition names UT a top school in its 2017 Guide to Colleges & Universities research study.
  • veterans-dayArmy Sgt. Richard Perry, UT professor emeritus, receives the French Legion of Honor at the annual Veterans Appreciation Breakfast and Resource Fair Nov. 11 in Savage Arena.
  • blue-star-memorial-by-bk-photographyNew markers are unveiled Nov. 11 at the UT Veterans Memorial Plaza. The new Gold Star Memorial and Blue Star Memorial markers pay tribute to the Gold Star families whose loved ones paid the ultimate price defending the country and to those Blue Star families who have defended, are defending, or will defend the United States.
  • The Ohio Department of Public Safety certifies the UT Police Department for meeting new state standards for the use of deadly force, agency recruitment and hiring.
December
  • A draft of the campus master plan is presented to the public Dec. 7. The proposal focuses on repositioning the academic core, investing in research, consolidating athletics, and enhancing student life.
  • Senior tight end Michael Roberts is named first-team All-America by the Football Writers Association of America and Phil Steel Publications.
  • utmcUT Medical Center is named one of America’s 32 best teaching hospitals at preventing central-line infections in intensive care units, according to Consumer Reports.
  • The Board of Trustees approves the conversion from a 16-week semester to a 15-week semester.
  • Toledo loses to Appalachian State, 31-28, in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl Dec. 17 in Montgomery, Ala. Senior running back Kareem Hunt rushes for 120 yards and two touchdowns to become UT’s all-time leading rusher.
Print Friendly
Did you like this? Share it:

Alumna’s gift makes holiday bright for one UT student

December 26th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in From Our Alumni

By Vicki L. Kroll

alumnagiftDaniela Somaroo hopped in her car Dec. 18 in Detroit and drove down I-75 to visit friends in Toledo — and to make one special delivery.

First stop for the UT alumna: the home of Dr. Sammy Spann, assistant provost for international studies and programs.

She handed Spann a check for $4,000, a donation to the Center for International Studies and Programs.

“He immediately rejected it, which I expected was going to happen,” Somaroo recalled. “And I said, ‘No, this is something that I really need to do, and I’m not going to take it back because this could help somebody else.’”

“This was an unexpected blessing,” Spann said of the generous donation. “This will be used to help a young lady from Haiti who was getting ready to go home due to lack of funds. Now she can take classes next semester.”

Two years ago, Somaroo was that young lady lacking funds for school.

“During my last semester, the government body that administers currency exchange in my country wasn’t approving the release of dollars for me to be able to pay for school anymore,” the native of Caracas, Venezuela, said. “And, of course, if you don’t pay your last semester, you don’t get your diploma. That was my concern: If I didn’t have my diploma, I wouldn’t be able to submit my paperwork for a work visa.”

Somaroo was at the Center for International Studies and Programs and happened to see Spann.

“Like the awesome person Sammy is, he asked, ‘Hey, how are you doing? Were you able to pay for your semester?’ I wasn’t going to lie to him, and I told him I was still about $4,000 short, and I was graduating in four days,” Somaroo said. “I can walk in the ceremony, but I wouldn’t receive my diploma.

“So he talked to Cheryl Thomas, executive assistant in the Center for International Studies and Programs, who is also a great person, and he said, ‘Hey Cheryl, can you find $4,000 for Daniela’s account?’ And then he said, ‘Congratulations, you’ve graduated.’ That was just a shocker. Things like that don’t happen all the time. It was a life saver. I am forever indebted to him.”

It was December 2014, and Somaroo received a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering. Then she landed a job as a service engineer at Honeywell International Inc. and moved to Merrillville, Ind. For the past couple months, she’s been filling in at the company’s Detroit office.

“Sammy didn’t say it was a loan,” she said. “But I made myself a promise once he gave me that money to pay for the semester; I told myself I had to pay it back somehow someday. It took me two years, but I made it.”

Spann was moved to tears by the gift and posted about it on his Facebook page.

Comments poured in: “So awesome people like her still exist. Wow!” “She truly has a heart of gold.” “Thank you so much for showing love to our students.” “What an inspiration. I can’t wait to give back to the Center for International Studies and Programs!” “It is so amazing to see Rockets helping Rockets!” “Thank you for reaching back and investing in others!”

