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Tower view, past and present

UC students relive the wisdom of their family’s past 

by Melanie Titanic-Schefft

s a new generation of students enjoys the fusion of old and new architecture across campus, few may be aware of the history and splendor of UC’s McMicken Hall. But two of UC’s undergraduates remember stories about their grandmother, her many achievements as a UC student and how she once climbed the stairway to the Christopher Wren Tower on top of McMicken, soon after the current building was completed in 1950.

Jean Michel, Ed '52, Ed '53, was part of UC’s history when she and a friend were the first to be photographed climbing the stairway to the then highest point on UC’s campus for the 1950 inaugural brochure. Two generations and more than six decades later, Michel’s grandchildren, UC undergraduates Katie and Austin Dew relived their grandmother’s experience by climbing the stairs to the top of McMicken’s still historic tower. 

While at the top of the tower, fifth-year electrical and computer engineering student Katie Dew reflected on the inspiration she gained from stories about her grandmother, whose involvement in many organizations as a UC student in the ’50s has helped Dew pave the way within her own student organizations. 

Inspiration from UC's 1950 'Gang of Five'

One of her grandmother’s most notable organizations was her “Gang of Five,” a group of students working on their teaching degrees while enthusiastic and active about campus issues in the 1950s.

As students, Michel and her “Gang ” were passionate about human rights and equality, and after graduation, remained close for the rest of their lives. Although Michel went on to teach junior high Latin, classmates Maita Levine, Ed '52, Ed '53, M (Ed) '66, and Hurst Sloniker, Ed '52, Ed '53, went on to earn graduate degrees and later returned to teach at UC.

While Levine taught in UC’s math department from 1963 to 2001, she maintained a strong leadership role, including being an active member of the WISE committee, the AAUP’s Collective Bargaining Congress and the National AAUP’s Committee W on Women’s Issues. The AAUP’s Betty Kirschner/Maita Levine Award, given to an Ohio faculty member who has made exemplary contributions in the areas of collective bargaining and women’s rights, was so named to honor Levine’s contributions. 

Taking inspiration from many of these stories, Dew, along with several engineering classmates, recently formed a UC chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery –– Committee on Women (ACM-W), and were recognized in October by UC’s provost and administration as a formal organization at UC.

Lasting friendships

Dew’s younger brother, a second-year communication student, Austin relates his current experiences working in the Blegen Library to the many stories he heard about his grandmother’s “Gang of Five” experience and draws parallels between the old and the new when he runs across many of their names and accomplishments. 

Even though grandma Michel and her friend Levine have passed away, the remaining three “Gang of Five” members continue to stay in contact. Larry Hale, Ed ’52, Ed '53, now lives in Florida, but Sloniker and Rose (Tashjian) Fox, Ed ’52, Ed '53, both live in Ohio and still get together often.

Michel’s twin children, Richard Parsons and Diane Parsons-Dew, AHS ’84, M (AHS) ’86, nutritionist and the mother of Katie and Austin, shared in the recent photo op in the Christopher Wren Tower. 

“As a student at UC, I always marveled at my mother’s accomplishments academically, professionally and personally,” says Diane Dew. “In reflecting back, although many things are different today, one thing hasn’t changed –– friendships.  From my mother’s “Gang of Five” to my own lifelong friendship with Sandy McMahan, AHS '84, and now to my children’s friendships just forming –– thank you, UC!”