Ties That Bind for a Lifetime

Mount News: alumni magazine

By: Jessica Baltzersen

 

Faith-Based Bond 

For Nancy O’Neil Blaha, Jody Meyer Owens, Lynn Rice Toner, Frances Mohner Warmington, Bonnie Farina Ingels, Kathy Kuczek Hull, Barb Coyle Montavon and Candyss Call McNichols (all class of 1975) fond memories, their children’s weddings and strong faith kept the group connected throughout the years. Their 60th birthdays brought them together again. 

The group of five nursing and three education majors met at the Mount’s small, intimate setting. Montavon roomed with Hull while Blaha roomed with McNichols. Owens roomed with Toner. As their lives interweaved, the strength of their faith and support for one another became the common thread that bound them together after graduation. “We have been there for each other through the highs and lows of our lives, if not physically, through prayer when times are tough,” says Blaha, a nursing major. 

These women helped Owens survive initial tough times at the Mount. Her parents had moved to Florida and she was the only Protestant girl among the group. She had never set foot in a Catholic school. As her grades began to slip she “wanted to quit and go home,” says Owens, a nursing major. With Toner as her first roommate, Owens stumbled into the group of girls “by the grace of God,” as she describes it. 

“They took me as I was and made me a part of a group that I will never forget,” she says. 

The weekend of Sept. 20, 2013, Toner, an education major, hosted a 60th birthday dinner at her Northern Kentucky home. It was a chance to regroup for the eight friends, who came from Missouri, Florida, Northern Ohio and Kentucky to reunite and remember good times. 

The women reminisced about many fun times, including lying on the concrete behind the Physical Education building, or as they called it, “Seton Beach.” And of course they visited the Mount campus. 

“At our age it is comforting to have dear friends that know your history,” says McNichols, an education major.

Friends Become Family 

Attending the Mount encourages students to embrace new experiences. Whether it’s learning how to live in a new country or opening up one’s heart to faith, the College environment helps make these connections. 

Satinder Singh Bharaj ’87, a dual major in biology and chemistry, is grateful to his Mount friends who made him a part of their families. Bharaj joined the Mount as one of the first 12 males on campus in 1986, the year the College became co-ed. Born and raised in Kenya, Bharaj made many adjustments to life in Cincinnati. 

Bharaj says he is honored by the way his Mount friendships have continued as those college buddies raise families of their own.

Today Bharaj is an active Mount alumni board member. As an employee of Procter & Gamble, he also serves on the P&G team for the recruitment of Mount science students. “The education, attention from my professors and [critical] thinking skills I acquired from the Mount are invaluable,” says Bharaj. “I know I would not have gotten the same educational experience had I gone somewhere else.” 

Patrick Eichhold ’03, a graphic design major, also formed a family bond with his friends and found his faith at the Mount. He says it wasn’t until his college years that he truly felt the Lord’s presence, which he credits to the Mount’s Campus Ministry program. And Eichhold says the most important relationship he formed at the Mount was with Jesus. 

The lifelong faith is felt through the friendships Eichhold made at freshman orientation. 

He met Beth Smith ’03, a social work major, that night. Later on, he would meet Kyle Wirthwine ’03, an education major; Tricia DelFavero ’03, a physical therapy major and Scott Cropper ’04, an education major. 

When Cropper was determined to get everyone together to watch the movie “The Karate Kid,” one day, he asked Eichhold to join him on his quest to purchase a DVD player. They became friends in the electronics department of a Cincinnati Meijer store. “Scott’s insistence upon “The Karate Kid” was a start to what bonded our group, but it was ultimately laughter that brought us together at different times,” says Eichhold. 

With a close, tight-knit community at the Mount, it’s easy for friends to become family. Eichhold, from Indianapolis, became friends with Smith, Wirthwine, DelFavero and Cropper, but also with their siblings and parents. “We are all part of each other’s families,” Eichhold says. “My family sort of adopted Patrick during our time at the Mount,” says Smith. “My parents invited him over for dinner and he came to extended family activities.” 

Today, Eichhold is an active Mount alumni board member and regularly sees his Mount friends. He and Smith get together weekly to watch their favorite TV series “The Walking Dead.” Eichhold and Wirthwine, who is now married to DelFavero, take annual camping trips. And Eichhold and Cropper often attend must-see concerts and sporting events. 

Eichhold says most of the friends he spends time with are people he met at the Mount. 

Ten years after graduating, the group enjoys watching each other’s families grow. 

This past fall, Wirthwine and DelFavero, and Cropper and his wife welcomed baby girls within a week of each other. “It has been quite an honor to grow with these friends of mine as students, athletes and professionals. Now it’s an even greater honor to see them grow as parents,” says Eichhold. 

College is just the beginning of a student’s adult life. After graduation, busy schedules, career opportunities and settling down to lives and families can sometimes cause friends to drift apart. But for those who met at the Mount, the bond continues to bring them back together today. Through triumphs and hardships it’s the faith, strength, kindness and support that alumni find in one another. 

Jessica Baltzersen ’13 graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and New Media Studies. She is currently freelance writing.