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Small school, big possibilities

Every student who steps onto this campus is looking at the legacies of previous Wabash men. The opportunities our students experience, the technology they work with, the dorms and fraternities in which they live, all of these are made possible by men who wanted to leave Wabash better than how they found it.

They believed in the possibilities of Wabash.

Bob Allen received a $600 scholarship, which helped him attend Wabash. Years later, he and his wife, Betty, donated $10 million back to campus.

At his Chapel Talk on Thursday, the president’s Chief of Staff and Director of Strategic Communications Jim Amidon ’87 explained it to current students this way: “A tiny liberal arts college in West Central Indiana once said, ‘We have a place and a voice in higher education.’ We transformed the campus. And we did it through philanthropy.”

Wabash College is currently halfway between that comprehensive capital campaign, which began in 1998, and its bicentennial in 2032. Conversations are beginning to take place regarding ways to improve the Wabash College experience for future students.

The conversations and donations of the previous campaign raised $136 million and improved the campus in almost every aspect from new buildings, state-of-the-art technology, the establishment of immersion programs, and millions of dollars in scholarships.

Though today’s talks are still in their early stages, improving professional development, fraternities, campus life experience, and philanthropy are the pillars of the conversations.

Immersion trips would not be possible without the generosity of our alumni.

“You won’t be surprised to know it’s going to take a lot of money to do that,” Amidon said. “It’s not just about participating in these big conversations…it’s about investing in those initiatives because you believe that tiny, little Wabash matters.”

Amidon explained there are several ways for a person to contribute to the future of Wabash. Financially, they can give on the campus’s upcoming Day of Giving. They can take part in conversations with prospective students who visit campus. They can tell their story – where they came from, what they’ve done, and where they plan on going.

The Princeton Review says we have the No. 1 alumni network in the nation, but that only continues if current students also transition to being active alumni.

“Is there really any question about the value of a Wabash education?” Amidon asked. “Don’t let our future be up to fate. My point here, gentlemen, is that you should take ownership of this place. After all, whose Wabash is it anyway?”


‘Three Time’ And So Much More

Nicknames and sports kind of go hand-in-hand, so it’s not surprising that someone on campus refers to Riley Lefever ’17 as “Three Time.” When you win three individual national championships, monikers like that are bound to follow.

It’s Riley’s response to sharing the story that sheds light on the person behind that championship veneer.

“I find it a little embarrassing,” he says. “I try to shy away from that stuff.”

Yes, Riley is a top-notch student-athlete, the leader of a nationally ranked wrestling team. He is also an English major who dabbles in poetry and has plans to teach following graduation, as well as the head resident assistant on campus, overseeing Rogge Hall, so his impact is far reaching.

Riley Lefever ’17 in Center Hall.

According to Associate Dean of Students Marc Welch, Riley relates well to a variety of people with the ability to lead through his words and actions. His attitude is contagious.

“As an R.A., Riley is naturally caring and concerned for others,” Welch says. “He is an encourager while at the same time holding them to a high standard.”

Fellow R.A. Brian Parks ’18 understands the commitment and integrity that goes into the job, and he witnessed some of those qualities at their first meeting.

“He automatically makes the room more relaxed,” says Parks. “Even though the job is stressful, he tries to put everybody at ease. He cracks jokes, but at the same time, he is a leader. He keeps us in order and makes sure we’re on task.”

One of Lefever’s character traits surprised Parks. Riley is a goof ball.

“He’s goofy. He seems to put a smile on your face every time you walk by,” Parks explains. “You can be yourself with him, and that translates very well to being an R.A.”

Chris Wilson ’19, who claims Riley as both a teammate and an R.A., says that Lefever earns respect on the mat and in Rogge Hall because of who he is, “You can look at him and tell that he’s athletic. I mean, he’s big and strong, but I don’t think everybody realizes how unique he is. He’s laid back. We respect him because he allows us to be ourselves.”

As Riley shoots for a fourth consecutive national championship and a B.A. degree this spring, one professor noted the attributes that help him stand out athletically and as a mentor, also aid him in the classroom.

