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RMU’s Running Men

hofacre-race

Runners take off during RMU’s annual Hofacre Memorial 5k Run/Walk, held on the Robert Morris University campus every November.

“I hate running,” says Marcel C. Minutolo, Ph.D. “I can’t stand any second of it.”

A surprising sentiment, coming from a man who once ran 10 marathons, a 50-mile race, and a 100K race—all in the same year.

Minutolo, who serves as head of Robert Morris University’s Department of Management, is a popular professor known across campus for his characteristic fedora and bow tie. Few know, however, that this well-dressed business strategist once spent most of his time training for and running in some of the most grueling races in the country.

There was a time when Minutolo was lifting five times a week, running six days a week, and doing yoga three days a week, helping him run at an impressive seven minute/mile clip. “But now I have kids, a real job, and I am 25 lbs. heavier,” he says. “So there is not much running these days.”

Minutolo first got in to running when he was serving in the U.S. Army in Bosnia. “I was helping a friend train for Special Forces selection,” he says, “and we’d do laps around a track to train for a 2-mile physical fitness test. Before deployment I was 230 pounds and completely out of shape. Running got me in shape.”

Bit by the running bug, Minutolo kept up with it when he returned to the States. His distances kept getting longer and longer, so in 2004 he decided to try a marathon. “I didn’t even train,” he says. “I just decided to run. I’m a little crazy.” He ended up finishing in 3:56.

Following a difficult divorce, Minutolo decided to do some traveling, and he figured a good way to do it would be to run every music marathon in the country. After finishing six races, he decided to move on to the next level: ultramarathons. “My distances kept getting longer and I was looking for a new challenge. And in the running world, it doesn’t get any tougher than an ultra.”

In 2006, he ran the 100K Great Eastern Endurance Run in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, finishing in just under 13 hours. In 2006, he came in first place in the C&O Canal Towpath 100K One Day Hike, which starts in Georgetown and ends in Harper’s Ferry. He’s even run the infamous Death Valley Trail Marathon.

Over the course of his running career, Minutolo has had many harrowing experiences. He’s been chased by a deer, had dogs charge at him, and been hit by cars (three times). He also has a tendency to get lost on trail races, one time running five miles off the path before realizing his error and retracing his steps.

This past August, he ran the Baker Trail UltraChallenge 50-miler, a local race in Plum, that’s part of the Rachel Carson Trail Conservancy. “One mile in, I feel this sharp pain in the bottom of my foot,” he says. “I thought it was a rock, and I took off my shoe. But I couldn’t find anything.” Two miles down the trail he checks his heel and notices it’s bleeding. Turns out there was a nail in the bottom of his shoe. “I was on a pace for an 11-min. mile, which is pretty good, but the nail threw me out of whack.” He ended up finishing fourth from the end in a race that, in 2006, he had finished in fourth place despite 110-degree heat.

So if he “hates” running so much, why does he do it?

“It’s the great equalizer,” he says. “It’s very humbling, puts people on a more level playing level. Plus, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come up with an idea while running. There’s no cell phones, no kids screaming, no interruptions—it’s a great way to get some thinking done.”

Minutolo says that running is also a great way to see a place. He’s run in Santiago, Chile, while there on business, and in Jerusalem, too. “One time I was running laps around the old city in Jerusalem, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow, think of the people who have trod this path!'”

Now that he’s steadily getting back into running, Minutolo says his goal is to complete a 100-miler.

“Like I said, I’m a little crazy.”

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If you’re at RMU on a daily basis, there’s no doubt you’ve seen Mark J. Eschenfelder, Ph.D. That’s because he laces up every day for a run around campus. In fact, Eschenfelder, an associate professor of economics and legal studies, has been running every day, rain or shine, for an amazing 4032 consecutive days (and counting). If you’re doing the math, that’s more than 11 years.

