- Matt Dery - Teacher of Journalism & 21st Century Media & Communication
- Tom Costello, J.D. '71 - Director, Multicultural and Inclusion Initiatives
Born in Cleveland, educated in New York, Matt Dery never saw himself becoming a teacher, let alone a high school instructor in Detroit.
“I was working in radio in Cleveland after graduating from Syracuse University in 1995. I was 22 years-of-age doing sports updates and fill-in hosting on the radio,” said Dery.
After his station was sold, Dery found himself reaching out to a classmate from Syracuse, Dave Pasch, who was working at WDFN, a sports-talk radio station in the Detroit market.
“Dave helped me get a job at the station,” Dery said. “I got in the car, packed all my stuff up and drove to Detroit to work at WDFN. I was there for 13 years, from 1996 to 2009. I never thought I’d be here 20 years, but it’s been almost 21.”
In his nearly 21 years in Detroit, Dery has made this city his new home. He met his current wife here, who is from the Metro Detroit area, and had his two kids here. Aside from his family highlights, Dery has had a front-row seat to some of Detroit’s most exciting sporting triumphants in recent history.
“I have had a ton of sports opportunities here,” explained Dery. “I’ve covered Red Wings championships, Pistons championships and called some big games, either play-by-play for UDM or filling in with the Pistons.”
Despite a career that spanned nearly two decades in sport broadcasting, Dery started to waver in his career’s path. After being considered for and not being chosen to be Joe Tait’s replacement, long-time voice of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and friend and idol of Dery’s, the broadcast industry began to look less glamorous.
“When Joe was retiring in 2011, he told me at dinner that I should be the guy to replace him,” Dery said. “Ultimately it didn’t happen, but I believe things happen for a reason. That was the start of me becoming disenchanted with the broadcast business. People weren’t always upfront with one another. That came to a head at my last stop at 105.1. It all led me here in a weird way though. I never thought I’d be a teacher, but I am truly enjoying it.”
A path of ups and downs with a few turns included, Dery found himself reaching out to U of D Jesuit for a career change.
Having no idea what a Jesuit was after growing up in a Jewish household, it was a pair of Cub alums that exposed Dery to The High.
“I got to know U of D Jesuit from John Wolski at first,” shared Dery. “John works for the Tigers in corporate sales. I met him through mutual friends, and he was pushing the Cubs on me. He kept telling me I had to adopt a Detroit high school, and it may as well be U of D Jesuit.
“I then got to know Jack Donnelly from the development office, Pat Donnelly, Sharon Morey and Oscar Olejniczak. We had Pat and Cassius Winston on the air when they were on the road to the State Championship, so I just started to become a fan. Jack Donnelly would bring some Cub gear to the station for us, and I would help out with the golf outing. A month later, I realized there was more for me than a career in broadcasting, so I reached out to Jack about anything at the school.”
Looking for an opening with social media, marketing or even as a master of ceremonies at events, Dery was approached with an opportunity to become a member of the faculty. With the departure of Sam Evalt from the department, UDJ found itself needing someone to teach Journalism and 21st Media and Communications, a natural fit for the veteran of the industry.
"It’s a community, culture and society where you respect everything around you. You are learning not just curriculum, but how to be a better person."
-Dery on Jesuit Education
After an interview process, meeting with Principal Anthony Trudel, Evalt and many more, Dery was offered a position at U of D Jesuit.
“I had become a Cub fan for many years, even guest spoke in Sam Evalt’s class, but now I get to be a real Cub,” smiled Dery.
The first-year teacher has made an incredibly smooth transition from the broadcast booth to the classroom, which he credits to the faculty support here at UDJ.
“I just wanted to come here and fit in,” Dery said. “I wanted to be somewhere I was wanted and respected. It had been awhile since I was on a good team that was winning. When I was with the Ticket, ratings were great and we had a good time, but nothing is comparing to the team we have here at U of D Jesuit. I cannot tell you how wonderful Dana Blake has been. Dan Hill, Justin Manwell, Lynne Grady, Anthony Trudel - the list goes on and on. They have given me leeway and respect of being able to handle it. They are always there for questions, and it has made for a great experience.”
Already in one year, Dery has made his mark on the curriculum, involving his many years of real-world experience to give Cubs an education that can be found nowhere else. Along with teaching in the classroom, Dery has taken ownership of the Cub Broadcast, teaching the aspects of video, delivery on camera and what all goes into a proper broadcast.