“The excellent work ethic no doubt helps him in athletics, but it also defines him as a student,” says Agata Szczeszak-Brewer, Associate Professor of English. “He is a good listener, and his responses to texts or to other students’ comments are detailed and always respectful. I view Riley as a humble, down-to-earth guy who never brags about his achievements.”

Riley has impacted the Wabash community in a number of ways, but he is quick to point out the positive effects on him along the way, too.

“Being an R.A. has made me more approachable. I enjoy being able to impact young men’s lives,” “To be someone to talk to – to be a presence in their lives – has made me who I am. These experiences have shaped me as a person, a learner, an educator, and a leader.”


Scholarship Impacts Felt Around the World

Three Wabash students spent last semester abroad as part of the Gilman International Scholarship program. While each resided in vastly different locations, they returned to campus with a similar thought: the connections made through cultures, people, and experiences made for a rich experience.

“The education, trips, and, most importantly, the different cultures to which I was exposed made this experience very enlightening and eye-opening,” said Rodolfo Solis ’18, who was based in Valencia, Spain. “As a result, this led me to appreciate the Spanish language and literature much more.”

Much of that appreciation can be seen in the interactions with people, whether it be host families or strangers met while traveling.

Dominick Rivers at the Great Pyramids of Giza.

While on a trip to Cairo, Egypt, Dominick Rivers ’19 was on a run at the Great Pyramids of Giza, when he befriended a watchman named Nasar, who took him to parts of the site not available to the general public. From there, Rivers shared a dinner with his family, viewed Nasar’s artwork – a sculptor – and meditated.

“It was truly a fantastic experience that affirmed an already held belief,” said Rivers, who was based in Prague, Czech Republic. “As humans, we are in this together just to make life that much easier and enjoyable for one another.”

Solis was moved during a visit to Peñiscola, Spain. The town holds a noteworthy castle that dates back to the Crusades, and was recently featured prominently on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Such a journey was like a trip through time, according to Solis.

“I was able to do something that I never thought was possible, set foot in a historical monument previously used for an event that took place a little over 900 years ago,” he said.

Immanuel Mitchell-Sodipe ’18 spoke of shared experiences with his host family while in Guatemala. He remembered conversations with his host mother, Rubi, and connections made when discussing the issues that affect the poor and underrepresented.

Immanuel Mitchell-Sodipe  snaps a photo in Guatemala.discussing the issues that affect the poor and underrepresented.

“The world seems smaller, like people share my politics and experiences,” he said “People love, and they imagine a better world.”

Two of Wabash’s Gilman Scholarship recipients had traveled outside the United States previously. For Rivers, it was his first trip abroad, and he appreciated the familiarity he discovered.

“There might be a lot of land and sea that separates us, but deep down we are all looking for the same thing – to enjoy the time we have and to make it last,” he said.


Wabash College Arboretum: Plant a Tree for Earth Day

Tim Riley planting a tree in Arboretum

Tim Riley plants a tree in Arboretum

Tim Riley — Most people can dig a hole and cover up the roots. With a little water, the tree will grow into something to be proud of. Sounds easy? Well it’s not that simple. That maybe the most basic principles of tree planting, but there is a little more to it than that, that can save you money, years of headaches and disappointment.

Let’s start from the beginning. We are USDA planting zone 5a. This represents cold hardiness to -20 to -15. Read your plant tag or do research to select plants that are zone 5 or lower. Do not think that every plant they have in our local stores are hardy for your area. They are not! In my experience, most of the trees sold locally are of planting zone 5 or lower, but I would say 20% of the shrubs and perennial sold are zone 6. It may be possible to grow plants only cold hardy to zone 6, but they are rare and it’s truly a gamble with your time and money.

Know your soil. Is it black, rich with organic material, and well drained? If it is, you have won the lottery of soils and you can probably grow almost everything with ease. The reality is that most of us in west central Indiana are dealing with high clay content (the blond colored soils). Clay soils lack in nutrients, can hold too much or too little water, and hard to roots to grow into. Amending the soil with organic material may be necessary, but always mix it with the existing soil. My rule of thumb is one shovel of organic material to two shovels of native soil, mixed well.   An example of trees that can’t tolerate heavy clay soils are Flowering Dogwood and Hemlocks.

