Jim Amidon — Eight environmentally focused groups came together Saturday on a stretch of ground about 10 minutes southwest of town. When the ceremony began, perhaps as many as 200 people had gathered at the edge of a former cornfield in front of a sign that read “Bachner Nature Preserve.”
A pair of Canadian geese flew overhead to signify that it was time to begin.
And with that, David Krohne — longtime biology professor at Wabash and member of the NICHES Land Trust — welcomed the crowd that had come together to celebrate the life and loves of Michael Bachner.
Mike was a 1970 graduate of Wabash and ran the College’s bookstore for 35 years. He was, more than anything, in love with all things natural and wild, especially Sugar Creek.
When Mike died of a sudden heart attack about 18 months ago, his friends tried to imagine a fitting tribute to the man who had introduced the creek’s wonders to literally hundreds of friends, co-workers, and Wabash students.
It all came together Saturday morning when a tract of land with 29 acres fronting Sugar Creek was forever protected from development and named the Bachner Nature Preserve.
Professor Krohne talked about how the Bachner Nature Preserve came to be reality. He said that it was a wonderful collaboration among groups focused on protecting our environment. Spearheaded by the NICHES Land Trust, the preserve was established thanks to the Heritage Trust, Friends of Sugar Creek, The Nature Conservancy, Tipmont REMC, McAllister Foundation, the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society, and Pheasants Unlimited.
I knew Mike well as a co-worker for over 20 years, but it wasn’t until after his death that I came to realize how much Mike meant to Sugar Creek and how much Sugar Creek meant to Mike. He could have settled anywhere in the world; he could have traveled. But he found all he wanted while paddling in the creek that winds its way through Montgomery County — that many believe is the most beautiful stream in the state.
Mike’s daughter, Madeline, told a handful of her favorite stories of her dad’s love affair with Sugar Creek; how he’d often go paddling in the dead of winter and how he delighted when introducing the creek to someone for the first time.
Mike once wrote, “Sliding down the snowy bank, spraying into the flow, I’m immediately immersed, floating in a sparkling world of ice and snow and water. Red-tailed hawks serenely soar above, watching belted kingfishers scold me off their piece of real estate. I’m not alone, but I find some refuge.”
Later in his life, Mike came to realize that there were fewer and fewer access points for paddlers to put into Sugar Creek and that bothered him. Madeline said they were often “run off” by landowners.
Thanks to so many important groups, there will be a spot just a stone’s throw from town where people of all ages and from across the country can access the creek. In time, the Bachner Nature Preserve will provide that access point, including parking.
And after the dedication was over, dozens of Mike’s old friends, co-workers, and a handful of Wabash students (who had never even met Mike), rolled up their sleeves and got to work.
We drilled holes deep into the fertile soil, while throngs of volunteers prepped and planted over 5,000 trees — native species that will thrive in this little stretch of the Sugar Creek Valley.
It will take time, but those trees will soon become a forest and a small chunk of cornfield will return to wilderness; native and wild, just like Mike would have wanted.
It was a terrific day — a day when people of this community who genuinely care about the land that surrounds us and the air we breathe — came together to celebrate a lost friend and build something that will forever honor his memory.
All of us laughed and smiled when Professor Krohne reminded us that despite such a special, beautiful Saturday morning — the first, best day of spring — had he been alive, Mike would not have been there.
He would have woken at dawn, grabbed his kayak, and spent the rest of his day on the water, paddling in his own little chunk of the world — the waters of Sugar Creek.
Howard W. Hewitt - After conquering the Wabash years and preparing for life’s next big step many students find themselves wrestling with decisions about graduate school.
The Wabash Chemistry Club recognizes the difficult time of decision making and annually invites a recent Wabash man back to campus to discuss his path and current research.
Greg Fulmer ’05, a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, was the Club’s guest Thursday for a talk about his grad school decision-making process.
Fulmer, a chemistry major here, titled his talk "Potential of a Post Graduate Career in Chemistry." He used a little humor and statistics to tell the Wabash club members and chemistry majors they have lots of options beyond the medical school track. He ran through jobs available in Academia, Government, and industry.
