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Wabash Men Have Fun Time for Good Cause

Howard W. Hewitt – Wabash leadership, faculty and staff take their jobs very seriously.

Wabash students obviously take their studies and extra-curricular activities seriously.

Corey

Egler

But at times we lament that we just don’t have enough fun. While that is arguably not true, we know there is always fun lurking around the next corer. A social media/pop music fad that started in Kentucky has swept the nation. So the long story made short is a group of fraternity men at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky., set the bar really high with a no-edit lip-sync of Taylor Swift’s hit “Shake it Off.” By the way, that pop hit has more than 170 million views on YouTube. The Transylvania guys are nearing a quarter million views. The initial video challenged visitors to donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society/

Nate

Bode

Those Transylvania Delta Sigma Chi gentlemen really started something. The Challenge was created to get other colleges involved to raise awareness of a good cause. Colleges across the nation are now dancing to #CollegeShakeOff and #ShakeItUp. Students at Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) danced to the Swift hit and challenged IU, Purdue and Wabash College. The Jaguars wanted to raise suicide awareness.

Myers

Myers

So when Wabash men are challenged, they answer the call. The craze came to our attention in the Communications and Marketing office. We turned it totally over to students Corey Egler ’15 and Nathan Bode ’16. Those two deserve all the credit along with videographer Austin Myers ’16.

They managed to talk students, faculty, and staff into dancing for the video. Oh, and their is a brief cameo by one administrator you might recognize. The Wabash men decided to raise awareness for Men’s Health – something of a tradition at Wabash during Movember.

Serious fun!

 

Extraordinary Encounters

Indiana pastors with the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program worshipped with Nobel Prize Laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu last Friday on his 83rd birthday.

Indiana pastors with the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program worshipped with Nobel Prize Laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu last Friday on his 83rd birthday.

“Check out the attached picture,” Associate Professor of Religion Derek Nelson ’99 wrote to me in an email last Friday. I opened the attachment to find what you see here: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in liturgical vestments, standing with a group of Indiana pastors from the Wabash Pastoral Leadership program.

So what are they doing in South Africa? (Other than receiving Holy Communion from one of the most famous peace activists on the planet, that is—and on the same day this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners were announced.)

That’s pretty much what everyone I told about this photo has asked. Apparently the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program—one of the College’s four Centers of Distinction—is also one of the College’ best kept secrets.

Time to get the word out.

Funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and founded in 2008 by Professor Emeritus Raymond Williams H’68, the program selects up to 18 Indiana pastors who in their first five to ten years have demonstrated high potential for significant leadership. They participate in a series of meetings, conversations with outstanding leaders, and two study tours over a two-year period. I have photographed a few of the sessions here on campus. I have seen the safe space and remarkable support, guidance, and inspiration the Center provides these gifted and dedicated servants of their congregations, and that they give one another.

They express their gratitude for the program in testimonials on the program’s Web site that capture well the deep need the Center is meeting: “I had been told plenty of times that I needed to be a good leader, but I was given little space or time to reflect on leadership,” one pastor writes. “Part cloister and part think tank, the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program has been a tremendous gift in my life that has created a community for theological and practical reflection on leadership.”

“The Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program was the greatest opportunity to grow as a pastoral leader I’ve ever been given,” writes another.

The current group is the second immersed in a study tour of South Africa, and Associate Director Libby Manning says “the trip has tied together so many of the community issues we have been studying with the pastors. We’re learning about the ways that education, conflict resolution, economics and immigration play into the health and well-being of our communities, and the place that the churches have in that ongoing process.”

The pastors toured Robben Island on Monday, guided by a former prisoner there and cellmate of Nelson Mandela, Eddie Daniels.

While most of the visit is carefully arranged, the encounter with Desmond Tutu was “mostly a case of being in the right place at the right time,” says Nelson, who in 2013 was named the Center’s director. A colleague of Derek’s was hosting the pastors at Stellenbosch University at the same time the school held a conference with Bishop Tutu. “So the pastors were on his radar screen, and the dean of the cathedral in Cape Town invited them to daily Mass.”