A Redbud Tree in Wabash's Arboretum

A Redbud Tree in Wabash’s Arboretum

Is where and how my tree grown in important? Yes it is. Trees that are locally grown are always going to do better because they are acclimated to the environment and soil type. Your local, privately own garden centers, are about the only place to find plants locally grown. Big box stores usually get their plants from large growers in distant states, like Oregon and Tennessee. Buying these trees from box stores are usually fine, but you have to be careful because they often come in leafed out too early and freezing temperatures can really cause harm. Trees are sold as B&B or in root pruning bags or plastic container form. Tree that are grown in natural soil and then balled and burlap (B&B) are the best for planting, due to natural spread of roots. A down fall to B&B is that they are usually heavy to handle. Root pruning bags are better, but not common in the stores. The bags allow the root grow up to the edge of the bags, then pinch if off so the root doesn’t turn causing girdling roots. Plastic container grown trees are common in box stores, and are at the highest risk of developing root problems in the future. The roots hit the side of the container, then turn and grow around the edge of the pot. This girdling of roots will choke a tree to death in a few years. Shrubs are usually not as big of an issue in plastic pots. You should always cut any girdling roots before planting tree or shrubs.

And finally, Plant your tree at the right depth. Planting too deep is such a common problem, and is likely to cause certain death. Most all trees have “root flares”. This the area right at the ground where the truck starts to angle out or flare out as it goes into the soil. Never plant the trees root flares below ground level. Tree Bark planted below ground will only rot and die if kept wet from soil or mulch. Sometimes you have to remove soil from the top to find the root flames, but I’ll be glad you did.

In conclusion, if you pick a tree that fits your locations light requirement, maturity size and follow the 4 steps above, you should be successful. Don’t forget to keep your tree watered the first two years after planting. Thank you for make the world a greener place.


Wabash College Arboretum: Our Stately Trees

Tim Riley

Tim Riley

Tim Riley — On a warm spring day in 2016 during Earth Week, Tim Riley hosted an arboretum walk with a small group of interested faculty and students. The agenda was to discuss the past, present and the future of Indiana’s trees and the part Wabash College Arboretum plays in that future.

An early activity on the tour had the group holding a rope in a circle fifty seven feet in circumference, roughly eighteen feet in diameter which is the size of most above ground pools. This represented the trunk size of the largest tree ever recorded in Indiana, an American Sycamore (Plantanus occidentalis), located near Kokomo. However, at the time of this discovery, the grand old tree had fallen to the ravages of nature and a gnarled and ancient stump greeted the lands new inhabitants and explorers. It is considered the world’s largest Sycamore stump measuring twelve feet high and eighteen feet in diameter. In 1916, the stump was relocated to the Kokomo City Park for preservation. It is still there today along with other attractions like the world’s largest steer exhibit, if that is your type of thing. Trees are the silent sentinels who endure generations and are at the very heart of what gives Wabash College and the state of Indiana some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.

Earth Week Arboretum walk and demonstration

Wabash College Arboretum has a diverse and near complete collection of Indiana native tree species. There are a few that are not represented on campus but most are unable to grow in our climate and do not reflect the state’s general population of trees. We also have many other species that are not native to Indiana but still very valuable assets to the campus. The Arboretum consists of close to ten acres of slightly rolling terrain, covered with shade and proud strong trees bordering the East and Northeast side of campus. Oak, Maple, Beech, Tulip and Ash are the most abundant species of trees. The book, “50 trees of Indiana” written by T.E. Shaw, has been the long time standard for the planting of the Wabash Arboretum. Of the 50 trees selected by Shaw, we have over 80% represented on campus. We are always striving to have representatives of every tree species that is native to our state and plant around twenty new trees each year.

The future of Wabash’s arboretum is exciting and worrisome. Since 2010 there has been several years of weather extremes. Not always damaging storms take out our gentle giants, but excessive periods of heat, drought, and rainfall have brought an end to many of our most historic trees. These environmental extremes add stress that has led to secondary pressures of pest and disease. Many of the older trees are suffering or have succumbed to these secondary pressures. The Emerald Ash Bore is now widespread in Montgomery County. Preventive treatments are ongoing, with hopes to save a small population for future study. Unfortunately, Ash trees ( Fraxinus) will be the next great tree species to be all but eliminated in our State and on our campus. But cases like that of the Ash tree spur on new hybrids and species tolerant to its predecessors killers. Trees like the American Chestnut and American Elm once were plentiful but now are few in number throughout the state. But we now have new hybrid species being introduced with a strong resistance to the pests and disease that once took them out. Each year brings a new set of challenges, but we are committed to preserving our campus trees and doing all we can to ensure Wabash will Always be a place where trees Flourish and shade the next generations of Wabash Men.


