Liberal Arts Action: Classical Warfare

IMG_2878 Students in Professor Bronwen Wickkiser’s course Paideia: Citizen, Soldier and Poet in Classical Greece took to the Mall to try their hand at hoplite warfare.  Success on the ancient battlefield depended upon each solider working in unison with his comrades, organized into tight rows called phalanxes.  In classical Athens and Sparta, as well as other city-states, hoplite warfare was essential to the polis.  Each citizen was required to fight, and the use of phalanx warfare reinforced the idea that each citizen was as integral to the well-being of his city as the guy next to him.

The poet Tyrtaeus (7th century BCE) puts it best:
“Let each man, closing with the enemy, fighting hand-to-hand with long spear or sword, wound and take him, and setting foot against foot, and resting shield against shield, crest against crest, helmet against helmet, let him fight his man chest to chest, grasping the hilt of his sword or of his long spear.  … A common good is this for the whole polis when a man holds firm among the fighters, unflinchingly.”

In order to get a feel for this type of warfare, Wabash students armed themselves with shields, spears, and swords, formed into two opposing armies (Athenians vs. Spartans) and advanced against each other, experimenting with various maneuvers.

IMG_2883Lessons learned: how difficult it is to move with heavy armor (students wore backpacks full of books to approximate the typical weight—65 lbs.—of hoplite armor), how useful a spear can be at farther range vs. a sword at closer range, and even the sounds of ancient battle, including marching songs (paeans) that armies used when advancing against the enemy.   One student commented that the hardest part of the experience is the discipline necessary to stay in line and not break rank.

Click here to see more photos from the battlefield.

Grand Ideas Mentor German

We have all heard it before – the Wabash alumni network is an influential group of men across the globe ready to offer advice, internships, and personal mentoring. Is it true or just marketing hype?

Jacob German ’11, an associate in the Governmental Services and Public Finance Department of Barnes & Thornburg LLP offers his insight into Wabash, Law School, and the alumni who have helped him get there.

How have Wabash alumni influenced and mentored you in your young career?


Bob Grand ’78 and Jacob German ’11

Bob Grand ’78 has been a fantastic friend and mentor for almost a decade. Kyle ’11, his son, is my pledge brother. Bob always came back around campus and the Beta house, offering advice and opportunities to eager students. Even though Bob’s world moves a million miles a minute from coast to coast, he still took the time to discuss with me the pros and cons of law school and the changing dynamic of the law practice. Bob guided me through the difficult waters of the current legal market, helping me realize the intersection of my passion (government/politics) with a niche of a legal practice.

For years, Scott Himsel ’85 challenged me to an intellectual duel on the nuances of Supreme Court decisions and policy determinations. He is the best at taking a stand on one side of the argument, possibly even agreeing with your point of view, and then completely turning your argument against you. In that moment you realize he has taken you exactly where you did not want to go – the weeds, alone. But it really is a fascinating mental exercise. The great thing about his class is that he cares as much about the students as he does about teaching the students. He is our law advisor – law  school, legal profession, applications, letters of recommendation, bar applications, etc. He’s our guy, in our corner.

David Shane ’70 played football with my dad at Wabash nearly 40 years ago. Dave has been a legal professional in Indianapolis for a long time; he sat with me, and strategized about what firms to apply to, what other jobs to look at, what area of the law would I enjoy and excel. He took me under his wing and made sure I had all the information while trying to make my way as a lawyer. He helped me reach out to people all over the city. Without him, I would not have made half of my connections.

Nelson Alexander ’90 took the time to meet with me. I am not sure if he would remember our 20-minute conversation three years ago. But, it made a tremendous impact on me. Every person needs someone in their life to be completely, bare bones, honest with them. Nelson was that to me. He discussed the legal marketplace in a way I had never heard it described. He discussed the number of opportunities in firms around Indianapolis. He was very frank. It helped me see the complete picture.

