Ringing in the new – a special time at Wabash

chapel top color

Posted on August 25, 2014 by Beth Swift

Each year at this time a little bit of magic flows over the campus. The pace picks up, the parking lots are full again and the students return to campus. You might say that the campus comes back to life as our students come back, carrying with them an infectious energy that permeates Wabash. I love to watch the students returning to their dorms or their houses, meeting their friends or a favorite professor on the mall. It is an annual occurrence, but never quite the same. It is as fresh as the students who create it. It is evergreen and ever changing.

One of the real highlights each fall is Freshman Saturday when the new class arrives. This is the day when a lifetime of anticipation meets reality, when anxious parents are still struggling with the idea that their son is now on his way to adulthood. A time when, maybe for the first time, the sons will need to figure it out for themselves – whatever “it” is. A time when the boy they have been meets the man they will become. It is a joyous time, a sad time, an exciting time and for sure, a day most parents and students will remember forever. It is a day of change. Such a day should be marked in some meaningful way, it should be noted forever in the record books, and it should be special.  I am happy to say that at Wabash it is ALL of those things.

The highlight of Freshman Saturday is, without question, the Ringing In which happens in the Chapel. All of the students sit together in the balcony of the Chapel while the parents and other family members are on the main floor.  The ceremony starts as everyone is welcomed by the Dean of Students. The Dean of Admissions gives a short welcome and a brief summary of the incoming class. Next up is the President of the National Association of Wabash Men who welcomes the class to the brotherhood of Wabash men. The ceremony ends with remarks from the President. At the end of his speech the President picks up a very special bell and rings it with vigor. And it is now official, these fellows are “In.” For the young men of the incoming class this marks the start of their lives as Wabash men. After Freshman Saturday, whatever else they may do, they are now Sons of Wabash.

As I sat in the Chapel and watched my son become a Wabash man, I was thinking a thousand different things, but also about the bell itself. Caleb Mills’ Bell is not fancy, it is not particularly oversized. The truth is that this bell which plays such a large role in the life of the College is really a humble little bell.

Let me share with you what is known about this bell and why it is so special.   This bell was first used at Wabash by Caleb Mills, a young missionary and teacher, on December 3, 1833 to call the first class of 12 young men to order. He rang it to mark the start of the first class at Wabash 181 years ago.  For a really good description of this bell and its history, here is a snippet from a speech by President Joseph Tuttle. Dr. Tuttle delivered this address in 1882 at the time of the College’s semi-centennial:

CalebMills Bell PD295


I have by me not the first clock that ever ticked in Wabash College, but the bell that rung the boys together the morning of December 3, 1833. Here it is. The good right hand that touched it is mouldering in the grave. The tongue that said that morning, ‘Let us pray,’ is silent in death. But this bell has as sharp and clear a tone as it had that morning so long ago when for the first time it did duty for the College. Its metal is genuine, and so is its tongue. And yet how well balanced it has been. Here is a groove around the mouth of the bell made by the numberless taps of its tongue of iron. It was not a one-sided bell – nor a moody bell– nor a bell given to making excuses – nor a bell with a voice that failed sometimes.

Just hear its voice. The men that used it are gone, and even the boys for whom it rung out the summons to get up, and to be at duty, have most of them gone to the long home – and those that remain have cracks in their voice which tell of age. But this bell is as sound as when it was cast and its tones as clear as when it tapped the sounds of duty near half a century ago. When the College procured a larger bell, this one went on duty at the School for Young Ladies in the old Canby Mansion. And there too it was as honest as among the boys…this bell had a hard and true heart and an honest voice for all alike. This bell has been in Professor Hovey’s family and his son has had some letters engraved on it and presented it to the College. I will read … the inscription.”

First Bell


Wabash College


1833 to 1835

Presented by H. C. Hovey



With those words Tuttle very eloquently gives us a condensed history of the bell to 1882. For the next 90 years we must leave much to conjecture. It is quite reasonable to suppose that this bell was on display for many years in the History Room of Yandes Library. We do know that many of our earliest artifacts from this time period were part of the exhibit. No longer on display, I expect that it was overlooked when the Library moved to the new Lilly building in the 1950’s. Nearly two decades later the bell was found in a closet in Yandes Hall. The year was 1971 and Professor Peteris Silins found it wrapped in old newspapers. Happily it was immediately clear what this little bell meant to the College thanks to Horace Hovey’s inscription. Horace’s father was Edmund O. Hovey  a founder and early faculty member at Wabash. Both father and son had what one might call a predisposition for preservation of the historical record. Many of the items that we have from our pioneer days come from the Hoveys.