Your Sense of Place in the World

Richard Paige — I felt like Bob Royalty’s REL 290 immersion trip to Israel needed closure, and the podcast and this blog were deemed necessary to finally and properly wrap my arms around all that an immersion experience could be.

I waited 10 days after we returned from Israel to schedule a podcast recording to give those shared experiences a chance to marinate a bit in their mind. The best part is that even 10 days later, the guys were just as engaged and thoughtful as they had been when we were in country.

We were midway through the podcast recording itself when the question hit me, so I scribbled it at the bottom of my notes to make sure that I remembered to ask it: what did trip do for your sense of place in the world?

Your sense of place in the world. Their words are better than mine.

(From left) REL 290 students Jimmy Suess, Aaron Becker, Anthony Douglas, Tim Riley, and Cameron Glaze during the podcast recording.

Anthony Douglas ’17: After this trip, the world for me became a little smaller. I realized that many of the problems we face in our own country aren’t just confined to what happens in America. The things that are happening here are happening everywhere. I saw a lot of the issues that the people of Palestine are facing in my own struggle as an African American. After this trip, I realized that people inherently are not much different from each other. This being my first time out of the country, I expected to meet people that were completely different from me, people who we had not much in common – almost aliens, you know – but I realized that the world is much smaller than we think.

Aaron Becker: ’17: It gave me a perspective of myself as being a very small piece of a much bigger puzzle. Though our time here at Wabash is valuable, though our experiences are fantastic and it is meaningful, in the grand scheme of things, the world’s a lot bigger than all of us. Though we are a very small part of it, we can make a difference. We can still listen to people on both sides. We can still have those conversations and, hopefully, it will help inspire people to make a difference in the lives of others.

Tim Riley ’18: For me it kind of made the world seem a little bit bigger. I’m coming from the same boat that this is my first international trip and I saw a lot more narratives that we need to hear out and a lot more adventures that we need to go on so that we have a broader understanding of everybody’s different backgrounds and stories and how that all comes together to produce the society that we live in today.

Jimmy Suess ’17: (What) I really took away most from this was not to take my freedom for granted. In this, I realize the responsibility that I have to do as much work that I can to promote the most good that I can in my life because there are people who don’t have the same fortune out there to be able to do what they want and help others.

Cameron Glaze ’17: I’d like to compare it to if you are wearing your fraternity letters and you go out and do something bad, you are going to have a negative light shined on you and who you represent. Going to Palestine and hearing what they had to say about our election and our government really made me think that while we are very lucky to be in the country that we are, we still have things to improve upon and before we can help other people, we need to help ourselves first.

In hindsight, it’s kind of disappointing that I didn’t think of the question sooner, as these answers address the essence of what makes immersion trips valuable. They are unique. They are intimate. They are insightful. It took less than four minutes for these five guys to generate these thoughtful responses, but they speak volumes to the sort of impact these trips have.


A Final Thought Before Finals

Steve Bowen '68

Steve Bowen ’68

What do students learn at Wabash College?

Monday marks the beginning of final exams— a time where students are tested on everything presented throughout the fall semester.

It can be exhausting. It can be overwhelming. It can even be intimidating. Most importantly, will these facts, figures, names, and numbers be remembered years down the road?

Steve Bowen ’68, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, learned a lot during his time as an undergrad. As he shared with students during Thursday’s Chapel Talk, Bowen wasn’t tested on the most important things Wabash taught him until years after he graduated.

Bowen, a retired lawyer, worked as a partner at Latham and Watkins, which had offices on several floors of the former Sears Tower in Chicago. After Sept. 11, 2001, workers inside Sears Tower knew that they, as well, were a skyscraping target. Far too often, police had to be called to inspect packages that had been delivered to the building. It was better to be safe than sorry. Everyone in that building knew what sorry could look like.

