Midnight Munch Fills Stomachs During Finals Week

Howard Hewitt – Like so many other student-faculty events, it’s hard to tell who’s having more fun at the twice-a-year Midnight Munch – the students or the faculty/staff.

During fall and spring finals’ week, faculty and staff volunteers serve up breakfast food from 11 p.m. – 12:15 a.m. It’s a big hit with the guys! More than 300 turned out Tuesday night, according to Horace Turner’s door count.

Assistant Dean of Students Mike Raters helps coordinate the event. The faculty and staff mainly handle the serving and clean-up chores, but a few find their way to the grill to flip a few pancakes. Bon Appetit prepares most of the food.

The students are able to fuel up for a late night of studying and the faculty/staff volunteers get to enjoy each other’s company and have a little fun with the students.

It’s a great Wabash tradition! See attached photo album for more photos!

See Alumni Director Tom Runge’s take on Midnight Munch in his blog: The Grunge Report.

In photo: Math professor Mike Axtel serves up some pancakes.

Heavy Snow Blankets Campus

Howard Hewitt – Although it wasn’t the season’s first snow fall, it was the first serious one!

Nearly 8 inches of snow covered the Wabash College campus late Thursday night making for a Christmas postcard like appearance Friday morning. Campus services had sidewalks cleared and all classes were held as normal.

The heavy snow provided for plenty of fun. The Frisbee club played midnight Frisbee on the snowy mall overnight.

See Friday morning campus photos in the attached photo album.

Raise a Glass for Dear Old Wabash!

Howard Hewitt – Many a young man dreaming of becoming a doctor, lawyer, or business man finds his way to Wabash College. But not too many young men dream of running a winery find themselves in Crawfordsville.

Mark Easley ’90 grew up in the family wine business and now runs the Easley Winery in Indianapolis. The Wabash history major has really turned his critical thinking skills toward his business and the quality of his wine and watched his winery take off over the past five years.

We’ll be featuring Mark in an alumni profile soon on our web page. Mark and his wife, Meredith, run the 205 N. College Avenue winery. They give tours, conduct tastings, seminars, and even home wine-making education events. Visit the Easley Winery website for more details.

But if you are bit of an oenophile and just can’t wait, Kelli Miller of the winery will be in Crawfordsville Saturday, Dec. 10, conducting a seminar on Easley wines at the IGA Supermarket on Market St. It will not be a tasting, but she will be on hand to talk about the different style wines from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

The Easley wines have come a long way. A personal recommendation includes their Reisling and the oak-aged Cabernet Sauvignon.

In photo: Mark Easley ’90

Remembering “Operation Frijoles”

Brent Harris – Every year around mid-October the phone calls begin. "I need tickets  to the game." "Can we schedule an interview with (insert name of  coach, player, or fan here)."

But the phone call I always enjoy is the inevitable call asking about "Operation Frijoles."

The latest came this summer from Sports Illustrated requesting interesting stories about rivalries, mascots, school names, or other unique and quirky events around small college athletics programs. As soon as I saw the request, up popped Jim Shanks ’67 and the legendary story of the Bell heist to end all Bell heists.

If you don’t know the story, click here for a review. And if you don’t know the story, you haven’t been paying attention. Sometimes I think it’s as much a part of Wabash tradition as learning the school song. I love re-telling the story to freshmen football players who are about to take the field for the first time with no true understanding of what they’re about to become a part of as the annual Bell Game.

There have been other Bell "requisitions"  throughout the many years of the rivalry. The Bell made a special guest appearance at the 1999 Monon Bell chapel despite the fact DePauw had won the previous season’s meeting between the two schools. And, as it almost always does, it found its way back to the DePauw campus in time for the game.

I love this rivalry. Yes, it’s a lot of work when you’re the SID for a game that thrusts your school into the national spotlight every year, regardless of whether you’re undefeated or looking to stay above .500. But it’s a labor of love. In part because every year I get to retell the story of Shanks and his trip to Greencastle in 1965 and the awarding of the "No-Bell" prize. Jim passed away a few years ago, but his legend lives on every fall when thoughts turn to that 350-pound prize currently sitting atop the Allen Center entryway thanks to a 17-14 win in this year’s game.

Santa Keeps Win Streak Alive

Howard Hewitt – It’s hard to keep a good man down – even after 12 years of trying!

Santa Claus survived another spirited Wabash College debate Dec. 7 by members of the Parlimentary Union. The sometimes-annual debate resolves: "This House believes Santa Claus is detrimental to American Society."

Members of the government position, Ian Bisbee ’07 and Matt Plachta ’07, centered their argument around economics, lying to children, and staking out a position that Santa is a bad example of healthy living with his rotund figure.

