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Learning How to Sit

Steve Charles—Yesterday I did one of the wisest things I’ve done in a long time.

Nothing.

I missed the chance to actually be a day early on deadline on Wabash Magazine for the first time in 17 years. I came to work in the morning, finished an interview with Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts Director Charlie Blaich, then drove to Indianapolis and learned how to sit. Something my dog Jules mastered long ago.

My wife and I sat with my best friend and his family while his wife had surgery for breast cancer at St. Francis Hospital. Two skilled surgeons and their teams operated for more than four hours, and we just sat there. Huddled with our comfortable chairs arranged in a square, talking about trips we’d taken, laughing at the various challenges we’ve each been facing as we get older (You know you’ve become a senior citizen when your conversations begin with how often you get up in the night to pee), catching up about our kids, anything else that came up.

Nothing, really.

I remember observing such moments as a kid when I accompanied my parents or grandparents to the hospital, or to gatherings after funerals, to sit with their friends. How could they stand to sit for so long?

Didn’t they have anything better to do.

Now I understand that they didn’t; they were already doing the most important thing they could do—sitting.

There’s this scene in the film Lars and the Real Girl, where a painfully shy young man whose mother died giving birth to him has turned away from all relationships and orders an inflatable doll online to be his life partner (I know, I know—but watch this movie some time to see a writer and a director turn something potentially perverse and maudlin into just the opposite). At the end of the movie when the doll is ‘dying’, a group of older women from Lars’ church brings food and stays with him as he takes a break from being at his vinyl beloveds bedside. He sits on the couch in his living room as one of the women knits, another embroiders, another looks up every now and then and smiles. Lars finally asks, “Is there something I should be doing?”

“No dear,” one of the women says. “Just eat.”

“We came over here to sit,” another says.

‘That’s what people do when tragedy strikes,” another says. “They come over and sit.”

“Don’t you feel a little better?” the first woman asks.

Lars looks down at his food, at the small gathering of knitting and embroidering women, considers this, and nods.

Lars has to learn this from women, as I did from my wife. When we first heard about the surgery, CJ said, “I’m going to be there.” I felt the same instinct. But when the day finally arrived, one obstacle after another threw itself at my plans.

Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts Director Charlie Blaich
photo by Kim Johnson

What finally convinced me to go was something Charlie Blaich said when we were talking about the deeper purpose of a liberal arts education, how “Wabash will be doing great work if it can play a role in this process of helping you become a good man, and help you with habits and things to think about that will keep you reflecting upon that process the rest of your life.

“We’re always becoming men—it’s not like you get the stamp of manhood when you graduate.

“A good man tries to do good by the world, to serve others,” Charlie added [excerpts from the interview will be featured in the Spring 2013 issue of Wabash Magazine]. “They are loving. They stand humble before the world and hope to have a positive influence, but don’t claim things too overtly for themselves.”

As I transcribed Charlie’s words, I knew that on this particular day, being a good man for me meant setting aside my anxiety about online magazine and blog deadlines and concerns about my viability as an employee here, driving to Indy, and doing nothing.

Even when I had no power to change the outcome of the surgery and or help in any material way.

Any doubts I had about this truth were put to rest soon after we’d arrived, when my friend thanked me for showing up. I dismissed it matter of factly: “Where else would we be?” Even as I remembered how close I’d been to not coming at all.

“Still,” he said, “I really appreciate it. The little community and all, just sitting. People used to do this all the time for each other. Not so much anymore.”

Yet in the waiting room there were several huddles like ours: People sitting—some talking, some silent, all these prayers in the flesh for someone in an operating room just down the hall.

After the surgery and the doctor’s report CJ and I were trudging up to my friend’s wife’s room with her sister, Lisa, when a volunteer said, ‘You’re all immediate family of the patient, right?”

“Yes,” I answered without thinking.

