Sr. Rose Ann Fleming smiles with Xavier mascot, The Blob, at a Xavier basketball game

Catching Up With Xavier Legend Sr. Rose Ann Fleming

Mar 23, 2023

A Xavier institution unto herself, Sr. Rose Ann Fleming has seen a lot of March basketball since coming to the University in 1982.

Her “jersey” hangs high in the Cintas Center rafters and she is credited with setting up a formal academic advising program for Xavier’s student-athletes in 1985. Since then, she’s helped thousands of Musketeers attain degrees and position themselves for lifelong success after their playing days.

Sr. Rose turned 90 last summer and is as active as ever both within Xavier and providing service to the community.

In recent years, she has been named a “Great Living Cincinnatian” and a member of the Xavier University Athletic Hall of Fame.

See what she had to say about this year’s team, Sean Miller’s return, her memories of the NCAA Tournament and what she’s up to these days in a Q&A with Xavier’s Office of Marketing and Communications:

What do you remember about your first NCAA Tournament trip with Xavier?

It was with Coach [Pete] Gillen definitely and I think it was 1986.

I remember it was much less elegant than our travel is now. We stayed in something like a Holiday Inn, the players had to carry their own suitcases and all of their equipment and we had very few extra people to help out.

Unfortunately, we didn’t go very far. We lost the first game and came home the next day. That’s what I remember about the first trip.

What stands out to you when you think about all the memorable runs Xavier has had since then?

The first time I realized how big of a deal this was and how much recognition we were getting for the University was when we got on the bus one year and I noticed we had a police escort.

They really treat us very nicely when we go to the NCAA Tournament and I was super impressed with how the public appreciates March Madness and the growth of sport overall.

It made a big impression on me.

Was there a team in particular or a run that sticks out in your mind?

Well, of course, the run that I remember best was getting to the Elite Eight [in 2004]. I remember that for a lot of reasons, one of which was it was our opportunity to beat Duke … and I still believe the referees had it wrong.

Just going with the players through that routine and the excellence our team showed. We were very competitive that year.

Even though we lost, we were very competitive that year and shortly thereafter, Butler got into the Final Four and I thought: “That’s where we belong.”

Maybe one of these days … maybe Sunday.

Your role at Xavier has evolved over the years. How are you still involved with the team currently?

I am still involved. Every week, I go to staff meetings with our academic support team and it helps me know what they’re doing.

As the faculty athletics representative, I get the opportunity to look at the growth and treatment we give our student-athletes.

We have an ongoing streak of 117 seniors that have graduated from the men's basketball program. How proud are you of that stat?

I’m really hopeful it continues. And I’m really glad to see that the culture the alumni started years and years ago, way before I even got here, has been maintained.

I think we certainly owe that to the players. They have such a great chance to get a great education, make money and be able to pay it forward to their own children in the future.

I think what we’re doing is the right thing for a University to do.

We are potentially on the cusp of doing something special again this year. What do you like about this year's team?

I think [Head Coach Sean Miller] has made a great impression on the team.

He played and was so famous as a player, he can be a great role model for the team — just showing them what you can really do if you work hard.

He teaches the value of hard work, the value of responsibility and sharing the ball with your teammates.

And I think my main characteristic of this team is they are real gentlemen. I see them almost every day and I can say that’s what I’ve noticed. I think that’s a very good thing.

When Coach Miller came back, what was that like for you? You two worked together very closely in his last stint at Xavier.

It was my chance to thank him again, really.

When he left last time, he told me he was going to come and see me. And he had gone out to get flowers for me. It was so nice of him to think of me, but I really didn’t want to see him leave.

We are so blessed he decided to come back. I have found that he’s a really good man. He cares about the students. He’s kind, but he also wants discipline. I think he has a really good idea of how to manage both the kindness and the discipline he expects.

We’re very fortunate to have him.

When you travel with the team, what does a typical day look like for you? You obviously go to the games, but it sounds like you're teaching a class as well.

I look forward to the competition. But I also teach on Tuesday and Thursday and I’ve been able to do that with my computer online with the students, so they aren’t missing class.

The class is called “Sport at the Service of Humanity” and it looks at what sport can do to reach globally across the world and give us more opportunities for union with all people.

I hope students take away principles like compassion, respect, love, joy, balance and enlightenment. The enlightenment means you try very hard to win but there are a lot of ways of winning. You think back on games and what you learned in competition, which you learn for life. I would like to make sure that they’re picking up these principles, not only for sport but for the life decisions they make.

Alright, we've got to get you on the record with a prediction for the rest of this tournament run. What do you think?

Well, I’m not a good one to ask. I don’t have any information that helps me make decisions like this. I’d really like to see our team win and advance to the next round. I think we can do it.

What gives me hope is when you see small schools advance deep and get to the Final Four. I think we can certainly do that.

And we always have to remember to do it in a way that will advance the kingdom of God. That’s what I pray for the most.

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