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It’s all in the family at some Catholic colleges

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Friday, February 26, 2010

By David Eck and Eileen Connelly, OSU

ARCHDIOCESE — Tom Hudson’s dorm room in Founders Hall at the University of Dayton holds special significance for him; it’s the room his grandfather lived in more than 50 years ago.

The younger Hudson was assigned room 242 when he enrolled at UD last fall. In a surprising coincidence, it’s the same room his grandfather, Robert Hudson, was given when he entered UD as a freshman in 1958.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Robert Hudson said. “When I visited the room, it sure looked familiar.”

When the younger Hudson mentioned that he had been assigned to Founders, his grandfather looked at some old papers and realized that 242 was his room during his first two years on campus.

“I got goosebumps when I looked it up,” Robert Hudson said. “It just brought back so many memories. I had a really good experience at the University of Dayton. I made friends there that I’m still friends with to this day.”

Although the view from campus has changed since his days at UD, Robert Hudson said, the room is remarkably the same.

“I could remember sitting at the desk studying, talking to my roommate,” he said. “I can remember posting up on the wall my class schedule. (It was) just fun going to basketball games.”

After graduating from UD with an electrical engineering degree, Robert Hudson worked for companies in the Cincinnati area. He’s now watching his grandson begin his own journey.

“I’m very proud that he went there,” Hudson said. “He chose it on his own. He liked the school.”

Clete Oberst’s children and grandchildren also liked the school and became Flyers themselves. Oberst, a 1952 graduate, saw five of his seven children and two grandchildren graduate from UD.

“They were all interested in it, and they have all done well,” said Oberst, who worked at UD for 17 years. “It’s got great academics. It’s a family-friendly atmosphere. It’s got opportunities for spiritual development.”

The family’s connection to the university goes back to the summer of 1948, when Oberst and a friend hitchhiked from their native Owensboro, Ky., to Dayton to enroll at UD. Walking, hitching rides and riding local buses through Cincinnati, the trip took about 10 hours.

“It was the hottest day walking through Cincinnati I can ever remember,” Oberst said. “I wanted to go to a Catholic college. Some people in town had been to UD, and they recommended it.”

When it came time for his children to choose a university, the choice was obvious.

“I think it was just understood that you would go to Dayton,” said Oberst.  “They made it easy for them to get a job and go to school here in town. They all had jobs while they were going to school.”

With two grandchildren already UD graduates, Oberst is waiting for another grandchild to enroll next year. Someday there may be a fourth generation, he said.

“It’s been great,” Oberst said. “It certainly helped me through the military and my other jobs.”

The story is similar to that of 1956 graduate Don Frericks, who saw his six children and one grandchild follow him through UD. Two of his other grandchildren are now sophomores.

Frericks and his family were living in Columbus when their oldest child chose to attend UD after high school. The other kids followed suit.

“There was no great pressure that he go there,” said Frericks, who retired from UD after 30 years in the education department. “We never had a discussion with any of them about going [to UD]. It all started out positively with our oldest.”
 
Maureen Braniff, a 2007 graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph, was the third generation of her family to attend the school. While she, her mother, Kathy Braniff, who graduated in 1980, and grandmother, Mary Ann Finn Marquard, a 1954 alum, all had different experiences at the college, the women’s time there “made us who we are today,” said Braniff.
 
Marquard studied nursing at MSJ and met her future husband, Jim, when he was a student at Xavier University. Kathy Braniff said her mother often shared her college memories, and while the fact that her mother attended MSJ made the institution stand out, it wasn’t the only deciding factor in pursuing her own college education there.
 
“The financial aid package was attractive along with the fact that college was still all women at that time. That was of great benefit to me because it really allowed me to shine outside of young men’s expectations. I found it very empowering,” said Braniff, who earned a bachelor’s degree in medical technology and now works at a reference lab.
 
Also beneficial, she said, was the camaraderie, traditions and spirituality. “I had a hard transition into college,” Braniff admitted. “I was scared to connect with people at first, so I went to daily Mass right before dinner and didn’t feel so lost and alone.”
 
Staying in contact with her MSJ classmates over the years, returning to campus for various events and currently serving on the school’s alumni board have helped her stay connected with the college, which she describes as a “constant in my life.” Her mother now lives close to MSJ at Bayley Place, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity, who also founded the college, and still attends regular gatherings with her classmates.
 
As a freshman at a larger, public university, Maureen Braniff recalls walking across campus and seeing her fellow students stare at their shoes rather than greeting others with a smile. “That’s not the environment I wanted to be in,” said Braniff, so she transferred to MSJ, where, she noted, “people smiled when I walked on campus.”
 
While proud that she carried on her family’s legacy by attending the college, Braniff said she feels her time there, “really helped me become my own person. I was really able to get involved and be an active participant on campus.”
 
She began her studies with the goal of earning an education degree and becoming a high school English teacher, but after working in the admissions and alumni offices, serving as a resident assistant and “being exposed to all facets of campus life,” Braniff realized she wanted to work in higher education.
 
After graduating from MSJ with a degree in English, she went on to earn a master’s degree in education at UD and now works as a student life coordinator at Paul Smith’s College in upstate New York. She returned to MSJ last year to complete her internship and developed an alcohol education program for the school’s counseling center.
 
Other members of the family who attended the college include Sister of Charity Betty Lou Finn and Jeanne Marquard Stuntz, who graduated in 1962 and 1981, respectively.

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