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An Uncanny Knack

Jim Amidon — Remember Ryan Smith ’03 — a tall, skinny drink of water who majored in poli-sci and wrote for The Bachelor? The guy has an uncanny knack for landing in the right places at the right time. (And I’m sure hard work has a lot to do with it.)

When he did a White House summer internship, he was one of the very few interns who got to work in the West Wing.

When he said he wanted to go to journalism school, I thought, "no way." He got into Columbia and finished his master’s degree right on time.

On election night 2004, he spent the evening as the youngest person in the control room of CBS’s news division watching the results come in.

He wrote me Friday saying to tune in to 48 Hours, the CBS news program that covers a single story for a full hour. Why? Saturday’s program, "Strange Truth: A Murder Mystery," was pitched to producers by our very own Ryan Smith.

Officially, he’s in research and story development, which means "I do front-end work for stories—I find and research stories; pitch them; travel to meet people involved; and convince them to come on television. It’s a great job, especially for someone my age who can still live out of a suitcase."

Smith began with 48 Hours in February; it’s taken the better part of six months to get his story on the air. Smith is pleased, though; he has three other stories in production.

Contact Ryan Smith at: smithr@cbsnews.com

Howard Hewitt – Greg Mahoney ’06 sees responsibility as a triangle. The triangle’s three sides are self, friends and family. 

Mahoney weaved his love of racing into his Thursday Chapel Talk about responsibility. The Granger, Ind., native, and religion major and Student Senate president, told a good-sized chapel turnout that responsibility is all about decisions.

“It’s about doing what you like when you like,” he said. “We can choose to do nothing at Wabash and just study. Or, like me and my buddies, we can work real hard so we can play hard.”

Responsibility for one’s self is much like a race car, Mahoney offered. “In order to go fast you have to start slow. If you don’t know what you’re going to do in life slow down and look at yourself. What are your strengths, interests?”

Responsibility to friends is dropping whatever you’re doing to help a buddy out. Mahoney described responsibility to family as the most important because family will give up even more than friends to support you.

Mahoney’s mixture of humor and advice seemed to be a big hit with Wabash men.

Guests at Saturday’s Football Game

Jim Amidon — Saturday should be business as usual at Wabash: the football and soccer teams are home and students will be entertained by the national act, The Roots, on Saturday night.

We’ll have some special guests around this weekend, too. First, alumni soccer players return to campus for the alumni game at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

The Faith Alliance, Montgomery County’s breast cancer resource organization, will be set up inside Byron P. Hollett Little Giant Stadium in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Representatives will be handing out information on breast cancer and resources available to breast cancer victims.

And at halftime of the football game, the three finalists in all age categories will compete for county championships in the Punt, Pass, and Kick competition.

Tailgating starts early — don’t be late.

The right place, the right time

Steve Charles — JP Morgan Chase investment banker Bill Kennedy ’83 had the rapt attention of students at his table when host Lu Hamilton ’76 interrupted the conversation to make some necessary announcements at Monday night’s alumni-student gathering.

I don’t know what Bill had been discussing, but as soon as Lu finished his announcements, Kennedy turned back to the students and said, "Okay, I’d like to finish what we were talking about." The students leaned forward to listen, and one added an affirming, "Yeah." Looking around the room, I saw similar scenes at the five other tables.

It was the sort of engagement our students crave as they strive to discern their calling—connections with those who know how to leverage the advantages of a Wabash liberal arts education in the working world and have found a vocation that brings purpose to their lives. That’s what these Industry Focus Nights provide. Monday night it was healthcare, law, and investment. There’ll be other nights for other vocational paths. I told Lu that I wished we could provide an evening like this for every calling our students are interested in.

Later that evening I was transcribing my interview with our new Career Services Director, Scott Crawford: "People who find their calling are lucky, but they create their own luck," Scott said. "They position themselves to be in the right place for when that right time occurs. The key for our students is to be active, to get a variety of experiences, and, as their partners in this search, we want to provide as many of those experiences as possible.

"At a school like this, and with the alumni support we have, so much learning is possible," Scott said. "But you have to pay attention and be ready to†go to that right place at the right time."

For 30-plus students with that initiative, the right time was last night, and the right place was Detchon Hall.

Thanks to Lu Hamilton, Terry Hamilton ’89, Diane Iseminger, Dave Herzog ’77, Matt Price ’90, Joel Tragesser ’94, Jason Cantrell ’93, Lee Hargitt ’88, and Bill Kennedy ’83 for making it happen.