It all started back on January 1, 2002, when he ran a 5K in Westerville, Ohio. “The weather was nice during the first couple weeks of the month, so I went out and ran each day,” he says. After a few weeks, he thought he’d see if he could run every day that month. After that, he thought he’d try to do one hundred days of consecutive running. Once he accomplished that goal, he thought he’d try for a year. “After that,” he says, “I just kept running every day.”

Before his impressive streak, Eschenfelder ran solely for exercise, typically around five or six days a week. Last year he ran in 81 races – most of them 5Ks – and finished two half-marathons.  “I like running as a physical activity because it requires little coordination and can be done almost anywhere,” he says. “I also enjoy running in races, even though I am a middle-of-the-pack runner.”

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J. Brian O’Roark, Ph.D., professor of economics and legal studies, is another one of RMU’s resident runners.

O’Roark cracked a vertebrae while running cross country and track in high school and as a result ended up stopping for about ten years. He picked it up again “as an excuse to get out of the house.” “There is only so much yard work you can do,” he says, “and it doesn’t actually take you anywhere other than around the yard.”

Gradually O’Roark eased back in to running, taking part in a few local 5Ks. Then he saw an advertisement in Runner’s World magazine for the Virginia Beach marathon, which takes place around St. Patrick’s Day. “With my last name being O’Roark, a plot was hatched. He ended up finishing well ahead of his target time and ended up signing on for two more marathons that year.

Since then O’Roark has run seven marathons, including the Seattle Marathon in 2010.  In 2012, he ran the Boston Marathon in what was one of the race’s hottest days on record. “It was 88 degrees in mid-April when the gun went off,” he says. “Nevertheless, the community spirit during that race was unbelievable. The towns along the course opened the fire-hydrants, kids handed out orange slices and popsicles, and people all along the course even used their own hoses to cool us off.”

O’Roark says the thing he likes best about running is belonging to a community. “Runners share a special camaraderie that is far too uncommon these days. Local 5Ks are gatherings of old-timers and familiar faces. No one cares where you place – a high school runner is more than likely going to win – nor do people care what your job is.  To everyone there, you’re a runner, and that’s good enough.” ~

Written by Valentine J. Brkich (who, by the way, is an avid runner, too)

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Your Story – Anastasia Rose-Diamantis Lopez ’08

HOMETOWN: Ambridge, Pa.
OCCUPATION: Career Educator and Advisor at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich.
RMU DEGREE: Business Administration, Hospitality and Tourism Management (Cum Laude)

Anastasia in Paris

Anastasia in Paris

First off, tell me about your global Christmas tree…
About two years ago, I started collecting international ornaments from different countries. I have over 25 ornaments from all over the world and I can’t wait to add to it every year. It’s a fun hobby because every Christmas I get to look at all the beautiful ornaments from countries like Japan, China, Australia, Switzerland, Greece, Mexico, and Egypt and think, wow—while we are all so very different, we still share so much together. When I was getting married, I had an “Around the World” bridal shower and it was showcased as part of the décor. People loved it. My husband, who’s Mexican, likes what the tree represents. For us it symbolizes how beautiful the cultures of this earth are, and we like to celebrate them all year round.

How did you develop your passion for international and study-abroad education?
It was a number of things, really. First of all, I grew up in a predominately Greek heritage household where we spoke Greek and ate Mediterranean food. My yiayia (grandmother), who was from Greece, lived with us and didn’t speak any English. So speaking Greek was a necessity. My family and I attended the Greek Orthodox Church, and I learned to Greek dance, attended Greek school, and learned everything I could about my heritage.

My sister married a man from Kenya, who had been an exchange student at our high school. He and I had actually been in French language class together, and I wanted to know as much as I could about his culture. One year our teacher had us participate in an international pen-pal program where the students were paired with a student abroad. I ended up getting a boy around my age from Northern Ireland. We wrote letters back and forth, and continued emailing and Skyping each other when we went off to college.

All of these things together helped to spark my interest in international experiences.

