A Chapel Talk With a Little Fire!

Howard W. Hewitt – Lon Porter wasted little time Thursday morning proving not every Chapel talk has to be ideologically driven or necessarily all that serious. 

Don’t misunderstand; he had a point to make to the student gathering. But the BKT Asst. Prof. of Chemistry used plenty of humor to entertain while encouraging students to embrace their education. 

The title of his talk, maybe the longest in Chapel history, summed it up best: “Well, I’m one of those fortunate people who like my job, Sir: Further Ramblings of a Wabash Chemistry Pledge. An ‘almost’ explosion free presentation by Lon Porter.” 

Oh yes, there was an explosion as you can see in the accompanying photo. But that was just part of the pyrotechnics. Porter used still images and video clips from television and movies to illustrate the influences he felt while growing up.

 Porter talked about the unique times at Wabash as a new president, dean, librarian and other positions are being filled. He noted that weeks before spring break everyone is tired. “We all have that in common,” he said to students, including faculty and staff. 

He talked about how much he enjoyed his job because of his students and relationship with other faculty and staff. 

He reflected on growing up in Texas and an array of humorous childhood memories. He described his journey to becoming a Professor. He remembered being forced into an Honors School at the University of Houston which became his introduction to liberal arts. 

“If they had not forced that on me, I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” he said. He talked about his family’s influence and his marriage to Visiting Instructor of Biology, Maureen McColgin. 

He encouraged the students to not just pass the tests and engage themselves in labs but to “think about what you take away from your class work. 

Porter spoke to Chapel in his first year at Wabash and referred to it as one of the highlights of his career. He admitted he wanted to try the small explosion then, but also feared burning the Chapel might be a bad career move. 

On top of everything else, he delighted the students by sharing it was not only a privilege to give his second Chapel talk but he was doing it on his 29th birthday.

It’s That Time of Year

Jim Amidon — It’s a very special time of the year at Wabash College. Even though winter made a furious return over the weekend, our eyes are on spring. There’s a certain kind of excitement that builds as February transitions to March. It’s a time when we get our first opportunity to see the future of the college.

While walking across campus last Friday, I saw a handful of guys in high school letter jackets. Most Wabash students don’t wear their high school coats once they get here, so what I was seeing was recruiting season moving into full swing. Over the weekend we welcomed a swarm of high school men for a multicultural recruitment program. Today more than 100 students who are ranked in the top 20 percent of their graduating classes are on campus for yet another visit program.

After this, it’s Honor Scholarship Weekend, Fine Arts Fellowship Weekend, and Lilly Scholarship Weekend.

Over the course of the next six weeks or so, we’ll host more than 500 prospective students. If history holds, about half of them will enroll next August.

The college’s future lies in these students. They are our future valedictorians, newspaper editors, and starting linebackers. They are society’s future lawyers, doctors, teachers, and businessmen.

So when I see a family being led around campus by an Admissions tour guide, I pay special attention. When I spy a high school student wearing a letter jacket, I try to see where he’s from, in what sport he’s earned letters, and how big he is. If I see someone who looks lost, I make sure to approach him to see if I can help.

The whole campus joins in this experience. Faculty and staff will welcome guests at receptions, open houses, and special programs throughout the day today and on into the spring. Alumni are making phone calls to prospective students in their area or whose interests are similar. Faculty open their doors to invite prospective students into their classes and offices. Admissions counselors and coaches are working the phones and email lines nearly round the clock. Students lead tours, host meals, and give up their beds to our prospective students.

Perhaps it’s because the recruitment process is so collaborative at Wabash that brings excitement to late winter. Dean of Admissions Steve Klein and President Andy Ford have long held the “we’re in this together” approach to recruitment.

It takes a college to recruit a freshman class.

And I think that’s why so many students who visit campus end up enrolling here. Typically we will enroll about half of the men who step foot on campus. Maybe they see that a college for men really isn’t a cloistered monastery. But I prefer to think that it’s good old Hoosier hospitality at work; a genuine desire to be at our best when we have guests on campus.