“It’s a new policy, you know. Immediate family only,” she insisted, looking quizzically at me, then Lisa, who nodded. When we got on the elevator Lisa said, “Well, you’ve been part of our lives long enough—you might as well be family.”

The most tangible reward of sitting is getting to see the person you’ve been thinking about all that time after the operation—she’s alive, awake, safe. At least one part of her ordeal is ended. We walked in with about 12 others into the room, each of us wearing our pink visitor sticker (So much for another rule: “Only two allowed in the room at a time”) She smiled for a second when her youngest son Luke told her that he had done the laundry for her that day. I looked around the room at this family doing the most mundane thing families do at such times and to be in the middle of it all felt miraculous.

I was remembering that scene this morning when I realized that CJ and I really had been the only “non-immediate family” there that moment. The family could easily have asked us to wait outside and we’d have understood; we had no ‘right’ to be there. But gathered up in this moment of grace, trust, and gratitude, there we were. And it finally made sense—Where else could I be?

This morning it’s time to get back to work, and later today or tomorrow (depending on when the print copies arrive) I’ll be posting the Winter 2013 issue of Wabash Magazine. I’m proud of the writing and thought that seniors Ian Grant and Riley Floyd put into this; the work that Tim Sipe ’78, Karen Handley, Howard Hewitt, Pat White, Ethan Hollander, Christie Byun, Pete Prengaman ’98, Tom Runge, Greg Castanias, Beth Swift, and David Phillips contributed; the photography of Kim Johnson, Quentin Dodd ’94, Jim Amidon ’87 and others that so enhances this issue. I’m lucky to have had such creative, talented, dedicated collaborators on this project. I’m looking forward to telling you about that work. In some way, it’s about unexpected connections we have to each other, present and past, and it’s a little risky in its own way. Not too far off from yesterday’s lesson.

We mean more to each other than we ever dare say. But if getting older brings any wisdom, it’s that we’d best find a way to say it once in a while. If not in words, then by doing nothing, with those we care most about. Maybe we should add to the Wabash curriculum an essential lesson for a liberally educated person of any age: learning how to sit.

Entrepreneur Hao Liu ’11 “Booming”

Hao Liu ’11 in front of Kane House on the Wabash campus, 2010

Steve Charles—I wasn’t surprised to read in the current Chronicle of Higher Education about Hao Liu ’11 and the SIE International Summer School program. He co-founded the school when he was a sophomore at Wabash, we featured him in the Spring 2011 issue of Wabash Magazine, Wabash professors have traveled to Shanghai to teach in SIE, and retiring Professor Melissa Butler H’85 has been named the first dean of the program.

I also knew that Hao’s was the first such program in China, and was doing very well.

But I had no idea how well!

The Chronicle calls SIE the first of a “booming enterprise.

“SIE’s success has spawned a slew of competitors,” Chronicle reporters Beth McMurtrie and Lara Farrar write. “New ones are popping up seemingly on a monthly basis.”

And it all started here at Wabash when Hao “realized that Chinese students had little opportunity to take classes for credit at home during the summer, unlike his American counterparts.”

And another of the programs—Summer China Program—was co-founded by Hao’s friend and Wabash alum, Xianwei (Victor) Meng ’10.

In our interview with Hao in the Spring WM, the Wabash philosophy major mathematics minor talked about starting SIE, the differences between doing business in China and the U.S., and the formative two years he spent between his high school and Wabash exploring the business world.

But one part that interview which didn’t make the final feature makes a lot of sense now. I’d asked Hao what first interested him in coming to the U.S. for college:

“When I was a boy, I was not particularly interested in coming to America, though I was constantly influenced by American popular culture, especially music and movies,” he said. “Then in high school I read a book called Harvard Girl by Liu Yiting. It introduced me to American college life and I found it fascinating. I started to do research about how to apply to American colleges.

“I like the spirit of freedom prevailing in the United States, and American entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Peter Thiel were my idols. I became more and more interested in having the education which led to the success of those entrepreneurs.”

