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.”