Following the rediscovery of the bell, President Thad Seymour immediately put the bell to work to “call” the freshmen to classes and again in the spring to dismiss the seniors at commencement.  I am told that the class of 1975 is first in the modern era to be “rung in” and here is a picture of former President Thad Seymour carrying the bell.

Seymour Bell PD-344-04

The Ringing In at Wabash is really one of those moments that all students and their parents will remember all of their lives. It is a clearly defined moment in time, one of those rare times where there is a clear “before and after” quality. It is an occasion as powerful as it is memorable and the little bell with its clear, strong tone somehow just makes it perfect. It was a moment I will never forget.

All best,

Beth Swift


Wabash College

Lou Ristine, a great alum!

Posted on July 23, 2014 by Beth Swift

Ristine Lou W1941 P140 ML03

Wabash has always been all-male, and mostly its faculty have been men as well. But as we all know, there is so much more to the story of Wabash than its men. From the beginning there have been strong women who loved this place every bit as much as the men they knew. Mary Hovey, as one of the first faculty wives, felt this love too. Her letters give us a glimpse into the day to day world of the pioneer era at Wabash. There have been so many women who have loved this old place well that there just isn’t enough time to name them all. But today I would like to focus on just one woman. Last week Wabash lost one of her very few alumnae when Lou Ristine [W1941] passed away. I was so taken with her obituary that I really wanted to share it as it really is a lesson in giving from the heart!


Mary Lou Ristine

Oct. 11, 1924-July 7, 2014

She died peacefully in Indianapolis on July 7.

“Lou” was born Oct. 11, 1924, to Thomas Earnest and Mary Edna Muir Durrett in Wichita Falls, Texas. After high school, she pursued her lifelong interest in music, studying first at Midwestern State University, then Southwestern University, and finally University of North Texas. In 1944, Lou met Richard O. “Dick” Ristine. In 1946, they were married in Wichita Falls and moved to Indianapolis. Within a few years they moved to Crawfordsville.

In Crawfordsville during the ‘50s and ‘60s, Lou and Dick raised three sons. Lou sang in the choir at Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church. She helped launch two programs for new volunteer groups serving the local hospital, as well as the town’s first Meals on Wheels program. She hosted a morning talk show on WCVL-AM. In 1962, she was music director of the Crawfordsville High School production of “The King and I.”

Lou grew to love Wabash College. She opened her home countless times to a multitude of friends from the college, town and beyond. A frequent highlight of parties at the Ristine home at 606 W. Wabash Ave. was a sing-along with Lou on the piano. The couple also loved entertaining at their Sugar Creek cottage.

In 1970, Dick and Lou moved to Indianapolis. During their Indianapolis years, Lou co-chaired the Governor’s Mansion Commission, which selected the current site of the governor’s residence. Governor Otis Bowen named her a Sagamore of the Wabash for her service to the state. Lou helped establish the Downtown Beautification Committee, which among other things “bricked” Monument Circle. As in Crawfordsville, she helped launch Meals on Wheels. The Indianapolis Museum of Art, Second Presbyterian Church and other Indianapolis institutions benefited from her service on a variety of committees and projects during the ‘70s and ‘80s.

In 1983, Dick began working full-time for Wabash. Within a few years, Lou and Dick moved back to Crawfordsville. In 1992, in recognition of her decades of unique service, the all-male college made Lou an honorary alumna, only the second woman so honored in the history of Wabash. Following Dick’s retirement from the college in 1993, they moved permanently to Leland, Mich., where they resumed singing together in the church choir and otherwise participated in community activities. Her love of gardening, which began in Crawfordsville and continued in Indianapolis, reached its height in Leland. Everyone who passed by enjoyed the beauty of their riverside landscaping. Lou and Dick were fortunate to enjoy many years in Leland until he passed away in 2009.

In recent years Lou’s greatest pleasure was her family. She is survived by her sister, Mildred Louise Durrett Dinnin of Wichita Falls; three sons, Richard O. Jr. (Karen) and Thomas H. (Jill) of Indianapolis and James D. (Mardi Black) of Leelanau Township; four grandchildren, Emily Ristine Holloway (Benjamin), Abigail Ristine-Smith (Ryan), Jane Ristine Hixson (Timothy) and Dan Ristine, all in the Indianapolis area; seven great-grandchildren; and nieces, Patricia Dinnin Gonzales (Randy) and Sheila Dinnin Reynolds (Craig) and nephew Michael Dinnin (Lisa), all in Texas. Lou’s family wishes to thank the staff of Hooverwood for the care “Mama Lou” received there.

Memorial contributions may be made to Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis or the Leelanau Conservancy, P.O. Box 1007, Leland, MI 49654.


