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Betty Allen H’57

Steve Charles—As the self-proclaimed official photographer for Associate Director of Communications Richard Paige’s Wabash on My Mind podcasts, I get to sit in on some of the most interesting conversations on campus. The highlight of my Homecoming Weekend was Rich’s interview of Betty and Bob Allen as they anticipated Betty’s being named an honorary alumna of the College. (Watch for the podcast on the Web site in the near future).

Rich does a great job of honoring his guests by taking these conversations seriously while welcoming them and helping them to relax behind the mic. It wasn’t long before Betty and Bob were laughing and taking turns reflecting on DePauw (Betty’s alma mater), Wabash (Bob’s), their first year as a married couple in Mud Hollow (ask them about “rocking the roof”), their life together as Bob rose through the ranks at AT&T, and their children.

Betty recalled an essay she’d been assigned when she was a girl; she had been asked to write down her life goals.

“I’ve saved it, and I re-read it just recently,” she said. “I wrote, ‘I want to be a good wife and mother.’”

“She’s been a perfect mother,” Bob said, and he described with gratitude the loving home she had created for him and for their children.

I felt a surge of gratitude myself; Betty is about the age my own mother would be today had she lived. I was taken back to grade school and those forms we had to fill out at the beginning of the school year:

Phone number:
Occupation of father:
Occupation of mother:

Dad was an insurance agent. I didn’t know what to write for mom.

“Homemaker,” she told me, and she said it proudly. It had been her life goal-the hardest work and, for her, the highest calling. Betty Allen’s vocation: A good wife and a good mother. “The backbone of the family,” as Betty’s honorary alumna citation puts it.

Consider the fact that Bob and Betty have contributed millions to the new independent housing on campus, and Betty’s a home builder, too!

Sunday morning I was listening to On Being on NPR as the cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson spoke about what the word “homemaker” meant to her. She described women doing this work as “composing a life, as if throwing a pot or painting—a creative act.”

She said you’ll even see this tendency when homemaker enter the world of business: “They often maintain an awareness of whether their decisions are for the general good, they notice discomfort, distrust and try to resolve it. They support people working together.”

“Homemaking is creating an environment in which learning is possible,” Bateson said. “That is what a home is. That is what we want the home we give to our children to be—places where they grow in many different ways, they learn how to connect with other people, they learn how to care for others, they learn skills, their own capacities, how to trust other people, how to trust themselves.”

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Professor Kealoha Widdows H’07

That got me thinking about Professor Kealoha Widdows—a woman who chose a career path very different from Betty Allen’s. Here’s part of the citation NAWM President Rick Cavanaugh read naming Kay an honorary alumna.

“Your steadfast belief that your students need to see the world in order to be effective leaders in it is seen in the many immersion learning courses you have taught. You have led students to three continents, including Ecuador to study the political economy of oil production and Europe to learn about policy-making in the European Union. You have brought international visitors to our campus who have enriched students’ experiences.

“We are told that your name translates to ‘love’ and ‘a great friend who will always be by your side.’ For nearly three decades, you have stood by the sides of scores of Wabash men you have taught, mentored, loved, and cheered on with admiration.”

The work Kay Widdows and all our best teachers, men and women, do—the dedication and heart they bring to that work—sounds a lot like Bateson’s definition of homemaking. It’s a sign of the times that many of today’s professors do that work both at Wabash and for their own families.


At the beginning of Saturday’s Homecoming Chapel, President Hess urged returning alumni to “remember that Wabash is always your home.”

Those words would be little more than wishful thinking if not for generations of women who have loved this “College for men” and its students—teacher/homemakers like Betty Allen and Kay Widdows. The well-earned standing ovations for Betty and Kay at Saturday’s Chapel were a moment to give thanks for them all.

A teachable moment.

3D Printing Fosters Lasting Connection

Wabash Summer Research: In Our Own Words is a multimedia piece that uses the voices of Wabash College students to describe still photographs of their summer research work in the biology, chemistry, physics, and 3D printing laboratories on campus. The piece includes photographs by Grace Vaught with editing done by Austin Myers ’16.


A 3D printer helped bring a 1,500-year-old mathematics text to life.

While working on a manuscript of his own, assistant professor of mathematics Colin McKinney was perusing a text written in the late fifth century A.D. by Eutocius that described in great detail how to construct a device that would solve a basic geometry problem.