At Wabash, we don’t approach recruitment as a chore; we enjoy the opportunity to meet students and their families. When they leave, they so often tell us they had a wonderful experience.

It’s a community effort.

The word “uncertainty” comes to mind when I think about young men pondering college choices. They wonder whether they’ll be able to compete in class and in athletics; whether they’ll make friends; whether they’ll feel comfortable.

When they see the tight bonds of Wabash men and feel the overwhelming sense of community here, they begin to see themselves walking across the mall to attend class, lifting weights in the Allen Center, or singing a solo in Salter Concert Hall.

I’ve seen that look a thousand times — the look of a high school student standing on campus and suddenly realizing Wabash is for him. Every Wabash alumnus I know can tell you the precise moment they made the decision to attend Wabash. And it typically happens on a campus visit like the one we’re hosting today or similar programs in the coming weeks.

I’m excited about seeing those letter jackets and wide eyes today. And I’m even more anxious to catch a glimpse of a young man standing alone on the mall and staring at the Chapel or Center Hall. He’ll be pondering his future and hopefully seeing himself as a Wabash man.

Alumni to Student – One-on-One Help!

Howard W. Hewitt – So much is written and said about Wabash College’s alumni-to-student connections that sometimes we overlook the smaller ones. Such connections happen nearly every day. Sometimes we know about them, and sometimes we instigate such meetings. 

The college has the Alumni Discussion Series, which continued this week with Steve Woods ’93, and continues to develop a long-term program connecting students and alumni. 

But Wednesday night one of those smaller meetings took place that has just as profound an impact for Wabash College. 

Todd Vogel ’04, arguably the best photographer the school has ever produced, was back on campus to help a freshman. Vogel is in medical school at Purdue and will be moving to Indianapolis next school year to continue his medical education. 

Vogel was a chemistry major at Wabash and active photographer for the Bachelor and yearbook. Many of his photos hang across campus. If you’ve ever noticed the great sports shots in the coaches’ offices in the Allen Center, you’ve seen Vogel’s work.

Todd came down Wednesday night to pass on his expertise. He spent part of the afternoon and an exciting evening of basketball with Steve Abbott ’09. Abbott is a freshman with a budding interest in photography. He has shown a keen eye but needed a hand with the technical aspect of the Board of Publications’ photography equipment. 

Todd came down despite a rigorous academic schedule and gave Steve several hours that would have costs a couple hundred bucks from a professional. 

That connection is what we hope students like Abbott remember – that an alum came to help him in an area of expertise the College does not teach. Undoubtedly, one day Abbott may get his turn to help a freshman or young photographer. Steve’s effort with the Bachelor thus far has hinted at a high probability he’ll get the chance some day. 

Thanks guys! 

In photo: Vogel, on right, looks at images with Abbott.

Tim Lake: ‘Build on the Courage’

“Lift every voice and sing

Till earth and heaven ring,

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty …" 

Professor Tim Lake opened his Thursday Chapel talk with the opening stanza of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” perhaps better known as the Negro National Anthem.

Lake recited, from memory, much of the song composed at the turn of the century by James Weldon Johnson to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. He used the song as a foundation for his remarks about America’s racial past and as a challenge to Wabash students reflecting on their future.

He talked of how the Capitol Rotunda was built by slaves and how the great statue atop the Rotunda was transported and reassembled by slaves. He recalled how President Bill Clinton honored civil rights icon Rosa Parks in 1999 with a Congressional Medal of Honor. The president opened the proceeding that day by having the Negro National Anthem played.

Lake added Clinton sang all three verses without a copy and added with a sly grin that many supposed Clinton to be the only white man in America who would know all three verses.

But Lake, in a soaring and at times dramatic style, ended with a challenge to the students who had gathered for the Thursday morning ritual. 

“As we stand on the cusp of a new day in the life of Wabash College, I want to remind us of the courage and the legacy of courage and that you are the inheritors of that courage,” Lake said. The courage he referred to was of the history of black men and women like Rosa Parks, Johnson, and slaves who built some of the nation’s most patriotic symbols despite the odds against them.

