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UT student’s big-hearted family appears on ‘Ellen’

Talk-show host and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, who loves a feel-good story, couldn’t resist the story of University of Toledo sophomore Chris Sanders’ big-hearted family.

In early November, she invited the family of 13, which nearly doubled in size when his parents adopted a family of six siblings last year, to Los Angeles. Chris, 20 and an undecided major at UT, is the oldest of his five biological and six adopted siblings.

Ellen DeGeneres surprised the Sanders family, who were invited to Los Angeles but didn’t know they would appear on the comedienne’s show. The family members are, back row from left, Caleb, Cameron, Christian, Colby, Caden and Chris, who is a UT student; and front row, from left, Carson, Chaz, Caylee, Chloe, Caitlyn, Chris and Christina.

Producers told the Sanders family, who gained notoriety in their hometown of Cincinnati after the adoptions, that they wanted to fly them to Los Angeles to film a segment about their story.

Little did the family know that Ellen had one of her typical surprises in store — an appearance on her show, a $50,000 Walmart gift card, and an invitation to come back for one of her 12 Days of Christmas shows, one of the most coveted tickets in Hollywood.

As the family zipped around the Warner Brothers campus in a golf cart with a tour guide during their visit, they pulled into the studio where the Ellen show is filmed. All of a sudden, doors opened and they drove right onto Ellen’s stage in front of a live audience. Click here to see the show.

“I’m not a shy guy,” Chris said, “but I was in shock. We all love Ellen and follow her on social media. We were yelling.”

The family isn’t sure how Ellen found out about them. Their story had been Tweeted by comedian Gary Owen and others had tagged Ellen on social media posts about the family.

Christina Sanders, Chris’ mother, said she had always wanted to foster children. A month after becoming certified in 2014, the Sanders family took in four brothers. When Christina and her husband, Christopher, found out that the boys had two sisters, they began inviting the girls over for holidays, birthdays and weekends.

It wasn’t long before the children were calling Christina and Christopher mom and dad.

In April, the adoption was finalized. The Sanders family now includes 11 children from ages 20 to 9.

For Chris, having extra kids in the house was normal. His mom was always helping someone.

“Helping people is something we’re passionate about,” he said.

Adoption wasn’t a hard call.

“We loved them. They’re family,” Chris said. “We were going to do whatever we needed to do.”

He does admit that he feels a bit of added pressure and responsibility. There are six more pairs of eyes on him now, and 10 siblings who look up to him as a big brother.

“But I actually like it,” he said. “I’m not going to lie.”

Christina said Chris is more than up to the task of being a role model. He’s almost like a third parent.

“They love Chris. He’s the best big brother ever,” she said. “He has talks with them and checks on them.”

Chris lives off campus with his childhood friend, James Spells. The pair wanted to see what life had to offer outside of Cincinnati and found UT to be a good fit. Chris also found that having a little distance between himself and his family allows him to focus on school.

Christina and Christopher flew back to LA for the Nov. 28 episode of Ellen’s 12 Days of Christmas. The Day 6 giveways included kitchen goodies like a Keurig coffee maker and a gas grill.

Rockets accept invitation to Play Appalachian State in Dollar General Bowl

The University of Toledo has accepted an invitation to play Appalachian State of the Sun Belt Conference in the 2017 Dollar General Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., UT Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien announced Sunday.

The game will be played at 6 p.m. Central time (7 Eastern time) Saturday, Dec. 23, and will be televised on ESPN.

“We are very excited to return to Mobile to play in the Dollar General Bowl,” O’Brien said. “We would like to thank President Jerry Silverstein, Executive director Frank Modarelli and the entire Dollar General Bowl selection committee for choosing The University of Toledo to participate in their outstanding bowl. We are looking forward to another terrific bowl experience in the beautiful state of Alabama against a very fine Appalachian State team.

“I also want to congratulate Head Coach Jason Candle, his staff and our entire Rocket football team on a memorable MAC Championship season.”

Candle, who led the Rockets to an 11-2 record and a Mid-American Conference Championship title in his second season as head coach, was enthusiastic about his team’s bowl destination.

“The Dollar General Bowl will provide our team with an outstanding bowl experience, as well as the opportunity to play against a very tough Appalachian State team,” Candle said. “We are very familiar with Appalachian State, having played them in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl last year. Both teams are league champions, so that will make for a great matchup. Playing in the Dollar General Bowl is an excellent reward for our players, coaches, fans and everyone who has played a part in our MAC Championship.”

The Rockets (11-2, 7-1 MAC) finished in first place in the West Division of the Mid-American Conference and defeated East Division champion Akron, 45-28, in the MAC Championship Game at Ford Field in Detroit Dec. 2.

