A Tradition of Change and Innovation

Jim Amidon — Tradition.

That’s the one word most often used to describe Wabash College by anyone who has attended the College, worked for the College, or in any way come into contact with the College.


Saturday, in grand style, Wabash renewed its fond tradition of inaugurating a new president with all the pomp and pageantry of a royal coronation. From trumpeters accompanying David Blix’s masterful organ prelude to the final academic recessional, the color, glory, and emotion of the inauguration ceremony was moving and joyous.

Presidents and their delegates from over 40 colleges and universities joined the Wabash community to celebrate the presidency of Patrick White. The Pioneer Chapel was overflowing with students, alumni, faculty, staff, and honored guests.

The voices of more than 40 members of the Wabash Glee Club rang out in the hallowed chapel; anthems that set the tone and carried the theme of the inauguration.

“In dreams begins responsibility,” wrote President White’s favorite poet, William Butler Yeats. The dreams for the future of Wabash College — and the responsibility for this generation to make those dreams come true — was at once grounded in Wabash tradition and forward-looking.

In his inaugural address, President White said, “We honor the past not by repeating what [our founders] did. We honor the past by embracing our time and our age with the vigor, the energy, the pride, the confidence, and the willingness to fight harder for what is right.

“Wabash has a tradition, but that tradition also is paradoxically a tradition of change and innovation.”

Innovation and change are words not often linked to tradition, but that seems to be the path Wabash will take as it positions itself for leadership in this century. Pat White is a man of ideas, of creative thought, and of conversation. The conversations about the future of the College will indeed be grounded in the past, but, the president said, we will not be afraid of new ideas and challenges.

“The best way I know to fail is to live in fear of action,” he told the crowd of more than 800.

White comes to Wabash at a time when the College is well positioned for national leadership in higher education. And according to Andy Ford, Wabash’s 14th president, Pat White is the perfect person for the job.

“Anyone who has stepped onto campus these past six months knows that no one has hit the ground running any better in his relationships with students than Pat White. No one. And when that is right, everything at the College is right. I can’t think of a more worthy successor,” Ford said at a ceremony at which his presidential portrait was unveiled.

At the founding of Wabash 175 years ago, the path for the College was clearly articulated: “The Institution be at first a classical and English High School, rising into the College as soon as the wants of the country demand.” 

White said, “The wants of the country [now] demand our achievements and leadership.”

White provided a glimpse of the future. He said Wabash will use its proven track record of educating men for leadership in society as a model for other colleges and universities at a time when the percentage of men attending college is dropping.

“We have more to learn,” he said, “but we have much to teach.”

He used that theme to share how the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts — through its National Study of Liberal Arts Education — is providing ideas for the most effective pedagogical practices.

He said Wabash’s Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies, Unidos Por Sangre (the Hispanic student organization), and the growing international student population at Wabash can provide the basis for an improved understanding of diversity and difference.

“We have more to learn, but we have much to teach,” he echoed.

He concluded his address looking squarely into the eyes of the assembled students:

“We will ask the difficult questions of our time and we will never tire. In our uncommon dream — the uncommon dream of Wabash College — lies the common good of our country and our world, and we will pursue that dream with our whole heart, our whole mind, and our whole spirit.”

Under President Pat White, Wabash will dream of a future of leadership, and in keeping with tradition, shall shoulder the responsibility for realizing those dreams through conversation, through deeds, and through action.

Old Friend Recalls White’s College Days

Howard W. Hewitt – Old college buddy Paul Harder shared his memories of college friend Pat White during Thursday morning’s Chapel Talk.

Chapel Talk officially kicked off ceremonies for Dr. Patrick White, set to be inaugurated Saturday afternoon as Wabash College’s 15th President. See a photo album from Thursday morning’s Chapel Talk, click here.

Harder is an entrepreneur and college professor at the University of San Francisco. He’s also described as guitarist, red wine enthusiast, and artist.