The pastors are blogging about their experience in South Africa at the Center’s Web site, where you’ll see one way the College’s original mission—”the training of teachers and preachers”—is being lived out in new, important, and unexpected ways.

 

On To Year Two

Yesterday was my one-year anniversary on the Wabash campus, and such a milestone served as a good time to hit the brakes and reflect on the knowledge gained in the last 365 days I’ve managed to put in the rear-view mirror.

I’ve asked a series of questions in every Wabash interview I’ve done in that time. A stream-of-consciousness thing, quick thoughts to see how people think. On this occasion, I felt like looking at the wisdom of the answers to one question in particular:

What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?

The answers loosely fell into three categories: don’t take life to seriously, try new things, and work hard.

That’s simple, right? Not exactly.

Ivan Koutsopatriy ‘16.

Ivan Koutsopatriy ‘16.

With a year to reflect and a little institutional knowledge now working to my advantage, each answer now carries a little more weight.

The guys who fell into the “don’t take life too seriously category” are some of the most focused and driven people around, like Ivan Koutsopatriy ‘16, Scott Purucker ‘16, Derrick Li ‘14, Jared Lang ‘08, and Brent Bolick ‘91.

Koutsopatriy simply stated, “Do you,” when I asked him that question. Sage advice from a guy who was described as having “a core of energy that is just bottomless,” according to chemistry professor Lon Porter.

Those who championed new experiences relied on the benefits of lessons learned.

Brian Kopp ‘98, a senior vice president for sports solutions at STATS, Inc., said, “Don’t be afraid to try new things and to make mistakes because sometimes that’s when you learn the most.”

He’s a guy who is using captured data to change the way NBA head coaches, some of the most regimented people you’ll ever meet, think and analyze the game.

“Take advantage of a lot of different opportunities,” said Steve Ganson ‘73, who has officiated high school basketball for 37 years. “Don’t let something strange scare you away,”

Those are words of wisdom from a Wally who caught the officiating bug during his Wabash days as a manager when the basketball coach suggested he referee the team scrimmages even though he had zero experience and admits now that he didn’t know much about the game back then.

Acclaimed artist and art advocate Matthew Deleget ‘94 took a more practical role in advice distribution, stating, “There is virtue in working hard and people who work hard have greater insights into things.”

“Study as a hard as possible,” was the response from biology and German double major Jingwei Song ‘15.

While insights gained from studying more and working hard are undoubtedly beneficial, I’ll end with the thoughts of Emmanuel Aouad ‘10, who said, “Do everything exactly the same and you’re going to be all right.”

I’m still not certain whether Emmanuel intended to deliver such a thought in the hopeful regard that we all eventually find our passion, or that he was experienced enough to be patting himself on the back. In true Wabash fashion, he delivered it with a smile and all the confidence to say there wasn’t a wrong interpretation.

That reminds me of something a professor announced to the class on my first day of graduate school. “There are no wrong answers here,” he said. “You will only be judged by how intelligently you defend your positions.”

My education continues. On to year two.

Passion Flows at Ides of August

It would be easy to say that our Ides of August works simply as a venue for sharing scholarly research. Besides, that would be boring.

I say it’s about passion. While the research is intriguing, it’s the underlying passion during these presentations that leaves a lasting impression.

To hear professors Adriel Trott or Laura Wysocki talk of the joys of ancient Greek philosophy or chemistry is to share their passion for the subjects, whether you know anything about Philopappou Hill or the angle of a hexagon bond.

Trott_Wysocki

Adriel Trott (left) and Laura Wysocki

For 30 minutes apiece Friday, Trott and Wysocki were among 17 Wabash faculty members who delivered updates on creative work and research efforts to colleagues. And in their time in the spotlight, those two led a charge that was engaged, energetic, and informative.

All that with Tasmanian Devil-levels of energy. OK, maybe it wasn’t that much energy, but it was more than enough to make you to sit up and take notice. Passion is contagious.