Somaroo was surprised by the post — and the comments.

“It was just extremely overwhelming. I didn’t expect anything. Sammy’s thank-you and knowing where that money is going to were more than enough, and I told him that,” she said. “The amount of comments and love I’ve received from that post — my heart is full.”

Print Friendly
Did you like this? Share it:

Life’s Challenges Can’t Stop Michael Roberts

November 28th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in From Our Alumni

Toledo senior overcomes a difficult childhood and family tragedy to become one of the nation’s best tight ends

By Paul Helgren, University of Toledo Associate Athletic Director for Communications

michael-roberts-vs-bgsu-10-15-16oSomething in Michael Roberts just snapped. And it wasn’t the first time, either.

He was used to the teasing from the other kids. That was nothing new. A chunky kid with speech problems, Michael was a regular target for cruel taunts at Union Elementary School in Cleveland. But this one boy, Robert, was another story. He knew how to push Michael’s rage button. Robert had been held back, so he was older and bigger than the other third graders in Ms. Mitchell’s classroom. And while Michael may have a frequent target for Robert’s abuse, he was by no means a passive one. And this time Robert had definitely crossed the line.

“He said something about my mother. I think he said my mother was fat,” said Michael, now a senior tight end for the Toledo Rockets. “I kind of lost it. It was a pretty bad fight, actually.”

Michael picked up a plastic chair and tossed it at Robert, striking him and igniting a bloody fight that spilled into the hallway. It took three teachers to separate them. It was Michael’s third fight at Union that school year and his last. He was expelled. By the time he was in fifth grade, Michael would be kicked out of four different elementary schools. Eventually he was placed in the Education Alternative School, a school for behaviorally challenged youngsters. Troubles of various kinds, much of it not of his own making, seemed to follow him throughout his childhood.

Those difficult times are in the rearview mirror for Michael Roberts these days. One of the most popular players on the Toledo football team, Michael is a criminal justice major who expects to graduate in December. On the football field, he’s having a terrific senior season. At 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, he’s considered one of the best tight ends in the country and has aspirations to play in the NFL. With a bowl game remaining, he has caught 43 passes this season, the most ever by any receiver in UT history in a single season. He’s twice caught three TDs, in Toledo’s 42-35 win over Bowling Green and again in the regular-season finale at Western Michigan.

So while Michael’s story may have a happy ending, it certainly did not start out that way. Even his biggest supporters could not have imagined the heights he would reach.

“There was never any doubt in my mind that Michael would be a success in life,” said his mother, Maria Young. “But did I think he would be where he is today? I have to be honest and say I didn’t. He’s just an amazing young man. He amazes me every day.”

Difficult Childhood on East Side of Cleveland

It’s only two hours from Cleveland to Toledo, but it’s a full life’s journey from Michael’s humble origins to his life in the spotlight today. Expulsions from school were only one of many challenges he faced growing up. He was raised in a rough neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland. His father, whom he never really knew growing up, was sent to prison for robbery and assault when Michael was 12 years old. A speech impediment and attention deficit issues made learning difficult. And a pair of tragic deaths during his senior year of high school nearly derailed his plans to attend college on a football scholarship.

“I grew up around a lot of poisonous people that didn’t have my best interests, or their own actually, at heart,” said Michael. “At the time, I was blinded by just wanting to have fun and be around my friends and people that I saw every day.

“I’m a very different person than I used to be. I feel like I’m adapting into the person I would like to be. I’ve matured as a student, a player and a person. I think what helped me as I got older was realizing some of things that my mom sacrificed for me. I didn’t have a lot growing up, so I’ve always been appreciative of the little things.”

Maria Young was a struggling inner-city single mother, but she was relentless in her pursuit of a better life for Michael and her other son, Freeman. She sought help for Michael’s speech problems at the Cleveland Speech and Hearing Center. She pursued solutions for his attention deficit problems. And despite the anger and violence Michael displayed as a youth, she never lost faith in him. She felt strongly that he was a good kid with great potential. She just needed to get him into a more positive environment.

