Summer Fun!

Brent Harris, June 28 — Ah summer! A time to relax, spend short days in the office and longer days on the golf course. That’s what many people think the summer is like around the Wabash athletics offices during the months of May, June, and July before things get hectic once again in August for the fall sports.

But there has been a flurry of activity the past few weeks, and it will continue into the early weeks of July. Summer sports camps have kept the Allen Athletics and Recreation center packed with high school students and their parents since early June.

If you walked into the Bowerman Lobby two weeks ago you would have worked your way through a group of swimming campers getting their dorm keys and saying goodbye to their parents. Just past the swimmers, participants in the sold-out Bishop-Dullaghan Football Skills Camp were picking up their camp equipment before heading off to their rooms. Earlier in the week I had a chance to catch up with former Little Giant football player Vaino Grayam ’55 while his grandson registered for the Wabash wrestling camp.

The summer camp season will conclude with a wrestling team camp that begins Monday July 10. In addition to a staff consisting of Wabash head coach Brian Anderson, Fresno State assistant Kevin Lake, Dakota Wesleyan head coach Josh Hardman, 2004 Olympic silver medalist and three-time NCAA national champion Stephen Abas will work with high school teams on their wrestling skills. Teams can still sign up for the camp by contacting Coach Anderson.

As the final seven weeks of summer come to a close, it won’t be long before football, soccer, and cross country athletes begin their return to campus to get ready for the 2006-07 season. That still leaves some time to find that fairway on the golf course.

Phi Kappa Psi: A Summer Remodel on Steroids

Jim Amidon, June 19 — My drive to work each day takes me past three or four homes where the owners are taking advantage of summer weather to remodel and renovate.

Someone on my street is getting a whole new front porch. A guy I know on an adjoining street is landscaping the front of his house. In the other direction, a family just got a new dog; I know that because a chain link fence just went up around the house.

I, too, have a few projects that I’d like to complete before the end of summer; typical stuff like painting the bedroom, reworking a garden spot, putting a fresh coat of white paint on the exterior trim.

But if you really want to check out a summer remodel on steroids, drive down West Wabash Avenue this week. Drive slowly and cautiously because Brandt Construction is hardhat-at-it remodeling the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house.

The Phi Psi project is the sixth fraternity project Wabash College has mounted in the last six years. In the process, we’ve renovated two houses and built three new chapter houses. The latest completed project is the Phi Gamma Delta house on South Grant Avenue.

On Friday I was given a hardhat tour of the Phi Kappa Psi house in its summer remodeling phase. My colleague Joe Klen guided me through the house while 25 or more construction workers toiled around us. The house looks big from the street, to be sure. But when you get inside the labyrinth of hallways you discover more than 20,000 square feet under that roof.

And there’s not one square foot that isn’t affected by the renovation process. Every wall, every stair, every tile in the place is getting some new treatment. And right now everything is covered with about an inch of dirt and concrete dust.

See pictures from my tour.

Bob Craig is Brandt’s construction manager; he’s the guy to whom the various subcontractors look when they discover new challenges to overcome.

For example, the Phi Psi basement never contained a bathroom, so its use was fairly limited. By the end of this summer, there will be facilities for men and women in the basement. Here’s the catch: imagine running plumbing under the four-inch concrete slab of a 20,000 square-foot building (see photo above right).

While Joe and I were walking through the house, Bob stopped us to give us the latest breaking news: when workers were on the roof earlier in the day, they noticed that the roof might need to be repaired. There are small holes and large ones; recent rain has turned wood infrastructure to spongy cardboard.

Okay, so what’s the worst thing that can happen when I paint my bedroom? Too dark (shudder)? “Honey, could we get another gallon and just lighten it up,” she’ll say. That’s a far, far cry from possibly needing a new roof on a 20,000 square-foot building.

My neighbor was complaining last week when he installed his shower door upside down. What are the worst remodeling headaches you’ve encountered? Now think about the plumbers at the Phi Psi project who are running water lines through four floors of ceilings for a fire-preventing sprinkler system (photo above left). What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, and did I mention it’s hot in the Phi Psi house? There are virtually no old windows left on the house, but still there is no air moving inside the hallways. It was a “cool” 82 when I went on my tour; it was 90 two hours later. And the talented contractors labor on knowing the air conditioning units on the house won’t be installed until summer is over.