There were smiles, laughter, and changes in volume you just don’t get from most scholarly conferences.

Trott worked on Capitol Hill before heading to graduate school and a switch of career paths, saying, “I thought that I could do more somewhere where I was thinking and encouraging others to think. That’s what led me down this road.”

Wysocki caught the teaching bug in high school, when a biology teacher noticed that she had a sense for when information gets across to someone, and let her teach a class. From there, the passion took root and has blossomed in Hays Hall.

“I’m kind of a science nerd and this is a job where I get to be excited, unabashedly, unapologetically, excited about what I talk about,” Wysocki said. “I let that loose when I talk about my work.”

She certainly did.

That energy is essential to the faculty here. According to Lon Porter, chemistry professor and chair of the Ides of August committee, it’s a core belief that has earned its day of celebration.

“It’s central to faculty as individuals and to why and how we do what we do,” he said. “We get passionate about content, about process, about instrumentation, about analysis, about argument, about debate, and I think that really comes out. The energy that comes from this is really a fun thing.”

One faculty member summed it up best by saying of Trott’s presentation, “You had me wanting to go to Greece.”

Steeg Knew the Human Heart

Steve Charles—Ted Steeg ’52 once told me, “If you have a workable and consistent perception of what is in the human heart, you can communicate with anyone, any time, anywhere, through any medium.”

STEEG-obit-master675 Ted, who died July 7, had that “workable and consistent perception” and practiced it most famously in film. His documentary about Wabash, A Way of Life, captures “the human heart” of Wabash like no other project I’ve seen in any medium. In it we meet Wabash legends like Eric Dean, Fred Enenbach, Vic Powell, and Eliot Williams. We sit on the College mall and listen as President Thad Seymour delights upperclassmen with awful poetry during the infamous Elmore Day, then we watch him welcome with sincerity the new class on Freshman Saturday. And we see Doc Keith Baird ’56, fresh from his work on Apollo 13. It’s like watching your family’s best lost home movies; that is, if Steven Spielberg was the one in your family who liked to play with the camera.

Ted wrote: “What I was really trying to do with the whole film was not just make audiences hear and see what’s great about amazing Wabash, but also feel it.” Watch A Way of Life here on the College’s YouTube channel and you can feel it, too.

But Ted’s strongest medium was face-to-face. He lived “in the moment” all his life and long before the phrase became fashionable. He understood the power (though I can’t imagine him using the term) of simply being present. His friend Dan Wakefield recalls in Creating from the Spirit the day he began expounding to Ted the virtues he found as a beginning yoga student:

At first I thought he was trying to joke away my enthusiasm for living in the moment and shutting off the noise that the yoga postures provided. But that wasn’t it.

“You yo-yo. Why do you think I’ve been playing sports all these years?” Ted challenged. “That’s what sports does—puts you in the moment and shuts down the mental noise.”

Ted and I exchanged many emails and collaborated on several projects, but I recall his presence most keenly from an hour-long conversation we had at Crawfordsville’s Holiday Inn in the late 1990s. Ted had been in town for the first meeting of Wabash Magazine’s editorial advisory board. He offered to meet me for breakfast and talk some more. He was one of those people who put you at ease and, in that relaxed moment, the conversation and creativity flowed. I left feeling affirmed, inspired, and freed to think in new ways about our work here. And with two of the best ideas we’ve ever had for the magazine and which still guide us today.

The poet William Stafford wrote, “I’m saved in this world by unforeseen friends,” and Ted Steeg was one of those friends for many, and certainly for me, for Wabash Magazine, and my vocation here. His presence will be missed by many, especially by his daughter, Amy, his grandchildren, and friends like Wakefield, who in a tribute in NUVO Magazine wrote, “Ted was known to us as ‘The Horse’—a nickname that meant someone who was strong—the one you could count on, the one who could carry the load and never complain.”

Watch Ted’s A Way of Life on the College’s YouTube channel.

