History is Still Present

The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”

Malcolm X, 1962

Can you have an elephant in a Zoom room? 

On Sept. 23, students in BKT Assistant Professor of History Sabrina Thomas’ class, “Malcolm, Martin, and Mandela,” were in a virtual class discussion with Clint Smith, critically-acclaimed poet and writer for The Atlantic.

It’s 12:15 p.m. 

Introductions are made, and the conversation begins. But Smith and many of the students were anxiously waiting for 1:15 p.m.

“In one hour, we’re going to find out what the grand jury decided in regards to Breonna Taylor,” Smith said. “But none of what’s happening right now is new.”

It’s 12:20 p.m.

Smith explains that the narrative surrounding the relationship between the police and Black Americans—between the entire criminal legal system and Black Americans—is something both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X spoke about in the 1950s and 1960s. 

Among the most horrific things said to Black Americans back then, Smith said, were statements like:

This is your fault.

If you were just this kind of person…

If you just behaved this way…

“For Martin and Malcolm, even though they had fundamentally different dispositions, different approaches, and very different journeys, they both understood the danger of egregious claims like that.”

It’s 12:50 p.m.

Smith mentions that slavery was abolished in 1865—less than 200 years ago. The math is right, but it seems impossible. At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, it hadn’t even been 100 years since African Americans’ ancestors were enslaved—not even two generations. 

Apartheid in South Africa began in 1948, and negotiations to end the discriminatory system didn’t begin until the late 1990s. Nelson Mandela became president in 1994—only 26 years ago. 

“So many of the stories we tell ourselves happened a long time ago, weren’t that long ago,” Smith said.

One of the internal conflicts students share that they’re facing is figuring out where they fit—are they more like Malcolm, Martin or Mandela? 

Smith said he felt that same conflict when he was beginning to read their work and understand their philosophies. Then he realized he didn’t have to choose.

“It ends up being an overly-simplistic, binary conception of who these men were. I think you can say, ‘I appreciate this about what Martin was saying, this about what Malcolm was saying, and this about what Mandela was saying.’

“What I appreciate about all three of them is their immense and remarkable capacity for growth and evolution. More than anything, those are the lessons I carry from them. None of us should be static in our understanding of the world or how we engage with the world.”

It’s 1:05 p.m.

Smith shares that he was in his first week of graduate school at Harvard University when Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. That incident, he said, changed his entire postgraduate experience.

“I started teaching and working in prisons,” Smith said. “All of the classes I took were to give me more language to better understand what I was seeing. I mean, much like what you guys are doing now. These classes, these books, these thinkers you are learning from are giving you a language to help you make sense of everything happening around you.”

It’s 1:10 p.m.

The conversation with Smith is over, but the class will reconvene in 10 minutes to debrief.

It’s 1:15 p.m.

A Jefferson County Circuit Judge reads the decision from the grand jury. One officer is indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment, but no officers faced charges related to Taylor’s death. 

Among the social media posts of heartbreak and outrage are comments that seem far too familiar.

What did you expect?

This is what happens when…

If only she hadn’t…

It’s 1:25 p.m.

Nothing specific about Breonna Taylor is spoken, but they know. The questions come quickly: How do we get people to understand? How do we talk about racism with people who may not agree with what we’re saying?

“History is still present,” one student said. “Maybe I should describe how certain things from the past still have influence today. Maybe that will make the past not seem so distant.”

“Knowledge is power,” another said. “He (Smith) made me think about small things I could be doing. Am I encouraging my friends back home to vote? And when conversations do happen, I really want to stop and ask myself if I understand what they’re saying. If I do, then I want to respond with facts. I want to be able to respond without seeming like I’m jumping on them. A lot of people don’t want to feel horrible about themselves, and I just want to educate them and share the knowledge that I have.” 

It’s 3 p.m.

Smith writes on Twitter: “For people who knew Breonna personally, it must feel like a double helix of grief. Mourning the small moments of love that have been stripped away from you and a recognition that what happened to Breonna is part of a much broader structural problem in our social and political systems. This is the grief that so many Black Americans experience in moments like these. The mourning of a person that we’ve lost … and the mourning over a system that allows these deaths to keep happening.”