The process was a slow one, but she never gave up hope. Michael’s string of school expulsions ended in fifth grade when he settled into the Education Alternative School (EAS) in nearby Willoughby. There, Michael got help for his speech problem, a language-processing issue which he eventually conquered. He also received a confirmed diagnosis for ADHD, treatment of which greatly aided his learning capability. But at the time he wanted no part of EAS. None of his friends were there and there were no real challenges for his bright but undeveloped young mind.

“It was a school for kids with behavioral problems, basically,” he said. “The focus was on how you behave and how to help someone suffering from a behavior problem. They did their best but it wasn’t an academic environment. No one was stretching you to be a better student. They were trying to help you be a better person. But it wasn’t challenging. I breezed my way through it.”

In eighth grade, his final semester of middle school, Michael was at last allowed to re-enter a “regular” school with all his friends, back at Union Elementary School, the very same school that kicked him out of five years earlier. Michael was happy with the move but it confirmed for his mother that she needed to get him into a school outside of their area. “I knew I didn’t want him to attend our neighborhood school, but I wasn’t sure what to do” said Maria.

Basketball and the Big Break

That’s when Michael’s first big break came along. Maria was looking for a healthy activity for Michael, so she signed him up to play basketball at a local rec center. An AAU coach eyed his now 6-foot-2 frame and natural athleticism. One thing led to another.

“Lo and behold, a recruiter came to my house sometime after that and asked if Michael would like to play basketball at Benedictine,” said Maria. “It was the answer we were looking for.”

Michael agreed that attending Benedictine changed his life.

“So many things really helped me become who I am but I think the biggest thing that helped my life was being forced to go into a Catholic school,” he said. “Learning proper etiquette, how to do certain things, how to be respectful and have a proper tone with others, I think that was really the biggest thing in my life.  My life changed when I went to Benedictine.”

Michael made friends at Benedictine and developed into a basketball (and later football) star. But it took him a long time to adjust to the structure and academic rigor of a parochial school.

“I was forced to come to this all-boys school that I had no clue about, so I kind of rebelled at first,” said Michael. “I didn’t do well academically. Not wanting to be there played a very big role in my unhappiness in my first two years. I really didn’t turn that attitude around until I got my first college scholarship offer to play football at the University of Louisville. It made me think, I can actually go somewhere and do something, be someone instead of just falling in line and becoming the usual statistic where I’m from.”

Armed with fresh motivation, Michael’s life began to change. He made dramatic improvements in the classroom and became a leader on the basketball and football teams. In his senior season, he accepted a scholarship offer to play football at Ohio University. For the first time in his life, everything seemed to be going his way.

Then tragedy struck. Twice.

A Season of Loss

michael-roberts-with-grandmaDeborah Young was more than just Michael’s grandmother. She was his childhood best friend and confidant, but she also knew how to light a fire under him when he needed it. Michael was her first grandson and she loved him dearly. He loved her every bit as much.

It was October of Michael’s senior season at Benedictine. The Bengals had just defeated their rival, Cleveland Central Catholic. Michael, who caught two touchdown passes, was celebrating with his teammates when he noticed his mother walking onto the field. “She had never been on the field before so I knew something was up,” Michael said.

Maria knew that Michael had plans to join up with his friends after the game, so she wanted him to know right away that his grandmother had been hospitalized. Her situation was looking grim. “I went straight to the hospital with my uniform and pads and everything still on,” said Michael. “I cried and cried when I saw her.”

Deborah Young had been diagnosed with cancer that began in her liver and spread quickly. On December 21, a little more than two months after her diagnosis, she was gone. Michael was devastated.

“My Grandma was the rock of our family,” he said. “She held the family together. I was her first grandson. We had an unbelievable connection. She was like my best friend. We used to talk for hours on the phone. She was the reason I started playing football because she loved watching it. She was a huge Browns fan. She made us all watch the Browns every Sunday, which was usually a loss but she didn’t care.

“I was in the hospital every day when she was sick. My grades suffered. The people at Benedictine helped me as best they could, but I was mentally exhausted.”

