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.

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