Poetry as an Entry Point

Richard Paige — Words seem to come easy to Clint Smith, especially when he finds his rhythm and words simply flow. That cadence produces an easy connection between speaker and listener, one that serves both well as the poet, historian, and journalist gives voice to a story that screams to be heard.

Smith made a virtual visit to campus Wednesday night as part of the President’s Distinguished Speaker Series, delivering a compelling hour-long talk – “Why Black Lives Matter” – and Q&A session for those assembled on Zoom.

Poet, historian, and journalist Clint Smith.

He mentioned early on that poems are an entry point to conversation, and used four of his poems to establish a message and open a dialogue. The key point, perhaps, echoed in the words from his poem, “How to Raise a Black Son in America.”

“When we say that Black lives matter, it’s not because others don’t. It’s simply because we must affirm that our lives are worthy of existing without fear when so many things tell us that we are not.”

Much of the conversation was rooted in American history – all 400 years of it –and driven home by this thought. “We are the annoying pre-teen of the world,” he said.

The imagery of his poetry, thoughtful and clear, force us to lean into the messiness, as he suggested, of the contradictions of the American experience. Whether it be a poem addressed to five of the U.S. presidents who owned slaves, musings on the New Deal, or thoughts on reconciling slavery served as an affirmation that Black lives, indeed, matter.

His thoughts of access and how his poetry can serve as an equalizer were intriguing. He claimed that his idea of fun was reading a 700-page book with a bag of hot Cheetos at his side. Others might not have that luxury, so he explained, “I’m always thinking ‘can I turn this into a poem?’ to capture the essence” of the book for someone who might not have the means to tackle it.

He admitted to being a disillusioned English major as a freshman, where the works of poets like Keats, and Yeats, Frost and Whitman didn’t resonate.

On an internship in New York City, he had an epiphany, discovering the Nuyorican Poets Café, a small and legendary spot on the lower east side of Manhattan that completely changed his understanding of what poetry could be. To hear him describe the people behind the mic that night – young, black, brown, disabled, and queer – offered a world different than what was presented to him on campus in North Carolina.

“I put all of the pressure of what literature was or all of the pressure of what poetry had to be on to these texts,” he started. “I left that night thinking, ‘I don’t know what this is, but I want to do it.’”

He returned from NYC and wrote “many bad poems for many years.” But he threw himself into those words through poetry slams, open mics, and readings, and soon discovered an ability to return to Keats and Yeats and Frost and Whitman with a different appreciation. There wasn’t pressure. Smith could respect the work for what it is.

“Poetry gave me a different entry point into literature that I hadn’t had before,” he says. “Poetry isn’t a bunch of dead white guys, it’s a robust, dynamic space that young people of color are very much a part.”

He implored students to read as much as possible. “Your job is to read books and discuss them and to think about them,” he says. “Read as much as you can. Find people, build community.”

Smith’s story is a liberal arts story, one that isn’t dissimilar to those found at Wabash.

Artists are Adaptable


Richard Paige — I’ve wrestled for a while with the idea of properly recognizing the 2020 senior art majors.

At the time of the semester where each of these eight guys – Cameron Coates, Marlon Lewis, Devan Luckey, Zach McMann, David Ortega, Bill Polen, Jonathon Stephens, and John Wallace – was most likely gearing up for that final creative push to an exhibition that traditionally opens in mid-April, the COVID-19 pandemic reached our campus and made the real virtual.

To think about the normal disruptions most of us faced was enough, but what about this group? Not only were they trying to finish academic careers, but also preparing for the first large and public display of their work.

Your first gallery show is a memorable one. Those stark white walls are often as inspirational as they are intimidating, and kudos to this group for the perseverance and resiliency to finish their collections under unanticipated circumstances. All did so away from campus.

“I have great empathy for our students and this unprecedented situation they experienced this past spring,” said Annie Strader, Associate Professor of Art. “Their show was just three weeks away when we went virtual. Most of the actual work was close to finished, but those last few weeks are critical when finalizing the work.”