According to McKinney, Eutocius was very detailed in his descriptions of the mesolabe, right down to its dovetail-shaped groves.

“The text that describes this instrument is very clear in the language of how to construct it,” McKinney said. “For a mathematical text, that is kind of interesting.”

Sufficiently intrigued, McKinney was faced with a choice. He could spend the better part of a weekend carving it out of wood or he could 3D print it, “and that seemed much easier,” he laughed.

Professor McKinney's mesolabe both as a work in progress (top) and completed.

Professor McKinney’s mesolabe both as a work in progress (top) and completed.

Using Eutocius’ descriptions, McKinney designed the piece in an hour or two and used the Wabash 3D Printing and Fabrication Center to pint it. From inspiration to prototype took the better part of an afternoon.

“The advantage of 3D printing is you can try something and make modifications quickly,” McKinney said. “If I’m making this out of wood and discovered it wouldn’t work, that would have been an entire weekend gone. It really accelerates the rate at which you can try different things.”

The extruded plastic output also solidified a connection to the text that was unexpected. McKinney got a qualitative response to a very quantitative problem.

“That’s the awesome part,” he explained. “It’s real math history and to be able to make something that’s described in a text just totally changes that text. To be able to say here is the 21st century version of that fourth century device really brings it to life in a way the text in itself doesn’t.”

What began as work on a research paper soon grew into something bigger.

“To be able to get this thing prototyped quickly meant that I could keep making progress on that paper,” McKinney said. “I knew it would work in a geometric sense because I could prove that, but it’s totally different to put this on a piece of paper and, bam, those are the links right there that I need.”

The success McKinney enjoyed in crafting the mesolabe with the 3D printer has led him to attempt to produce more complicated devices. It’s also spawned a second paper.

The Value of a Mentor

Richard Paige – While the College celebrates the teaching and artistic accomplishments of Doug Calisch this weekend with the opening of 35 Retro in the Eric Dean Gallery, I was interested in the role than a mentor plays in the development of an artist.

So I reached out to Joe Trumpey ’88 via e-mail and asked him this: how important or meaningful is a mentor to a developing artist?

His reply was better than I could have hoped, and captures so many of the qualities that make Doug worth celebrating.

Joe Trumpey '88.

Joe Trumpey ’88.

“Doug Calisch was just the mentor I needed to launch my creative life. He is a calm, patient, and caring man. It was that demeanor that swayed me into a dual major. As a freshman I was a biology major thinking about an art minor. Getting to know Doug in 3-D design as a freshman, I realized that “making stuff” was an important part of who I am. I saw that creative quality in Doug and his work. He gently encouraged me to complete a dual major. He was not high pressure. Just an idea. Just there. Listening to me. Paying attention to me. Talking with me. Caring for me. Holding me accountable. Challenging me. How could I refuse? I valued those qualities then and still today. I learned a lot about being an educator from Doug and still strive to be the calm, attentive mentor that he was to me and countless others.”

Now an associate professor of art at the University of Michigan, Trumpey also relayed a story that brought things full circle for him.

“I was the student representative on Doug’s tenure review committee. Once he successfully achieved the tenure he deserved, he went on sabbatical and began building the home he designed. I spent a good part of that summer working in a bio lab on a research project during the day and spent nights and weekends helping Doug and Laura build their home. Twenty-three years later, after I achieved tenure at the University of Michigan, I began building my own home. Doug and Laura’s son, Sam, contacted me interested in green building. Sam came to Michigan and lived with us for more than a month working hard in building our home. It was a fulfilling and beautiful thing.”


An Arlington Moment Just as Meaningful

Howard W. Hewitt – The weekend football trip to Virginia and Washington D.C. was rewarding in several different ways. For anyone on the trip, it was hard not to take great pride in all of the comments we heard about our students.

I was on the receiving end of one of those situations. As our plane prepared to land in D.C. Friday afternoon, the stewards and stewardesses were making their final trash pick up. I was unlucky enough to be in the very last row of seats but on the aisle. The steward leaned down to whisper something to me.

“I just have to tell you these students are more polite than most of the people we have on this plane every day,” he said.

We heard similar compliments throughout the weekend but Wabash men almost always conduct themselves in a manner which would make an alum or mother and father proud. We regularly cleaned the busses and any area that our 60-some college athletes passed through.