“I took a group of students to Fox 2,” said Dery. “Amy Lange gave them a tour, and they watched the news from behind the scenes. That trip received a lot of great feedback. I didn’t think it would have the impact it did just because I’ve worked with Fox 2, sat on panels there, but the looks on the guys’ faces, sitting behind the news desk, and the guys met people at the station. It was a successful day. If there are any connections I have that can help these guys, then that is great. This summer I am taking some guys to Mojo’s, of Mojo in the morning on Channel 955, studio.”
Dery’s favorite part of the job though isn’t what he does in the classroom; it’s the culture that has been formed at UDJ. Be it working with the brilliant minds of the Cub Broadcast, or just walking down the hall and talking with a student who may be a little down, he has found a joy and comfort in the camaraderie at U of D Jesuit.
“I love the Men for Others aspect,” Dery explained. “These guys are so unselfish. I come in here every day and see smiling faces and people greeting you. It is a huge part of why it’s great here. It’s a culture like no other. It is one of the greatest things to ever happen to me. I was very disenchanted with my previous full-time career, so to be able to be at a place so open, communicative and welcoming, it has been a change for me.”
New to teaching, new to U of D Jesuit, Dery has become a real Cub. Exemplifying what is means to be a Man for Others, Dery can be found at many co-curricular events. He has made an impact on UDJ’s social footprint, along with taking The High’s curriculum to the next level. Dery truly has been seeking the Magis in his short time at UDJ.
When asked what a Jesuit education means to him, Dery said, “It’s everything my parents taught me about respect, manners and having your brother’s back. It’s more reflective. I’ve really enjoyed the reflection part of the day. It’s a community, culture and society where you respect everything around you. You are learning not just curriculum, but how to be a better person. I can’t thank Fr. Ted Munz, S.J., and Anthony Trudel, Dana Blake, Kyle Chandler and everyone enough for having me here.”
The University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy welcomes aboard Tom Costello, J.D. in the new position of Director of Multicultural and Inclusion Initiatives.
“The mission of the school and my history here were big factors in coming back,” said Costello. “I started here 50 years ago to the week, actually, with the summer program prior to my freshman year. It was during the Detroit Rebellion. All those racial and social justice issues stuck with me then and laid the foundation to some of what I’ve been doing the past 10 years.”
In his unique position at The High, Costello has several planned initiatives during his first year, which include:
• Assist with the effort to recruit faculty, staff and students of diverse and varied backgrounds
• Provide professional development to faculty and staff around diversity and inclusion
• Develop courses in cross-cultural communication
• Develop programming that provides learning opportunities outside the classroom for students, parents, faculty, staff and alumni
• Work with student organizations that have diversity, justice and inclusion as part of their mission and work
“These initiatives fit well with the Mission and Jesuit Identity of the School,” Costello said. “Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J. emphasized the power of ‘kinship’ in his teaching. He wrote, ‘Kinship—not serving the other, but being with the other. Jesus was not a man for others; he was with them.’ It is my hope that this is the place all the members of our community will be in spirit and action.”
One of his biggest focuses, other than having the ability to engage students in the classroom as a guest lecturer, is to bring opportunities for students and the UDJ family outside of class.
“My plan would be to have a speaker series, where a guest comes in and we invite students, parents, staff, faculty, alums, and have a 45 minute interview with a Q&A,” said Costello. “We did this at Ohio and the interviewers were always students. It gave the students some experience and a chance to speak with someone they were maybe interested in talking with. It was at the center of my teaching - empowering students.”
Most recently, Costello spent the past four years teaching in the School of Communication Studies and serving as a faculty-in-residence at Ohio University. He taught classes in communication among cultures, cross-cultural communication, conflict management, courtroom rhetoric and the Civil Rights Movement. Additionally, he served as the chair of the Scripps College of Communication Diversity Committee.
“My work at Ohio University, both inside and outside the classroom, centered on making the university community a more diverse and inclusive one,” Costello said. “My teaching focuses on helping students look through the ‘lens’ of another person when it comes to race, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, ability, faith and other social identities.”
Prior to his time at Ohio University, Costello made his initial leap toward working in multicultural and inclusion initiatives right here in Detroit. He went from volunteering and sitting on charity boards to becoming the president and CEO of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion.