In the months following his grandmother’s death, Michael began to lose his motivation. Without his beloved grandma to urge him on, he lost interest in school. He didn’t feel the same joy playing sports, either. He wasn’t even sure anymore if he would go to college. Right about then he was hit with the second blow in less than five months.

The news came from an unlikely source. “Lake Erie Correctional Institution” lit up on Michael’s caller ID. It was his father, Michael Roberts, Sr., calling from prison. Michael didn’t take the call. Or the dozens that followed. Finally, annoyed, he picked up and received the heart-wrenching news.  One of Michael’s younger brothers, Cameron, had been killed by a single gunshot wound to the stomach. The death was later ruled accidental.

“It’s something you don’t come to grips with at first. It was very unbelievable when I first heard it,” said Michael. “Then you are just kind of replaying the moments that you had together. You never expect to have to bury your younger brother. That was the last time I actually cried until the BYU game.”

The loss of two loved ones in such a short period of time was almost too much for Michael to handle. He felt like giving up. Two days after his brother’s funeral, Michael informed his mother he wasn’t going to college. She would have none of it.

“Look how far you’ve come, everything you’ve accomplished. You can’t throw it away now,” she said. “Grandma is up in heaven cussing you out right now.” That talk set things straight. Michael was going to college.

As painful as that period in his life was, Michael now finds positive meaning in the experience.

“I use my brother and my grandmother as inspiration in all things I do,” he said. “I’ll never get a chance to say hello or goodbye to them, so I just use their spirit. I’ve been through a lot of personal battles so I use that to build my strength. I’ve done my grieving.  I try to use my grief to positively affect my life.

michael-roberts-with-cards-2“There are a lot of reminders of them that I keep close to me. From my brother’s funeral, I have a shirt that his mother made with Cam’s face on it that says ‘I am my brother’s keeper.’ It’s the last thing I have of my brother’s so I still wear it with pride. From my grandma, I have six birthday cards that I keep. I had them laminated. I bring the last two cards she gave me in travel bag for every game, home and away, and read them before every game and put them in my locker.

“Losing my grandmother was the hardest thing I’ve been through. But I feel like I can use that. If I’ve been through something like that, what’s another sprint in practice? I hate running at practice. But I use that. I tell myself, I can finish this sprint. I’ve been through worse. Might as well put my head down and grind through what’s in front of me.”

A Change of Heart and Michael’s “Other” Families

Michael needed another dose of that positive attitude a few months later. A little more than week before he was to depart for college, he got the word from his high school coach. The NCAA Clearinghouse ruled him academically ineligible to play football as a freshman. If he went to Ohio University, or any Division I college for that matter, he would have to pay his own way. He wasn’t sure what to do now, but he felt he needed to change his course. He picked up the phone and called then-Toledo head coach Matt Campbell.

Toledo was a close second choice of colleges for Michael, but he was attracted Ohio’s rural setting. It was about as different from the east side of Cleveland as you could get. After he choose Ohio, Michael called Campbell to tell him the news. Campbell was gracious and told him if he changed his mind he would always have a home in Toledo.  “So I called him a week before school started and asked him if I could still come to Toledo,” said Michael. “He said yes, definitely.”

Michael was happy with his choice of schools, but he still had a tough road ahead of him. Being academically ineligible meant he couldn’t practice with the team until January. He also had to pay his own way for school, which meant working two and sometimes three jobs to make ends meet. But one thing that helped Michael through that transition period was support from an unlikely source.

michael-roberts-with-kobylinskisThe Kobylinskis are an ordinary suburban family from Brecksville, halfway between Cleveland and Akron. Mark Kobylinski is a teacher and assistant football coach at Benedictine. He and his wife Nichole, and their three children, have basically adopted Michael.

“I’m very close with the whole family,” said Michael. “I call Mrs. Kobylinski ‘mom.’ I call Mr. Kobylinski “coach.” Every time I go home, I make sure I stop by and say hello to the ‘brothers and sisters” from my other family.”

The relationship began when the Kobylinskis’ youngest son, Brayden, began attending Benedictine boys’ basketball games with his family. His favorite player by far was Michael Roberts.