What was your first study abroad experience like?
One thing that was always a mystery to me was my Italian heritage; I wanted to know more about my roots. So when I got the chance to study abroad, I decided on Rome, Italy. I was working full-time at a hotel in Cranberry Township where I was a guest service representative for almost three years while attending RMU full time. I saved every nickel and dime I could for my study abroad experience—about $10K total–and I read travel guides and books to prepare me for my experience.

It was wonderful. I spent five months studying and living in Italy, taking long weekend trips to different countries like Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic, and numerous others, totaling 12 countries. I navigated around international cities, budgeted foreign currency, and tried my best to speak in different languages to communicate with the locals. I took an Italian language and culture class while in Italy to help me transition better to my new environment and even met family abroad for the first time.

With her Northern Ireland penpal, Connor, at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

With her Northern Ireland penpal, Connor, at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

What impact did that experience have on you?
Seeing how other cultures live gave me a new perspective of my life in America. When I returned I completed three different internships related to my study abroad experience. One was at RMU’s Study Abroad office; another was with Colleagues International, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State; a third was with a website called Abroad Scout, where I managed their social media and publishing articles related to studying abroad. I learned so much, and it really changed my life.

What have you been doing with your career since graduating from RMU?
Not long after moving to Kalamazoo, I started working as a career educator and advisor graduate assistant at Western Michigan University while working towards my master’s degree in higher education and student affairs.

Still, I wanted to gain more experience, so I completed a 300-hour academic advising internship with the TRIO Student Success Program, a grant-funded program for first-generation college students. Then, another opportunity came up where I managed volunteers for an Asian Studies Conference that was held on WMU’s campus. I also started publishing articles and conducting a webinar called “The Importance of International Experiences for Wandering Educators”. More recently I was offered a position with Go Overseas to contribute as a writer for their Writing Corps Program.

Next semester I will be interning with WMU’s study abroad office and Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s International Programs and Midwest Institute. I’ve also attended five professional development conferences, four of which I received a grant for, and I was a presenter for the Michigan Association of College Admissions Counseling conference. In addition, I was invited to join a committee at WMU called the Intercultural Competence Committee, where I work with a team of people working on strategies to help our campus become interculturally competent.

Next June I’ll graduate with my master’s degree, and I can’t wait. I am so excited to start my career in the higher education and student affairs field, something that ignites my passions. I love working in career and student employment services, study abroad and international education, and academic advising, and I will be searching for positions in those fields. While I’m keeping an open mind of where I want to work, my husband and I would love to move back to the Pittsburgh area again.

At the Chain Bridge in Budapest, Hungary

At the Chain Bridge in Budapest, Hungary

How did you get nominated for the GoAbroad awards?
In January 2009 I started a group on Facebook called “The International Cultures Group“, where I advocate for my passion in international education and study abroad while educating others about issues, topics, and curiosities about it. I post about international events and holidays, international foods and desserts, international programs (academic, voluntary, etc.), and especially cultures and traditions from countries all around the globe. Each year GoAbroad hosts the GoAbroad Innovation Awards for outstanding contributions to the field of international education. Although I wasn’t a finalist this year, they recognized my work with my Facebook group and want to feature me on their blog in the coming months.

What first attracted you to RMU?
I transferred to RMU in the fall of 2005. My youngest brother was in preschool at the time, and one of the parents at the school was an RMU faculty member. She told me how RMU had a fantastic business school and a great reputation for what I wanted to do. So I went on a tour, met with a professor, and asked a lot of questions. I found out that RMU’s Hospitality and Tourism Program was one of the top 12 best programs in the country. I couldn’t pass it up. I applied, got in, and absolutely loved my time at RMU. Being a medium-sized private institution, RMU had a family-feel to it that I really enjoyed. Class sizes were small, and the care the faculty and staff showed me was incredible. I’m still very close with many of my old professors to this day. Some even came to my wedding!

What was your overall RMU experience like?
I transferred in as a Patriot Scholar and in my first semester of being at RMU, I was inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars Honor Society, was vice president of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Association, and wrote for The Sentry newspaper as a feature writer. I had to work while going to school full time to survive, but I participated as much as I could. In December 2008 all my hard work paid off when I graduated cum laude. I really loved my RMU experience, and I’d love to be able to work there someday.