The first words I saw from an artist in this group were from Lewis. “Still total trash” is what he wrote. Honestly, I wasn’t supposed to see the words that were struck through in an editing bubble as he tried to find the right phrase for his artist statement.

Then it hits me as I see the exchanges back and forth while he tried ideas and asked a lot of questions of himself. It couldn’t have been easy to answer those questions when so much chaos swirled outside of their newfound work spaces.

“Artists are adaptable,” said Strader, “and creative problem solving is part of our curriculum. Our students did adapt and demonstrated outstanding resilience and patience during what was undoubtedly a tough time to pivot to new and unexpected ways of working. Navigating such tricky terrain, (fellow art professor) Dr. Weedman and I have continued to work with the students for the last few months to prepare for a physical exhibit and the expected celebration of their work.”

We keep our fingers crossed that at some point this Fall the 2020 Senior Art Exhibition can open for the entire campus to enjoy. Until then, here is a quick look at each art major, a snippet of their artist statement, and a thumbnail of their work.

Cameron Coates:  Rust embodies the passage of time and the toll of nature. I use macrophotography to capture how rust transforms otherwise common, mundane objects into fields of captivatingly rich colors and textures. I use the lens of my camera to magnify the way man made materials are completely taken over by nature as they fade into neglect. I look for a focus that might relate to a human, animal, face, or relatable object. The intent is to find aesthetic minutiae that go unnoticed.

Marlon Lewis:  I work with environments to challenge the perception of the realities being witnessed and referenced. I create experiences. I create environment. I create art. I have two desires whose roots I can trace to my earliest memories. The first seeks the knowledge and understanding of this world. The second is to aid a clearer understanding about what is discoverable and possible. My interest in Bronze is its relationship to the earth and nature as in an inorganic material. My interest in dried orange peels are their organic nature. My interest in 3-D prints is the maker capabilities the machine grants to each owner almost immediately.

Devan Luckey: I enjoy making things with my own hands. Things that have a form in the 3-dimensional world are more interesting for me to create than those limited to two dimensions. Right now, I make hands. It’s developed into an obsession. It stems from the idea that hands are, in some way, the embodiment of what we do. Many of our activities are carried out by our hands, both the good and the bad, whether it is healing or stealing, fixing or destroying, hands are at the forefront of our actions.

Zach McMann: Dreams are a way to access the subconscious mind and communicate with it. The succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that our minds conjure during sleep have complex meanings that I record and use to create my work. This photo series explores my anxieties and how they manifest in dreams and the subconscious. As I was avoiding the ghostly figure, I tried to understand who it was I was avoiding. Although I could not figure out who, I realized that I was running away from something, not someone. Something like the anxiety I had from school, work, and my own pressure to be better.

David Ortega:  My work uses and disrupts symbols and signs to question the ways they can be used to disguise and mask emotions. In photographs I use paper bags painted with self-created symbols to evoke the tension and the mechanicalness that societal expectations/norms impose. Specific color pallets and symbols are selected to communicate emotions without relying on facial or verbal cues. I urge an anxiety to develop within the color schemes that will translate into the viewers subconscious. The implicit reactions to the different color schemes are more important than understanding the images’ message.

Bill Polen:  I use the camera to capture the world’s underlying psychological phenomena through my eyes. More specifically, I use the camera to investigate conformity. I believe that new approaches, such as this piece, must be used in order to create perception that could lead to a better understanding of why we do the things we do as a society. I think of my artwork as an experiment. I choose to take my photographs in high traffic areas where I know people will be present in order to participate in my investigation; areas such as workout centers, cafeterias, and fraternities.

Jonathon Stephens: I like to make things with my hands because it’s like meditation for me. I’m able to take time out of my day and stop thinking about everything that is going on and just create and block all of that out. Making something you pictured in your head, creating it from the ground up with your hands, is nothing like any other subject or field of study or work. There’s no other field that you can do what you want, and not be wrong or mess something up. Art is whatever you can imagine and execute.

