Wallies Heading to Bridgeton Today

Howard Hewitt – The College mission statement says: “Wabash College educates men to think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely.”

Once in awhile a unique opportunity comes along to allow students the opportunity to practice the ‘live humanely’ portion of that brilliant statement.

Parke County suffered what is still an unimaginable loss last year when the beautiful Bridgeton Covered Bridge was totally destroyed by arson. The community is going to rebuild the bridge and needs a little help. 

Even though we have fewer than 80 students on campus, the Present Indiana program is taking approximately 25 young men to help rebuild the bridge today.

Over the past week we’ve recruited from the nooks and crannies of the summer campus to get students and staff to join the effort. We’ve rounded up t-shirts for the participants and planned the day. The folks down in Bridgeton are excited. The town women are cooking up lunch and the two project leaders have planned chores for the Wabash men.

Look to the College website tonight for a story and photos from the day in Parke County. Hopefully, those rain clouds stay in Illinois until late afternoon.

Present Indiana, funded by Lilly Endowment, gives 8-10 Wabash students a summer internship to study historical and cultural aspects of the Hoosier state. Oklahoma native John Meara ’07 is studying Parke County bridges.

I drove Meara down to Parke County for his first visit two weeks ago. The Bridgeton Bridge was, perhaps, the most photographed bridge in Indiana if not the Midwest.

It was startling and even emotional to take the last bend into Bridgeton and see the familiar red mill but the bridge was gone! The photos show the stark contrast.

In making arrangements to take the young men down for a day of sorting wood, stacking lumber, and cleaning up debris, the spirit of Bridgeton’s town people has really shone through. The town women are insisting on feeding our young guys as a thank you. On normal work days they feed a handful of men who are volunteering. We hope to deliver a small hungry army!

Noble words like lead effectively and live humanely are often easy to write and talk about. But teaching young men the meaning of such words often requires a little sweat equity. We hope there is a lesson of  “living humanely” in helping a tiny town rebuild an Indiana landmark.

And what could be more humane than helping out a neighbor?