So Hao Liu came to Wabash.

Read the Chronicle article here, and our 2011 interview here.

Kothe Nurtures, Honors Relationships

Alison and Charlie in Kane House, her last day before retiring as the College’s Director of Development.

Steve Charles—I just glanced out my Hovey Cottage window to see that Alison Kothe has driven out of the Kane House parking lot (with her labradoodle, Charlie) for the last time as the College’s director of development.

After un-retiring three times to help us successfully complete the $68 million-plus Challenge of Excellence campaign, she’s finally taking retirement seriously this time.

She’s deserves this break. I’m happy for her. But there’s a lump in my throat as I watch her leave.

For 11 years Alison has brought (and taught) a deep understanding that advancement work is ultimately about honoring relationships—honest, heartfelt, mutually beneficial relationships. For Alison, many of those friendships will endure well past her tenure here.

Her work focuses on one person, one moment, at a time. She’s an extraordinary listener and observer. She not only “got” this place, she loves it, and she cares ferociously about our work of teaching and learning and the future it can bring. She holds herself accountable to the relationships she developed with alumni and their families, inspired others to try to be equally caring, and tried her best to teach me to do the same. I will miss her reminders.

My friend Susan Cantrell (who knew Alison from working in Illinois Senator Charles Percy’s office) told me we were lucky to have her here when she first arrived at Wabash in 2001, and Alison has proved her right every day. She eventually took up Susan’s role of having the most recognizable laugh on campus. Not hearing that hearty laugh in classrooms and at campus events and meetings will feel a little like losing them both.

Alison doesn’t like public attention; she didn’t want a fuss made about her retirement, doesn’t trust gushing sentimentality, and she slyly dodged any efforts at a reception.

And that’s fitting, as her best work was always behind the scenes. I glimpsed some of it when I interviewed or visited alumni like Bruce Baker ’66 or Karen and Dan Simmons ’70. But it also came alive in hundreds of face-to-face conversations and emails and phone calls with alumni, students, and faculty; in unexpected kindnesses; in the creative ways she found to connect alumni with the College; in being an advocate for what alumni cared about and finding who at today’s Wabash they would benefit from knowing; in mending fences and listening when alumni were disappointed with their alma mater, then finding a way to begin healing that relationship.

I talked with Alison today for a story I’m writing for the next Wabash Magazine and learned that it was one of Wabash’s legendary professors who directed her toward her vocation at Wabash. So I’ll probably start the story something like this:

Alison Kothe says Wabash Professor John Fischer gave her “the greatest gift” of her working life.

Twelve years ago she had just left an unsatisfying job with a bank when she sat down with Fischer. He had been her brother Jim’s faculty advisor at Wabash and had become a family friend. Fischer told her about an opening in development at the College and suggested she “try something completely new.”

 “John said with a sweep of the arm, ‘Child, come to Wabash,’” Alison recalls. “So I did.”

And Wabash is so much better for it.

Miles ’76 and the Art of Connections

Mark Miles ’76 talks with WM at the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership offices in Chase Tower.
photo by Joni Jeffries

Steve Charles—I love it when writers, poets, and artists come to campus, especially the Q & A sessions that follow readings and openings. It’s a chance to ask these accomplished practitioners of their art: How’d you do it? What inspires you? How did you put this all together?

I felt similar anticipation visiting Mark Miles ’76 last week in his soon-to-be-vacated office in Indianapolis’ Chase Tower. Here’s a man whose work helped elect a mayor and a senator; brought to Indy the Pan Am Games, the catalyst for the sports-fueled renaissance of the city; reshaped and revived (and renamed) the RCA Championships, then led the international organization of tennis players that play there; brought the Super Bowl to town; harnessed the power of Central Indiana corporate leaders for visionary initiatives; and is on track to help get a mass transit plan passed in the legislature—in Indiana!