“We moved downtown in 2003 and became more keenly aware of the issues that surround race and social injustice, and it snowballs from there,” said Costello. “I had been there [Compuware] for 24 years and wanted some change, something more transformational for our citizens, region and even for me so I took a leap.”
"My Jesuit education taught me to make that pivot from charity to justice.”
The majority of Costello’s career was as the general counsel for Compuware Corporation for 24 years.
“I headed up human resources as well, looking at hiring and retaining diverse candidates, as well as what our employee base and leaders looked like,” Costello shared. “Scott Page wrote a book called The Difference, and the bottom line was diversity trumps ability. His statistics show diverse work places provide for a better office with a more engaged work force, and those diverse teams are better problem solvers.
“I didn’t expect to transition out of law. Looking back at it though, lawyers are advocates for folks that don’t have a voice all the time. Now I am an advocate for folks that may not have a voice or just aren’t heard.”
A 1971 graduate of the The High, Costello went on to receive his Bachelor’s Degree from Ohio University and his law degree from what is now Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School.
Costello’s three younger brothers also graduated from UDJ, and his mother’s first cousin was Malcolm Carron, S.J. a former president of the School.
“My four years at UDJ were the building blocks for my career,” said Costello. “In my own story telling, I’d start all of my classes, after the syllabus, with my story and I have a slide that has the UDJ logo and what it means to be a man for others.
“A Jesuit education for me is this realization, a pivot, from charity to justice. Charity involves individual needs. We need to donate clothes, work in soup kitchens, make donations to a cause. But where critical thinking and Jesuit education comes in is why are they poor, why do we need to work in a soup kitchen, and there is where a justice piece comes in. That addresses structural, organizational racism. It addresses policies. My Jesuit education taught me to make that pivot from charity to justice.”
Costello is excited to be back of U of D Jesuit and to continue working not just in social justice and with students, but in Detroit.“I am here to serve as a resource to our faculty and staff,” Costello said. “Additionally, please encourage your students to stop by my office. I am located in the Counseling Department.”
- Matthew Eleweke '12 - Co-Founder & CEO of Sympl.
- Fr. Mike Palmer, CSC '07 - Congregation of Holy Cross & U.S. Army Chaplain Corps.
If you asked Matthew Eleweke ’12 where he saw himself in five years after graduating from The High, he’d tell you a college graduate and gainfully employed in the marketing or advertising industry.
Well fast forward to reality and Eleweke is a college graduate, holding a degree from Michigan State University, but his job today is as CEO and Co-Founder of the Sympl. Mobile App.
"We are a mobile app right now, but we're bigger than that,” said Eleweke. “We'd like to be viewed as a social cause that promotes effective communication within classes for students. Our main focus is to provide the necessary resources for students to reach their academic potential."
The idea for Sympl. came to Eleweke and his Spartan football teammate Mark Meyers while sophomores in East Lansing. Inspired by the Spartan App that allows MSU students to view such things as bus schedules and stops to what the cafeterias are serving on a given day, the two saw an opportunity in the app as a more useful educational tool.
“When I transferred back to MSU, everyone would ask me what classes I had, which sections I was in, what teacher I have,” Eleweke shared. “I found myself sending the same message to multiple people. I knew there had to be a way to make one schedule, one message and be able to send it out to all my contacts. That’s where the current version of the app stemmed from.”
After transferring to Eastern Illinois to play out his football career, Eleweke came back to Michigan State with a new focus in mind.
“It wasn’t until I transferred back to MSU my senior year of college and wasn’t playing football that I really began to focus on academics,” said Eleweke. “There came a point, though, I had to accept the fact I needed to fill my day with something productive. I went back to my old notebook where we first started the app and began refining it. I began tapping into my resources and enlisting help to see my vision for it.”
After a beta testing stage that included more than 300 students at MSU using the app, Eleweke and his team began gaining some traction. They met with MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon and earned a trip to Austin, Texas, to the SXSW Trade Show to represent Michigan State.
“She (Simon) loved it and expressed a need for it on Michigan State’s campus,” Eleweke said. “That was a big accomplishment for us. We have been able to represent Michigan State at the SXSW Trade Show in Austin, Texas, this past March. That really boosted our exposure. Being in a tech trade show with all sorts of people, companies and schools - it gave us the exposure we needed. Things really started to take off from there. We went to another conference in New Orleans after where we were able to connect with even more university administrators.”