My day with Joe, Bob, and dozens of workers on the Phi Psi house gave me a whole new perspective. And I’ve made a promise not to get the least bit frustrated when I change out the screens on my sliding doors this week.

Notes: The photo near right shows two floors of student rooms, all of which are being converted from three-man rooms to two-man setups. The third floor "cold dorm" will feature six two-man rooms and two three-man suites, as well as a small living room/study area. The great hall, kitchen, and dining room are being completely reconfigured; the kitchen will double in size!

The wise use of summer lawns

Steve Charles—Was out walking around campus yesterday trying out our new 85mm lens when I noticed two boys playing football on the lawn in front of the Wabash Chapel.

Turned out to be Justin and Joel Raters, sons of Associate Dean of Students Mike Raters ’85. The brothers were playing their own football game, complete with tackling and first downs, each brother his own team.

My older brother and I used to play the same way. But that in our version, we were allowed to pass to ourselves! ("Charles is passing the ball…he’s going long…he leaps into the air and… he’s got it! Touchdown! And the†crowd is going wild!")

Four years older than me, my brother actually slaughtered me every game, tossing passes to himself just out of my reach.

Why I remember such moments so warmly, I’m not sure. But watching Justin and Joel play, Justin evading his little brother, made me smile. That sense of exhilaration when school let out, the frenzied freedom of summer days, the feeling of wet grass on your legs, the scent of the soil as your face smacked the ground after you successfully tackled your big brother just short of the imaginary goal line. Could there be any better use for a summer lawn?

Justin and Joel were kind enough to let me photograph their game—fine sons of a guy who is doing a remarkable job as associate dean.

I’ve attached a photo album, too. All you little brothers out there, click here. See if it doesn’t take you back.

Face to face with the Sparks legacy

Steve CharlesEven with all of our photographs and stories from practically every spot on campus during the Big Bash Reunion Weekend, we still missed many important moments.

One such moment occurred in the College’s Archives, which is open during reunions. Many alums make their way down the library stairs and through the golden doors to peruse old yearbooks or editions of The Bachelor from their time at the College. But with our activist archivist Beth Swift around, more surprising connections are often made.

At this year’s Big Bash, descendants of the College’s ninth president, Frank Sparks, came face to face with their heritage. Beth describes the moment here:

There were two women with two young men who were about the age of our students. The older of the two women introduced the group by saying that she was Frank Hugh Sparks’ granddaughter, the other woman was his great granddaughter and the two young men were his great-great grandsons.

What a delight they were!

I was so tickled to meet them and to share a bit of the Wabash history surrounding Sparks and the numerous ways he nurtured this small college. In our reading room we have a handsome Sparks portrait, a bronze bust, and an Arvin radio that President Sparks gave a former student as a wedding present.

They seemed thrilled to see these tangible traces of their ancestor. One of the young men posed beside the portrait for a picture.

We spoke of the granddaughter’s visits to Caleb Mills House during her childhood to stay with her grandfather. I mentioned the episode of television’s “This is Your Life” with Ralph Edwards which featured President Sparks. She answered that she was, in fact, one of the small children on that stage. I asked if it was intimidating being on that stage, on television. She said it was, a little, but it was reassuring that her family was there, especially her grandfather. She spoke about feeling unsure and climbing on his lap; as she said it there was deep warmth in her tone. She laughed and said that although she had always understood that he was an important person, to her Frank Hugh Sparks was simply her granddad.

She gave me a box of items for the Archives, and the first item I saw was a reprint from the Reader’s Digest of April 1947. The article was, “The Man with the Big Idea.” It talked about Frank Hugh Sparks’ rise from humble beginnings to big business success to the presidency of Wabash. The “Big Idea” was about education and how it would “help to sustain self-determination of free citizens.”

As I opened the box, I was standing not two feet from a set of beautiful sketches by Klaus Wolff ’50, donated by Gene McCormick ’49 but with their own connection to Frank Sparks.