Sometimes it’s left to faculty, staff and administrators to do the right thing. But it’s also not hard to suggest the students also inspire our actions by their thoughtfulness and kindness.

Coach Olmstead places the vase at the RFK quote at the JFK eternal flame.

Coach Olmstead places the vase at the RFK quote at the JFK eternal flame.

Dean of Students Michael Raters shared one such story after our return. The moving photos of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier changing of the guard and our wreath laying ceremony tell a powerful story. But there was a mix-up prior to that ceremony which was just as meaningful.

When Raters and assistant football coach Olmy Olmstead went to the Tomb with four players for instructions, they discovered a vase of flowers had been delivered instead of a wreath. The guards explained that just wouldn’t do. Fortunately, the guards keep a ‘back-up’ wreath on hand which the students used instead.

So what happened to the vase of flowers? The following is Raters’ description of what happened next.

“The guards then asked Olmy to take the other bouquet and place it somewhere else in the cemetery,” Raters wrote. “I joined Olmy as he retrieved the vase and we carried it to another place that had certainly captured the students’ interest – the Kennedy family plots.  As we walked and talked about the exact site we should use, one spot seemed to make the most sense for us to represent our team, its heritage, and that of its members.

“We decided to place the bouquet on a platform next to the inscription from the impromptu speech Robert F. Kennedy gave in Indianapolis the night Martin Luther King was assassinated. We were honored to do this and were taken by how many of the people at the site stopped and stood silently as Olmy laid the vase down. For me, who grew up in an Indianapolis family which idolized the Kennedys and tries to honor the legacy of both RFK and MLK in the way we conduct our lives, it was the perfect ending to a most moving morning at Arlington.”


Arlington-Flowers-RFK3“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

“So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King — yeah, it’s true — but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love — a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.”  – Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968, speaking in Indianapolis and announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Bryant ’16: HSC Opportunity for Engagement

Patrick Bryant ’16 – Since it was announced prior to the 2014-2015 school year, the Gentlemen’s Classic has been pitched as being more than just a football game between Wabash and Hampden-Sydney.  It was about the all-male education and how we can draw from one another and learn from one another in the education of young men.  This past weekend, Fabian House ’16, Scott Purucker ’16, and I traveled with the Little Giants football team to engage in a discussion with members of H-SC’s student leadership.  I walk away proud and thankful for all we have by what I witnessed, yet inspired that we can do better.

FBwalkoutFabian, Scott, and I met with Hampden-Sydney’s Student Body President, the chairman of their Student Senate (which is comparable to Fabian’s role), the president of their Inter-Fraternity Council, and the president of their honor court.  The notion of having an honor court has deep roots in the history of Hampden-Sydney.  Although our Gentlemen’s Rule and their Honor Code are very similar, we don’t have that sort of infrastructure here at Wabash.  I admire their student leadership for taking a stand, often times against friends and close classmates, for the sake of upholding that honor code.  That can’t be an easy task.

I spent a good majority of the first half of the game talking with Josh, the chairman of their Student Senate.  Despite having closer to 2,000 students, Josh was surprised that we have the funding dollars that we do to put towards clubs, activities, and student programming.  Some of the events he outlined at Hampden-Sydney were a formal ball that they hold for the student body, faculty, staff, and alumni, and also a large philanthropic event they put on each year.  That was two thought-provoking “gaps” for us as student leaders to consider.  The notion of having a campus-wide formal at Wabash isn’t a new one and it’s something that’s been discussed in my time as Treasurer and now President of the Student Body.

The idea of having a philanthropic event is also very interesting to me.  Our financial policy says that student funds cannot be directed to a charitable organization.  The idea is we want to subsidize costs for groups that want to “do” philanthropy, but we don’t want to allow a free-for-all in allocating funds to various organizations.  That said, I think it would be a great idea that we put our manpower and energy behind an event.  Prior to coming to Wabash, I spent four years on the Executive Committee for our high school’s Dance Marathon, raising $1 million over four years for Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.  Philanthropy is an area for growth and I come away inspired that we can do better as a student government in helping students “live humanely.”

