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.

Doing Great in New Jersey

Howard Hewitt – At times it seems like our most recent graduates are the most difficult to track. But a personal connection to Bogdan Ianev ’03 led to a fun lunch and period of catching up Dec. 26 in Indianapolis.

I was Bogdan’s "community friend" during his freshman year at Wabash back when I was editor of the Journal Review. Even though I moved after his sophomore year, we’ve always kept in touch. Ianev, a native of Sofia, Bulgaria, majored in math while at Wabash and started on a career track to become an actuary.

The community friends program is a great way for Crawfordsville residents to connect to Wabash in a unique way. Essentially, a community member adopts a student for his four years. Community friends might take a student to a ball game, shopping or just have them over for dinner. Give David Clapp a ring for more details.

Bogdan, or Bobby as his friends and family call him, was a math major and aced the first actuary test during his senior year at Wabash. He took the final exam just before the Christmas holiday. He started his career with Cigna in Hartford, Conn., before that company was purchased by Prudential. The Indianapolis Tech graduate, where he spent his senior year as an exchange student, moved to New Jersey. in the summer of 2005 to join Prudential in its office just across the Hudson River from New York City. He works in Newark.

We’ll have a full profile of Ianev on our website next week.

We actually have several new profiles to go on the site in the next few weeks. We’ll be debuting some of those on our homepage news hole beginning Jan. 2.

Life finds a way

Have any species named after you?

Jim Childress ’64 has four.

The Hoosier native and marine physiologist has been studying the animals that surround hydrothermal vents since 1979. He has made 65 dives in Alvin and other deep-sea submersibles—expeditions the rest of us just watch on National Geographic specials—collecting and studying the organisms that thrive in those hydrothermal vent communities.

Jim has found and literally dredged up life where many believed there was none. Four of those creatures are named after him. The photo here is†of one of the†most striking, Vampyrocrossota childressi, a new genus and species of the deep sea black medusa that lives almost a mile beneath the ocean’s surface.

We finally caught up with Jim after we read about his being awarded the prestigious Cody Prize (a gold medal plus $10,000 worth of prestigious!) by Scripps Oceanographic Institute for his "outstanding scientific achievement in oceanography, marine biology and Earth science." He’d also recently completed a stint as an advisor (with some onscreen time) for Terminator and Titanic director James Cameron’s IMAX film Aliens of the Deep.

Our writer, Colin Hodgkins, caught up with Jim in early December, just as the scientist who has explored the ocean’s depths was preparing for an adventure in a different direction—a hike into California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.

Colin’s article on Jim Childress and his work (along with his photographs of the alien world he’s explored) are scheduled for Wabash Magazine‘s "Against the Odds" issue in May 2006. But I figured you should know about this guy sooner rather than later. You can read more about his work at the University of California at Santa Barbara website.

Photo of Vampyrocrossota childressi by Steven Haddock.

From Baul to Rock Star

Steve Charles—Junior chemistry major Syud Momtaz Ahmed shouldn’t have been so surprised when a standing-room-only crowd showed up for his noon hour presentation on the music of his native Bangladesh. Taz, as he’s known to most of us on campus, has endeared himself to audiences with his sense of humor and masterful tabla playing at concerts by Wamidan, the College’s world music ensemble. I’ve watched him teach faculty and students alike about his scientific work during the Celebration of Student Research and Creative Work.

But his program "Culture from Baul to Rock star" was the first time I’d heard him speak before an audience about Bangladesh and the music that is so much a part of his life. And almost all of what he had to say about the Baul—the gypsy singers of Bengal, their philosophy of life, how their ideals are being preserved by the "rock stars" of Bangladesh— was new knowledge for most of us attending. I was reminded of the wonderful resource for learning our international students are for Wabash, and how we benefit when they take the time to share their home culture with us.

But what made Taz’s talk even better was knowing that he is actually one of those Bangladeshi "rock stars" keeping the Baul traditions alive.

For the past several years, Taz has returned at various times to Bangladesh to play tabla during recording sessions with his group AJOB (which means, literally, "weird,"—and Taz will be glad to explain how they came up with that one!). As I write this, I’m listening to "Adorer Manush," an intriguing and tuneful cut from the group’s self-titled first CD, which was released in October of this year.

It’s a good listen and an eye- and ear-opening entre into modern Bangladeshi culture. And for those of us who know Taz and heard his talk about the Baul, it’s great to learn more about his professional work and to hear the threads of tradition woven into this innovative new music.

You can learn more about the group at their Banglamusic website.

Above right: Taz performs on tabla at this fall’s Wamidan concert.

Right: Taz taught an original percussion piece to Jake Feller, son of chemistry professor Scott Feller. and performed the piece with him this fall.

Senior quarterback Russ Harbaugh has certainly represented Wabash well in Mexico as a member of the US team at the 2005 Aztec Bowl.

Harbaugh finished two-a-day practices Wednesday and was interviewed on the Aztec Bowl Preview Show last night. He took some time out Friday afternoon to share some of his experiences in Mexico with his teammates:

"The week here has been fantastic. We visited some Aztec ruins yesterday and had our final walk through this morning in the stadium we’ll be playing in on saturday. It’s sick. It’s a 30,000 seat stadium and painted in all these crazy colors and stuck right in between some mountains. They don’t think it will sell out but they expect 12 or 15,000. Should be a lot of fun. Wabash is getting a lot of love. I’ve played really well and today was named captain. It was pretty cool. The guys here are great and awesome athletes (some of our guys could totally hold their own though…). It’s been awesome representing Wabash. I hope you guys get a chance to listen on saturday. I’m getting the start…"

Russ told the media in attendance at Friday’s final practice, "This is a great group of guys and it’s been a great week. To know that they picked us to be captains is pretty flattering. When we were in the stadium today and you saw everybody with their USA jerseys on, you realize what a big deal this is. It’s neat to represent our country and Division III football. Being selected to a leadership role on this team is an honor."

You can listen to the game by going to Coverage starts at 1 p.m. (EST).

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.

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