The story of Klaus Wolff is an amazing Wabash tale. Wolff was a soldier in the German army and was held as a POW in North Africa during WWII. Following the war, he was headed to the American zone in Germany to find work when his mother handed him a magazine to read on the train. It was that same issue of Reader’s Digest—April 1947—that featured Frank Sparks. Wolff read the article and was so inspired that he wrote to Sparks. In a typical Sparks move, Wolff was offered free tuition to Wabash. The other expenses of his education were covered by friends of the college. Everything was paid except the day to day pocket money a student needed in that era. For this money Wolff produced sketches which he sold to fellow students. Dr. McCormick paid $2.50 for these lovely sketches. Wolff studied economics under Ben Rogge, married a girl from DePauw, and went on to graduate school. He obtained his PhD and taught economics for many years at Middlebury College in Vermont.

The story of Klaus Wolff is about a gift from Frank Sparks to a student, but as I told it that morning, the story became a gift from Wabash to the Sparks family. It was a lovely moment and, for that brief time, Frank Hugh Sparks was real and present, here in the Archives.—Beth Swift

In photo: Frank Sparks, ninth president of Wabash.

“Lazy” Days of Summer

Jim Amidon — They say nothing happens at Wabash in the summer; that once the students leave, the place is dead. Faculty bug out for distant locales, they say. Staff have the summers off, I’ve heard.

None of that is true at all, especially that part about some of us getting summers off.

For example, if you were to stroll through Hays Hall, our biology and chemistry building, you’d find about 20 students working side-by-side with faculty on research projects. Across the mall in Goodrich Hall, there are a dozen really smart students of mathematics attending an advanced algebra institute.

Over in the Malcolm X Institute, there are 12 guys taking an intensive, compressed business course. They’ll do in eight weeks the equivalent of a semester’s worth of business classes at any other college. The program also includes some pretty hefty fieldwork: the students will intern at local businesses to gather real world experiences in the final weeks of the program.

We’ve got students traveling and conducting research around the globe, too.

There are about 20 men involved with the Ecuadorian Studies Program in Quito. They arrived in Quito just after graduation ceremonies and were placed in homes of local people. Being thrust into a foreign country with Spanish speaking locals makes for pretty intensive language study.

The students in Ecuador are just now getting out around the country to focus on ecology, literature, politics, and economics of Ecuador, which boasts densely populated cities, rich mountainous regions, and the world’s most exotic rain forests.

Then there are individual students working internships or traveling with “Dill Grants,” which allow them conduct specialized research away from the college. One of them, Steve Hernandez, leaves Saturday for Honduras, where he’ll examine funeral rituals of the Garifuna people. Cool stuff for a 19 year-old guy!

Other things happen in the summer, too.

The Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion will have a couple hundred people in and out over the summer. Theologians from the very finest universities and seminaries come to Crawfordsville to take part in workshops and consultations.

The Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts is going full steam ahead with a groundbreaking National Study of Liberal Arts Education. Scholars there are particularly excited to have just received an additional $300,000 in funding from the Teagle Foundation that will allow them to make broad use of their research findings.

Bill Placher, who has been a mainstay in the Philosophy and Religion Department since 1975, just received another distinguished honor. A few years ago he was named the nation’s outstanding teacher of religion by the American Academy of Religion. Last week he was one of five people to receive the first ever Indiana Humanities Award for leadership in the humanities.

A new scholarship fund was established last week that will provide financial resources to students who wish to travel and study in European countries during the summer. The Kenneth Rhys Rudolph Memorial Fund honors the memory of Ken, class of 2005, who died in a tragic automobile accident just a few months ago. Ken’s own experiences traveling to Scotland between his junior and senior years at Wabash were so profound, that his family created the fund to allow other young men to have similar experiences.

And, of course, there will be change and transition taking place in the next three weeks. On July 3, Patrick White will begin his tenure as the 15th president of Wabash College. The same day Gary Phillips will join the faculty as dean of the college and Larry Griffith takes over as the chief financial officer and treasurer.