I wanted to know how he does it: How does he pull people together to get such good things done? Does he consider his work a vocation and, if so, what is that calling? What could students and young alumni learn from a career trajectory that reads like the College’s mission statement: to think critically, lead effectively, act responsibly, and live humanely? And what about his latest challenge: Today is Miles’ first day as CEO of Hulman & Company, parent group of the Indy Racing League and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

I learned two of Miles’ gifts the minute we met: He puts others at ease, and he listens well. In the midst of moving with an office half in boxes, he welcomed photographer Joni Jeffries and me. He gave us more than the allotted hour and a generous conversation which will be part of an article you can read in the Spring 2013 issue of Wabash Magazine.

One of my favorite exchanges from that conversation came about after Miles’ ability to see potential connections between people reminded me of the way poets and writers see the world:

Miles: Sometimes I’m in a room with people who are clearly much brighter, and I’ll be amazed at how they don’t connect the dots and see where that’s going to go.

You have a different way of seeing the world.

Miles: It’s like chess—an ability to see where things are going.

Can it be taught?

Miles: I think it can be learned; I don’t know if you can teach it. You can absorb it.

Miles named former Lilly Endowment, Inc. President, former World Food Programme Executive Director, now Indiana Pacers President Jim Morris as a mentor, recalling a conversation with him as Miles was beginning his efforts with the Pan Am Games:

Miles at his now-old office in Chase Tower.
photo by Joni Jeffries

“I thought we were going to talk about the Pan Am Games, and he starts telling me about the canal that we’re going to try to get developed, what we’re going to do in terms of housing at Lockfield Gardens, and 20 other things I can’t remember. My head was swimming. He has this ability to think of all these irons in the fire, and how we could connect them, and how they might have a greater relevance in a bigger context. A really extraordinary guy—that vision, that skill set. That’s a good example of someone I learned a ton from.”

Our students, faculty, and alums could learn a ton from Miles. So will I as I write the story. Thanks to him, and to Executive Assistant Linda Whitaker, for fitting us in during this busy time of transition.

And Miles’ vocation?

“How about ‘challenge hunter,’” he said.

Read more in the Spring 2013 WM.

Woods Teaches the Calling of Music

Steve Charles—I was photographing the Wabash Chamber Orchestra’s final rehearsal of Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony for its fall concert last Sunday night when a familiar string of notes played with unfamiliar beauty stopped me in my tracks.

Deborah Woods plays the second movement of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” during rehearsal for last Sunday night’s Wabash Chamber Orchestra Fall Concert.

I’d forgotten that the solo in the symphony’s second movement, one of the most compelling and recognizable tunes in music (think “Going Home”), is played on  English horn. I’d forgotten how powerfully that instrument conveys both yearning and hope. And I’d forgotten what a gifted and accomplished musician that soloist—former senior administrative assistant to President White and now Wabash grants coordinator Deborah Woods—is.

Even in the flurry of a rushed final rehearsal, Deb played Dvorak’s melody with such precision and power that I felt as though I could have been in any professional symphony hall in the country.

And she has played in a few. She completed her undergrad work at a music conservatory, earned her master’s in music performance at Northwestern. She taught oboe for 17 years at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania. Before she wrote grants for Wabash, she was associate director of development for grants for the Columbus Symphony in Ohio.

Having such a dedicated professional in the orchestra bolsters Director Alfred Abel’s confidence in the ensemble. “No doubt Alfred Abel programmed this piece, in part, because Deb could showcase what is among its finest moments so beautifully and capably,” Wabash music department chair Professor Peter Hulen told me following the concert. “She exemplifies how music can be an enrichment to one’s own life and the life of the community.”

Those who have worked with Deb in the president’s office or in advancement may not have realized she is a professional musician, that she teaches oboe and English horn here, or that she could hold an audience spellbound Sunday night with her playing. The vocation of a musician and teacher in our culture has many facets, but it’s all one gem. Showing how they all fit together in a way that enriches her life and our community is another way Deb Woods teaches students, and all of us, about the power of music. Somehow it’s all connected.