John Wallace: I collect knick-knacks and old household objects. The objects intuitively interest me and exude inspiration for artistic ideas. Once I bring them to the studio, it is not until I begin manipulating and arranging these found objects that I find their purpose and place in my work. The creation of these wooden structures always begins with a loose concept of what I wish to build, building the structure I have in mind with new or scrap wood immediately at my disposal, and accepting the errors I make along the way. This process is based in my acceptance of chance errors and successes as being integral parts of the final product.

Creating a Virtual Memphis

Richard Paige — Much of this semester has been about adjustments, and through those adjustments the virtual becomes real.

Like a handful of other classes, Michele Pittard’s EDU330 Urban Education class was supposed to include an immersion component. In May, the group had Memphis, Tennessee, as a destination to bring a semester’s worth of lessons to life.

Instead, Pittard altered the syllabus on the fly and has scheduled virtual meetings with nearly as many people as the students were supposed to meet on their trip. She now refers to this section of the class as “Virtual Memphis.”

If the class can’t go to Memphis, Pittard is bringing Memphis to the class.

The first guest was Daniel Connolly, an award-winning reporter for the Commercial Appeal, Memphis’ daily newspaper. Connolly spent five years chronicling the story of Isaias Ramos, a high-achieving Memphis teenager and an undocumented immigrant, in a book he wrote entitled, “The Book of Isaias: A Child of Hispanic Immigrants Seeks His Own America.

The text was a key part of recent discussions and served as a bridge to where the class was headed.

“Daniel kicked it off in a very nice way,” Pittard said. “To be able to bring people to the students in this way is huge.”

Pittard and Connolly led the students on a discussion that touched on immigration and education policies, student resources, socioeconomics, and the benefits of building strong relationships with students.

“It’s important for future teachers to understand that dynamic and to understand, too, that they can play a real role in guiding students from different backgrounds to a good educational outcome,” Connolly said. “It’s very important to have that relationship with kids.”

With the book fresh in their minds, there was plenty of back-and-forth between professor, reporter, and the nine students about the subject matter, including talk of identity and barriers.

“Identity can fuel a desire for success, especially the kids in the book who go to college,” wrote Nikko Morris ’21 in the class chat. “To be able to say they are college-educated Mexican immigrants in the U.S. for some people can be a powerful statement to make.”

While this class is essential to the understanding of the complexities facing urban schools, the impact of a missed immersion trip looms large. “It takes out the guts of the class, which is disappointing,” said Pittard, “but to bring people like Daniel in helps put the meat back on the bones of the class. I’m just delighted that we could start this.”

The Full Circle

Richard Paige — There were flashes during the opening reception for “Noli Me Tangere: Lamentations,” where artist Kelvin Burzon ’12 sought moments of quick reflection. In between questions or comments from patrons, or well wishes from friends, I could see him contemplating something deeper.

The Eric Dean Gallery is a place he loves dearly. Kelvin says he spent hundreds of hours in it as an undergraduate. Now, his art is featured on its walls through April 10.

“I never thought I’d be back this soon,” he begins. “It’s a big thing. I don’t think I’ve processed the full circle that it has become.”

He was introduced to photography – his chosen medium – while a freshman at Wabash. Seeking an art class as a balance to a planned major in biology or chemistry, his cousin had signed up for a photography class taught by Professor Kristen Wilkens, so Kelvin did too.

Kelvin Burzon ’12.

That 8 a.m. course changed his entire perspective.

“I ended up loving the romance of the darkroom,” he says. “It brought out darker themes and the immediacy of what photography does. I’d never been exposed to what photography was and what it could do.”

There are multiple layers to his art. There is the photography, but Kelvin also constructs the intricate wood frames and altars that display his art. The process isn’t complete until it can live on its own on gallery walls.

“You don’t know until you see it on a wall,” he says. “It not a file; it’s no longer a Photoshop document; it’s no longer a thought. The wood comes together with the photograph and it’s lit up on a wall by itself with room to breathe. That’s when I know (it’s ready).” With the art presented telling much of his life’s story over the past eight years, I asked Kelvin if he was ready to let it go. He smiles broadly and says, “Yeah, your artwork is your baby. The easy part is that it’s in a place where I know it will be respected and looked at thoughtfully – somewhere I’m familiar and feels like home.”