“Brayden thought Michael was a superhero,” said Nicole. “He was four years old at the time. When it came for his turn for show and tell at preschool, he said he wanted to bring Mike Roberts. He was upset when we told him you can’t bring a person to show and tell. So I called the teacher and she suggested having Michael come and visit with the kids for a morning. He did, and all the kids loved him.”

The Kobylinskis told Michael they would do whatever they could to help him, and they did. Mark helped him navigate some of the details of last-second enrollment at Toledo. The whole family helped him pack up for his move to his dorm at UT. They even held a last-minute graduation party for him at their home.

michael-roberts-with-nicole“At that point we decided to see him through to the end,” said Nicole. “We didn’t care if he played football or not. We just wanted to see him go to college. From there the relationship took off. We just love him. My kids look upon him like a big brother. We come to as many UT games as we can, and we listen or watch on the Internet if we can’t make it. I text him throughout the game and right afterward just so he can see the messages later and know we were watching the game.”

Nicole was a little worried at first about what Michael’s mother might think of an unknown white family playing such a big role in her son’s life. Maria was concerned at first, but that quickly changed when she met the Kobylinskis.

“At first I admit I was a little jealous but they have been absolutely amazing from day one,” said Maria. “They are an inspiration. I love them. I couldn’t ask for a better influence for my son. I really appreciate everything they’ve done for him and I want them to know that. They are always there for him.”

Said Nicole, “Unfortunately, some people see us and think it’s like that movie, ‘The Blind Side.’ It’s not like that at all. We don’t have any money. My husband is a Catholic school teacher. And Michael has a mom who loves him and has been a really good mother under very difficult circumstances at times. We’re all good friends now. I talk with Maria often. I tell her, ‘Thanks for sharing Michael.’ He’s like a gift from God. We’re just here for him.”

In addition to adding the Kobylinskis into his extended “family,” Michael has also been able to reunite with an actual blood relative—his father. Michael Roberts, Sr., who was released from prison in 2014. He has since moved to Virginia, got married, and began working as a short-order chef. He is basically starting his life over.

“He’s doing very well for himself, actually,” said Michael of his father. “I visited him and his new family for the first time last summer (in 2015). He and his wife, Amber, have three kids. They just had a baby girl. They are a very nice family. I even went to church with them. It made me feel like they are the kind of family I wish I had growing up.

“I’d say we’ve become the closest that we’ve ever been. He’s talked about coming to a football game. He says he’s coming to my graduation. He’s definitely making the effort. I’m very proud of how he has transitioned into becoming an adult.”

“This is Your Time”

With so many challenges facing Michael, it’s somewhat ironic that the last thing to fall into place for him at college was what got him there in the first place – playing football. For most of his college football career, he wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire. After sitting out his grayshirt year, Michael played sparingly as a freshman in 2013. In 2014, he appeared in nine games and had just four receptions, though two were for touchdowns. Finally, in 2015, he began to break through. Splitting time at tight end with Alex Zmolik, Michael caught 21 passes for 234 yards and four touchdowns. Good numbers, but nothing like the eye-popping stats he has been putting up this season. For Michael, it’s been a long time coming.

“I won’t lie, it hasn’t always been easy,” said Michael. “Lots of times I would call my mom because I wasn’t playing, or no balls were coming my way. But I can pretty much get through anything. It really comes down to how you view things. I’ve used everything that’s happened to me in positive light. If I didn’t, I might have self-destructed by now.”

Those words have special meaning for Maria. No one is enjoying his success this year more than she is. After all, she never had any doubt he would be a success.

“I’m so loving it,” she said. “I kept telling him his time would come. So this year with all the success he’s having, I told him, this, right here, right now. This is your time.”

Has anyone ever deserved it more?

Print Friendly
Did you like this? Share it:

A century of preparing educators: Judith Herb College of Education celebrates 100 years

October 27th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in From Our Alumni

By Dr. Edward A. Janak
UT associate professor and chair of foundations of education

education-1Throughout its history, The University of Toledo has seen its mission as fulfilling the needs of the city. The Judith Herb College of Education has demonstrated this notion for a century.