And there are several such folks, a story behind every instrument, in this orchestra, which Peter calls one of the College’s best-kept secrets (though the nearly full house at Sunday night’s concert suggests the secret is getting out.) You can start with the director.

“We are so fortunate to have Alfred Abel,” Peter says. “He is a perfect match for Wabash. He is patient, dedicated, and skilled at eliciting the very best out of our players.”

And those players include a new freshman concertmaster, his brother on viola, and three new student double bass players. With the support of new and continuing excellent players from the Crawfordsville community (this orchestra has long been a remarkable partnership), the group just keeps getting better. Take a look at the photos from that Sunday afternoon rehearsal in this album.

Better yet, mark your calendar now for April 21st and the Orchestra’s spring concert.

Stark ’88 Celebrates Life of Singing

Eric Stark ’88 conducts the Wabash College Alumni Glee Club during Homecoming 2012.

Steve Charles—Indianapolis Symphonic Choir Artistic Director and Butler University Professor of Music Eric Stark ’88 writes about his return to the Wabash campus for Homecoming and the Glee Club Reunion in an entry in his “Indy Sings” blog.

“I’ve long sensed the strong bond felt among choral musicians… I see it with my students, members of the Symphonic Choir, in churches,” Stark writes.  “But it was brought home to me again, more clearly than before, during this past weekend’s Wabash College Homecoming and the Alumni Glee Club Reunion.”

Wabash Glee Club Director Richard Bowen invited Stark to guest conduct several numbers during the Homecoming Concert that Saturday.

“His invitation, and that opportunity, meant more to me than he might have guessed,” Stark writes. “The Wabash Glee Club was an important part of my pivot to music after a sequence of aborted academic majors in my freshman year. Singing on tours to Florida, Pittsburgh and New York City, under the leadership of Dr. Stanley Malinowski, gave me my first tastes of choral leadership and conducting. In fact, my conducting debut was with the Glee Club in a concert at DePauw University for Monon Bell Weekend many years ago. To lead this group now as an established professional would be an opportunity to savor indeed!”

And Eric did savor the moment.

“I was thinking how proud I am to be from a small school where 100 guys get together on a Saturday night and sing,” he told the audience as he stepped forward to conduct during the Homecoming Concert. Later, he offered one of the evening’s most moving moments while introducing the spiritual, “My Lord, What a Mornin’.”

“When you return to a reunion like tonight, you can’t help but think of the person who sang next to you,” Stark told the audience. “This song is for those who could not be with us tonight: those whose schedules did not permit it, and those who were taken from us all too soon.”

You can read Eric’s complete entry on “Indy Sings.”

 

‘To Make Our Strength a Blessing’

Longtime Habitat for Humanity volunteer Herm Haffner ’77 led students on this WABASH project in Linden, IN in 2008.

Steve Charles—As I was making plans to help organize a group for this weekend’s WABASH Day national day of community service, I was reminded of award-winning writer Scott Russell Sanders’ essay “The Uses of Muscle,” published more than a decade ago in Wabash Magazine and reprinted this year in Sanders’ latest collection, Earth Works.

“When I was a boy growing up on the country roads of Tennessee and Ohio, the men I knew all earned a hardscrabble living with the strength of their hands and arms and backs,” Sanders begins. “They arm wrestled at the volunteer fire department, smacked baseballs over fences at the schoolyard, and at the county fair they swung sledge hammers to see who was the mightiest of the lot.”

Sanders pays tribute to his father, “a brawny, joking, red-haired charmer who often won those contests.

“He never liked the fit of a desk or a starched shirt, so as soon as he came home from the office he would put on overalls and go to work in the shop, garden, or barn. He could fix every machine we owned… He took pleasure in using his strength and skill, and I took pleasure in watching him.”

Sanders considers how so much of that masculine strength, at least in young men, is channeled into sports, where they “gain some of the benefits offered by hard physical work.

