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Lucky

Kim Johnson – I mentioned last week in my first post how much I am enjoying getting to know this campus and my surprise at all that was happening in this little community inside the community I’ve called home for so long.

This week as I wandered through my week still trying to get my bearings I couldn’t help but wonder if the students, staff and community (myself included) really understand how lucky we have it to be so close to Wabash College and Crawfordsville.

I spent part of evening yesterday listening to award winning writer Philip Caputo read excerpts from his new book Acts of Faith. He is this year’s Will Hays, Jr. Visiting Writer. He told about the events that led to his writing of this book and detailed a few of his real-life encounters that brought life to his characters. Afterwards, he signed copies of his books and answered questions from the audience that included Ginny Hays, wife of the late Will Hays, Jr.

On the other side of the wall in the Fine Arts Center, the play Never the Sinner was opening the curtains on the second night of its four night run. The show includes several Wabash students, staff and community members. It is the opening show of this year’s theater season. (Check it out if you can!)

Just a few blocks north and east in downtown Crawfordsville, The Vanity Theater is kicking off its second weekend of The Sting while many of the downtown store fronts are lit up through this weekend with art for the 6th Annual Crawfordsville Art League Juried Art Show.

A couple friends of mine from West Lafayette came to town this week to see the art show and commented on how impressed they were with the show, the uniqueness of its presentation and the caliber of the art in the show. While many of the artists are from “the big cities” of Lafayette and West Lafayette there are 37 artists in the show from right here in Montgomery County! Two of the award winners (Professor of Mathematics Robert Foote and Steve Miller ’08) and seven others are connected to Wabash College.

I realize there are events like this going on all the time on college campuses like Purdue, Butler, and IU and all around Indianapolis and Lafayette/West Lafayette but how many rural Midwesterners can say they drove or walked less than ten minutes in virtually no traffic and spent $10 or less to participate in such events (most of the events are totally free of charge!)?

With all that said, even I like to throw some sports in every now and then. We have that too! There are three county schools with outstanding athletic programs and two of those schools go head-to-head tonight on the football field for a great match-up. The Wabash football team is currently ranked 15th in the AFCA’s Division III poll and 16th in the D3football.com poll. (They play away this weekend but will be at home for the next two.) It’s all the joys of college football – great football, tailgating, great atmosphere, an energetic mascot. The added bonus is it makes for a great Saturday activity for the entire family without having to fight your way through 75,000 of your closest friends!

Every week there are great events just like these all over campus and all across the county. I’m glad I’m finally coming to senses enough to recognize what awesome opportunities are right in front of me on a daily basis. I just wish it hadn’t taken me 31 years to realize it!

Himsel Tackles Ironies of Gay Marriage Rulings

Howard W. Hewitt – Political Science Professor Scott Himsel ’85 gave a well-crafted speech in Thursday’s Chapel Talk on the hot-button issue of gay marriage.

Himsel used two state Supreme Court cases decided last year in Indiana and New York as the basis of his talk. In both cases, the state courts ruled against gay couples seeking marriage rights and accompanying benefits. View or hear podcast here.

Grounding much of his presentation in Constitutional Law and reasoning, he startled the big Chapel gathering by suggesting the courts were “heterophobic’ and ruling for the protection of the majority over a minority.

Or as his talk’s title suggested, are gay people prevented from marrying because they make better parents? He noted comments from one of the New York justices that gay couples tend to become parents at “significant expense, foresight and planning.” While straight parents can have children without any thought.

“These cases shirt the stereotypes,” he said. Usually such cases are argued and can be decided based on morality, but these two cases were not. In essence, Himsel said, the courts have given state legislatures great latitude in deciding such issues.

He talked about Indiana’s legislature’s failure earlier this year to pass a gay marriage ban. He said its failure shocked many. Pundits opined the supporters over-played their hand, Himsel said. The bill included a provision which could have kept certain benefits and protections from unmarried couples. Ohio passed such a law in 2003 which has caused problems for unmarried couples.

