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Search Committee: A Remarkable Effort

Jim Amidon — Wabash trustee John Fox, Jr. was positively buoyant when he stepped into my office Saturday morning. He had just gotten off the phone with Dr. Patrick White, the man the Wabash Board of Trustees unanimously elected to become the college’s 15th president when Andy Ford steps down at the end of this academic year.

For Fox, the jubilation was obvious. He’s spent the last seven months chairing the search committee that ultimately recommended Dr. White, who presently serves as Vice President and Dean of Faculty at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana.

Fox has retired from his career as the vice chairman of Deloitte Consulting. That he so thoroughly and carefully led the search committee at a time when he might have spent the last six months in Phoenix or Naples is remarkable. But John isn’t the only person whose deep commitment to Wabash was on display the last seven months. To every member of the committee, I extend the gratitude and appreciation of the entire college community.

What was truly remarkable was the level of confidentiality with which the search was conducted. I had conversations just last Friday with trustees, alumni, faculty, staff, and students — nobody had a clue which of the three final candidates the trustees might elect.

And in the end, they elected the right man for the job.

You’ll hear more from Pat White and about him in the coming months. The qualities I think make him a good fit for Wabash are his deep passion for the liberal arts; his articulateness in discussing the value of single sex education; his thoughtful, listening-first approach to problem solving; and his track record with the faculty at Saint Mary’s.

But the real reason he’s going to be Wabash’s next president is because he will continue Andy Ford’s remarkable legacy of putting students at the very center of all that we do.

I had the opportunity to chat with Dr. White by phone on Saturday morning. Over and over he said he wanted to make sure students got the news first; that students would know how excited he is to serve them; and how we must find opportunities for him to interact with students prior to his official appointment on July 1.

That notion does make you want to ask, "Shouldn’t college presidents like their students and place them at the top of the constituent list?"

You’d be surprised how few college presidents share Andy Ford and Pat White’s passion for serving students. Many get wrapped up in lobbying for funding or programs, glad-handing wealthy donors, or fighting with faculty. Ultimately they lose sight of what should be their central mission: creating opportunities for the students who are enrolled in their institutions.

I can’t tell you how fortunate many of us at Wabash feel today to know that the students-first tradition at Wabash will continue under its 15th president.

You’ve got to hand it to the search committee for its diligent work. They probably could have chosen a superstar scholar, or the author of a dozen books on education, or someone with more experience in fund raising.

In the end, the committee recommended to the Board Dr. Patrick White, an Indiana guy who really wanted this job because he sees something truly special in our students. And if we’re being honest, that’s the only quality that really matters.

Blog about a blog?

Steve CharlesI was doing some research on a story for an upcoming issue of Wabash Magazine when I came across the website of Indianapolis attorney Mark Rutherford ’82—actually, the site he keeps as chairman of the Indiana Libertarian Party. Mark, it’s been noted elsewhere, is the longest serving chair of a political party in the state of Indiana.

But what caught my eye was his entry about fellow Wabash alum Frank Hagaman ’72 (pictured at far right) and his work as president of the Partners in Housing Development Corporation. The Corporation’s mission is the "create or cause to be created" affordable housing for people with special needs.

We published an article about Partners in Housing in the Summer 1998 issue of the magazine, but Frank has just been named the 2006 Wabash Man of the Year by the Indianapolis Association of Wabash Men. So now we have a second chance to note and celebrate this important work.

Here’s some of what Mark Rutherford has to say about it:

"I’ve been intrigued by Partners in Housing because one of their recent projects, Linwood Manor, was done with private equity and without government grants and their restrictions. Dan and I met with Partners founder and chief executive officer Frank Hagaman and their Development Director Lee Ann Harper. One of the purposes of the meeting was to learn more about Partners and their success with Linwood Manor. Another purpose was to learn how the Libertarian Party of Indiana can help spread the word about Partners and the Linwood Manor project.

"We learned how Partners received many benefits by doing this completely privately (fewer government restrictions, requirements, and less reporting to government officials were highlighted, among many advantages). This helped drive down the costs from the typical project, which allowed them to do more and serve more disadvantaged people."

You can read more at Mark’s website, at the Partners in Housing page, or in the Summer 1998 issue of Wabash Magazine Online.

Photo: Bob Rhodehamel ’72 and Frank Hagaman as pictured on the cover of the Summer 1998 Wabash Magazine.

New Soccer Coach Boasts Italian Charm

Jim Amidon — I learned about the hiring of new head soccer coach Roberto Giannini long before most on campus, but I had to sit on the news until all of the formalities of human resources paperwork had been completed. Since I wasn’t a part of the interviewing process, I had only Roberto’s resume to use when writing the press release about him.

Finally, on Monday, I had the chance to meet the man who will lead the Wabash soccer program into the 2006 season. While we spent only 15 minutes together as I photographed him, I was immediately impressed by his Italian charisma and charm. He reminded me of the friendly and hospitable people I met while traveling through Italy with John Fischer’s Roman Art and Archeology class a few years ago.

Roberto hails from Bologna, a city he described as off the tourist path and a "real Italian city." I told him that my friend, Mark Shreve, is working in Perugia, to which he replied, "Perugia is home to the largest university for foreigners." Yep, that’s where Mark works, I said. He then talked passionately about how Bologna and Perugia are much the same; lots of old Italian charm and businesses that cater to locals, not tourists. My mouth was watering as he covered Parma’s famous hams and cheeses and the local wines.

My 15 minutes with Roberto Giannini ended with me wishing him the best of luck in his new gig at Wabash, and leaving with the feeling I had known the guy for years.

Here’s hoping that our current and future players have that same warm experience in their interactions with their new soccer coach. If so, the wins will certainly follow.

Scott Crawford: A Man With Ideas!

Susan Cantrell – To satisfy my own curiosity, as well as gather information for a profile on the Wabash Web Page, I looked forward to interviewing Scott Crawford, the new Career Services Director. He is doing a job that is so important for our students.

Our meeting was not disappointing. Crawford is full of ideas. Practically all I had to do was ask what he had in mind for the Schroeder Career Services Center and his responses came flying out. To say the Career Services operation should be multi-faceted is an understatement, if ever there was one. The people in the office have to be in contact with business, graduate schools, non-profit employers, the military and other organizations. They have to run a protocol school, an editing desk, a counseling service, and a marketing operation, both for our students and their prospective employers.

Getting students, even seniors, to consult Career Services is not always easy, but Scott Crawford has come up with an idea for this, as well as for most other challenges he and his office face. What is the one sure way to get the attention of college students? Food. And plenty of it. What is the Career Services Office sponsoring the first Sunday evening when all students are back on campus for the second semester? A chili supper.

When I heard that, I felt confident Career Services has some good days ahead.