Toledo will be playing in its 17th bowl and seventh in the last eight years. UT is 11-5 all-time in bowl games, including 2-0 in bowl games in Mobile when the Dollar General Bowl was known by different names. The Rockets beat UTEP in the 2005 GMAC Bowl by a score of 45-13, and Arkansas State, 63-44, in 2015 (2014 season) in the GoDaddy Bowl.

Appalachian State is 8-4 and 7-1 in the Sun Belt Conference. The Mountaineers finished as co-champions of the Sun Belt along with Troy. Appalachian State, which defeated Toledo in last year’s Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, 31-28, is coached by Scott Satterfield. Satterfield, who has been the Mountaineers’ head coach for five seasons, was the passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Toledo in 2009 under then-head coach Tim Beckman.

Information on ticket sales and travel packages will be announced Monday, Dec. 4. For the latest updates on the bowl and tickets, click here.

Pharmacy student wins $100,000 in Dr Pepper Tuition Throw

Rachel Burns won’t have to worry about paying for school. She won $100,000 in the Dr Pepper Tuition Throw Dec. 2 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The second-year student in the UT College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences went head to head with another college student during a 30-second contest and threw more footballs through a hole two feet in diameter in a ginormous soda can five yards away. Burns put 16 footballs in the can.

And she did it live on national TV during halftime of the Big 12 Championship game.

UT student Rachel Burns won $100,000 Dec. 2 at the Dr Pepper Tuition Throw.

No pressure.

Burns thanked her parents and the University.

And she said, “Happy birthday, mom!”

She qualified for the final round of the competition on her dad’s birthday Dec. 1.

Watch Burns in action here.

Donations sought for holiday book drive through Jan. 1

The Barnes & Noble University Bookstore has partnered with Mercy Health Children’s Hospital, Promedica Toledo Children’s Hospital and the East Toledo Family Center to bring books to local children this holiday season.

The organizations hope to receive at least 1,000 book donations before Jan. 1, all of which will be dispersed through programs and gift baskets. Those interested may purchase books to donate or bring their gently used books to the bookstore.

Not only will the donated books go to deserving Toledo programs, the gifts will have a significant impact on the children who receive them, according to organizers.

“Books are so vital to a child’s development. Parents who spend time reading to their children create nurturing relationships that enhance their child’s cognitive, language and social-emotional development,” said Cindy Pisano, supervisor of the Healthy Connections Department at Mercy Health Children’s Hospital. “For some of these children, it may be the first book they will ever have of their own.”

For more information on the holiday book drive, or to suggest a children’s organization that may benefit from the event, contact Ashley Patrizzi, assistant store manager of the Barnes & Noble University Bookstore, at am573@bncollege.com or 419.530.2516.

Satellites to hold book fair Dec. 4-6

Stop by the Satellites Auxiliary’s Collective Goods Book Fair, which will take place Monday through Wednesday, Dec. 4-6, in UT Medical Center’s Four Seasons Bistro Atrium.

The sale will be held Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Wednesday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“There will be more than 400 books for all age groups and all categories,” said Lynn Brand, president of the Satellites Auxiliary.

“And there’ll be last-minute gift ideas for smart shoppers,” she added.

Toys, electronics, gadgets and more also will be for sale.

Cash, check, credit cards and payroll deduction will be accepted.

Profits will benefit campus scholarships.

The Satellites Auxiliary promotes education, research and service programs; provides support of patient programs in accordance with the needs and approval of administration; conducts fundraising events; and offers volunteer services.

For more information on the sale, contact Brand at lynn.brand@utoledo.edu.

UT Music Choral program to present three concerts

The University of Toledo Department of Music choirs will present three concerts this December, including one featuring a guest choir, the Children’s Choir of Northwest Ohio.

On Saturday, Dec. 2, the UT Concert Chorale will perform “Abendmusik” (“Evening Music”) at 7 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 200 E. Broadway St., Maumee.

The UT Concert Chorale

This show will spotlight historical German church music to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The music of composers Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Tunder and Hugo Distler will be featured. Guest organist James Biery of Detroit and UT student chamber ensemble musicians will accompany the choir.

Tickets — $10; $5 for students, children and seniors — are available at utoledo.tix.com or by calling 419.530.2787. Tickets also will be available at the door.

On Sunday, Dec. 3, the UT Concert Chorale will perform at the Toledo Museum of Art Great Gallery Concert at 3 p.m.

The free, public show will include highlights from the chorale’s fall concert season.

On Friday, Dec. 8, the UT Choirs and the Children’s Choir of Northwest Ohio will perform at 7 p.m. in Doermann Theater.

A mix of holiday and secular music will be performed by the UT Men’s and Women’s Choruses, the UT Concert Chorale, as well as guest choir, the Children’s Choir of Northwest Ohio. The combined choirs also will perform “Sing dem Herrn” by German composer Michael Praetorius.

