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UC Grads Finish Their Studies As Superstorm Sandy Hits Home

CCM graduates Andrew De Meo and Moe Tompkins look forward to reuniting with their families at UC’s December Commencement Ceremony.

Date: 12/5/2012
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover (Brazil photos provided by Moe Tompkins)
University of Cincinnati graduates Andrew De Meo and Maurice (Moe) Tompkins were juggling more than the usual jitters of finishing school and making preparations for UC’s Commencement Ceremony on Dec. 15. As they were wrapping up their final semester at UC, both College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) graduates were anxiously trying to stay in touch with their families as Superstorm Sandy devastated their home state.
Andrew De Meo and Moe Tompkins
Andrew De Meo and Moe Tompkins

De Meo, who’s graduating with a bachelor of fine arts in theatre design/lighting design and technology, is from St. James, N.Y., near Long Island. Tompkins, who is graduating with bachelor’s degrees in jazz studies and music education, is from Central Islip, N.Y., which is also located on Long Island.

The hurricane, which left a long path of devastation as it barreled through the East Coast, is blamed for more than 140 deaths, including 42 in New York. The state’s governor has requested $42 billion in federal aid to recover from the damage.

UC's Office of Institutional Research reports that 33 UC students from New York applied for graduation over summer and fall this year, along with 13 students from New Jersey.

Both De Meo and Tompkins say that while houses were damaged, the homes of their parents were spared the devastation that hit other homeowners on Long Island. But they add there were certainly some anxious moments as they tried to reach loved ones after the storm hit.

Phoning Home After Sandy Strikes

Andrew De Meo
Andrew De Meo

“The first two days were a little stressful, because the cell phone towers were knocked out, so I couldn’t reach my mom, dad or my sister,” says De Meo, whose parents have separate residences. “My mom ended up staying with some friends and we got a note on Facebook, stating that they were all okay. They were dealing with no electricity and no heat,” says De Meo.

His family will be traveling to Cincinnati to see him march at Commencement in UC’s Fifth Third Arena. De Meo says he will be moving back to New York to work as a freelance moving light programmer and electrician for Production Resource Group (PRG), and other entertainment technology companies.  

De Meo worked as a Scene Shop assistant his sophomore year, which he says helped him develop his management skills and concepts around technical direction.  He also served as master electrician for the CCM theatre production, “Chess,” last October, as part of CCM’s Mainstage Series.  He also served as master electrician for the production of “Into the Woods” last winter; was lighting designer for the musical, “The Civil War,” last spring; and programmer for the musical, “Oklahoma!” in fall, 2011.
Andrew De Meo

He adds that the fast-paced theatre design program at CCM has provided him with the skills to make it in New York. “The program prepared me to think on my feet, to adapt to high-pressure situations,” he says. “Also, the professors and instructors are so active in helping the graduates find work, and keeping in touch, even after students graduate. I know that I can be on a job in New York and if I have a question, I’ll be able to call a professor and he’ll be able to help me through almost any problem I might encounter.”

Everything Was Shut Down

Moe Tompkins
Moe Tompkins

Tompkins says his parents felt fortunate after the storm. They lost only one strip of siding off their house, and they didn’t lose power. However, Facebook postings from other friends reported long lines, gas shortages and people sleeping in their cars.

The accomplished trombonist, cellist and vocalist says it was his parents’ emphasis on a well-rounded education – including  an appreciation of the arts – that led him to music, and into CCM on a full Cincinnatus scholarship that he was awarded in 2008.  His twin sister, Mariel, transferred to CCM’s drama program after an audition in New York, and plans to graduate in April.

Moe participated in CCM’s Jazz Ensemble all four years and was also among the first CCM students to take part in a music student exchange program with Brazil. The project, “Cultural Connections Through Jazz and Popular Music,” was a U.S.-Brazil higher education consortium project with four partner institutions: CCM, University of Louisville School of Music, University of Brasilia Department of Music and State University of Campinas Department of Music.
Study in Brazil
Study abroad in Brazil

“I got to study abroad for six months with (trumpet player and fellow CCM student) Mike Jones. We spent a month and a half at University of Brasilia taking Portuguese, and then studied Brazilian music at University of Campinas .

(Read more about the study abroad experience in Brazil from their blog)

As a student in the University Honors Program for academically talented students, Tompkins says his freshman year experience in the program’s LeaderShape Institute helped him “learn so much” about leadership and connected him with lifelong friends.

Tompkins also was a member of the Phi Mu Alpha music fraternity and the Ohio Collegiate Music Educators Association.  

But outside his academic interests, he says his volunteer experience as a Reclaim Peer Advocate had a profound effect on him.  The UC Women’s Center Reclaim Peer Advocates are trained to respond to the needs of students who are victims of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Peer advocates can be reached 24 hours a day. “I learned so much about gender issues. I was amazed at how much I learned and had grown my first year at UC.”

“Moe was a huge asset to the Reclaim Peer Advocate Program for two years,” says program coordinator Kim Fulbright. “It’s great when someone like Moe dedicates his time to issues like gender-based violence that are often represented as a ‘woman’s issue’. Moe’s peers in the program loved his contributions and especially his willingness to challenge his beliefs.”

He also lived in campus housing through his entire experience at UC, starting out in Siddall Hall and then spending his years as an upperclassman in the Stratford Heights Complex.

“I tell all of the incoming freshmen that if they don’t move into residence halls like Siddall, they’re missing out on the freshman dorm experience. It was great. I always could find a friend, just two doors down the hall.

“It’s amazing, looking back on what I’ve accomplished at UC,” he says. “I wouldn’t have been able to do half the things I accomplished here if I had gone into a different college music program.”

Tompkins, too, is heading back to New York after graduation. “That’s the plan. It’s looking like grad school unless a teaching job falls into my lap. We’ll see what happens.”

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