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A Snapshot of Lives Transformed

Wabash Magazine Summer 2013 cover photo: Keaton Becher ’13 savors the moment as he receives his diploma from President Pat White during last spring’s Commencement ceremony.

Steve Charles—I hate typos.

In someone else’s stuff, maybe it’s just annoying, sometimes even funny (this one, for example). But when I make them in a Wabash publication?

It’s not like a Web site, where you’ll see a typo one minute, can go online, correct it, and it’s suddenly healed.

In print it bleeds there like an open wound until the paper disintegrates.

Like in the Summer 2013 issue of Wabash Magazine in which we cover Commencement and the Big Bash Reunion.

No one celebrates those events like Wabash, and this year, with two sunny weekends and near record numbers of students and alumni and their families on campus, our photographers captured those celebrations better than ever. Add to that photos from numerous events paying tribute to former President Pat and Chris White’s seven years with us, and I was really looking forward to getting this one in our readers’ hands. Even considered entering it in a national contest, if only to show the connections and emotions that make Wabash THE liberal arts College for men.

And it was looking great when I got my early copies. I checked the photos first to make sure the color matched our proofs, then started reading back to front, the way we do the last proof, just to make sure nothing snuck through.  Then I opened the inside back cover and saw it:

Our form of education only makes sense if we’re transorming lives.

Transorming?

Can’t be. So I looked again.

Transorming.

And the voice in my head takes off: It’s transforming, you moron. How could you have missed this. Five proofreaders, and six looks at this page yourself, including the last look, and you missed that!?

So now everything’s in question and I turn a few more pages and there’s another one in the captions: Weston Kirtley? Who the hell is Weston Kirtley? You’ve printed that name almost as many times as we’ve printed magazines during Wes Kitley’s four years at Wabash, and you get it wrong on his last issue on campus? NCAA Postgraduate Scholar Weston Kitley?

I informed my bosses, threw a copy of the magazine across the room. Then I ripped out the offending pages on one copy and trashed them and kept working on the Fall issue, trying not to think about the thousands of dollars I just squandered, or the frustration readers will feel when they see it, or how I let down Pat White by screwing up one of his best and truest lines in an issue that was supposed to pay tribute to his love for and service to this place.

And you can be sure I’m taking my time distributing this one on campus.

After a couple days I opened it again, by chance, to page 29 and read this quote from Jotipalo Bhikku ’88, (whose name we corrected on the proofs twice!):

“One sure way to suffer is to think about yourself. If you don’t want to suffer, think of others.”

So I took that advice for a second, as Jotipalo’s words have been helpful before (we covered his Mississippi River pilgrimage in the magazine), and I realized the selfishness of what I was doing. Yeah, I screwed up. It reflects badly on Wabash when I let a typo go through. But as I told my art director as I tried to soothe her anger, unfairly blaming herself for those typos (that’s not her job; it’s mine): This is why I’m not a brain surgeon. We’ll live to do better next time, adjust the process as best we can to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and get back to telling stories.

And my mistake is no reason not to celebrate the great times our community had during those weekends, the work of a staff of photographers who captured it so beautifully, and the extraordinary efforts of Marilyn Smith, videographer Austin Myers ’16, Scott Hastings ’15, Jimmy Blaich ’14 and all our student interviewers who gathered alumni stories for our Scarlet Yarns project, also celebrated in this issue.

So, as you receive this issue or see it on campus, don’t make the mistake I made. Don’t see those typos and overlook the faces, the new graduates and alumni, the teachers and the parents, the wives and the children.

Because the greatest irony of that typo is that Pat White is exactly right: Our form of education only makes sense if we’re transforming lives.

And in this issue—in those embraces between young men and their teachers, between men whose bond holds 50 years since they left this place, and in those arms still locked together for Chapel Sing five years after graduation—are lives transformed. That Summer issue is a photo album of lives transformed.

T-R-A-N-S-F-O-R-M-E-D.

If you want to see how that quote was supposed to look you’ll be able to read it online on the Web site in a couple of days. But if you have the print version, you could do what I did: Grab a pen (red is an appropriate color) and add the “f” to that pulled quote (transform transorm!) so that anyone reading it will make no mistake: We’re not perfect, but we do transform lives here.