Wabash Always Reads!

Jim Amidon — About two months ago I got a call from Mary Smith over at Nicholson Elementary School. She was working on a grant-funded program to encourage kids at her school to spend more time reading and less time in front of the TV. Her plan was the first Family Fun Sports Reading Night. What she needed from me was a big turnout from Wabash’s student-athletes.

Knowing that boys tend to read less, the theme was sports and the books selected for the evening were all sports-related. Nearly 50 kids and their families came out Tuesday night where they got to meet about as many Wabash student-athletes, who took time out of their busy lives (and practices) to read to the children. Coach Brian Anderson brought his whole wrestling team; I think the whole cross country team was there; and Coach Tom Flynn sent about 10 baseball players, too. Joined by a handful of Betas, the hulking Little Giants got down on the Nicholson gym floor and demonstrated that reading really is cool. As Mary said, "We know Wabash Always Fights and that Nicholson Always Reads!"

After the event, the kids and Little Giants enjoyed popcorn and soda (or course, it was a sports theme). The Wabash guys signed autographs and even Wally Wabash made an appearance.

I can’t say enough about how proud I am of the athletics department for its encouragement of community service. Our coaches — unlike so many in the Division I and Pro ranks — know that their athletes can and should be role models for our youth. And, honestly, I think our students love the opportunity to play "Dad" or "Big Brother" with our community’s children. The potential for further links between Wabash men and school-aged kids is limitless.

It’s good for our students, it’s good for kids, and it’s good for this College to make a difference in the community. Last night was a resounding victory for Wabash and Nicholson!

Senior Theater Majors Bring Down the House

Jim Amidon — It’s been a busy fall, so I guess I hadn’t noticed it was again time for the "studio one-act plays" to be performed. So when Denis Farr sent out the campus announcement, it caught me off guard. As it turns out, the one-acts were ditched in place of a full-scale production mounted entirely by senior theater majors.

I wanted to draw some attention to the work of the seniors, so I sneaked in Monday night to snap some photos. What I saw was collaboration among students — without faculty or staff involvement — that knocked my socks off. In the green room, Denis was leading a cast meeting and the actors were respectfully listening to him. Back stage Don Claxon was making last minute adjustments to the set. Everyone was in make-up and costume and ready to go. The dress rehearsal began right on time.

What I saw in the next hour or so had me glued to my seat. I planned only to stay long enough to get a few pictures. I couldn’t leave until it was over. The Vietnamization of New Jersey is NOT an easy play. The themes and characters are difficult and complex, yet the performances are excellent. And I suspect the timing of the delivery of lines — already quite good — will only get better with every passing night through Friday.

I knew Matt McKay was in the show; I did not know the guy trained in stage fighting would play the mother. I knew Rey Pacheco (that’s him above) was in the play; I didn’t expect his hilarious performance as the family’s (female) maid. Think The Bird Cage and you begin to get the idea. But the show is caustic and it does make you think hard between laughs.

As a former theater student at Wabash, I’m proud of the work of this year’s senior class — they really did bring down the house. And that was only at dress rehearsal. In a week filled with talk of football, make sure you catch this play.

Even Canon’s Best Can’t Get It Right

Jim Amidon — Since the day our office got the new Canon camera lens I’ve used to shoot sports this fall, I couldn’t wait for the colors of autumn to arrive. Finally, I thought, I’d have a lens and camera that could do justice to the gorgeous palette of colors nature gives us on the Wabash campus.

Nope, not even close. Even the super-duper lens that has transformed our sports photography isn’t capable of what the naked eye can capture. The subtle shades of yellows, golds, greens, pinks, and reds from a single maple tree don’t boast the same delicacy on screen as they do in my mind.

Gazing out my Kane House window I marvel at the maple tree that stands along Wabash Avenue; those brilliant colors standing out against a deeply blue sky. My camera turns the sky whitish-grey and blows out the Federalist backdrop of the Arnold House. My eyes, though, see the scene clearly; I can pick out four or five shades of red on a single leaf.