No exam Bowen had ever taken at Wabash could prepare him for the task at hand: to calmly lead his law firm in those next days and try to subside some of the fears that haunted the people around him.

Instead, it was the Wabash College mission statement that guided his every move: think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely. He didn’t have to pause and try to recall those lessons; they were part of who he was.

“I do not think they can be taught,” Bowen said, “but you will acquire these habits. Not because they are taught, but because they will emerge from close reading of texts, from disciplined research and writing, from active participation in classroom discussions and activities, and from helpful guidance given by many, especially by faculty.”

That’s why, he said, he doesn’t feel like he had any fewer opportunities as a Wabash graduate 48 years ago than the students do now. Sure, there are more programs, a larger alumni network, and state-of-the-art experiences.

Those things don’t make a Wabash man. As hard as it may be to comprehend just a few days before finals begin, Wabash College has far more to teach its students than what they’ll be tested on next week.

“Wabash, at its core, is always Wabash,’ Bowen said. “It is a place where students are drawn into a vast world of ideas; where students are taught in edifying, informative and rigorous ways; and where students acquire not only a love of learning, but the habits of mind and heart essential to a life well lived.”

Think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely.

“If you acquire these habits,” he said, “the success, the fame, and the honors will take care of themselves. Good luck on your finals.”


“Old Wabash”: History of a school and its song

Dr. Richard Bowen leads the Wabash College Glee Club in singing an early version of "Old Wabash."

Dr. Richard Bowen leads the Wabash College Glee Club in singing an early version of “Old Wabash.”

“From the hills of Maine to the Western plain, or where the cotton is blowing;
from the gloomy shade of the northern pine, to the light of the southern seas…”

And so it goes.

It’s a tune that can flow out of the mouths of students and alumni without hesitation. But, interestingly enough, that familiar tune is not the original.

Dr. Richard Bowen, Glee Club Director and Assistant Professor of Music, did some research over the past several weeks and, with the help of the Wabash College Glee Club, shared some of the song’s secrets at his Chapel Talk on Thursday, “Will the Real ‘Old Wabash’ Please Stand Up: Reflections and Revelations Regarding Wabash’s Favorite Song.”

Bowen said that when he announced his Chapel Talk title to the Glee Club, he was not prepared for their reaction, which was, “Wow! We didn’t know you were so hip Dr. Bowen.”

“Really? I’m hip?” he asked.

“Yeah, you lifted your title from Eminem,” they responded.

Bowen shared that he had no idea what they were talking about, and just like that, he wasn’t so hip.

But unlike “Slim Shady,” there aren’t necessarily imitations of our current “Old Wabash.” There is one version written sometime in 1896 that is very different from today’s, which was written around 1900, yet this one was also titled “Old Wabash.”

The 1896 version has no known author, but, Bowen asked, “Is this the real ‘Old Wabash?’”

“Such a claim, however, fails on two accounts,” Bowen explained. “It did not capture enough attention to ensure widespread performance, and it was not designated as the official song.”

Bowen and the Glee Club sing today's version of "Old Wabash."

Bowen and the Glee Club sing today’s version of “Old Wabash.”

That designation went to Carroll Ragan and Edwin Meade Robinson’s version, which is similar to the song that is sung today. But not exactly.

Ragan originally composed the music to be a played as a concert band march for former Wabash President William Patterson Kane’s inauguration in 1900. But then the school offered $50 (which was a lot back then) to whomever could write a new school song. So Ragan gave the music to Robinson, who wrote the lyrics to “Old Wabash.”

Generally, words come first in songwriting. And if they don’t, normally the composer knows the music will be partnered with vocals. Since this was not the case, Robinson had a difficult time finding a proper flow for the lyrics. Despite later admitting parts of the song were rough and awkward, it must’ve impressed Wabash because his words live on.

“Old Wabash” was originally composed in the key of E flat, which gave it a range similar to the “Star-Spangled Banner.” It also had a two-step style to it because of the march it was originally composed to be.

Because of its difficulty, the song’s key was lowered in 1915 and the style was changed to swing. In 1970, a tenor descant was added, while revisions to the piano accompaniment were made in recent years.