Faculty and staff will move quickly to orient the new administrators to the culture of Wabash and the way we go about our business of teaching and learning — all before students return in early August.

Stay in touch with the travels of our students and the work of our faculty by making a weekly visit to the Wabash web site:

There you’ll find an array of “travelblogs” and news stories to see for yourself that there really is never a dull moment at Wabash during the summer.

Bill Cook on Big Bash

Note: Bill Cook ’66 returned for his 40th class reunion June 2-4. When he returned to his home in New York, he wrote this column that was published in the Livingston County (NY) News.

Bill Cook ’66 —I really did not want to attend my 40th class reunion at my undergraduate alma mater, Wabash College. I’ve been at Wabash quite a bit in the past few years since my son Eric will be a senior next year. I have seen several of my closest friends from Wabash recently, and I knew that none of my friends from the classes just ahead and behind me would be there. Since I have been on a college campus for each of my 40 years since I graduated, there was no nostalgia for academe drawing me to Crawfordsville, Indiana.

However, I was asked to be a small part of the planning by trying to persuade my fraternity brothers to come. I had no excuse for not going. So, there I was last week. I had met lots of Wabash alumni when I was a student because I was a member of the Glee Club, and we entertained at such reunions. I remembered old guys (Wabash is still all men), often wearing funny reunion hats. I recall asking one alumnus what he majored in, and he had no idea. Others did not remember buildings that had been standing when they were students. I feared that some of my classmates and I might appear just as silly to today’s undergraduates as the Class of 1926 did to me 40 years ago.

Well, I had two glorious days. This was not because our reunion was so different than ones I witnessed in the 1960s. It is that I completely misunderstood what it meant to be 40 years out of college and then reunite with some of the guys who were with me during what might be the most significant years of my life.

We wore class shirts and name tags (the print was not quite big enough). My class wore replica green and read beanies, like those we had to wear as freshmen. I guess we looked pretty ridiculous to everyone except other Wabash men, but they were the only ones who mattered. We competed with other reunion classes in the singing of the college’s fight song, "Old Wabash." I can still sing it in my sleep since I sang it hundreds of times with the Glee Club. The Class of ‘66 was the runaway winner of the singing contest.

I spent most of my time with two fraternity brothers, one a successful lawyer in Minneapolis and the other a professor at Butler University in Indianapolis. We told old stories, many probably not quite true. We walked around the Lambda Chi house and recalled wondrous times and idiotic moments. The two are not as distinct now as they were then.

I talked a great deal with this really smart guy who went to Harvard Law School and now practices in LA. I had not seen him since graduation day. It’s fun to talk about serious and frivolous things with people who knew me when I was just beginning to take life seriously. We discovered that both of us were converts to Catholicism, something neither suspected of the other. One of my closest Wabash friends is David Kendall (pictured right), one of President and Senator Clinton’s lawyers. We get together from time to time. He is the smartest person I know personally, and it is good to be in the presence of profundity, even if it is intermingled with silly tales of water fights.

Forty years change a lot. We praised our physics professor Bob Henry, even though I participated in hanging him in effigy after a particularly tough test. I told a warm story about an economics professor who taught me very little about economics. I greeted joyfully my fraternity’s advisor, who would not let us fire the world’s worst cook.

Of course, there were a lot of folks I would like to have seen who were absent. Almost all the professors we talked about are dead, and the few who are still alive are retired (the last one who overlapped us retired in May at age 74). Only a couple months after graduation, one of my classmates was killed in an automobile accident, and we have lost classmates steadily. Our class president was killed in Vietnam. One guy had two heart transplants and died about 10 years ago. At least two have committed suicide. Some have simply not stayed in contact with the College, and we do not know if they are flourishing, languishing, or dead.

There was an educational component to our reunion. Several alumni talked about matters ranging from the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, presented by a member of the class of ‘56 who was sent to a camp at age 7, to the election of Pope Benedict XVI presented by a religion professor at the College of St Rose (class of 1991). It is right that part of a college’s reunion should be educational.

During a brief visual presentation, a picture flashed on the screen for about two seconds of the Wabash College Glee Club posing before the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Kneeling in front was little freshman Bill Cook. There I was. In my own minuscule way, I am part of Wabash’s history just as Wabash is a part of mine.