Opposition leaders Grant Gussman ’09 and Rob Bloss ’09 countered with a bah humbug to the government argument. The two suggested Santa bolsters the economy each year, and that Santa fosters a child’s imagination. Additionally, the opposition spokesmen said the idea a little milk and cookies one night a year contributes to childhood obesity was absurd.

The debate was carried out in traditional parlimentary fashion with good natured ribbing from the house and pointed questions to each side prior to final rebuttal statements.

But in the end, the House voted overwhelmingly to reject the proposal that Santa is detrimental to American society.

Rhetoric professor David Timmerman guesses this was the 12th year, not all consecutive, for the Santa debate. And as David noted, Santa remains unbeaten.

Who says education can’t be fun?

In photo: Grant Gussman, at right, answers an audience question, while government spokesmen Plachta and Bisbee listen in.

A beautiful, familiar light

Steve Charles—We featured Jim Urbaska’s oil paintings of the region near his home in West Brattleboro, Vermont in the Summer 2004 issue of Wabash Magazine, so I arrived at the opening of his show in Indianapolis with plenty of respect for his work.

What I hadn’t realized was that Jim’s Indy show features his new paintings of Indiana. I walked into the Ruschman Gallery on a frigid early December night and was warmed not only by the gallery’s central heating, but by the beautiful and strangely familiar light emanating from Urbaska’s linen canvases.

These were paintings of places I know—the hayfields around the T.C. Steele Memorial, forests along Old State Road 37, pine-laden peninsulas jutting into Lake Monroe. My gaze went instantly to a scene of Yellowwood Lake, painted, it appeared, from the exact spot where my daughters and I kayaked for the first time almost 10 years ago. The light was perfect, the painting drawing me into beauty and memory.

“How do you capture the essence of these places so well?” I asked the artist after his mentor, Wabash art professor Greg Huebner H’77, introduced us. Jim explained that he’d spent about a week in Indiana last summer at the invitation of gallery owner Mark Ruschman, photographing and sketching the landscape as raw material for paintings for the show. Those slides, projected on the wall of his studio, are just a launching point for the artist’s imagination. said, poking fun at his skills as a photographer. But one can’t help wondering if the sense of scale provided by those projections is a catalyst for Urbaska’s ability to create these land- and skyscapes that seem to extend far beyond their frames. (See photo album)

That expansiveness is no coincidence coming from an artist raised in the Big Sky country of Montana. But when I asked Jim what it was like to return to Indiana to paint his old Hoosier stomping grounds, he said that the long, glowing Indiana sunsets actually reminded him of that Big Sky! The mountains and woods of New England rarely offer such unobscured views.

Viewing Jim’s paintings changed the way I look at this Indiana landscape we sometimes take for granted. I was reminded of another artist, J. Ottis Adams, Wabash Class of 1876, who with T.C. Steele and William Forsyth brought an impressionist’s interpretation to Hoosier hills, farms, and streams.

Urbaska’s exhibit—“Indiana Landscapes Revisited"—runs through January 7 at the Ruschman Gallery, 948 N. Alabama St., Indianapolis, IN

Along South Shore Drive, Lake Lemon, oil on linen, by James Urbaska

Getting Past the Headline

Jim Amidon — Did you see the little page two-story on Wabash College in the local papers last week? I think the headline read something like, “Lilly Endowment Awards $12.5 Million to Wabash.” What followed were a couple of paragraphs of mostly esoteric jargon about an additional five years of funding for the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash.

I oughta know about the esoteric jargon; I wrote the press release and the one which appears on the Wabash website.

And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if almost none of our regular web readers bothered to go past the headline. So one of the world’s largest private endowments gave Wabash’s prestigious Center of Inquiry another $12.5 million. Big deal.

I’ve struggled for the last five years to adequately put into words the work of the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts. Part of the problem is that almost nobody — even in higher education — can agree on what the liberal arts constitute. Millions of Americans have no idea whatsoever what the liberal arts are. Even more care less about another “think tank” doing research nobody understands. Fair enough.

Let me break it down more simply than I was able to do in the press release I sent out last week.

Lilly Endowment’s commitment to the Center of Inquiry is a commitment to Wabash. The Endowment further funded the Center’s work because it believes in Wabash, its administration, and liberal arts education.

So, what exactly did Lilly Endowment fund with its $12.5 million?

Sweeping opportunities for Wabash College faculty and students, not to mention researchers at the Center of Inquiry.

Put in this context, the grant doesn’t seem esoteric at all, and the Center of Inquiry looks less like a think tank and more like a laboratory for higher education.