Ted reflects about making A Way of Life.

Read Dan Wakefield’s tribute in NUVO magazine.

Steeg discusses the most significant event of the 20th century in filmmaking.

A Lot Goes Into Creating Web Video

Clayton Randolph ’16 – Most people know little about what it takes to conduct an interview, be it video, paper, or any other type of media. The opportunity was presented to me by Associate Director of Communications and Marketing, Richard Paige, to come along and observe.

The goal was to feature what goes on behind the scenes of an interview, in this case a video interview. Adam Bowen, who is the Director of the Media Center, can blow your socks off with his knowledge about video. He knows how to adjust the lights just right, how to make sure the camera angle is near perfect, and can make the audio sound crisp and clean.

There is a lot going on behind the scenes.

There is a lot going on behind the scenes.

Adam brought along two of his summer interns to help with the setup of the interview. Each of the three prepared lights, adjusted cameras, and checked audio. Two cameras, two microphones, three lights, an extra light bulb, extension cords, audio/video cables, and carrying cases comprised the interview room. See photos from our video shoot here.

Setting up the scene can be a challenge. Making sure cameras are in the right place, for the best shot, with the best height, the best light, and everything else in between, is tough. It takes patience. Adam and his interns scurried around setting things up before our first guest arrived. One reflection, and I feel this is true for most, deadlines put people on edge.

The interview was featured Cameron McDougal ’12 and will appear on the Wabash website. Cameron is a bright guy who encompasses everything a Wabash man is and should be. He was actively involved in many activities throughout his time at Wabash. Ask anyone, and they will say what a genuine, caring person McDougal is. The end product will be a short three- to five-minute video interview detailing McDougal’s journey through Wabash and his career choice. The underlying theme of the video is the question of ‘What can I do with a liberal arts degree?’ Cameron embodies that motto. He came to Wabash knowing he wanted to be a dentist, but after taking biochemistry, he opted against it. Instead, he is working towards becoming an agent with the Department of Homeland Security.

For the interview, we were situated in a conference room, which had some trouble accommodating all of the gear plus five to seven other people. It was a little tight but, we made it work and ended up with a neat place for shooting. Between five different combinations of people, Kyle Bender ’12, Mac McNaught ‘76, McNaught/Cameron McDougal ’12, McDougal, and Greg Shipp ‘11, we accumulated around 90 minutes of video. Adam’s team can only make a three to five minute piece. That’s a lot of editing.

Once the interviews commenced, I was able to take some photos of what it’s like behind the camera. Although we are not ESPN, CNN or even Channel 13, the pictures give you an idea of what behind-the-scenes looks like for a video interview. Imagine being in front of multiple cameras and having to answer questions in a clear and concise manner, while five or more people watch. It can be intense.

It’s sometimes intense on the other side of the camera as well.

Clayton Randolph is a rising Junior at Wabash College and current intern in the Communications and Marketing Department.

 

Students Learn Business in LABB Program

Clayton Randolph ’16 – The Liberal Arts Bridges to Business (LABB) program took 18 students from different backgrounds and exposed them to real-world business experience from the end of May until early July.

The two major components of the paid eight-week LABB program included work on a community-based consulting project and a business plan for a hypothetical business each team of students would launch. Participants also learned to write an encompassing budget, advertising and operations plans.

“We take 18 students from across all majors with varied working knowledge of business and we expose them to the major concepts of working in business,” said Roland Morin ’91, in his fourth year leading the LABB program. “They read multiple Harvard Business School cases and business journals and are then asked to apply their liberal arts and Wabash analytical skills to the cases.”

The major concepts taught help make the students diverse in all areas of business. The participants receive preparation and understanding in economics, marketing, decision making, negotiations, procedures, human resources and leadership.

“This is all done at a very high level, but the main concepts are stacked – one upon the other to provide an understanding of what goes into working in business,” Morin said. “LABB allows students to explore topics and help them to see what areas they like most.”

