John '77 and Bev '90 Titus: Creating a Culture of Peace
“We believe in the University and its values. We try to be fully involved by giving, volunteering, helping with activities, and most importantly promoting the essence of Urbana University by remembering what attracted us to UU to begin with,” said John and Beverly Titus. The Titus’s have become so interconnected with the University that they cannot fathom a time when they would not be attached to it in some way.
The University holds special value for both John and Bev; not only did they attend the University, but it is the place where they first met. John says he will always remember pushing Bev on a swing that used to hang from a big oak tree in front of the library; although the tree swing is gone, the memory is still deeply rooted in their minds.
John’s journey began in ’68 when he began taking evening classes at Bellefontaine, transferring to full time on the main campus in 1970. John and Bev married in ’72 and started their family. In the early 70s, Urbana was, like most of the nation, focused on political consciousness, social justice initiatives, and an awareness of a need for world peace and understanding. These issues were critical to John and Bev during their time at Urbana and their early years of marriage.
John graduated from Urbana in 1977 earing his Bachelor of Arts degree with a self-designed major. Bev chose to focus her energies on their family as John pursued his career in higher education.
The Titus family returned to Urbana almost ten years later, in 1986, when John served as Urbana’s dean of students until 1997. Bev recalls that her inspiration to finish college came from a women’s course that former and beloved faculty member Reverend Dr. Dorothea Harvey taught. “It was such a powerful course that focused on engaging and sharing. It was very moving and it inspired me in a lot of ways to want to learn more,” she recalls.
Bev decided to return to classroom, taking classes part-time. She graduated in 1990 with a bachelor of science degree.
John and Bev’s family also have roots at the University; three of their children took classes at UU, one of whom graduated from our University. “Alicia came for one semester, Zac was here for two years, and Shanoa graduated from the University in 2000.”
Following his time in Urbana’s administration, both Bev and John worked in higher education in Michigan, focusing their careers on developing students. The Titus family again returned to Urbana in 2002 when John was asked to serve as a member of the Urbana University Board of Trustees. John continues to serve in this capacity as an alumni representative.
That same year, the 9/11 tragedy took the life of their oldest daughter, Alicia, who was a flight attendant on United Airline flight 175 that crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center. As they began to overcome this tragic life event, they developed a unique mission: To spread the message and awareness of peace and justice across the campus, the community, and the world. “We wanted to create programs with open dialogues that allow students to take ownership over their choices and where those choices lead them in life. We want them to learn how to use their choices to their benefit by getting active in the community,” said Bev.
John added, “We want to reinforce the reality that the students’ voice really matters. We want to plant the seeds of peace and show them that through moral development we understand that we are interconnected with all life. By developing that moral understanding we can look for the truth and compassion and make the world a better place.”
Working together with Bev, John describes it as watching and helping students discover how they fit into the bigger picture of the community. “We want to help these young adults during this time when they are trying to develop their own values as they begin looking in depth at their lives. We want to help them with that critical thinking and enhance their awareness,” said John.
To connect with students, the Titus’s began offering programs through the Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Fund, which is housed at the University. Last year they introduced the Student Peace Alliance to help spread this message. “The students here on campus like to call themselves the Students for Peace,” explained Bev. They host open forum meetings, bring in speakers, go into classrooms, and their most recent endeavor was showing Economics of Happiness, a documentary focusing on the effects of globalization on the demise of our communities and around the world.
Mitch Joseph, director of campus life, appreciates the Titus’s involvement and shares, “John and Bev have been tremendous assets to have on campus and have worked hard at their student outreach related to the Peace Alliance. A shift in changing thoughts towards peace is often difficult, but the Titus’s are true champions for peace and working with our students.”
Their initiative is not just limited to Urbana; they are active in national and international organizations, and are affiliated with the Dayton International Peace Museum. “We are in charge of the education team and volunteer and do training at the site and in the community,” they explained.
“We, just like Urbana University, understand that the emphasis on education is a means for the change in the world,” explained John. “We hope to pass the legacy of peace and social justice that we’ve built here on to our children who will in turn pass it on to theirs,” said Bev.
John and Bev continually practice the one thing that they said they loved so much during their time at Urbana; an open and embracing relationship with people of every culture. The Titus’s look forward to cultivating a culture of peace in the upcoming years. “We hope to see a time when we can offer more to larger audiences.” Their next goal will be to build a scholarship program that they can award to students who are is active in giving back and have a strong sense of compassion and understanding.
John and Bev not only promote compassion, goodwill, peace, and justice, but they also live by those standards.
This spotlight was written by Sarah St.Clair ’12. Sarah is working on her Post Baccalaureate Teaching License in AYA English/Language Arts. She has her Bachelors in English and Communications. She enjoys swimming, running, and spending time with her family.