“At their best, they inspire in athletes a respect for discipline, skill, and cooperation. What sports can’t provide, however, is the satisfaction of doing something useful. Although they offer entertainment, they don’t build anything, raise anything, fix anything, or make anything.”

Sanders asks: “How might boys and young men—or, for that matter, men of any age—use their muscles for something beside recreation or mischief?”

Brian Hughes ’11, Vince Okerson ’10, and Seth Young ’11 work on the roof of the Habitat for Humanity project in Linden, Indiana.

Following a list of suggestions that sound a lot like some of the projects for this year’s WABASH Day, Sanders gives us words that might be inscribed somewhere in the Allen Athletics Center, close to where students, faculty, and staff work out and practice for sports, as a reminder of other good and helpful ways we might use our muscles. But they seem a more fitting quote for WABASH Day, when so many students and alumni will be doing exactly that:

“The physical power I saw in my father and in the other men I knew while growing up was not for show, not for playing games, but for carrying on the necessary tasks of life. Since fewer and fewer of our households or jobs demand such power, those of us who still inherit the old hormonal rush, acquired by our male ancestors over thousands of generations, may now use our muscles to serve others.

“Freed from toil, we may choose to make our strength a blessing for our neighbors and our neighborhoods.”

Jon Pactor ’71 didn’t have Sanders’ words in mind when he envisioned WABASH Day eight years ago, but whatever inspired him, I’m sure glad he thought of it. And 11 years after being moved by Sanders words, I’m looking forward to finally putting the camera down for a change and using my muscles for something other than the click of the shutter.

Read Scott Russell Sanders’ essay here.

Radtke ’74: ‘Inner Strength and Clarity of Will’

Professor Richard Radtke ’74,
July 9, 1952-August 7, 2212

Steve Charles—When I received an email today notifying us that University of Hawaii Professor Emeritus Richard Radtke ’74 had died at age 60 on August 7, I thought immediately of the extraordinary essay he wrote for us in 2001.

His “Making Ice Cubes from Glaciers” was one of the first and few pieces we published as a feature we called Turning Point. I suspect one reason we never received many more submissions for that feature was because Richard’s was so powerful. He set a standard few could meet: Not only had he surmounted tremendous obstacles after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 26 before going on to become the first handicapped scientist to do research in Antarctica, but he was so deeply honest about it all.

One example from the essay:

“I’m not one of these people who is terminally euphoric. I don’t have a constant production of endorphins that leave me in a state of eternal bliss. At the end of the week I’m totally exhausted and ready to quit. I’m tired of the constant haranguing of administrators and constant roadblocks thrown in my way because I have a disability—the thinly veiled assumptions that I should be in a nursing home quietly resting while the rest of the world goes by. I don’t always wear a smile on my face.

“There are many mornings when I don’t want my attendant to pull me from my bed to feed me my breakfast, but it’s still a choice. I really believe that I have choices. That’s the one thing I do believe in.

Radtke was an oceanographer and adventurer who would not be stopped.

“When I’m tired (MS leaves you exhausted), I keep working, because if I stopped every time I was tired, I wouldn’t get anything done. Still, at the end of a week, all things considered, I like my life. I’m doing what I want to do, where I want to do it, with the people that I want to do it with. I work outdoors and in inaccessible places, and I have fun.

“It’s been three decades since I last sacked a quarterback at Wabash, but the inner strength and clarity of will and purpose I felt as a player are still mine, even more so. Perhaps they are the uncommon gifts of my physical disability.”

This from a professor and scientist who was awarded a U. S. Presidential Commendation, was the recipient of his university’s highest honor for community service, and was invited to the White House, where he received national recognition as an outstanding mentor for youth.

I encourage you to read the complete essay here. It was written by a man whose life exemplified “Wabash always fights” in ways most of us cannot imagine.