HSC-StudentsThe weekend was a great one and the opportunity for me to interact with our D.C.-area alumni and trustees, interact with their student leadership in-person, and participate in the radio broadcast during the second half.  It was a great game day atmosphere at Hampden-Sydney, but to see the apathy of their student body to the game and their failure to wear their school color, showed me that we have a lot to be proud of and thankful for in Crawfordsville.  You can look at any photo from any game day at Wabash and find a full crowd emblazoned in scarlet.  Not so at Hampden-Sydney.  Instead lots of blue blazers with their backs turned to the game.  Wabash cares and proof can be found no further than in the crowd that supported our Little Giants this past Saturday.

Sunday was a day I won’t soon forget.  I’ve traveled twice before to Washington D.C. and twice made the trip to Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown.  Moved to tears doesn’t begin to explain it.  Without discrediting our players in anyway, I think you can ask any of them about what that Tomb means and any football game pales in comparison.

When I look back on the weekend, I was asked a number of questions by members of the H-SC community and it humbles me to think I was an ambassador for our student body.  When I explained our campus, our culture, our way of life, I quickly realized that I could sum it up my pride as a Little Giant by a lot of the actions off the playing field that I witnessed this weekend.  Everywhere we went, whether at a hotel, a restaurant, or on our flights, the behavior of our players was noticed by just about everyone who came into contact with them.  I heard countless times “please” and “thank you” and “bless you” when someone sneezed, I saw doors being held, guys pitching in and grabbing bags for one another, I saw so much of that in anticipation of and return from a 35-3 thrashing of the Tigers.  I can’t tell you if it’s a product of a single-sex education or a small school, but there’s something special here at Wabash.  Although it didn’t take a trip to Hampden-Sydney for me to realize that, it gives me a great deal of pride that the people we came in contact with at H-SC and along the way, may have a sense of what it means to be a Little Giant now too.



Randolph ’16 Reflects on Path Through Wabash

Clayton Randolph is a senior at Wabash, majoring in History. During the summer of 2014 he interned in the Communications and Marketing Office. This summer he is interning at Angie’s List in Indianapolis. He serves as the radio play-by-play voice of Wabash football road games and sideline reporter for home games. He handles play-by-play duties for basketball and baseball on both radio and internet video. He is entering his second year as the General Manager of 91.3 FM WNDY—Wabash’s student radio station. He has his own radio show and announces high school sports on Thunder 103.9 WIMC and 106.3 WCDQ in Crawfordsville.

Clayton Randolph – When I started applying to colleges during my senior year in high school, I had no idea where I wanted to go. I was certain Wabash was not on the list. I was applying to many schools with a Journalism/Broadcasting major in Indiana: Butler, Purdue, University of Indianapolis, DePauw, and Ball State. Wabash was an after-thought. It was easy for me to overlook them. I had grown up in Crawfordsville, my family was here, and most of all, it was all male. Those factors for an 18 year old were huge. Had it not been for my mother encouraging me to apply, I may not have ended up here. It’s fun to look back at that journey and question what was actually going through my head.

And now as I enter my senior year, it seems like yesterday I was being rung in, meeting new people, and dreading what Wabash was going to be like. There’s no doubt Wabash challenges you every second of every day, but it has also provided me with opportunities that few get to experience while in school, and for that, I am extremely thankful.

It was after my mother and I attended Top Ten day everything came into perspective. The alumni support offered at this institution was out-of-this-world. And to this day, it still amazes me. I have always been interested in broadcasting—particularly sports broadcasting. I knew Wabash did not have a major in this area. It still doesn’t. I trusted the alumni support system to help get me where I wanted to go. We do have many alumni in the Journalism field, and my family and I knew that relationships were of high importance when finding a job. So I gave it a shot. After my first week, I was put in contact with Sports Information Director, Brent Harris, who gave me an opportunity to immediately begin broadcasting Wabash sports.


Randolph interviewing NCAA President Mark Emmert during a football game in 2014.

Other institutions wanted me to apply, or interview, or wait until I was older to even handle a microphone—not to mention there were hundreds or thousands of other kids waiting in line to get their chance at developing into the next Al Michaels. As a freshman at Wabash, I got the opportunity instantly. I didn’t have to wait. The support system was already taking shape. And now after three years, many road trips, and gallons of Jenny’s ice cream later, Brent and I have forged a friendship I hope will last for years to come once I graduate—all while refining the necessary skills to excel in the Journalism field. You don’t find that everywhere, but at Wabash, it’s a staple—a commitment to young men. If it wasn’t for many of the employees in the Communications and Marketing Office, I still would not be where I want. Kim Johnson, Howard Hewitt, and Richard Paige have been instrumental in preparing me for my years after Wabash. And just like Brent, those friendships will last forever, because that’s what Wabash takes pride in. That’s why you come to a school like this. You meet people who care and want to help get you where you want go. It’s why Wabash is unique and stands out among its peers.