“‘Old Wabash’ continues to evolve,” Bowen said. “Does ‘Old Wabash’ sound the same today as it did in 1900? Certainly not. In the future year of 2082, will ‘Old Wabash’ sound exactly the same as it does today? I kind of doubt it.

“Is ‘Old Wabash’ a better song today than it was 116 years ago?” Bowen asked. “My answer is a resounding yes. ‘Old Wabash’ remains today a vibrant, relevant, almost-living organism that continues to occupy a vital place in the larger life of Wabash College. If it had not changed, I wonder if we would still be singing it?”


Competing for a Greater Cause

Christina Franks – On Saturday, the Little Giants will fight to keep the Monon Bell for the eighth year in a row. But on Tuesday, the Wabash community came together to help people who are fighting for their lives.

Aaron Stewart-Curet '17 donates blood regularly, but the rivalry "Bleed for the Bell" incorporates makes it a little more fun.

Aaron Stewart-Curet ’17 donates blood regularly, but the rivalry “Bleed for the Bell” incorporates makes it a little more fun.

Every year during Monon Bell Week, Alpha Phi Omega puts together a campus blood drive or “Bleed for the Bell.” And keeping true to the spirit of the week, DePauw hosts the same event on their campus, and it turns into a competition for a great cause.

“Yes, it’s really cool that we could beat the school down south in donations,” Nicholas Morin ’18 said. “But at the same time, what it comes down to is helping people out.”

As Alpha Phi Omega Vice President of Service, Morin is the coordinator for this year’s event and loves the idea of giving back in such a big way in a small amount of time.

Last year, 96 people showed up to donate blood during “Bleed for the Bell.” Morin’s goal this year was to reach 100 donors.

“Every pint donated is three lives saved,” he said. “If we have 100 donors, that’s 300 lives. Wabash can make a difference.”

Students, staff, and faculty filed into Knowling Fieldhouse throughout the day. Some of the students had never given blood before and thought this would be the best opportunity. For others, the fact that this was a competition against DePauw just made their regular habit of giving that much better.

Robert Reed ’19, who had given blood before believes the concept of “Bleed for the Bell” with DePauw during Monon Bell Week says a lot about the character of the two schools. “Getting both the schools together and doing this all as a group says something not just about ourselves but us as a group,” he said, “that we can come together for something bigger, which I like.”

Workers saw a steady stream of donors throughout the day and, for the most part, were able to get students into chairs and on their way fairly quickly.

“It’s always beneficial,” Tim Riley ’19 said. “Blood banks always seem to be short, and it’s something we can easily do with about half an hour of our time.”

To which another donor quickly pointed out:

“And it’s one more way to beat DePauw.”


Puzzled by a crossword? Look to math.

Christina Franks — A crossword puzzle is solved one word at a time. Letter by letter, the answers start coming together. And with more letters comes more answers. How do we know? Math.

Crosswords vary in their degree of difficulty, so under what conditions can that person expect to be able to complete solve a puzzle?

Dr. John McSweeney of the Mathematics Department at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology set out to find that answer a while ago and shared his findings with Wabash students and faculty on Tuesday.

crosswordsWhat McSweeney was able to prove was that, dependent on a puzzle’s difficulty level, there is a certain number of letters from clues that, once obtained, will make a crossword puzzle almost completely solvable.

“Mathematics is really not about numbers – it’s about patterns,” Professor of Mathematics & Computer Science Emeritus David Maharry said. “And a crossword puzzle has huge patterns in it once you start looking.”

The graphs McSweeney used also showed the initial qualities of a puzzle can be so random that a person, even if he or she is not great at solving the crossword one day, the next day might be better. Even if the crossword puzzles are of the same difficulty level, if that person is able to figure out more clues or the letter arrangements make a bit more sense, McSweeney’s research shows that the second day’s puzzle just might go smoother than the last.

McSweeney used crossword puzzles from the New York Times, where Crawfordsville native and 2010 honorary Wabash graduate Will Shortz serves as the crossword puzzle editor. He graduated from Indiana University with the nation’s only degree in Enigmatology, and just a few years later, at age 25, Shortz founded the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

So if math has shown that once a person gets a certain amount of letters a puzzle becomes completely solvable, Shortz might have to start making sure the Times’ crosswords are even more puzzling.



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