Wabash Football & Fun

Howard Hewitt — For anyone who has never gone on the road with the Little Giant football team, you’ve missed out. Add it to your fall list of things to do!

Approximately 400 Wabash College fans filed into Ohio Wesleyan University’s Selby Stadium Saturday afternoon. Even two pledge classes joined the fun. The crowd looked a little lost in the huge, old stadium but they were quite vocal in supporting the Little Giants.

OWU is located at Delaware, Ohio, – perhaps best known as birthplace of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president – or about a half hour north of Columbus. The OWU campus has an elongated layout in the beautiful small town. A mall runs down the middle of campus giving it a feeling of community even though it sits right downtown.

A big part of any Wabash road trip experience is the tailgate parties before the game. Just look for the red Wabash flags in a nearby parking lot for good food and friends.

We got to Delaware a bit later than planned Saturday so I wasn’t able to explore campus as I would have liked. We’ll be going to Wooster and Allegheny yet this fall on overnight trips. That will allow me to include a few photos of campus to give fans a feel for these schools we often talk about but few will ever see.

When you travel with the Little Giants you eat well, enjoy great company and meet new people. As Brent Harris and I found out on our way to the Wabash tailgate area we found a group of Ohio-based Wabash fans. Bill Catus ’77†and friends had set up grills and fun near the stadium. Catus leads the Columbus Association of Wabash men.

Topping†off the day was Wabash’s dominating performance and a big 29-7 win.†The football team travels to Wooster Oct. 15 and the longest trip of the year, Oct. 29, to Allegheny, Pa. Oh, then there is that short trip down the road Nov. 12 to reclaim the Bell!

Master of the universes

Steve Charles - More than a month before his novel Olympos made the New York Times extended bestseller list, Dan Simmons ’70 presented the first public reading from the book to a Wabash audience packed into a Baxter Hall classroom during last summer’s Big Bash.

Now Amazon.com is featuring on its web site an interview with Simmons titled "Master of the Universes." Here’s the introduction:

"Changing genres as easily as others change clothes, Dan Simmons has won major awards with his novels, including the World Fantasy Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the Hugo Award. Ilium, the first book in the science fiction diptych completed by Olympos, was the Amazon.com top science fiction pick of 2003. He’s written horror, mystery, historical fiction, thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction.

"How does he do it? With pleasure…"

You can find the interview at http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/feature/-/569449/104-5681203-7933510

Dan is best known for his fiction, but I always enjoy and learn from his essays. He has written twice for Wabash Magazine (one of the most rewarding interviews I’ve ever done was for our feature about Dan in the Spring 1998 edition of WM), and you can read less formal but equally fascinating messages at his web site: www.dansimmons.com

The site also includes a revealing look by Dan’s longtime agent, Richard Curtis, about the sea changes occurring in book publishing.

You’ll also read that both Ilium and Olympos have been optioned by Digital Doman and Barnet Bain Films (producers of the Robin Williams/Cuba Gooding Jr. film What Dreams May Come). Dan is writing the screenplay.

But as Dan cautions every time his fans get excited about one of his books hitting the big screen, there are many obstacles to overcome. "I won’t believe it’s real until I’m sitting in the theater eating popcorn and watching it on the screen," Dan says.

At breakfast in Crawfordsville in June, Dan told me about his new book, The Terror, which he calls "a tale of arctic survival and psychological terror based on actual historical accounts."

As Dan enthusiastically recounted details from his research for the book, I couldn’t help but think of the conversation Dan had earlier that weekend with Wabash student Aaron Nicely, who was on campus writing fiction of his own thanks to an internship Dan funds. Dan talked with Aaron about the importance of research in fiction, and his words took root; when I caught up with Aaron a couple weeks ago, he said that doing the research for the novella he’d completed may have been the most enjoyable part of the process.

You can read about Aaron’s work at www.wabash.edu/news/displaystory.cfm?news_ID=2772

A journalist living humanely

Steve Charles—TIME magazine Miami Bureau Chief Tim Padgett ’84 travels to New York next month to receive the Cabot Prize from Columbia University for his outstanding reporting on Latin America.

But I’ve learned much and been moved by his recent coverage of the devastation caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast.

Some of his best work is found at TIME Online. His "Flying with a New Orleans Rescue Crew" snatches you up for a ride on a CH-53 helicopter called "Voodoo Child" as it takes to a sky "frenetically dotted with all types and sizes of choppers, bobbing and weaving like bumblebees in a barely controlled chaos amidst the smoke of fires burning along the Mississippi River below."