We photographers — oh how we love our toys. For us, the camera and lens can preserve moments forever; can capture the momentum-turning play in a football game or the instant a student makes an intellectual discovery in class. But our cameras and lenses — no matter how intricate or expensive — are not capable of paying tribute to the gorgeous hues of fall at Wabash College.

See the futile attempts at capturing nature’s beauty by Steve Charles and Jim Amidon by clicking here.

Sharon Stone, dance classes, football

Howard Hewitt – MEADVILLE, Pa. – Odd thoughts while wandering Interstates 74, 70, 270, 71, 76, 77 and 80: (with apologies to former Indy Star sports editor Bob Collins!)

- The 7.5 hours of driving time makes the number of Wabash fans at the game here Saturday even more amazing than usual. More than 100 were louder than the entire, but noticably small, local Gator supporters.

- Northwest Pennsylvania is beautiful this time of year. Allegheny College is surrounded by lots of large trees in full fall colors. I hope you noticed that in the background of some of the photos on the sports story.

- The campus itself is also beautiful. Allegheny was founded in the early 1800s and has lots of older, interesting buildings. While wandering about with Bachelor editor Allen Chatt, I came across the more than 100-year-old gymnasium. Allegheny’s Director of  Dance was there and told us a little about the building. She was very welcoming, a nice touch!

- Meadville is not a large city – 13,000 in the town and about 30,000 in the area. It’s best known former resident, according to a town website, is actress Sharon Stone.

- More than 30 Wabash men boarded a very nice bus for the ride to Meadville. History professor Rick Warner and his son accompanied the group. Many coming off the bus were Sphinx Club members. It’s too bad the other 20 seats were left empty. I would have to hope the lower than capacity turnout won’t dissuade future such efforts.

- And finally those crazy Wabash guys are fun. The students really gave the Gators a hard time during warm-ups. It was never mean, exactly, but creative and probably a bit irritating to our hosts. Good fun!

A “Joy” to Listen

Jim Amidon — It was late last spring when a handful of Wabash folks learned that Joy Castro would read from her then-forthcoming memoir, The Truth Book. Quietly, Steve Charles and I got excited about what it would mean to have Joy read the astonishing stories of her childhood.

The reading was initially booked for the Korb Classroom; we knew it wouldn’t be large enough so the event was moved to the Salter Concert Hall. Good move. The place was packed Thursday night when Joy stepped to the microphone, smiled, and began reading her powerful words.

She read a half-dozen "strands" from the book for the 275 or so people in attendance, all of whom were mesmerized and completely silent.

It was great to see Joy smile, even laugh several times as she read a segment of the memoir where she argues with her mother about her faith. That Joy can laugh and smile when reflecting on her tragic childhood reaffirms for me that the book really is about hope and deliverance.

She told me she wrote the book for "all the quiet people" about whose lives we know nothing because of their silence. Long a quiet person with hidden scars, Joy Castro is silent no more. Her words ring loud and clear and her message is powerful, graceful, and moving.

When the reading was over, Joy confidently left the stage, smiling with every step. She then spent the next hour or more talking with friends and strangers, signing books, and accepting congratulations.

Indeed, it was "joy" to spend the evening with Joy Castro.

This Just In from Our Italian Bureau…

Jim Amidon — We’ve just heard in from our Italian Bureau Chief, Mark Shreve ’04, who is on assignment in Perugia, Italy, where he works with an American study abroad program at the Umbra Institute.

Shreve reports that Wabash student Ross Dillard admirably represented his alma mater in a recent pizza eating contest, winning his heat by "stuffing his face" with two whole pizzas in just six minutes.

The mild-mannered Little Giant lost the overall contest when a 6-foot, 7-inch student from Rochester Tech beat him in the next heat by gobbling down three pizzas in six minutes.

Come to think of it, if I was a poor college student on a study abroad program and I could have all the free pizza I could eat in six minutes, I’d stretch myself, too.

Dillard, a junior, is studying in Perugia with his Beta Theta Pi pledge brother Adrian Starnes. Shreve reports both young men are great examples of Wabash men abroad. In fact, while grabbling lunch for the Umbra staff from the same pizzeria, Mark bumped into Greg and Robin Starnes, Adrian’s parents. Small, small world.