Last year Wabash student employment was the consulting project. This year the Wabash scheduling program was front and center.

“This year’s consulting project was to assess the Wabash scheduling program and make recommendations for improvements to system processes, functionality, and the scheduling of rooms on campus for academic and non-academic events,” Morin said.

Part of the assessment was an open forum for members of the Wabash community to share their thoughts about the current system and suggest fixes. This allowed the students to get a better understanding of the present system.

The spirited campus discussion brought out many strong opinions. “Troubling.” “Incomplete.” “Pre-Internet.”

Perhaps not what they expected to hear. But, it was a practical way for students to experience how negotiations work in the business world. Being a part of the program has already taught students how to look at things from different points of view and has provided them opportunities to suggest fixes.

“Information Technology (IT) is trying to create a system that widely functions the best it can,” said Jake Budler ’17, an economics major. “They encounter people who know little about programming. Those people want it to work for what they need it for. I think there is miscommunication on how it’s used. The purpose of it varies from different people’s perspectives.”

The program concluded with presentations by the three groups of students showcasing their ideas for solving the problem. While philosophies varied from in-house fixes to outside scheduling companies, Morin understands what LABB gives back to students. Each year he witnesses more growth from participants, a sign the program is working.

“This is my fourth year leading this program for Wabash, and each year I am amazed at the ability of the students to make the connections between topics without being prompted,” said Morin. “Each day is different for me, the questions get more complicated and in depth as we add more topics. Facing a class of Wabash students eager to learn every morning is not easy, but it is well worth it.”

Corey Hoffman ’16 loves the idea of what LABB offers. “I have several friends who have participated in the program and they took away a lot,” he said. “It even helped them get more internships later by getting their foot in the door in business. It is essentially getting paid to learn.”

Two Different Experiences; Countless Lessons Learned

Samuel Vaught ´16 — Greetings from Ecuador!

For eleven Glee Club members, we have now been away from the United States for a month. Our first two weeks were spent studying Spanish and traditional Ecuadorian music at la Pontifícia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, known to locals simply as La Católica. We lived with host families, ate home-cooked meals, and attended class every day. Dr. Rogers of the Spanish department and Dr. Bowen were our only ties
to home as we were completely immersed in a new language, new culture, and new way of life. Living with my host family was one of the greatest learning experiences of the first half of the trip.

Going into the stay, I was most concerned about the language – being able to communicate well. I was nervous that my previous experience with the Spanish language would not be sufficient, as I wanted to be gracious and make a good impression with my family. What I found, however, was that communication was not the most difficult part of the home stay. In fact, I improved quickly and my Spanish skills have never been better. What I found most difficult was the genuine cross-cultural exchange that took place during the two weeks. Whether it was new perspectives on global politics, or the new city, or the simple things that come with daily life in a new environment, I was constantly challenged to get out of my comfort zone. I had to learn what it means to be the outsider, the alien. I was no longer in comfortable Crawfordsville, Indiana, my home for twenty years. I was in Quito, Ecuador, with Ximena Romo and Gustavo Moscoso. I think that this experience has been an invaluable lesson in the age of global migration. When you know what it feels like to be the outsider, you start thinking about the outsiders in your own home differently.

Sam Vaught '16 (center) is one of 11 Glee Club members who has been in Ecuador for the last month.

Samuel Vaught ’16 (center) is one of 11 Glee Club members who have been in Ecuador for the last month.

If we were aliens for the first two weeks, we have played the tourist for the last two. We were joined on the last day of May by sixteen additional Glee Club members as we transitioned into the second half of the trip: a two-week concert tour of the country. Led by Dr. and Mrs. Bowen, our accompanist Cheryl Everett, and Dr. Hardy and her ever-knowledgeable son Ben (I never want to go to another airport without him), we have had an exciting two weeks of discovery and cultural exchange. Traveling to the north and the south, seeing different parts of the country, and interacting with the diversity of people in La Sierra (one of Ecuador’s four geographic regions), I have had an entirely different experience. This has been a new trip: one of school concerts, cathedral concerts, and small-town concerts. One of exploring outdoor markets and buying artisanal goods. One of spending a night in the indigenous village of San Clemente and learning their way of life. Surrounded by more estadounidenses, my Spanish has certainly  atrophied. But this trip hasn’t been a let-down after the first two weeks. It has simply been different.