Not Just Good Enough

Richard Paige — December 4 was a big day for the students in Professor Shamira Gelbman’s 2020 Census course. Final exams didn’t begin for five more days, but these projects had a bigger purpose.

The students were producing posters, brochures, infographics and a video, all of which can be downloaded from a website and disseminated to help educate the Montgomery County community and encourage participation in the 2020 Census.

December 4 was the day those materials were presented to the public in a discussion and Q&A session at Fusion 54. Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton ’00 was one of the community partners in attendance, as well as representatives from the U.S. Census Bureau, Montgomery County Health Department, League of Women Voters, Pam’s Promise, the Montgomery County Public Library, and the Carnegie Museum.

Tyler Ramsey ’21.

Gelbman noted the class forced the students into a different way of thinking.

“For materials going out to the public, you really have to get it right, not just good enough,” she said.  “That’s an interesting aspect of this class. It’s been exciting to have a class produce things that will be used in a real way.”

After presenting his materials, Tyler Ramsey ’21 noted how the census itself presented a steep learning curve. Students had to quickly understand government functions and how the census affects them.

“It was a cool idea and concept for us to contribute,” he said. “We got hands on in creating these materials and were able to apply what we’ve learned. It’s nice to know we could make an impact on our community.”

As the students and Gelbman addressed questions about access and implementation from attendees, it was apparent that the semester-long process had impacted the students as well.

Zach Titus ’21.

“When I was analyzing things, I wouldn’t think in my point of view, I would think in others’ points of view, what the community might think of this,” said Zach Titus ’21. “I thought we were going to learn census history and what might happen in the future. I didn’t think we would be engaged in the community. It was surprising and rewarding at the same time.”

“We All Benefit From It”

Richard Paige — The Ides of August, the vehicle for Wabash professors to share their creative and research efforts with colleagues across disciplines, brings out the best in our classroom leaders.

Witness two biology professors – Bradley Carlson and Heidi Walsh – who found different, and wildly successful, ways to engage students.

Entertaining the idea to search online museum databases to check the demographics of wildlife populations, Carlson thought of a project that might suit his Advanced Ecology students. Usually, his research centers on turtles, so he is attuned to sex ratios, how those differ among climates, and whether the ratios change over time.

Bradley Carlson.

“Why would I focus on one species when there are hundreds?” he realized. “I can’t do that. I don’t have the time.”

What he did have was students in his BIO 313 class who wanted to engage in real research, collect data, and use analytical tools. Work like this would allow the students to see the results, good or bad, play out in real time, unlike simply watching a presentation or reading a paper.

“They don’t see how we don’t know what is going to come of this at all,” Carlson said. “A lot of work has to go into what looks like a simple result. There are some simple figures there, but each of the students knows that they had to put in hours in curating this data. They got to see the whole process.”

Each of the students contributed something to the finished product, and three of them – Christian Gosser ’20, William Robinson ’19, and Charles Mettler ’18 – wanted to pursue it further. The resulting paper, “Reptile Sex Ratios in Museum Collections are Associated With Climate Change and Phylogeny,” was presented by Carlson and colleagues from Yale and Berkeley at the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists this summer.

“It was a fun project to do and we all benefit from it,” Carlson said.

For Walsh, it would require an almost superhuman effort for her Organismal Physiology students to teach concepts to middle schoolers. Well, maybe superhero is more like it.

Heidi Walsh.

Walsh and her students used superhero attributes – imagine flying like Superman, having the strength of Thor, or the lightning-quick reflexes of Wonder Woman – to force her students to think about the concepts differently. About a month of lab work is dedicated to the project where students build lesson plans that explain concepts, set up experiments, and collect and graph data all through the prism of superheroes.

“It was really cool to see them work through showing concepts in a hands-on way to kids of this age group,” Walsh said. “They had a lot of fun with it, so it was rewarding. The best part is that they are amazingly creative with how they illustrate these things.”

Imagine using different sized tubes to represent blood flow or using a Nerf gun to facilitate an experiment in reaction time. According to Walsh, one memorable teaching aid required creating Thor’s Hammer with a five-gallon bucket, some quick-dry cement, and a squeeze ball attached to the handle to measure how much force was applied when the kids tried to lift it.