I worked for Jeff Been ’81 at the Legal Aid Society of Louisville. He takes Wabash guys interested in the law, puts them to work, and allows them to interact with clients. I also worked for Greg Miller ’83 at his law firm. He allowed me to meet clients, research, and help with his law practice. That was the first time I think I fully grasped the volume of work in a legal practice.

I mention all of these experiences to say this – I am a big believer in picking your own board of directors. Pick people around you who you trust and who are “for you.” But, that is not what networking and mentoring are all about. We, as students and rising professionals, need to have people in our life who take us under their wing, or tell us the real truth about the legal profession, or throw us in the deep end and let us work, and finally be our friend when things are tough. My professional life would not be the same without each and every one of these guys and many, many others.

How many Wabash alumni do you work with in your current position?

I work primarily with three Wabash alumni. Jeff Qualkinbush ’88 is our department administrator. I work on a daily basis for Brian Burdick ’91 and Bob Grand. Brian is the Indianapolis managing partner and Bob is the firm managing partner. Both are practicing governmental service attorneys.

Jacob German '11

Jacob German ’11

How did Wabash prepare you for law school and your current position?

Wabash engrained a deep sense of time management. Law school is unique because nothing really matters until the final exam; however, if you don’t continue to work and read and interpret all semester, there is no way to succeed on the final. Wabash demanded a masterful grasp of reading and writing, not only persuasively but effectively. My job requires a high attention to detail. We use details to form the foundation of arguments, which persuades our different audiences.

What advice do you have for a student considering Wabash?

Wabash College is unique. Be it the all-male institution, our campus involvement, our alumni network, our competitiveness, our swagger. It’s just different. Wabash is not for everyone. We want the do-ers, the guys who are involved, passionate students. Wabash is not some place you go for a passive education. You are one of 900. You matter.

What I tell a student is jump. Come test yourself. Try, on a small scale initially, to remove yourself from safe harbors. Your life will be better because of it. The more you put yourself out there and make that connection, the better you are the next time and the next time. People think certain people are better in interviews than others or are better at networking than others. The difference between people who are good and who aren’t is practice. The people who take the leap and put themselves in those situations grow and mature and find success. That’s why I encourage students to come to Wabash. It forces you to leap.

What’s your number one tip for networking?

Diversity is good. Far too many people confine themselves to comfortable groups. Branch out. Our biggest asset in the beginning of our professional careers are alumni who are older than we are. They know the game and who keeps score. But, don’t forget about your peers. Stay in touch. We are the next group in line to take over, and if you stay in touch with your peer group, they will be the decision-makers of tomorrow.

New Furniture Delivered

Just in time for Big Bash, many of the public areas of campus received a facelift that included fresh paint, new seating, display cases, and tables.

A generous donation from an alum brought east coast interior designer Sarah Kennedy Dolce from shea dolce interiors to campus earlier in the year and again last week to unload and set the semi-trailer full of new furniture.

Dolce collaborated largely with First-Lady Chris White to identify spaces on campus that could benefit from new décor. All of the furniture came from Chaddock, in Morgantown, North Carolina, one of the few American made furniture companies remaining.

Among the buildings to receive new furniture the Fine Arts Center, Trippet Hall, Center Hall, Detchon, Lilly Library, Baxter Hall, and Caleb Mills House.

To see photos of the furniture installation click here.

Wabash Always Fights?!

Classics Professor Matt Sears took his Classics 113/History 210 class to the battlefield as part of their study of ancient warfare. Sears enlisted the help of Physics Professor Martin Madsen who advises the Western Martial Arts Club. Click here to view more photos.

Matthew Sears – The Western Martial Arts Club is more or less a historical battle re-enactment troop. Usually they fight with medieval weapons, but this semester I thought it would be a good idea if we coordinated the activities of the club with my course on Ancient Greek and Roman Warfare.

Accordingly, the members of the club made 26 shields out of wood that more or less the approximate dimensions of Roman legionary shields (the rectangular shaped ones). The more oval shaped pieces can stand in for Greek shields as well. The metal poles are the same dimensions as Greek spears, while the wooden clubs are roughly equivalent to Roman swords.