Check out Mark Shreve’s Umbra Institute blog.

Tough job, Mark has: Supervising pizza eating contests; visiting Perugia’s famed Baci candy company; taking students to Florence; spending the weekend in Tuscany; wine tasting and grape stomping; oh, and the occasional reports to the West Central Indiana home office. And to think he gets paid for it…

Bell Tickets, Details, and the Big Game

Jim Amidon — I was in the Wabash Bookstore Wednesday purchasing Monon Bell tickets for my family and there stood Justin Gardiner. Justin asked Ben Gonzalez how many tickets he could buy, and Ben told him "10." Justin was visibly angry.

I quickly said to Justin, "Now you’re not going to be one of those schmucks who buys a ton of tickets then sells them on eBay for inflated prices, are you?"

Gardiner smiled, looked at me, and said, "No. I have 32 family members coming to the game." Lesson learned: keep my yap shut and never, ever underestimate the fan following for the Monon Bell game.

Lesson to others: buy your tickets this week. Tickets will be sold during the Wittenberg game on Saturday, and I suspect there won’t be many, if any, left by Saturday afternoon.


The Bookstore sold out of its initial 50 copies of Details magazine, which contains a slick feature on Wabash. Mike Bachner ordered another 150, so the shelves are full.

I have been amazed, though, that so few people are talking about the article, written by Jeff Gordinier. I gather that English professor Joy Castro blogged about it on the Old Hag blog and that a few folks have been debating it over lunch at the Scarlet Inn.

I figured the place would be abuzz about the article. Maybe the silence suggests that Jeff got it right; that he captured Wabash pretty close to reality during his five day stay in mid-September. Thoughts?


Wabash’s football team hadn’t even polished off its 44-10 win at Wooster last week when the buzz started for "the game of the year" between Wabash and Wittenberg Saturday.

It may sound blasphemous, but I think the Wabash vs. Wittenberg rivalry has gained about as much intensity as Monon Bell. Yes, the two are very different games and Wabash vs. DePauw has 115 years of history on its side. But darnit, Wabash folks just don’t like Wittenberg folks, and it’s safe to say that Wittenberg’s football team pretty much hates Wabash. See, it was Wabash that knocked Wittenberg off its North Coast Athletic Conference throne in 2002, and the program hasn’t forgotten it for a moment.

When coaches start using words like "war" and "battle" and they really mean it, I’m thinking big game.

I’m also thinking tailgating, cheering loudly, and another experience with a similar fever pitch as the Monon Bell game. No, not the same. But another opportunity for students, faculty, alumni, and friends of the college to come together to "win the war."

A Special Treat

Howard Hewitt – Football is often described as the world of machismo. It filters down from the NFL and the college level to high school and even pee wee ball.

That’s why it was such fun Friday morning to see members of the Wabash College football team react much like little boys in the candy shop at the Union Federal Football Center – practice facility for the Indianapolis Colts.

Pete Metzelaars ’82 arranged to have the Little Giants visit on their way to Saturday’s football game at Wooster, Ohio. The Wabash men, who were unaware of the planned visit, were led into the indoor practice field where they watched All-Pro Dwight Freeney and his defensive line mates work out near the end of practice.

When the few remaining Colts cleared the field, Metzelaars gave the go-ahead for the Wabash guys to check it out. They felt the artificial turf, tossed the football around, and took lots of photos with camera phones.

And, there was more than a few "wows" and other superlatives to describe the experience.

While waiting to load the bus to head on to Ohio, the players saw the large SUVs, Mercedes, and even a Bentley belonging to Colts players.

For a short while the machismo and posturing went out the window – they were boys. And boy, did they love the experience. The only thing better was watching them enjoy it!

Carrying a father’s dying words

Steve Charles—Mike McCoy ’91 felt honored when World War II veteran Hobert Winebrenner trusted him to co-write the memoir of the 82-year-old’s experiences with the 90th Infantry Division at Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, and the final Allied push into Nazi Germany.