Harder talked about how he and Pat, along with five other freshmen, who bonded at the University of Chicago and have managed to keep close contact through their adult years. All of that group will return Saturday for the inauguration.

He described the evolving friendship through college and how the group enjoyed movies. Their reward after tests or challenging school work would be to take in a movie and then enjoy a pizza. But the biggest reward was the discussion the talk into the wee hours of the night about the movie they had just seen.

“We were always talking about what we saw,” Harder said. “That’s the point of always talking and being engaged. It’s like the ‘grand conversation’ Pat talked about in one of his first speeches here. It’s what he’s always been about.”

The speech was punctuated with anecdotes, many humorous and fond recollections of a good friend. “Pat was an intellectual, action hero,” Harder suggested. He noted his friend always had affection for small places in the center of America, important conversation and a love of the liberal arts.

Pat and Paul often played guitar and sing while college friends. “But Pat was not that good,” Harder said, while White laughed and nodded from the Chapel pews. “But, he always brought enthusiasm and fun.”

 A full podcast of Harder’s remarks is available on the Wabash college Podcast page.

Historic Spring Semester Has Begun

Jim Amidon —The second semester at Wabash College is well underway.

The students began to return to campus about two weeks ago, though seniors had been back studying for comprehensive examinations long before that. Already it feels like we’re in mid-semester form.

This promises to be one of the most exciting spring semesters in recent memory. First, we’re beginning a yearlong celebration of the 175th anniversary of Wabash’s founding. While many activities and events marking this important milestone won’t take place until next fall, there will be occasions throughout the spring when we’ll commemorate the College’s 175th year of educating young men.

President Pat White will be inaugurated in an official ceremony next weekend, becoming Wabash’s 15th president since the school’s founding in 1832.

Presidential inaugurations on college campuses tend to be a mix of two important events. Of course, celebrating the new president is one aspect. The other deals more with history. Inaugurations serve as important historical markers in the life of a college; they provide a rare opportunity to reflect on the past, while at once allowing people to imagine a new future.

The theme for President White’s inauguration seems to lend itself perfectly to both.

“In dreams begins responsibility,” wrote poet William Butler Yeats. That theme has guided the planning of the inauguration and provides a glimpse of the direction our new president will take us.

Throughout the fall he has asked members of the Wabash community — students, faculty, staff, and alumni — to dream about an ever better Wabash; a college that serves its students true to the mission of educating men to think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely. Not only has he asked us to dream big dreams for Wabash, he’s challenged all of us to take responsibility for assuring that our dreams become reality.

Next Saturday, when he is inaugurated, President White will give a speech that will likely be a summary of what he’s heard from Wabash people about the future direction of the College since he was elected almost a year ago. And he’ll imagine the future while standing on the shoulders of giants, fully honoring and recognizing Wabash’s historic excellence.

Obviously, all of us are anxious to hear what he has to say!

What’s a good book without coffee?

Howard W. Hewitt – Sometimes it’s the little improvements or changes that can have the biggest positive impact. Credit new Wabash Librarian John Lamborn for trying something that looks to be a hit.

Lamborn converted his old office on the library’s first floor to a student lounge. But the big step was to invite in two coffee vendors for tasting this week which will lead to the installation of an upper-scale coffee vending machine soon.

"The need for access to a source of refreshment in the Library was apparent and my former office seemed like a reasonable place to put it," Lamborn explained. "In fact, that space seemed much better suited for use as a public lounge/snack area than as a private office."

Lamborn moved his office to the same corner of the library but into smaller digs on the second floor.

The two coffee vendors provided free samples and snacks Thursday and Friday. Students, faculty, and staff were asked to comment on the coffee. Lamborn will select a vendor and have the coffee machine installed in the new lounge. The possibility of a snack vendor will be discussed as well.

If the steady stream of staff and students Friday morning was any indication, the demand for a cup of coffee with a book will be high.

Photo: A steady stream of students, faculty, and staff stopped by Friday morning to sample the Arabica bean coffee.