He urged students to look at the names of soldiers who died in the Civil War on the great plaque on front of Center Hall. He asked them to go into the President’s Office and see the painting of Abraham Lincoln depicting the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. And then to go over beyond the Lilly Library and look at the name of Malcolm X inscribed on the Malcolm X Institute.

He reminded them “of the veterans, the Great Emancipator, and of a black shining prince – all who were willing to give their lives for freedom.”

“And that’s your legacy,” the future MXI leader said. “Claim the legacy for your own and let us try to create a world of peace.”

– Howard W. Hewitt, Public Affairs.

Cheap Date Night

Jim Amidon — The other day I was flipping around to various radio stations and stumbled on the Bob and Tom Show. They were just starting one of their live “adver-mercials” when I tuned in. You know what I mean: they occasionally pretend to just sit around and talk about the neatest, latest, greatest product to come on the market. And after every person chimes in about how great it is, Tom Griswold usually makes the final sales pitch and gives you an 800 number or web address.

They started the “adver-mercial” that I heard by saying, “Okay, guys. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and we know that it’s just another chance for you to screw up.”

They proceeded to talk about how guys could simply pick up the phone, give somebody a credit card number, and be “off the hook” for Valentine’s Day. They were selling mail order roses, I guess, and the deal was that a guy wouldn’t have to put in any effort and still be able to shower his significant other with a couple dozen fresh roses.

I have a better idea. But guys (and gals), it will require a little effort and it does involve Wabash College. Call it “Cheap Date Night” or “Dinner and a Show” or just “Amidon’s Crazy Idea,” I don’t care.

On Monday, February 13, and Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, Wabash will host The Acting Company, a highly regarded, traveling theater troupe that has been honored with a Tony Award for excellence in theater. We’re talking seriously good theater!

On Monday, the company will present Shakespeare’s Macbeth. On Tuesday, they’ll perform an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. Both shows begin at 8:00 p.m. in Ball Theater in the Wabash Fine Arts Center.

So here’s your plan (and imagine that like Bob and Tom, I’m just sitting in your living room giving you this great idea): Get a dinner reservation at one of our terrific local restaurants for, say, 6:00 p.m. Have a wonderful meal and make your way over to Wabash about 7:45. Pick up your tickets to the show and enjoy a couple hours of incredible theater. Go home for dessert and a glass of your favorite wine and you’ll have the perfect evening.

Whether you choose Monday or Tuesday, your date will be blown over by your romantic plan.

I call it “Cheap Date Night” because if you were to catch The Acting Company in Chicago it would cost you about $50 per ticket. At Wabash, both shows —†Macbeth and The Three Musketeers —†are absolutely free.

You do, however, have to reserve your free tickets. Give Eileen Bowen a call over at the Box Office (361-6411) to reserve your free seats. You can also email her at If you don’t pick up your tickets in advance, get there a little early. All unclaimed tickets are released to the public about 10 minutes prior to curtain.

So, for the cost of your dinner out, you can have a lovely, memorable Valentine’s Day (or Pre-Valentine’s Day) evening.

Now, the cynical reader might question a show like Macbeth. I’ll admit that it isn’t exactly what I’d call a romantic show, but it is my favorite of Shakespeare’s works because of the dark complexities of the characters. As for The Three Musketeers, just imagine a bunch of good-looking, well-trained actors and their thrusting sword fights.

You can’t go wrong, whichever play you choose.

If you think about it, “Cheap Date Night” really does beat mail order roses, right?

Our Boss, And Designated Emergency Fill-in

Howard W. Hewitt – When the Sphinx Club Chapel Talk chairman runs out of ideas, when someone cancels, or last minute changes occur – who is he going to call?

That call is often placed to the College’s Director of Public Affairs, Jim Amidon ’87. In the spirit of full disclosure, Amidon – is also our boss here at FYI!

