Banner

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.