I am already counting the days (3652 starting the day I got home) until my fiftieth reunion at Wabash. God willing, I’ll be there with my companions from the time the greatest adventures of my life were beginning.

Big Bash Memories

Jim Amidon —About four years ago, Tom Runge and the folks in the Wabash College Alumni Office took a giant leap. They decided to scrap the old way Wabash hosted alumni class reunions and try something completely different.

This past weekend proved that with big risks come great rewards.

We just finished hosting our Third Annual Big Bash Reunion Weekend. Through diligent work by the Alumni Office, alumni class agents, and some slick marketing materials, we’re beginning to see some wonderful results for our newfangled reunion weekend.

This year’s Big Bash was the biggest ever: more alumni, more spouses, more younger alumni, more events, more fun, and more memories. I won’t rehash the whole weekend, but if you want a snapshot, click on to have a look at the photos and stories that document it.

A couple of moments really stood out for me:

• On Friday afternoon in a packed lecture hall, we learned about Tom Kometani’s family. Tom is a Japanese American who grew up in the Pacific Northwest in the 1940s. In 1942, his parents and siblings (all American citizens) were removed from their home and placed in an internment camp, where they lived with 10,000 others for an entire year.

Kometani has made it his life’s work to address the issue of the fundamental denial of civil rights during the hysteria following the bombing of Pearl Harbor so that in the future the Constitution will safeguard all Americans despite the nationality of their ancestors.

• At Friday night’s Big Bash Banquet, more than 400 alumni, family members, and friends joined together to celebrate their common bond of being liberally educated at Wabash. What I found fascinating at the event’s reception was the intermingling of generations: men from the 50th reunion class chatting up guys from the Class of 1996; a graduate of the Class of 1971 and his wife electing to dine that evening with men who graduated 30 years later.

• I was out early with about two-dozen other brave souls on Saturday morning for the Big Bash Fun Run. In truth, only half actually ran the two- or four-mile course around campus; others took the opportunity to take a stroll on a bright, cool morning.

What we really shocked me, though, was the “winner” of the four-mile fun run: Bill Houseman, Class of 1971 (picture left). He outran guys 25 and 30 years his junior to finish in about 25 minutes. Even more impressive was seeing Mark Hopkins, at 73 years old and back for his 50th reunion, crossing the line after a two-mile run. Talk about the heart of a champion!

• Another significant moment of the weekend was when we discovered two unusual “members” of the Class of 1971. Patrick Brannigan was a member of that class, but died in a tragic accident just prior to his senior year. Thirty-five years later, his parents returned to Wabash to catch up with the men who meant so much to their son so long ago. It was a tearful, yet joyous occasion for the Brannigans, who discovered their son has been remembered in the hearts and minds of his classmates.

• The most public highlight of the weekend was the Alumni Chapel Sing (Class of 1956 at top right). When Big Bash was conceived several years ago, we imagined that the singing of the school song was the one thing every Wabash alumnus would have in common. That hunch has been proven three years running.

This year a couple of classes took Alumni Chapel Sing to a whole other level, especially the guys back for their 40th reunion. Cal Black (right, driving), one of the class agents for the Class of 1966, had arranged for a police escort for a class parade around he mall. Yes, a parade! Behind the police vehicle were red golf carts, red pickup trucks, and a vintage 1962 Pontiac, all of which were loaded down with members of the Class. Not only that, but the class shared bright red golf shirts and matching red and green pledge pots — a remarkable effort for the consensus winners of the sing.

Later that night, the individual classes would come together to reminisce and remember classmates who have passed.

Still, the defining moment of Big Bash came when it was time for the Class of 2001 to sing on the steps of the chapel. Only four guys made it out for the competition. Then, spontaneously, alumni from 1956, 1961, 1966, 1971, and all the other reunion classes joined them on the steps to “help” the short-handed class (picture left).

In unison, more than 300 alumni crowded together on the steps and sang “Old Wabash” in an intergenerational moment that will endure in my memory for a lifetime.