"Hobert spoke of his desire to leave something behind for his children, grandchildren, and those yet to come—not so much about him, but about the men he served with: ‘the finest men in the world,’ as he often called them," McCoy writes in the introduction to Bootprints: An Infantryman’s Walk Through World War II. "How different would my life be had men like Hobert refused to stand up and fight? The very least I could do was to bring another of their stories to light."

"So began our two years of kitchen table summits, sorting through Hobert’s war step by step, bullet by bullet," McCoy recalls. "Hour upon hour I listened while Hobert laughed, cried, and prayed."

The resulting book captures "the little things that occur in battle that make all the difference" writes Military History Online’s Brian Williams. "Nothing can replace actual eyewitness accounts, and Winebrenner [and McCoy] bring the reader back in time to a place many vets will not easily go, By doing so, they ensure that the memory and sacrifice of those Winebrenner served and fought with are not forgotten."

But McCoy went a step further.

In tracking down one of Winebrenner’s Army buddies, the writer was able to bring a dying father’s words to a most grateful son.

John Marsh was Winebrenner’s Captain during the Normandy invasion. On the morning of July 10, 1944, Marsh received a letter from his wife announcing the birth of their first and only son. Later that day as he was leading his command team in the savage battle at Foret de Mont Castre, Marsh was hit with shrapnel from a German mortar round. Before he died, he whispered memorable final words to his wounded First Sergeant Paul Inman in a tone that Inman recalled as "defiant glory."

After the war, Inman searched for Marsh’s widow and son, hoping to deliver his Captain’s message, but he was unable to locate them. When Inman died in 2000, his sons continued their father’s mission.

While researching Bootprints in 2004, Mike McCoy located Marsh’s son, who had just been diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. McCoy arranged a phone call between Marsh and the Inmans and an ailing son finally heard his father’s words:

"They may get me, but they won’t get my boy."

"It was like hearing words from beyond, reaching out for me," Marsh told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

"Finally, his father is coming alive for him," Marsh’s wife, Susan, said.

Mike McCoy won’t get famous or wealthy off this self-published book. Bootprints is the only title on McCoy’s Camp Comamajo Press’s list, and the company runs out of a Post Office Box in his hometown of Albion, Indiana. Mike simply hoped to make a payment on "debt we can’t repay, for a selfless sacrifice that won freedom for me."

But as one who also has the honor of listening to others and telling their stories, I can’t imagine a deeper reward than what Mike felt when John Marsh, Jr. heard his father’s words for the first time.

Beautiful work, Mike.

Photo above right: Captain John Marsh, Sr., 1942.

Find out more about Bootprints at

Read more about the John Marsh story at The Billings Gazette

A Model Teacher

Jim Amidon — Jeremy Robinson returned to Wabash Monday to recruit for the Teach for American program, which he joined after graduation in 2004. We had a few minutes to chat late in the day and it was a real treat to listen as he described his work at Harper High School on Chicago’s southwest side.

And what a difference a year makes. "Last year was all about survival," he told us. "This year is about becoming the best teacher I can be; this year is about being professional in everything I do."

He shows wisdom far beyond his 24 years. His year-plus in one of Chicago’s worst public schools has shown him plenty; he sees firsthand the inequity in public education and hopes that he and Teach for America can do something about it. "We need to provide more incentives so that teaching is a job people want to do; if we paid teachers what we pay doctors we could certainly have a better talent pool," he says.

Teach for America had a nine percent acceptance rate into the program when Jeremy applied; this year it was 17 percent, making it every bit as competitive as most graduate and professional schools.

He loves teaching this year. He sees himself as the CEO of his classroom, making decisions, focusing conversations. "This year I have ‘street cred’ and I know what I’m doing."

Jeremy teaches ninth graders in 100-minute blocks. He says Harper has only three periods in a day to eliminate passing time, which reduces fights, skipped classes, and other behavioral problems. "I just want to work with them to make them the best writers I can," he says.

And he always wears a tie: "The tie is about professionalism," he told us. "I just feel more professional and know I’m more focused when I have the tie on.

"And, it serves as a barrier between me and my students. Yes, they are young and I am young, but this tie indicates that I’m in charge."

Jeremy will be featured in the December issue of Wabash Magazine, themed "Callings."