What a life of service she embodied! And to the above, I would simply add  that when asked to provide a picture of Lou the photos I found might serve just as well as a tribute and here they are…

Ristine Lou W1941 P306 Crop


Ristine Lou W1941 P306 portrait

Ristine Lou W1941 P14001

Ristine Lou W1941 P14002

ROR WeddingCrop

In every picture she is smiling, almost laughing. What a wonderful thing, to smile one’s way through life. Especially, I love the picture of the political convention.

Here it is again and note that it shows Dick and Lou and their sons as well.

Ristine Lou W1941 P140 ML03

And while it might be hard to see from the photograph above, off to the right of Lou’s shoulder, in the third row is another legend of Wabash…Ginny Hays.

Ristine HAYS Ginny Crop P140

So here is a toast to the women of Wabash, and to one in particular, Lou Ristine [W1941] a grand lady with a winning smile!

All best,

Beth Swift


PS Here are links to great remembrances of Fran Hollett, the first woman named an honorary alum and to Ginny Hays.


Old News

Posted on July 3, 2014 by Beth Swift

Here is a news story from another time, a simpler time.

TKEs and the con man
This little news clipping came to the Archives in the pages of a 1931 yearbook given to Wabash by an alum’s family. When I opened the book I saw two news clippings, both undated.

While it is very definitely Old News, the story is timeless. It involves a fast talking con man and a fraternity house full of nice guys. In the 1930’s a lot of good people were forced out of their homes and on to the Road. There were thousands of them, moving from one place to another in search of work or a new start.  Often, they had no transportation so they hitchhiked from place to place. Good folks offered rides and that was not uncommon. It was just what any decent fellow might do.

This news story starts with a well-meaning former student from Wabash, let’s call him the Good Samaritan. This Wabash man offered a guy a ride and the two of them came on over to the College. Our former student had planned to visit with his friends at the Tau Kappa Epsilon house. The fraternity was, at this time, on West Main Street. Many folks might know this as the home of Eric Dean, today it is the home of Dr. Lon Porter.

Back to our story and Patrick Karney, as the hitchhiker was known to his hosts, was a very friendly fellow and quickly ingratiated himself with the students. Knowing that he had no money and was in need of a place to sleep, the guys at the house invited him to stay too. Through the use of his skills as a confidence man, Karney was soon good friends with all of the fellows.

So good was Karney at ingratiating himself that he was invited on a double date with one of the students and two local girls. After the date, the con man and several of the Wabash men sat up talking late into the night. It happened that one of the fraternity men who did not live in the house needed a lift. Karney offered to drive him home using the car of the Good Samaritan.  As time passed, the students began to worry about their new friend. When two hours had gone by the students realized that Karney was long gone. Not only  had he taken the Model A Ford sedan, he also threw in three suits, two overcoats, a pen and pencil set and “several other articles belonging to the ‘boys’ at the Teke house.”

A story of naiveté and misplaced trust. It is certain that these fellows learned a lot from Patrick Karney. I am sorry to say that we do not know if the car and the other items were ever recovered. Nor do we know if Karney was ever caught.

All best,

Beth Swift

Archivist, Wabash College


A flyer and his legacy

A flyer and his legacy

Posted on June 3, 2014 by Beth Swift

Eglin FB pic

Eglin from his football days.

In this post I would like to highlight the life and career of a Wabash man who was a pioneer in combat flight.  You may have heard of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. A large base, Eglin is named for Frederick Irving Eglin [W1914]. A gifted athlete and a good friend, Eglin left quite a mark on Wabash during his time here.

Eglin’s story is pieced together from the reminiscences of his former class and team mates here at Wabash. We owe a debt of gratitude to Wayne Guthrie who wrote a sports column for the Indianapolis News in the 1970s.  Two of his articles serve up a great deal of what we know about this Wabash man.

Eglin was from the Bowery area of New York City and came to Wabash in much the same way as so many others, through the persistence of an alumnus. The story goes that Eglin was pretty good at basketball and was spotted by the alum. Wabash was basketball mad in that era and a talented player was quite a find. The alum recruited him and bought his ticket to Crawfordsville. A poor boy whose parents had died, Eglin came to Wabash with almost nothing. One friend said that when the young Eglin arrived in town, he had no money and no clothes and fainted in class due to hunger. He was taken home by a local student and in just a few days some good home cooking had him back on his feet. It was a hard road for Eglin and initially he depended upon the generosity of others for necessities, but it was not long before he found a job and got squared away.

Initially Eglin started Wabash as a “Special Student” as he had not graduated from high school. He got the courses he needed and in short order he was on his way in the collegiate course. Eglin played football, basketball and baseball and made many good friends. He joined the Delta Tau Delta fraternity and in his junior year he was elected class president and was the captain of the basketball team. Among his very good friends were the Lambert brothers.