He admitted that his process of selecting a school was a little unscientific at first. "I made a list of all the places I’d like to live," he laughed. When he found out Washington had an outstanding chemistry program, the decision was easy to move to Seattle. "And besides I’ve been a Seahawk fan all my life."
He gave the students plenty of advice about asking the right questions and finding the right fit.
It’s a great example of how Wabash as a school and its students and clubs do all the little things to enhance a young man’s education.
Fulmer used most of his time to discuss his research work in propylene oxide. That is a chemical compound that is found in foam, cosmetics, and inks.
References to Fulmer’s recent campus fame were made in jest. He was a small part of our Wabash Magazine Online issue on the Great Northwest. He provided a night-time tour of Seattle’s Capital Hill district, a big social area for college-age students. If you haven’t seen it, you can click here.
Jim Amidon — Sunday’s performance by the 15 senior members of the Wabash College Glee Club was far different than any normal Glee Club concert. And it might just have been the most entertaining concert I’ve attended in the Lewis Salter Concert Hall.
Anyone at Wabash who has attended a Glee Club concert over the last four years knows the depth of the senior class — 15 strong. They’ve sung from Ladoga to San Francisco and Philly to England over their four years on campus, and through it all they have represented Wabash in extraordinary fashion.
On Sunday afternoon, they went out with a bang while performing “Our Stories, Our Songs,” which showcased the talent of 2009 Glee Club seniors. The seniors selected all 14 songs that helped tell their Wabash stories, and Royce Gregerson knitted it all together with a thoughtful and often humorous script.
But there was far more than singing.
Jacob Peerman dashed from the balcony, where he and Ross McKinney introduced “Take a Chance on Me,” down to the stage, where six members of the club serenaded three women who had been brought to the stage. At the conclusion of the song, only one woman remained — Peerman’s girlfriend, Kassi — and Peerman took a knee and proposed marriage to the howling delight of the crowd.
Just before Peerman’s emotional proposal, senior Campbell Robbins had his own moment. Joined by his younger brothers, Luke and Peter, Campbell dragged his father, Clay ’79, onto the stage while the glee Club sang “I Want a Girl.” With dad singing along, the boys saluted their mother, Amy, who was seated near the stage. (see photo below)
The high-octane, highly caffeinated version of “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup” was a showstopper.
While the entire performance provided a lot of powerful moments — including “Try to Remember” sung by Justin Bilby, Royce Gregerson, and Jay Brouwer — a couple of songs really stood out.
Duncan Dam, a native of Hanoi, Vietnam, sat by himself on a stool under a cool spotlight while he sang “When You Say Nothing at All.” He’s a great example of the opportunities Wabash offers its students — an international student who has traveled extensively with the Glee Club and who will enroll in a chemistry Ph.D. program at Northwestern this fall.
Nathan Rutz, with flowing hair and matching beard, gave an emotional performance of “Gethsemane” from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Similarly, Royce Gregerson wowed me with his performance of “February Song.”
But these men have left their mark at the College as an ensemble — spreading the honored name of Wabash across this country and abroad.
Perhaps nothing showed that ensemble spirit — and showcased the remarkable friendships among the members — more than “Come Travel with Me,” which ended the show and brought down the house.
Jim Amidon — Ever buy a hot dog at a Wabash College football game? What about a bag of popcorn and coke at a Wabash basketball game?
Ever wonder who the guys standing in the concession stands are?
Ever wonder what they do with the money they take in from the concession stands?
I’ve long known that the money generated by members of Alpha Phi Omega gets plugged back into our community. Until last Friday, I had no idea how much money that is.
Alpha Phi Omega is a fraternity, but it is not a social fraternity. APO is an honorary service fraternity with strong emphasis on service.
Unlike other fraternities, members don’t live in fraternity houses and about the only parties they throw are for local kids — pumpkin carving parties, Easter Egg hunts, and things like that.
There really isn’t “pledging” that goes on with APO, though becoming a member can be pretty time consuming. You see, to become a member of this national service fraternity, students have to commit to community service — literally hundreds of hours of community service.
The service projects take on all forms, like volunteering to cook up a few hundred hot dogs, bag up a couple hundred sacks of popcorn, and counting change while thousands of other sports fans are cheering on the Little Giant football and basketball teams. APO also invites local organizations to help with concessions — and the organizations get the profit.