Jim’s self-effacing remarks about being the emergency fill-in got the students chuckling as he embarked on a carefully crafted speech about Wabash traditions, our out-going president and welcoming our new president.

But who would have expected less? The College often turns to Jim for the “emergency fill” role in a number of capacities. What’s amazing is he always delivers. Jim occupies a unique roll at the College. I hope the young men picked up on that role Thursday morning.

He is not just a Wabash graduate but someone who has dedicated much of his life to the College. He began his post Wabash career immediately as Director of Sports Information. Then in the mid 90s he took over the College’s Public Affairs.

With his writing and marketing skills he could be working in the private sector, and most likely make more money doing so. But he’s become one of the College’s most-public faces through his passion – a passion fired by the students who attend Wabash.

He urged those students to protect their fraternity system. He pleaded with freshman to set a high standard for next year’s pledge classes. He urged all of the students to become active participants in reflecting on the changes at Wabash during their tenure, under Andy Ford’s leadership. Then he asked them to think about how they will answer President-Elect Patrick White’s questions this fall when he is learning about Wabash.

Sure, Jim is our boss and we enjoy working for him in Kane House. But Wabash seldom has a more passionate and articulate spokesman whether its to the media, in the chapel or just as a last minute fill-in.

Search Committee: A Remarkable Effort

Jim Amidon — Wabash trustee John Fox, Jr. was positively buoyant when he stepped into my office Saturday morning. He had just gotten off the phone with Dr. Patrick White, the man the Wabash Board of Trustees unanimously elected to become the college’s 15th president when Andy Ford steps down at the end of this academic year.

For Fox, the jubilation was obvious. He’s spent the last seven months chairing the search committee that ultimately recommended Dr. White, who presently serves as Vice President and Dean of Faculty at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana.

Fox has retired from his career as the vice chairman of Deloitte Consulting. That he so thoroughly and carefully led the search committee at a time when he might have spent the last six months in Phoenix or Naples is remarkable. But John isn’t the only person whose deep commitment to Wabash was on display the last seven months. To every member of the committee, I extend the gratitude and appreciation of the entire college community.

What was truly remarkable was the level of confidentiality with which the search was conducted. I had conversations just last Friday with trustees, alumni, faculty, staff, and students — nobody had a clue which of the three final candidates the trustees might elect.

And in the end, they elected the right man for the job.

You’ll hear more from Pat White and about him in the coming months. The qualities I think make him a good fit for Wabash are his deep passion for the liberal arts; his articulateness in discussing the value of single sex education; his thoughtful, listening-first approach to problem solving; and his track record with the faculty at Saint Mary’s.

But the real reason he’s going to be Wabash’s next president is because he will continue Andy Ford’s remarkable legacy of putting students at the very center of all that we do.

I had the opportunity to chat with Dr. White by phone on Saturday morning. Over and over he said he wanted to make sure students got the news first; that students would know how excited he is to serve them; and how we must find opportunities for him to interact with students prior to his official appointment on July 1.

That notion does make you want to ask, "Shouldn’t college presidents like their students and place them at the top of the constituent list?"

You’d be surprised how few college presidents share Andy Ford and Pat White’s passion for serving students. Many get wrapped up in lobbying for funding or programs, glad-handing wealthy donors, or fighting with faculty. Ultimately they lose sight of what should be their central mission: creating opportunities for the students who are enrolled in their institutions.

I can’t tell you how fortunate many of us at Wabash feel today to know that the students-first tradition at Wabash will continue under its 15th president.

You’ve got to hand it to the search committee for its diligent work. They probably could have chosen a superstar scholar, or the author of a dozen books on education, or someone with more experience in fund raising.

In the end, the committee recommended to the Board Dr. Patrick White, an Indiana guy who really wanted this job because he sees something truly special in our students. And if we’re being honest, that’s the only quality that really matters.

Blog about a blog?

Steve CharlesI was doing some research on a story for an upcoming issue of Wabash Magazine when I came across the website of Indianapolis attorney Mark Rutherford ’82—actually, the site he keeps as chairman of the Indiana Libertarian Party. Mark, it’s been noted elsewhere, is the longest serving chair of a political party in the state of Indiana.