UT started as a municipal university — The University of the City of Toledo — one of three such institutions in the state. From its earliest years, UT partnered with the University of Ohio in Miami (later called Miami University) to provide a degree and teacher training: Students would attend UT for three years taking classes from faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences followed by one year at Miami. This was in addition to its Bureau of Research and Public Service that housed a Department of Educational Efficiency Service. Its mission was to serve Toledo’s educational organizations as well as the officers and teachers of the schools in the city.

In 1914, the state of Ohio enacted a new law regulating which universities could produce accredited teachers; only those universities on the state “approved” list could do so. Acting quickly, the University president addressed the Board of Directors reporting that local school districts were requesting UT take steps to become approved. Thus, in March 1916, the Board of Directors created the Teachers College of Toledo University. It started with a faculty of four: Josephine Leach, D.W. Henry, A.W. Trettien (who would become the first dean and serve until 1926) and A.M. Stowe.

education-2Once it was fully established, the college moved ahead rapidly, expanding programs and hiring faculty to satisfy the demand for teachers. In 1917, it added a University Evening High School to provide instruction to adults in the community seeking a high school diploma. In 1919, it changed title from Teacher’s College to College of Education. In 1926, David Henry became dean and would hold the position for more than 20 years. During his tenure, the college would stabilize its program but continue to grow in numbers of students and faculty.

Starting in 1927, the college began offering graduate programs in elementary and secondary education. Its undergraduate curriculum had expanded from a dozen courses to more than 30 offerings, balanced between foundational and pedagogical courses. In the mid-1930s, there was talk of an imminent teacher shortage; the College of Education increased its work to try and satisfy this need. By decade’s end, the college sponsored a Demonstration School to put into practice what it taught.

Education students in 1962

Education students in 1962   

There was a shift in the purpose of schooling nationwide, moving from purely academics to teaching the whole child and schooling for life. As usual, the College of Education kept up with the trends; by the 1940s, there was a rise in vocational education and preparing teachers for the trades of northwest Ohio, physical education, as well as explicitly progressive teaching courses. The college also began offering courses in school administration.

Of course, the decade also saw the horrors of World War II; UT was on the forefront of wartime service offered through its students in all areas. The College of Education joined in by teaching “school the year round” to allow students to matriculate in three years and then enlist with a degree.

As the purpose of schooling expanded and the baby boom created a tremendous need for teachers. By the 1950s, in addition to elementary and high school teachers, the college was producing teachers in vocational education, physical education, business education, home economics and art. The college was experimenting with a series of courses titled Problems in… and Research in…; teachers in the city would partner with a faculty member to work on active research problems impacting daily practice in the classrooms.

Members of the Toledo Student Education Association rode in the 1965 Homecoming parade.

Members of the Toledo Student Education Association rode in the 1965 Homecoming parade.

During that decade, Mary M. Gillham became the head librarian for the University, a position she would hold with pride for years. In fact, Gillham Hall — current home to the Judith Herb College of Education — is named in her honor as the building used to be the library.

As the turmoil of the second half of the 20th century hit the state, the college continued steadfastly producing quality teachers and school administrators throughout the decades. It kept up with the national trends and produced teachers aware of the latest in research and pedagogy.

After operating as a municipal school for more than 80 years, the University became a state institution in 1967. That big change meant a new name — The University of Toledo — and subsidy for students and state support for capital improvement. Enrollment steadily grew, and buildings popped up expanding the campus.

Judith Herb talked with students at the Judith Herb College of Education’s 2006 fall welcome picnic.

Judith Herb talked with students at the Judith    Herb College of Education’s 2006 fall welcome    picnic.   

In 2006, a couple months after the University merged with the Medical University of Ohio, UT graduates Judith and Marvin Herb, and their sons, Thomas and Jon, contributed $15 million to fund numerous scholarships as well as educational assessment support and research initiatives in the College of Education. The Herbs designated $8 million of the gift for the Herb Scholars Fund, with another $4.25 million going to support the Herb Research Initiatives Fund, which bonded together researchers with a common interest in learning. The remaining $2.75 million funded the creation of a faculty development and electronic assessment support system fund. Additionally, to recognize the single largest donation in school history, the college was renamed in honor of Judith Herb.