Tickets — $10; $5 for students, children and seniors — are available at utoledo.tix.com or by calling 419.530.2787. Tickets also will be available at the door.

For more information, contact Dr. Brad Pierson, assistant professor and director of choral activities in the UT Music Department, at 419.530.4558 or bradley.pierson2@utoledo.edu.

Rockets ready to battle Akron for MAC Championship

The Toledo Rockets have won one Mid-American Conference title, but they are certainly hungry for another.

Toledo, winners of the MAC West Division title, will battle East Division champion Akron for the MAC Championship crown Saturday, Dec. 2, at Ford Field in Detroit. Kickoff is at noon, and the game will be televised on ESPN.

Senior running back Terry Swanson rushed for 123 yards on 20 carries when the Rockets beat Akron, 48-21, during the regular season.

Toledo (10-2, 7-1 MAC) defeated Western Michigan, 37-10, in the regular-season finale at the Glass Bowl Nov. 24 to earn a berth into the league title game for the first time since 2004. It was UT’s first outright division title since 1998.

The Rockets clinched the title by following the same formula that has worked for them all year — a balanced offense combined with a stingy defense. Senior quarterback Logan Woodside threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns vs. the Broncos, while senior running back Terry Swanson added 94 yards and scored two scores. The defense held WMU to 275 yards of total offense, including just 98 yards in the first half.

Akron (7-5, 6-2 MAC) made it to the MAC title game by winning its final two games of the season over Ohio (37-34) and Kent State (24-14). The Zips are led by redshirt freshman quarterback Kato Nelson, who threw for 322 yards in the win over Ohio. Akron, which has allowed just 24.8 points per game this season, held Kent State to 246 yards of total offense in the division-clinching victory over the Golden Flashes.

The two teams clashed during the regular season; the Rockets defeated the Zips 48-21 Oct. 21 in the Glass Bowl. Toledo leads the series 11-9.

Toledo picked up 13 points in this week’s AP poll and seven in the coaches poll.

Purchase tickets here.

UT students: Click here to register for the bus trip to the MAC Championship Game.

Rocket fans and UT alumni: Read about the pregame party and bus trip planned by the UT Alumni Association.

University recognizes faculty for tenure and promotion

During what has become an annual tradition brought to the University by President Sharon L. Gaber, 53 faculty members were honored in a special tenure and promotion celebration Oct. 30 in Carlson Library.

Each honoree was asked to select a book that was instrumental to his or her success, and these books are now housed in the library — each marked with a bookplate commemorating the honoree’s milestone.

President Sharon L. Gaber and Provost Andrew Hsu, center standing, posed for a photo with some of the faculty members who attended the tenure and promotion celebration last month in Carlson Library.

“We’re extremely proud of each of these individuals,” Gaber said. “This tribute helps to build a culture of excellence for our faculty and staff — one of our strategic priorities. They deserve our praise, and we certainly wish them continued success with all of their academic, clinical and research endeavors here at UT.”

“Scholarly activities are fundamental to raising UT’s academic excellence and our national reputation,” noted Provost Andrew Hsu. “The achievements of these faculty members and researchers are critically important to us, as well as to the success of our students.”

Faculty members who achieved promotion to professor are: Dr. An Chung Cheng, Holly Hey, Dr. Kamala London Newton and Dr. Joni Mihura, College of Arts and Letters; Dr. Debra Johanning, Judith Herb College of Education; Dr. Defne Apul, Dr. Cyndee Gruden, Dr. Dong-Shik Kim, Dr. Matthew Liberatore and Dr. Azadeh Parvin, College of Engineering; Gregory Gilchrist, College of Law (for academic year 2017-18); Dr. Hossein Elgafy, Dr. Michael Ellis, Dr. Daniel Rapport and Dr. William Suarez, College of Medicine and Life Sciences; Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, Dr. Deborah Chadee, Dr. Song-Tao Liu, Dr. John-David Smith, William Taylor and Dr. Jianglong Zhu, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; and Dr. Youssef Sari, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Individuals appointed to professor with tenure are: Dr. R. William Ayres and Charlene Gilbert, College of Arts and Letters; Beau Case, University Libraries; Dr. Linda Lewandowski, College of Nursing; and Dr. T. Michael Toole, College of Engineering. 