About a week ago, Terri Fyffe — who has been involved with APO a lot longer than I’ve been at Wabash — told me a little about the finances of APO. Since APO members keep such a low profile, to the point of being invisible at times, I thought I’d share with the community the sorts of things APO does.
Terri told me that over the last six years, APO has donated over $46,000 to local charities and service agencies. That’s nearly $50,000 from a bunch of Wabash students and their faculty and staff advisors!
Last year was a record-setter. APO donated an even $10,000 to local organizations.
This year, Terri projects that Wabash’s APO chapter will give out $12,569 by the end of the year.
That’s a lot of hot dogs!
Here’s how it works: The APO guys divide up and work the concession stands during home games. Profit generated from the homecoming football game and NCAA playoff game against Wheaton totaled nearly $2500 — and that was donated to the Youth Service Bureau.
Our local Habitat for Humanity received almost $2500 from concession profits from the Monon Bell Game — and that was just the Wabash side of the field. The Boys and Girls Club of Montgomery County got a check for more than $800 from concessions sold on the other side of the field in the Bell Game.
There were seven basketball games played over the holidays that generated over $1100 in profit. Those proceeds were donated to the Elston Memorial Home Foundation.
And at the Relay for Life last month, the APO guys stood outside and grilled hot dogs and hamburgers for hours. The result was a donation of over $700 to the local chapter of the American Cancer Society.
This week they divvied up the last of their profits. The local Sunshine Vans, which provide transportation for all segments of the population, received $1,000, as did the Montgomery County Family Crisis Shelter and Habitat for Humanity.
APO donated $500 each to the Animal Welfare League, the FISH Food Pantry, the Montgomery County chapter of the American Red Cross, and the Westside Shelter/Mission.
This is good work that makes a huge impact in our community. A check for $2500 goes a long way at the Youth Service Bureau and Habitat for Humanity.
But it’s not just about money. APO members conduct blood drives, build Habitat houses, work at the Boys and Girls Club, and donate time to places like the Crisis Shelter and Animal Shelter.
And none of this would happen if not for people like Terri, Larry Frye in earlier years, and the hundreds of students who over the years have given so much of their time. Mostly, though, the students who have driven the good work of APO have been invisible to the folks in our community who have benefited from their generosity.
With that in mind, I salute APO’s leaders — Asher Weaver, Gregg Schipp, Mark Thomas, Ben Shirey, Craig Cochran, Jon Hogge, and Matt Schenkel — men on campus who have given of themselves and given back to this community.
They truly do embody the elements of the Wabash mission that include acting responsibly, leading effectively, and, most of all, living humanely.
Jim Amidon — When people ask me about Wabash College, I usually start by telling them about the traditions and the richness of the relationships between students and faculty, and then I tell them about the value-added aspects of a Wabash liberal arts education.
Okay, so I’m in PR and marketing and I toss around phrases like “value added education” all the time — assuming folks know what I’m talking about.
Well, not everybody does.
Now is the time when high school seniors and their families are making decisions about whether to spend more money to attend Wabash or go to a lesser-priced public university. So as you can guess, I’ve been talking a lot more about those aspects of a Wabash education that deepen the value of the experience.
Some elements of the Wabash experience that are uncommon elsewhere are big ticket items like Immersion Learning trips that take our students around the world to learn at the source of their studies — in places like Rome, Athens, Quito, and Berlin. Lots of schools offer those types of courses; few schools pick up all the travel and lodging costs like Wabash does.
Lots of schools offer summer programs to expand course offerings, but students almost always have to pay for them. At Wabash, many students are paid to conduct research alongside Wabash scientists or participate in the Business Leadership Program’s Summer Business Immersion course — and get paid to do it.
Things like Immersion Learning trips, collaborative research, and the Business Leadership Program are huge programs to consider when looking at the Wabash sticker price.
But there are countless little things that happen every day that make Wabash a little different.
Last week, the guys involved in theater had the chance to work hands-on with professional theater performers. Rob Johnansan, an actor and trained stage-fighting instructor, came to campus to work over our student actors. They gathered in the wrestling room and took turns (fake) punching, (fake) wrestling, and (fake) choking one another. The students learned how to control their own bodies and react to the movement of others.