Tomorrow, I will board a plane to come home again to Indiana, grateful for not one immersion trip, but two. Two different experiences, and countless lessons within each one.

Adios, mi lindo Ecuador. No te olvidaré.

13 junio 2014
Quito, Ecuador

A Love/Hate Take on Big Bash

Steve Charles—I didn’t know what to say.

Chet Turnbeaugh ’14 had shown up at the Class of 1964 Reunion in Littel Lobby to give President Hess a poster he’d made as a thank-you gift, and the new grad had been mingling with guys coming back after 50 years in the world. Now he was leaving Wabash for that world, we were shaking hands goodbye, and I—who had watched Chet’s transformation from awkward freshman to bold, thoughtful, and creative graduate—couldn’t think of what to say.

Chet Turnbeaugh ’14

Chet Turnbeaugh ’14

Chet is a talented and caring young man who has taken big risks. He may accomplish a lot in the world. For his sake and the world’s, I hope he does. But he’s a good Wabash man whether he does or not. He’s going into the arts, a tough and often thankless way to make a living. I wanted to offer good words, a way to thank him for what’s he has come to mean to us. And he seemed to be waiting for something wise.

But all I could manage was a nod and a goofy smile. I’ve struggled in similar ways saying goodbye to my sons. “Stay in touch,” I told Chet. Oh, how original! How moving! I just don’t do goodbyes very well.

As Chet walked away from Wabash I waved—upping the awkwardness quotient—then turned around to my work of photographing the 70-plus-year-old men who had come home.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Big Bash Weekend.

I love meeting alumni, hearing their stories at Scarlet Yarns and colloquia. I revel in welcoming back friends; I love catching up and seeing how we’ve changed, how quickly our friendships are renewed.

I love Big Bash one-on-one.

But I hate the crowds. I feel a practically pathological anxiety in gatherings of three or more. I deal with that anxiety by doing my job as a photographer. I shoot most of the big events through 85mm or 135mm telephoto lenses, breaking the  “mob” down one person at a time. Then I can see my friends again.

And I publish those images to encourage other crowd-anxious souls, hoping they’ll overcome their concerns and attend reunions. Taking this work-like approach in the midst of friends has its consequences. I often block the very connections that make Wabash Wabash. A wall against the very story I’m trying to tell.

On Saturday, seven Wabash guys and a professor tore that wall to pieces.

I saw Andy Dreitcer ’79 in Lilly Library and called out to him. I had covered Andy’s work on reconciliation for the College’s Pastoral Leadership Program, and we had reprinted a heartbreaking and illuminating personal essay of his in the magazine. I yammered at Andy for so long Saturday he almost missed Alumni Chapel Sing.

At Chapel Sing Kent Merrill ’64 caught up with me as I was taking photographs. I had enjoyed Kent and Midge’s hospitality years ago during a visit to their home outside of Knoxville, TN, where I’d photographed the beautiful furniture the retired doc had made. I’d had a blast taking pictures in his shop. As Jim Durham ’64 would say later that night of his longtime friend, “Kent’s been a person of compassion and integrity since I first got to know him in the 6th grade.” Kent’s stopping me there at Alumni Chapel Sing made me feel remembered and I held on to that sense of belonging throughout that big event.

Last spring we shot a video on campus with Jeremy Robinson ’04 about his former student Francisco Huerta ’14. We’d told other stories about Jeremy’s teaching, but this one brought it all full circle. I felt the pride Jeremy’s Wabash teachers would have felt if they’d been there with us, so I gave him a hug afterward, told him how proud we were of him. A bold thing to do, given I wasn’t a professor. But if Bill Placher or Dan Rogers had been there, I’m confident they would have done the same—I did it for them. Jeremy was back again for Big Bash Saturday and returned the favor on his way to present a colloquium session on teaching, a kind gesture in the middle of a long day that reminded me why I love this place and that I belong here.