Julie Kandel, who was a senior majoring in education in 2007, right, gave a tour of Gillham Hall, the renovated home of the Judith Herb College of Education, to Judith Herb, left, and others. The state provided $12.4 million in funding for the renovation of the building, which was rededicated to the college in a special ceremony in August 2007 following the public tours.

Julie Kandel, who was a senior majoring in education in 2007, right, gave a tour of Gillham Hall, the renovated home of the Judith Herb College of Education, to Judith Herb, left, and others. The state provided $12.4 million in funding for the renovation of the building, which was rededicated to the college in a special ceremony in August 2007 following the public tours.

“The University of Toledo’s mission, especially that of the College of Education, was at the heart of our decision to make this pledge,” Judith Herb, a 1961 UT education graduate, said in 2006. “Marvin, our sons and I believe deeply in the power of education. If we can help to make a difference in the lives of some future educators, we are proud to do so.”

Following two years of major renovations, Gillham Hall, a building that has been a cornerstone of Main Campus since 1952, was rededicated in 2007. The state of Ohio provided $12.4 million in funding for the project. The building’s exterior remained primarily untouched while the interior was completely revamped. Gillham Hall opened fall semester that year with state-of-the-art classrooms that range in capacity from 18 to 40 students; a 75-seat tiered multipurpose auditorium/classroom/meeting room; three technology support center computer labs; a doctoral dissertation presentation/defense conference room; department suites that include student learning community space; and a brick entryway that offers the opportunity to inscribe dedications.

At this moment, the college is anticipating how it can satisfy the needs of 21st century schools in support of the mission of the comprehensive university. It is finding innovative ways to prepare educators for pre-kindergarten through university classrooms, as well as supporting those already teaching by offering programs that include:

  • Traditional undergraduate programs credentialing teachers in early childhood, elementary, middle childhood, career and technical education, adolescence to young adult education, special education interventionist, as well as the areas of art, foreign language and music;
  • Nontraditional certification via LAMP — Licensure and Master’s Program;
  • College Credit Plus teacher credentialing programs in biology, chemistry and English;
  • Endorsements in reading, preschool special needs, early childhood generalist (grades 4-5), and transition to work;
  • Online programs include master’s degrees in educational technology as well as early childhood education, special education, and certificates in virtual educator, peace education, diversity, and educational assessment;
  • On-campus certificates in culture and change in institutions and interprofessional teaming in early childhood education;
  • Principal and school district leader licensure programs;
  • A full slate of master’s, educational specialist and doctoral degrees in all areas, including higher education, to prepare those working in colleges and universities; and
  • Innovative centers such as the Center for the Advancement of Professional Learning Communities and Virtual Collaboration, the Center for Education in Targeted Violence and Suicide, the Daso Herb Center for Advanced Research in Education, and the Center for Nonviolence and Democratic Action.
Print Friendly
Did you like this? Share it:

Revved up: Assistant dean pays tribute to alma mater with Rocket Room

October 27th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in From Our Alumni

By Vicki L. Kroll

donovan1One look at Donovan Nichols’ Rocket Room and it’s clear: He’s got spirit; yes, he does.

The assistant dean for student involvement and leadership exudes enthusiasm explaining how he put together the ultimate UT fan zone.

“The whole idea has been 14 years in the making,” he said looking around his basement walls emblazoned with UT jerseys, ticket stubs, posters, stories and more. “But actually putting this together took about five months.”

donovan2He pointed to a wooden sign featuring old Rocket and UT logos that bookend the stenciled name “Rocket Room.”

“That sign is actually what started the whole idea. When I was a student, I was walking around with Tom Trimble [then associate director of the Student Union] in Rocky’s Attic, and this sign was sitting in a corner,” Nichols recalled. “Tom said it was a sign that was hanging in Rocky’s Attic in the 1980s, and he said, ‘We’re probably going to throw it out.’ And I said, ‘No, you’re not.’”

It was 2002 when Nichols rescued the relic and stored it at his parents’ house until now.

“Back then, I said, ‘When I have my own house, I’m going to create a Rocket Room. I’m going to carpet it with field turf and put that sign in it.’”

donovan4With a head’s up and permission from Athletics, Nichols snagged pieces of turf in April during the Glass Bowl renovations. Prepping it for installation took most of the summer.