“Our students just light up, not just when designing activities, but in interacting with the kids,” she said. “They are really, really good. They’ve never done this before, and they don’t know how good they could be until they do it.”

A Legacy and Expectations

Richard Paige — Confirmed to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Damon R. Leichty ’94 endured quite a wait in his elevation to the bench.

Leichty was nominated for the position by President Donald Trump in July 2018. His senate confirmation – by an 85-10 vote – came nearly a year later. Such appointments are often the result of stellar accomplishments as a lawyer.

“Damon is a very good lawyer,” said Bob Grand ’78, a Partner with Barnes & Thornburg LLP. “He is always prepared and well spoken. This is an extraordinary honor and one bestowed on very few Americans.”

Damon R. Leichty ’94.

A lawyer at Barnes & Thornburg since 2000, Leichty specializes in commercial and product litigation. Most recently, he served as the managing partner at B&T’s South Bend, Indiana, office and also was an adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School.

After graduating summa cum laude from Wabash College with a B.A. in English, Leichty earned his J.D., cum laude, from Indiana University Maurer School of Law, where he won the school’s Sherman Minton Moot Court competition and served as a law journal editor. He also earned a master’s degree studying literature and law at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Leichty’s path from Wabash to the U.S. District Court also gave a recent graduate a sense of the possibilities that lie ahead.

“Soon-to-be Judge Leichty’s appointment reinforces the fact that Wabash College produces incredibly successful and prominent lawyers and judges year in and year out,” said Erich Lange ’19. “The success of those alumni who have entered the legal field speaks for itself, and showcases to young men considering a profession in the law that they should seriously consider Wabash.”

The confirmation also gave Lange, winner of the College’s 2019 Junior Pack Medal which is given annually to a student who exhibits special promise in the law, something to shoot for when he begins postgraduate studies at Georgetown University Law School this fall.

“I understand and appreciate the legacy my fellow alumni have worked so hard to build,” he said. “I will strive to live up to those expectations.”

Busy Is His Normal

Richard Paige — Erich Lange ’19, like most of us at some point in our childhoods, grew up riding in the car between band concerts, baseball games, and other activities, changing uniforms in the backseat. Most of us outgrow the need to stay so busy—we pick one thing and search for excellence there.

Busy is still his normal, and he’s handling it all very well.

The North Coast Athletic Conference recently named Lange as the 2019 winner of the Don Hunsinger Award. He is the first Wabash student-athlete to claim it. He credits a childhood where he was constantly moving from one thing to the next – hence the need to change uniforms en route – as the foundation for what would become earning a league honor that spotlights academic achievement, athletics excellence, service, and leadership.

A political science and German double major, Lange graduated Summa Cum Laude with distinction on his senior comprehensive exams, and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He is a Mackintosh Fellow, a Rosenberg Writing Scholar, and winner of the Peck Medal.

He was a Moot Court finalist in 2018, interned with the Legal Aid Society of Louisville, volunteered four years at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Montgomery County, and was a member of

Erich Lange ’19.

the Wabash Pre-Law Society, the Sons of Wabash, and served for two years as a freshman orientation mentor.

As a catcher for the Little Giant baseball team, Lange batted .393 as a senior, tied for the team lead with five home runs, and drove in 39. He was an all-NCAC pick and a second team Academic All-America selection.

It’s not easy to make such a resume look seamless, but Lange accomplished the feat.

“I’ve always been able to take on a lot of things at once, and I’ve admired people who have a seemingly perfect balance in every aspect of their life,” he says. “Being busy with extracurriculars and balancing that with school has been my normal. When I got to Wabash, I knew I had the opportunity to not only play baseball and work hard in the classroom, but to be involved on campus as well.”

Lange leads by example, hoping to encourage others through action. Those actions may most often come into play when it comes to service.

“Sometimes I get busy or would rather do other things, and it’s hard to find the motivation,” he says. “Being the change you want to see in the world requires that you get off the couch and do it. To me, a vital part of character is acting on your beliefs. I believe in helping others, so I ought to do just that.”