Today, we tried several experiments. We imagined how a Roman soldier would fight against other Roman soldiers (sword against sword), how Greeks would fight against Greeks (spear against spear), and how Romans would fight against Greeks (sword against spear).

We tried to figure out what men in the rear ranks would have done during an engagement, which of course differed depending on whether they had a sword or long spear. We also had a horde of unarmored barbarians, equipped with all sorts of weapons, charge against disciplined Roman soldiers forming a wall of shields.

Literary and artistic accounts of ancient battles can hardly convey the feeling of actual fighting, and thus it is often difficult for scholars to sort out just how ancient battles played out. Modern films, too, often depict glamorous Hollywood-style fighting that probably bears little resemblance to ancient combat. The aim for today was to try our hand at a little bit of experimental archaeology, leading to a more nuanced understanding of what we have been discussing all semester based on texts and images.

Science Teachers Recognized

The Admissions Office and Wabash College Science faculty partnered to host its firstScience Teacher Recognition Program.

Students in science courses were invited to nominate teachers who had a profound influence on their high school science careers. Those teachers received a letter inviting them to come to campus for a recognition lunch and to learn more about the science curriculum at Wabash. Faculty members hope that these teachers, in turn, will refer good students to the College.

Sixteen teachers from across Indiana (and one from Illinois) had the opportunity to sit in on multiple science classes, tour the biology and chemistry facilities in Hays Hall, the physics and math facilities in Goodrich Hall, and the neuroscience facilities in Baxter Hall, along with touring the rest of campus.

At the recognition lunch the students were reunited with their high school teachers and enjoyed conversation and networking. Each teacher present received a small gift from the College honoring their work and influence on science students.

The afternoon session included a panel discussion with faculty and staff about pre-health professions, the dual degree engineering program, graduate school, summer internships, and off-campus opportunities. The teachers had the chance to ask questions about science and liberal arts, unique science opportunities at Wabash, and which students might be a good fit for the College.

A local teacher from Crawfordsville High School was happy to be part of the program. “Getting the letter of recognition was enough for me. The day today has just been icing on the cake. Even though I live in Crawfordsville, this is my first time on campus.”

The science faculty and Admissions Office hope to partner again next year for a similar program.


Under a Shady Tree

I wandered around campus today attempting to find something “new” to photograph in the splendid Fall color we’re experiencing right now (see here). However I was feeling rather uninspired.

I have a particular route I tend to follow when I go out on these photography excursions (perhaps that’s part of my problem) that begins going out the back door of Kane House toward MXIBS and the Allen Center then through the south side of campus to Fine Arts, north on Grant Avenue, through the arboretum, then finally through the mall.

As I approached the arboretum and looked across the colorful trees a song from one of my two-year-old daughter’s favorite artists, Laurie Berkner, came to mind – Under the Shady Tree. So there I was, near the end of my trek, uninspired, and now singing “Under the shady tree, you and me… lying under a shady tree, you and me… do, do, do, do.”

I remembered my first official trip through the arboretum three years ago just a few weeks after I started at Wabash. There was a young man “studying” (sound asleep) under one of many quiet giants shuffling in the breeze. I shot a couple photos of him and moved on. But today I thought back about that day and wondered how many other young men had studied under that shady tree.

I just finished a project that will be hitting mailboxes shortly before the Bell Game in November. It’s an exciting announcement about The Bachelor. During the design phase of the piece I spent a lot of time searching for just the right clip of The Bachelor to include as part of the artwork.

In putting that piece together, I met several young men from generations ago through their writing as they developed their voices, their passions, and their perspectives under those trees.

Then I started having an “if these trees could talk” sort of moment thinking about all the young men turned older who have made up the face of this campus – doctors, lawyers, politicians, business owners, pastors, fathers, husbands, and friends who “grew up” under the protection and guidance of the “shady tree” that is Wabash.

To the untrained eye, they just look like leaves set to change color and fall to the ground, only to be replaced in the spring with a new greener leaf to take on the charge of providing shade. I see professors who go to great lengths to challenge young minds to be better and think bigger. I see staff that go out of their way to nurture and guide. I see coaches who care more about character than points in the paint or third-down conversions. I see alumni who lead by example with their gifts and their time so the next generation of men among the trees can learn from the best to be the best.