Eleweke said Sympl. currently is focusing on three schools — MSU, the University of Texas and Arizona State. He said they also have made connections with 20-plus universities, including schools in Australia, Zambia and Ireland.
“When I was at U of D, I wasn’t thinking about apps or being a CEO,” explained the 2012 UDJ grad. “I wasn’t looking at the tech market. I was just looking at getting my school work done, playing football or basketball depending on the season and going on to college.”
Eleweke kept his mind open after leaving the halls of The High and utilized the teachings and preparation he gained while a Cub.
"One thing I learned in the entrepreneur process is rough times will happen and come, but on the other end are the greatest successes.”
- Eleweke Advice to Current Cubs
“The work itself was not difficult,” Eleweke said. “It was a transition from a high school workload with a dedicated teacher that is on you if you don’t do your work to college where there is more freedom and autonomy. U of D Jesuit prepared me, though, to be able to handle the work.
“Jesuit education is really learning about yourself. Being able to work with others and recognize everyone has something to bring to the table. You meet all different types of people at UDJ. You have people that live far away with a different upbringing than you, but at U of D Jesuit, everyone clicked and could work together. You don’t always get that same luxury at other schools. A Jesuit education provides students the opportunity to meet others of different backgrounds and learn to work together.”
After time as a college student-athlete in the Big Ten Conference and as an entrepreneur in the tech industry, Eleweke’s biggest word of advice to current Cubs is to not be afraid to talk with people.
“The biggest thing to help you is to stick with it and talk to people,” proclaimed Eleweke. “Make sure you network. I had nothing but an idea. I had no money. You need attorneys to start a business, and I had no knowledge or experience with that. It took me putting my idea out there and asking friends, teachers and counselors. Coming out of UDJ, don’t be afraid to talk to people. People will want to help you. Just don’t give up. One thing I learned in the entrepreneur process is rough times will happen and come, but on the other end are the greatest successes.”
For a span of nearly two decades, there has been a Palmer brother walking the halls of The High. This past graduation saw the last of this generation of Cubs, Brian Palmer ‘17, walk across the stage at Greater Grace Temple. This event brought home members of a family who, since their time at U of D Jesuit, have gone on to travel the world, defend our freedoms, and serve as spiritual leaders.
Mike Palmer ’07 has made it his mission to serve as all three of those roles. Just this past April, he became Fr. Mike Palmer of the Congregation of Holy Cross.
“It started back in my sophomore year at U of D Jesuit,” explained Fr. Palmer. “When I was getting ready to visit Notre Dame on a college visit, a priest at my home parish told me about the religious order of Holy Cross, which I didn’t know existed at the time. He suggested I visit their seminary at Notre Dame, and I immediately felt right at home! Community and brotherhood were huge emphases at U of D Jesuit and Shrine, and this was also the case in Holy Cross. One of our driving pillars is community, so that was attractive for me and drew me into thinking about the priesthood seriously.”
Fr. Palmer’s journey to ordination has been anything but ordinary. After joining the seminary in 2007, he graduated from Notre Dame in 2011 and began his graduate studies at Moreau Seminary (Notre Dame, Indiana) in 2012. When his superiors asked him if he was considering a special ministry, he took off on a path less traveled.
“I have so many relatives in the military, and I kept hearing from them that there are so few Catholic priests and chaplains,” said Fr. Palmer. “There is a huge need for spiritual support, especially for Catholics.”
Unsure about whether this ministry was even possible, Fr. Palmer asked his seminary staff about joining the Army Chaplain Corps.
“I wasn’t sure what they would say, but I discovered that the Congregation of Holy Cross has had chaplains in the military since the Civil War,” Fr. Palmer shared. “Fr. [William] Corby, CSC, is actually the only civilian to have his own statue on the battlefield at Gettysburg; it depicts him giving absolution to the Union troops. The seminary staff said I was the first seminarian in three or four decades to pursue this, but they would support me if I was willing to put in the work. It is a need, and we are called to go where God needs us. I feel this is something God is calling me to do.”
Fr. Palmer shipped out to Ft. Jackson in South Carolina in June of 2015 for Army Chaplain school, still just a seminarian.