A lot of those same students had the opportunity to work with a New York-based professional troupe of puppeteers, who were invited to campus to perform Friday night in a Visiting Artists Series event.
Folks from Wakka Wakka Productions broke out the hand-and-rod puppets and taught the Wabash guys how to control the movement of — to animate — an inanimate object.
Earlier in the week, Wabash students spent time with famed economist and Columbia University Professor Charles Calomiris, who presented the Rogge Memorial Lecture.
Calomiris’ lecture came at a perfect time — he spoke on subprime loans, the origins of our financial crisis, and the emerging economic giant, China. All of those topics bring to life concepts our students learn in the classroom. And being able to just sit and talk to Calomiris or have dinner with him is indeed a rare opportunity — and if I may — a value added element of the Wabash experience.
Such access isn’t just limited to visiting lecturers and performers, though.
I was reading some of the student blogs on Wabash’s website last week and stumbled on a post by sophomore pre-med student Jake Ezell. Jake wrote about bumping into Dean of Students Mike Raters, then going back to his office to talk for half an hour.
Meanwhile, dozens of Wabash guys are getting ready to start summer internships provided by the College’s alumni. Instead of schlepping coffee, they’ll be doing real work in a real business, doctor’s office, or law firm. And a whole bunch of them will get paid for the experience.
Even with perhaps the state’s best financial aid and scholarship program, Wabash is still expensive for most families. And if students are deciding on their college education only on a bottom line price, Wabash will lose most of the time.
But if those same students and their parents are looking deeply — looking all those terrific options that are included in the Wabash sticker price — they will quickly realize that Wabash is different.
A Wabash education is something you pull off the shelf or drive off the lot.
A Wabash education is an investment that pays dividends over a lifetime. And it seems to me there is great value in that.
I thought of that conversation when I first heard that the Mike Bachner Reserve, which will be dedicated at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 25, includes an access point to the creek. An access point only a few yards from the very one whose closing had Mike so worried.
Can you imagine a better tribute to the man who had been drawn to Wabash nearly 40 years ago by Sugar Creek?
Then I found out where the new Bachner Reserve was, and I was taken aback. Just off Offield Monument Road in a wide valley, this place that will honor Mike is located in the very place where one of his most memorable moments on the creek occurred!
Mike wrote about it for Wabash Magazine‘s "Refuge" issue in 2005. I’ll reprint his words below.
We’ll have more about how the Bachner Reserve came about—an amazing partnership between Friends of Sugar Creek, the NICHES Land Trust, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Pheasants Forever, and the Indiana Heritage Trust—along with more about Mike, and even a couple of audio recordings of him.
We’ll have directions on the Wabash Web site on how to get there, too.
But I wanted to get this date out there now so you can mark it on your calendars—April 25, 10 a.m. for the dedication. The rest of the day we’re all welcome to stay and help plant the thousands (yes, thousands!) of trees that will help restore wildlife habitat to the area. Should be a great day.
I spent my share of weekends as a student in the ’60s canoeing with friends. Gondoliering down the Sugar Creek wilderness, singing show tunes. On one high-water trip we discovered a canoe lodged beneath a logjam. We returned later and, after considerable underwater sawing, we retrieved not one, but two canoes. One became the first of my now five-boat stable.
Over the years, I’ve taken several students out to share my love of Sugar Creek. The trip I best remember was about 10 years ago. I took Waseel Azizi ’95, a Pakistani student, down the creek for a couple of hours.
When we passed through the wide valley where the first settler of record, William Offield, built his homestead, Waseel began quietly singing, "Mani, mani, mani/busan cahani ching . . . "
I asked what prompted the song, and he told me a tale of traveling with his mussein grandfather in Pakistan to experience a Sufi water ritual at a stream recalled by our location in Sugar Creek.
I still use that Sufi chant as a meditation focus. It carries me back to one of my many moments of refuge on Sugar Creek.
—Mike Bachner, from Wabash Magazine, Winter 2005
In photo: Mike celebrates during his 2005 Chapel Speech at Wabash.