They don’t disappear in the Fall. They aren’t replaced. They may no longer be with us on campus physically but they’ll always be part of the soil that gives the new leaves life. Part of the network that works together to provide the shade this year, next year, and for many to come.

Hmmm… all that from a few yellow leaves and a simple song.

I guess my walk on this beautiful Fall day wasn’t so uninspiring after all.

From Gray To Green

Brent Harris - Nearly half of the final base layer is in place on the football field. We should see the field change from gray stone to a mix of brown sand and stone, then to green FieldTurf toward the end of this week or the early portion of next week. View the latest photos from the project here. Tom Runge shot a few photos this morning as well, click here.

We will have more photos when the first pieces of turf are ready to be put into place.

The track and field areas surrounding the field have also had finishing touches put in place. Drainage grates in the long jump and triple jump pits are ready to catch the sand after the first Little Giant athlete to makes his mark. Concrete for the pole vault runways have settled and await Wabash outdoor record-holder Matt Knox ’13 to clear the bar.

The upgrades are not limited to the field. The steel support for the new scoreboard is in place. The modules will be added over the next two weeks. New 25-second clocks will also be installed this week.

Just west of the football, behind the Knowling Fieldhouse, work on the baseball stadium continues. The final storm drains have been placed in trenches. The crew is ready to strip the topsoil off the old practice field. Once that is completed, concrete molds for the walls and dugouts will be put in place. It’s hard to believe that in eight months the 2011 Little Giant baseball team will take the field against Wilmington College for the opening game at the new ballpark.

The Midnight Munch Tradition

The end of the semester at Wabash brings many certainties… final examinations, lots of time in front of the computer, plenty of research time in the library, and a midnight snack on Tuesday evening to provide a break from what can seem to be endless studying.

A record number of Wabash faculty and staff (numbering over 30 strong) gathered to join the crew from the Bon Appétit food service group on campus to serve the traditional Midnight Munch. A total of 230 students braved the cold and gathered in the Sparks Center around 11 p.m. to enjoy plates full of eggs, sausage, bacon, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and even some fruits and pastries. 

View photos from the Midnight Munch here.

For many — both students and servers — the night is not about the food. It’s about the fellowship. Discussions of classes, winter break plans over the holidays, and the successes and struggles of the fall semester took place in the serving line and at each table. For some it was their final meal on campus before heading home for a well-deserved break and some final holiday shopping. For others, it was a quick repast before heading back to the library to go back to work on those last few pages of a paper due in few short hours.

Wabash Trio Uses Sports to Provide Assistance

Rich Blastic ’82 found himself in an interesting position at the start of the year. As a new member of the school board for the Calvary Christian School in Highland, Indiana, he realized the school would need some assistance in fund raising. Already located in region of Indiana that has seen layoffs, closings, and tough economic times, Blastic turned to familiar territory — sports.

Blastic got together with two former teammates who have kept their hands in the professional sports world. One of his best friends, Dr. Chris Carr ’82, came up with the idea of hosting a sports clinic at the school. Carr was headed to lunch with another former teammate the very day he and Blastic discussed the idea. That teammate was Pete Metzelaars ’82. Carr’s experience as a sports psychologist working with various groups from the US Olympic Ski Team and the Kansas City Royals and Oklahoma City Thunder to Ohio State and other college and professional athletes would be joined by Metzelaars’ knowledge and time spent as a 16-year NFL veteran player and current NFL coach in Indianapolis.

Metzelaars jumped on board from the moment he heard about the plan for a sports clinic.

"The hardest part was finding a date that would work for everyone," Metzelaars said. His duties as the offensive quality control and assistant offensive line coach for the Indianapolis Colts have increased since the shakeup in the coaching staff with Tom Moore and Howard Mudd. Carr, "One we got the date set, I’ve just been looking forward to helping Rich with the school. They are in a tough situation with the economy the way it is, and I just wanted to help."