But what caught my eye was his entry about fellow Wabash alum Frank Hagaman ’72 (pictured at far right) and his work as president of the Partners in Housing Development Corporation. The Corporation’s mission is the "create or cause to be created" affordable housing for people with special needs.

We published an article about Partners in Housing in the Summer 1998 issue of the magazine, but Frank has just been named the 2006 Wabash Man of the Year by the Indianapolis Association of Wabash Men. So now we have a second chance to note and celebrate this important work.

Here’s some of what Mark Rutherford has to say about it:

"I’ve been intrigued by Partners in Housing because one of their recent projects, Linwood Manor, was done with private equity and without government grants and their restrictions. Dan and I met with Partners founder and chief executive officer Frank Hagaman and their Development Director Lee Ann Harper. One of the purposes of the meeting was to learn more about Partners and their success with Linwood Manor. Another purpose was to learn how the Libertarian Party of Indiana can help spread the word about Partners and the Linwood Manor project.

"We learned how Partners received many benefits by doing this completely privately (fewer government restrictions, requirements, and less reporting to government officials were highlighted, among many advantages). This helped drive down the costs from the typical project, which allowed them to do more and serve more disadvantaged people."

You can read more at Mark’s website, at the Partners in Housing page, or in the Summer 1998 issue of Wabash Magazine Online.

Photo: Bob Rhodehamel ’72 and Frank Hagaman as pictured on the cover of the Summer 1998 Wabash Magazine.

New Soccer Coach Boasts Italian Charm

Jim Amidon — I learned about the hiring of new head soccer coach Roberto Giannini long before most on campus, but I had to sit on the news until all of the formalities of human resources paperwork had been completed. Since I wasn’t a part of the interviewing process, I had only Roberto’s resume to use when writing the press release about him.

Finally, on Monday, I had the chance to meet the man who will lead the Wabash soccer program into the 2006 season. While we spent only 15 minutes together as I photographed him, I was immediately impressed by his Italian charisma and charm. He reminded me of the friendly and hospitable people I met while traveling through Italy with John Fischer’s Roman Art and Archeology class a few years ago.

Roberto hails from Bologna, a city he described as off the tourist path and a "real Italian city." I told him that my friend, Mark Shreve, is working in Perugia, to which he replied, "Perugia is home to the largest university for foreigners." Yep, that’s where Mark works, I said. He then talked passionately about how Bologna and Perugia are much the same; lots of old Italian charm and businesses that cater to locals, not tourists. My mouth was watering as he covered Parma’s famous hams and cheeses and the local wines.

My 15 minutes with Roberto Giannini ended with me wishing him the best of luck in his new gig at Wabash, and leaving with the feeling I had known the guy for years.

Here’s hoping that our current and future players have that same warm experience in their interactions with their new soccer coach. If so, the wins will certainly follow.

Scott Crawford: A Man With Ideas!

Susan Cantrell – To satisfy my own curiosity, as well as gather information for a profile on the Wabash Web Page, I looked forward to interviewing Scott Crawford, the new Career Services Director. He is doing a job that is so important for our students.

Our meeting was not disappointing. Crawford is full of ideas. Practically all I had to do was ask what he had in mind for the Schroeder Career Services Center and his responses came flying out. To say the Career Services operation should be multi-faceted is an understatement, if ever there was one. The people in the office have to be in contact with business, graduate schools, non-profit employers, the military and other organizations. They have to run a protocol school, an editing desk, a counseling service, and a marketing operation, both for our students and their prospective employers.

Getting students, even seniors, to consult Career Services is not always easy, but Scott Crawford has come up with an idea for this, as well as for most other challenges he and his office face. What is the one sure way to get the attention of college students? Food. And plenty of it. What is the Career Services Office sponsoring the first Sunday evening when all students are back on campus for the second semester? A chili supper.

When I heard that, I felt confident Career Services has some good days ahead.

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