The Hunsinger Award capped a spring that saw Lange bestowed with a number of accolades, including the IAWM Scholar-Athlete award, King Prize in German and the Lipsky Award in political science.

I asked Lange, who heads to Georgetown University Law School in Washington, D.C., this fall, how he was able to do it all. He gave me an answer right out of the front seat of his childhood.

“I have to credit that to my mom,” he says. “She always wanted me to be well rounded.”

The Sweetest Mem’ries of Thee

Richard Paige — I was combing through the photo archives recently when I stumbled across the gallery I posted of Freshman Saturday in August of 2015. So I stopped to look at them again.

These were the first moments that the Class of 2019 were all together on campus. It’s always interesting to be roaming the campus during times like this where a multitude of emotions seem to bubble up with each beat of the heart.

Lingering on these photos reminds me that the Class of 2019 is filled with some really good guys. We say that every year, but these pictures affected me a little differently. Maybe it was

Christian Wirtz ’19 in a photo taken on Freshman Saturday in August 2015.

because at the time I clicked that button on the camera, I had finally been at Wabash long enough to both capture and appreciate what these guys were going through and where the journey was heading.

I reached out to two of the students featured in the gallery, Brandon Arbuckle ’19, a political science major from Bloomington, and Christian Wirtz ’19, a rhetoric major from South Bend, and asked them two questions that came to mind as I pondered those pictures:

What thought enters your head upon seeing that photo?
Wirtz: I look at that picture and I see a kid in over his head who has no idea who he is nor who he wants to be. Blissfully ignorant of how much he’ll rely on other people to get him

through college, from my parents, my professors, and the friends I’ve made along the way. I see a boy who is not even sure he’s ended up at the right college and has no idea how much this place will mean to him in four short years.

Arbuckle: It was hot. My parents and I, mom looking at the camera in this photo, carried all my boxes up the stairs of the pre-renovated Martindale Hall (a lot of it stayed in those boxes for the entirety of the year). I remember meeting my Bangladeshi roommate, Hasan Irtija, shortly after this was taken. When I was admitted to Wabash and figuring out housing, I typed “international student preferred” for roommate preference. Hasan helped me move in, and we roomed together until he graduated last year. I’m so glad I did; he and I meshed so well. It was a lot of fun living with him. I think we peeled the room number placard off our wall when we moved out of Martindale 412 for renovations. I imagine I still have it somewhere.

I also remember crying in the room with my parents when they said goodbye and headed home. It was the only time they’d ever sent a kid off to college, and was my first time living anywhere but home. After they left I settled in quickly.

Looking back on the last four years, what does such a memory mean to you?
Arbuckle: Looking back, the uncertainty of what four years at this school would mean for my life was daunting. It felt like graduation was an

Brandon Arbuckle ’19 in a photo taken on Freshman Saturday in August 2015.

eternity away. Now that it’s just around the corner, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on not only the experiences that helped mold me into the person I am today, but also the people who helped get me there. From my family and friends, to peers and professors, the growth fostered by the people at this institution is remarkable. I’ll miss the camaraderie. There were a lot of challenges and hard points, but they all helped me in the end. I’m excited to take these memories and experiences out after graduation, and look forward to coming back to Wabash, my home away from home, in future years.

Wirtz: Seeing this picture, I’m also reminded of the ringing in ceremony and how overwhelmed I felt–I didn’t think I was smart enough to make it through and that everyone involved in my deciding I was Wabash material had made a mistake. I remember moving in and my mother crying. But of course, this also reminds me of freshman orientation week and walking

Arbuckle (left) and Wirtz circa 2019.

nervously into Hovey Cottage for the first time–I had interrupted a staff meeting as I was running late for the library tour. This was, of course, when I met Brent Harris [eventually becoming a student assistant in the sports information office] and the rest, as they say, is history.

I referenced the photo just two days after I took it, when Christian, indeed, interrupted one of our staff meetings while looking for work, saying “I took your picture Saturday,” as a way of breaking the ice. It was amongst the first of 123 photos I took that day.

Long in our hearts we’ll bear the sweetest mem’ries of thee. Congratulations to the Class of 2019.

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