Blastic and the rest of the group set aside time on May 30 to conduct the sports clinic.

"Chris is going to speak to the kids, coaches, and parents in attendance about the mental training and psychological strength and skills that go into athletics. We’ll follow that up with Pete sharing his experience as a player. With so many negatives out there in sports, it will be nice to present a positive view of athletics."

If the early word is any indication of how the event will be received, the school should see a major boost in its support.

"The community businesses have really embraced this event," Blastic said. "With two quality gentlemen like Chris and Pete willing to help, it was nice to be able to call the business in the area and hear the owners say they would be happy to be involved. 

"We’ve been able to have businesses provide 10 free tickets to the event for over 20 schools in the area. That means 200 young athletes who might not have had the opportunity to attend based on their home finances. And the money for those tickets goes to Calvary Christian School."

With event on the horizon, Metzelaars was excited for the opportunity to assist.

"The main goal is to help the school," the former Wabash tight end said. "We get an opportunity to use sports and athletics to help kids. We’ll be giving some thoughts, tips, and pointers on a lot of athletic fronts, but we’ll also be providing life lessons and sharing ways to be successful in whatever area these young people choose."

Photo – Pete Metzelaars working during the Indianapolis Colts’ training camp. Metzelaars will join former Wabash teammates Rich Blastic and Chris Carr at a sports clinic Saturday, May 30 at 4 p.m. to benefit the Calvary Christian School in Highland, Indiana. Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Star.

A Whale of a Good Time

I can always tell when the semester is coming to a close — the call for volunteers for the Midnight Munch emanates †from the Dean of Students Office at Wabash. Faculty and staff from all over campus gather in the Great Hall of the Sparks Center to feed up the students pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon, and that Hoosier staple of biscuits and gravy. The meal provides a nice late night study break, but it has always been more than that.

My first experience with the Midnight Munch came about 3-1/2 years ago when Edie Simms, Associate Dean of Students at the time, was putting the event together. I learned from her†that while the food brought the students out for the evening, the chance to talk and take a short break from studying†was even more important. The young men would smile as you handed them a plate of food, enjoying the event, the atmosphere, and the fellowship with everyone involved.

Mike Raters ’85 heads up the Munch now in his role as the Associate Dean. When that email asking for help comes, I jump at the chance to spend another night behind the serving line.

Wonder if it really is fun to work the Munch? You can start by checking out some of the photos Chip Timmons posted in the Admissions blog, The Scarlet Banter. Or you need look no further than last night at the griddle where President Pat and Chris White prepared the first batch†of pancakes. Chris kept the proud tradition of "practically perfect pancakes" alive as silver dollar-sized flapjacks stacked up in the serving trays, awaiting the arrival of the students. As the evening progressed, the challenges began. Raters and Pat White started making various designs with the batter, including one pizza-sized pancake.

Near the end of the evening the two temporary fry cooks began molding the batter into a new shape — a whale. Raters carefully sculpted the mouth and and eye while President White formed the rest of the body and tail. A few minutes into the project came the big test. Would it stay together when it was flipped over on the grill?

Not a problem for these two Iron Chefs! Moments later one giant whale pancake was ready to be devoured. Matvey Toropov ’09 won the honors, eventually finding a plate big enough to hold the giant creation. Twenty minutes later Toropov left to head back to the books after enjoying his special meal.

It always seem like such a simple thing, just standing in line and tossing some eggs onto a plate. But every year I’m reminded it’s not about the food. As the spring 2007 Munch came near an end, one student came back to the head of the line. Chemistry professor Lon Porter asked him if he was back for a second round.

"No," the student replied. "I wanted to thank each of you for coming out to do this. I’ve had so much fun tonight, now I feel like I can go back to my room and finish my review work for my final exams."

Photos – (top left) Another "practically perfect pancake" comes off the griddle, courtesy of Chris White.

(Middle right) President Pat White and whale-cake.

(Bottom right) Toropov chats with Athletic Trainer Mark Colston after finishing his pancake.