Faculty who received tenure and promotion to associate professor are: Dr. Ammon Allred, Dr. Denise Bernardini, Dr. Jetsabe Caceres, Dr. Olman Piedra, Dr. Pamela Stover, Tad Weed and Barry Whittaker, College of Arts and Letters; Dr. Mark Gleim and Dr. Alex Petkevich, College of Business and Innovation; Dr. Liangbo Hu, College of Engineering; Dr. Jennifer Reynolds, College of Health and Human Services; Dr. Jason Huntley, College of Medicine and Life Sciences; and Dr. Song Qian and Dr. Akaki Tikaradze, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Faculty promoted to associate professor are: Agnieszka McPeak, College of Law; and Dr. Mark Bonnell, Dr. Kathryn Eisenmann, Dr. Ehab Eltahawy, Dr. George Moukarbel, Dr. Joseph Sferra and Dr. Elizabeth Wroblewski, College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

Those recognized for earning tenure are: Dr. Matthew Tull, College of Arts and Letters; Elizabeth McCuskey and Evan Zoldan, College of Law (both for academic year 2017-18); and Dr. Annie (Tsui Sui) Kao, College of Nursing.

Dr. Mary Jean Ohns, College of Nursing, was promoted to assistant professor.

UT pharmacy student to compete in Dr Pepper Tuition Throw

Rachel Burns is ready. She will face three college students for a chance to win $100,000 in the Dr Pepper Tuition Throw.

The second-year student in the UT College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences will travel to Arlington, Texas, Friday, Dec. 1. She’ll have 30 seconds to see how many footballs she can toss into a hole two feet in diameter in a ginormous soda can five yards away.

Rachel Burns practiced for the Dr Pepper Tuition Throw in the Fetterman Center.

If Burns places first or second, she’ll move to the final round Saturday, Dec. 2, and vie for big money live on national television during halftime of the Big 12 Championship game at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

“My family has been huge football fans ever since I can remember. When I was 14 or so, I remember watching these competitions where kids would throw the ball through the cans to get money,” she said.

“When it came time to get scholarships for college, I started looking at my options, and I came across [the Dr Pepper Tuition Throw] again. I thought this is really cool; this is something I want to try. It’s really a one in a million shot because thousands of people apply from all over the country.”

She took her shot — and scored.

In her one-minute application video, the Holland, Ohio, native shared her story.

“I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when I was 7 or 8 years old. When I was diagnosed with the terminal lung disease, they told me I wouldn’t live past the age of 18,” Burns said. “But because of the medical advancements since then, the life expectancy has grown; I just celebrated my 20th birthday.”

Life has been a blur since her phone rang Nov. 10 with the contest news.

Rachel Burns posed for a photo in front of the Dr Pepper replica built by her dad and brother; her mom painted the can.

“A lot of participants start practicing right when they apply. I didn’t want to jinx myself or get my hopes up — thousands of people apply,” she said. “I told my dad and my brother, once we get the call, it’ll be your job to build the exact replica.”

Thanks to a diagram and dimensions supplied by Dr Pepper, her dad, Ray, had the oversized can built in less than two hours, with assistance from her brother, Raymond. They even made the can portable.

Burns has been practicing every day since — in her garage and backyard, at Springfield High School, and in UT’s Fetterman Center.

“We’re trying to mimic the conditions I’ll see in Texas,” she said, adding AT&T Stadium has a retractable roof and likely will be closed. “Practicing in the Fetterman Center has been a huge help; it keeps the conditions as similar as possible.”

The former softball and volleyball player is experimenting with a shot-put style throw.

“You just have to go in with all your heart and trust that either way, this is still an amazing opportunity. Winning any amount of tuition money would take a huge burden off my family. This is going to be a trip of a lifetime, an experience to share with the world, and I’m proud to represent The University of Toledo.”

Twenty college students will participate in the Dr Pepper Tuition Throw, four at five championship games. All are guaranteed $2,500. Second-place finishers will receive $25,000, and winners will take home $100,000 to pay for school.

“I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” Burns said. “Every little bit helps when it comes to paying for college.”

Some say there are no coincidences. Consider these auspicious signs:

• Burns and her family are lifelong fans of the Dallas Cowboys.

• Ray Burns’ birthday is Dec. 1. And Dec. 2 is the birthday of Heather Burns, Rachel’s mom.

• After falling in love with a puppy Burns was training for Rocket Service Dogs, the UT student organization of which she is president, the family brought home an 8-week-old chocolate Labrador retriever and named him Dallas just two days before learning about the competition.

Dr Pepper will cover the cost of the trip for Burns and one person; she’s taking her dad.

“My dad has always wanted to go [to AT&T Stadium]. It’s a win-win for me and for him for his birthday. It’s pretty cool,” she said. “I’m excited; I’ve been practicing; I can’t wait.”

UT, Learfield Sports offer holiday gift guide

Get ready to click: The UT holiday gift guide goes live on Cyber Monday, Nov. 27.

The University and Learfield Sports have suggestions for Rocket fans of all ages and all budgets. Go to http://bit.ly/Toledo_Holiday.

You’ll find men’s and women’s shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies, as well as spirited seasonal fare, including a UT nutcracker.

Make it a midnight blue and gold holiday: Check out the UT attire, accessories and decorations. Go Rockets!