“The turf fibers are about an inch long with about a half inch of infill — sand granules and rubber pellets to make it feel more like real grass — so I had to get all of that infill out,” he said.

After power-washing and scrubbing the turf, Nichols cut and put pieces together to resemble a field with help from his girlfriend, Alycia Demey; friend and UT alumnus, Rob Bleile; and father, Tom Nichols.

The bar features a piece of the blue rocket from the center of the field. “I was lucky enough to get that piece, so I wanted to showcase it,” Nichols said.

Collecting UT memorabilia started during his undergraduate days when he helped establish a tradition. The year was 2000, and Nichols and his friend, Jason Rodriguez, created Blue Crew.

donovan5“Blue Crew’s first game ever was traveling to Penn State. There were four of us that went. About 92,000 people were in the stadium, and only about 2,000 of which were Toledo fans, but we were louder the entire game,” Nichols said pointing to a story about UT’s upset of the Nittany Lions, 24-6. “That was a really cool experience for me because that was the founding of Blue Crew.”

It was the Rocket Fanatic group from the 1990s that inspired Nichols and Rodriguez to start the masked spirited squad.

“We wanted to create something that emulated the Rocket Fanatic group, but do something that would continue the spirit even after we graduated,” Nichols explained. “So we decided to wear the masks and wigs so we would cloak our identities because it wasn’t about us being the spirited students, it was about having the positive energy and the positive spirit always represented at the University.”

He still radiates that energy and excitement for the Rockets and his alma mater. Standing by his Blue Crew uniform, he said, “My mask is signed by Chester Taylor, who was one of the great UT football players. I have a poster of him and a jersey. He was a running back for the Minnesota Vikings and a couple other NFL teams. I try to pay tribute to some of the players who were around when I was a student because I knew some of them. In the stairwell, there’s a poster of [quarterback] Bruce Gradkowski and [wide receiver] Lance Moore, both who were students when I was around, and I have pictures of them in the NFL as well to display their success.”

donovan3Then there’s a white football shirt with a midnight blue No. 16, which was worn by the quarterback known as the “Wizard of Oohs and Aahs.”

“I wanted to highlight Chuck Ealey because it’s incredible the accomplishment that he had; he’s the only collegiate quarterback in history to go undefeated. From 1969 to 1971, the Rockets went 35-0,” Nichols said. “And he was undefeated in high school, too.”

That sense of history is everywhere in the Rocket Room — the sheet music for “Fair Toledo,” the alma mater, is framed, along with “U of Toledo,” the fight song. Also under glass is the UT Traditions brochure Nichols created after more than 500 hours of research on the school’s history.

“I wanted to walk down memory lane and teach some UT history, and display why people should be proud of The University of Toledo,” he said. “Hopefully, the Rocket Room will inspire more people to show their pride in the institution.”

After graduating with honors with a bachelor of arts degree in communications in 2004 and a master of education degree in higher education in 2006, Nichols stopped to say goodbye to Dr. Kaye M. Patten, senior vice president of student affairs.

donovan6“She went over and took this [2005 GMAC Bowl Championship poster] off her office wall and gave it to me and said she appreciated everything I had done for the University. I was moving to Las Vegas, so it was a piece I took with me. And when I worked in Georgia, it was with me there, and now it’s back with me at home.”

“Donovan was one of the most passionate UT students. He started Blue Crew, created the Rocky doll, was Student Government president,” Patten said. “It’s so nice to have him back where he belongs to inspire that same love for the University in our students.”

“I always thought it would be fun to come back to UT to work, but I didn’t necessarily have a plan to come back. I knew I could show my Rocket pride wherever I went. When I worked in Las Vegas, I created an alumni chapter out there,” he said. “But it feels comfortable in Toledo; I’m home.

“I think if I had a Rocket Room like this in any other city, it wouldn’t be as cool,” he added and laughed. “At least here, a lot of people can come over and see it and appreciate it. Go Rockets!”

Print Friendly
Did you like this? Share it:
Return to top of page