Made in the Shade

Freshmen arriving and upperclassmen returning to campus will find a new “serendipitous” space for gathering, relaxing, and even holding class outdoors.

A shaded seating area has replaced the chest-high hedges that once stood between Center and Baxter Halls, all part of the new Center Hall landscaping designed by Grounds Manager Tim Riley in an effort led by Director of Campus Services David Morgan.

“The exterior landscapes are one of the most outstanding features of the College, yet there are currently only a handful of exterior seating areas scattered around campus,” Morgan said. “As I approached the design of the new Center Hall landscape I wanted to include a space for people to come together informally.”

Campus Services workers Taylor Hedrick and Theron McIntire finish raking the new gathering area outside Center Hall.

“The new small seating area on the south side of Center Hall was relatively low-cost, and included a new type of bench made of recycled materials.”

Morgan said the plants used throughout the new landscaping are more drought-tolerant and require less maintenance than the previous landscaping, yet have “a good visual impact.”

“We are looking for future locations for similar exterior seating areas around campus.”

Student Listeners Celebrate Alumni

Ian Grant talks with Thomas Burns ’67 after the former History Channel contributor told his Wabash stories for the Scarlet Yarns project.

Ian Grant ’13—During the Scarlet Yarns recording sessions at this year’s Big Bash it was not uncommon for four or five of us—including Josh Mitchell ’13 (taping), Jimmy Kervan ’13, Ian MacDougall ’12, James Blaich ’14 (interviewing), and Steve Charles and myself (photographing) to all be listening to the same alumnus’s stories.

We gathered because we were intrigued. Cross-country hitchhikes with convicts and riding a horse while dressed as Lady Godiva for Homecoming are not commonly told tales.

During one of these sessions I was poised to snap a picture of an alumnus when he turned to me in surprise and said, “I feel like a celebrity.”

If a celebrity is a celebrated person, I suppose he was right.

Here are some of my favorite “celebrity” stories, a couple outrageous, another sort of amazing in its own right.

The first was told to me by Tom Reams ’62:

When I was here we had a tradition of streaking to Dean [Ben] Rogge’s house. Once there you had to ring the bell and wait for someone to answer the door. You always hoped it wouldn’t be Mrs. Rogge. I had a friend who decided that he wanted to do this.  So he stripped down, ran across campus, across town, and onto the Dean’s porch where, after hesitantly ringing the bell, Dean Rogge answered the door.  Naturally, after ringing the bell, he ran like hell, but it wasn’t enough to quite get away.  Mrs. Rogge asked the Dean who was at the door and all the Dean said was, “I’m not entirely certain, but I think I recognize his ass.”

This from Fred Obenchain ’62:

Fred Obenchain ’62 recalls his Homecoming queen experience for interviewer Ian Grant during this year's Scarlet Yarns video project.

In the very first Homecoming queen contest that we had, my fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, was talking about assigning the task of Homecoming queen candidate to a freshman pledge and I stupidly spoke up in chapter and said I didn’t think it was a good idea to force a pledge to do that.  So the chapter unanimously decided that I got to be the candidate for Homecoming queen. I was Lady Godiva and I rode a white horse. My only regret in all that is that I only got second place. So that was a tremendous disappointment to me.

Finally, Dennis Harrell ’67 tried to hitchhike to Washington, D.C. over spring break but was dropped off, and subsequently stranded, in Washington, Pennsylvania:

We went out and hitched a ride again and we were dumped off at the entrance to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  So you have to remember this is a Sunday morning, over spring break, two guys from Wabash not wearing Wabash clothing and thumbing a ride on the entrance to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  A car comes along and stops and picks us up.  It happened to be [Professor] Jack Charles. He recognized us. Just two guys standing along the road in Pennsylvania on a Sunday morning, yet he knew who we were. I had taken only one class from him.

Ian Grant is an intern this summer with Wabash Magazine and the College’s Office of Communications and Marketing. 

See more of this year’s Scarlet Yarns here.