Lilly’s generosity will continue to reshape Wabash and the education our students receive. And the Endowment makes this investment because it truly believes in the Wabash brand of the liberal arts, which is evolving every day thanks to the work of the Center.

Was that a community meeting?

Jim Amidon — We had a Staff Community Meeting on Tuesday. These are typically pretty routine; you know, reports from the senior administrators and president. Sometimes the news is actually new; other times many of us already know the details presented.

Yesterday felt different. Every presenter gave thanks and presented kudos to various staff members who made this an exciting fall on the Wabash campus. Maybe I’m still lingering in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, but it was refreshing, I think, to listen as Rachelle Merkel gave thanks to the many, many people on campus who made the Top 10 Scholarship Visit Day so remarkable. Dean Tom Bambrey gave a deserving hat’s off to the Schroeder Career Center Staff — Scott Crawford, Stephanie Hopkins, and Toni McKinney — for what was the most exciting, energetic fall in Schroeder anyone around here can remember.

Dean Joe Emmick (yes, he asked for money, but politely) started by lifting up the staff of the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion and the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts for their remarkable grants from Lilly Endowment Inc. Joe reminded us that renewal grants are rare, and that $20.5 million for ongoing work at Wabash’s two international centers doesn’t happen by chance. Hard work, dedication, and the pursuit of excellence are required.

One by one, Deanna McCormick, Steve Klein, Ray Williams, and President Ford all tipped their caps to their staffs and those who work with them for a great fall at Wabash.

Think about it. In the last four months Wabash can boast: A Rhodes Scholar recipient; $20.5 million in grants from Lilly Endowment; an 11-1, conference champion football team; a successful Homecoming weekend; positive progress on searches for the new president and dean; two of the most successful Admissions visit weekends ever; a clean audit in the Business Office; terrific new web site initiatives; a new director of the Malcolm X Institute; great, collaborative work on the Academic Program Review; off-the-chart NSSE scores and "America’s Hottest Colleges" designation; the list goes on and on.

I think I’d trade that one, 45-minute meeting for all of the previous dozen staff community meetings. For me, listening to our leaders give thanks simply demonstrated how interconnected all of our work at Wabash is; how all of us rely on one another to advance the mission of Wabash College. And the beneficiaries are the 877 fortunate young men who attend this remarkable college.

A great example of blogging!

Howard Hewitt – One of the goals we have had since starting up Wabash blogs is to use them on immersion learning trips. Toby Herzog’s "English 497: Seminar in English Literatures: Place, Space, and Community in the Novels of Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy" is a great example. If you haven’t taken a look at it, published on the faculty/staff and current students page – click here.

The students took lots of photos and blogged each day on their visit to England over the Thanksgiving holiday. Jenna Rogers provided some technical assistance but the guys did a really great job talking about their incredible journey.

This is a great example of what we hope to do with immersion learning in the spring. It creates a real-time documentation of the experience, a journal for future classes, and a piece future students and alumni can read to learn more about immersion learning.

We will also be adding a blog from Wabash swim coach Peter Cesares this week. Look for Peter’s "Lanelines" on the sports and swim pages later this week.

Robinson and Rhodes: A Perfect Fit

Jim Amidon — I vividly remember when I interviewed Jeremy Robinson ’04 for a Works in Progress feature in Wabash Magazine. We talked about everything — travel, politics, religion, family, and Wabash. It was obvious to me then that Robinson was a young man wise beyond his years; his life experiences neatly woven with his intellectual curiosity to produce a bright, sensitive, and thoughtful person. He wanted to be a teacher, he told me. "Wow," I thought. "He’s the kind of teacher I wish I had when I was a kid."

I am not at all surprised that the Rhodes Scholarship committee selected him as a Rhodes Scholar, Wabash’s eighth and first since 1966.

As one of Wabash’s top graduates in 2004, Jeremy probably could have gone anywhere or done anything. Fred Wilson, CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue, spotted the potential in a half-hour meeting with Robinson at Saks’ headquarters. Wilson told Robinson that if teaching didn’t work out for him to come see him.

Teaching has worked out for Robinson. Joining the ultra-competitive Teach for America program seemed like a perfect fit for someone who told me as a college senior how discouraged he was with the inequities in America’s public schools. At Harper High School in Chicago, Robinson has seen education at its worst; he also has seen the positive impact he can have on young people. And that’s precisely what Teach for America hopes to accomplish when it places the country’s best and brightest college graduates into the nation’s neediest schools.

Harper will lose Robinson next year when he heads to Oxford to seek a second undergraduate English degree. My hunch is that when Jeremy returns to the States after finishing his Rhodes Scholarship, he will be even better suited to tackle the problems in America’s public schools.