To this day, I can walk into any of their offices and have a conversation about anything. It’s hard for me to picture doing that any many other places. You’re going to make friendships with people wherever you go, but Wabash has built a reputation on these relationships. Yes, we educate doctors, lawyers, CEOs, etc. but those alumni will agree—friendships and relationships are the most important thing about Wabash and pushing you to do great things. If you don’t reach out and use the resources afforded to you, there won’t be as many friendships. Just in the past few years, those friendships have given me the chance to meet an alum working as a Producer for CBS News, a sports broadcaster for the Indiana Pacers, an FBI agent, the President of the NCAA, and an ESPN personality. Again, had I gone elsewhere, most of those opportunities would not have been present. Even traveling with the football team to broadcast their games would not have been a possibility.

People will tell you when finding a job, it’s about who you know. At Wabash, you have a chance to meet many alumni in various roles across the country. They are there for students to use and reach out to—because at one time, they were doing the same thing, and having the same struggles. This probably reads like recruitment mail—it’s not. Nobody forced me to write this, I wanted to share how important Wabash is. When you come to a place as special as Wabash, don’t sell yourself short. Go after it. What’s the worst that could happen? Wabash is there to help you—be sure to use it. And, personal thanks should be extended to those who have helped me.


Student-Professor Continuum

Richard Paige — For those who live the cyclical life of academia, commencement isn’t unlike the yard of bricks at IMS, a finish line to yet another year.

Certainly, all professors enjoy some aspect of the proceedings when optimism is in abundance and the possibilities are endless.

Marc Hudson

Marc Hudson

For Dan Rogers, Professor of Modern Languages, there is a joy in the connections made with students and families, and the shared sense of accomplishment that is celebrated. From meeting parents on Freshman Saturday to seeing them again at Commencement, it’s nice to play a role in that progression.

“When you teach a freshman tutorial, you meet students and their families at the very beginning of their college career,” Rogers said. “It’s always wonderful to see them again at graduation and share in the collective joy of their accomplishments. Some of the most heartfelt moments I’ve experienced as a Wabash professor happen with those families right after commencement.”

Two Wabash professors also found themselves in the same shoes as the 229 graduates, as Marc Hudson and David Polley were retiring after nearly 60 combined years in Wabash classrooms and labs.

David Polley

David Polley

A Buddhist thought came to mind for Hudson, a Professor of English, when asked what’s next.

“Each moment is a new moment, whether we are graduating from college or retiring from teaching after 28 years,” he said. “Each moment is brand new, has never been lived, never been experienced before, so I’m going to live my future in that spirit.”

When asked a similar question, Polley, a Professor of Biology, conjured up this thought.

“Like the graduates, I feel the same sense of relief, and a little bit of surprise,” he laughed. “I didn’t have any different feelings getting ready, it’s just part of a continuum.”

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.

What Wabash Is All About

“People often ask me what Wabash is all about,” said Professor Emeritus of Classics John Fischer H’70 to guests gathered Sunday in the Sparks Center Great Hall for the Honorary Degree Luncheon.

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Fischer at the podium during Saturday’s reception given in his honor in Detchon Hall.

That’s the same John Fischer celebrated Saturday by Professor Jeremy Hartnett (at a reception hosted by Fischer’s Lambda Chi sons and brothers) for his “generosity, genuineness, zest for life, and devotion to students and friends.”

The same John Fischer who brought the word “feckless” into the Wabash lexicon, and whose honorary degree includes that very word, praising the “jubilant humanity” he “modeled and cultivated as a colleague, professor, and motivator—no, caretaker—of the feckless.”

“’Feckless’ is just such an appropriate marker for your approach to students,” Hartnett said in honoring his mentor. “You didn’t view us as though we were flawed, but just as if we were in need of a bit more oomph and direction. To be called ‘feckless’ by you sent a clear message: Get off your rear end, face the task in front of you, and get to it. It’s a word that warms my heart when I hear a rookie faculty member use it even today, since it means that Fischerian spirit, so central to good work at Wabash, lives on.