And the other reason: “Big business said no,” Himsel offered. Eli Lilly, Cummins, WellPoint, Emmis Communications and others lined up against the bill saying it would jeopardize benefits offered to domestic partners at their company. They also argued it sends the wrong message for a state trying to increase economic development.

Himsel suggested in his conclusion that the great moral issues of the day should not be left to the courts alone. He cited Wabash’s 175 years of teaching men to think critically and live humanely. He said Wabash is at its best when discussing the great issues even when you disagree.

“We trust each other enough to talk about issues that really matter. We learn to live humanely by discussing issues with those whom we may differ.”

Remembering Will Hays, Jr.

Jim Amidon — My memory is too cob-webbed to accurately recall when I first met the late Will Hays, Jr. and his wife, Ginny. “A long time ago” is about the best I can do.

They were — and Ginny continues to this day — omnipresent at all things Wabash College. I can recall seeing them from time to time when I was an undergraduate at the College in the middle 1980s, but the depth of our friendship developed during my early years working as the sports information director.

Bill and Ginny were fixtures at Wabash athletics events, particularly football and basketball games.

Ginny, and sometimes Will, would arrive at the football stadium to reserve their seats about the time the sun rose above the east end of the field, dew still glistening on the grass. Anyone who knows Wabash football knows you can always find a good seat. Bill and Ginny saved theirs by 7:30 a.m. on game days. They wanted to be in the same spot so the players on the field would always know where they were.

Together they cheered for the Little Giants from just behind the team bench at basketball games, too. Win or lose, Bill would write a letter to the team after every game. Every game.

Since Bill was a writer (among his many pursuits), you wouldn’t be surprised to know that those hand-penned letters were beautifully crafted. But few people outside of the Wabash locker rooms ever saw them. I often wonder if coaches Mac Petty, Stan Parrish, and Greg Carlson saved those letters; compiled they would provide an illustrative record of our athletics history.

First and foremost, though, Bill Hays was a storyteller; the best I’ve ever heard. Right up until his passing, he could spin a yarn that would captivate anyone within earshot. My favorite memories are of his funny tales; long, old-style jokes that led you up to a knockout punchline.

All of us who knew Bill genuinely miss his ability to tell stories and recall memories in truly moving ways.

At the time of his death, his family and friends established the Will Hays, Jr. Visiting Writers Series at Wabash College. Every other year, a nationally recognized writer is invited to campus to spend time in class, talking with students, and to give a reading or lecture.

I’m pleased — and I think Bill would have been, too — that this year’s Will Hays, Jr. Visiting Writer is the award-winning reporter and novelist Philip Caputo.

For me, the connections here are interesting. I was a history major at Wabash 20-some years ago, and I found the oral histories of the Vietnam War to be among the most compelling books I had ever read. Philip Caputo’s memoir, A Rumor of War, was among my favorites because of his compelling, first-person depiction of his time in Vietnam. Reading that book made me feel as though I was right there with him and he was telling me the story.

Will Hays sharpened his writing skills and story-telling ability as a writer for the old TV show, This is Your Life. Philip Caputo spent nine years writing for the Chicago Tribune, earning a Pulitzer Prize in 1972.

Since then, Caputo has written seven books and two memoirs. His latest novel, Acts of Faith, was inspired by work he did for National Geographic in Sudan.

His public talk, “Fiction is Better Than Truth: Turning Journalism into Art,” will be given Thursday night at 8 p.m. in Salter Hall of the Fine Arts Center. I hope you’ll come to both honor Will Hays’ legacy and to listen as Caputo talks about the relationship in his work between reporting news and developing novels.

In an age when we’re pushed and pulled rapidly in directions beyond our control, a good book — a good story — can slow us down, engage us, and move us. Philip Caputo knows how to do this remarkably well.

And I just have a hunch that if he were alive today, Will Hays, Jr. would be the first one in his seat to listen Caputo tell his story.