At the Psychology Reception, Visiting Professor Teresa Aubele-Futch and I were talking about one of her students and co-researchers, Brad Wise ’14, who hopes to attend graduate school in 2015. Although the professor will be teaching at St. Mary’s College next year, she’s taking Wise to a conference next fall to co-present their research and make grad school connections. “But you won’t be a Wabash professor then,” I said. “I believe in him,” she told me.

Rev. John Sowers ’99 was a compact force of nature when he was a student but our exchanges then were mostly light-hearted. Saturday for our Scarlet Yarns audio project he talked about how his friend and mentor Coach Max Servies ’58 had also been a surrogate grandfather to him. Then John’s classmate and fellow preacher and pastor Josh Patty talked about the ongoing relationship he has with the late Professor Bill Placher ’71 through Bill’s books and I had to wipe the tears off my viewfinder. I reminded Josh about the time he had listened to me bemoaning the rambling nature of my talk to group of Wabash alumni in Pittsburgh after I’d decided to ditch my script and go “off the cuff.” He had told me then that our presence is the gift we give each other, and often the script gets in the way. He said I didn’t have to be perfect, just had to show up and be genuine.

Jesus Campos ’04 shares his story for the College's Scarlet Yarns audio project.

Jesus Campos ’04 shares his story for the College’s Scarlet Yarns audio project.

Then Jesus Campos ’04 showed up at the Scarlet Yarns table. Jesus was my son’s pledge brother, we’d had him over for Thanksgiving when he was a student, and he had struggled mightily with the English language and Wabash academics when he arrived here from Texas. Talk about overcoming the odds! On Saturday he expressed his gratitude to Wabash and the many people who had taught and supported him here. It was joy to hear him speak, and fun, too, as we reminisced about his pledge class’s antics. I’ve rarely felt better about being a part of this College community.

Jesus is helping others now as a social worker in Philadelphia. He said some of his Wabash classmates don’t feel as though they deserve to come back for their reunions. They’re not successful or rich enough to give back the way they want to or feel they should. They think they haven’t done enough in their lives to be worthy of being embraced by their teachers and their classmates. Jesus and I talked about ways to help them see that’s not the point of a reunion: You don’t come home because you have money to build another room on the house; you come home to be with your family.

I got so caught up in the conversation as we walked out of Lilly Library that I forgot my camera and barely made it in time the cover the Class of 64 50th Reunion Dinner. There Steve Cougill ’64 was the final speaker during an evening of stories. He had attended Wabash for six semesters but hadn’t felt like he really was part of the class, didn’t “deserve” to join them at their reunion. His Kappa Sig pledge brothers and all his classmates were happy to see him.

“It’s just been wonderful being back with you guys again,” Cougill told his classmates. “At the Chapel Sing today we were singing “Old Wabash” and I could hardly keep singing because I was getting choked up, just being back with you again. It’s been a great experience, and I hope you guys all come back for our 55th.”

 

So now I know what to say to Chet Turnbeaugh: “Come back.”

“No matter what befalls you, think about your friends and the teachers who believed in you and come back.

“Don’t wait until you think you have achieved or earned ‘enough’ to come back. We knew you when you were dreaming and struggling, singing out of tune the world’s longest fight song, and those friends and family embraced you then. How much more so now?

“Whether you’ve ‘made it’ or you’re down on your luck, come home. Whether you graduated from Wabash or left after a semester, if this place has meaning to you, come home.

“Don’t wait until you’ve got hundreds or thousands or millions of dollars to give to your alma mater. As my friend the Rev. Josh Patty ’99 might say, ‘The present you bring is your presence.’”

If Wabash teaches us nothing else, she teaches us that. And she reminded me over and over again at this year’s Big Bash.


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