“You modeled being a professor at Wabash that we strive to imitate: engaged with and deeply committed to our students, but also calling them on their bullshit.”

So when John Fischer talks about what Wabash is all about, we’re wise to listen.

“I have yet to come up with the perfect word,” Fischer said, “but what I do use is ‘intimacy.’

“That ‘intimacy’ seems to be at the very heart of what we are all about and what I think of when I contemplate my years here. The key to it all is the relationship between professor and student, advisor and advisee, the open and not shut office door.

“I recall my advisees with great pleasure and think about all of the things we talked about whether in my office, in the Scarlet Inn, in a fraternity or dorm, or in my home. We talked about everything… One becomes friends with current and former students. I have had the great good luck to be part of many of my former students’ lives.

Dan Degryse ’83 greets his former advisor and teacher.

Dan Degryse ’83 greets his former advisor and teacher.

“Teaching here was great fun and I learned how to teach from my colleagues, the remarkable Jack Charles and Ted Bedrick. The combination of their mentoring and my classes with first-rate students made me a better teacher. I also learned other things outside of the classroom about the Midwest, soccer (my involvement with the beginnings of soccer here was a different education—I could not be prouder of my own players back then and their successful contemporary descendants). I also learned about the Monon Bell which resides, I am happy to say, where it belongs.

“The genuine openness of the Midwest and, more importantly, its native, bright students was a gigantic discovery for me and watching these students come to the College, find their footing, and move on is still something I regard with pleasure and delight. I was involved for some years with the off-campus study program and it was simply fun to help our students to find somewhere they could augment their education. It was a sheer pleasure to behold the energy and life such an experience would add to a young man’s time at Wabash.

“I also was advisor to the Lambda Chis, which was fun, interesting, and challenging. I enjoyed the relationships formed there and was happy to watch young men come in their first year and emerge four years later with firm sense of self and sound bond with the College and the fraternity.

“Thus, I taught and was educated myself in numerous ways during my four decades here. I reveled in amiable colleagues and bright eager students.

“I hope that “intimacy” and that bond is never diminished here: it’s what makes a Wabash education so powerful.”


‘I Want to Work For David Letterman’

Richard Paige — For Ryan Smith ’03, it was just a thought one day on the way to class.

“I want to work for David Letterman.”

Smith, an Emmy Award-winning field producer for CBS News, has done that and more. Not only did he serve as a page for a year with the “Late Show with David Letterman” after receiving his master’s degree at Columbia University, but he was also part of a large team that prepped last night’s 90-minute special, “David Letterman: A Life on Television,” which aired on CBS.

The journey into television has been an amazing experience for Smith.

“When I was at Wabash, I had no bigger hero than Letterman,” he said. “He was the reason I went into television. I applied and was lucky enough to become a page for the Late Show. I’m very, very fortunate because at Wabash and at CBS, I’ve been able to stand on the shoulders of giants and live out those dreams.”

Ryan Smith '03 is one of the lucky few to sit at David Letterman's legendary desk at the Ed Sullivan Theater.

Ryan Smith ’03 is one of the lucky few to sit at David Letterman’s desk at the Ed Sullivan Theater.

Working on the “Late Show” helped Smith learn how a television show is produced, connect daily with audience members, and get a sense of what needed to be accomplished. Those skills translated well when working with the senior staff at CBS News in getting a show to air.

“It was fascinating to watch others do their jobs,” said Smith, who majored in political science with a Classics minor. “When I moved over to CBS news, I still had that sense of what needed to be done.”

Smith credits the expectations that his Wabash professors had for him as one of the reasons he’s felt comfortable in television news. The mindset of accepting new challenges; that no day or story is quite the same.

“I was so lucky to have professors that challenged me,” said Smith. “I was always driven to deliver for them. I owe so much to the team at Wabash who always expected the most out of me, therefore, I began to expect the most out of myself. I’m able to meet changing demands head on because of those expectations.”

As Letterman’s late night career comes to a close after more than three decades, Smith is proud that his television experiences – both with the legendary host and CBS News – have come full circle on the Letterman retrospective.

“Having been at CBS News for almost a decade and to circle back to where it started for me, I almost couldn’t believe it,” he concluded. “I had the opportunity to be a part of a great team and pay respect to a living legend. I am very fortunate to have learned from the best and to work with the best.”

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