Interview by Valentine J. Brkich

RMU Brings Home the Gold

Robert Morris University’s School of Business recently learned that it has received the coveted LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2000, the LEED rating system is the standard for measuring building sustainability. It verifies whether or not a structure was designed and built using sustainable materials and processes that benefit both human health and the environment.

“This is a wonderful achievement for Robert Morris,” says President Gregory G. Dell’Omo. “Receiving this sought-after recognition signifies that we are committed to sustainability, which is something that’s very important to our entire university community.”

LEED offers four certification levels for new construction: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Each level corresponds to a certain number of credits earned across the five basic categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

The School of Business achieved LEED Gold status after garnering some additional points in an additional category called Innovation and Design. The building exceeded LEED requirements for the amount of natural light it lets in, for recycled content, and for certified wood (i.e., wood that is raised through sustainable methods). What tipped the scales from the Silver to Gold rating was RMU’s decision this summer to purchase some green power for a minimum of two years.

In addition, the construction itself had a small impact on the environment since the Rudolph Gardens were preserved and that there was no need to add additional parking space to the site.

“We are quite proud to receive this recognition from the USGBC,” says Patrick Litzinger, Ph.D., department head of economics and interim dean of the school. “The School of Business building is a valuable resource to our students and provides state-of-the-art learning facilities that will help them hit the ground running in their careers. The LEED Gold Certification is the icing on the cake, and it shows that this building is good for the local environment as well.”

For more information about LEED certification, visit the U.S. Green Building Council’s website at usgbc.org.

Written by Valentine J. Brkich

A Night to Remember at RMU

It was a cold, damp, gloomy evening in western Pennsylvania. But at Robert Morris University, it was one of the brightest, warmest nights in the school’s history.

On Tuesday, Sept. 6, close to 350 distinguished guests converged at the RMU campus in Moon Township for a special, three-pronged celebration marking the university’s 90-year anniversary, the opening of the brand new School of Business Complex, and the official announcement of the Changing Lives, Building Futures capital campaign. This celebration was a long time coming, and it was one that even Mother Nature couldn’t put a damper on.

The new School of Business Complex was the focal point of the celebration. As guests arrived they were escorted by students to the building, an 18,000-square-foot, LEED-certified facility that will serve as a high-tech learning laboratory for RMU students and a valuable resource for the business community at large. Inside, the guests got the chance to check out some of the building’s state-of-the-art technology, including the Interactive Learning Module in The ATI Center, the trading room inside the PNC Business Center, and the telepresence room inside the United States Steel Corporation Videoconferencing and Technology Center.

Video: RMU’s new School of Business Complex

The evening’s program was led off by a welcome from RMU President Gregory G. Dell’Omo who spoke of RMU’s impressive transformation over its 90 years and its important role in the transformation and strengthening of the region’s economy. Dr. Dell’Omo was followed by Richard J. Harshman, chairman, president, and CEO of Allegheny Technologies Incorporated (ATI); James E. Rohr, chairman and CEO of PNC Financial Services Inc.; Susan M. Kapusta, Ph.D., general manger of community affairs and president of the United States Steel Foundation Inc.; Gary R. Claus, managing director of The Jade Group and vice chair of RMU’s Board of Trustees.

Another one of the evening’s speakers was David J. Malone, chairman and CEO of Gateway Financial and chairman of RMU’s Changing Lives, Building Futures campaign. Under Malone’s leadership, and despite a recession, RMU was able to raise $36 million thus far toward its goal of $40 million. One of the evening’s highlights was when Claus surprised Malone by presenting him with the inaugural David J. Malone Volunteer Service Award.

“This was a memorable evening for Robert Morris University,” said Jay T. Carson, RMU’s senior vice president for institutional advancement. “It was great to see the many benefactors, from so many different levels, all gathered together to show their support RMU’s mission and vision. Without them, none of this would have been possible, and we are truly grateful.”

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Written by Valentine J. Brkich