Eglin Senior Pic

This scan is from the senior issue of the Wabash Magazine of 1914.

From an article by Wayne Guthrie which ran in the the Indianapolis News of August 26, 1974:

M.E. “Doc” Elliott, Connersville…said the Wabash basketball team of that era was unbeatable on its home floor which was a box-like room, with only one side open to spectators, in the Crawfordsville Y.M.C.A. He added, “Those players became expert at caroming the ball off the walls and Ward, “Piggy” Lambert; his brother, Kent “Skeet” Lambert, and Eggie would run fill tilt toward the wall, make a couple of steps up the wall and hit the floor on the run beyond the rival guard. Sounds like a human fly stunt but they did it.”


Eglin met and married a local girl, Mary Oda, and joined the Crawfordsville company of the Indiana National Guard. In 1916 the unit, along with many others, was deployed to the Mexican border in answer to Pancho Villa’s raids into New Mexico. Eglin served as a Sergeant Major at Headquarters in the Southwest. Soon after returning to Crawfordsville, the unit was again called and this time to service in WWI. It is clear that Eglin served with distinction as he was immediately raised to the rank of Second Lieutenant in 1917. He moved from the National Guard to the Army Signal Corps and a biography from Eglin AFB says Eglin then completed his flight training and began to train other WWI pilots.

Eglin Wikipedia

Eglin as an officer from the Air Force website:

Following WWI Eglin stayed in the Army in aviation and again, from the Air Force biography:

In 1929, he was promoted to captain and commanded several organizations including the 9th Observation Squadron in Sacramento, Calif., the Provisional Administrative Company at Clark Field, Philippines and the 40th School Squadron at Kelly Field, Texas.  Eglin was also an instructor and executive officer for the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Ala. Later, he served as director of the Department of Command, Staff and Logistics before becoming a major in 1934.

As a major, he worked as Assistant to the Chief of Staff, Headquarters Air Force at Langley Field where he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He also earned titles as Airplane Pilot, logging over 3,800 hours and Airplane Observer with over 100 hours.


It was not long after his promotion to lieutenant colonel that Eglin lost his life in 1937 at the age of 45 on a mission. Wreckage of his Northrop A-17 pursuit aircraft was found on the Appalachian peaks of Ala. about 50 miles from Birmingham. At this same time, the Army Air Corps was going through a transformation and because of Lt. Col. Eglin’s accomplishments and sacrifice, the Valparaiso Bombing and Gunnery Base was renamed in 1937 “Eglin Field” which, after the establishment of the Air Force, later became Eglin AFB.

A story in the New York Times of January 3, 1937 provides a bit more detail on the crash that ended the life of this great flyer. The plane flown by Lt. Col. Eglin was flying from Langley Field in D.C. to Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama with Lt. Howard E. Shelton, Jr. as a passenger. The plane was in Alabama when it crashed on the afternoon of January 1, 1937. There was heavy rain falling and thick fog was reported. The NYT article says, “The wreckage lay near the top of Cheaha Mountain, highest of the Appalachian peaks in Alabama, fifty miles from Birmingham. The plane, skimming across tree tops 800 feet before it nosed into the mountainside, lost its left wing before bursting into flames.”

In August of 1937 the air base at Valparaiso, Florida was named Eglin Field in honor of this army flier. Eglin AFB has a long and distinguished history. A base history tells us that Eglin became a site for training army pilots in WWII, including Colonel Jimmy Doolittle’s B-25 crews training for raids on Tokyo. Eglin was also the site where “personnel developed the tactics and techniques to destroy German missile installations being built to support V-1 buzz-bomb attacks on England.”

It is an amazing honor to have such a base named after Frederick “Eggie” Eglin. And he was young, only 45, when he crashed. I wonder what he might have achieved during WWII, only a few years away at the time of his death. It is hard to say what Eglin might have contributed, but it is possible to say that he loved Wabash. The friends he made here, his adopted hometown where he met and married, and the old school that was happy to welcome a kid from the Bowery, all of these he treasured.

The Eglin base history finishes with this tribute:

Although Lt. Col. Eglin accomplished much in his short life, it is the lasting words of his devoted friend, Russell Hesler of the Journal Review in Crawfordsville which may speak most to his character, “[he] was intensely loyal to his friends, possessed a sympathetic understanding of the problems of others and deeply patriotic.”


I hope that you enjoyed reading this story as much as I have enjoyed researching it. For more information on this amazing Wabash man, here are a few links:


All best,

Beth Swift


Wabash College

Crawfordsville, Indiana