Padgett’s reporting illuminates challenges I’d never heard about in other coverage, such as the difficulty of providing air traffic control during the "saturation rescue scene" over New Orleans, and then takes you face to face with physically and mentally disabled survivors the crew plucks from the floodwaters. The final paragraph is as carefully observed as the best fiction, but this is reality at its most desperate. Padgett’s words burn these images on the brain and inspires compassion better than any photograph or video coverage I’ve seen.

You can read the article at:

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1101340,00.html

And Padgett’s article, "The Complicated Mayor of New Orleans" asks if Ray Nagin is the right man to rebuild the Crescent City. That one’s at:

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1109261,00.html

“We can get better!”

Jim Amidon — As the home game photographer for Wabash’s athletic teams, I like to shoot more than just game action. Some of the best shots I get come after a game, when the Little Giants are taking off their uniforms and preparing for their coach’s post-game comments.

So, after games, I tend to stick close to the players. After Saturday’s 50-2 win over Earlham, most members of the Wabash football team were in great spirits —†high fives and hugs were exchanged by all. Coach Creighton gathered the team together and one of the very first things he said was, "We can get better."

Coach Creighton is successful — and makes his men successful in sports and in later life — because, like faculty, he always challenges his student-athletes to improve. And he knows that being overly congratulatory after a 50-2 win would go straight to the heads of his players. Instead, he focused on the penalties the team made and a few things on which the team needs to improve this week at practice.

Having spent a good bit of time in the classroom this month, I know faculty have precisely the same approach: "We can always get better."

“Gorgeous, disturbing, and grippingly alive”

Jim Amidon — I read Joy Castro’s powerful memoir The Truth Book quite some time ago, before it was in print. I knew instantly that it had the grace and muscle to attract a large reading audience. Just before its release, The Truth Book was named a "Notable Book" by Booksense.

And the word is spreading.

In Sunday’s Boston Globe, Caroline Leavitt wrote about Castro’s book in her regular Sunday column, "A Reading Life." This week’s column was titled "Rewriting damaged lives with eloquence and truth," and featured Castro’s book along side Floyd Skloot’s A World of Light.

Leavitt called the English professor’s book "an exquisitely powerful and beautifully written memoir."

And:

"Castro, like Skloot, moves effortlessly back and forth through memory, as she tries to ”feel my way into what it all means." Glimpses of her future spark and glint amid the rubble of her past, and she even imagines a richly evocative monologue from her heartbroken birth mother. Castro not only saves herself from her brutal childhood, she saves her brother. And when she has a son, she gives him the childhood she and her brother never had a chance for. Her son is doted on, never struck or scolded. ”Sweetheart, this is what you deserve," she tells him.

"Gorgeous, disturbing, and grippingly alive, Castro’s book offers the kind of hope her background never supplied."

Just a quick reminder that the Wabash Bookstore has plenty of copies, and that Joy will read from The Truth Book on October 27 at 8:00 p.m. in Salter Concert Hall.

Floats that don’t float

Jim Amidon — Many colleges and universities have Homecoming parades complete with bands and floats. I gather that many years ago that was the case here at Wabash. Today, though, the freshman floats don’t float. In fact, we call them "decorations." But simply because they don’t roll down the street behind a John Deere doesn’t mean our kids don’t work just as hard as anyone else. Just take a look at the tired eyes of the freshmen from eight fraternities and and the independents who built Homecoming decorations — I’m sure some pulled the first of what will become many Wabash all-nighters.

Kudos to Rick Warner, Patrick Myers, and Sherry Ross, who rolled out of bed early on a damp Saturday morning to walk the entire length of campus to serve the Sphinx Club as judges for this year’s competition.

The Delts put on a boxing match for their "KO the Quakers" theme; the independents, who built decorations over 20 feet tall at Crawford Hall, attempted to bribe the judges with juice and fruit; and the Phi Psi’s decorations stretched 60-70 feet across the lawn. Interestingly, the Fiji decorations feature a burning pot, complete with dry, old wood around the base —guess that will make it easier to set fire to it (anybody else remember the huge blaze there a few years ago?).

But the moment of the morning came after I had taken pictures on the west end of campus and was headed south to Lambda Chi. There I saw the Delt queen having his, er, her nails painted. I was so confused.