“That was an incredible experience for a number of reasons,” explained Fr. Palmer. “I had never had
Army experience, and they certainly train you hard core. I was one of 80-90 chaplains there, all of different backgrounds, age groups and faiths. Of 80-90 people, I was one of only four Catholics - I was the lone seminarian, as the others were priests.
“That summer was a great learning experience. I got to be great friends with people that weren’t Catholic. My time at UDJ came into play, because there were folks there who had never known any Catholics – just like I had never met some of their faith groups, either. There were a lot of questions for one another, just out of curiosity and trying to better our understanding. It was a genuinely humbling experience, and it strengthened my faith because I had to put it into my own words.”
Not only did Fr. Palmer learn quickly, but he embraced the reality that as an Army chaplain, he was there not only for Catholics, but to serve all faiths.
“We all had a common goal in mind, and it was incredible to witness,” Fr. Palmer said. “Coming from U of D Jesuit and being committed to doing justice and open to growth was huge. It was a powerful summer.”
Fr. Palmer’s military career is still young and currently has him in the reserves. He was directly commissioned a second lieutenant after completing chaplain school and trains one weekend per month with a local unit as a first lieutenant. Now that Fr. Palmer is ordained, he will be re-commissioned as a full chaplain in July. After two more years with the reserves, Fr. Palmer will be able to go active duty.
“I do want to be deployed. There is a huge need,” said Fr. Palmer. “If I’m truly called to be a chaplain, I don’t want to be behind a desk. I want to be out where God sends me to go and needed. I always think of my uncles and brothers that went without spiritual support and the sacraments for so long while deployed. That story keeps reoccurring and drives me to go active duty.”
Both the Army and his order of Holy Cross have been very supportive of one another, understanding his calling to the chaplaincy, but also his obligations as a full-time time priest. To Fr. Palmer, they are not competing jobs; instead, the chaplaincy is a critical part of his ministry.
When tracking his path to where he is today, currently serving as an associate pastor at Christ the King in South Bend, Indiana, Fr. Palmer recalled two motivating factors for joining the priesthood.
"There wasn’t really one person on which everything rested; instead, I relied on the community of faith at U of D Jesuit, and its attentiveness to faith and knowledge. That aspect of U of D Jesuit education gave me the confidence to give this life a shot."
- Palmer on Receiving Support on Becoming A Priest
“I didn’t exactly have a St. Paul moment where I was struck off my horse,” Fr. Palmer started. “My uncle had been in Iraq with the Army; one night at dinner, he mentioned that the whole time he was there, he never saw a Catholic priest. No mass, no confession, no spiritual guidance for a whole year. My first reaction was, ‘How is that even possible? Going without the sacraments, especially in that environment?’
“The second moment came during a retreat at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. I was having a conversation with one of the guys there about how much he loved to play basketball. It struck me as kind of funny, because I always pictured in my head that the seminary was basically a bunch of monks walking around and praying all day. But hearing these conversations, I realized they were normal men. Imperfect men, like all of us, called to something great by God. That gave me confidence to pursue my vocation. It took away my fear of having to be perfect to do this. The apostles weren’t perfect, and Jesus still calls imperfect people to serve.”
Fr. Palmer looks back to his sophomore year as a Cub when the bricks really began to be laid for his path to priesthood.
“Matthew Hill taught Morality and was a good mentor,” Fr. Palmer said. “Fr. [Karl] Kiser, SJ, also, with his experience as a priest, helped out. My classmates were also a big part of it, especially Dan Devine ’07, who is also in the seminary for a different order. There wasn’t really one person on which everything rested; instead, I relied on the community of faith at U of D Jesuit, and its attentiveness to faith and knowledge. That aspect of U of D Jesuit education gave me the confidence to give this life a shot.”
When asked to define the heart of Jesuit education, Fr. Palmer spoke of his trust in God and his passion for sharing his faith - two characteristics he’s taken to heart as an alum and used throughout his career.
“The best thing about Jesuit education is that it isn’t afraid to bring together faith and reason. It isn’t afraid to bring faith into the conversations of the world. Jesuit education acknowledges that there are things in the world that aren’t easily answered by anyone, but our faith always has a seat at the table. Our belief gives us something to bring to the world. That means that faith has to work with intellect.”