Tarred and Feathered

Kim Johnson – So here it is, my first entry, of what I hope becomes many entries as a Wabash blogger. I started Monday in the Public Affairs Office and have spent much of my first week making my way around campus to meet new colleagues. The rest of my week has been an attempt to decipher how I fit into this unknown community within the community that I have known and been a part of nearly my entire life.

In a sense, I feel like a freshman starting over again at Purdue. I remember my mom’s advice after I came home from my math placement exam in tears feeling completely overwhelmed by the huge world that is Purdue University. “You only have five classes your first semester,” she said. “Learn where those five buildings are, then next semester learn the next five.”

Fortunately, I have been around the campus in the past enough to basically know which building is Baxter and which building is Detchon but as with anywhere Wabash has its own vernacular that makes me do a double take as I sit in meetings and think “what are they talking about?” And so, the “five buildings” that I am learning this week are more on a figurative level than literal.

It’s Thursday of my first week and I have not yet been dipped in a vat of hot oil until I turned golden brown so I would say it’s been a successful week but it isn’t over until the Homecoming Queen is crowned at half-time on Saturday. (I’d say until the “fat lady fraternity pledge sings” but from what I have been told, those may be one in the same – which scares me a little.)

All kidding aside, I must say for as long as I have lived in Crawfordsville (nearly 31 years minus the time spent at Purdue and one year in Michigan), I have overlooked how much Wabash is truly a gem in our community.

Every person I have met this week has been so welcoming and helpful but the thing the sticks in my mind the most is how much every single person here cares about the students. Whether he or she is a professor, a dean, an administrative assistant, a coach, a librarian or an IT expert, it’s not just about a job but it’s about being passionate about the students and their education.

It’s about pride in the heritage and tradition that have carried so many men through life. Most importantly it’s about grooming high school boys to become men who, as the mission states, “think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely”.

And that’s a really cool thing.


Homecoming at Wabash

Jim Amidon — It’s a big week in Crawfordsville. The Art League kicks off its Downtown Exhibit Friday night, the same night as the Celebration of Chocolate. It’s also Homecoming at Wabash College, which includes a week of activities that honor our traditions, celebrate our accomplishments, and welcome our alumni back to campus.

For freshman students, it’s a big week because the Sphinx Club has a spirit competition that includes decorations, cheers, banners, Chapel Sing, and the legendary “queen” contest. The first big test for the freshmen — outside of class — comes Thursday when over 200 of them will compete in the Chapel Sing competition.

Chapel Sing, as many of you know, pits living units against each other in a 45-minute singing, screaming, shouting competition. “Old Wabash,” the College’s fight song, is known as the longest college fight song in the nation. Sphinx Club members will listen closely as the freshmen belt out both long verses while standing in the shadow of the Wabash Chapel.

Men who miss a word or get mixed up are “awarded” a scarlet W, which is spray-painted on the white t-shirts all freshmen are required to wear during the competition. After nearly an hour of frenzied singing, the Sphinx Club will bring into the Chapel the living units they deem most worthy. It’s a coveted prize to win Chapel Sing and the competition is, in a word, intense.

On Friday, many of the College’s Glee Club alumni will return for a reunion. The Wabash Glee Club has for decades served as an ambassadorial group for the College, traveling across the United States and around the world. Glee Club members from as far back as 1941 — and maybe earlier — will be back for a series of performances on Saturday.

Friday evening, Wabash will host the esteemed economist Professor Michael Mandelbaum, who will present the 2007 Benjamin Rogge Memorial Lecture. Mandelbaum is the Christian A. Herter Professor and Director of the American Foreign Policy Program at Johns Hopkins University, and is the author of 10 books and editor of 12 more.

Professor Mandelbaum will host an open forum in the afternoon, followed by his speech — “Democracy’s Good Name: The Rise and Risks of the World’s Most Popular Form of Government” — at 8 p.m. Consult the Wabash website for more details.

The big day is Saturday. Freshmen will decorate the campus with “floats that don’t float” in front of most living units. At 11:00 a.m., the National Association of Wabash Men will host its annual Homecoming Alumni Chapel. During that program, the NAWM will present its most important awards.

Of local interest, former Crawfordsville resident Richard O. Ristine will receive the Alumni Admissions Fellow award, and will give remarks in commemoration of the College’s 175th year. Another long-time resident, Jasmine Robinson, will be named an honorary alumna of the College.

Receiving Alumni Awards of Merit are Joseph Barnette ’61, former Chairman of the Wabash Board of Trustees; Dr. Robert Einterz ’77, who developed the IU-Kenya Partnership to battle HIV/AIDS in Africa; and David Kendall ’66, a ground-breaking attorney whose clients include President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton.

Wabash hosts Denison in soccer at 11 and the football team hosts Earlham at 2 p.m.

At halftime of the football game, the freshmen will compete in the banner, cheer, and queen contests. If you’ve ever been curious about what a “queen” at a college for men looks like, you’re welcome to attend. Be advised, though. It’s not a pretty sight.

The weekend is capped off by the Homecoming Concert, at which the Wabash College Glee Club and the Alumni Glee Club will perform. The concert, which is free and open to the public, begins at 8 p.m. Saturday evening.

From important lectures to silly freshman rites of passage, Homecoming at Wabash has a little something for everyone. I hope you’ll plan to join us in what promises to be an exciting week in Crawfordsville.

Why Do Men Go To Wabash?

This entry first appeared in the September 21 edition of the Crawfordsville Journal Review. Its author is Sam King (pictured right), assistant editor, who covers the Wabash beat for the Journal Review. We publish it here because it’s an interesting take on why men choose to attend Wabash College.

Sam King — Gary Simkus just finished a grueling practice with the Wabash College soccer team Tuesday when I met him in the Allen Center on campus.

When I first came to Crawfordsville, it was comical to me there was an all-male college in a small Indiana city. What marketing could possibly lure 18-year-old males to further their education with another 850 males?

Simkus went to high school at Highland (Ind.), near Chicago. A Highland guidance counselor said when Simkus was in high school, there were about 1,100 students at Highland High — with a near split between males and females.

I’m sure he had more important things to do after soccer practice— study, eat dinner or even have quality time with his friends. But instead he took an hour to sit and talk to me about his adventures in other countries.

Had I not stopped him to focus on his time in Chiapas, Mexico and his experiences with hurricane victims who are now homeless, he might have talked for a week. He’d gone to other countries before spending about five weeks in Chiapas.

It’s obvious Simkus’ time in Mexico was striking. He was in disbelief the Mexican government, in his opinion, was doing nothing to help disease-ridden, poor people with no place to call home.

But what struck me was how open Simkus was. Even after filling my digital voice recorder with 54 minutes of quotes — much of that about Chiapas, Mexico — instead of rushing to get home, he asked questions to learn more about me.

When it came time for him to leave, he stopped and inquired about my college education. At that point, it became obvious that Simkus didn’t talk to me about his experiences because he had been asked to do it. He enjoyed it.

There is not enough space in the Journal Review to accurately portray everything, but I can tell you he had extraordinary experiences during his travels, which included time in Europe earlier in the summer. He saw people at the lowest point of their lives in Mexico. In Spain, he managed to forge a relationship with an 11-year-old boy. Simkus took his new friend to two Real Madrid soccer matches.

If you are unfamiliar with soccer’s popularity in Spain, imagine everyone in Crawfordsville taking four friends with them to an event and you might realize how many fans attend a Real Madrid match. I’d liken it to an 11-year-old here seeing his or her first Chicago Cubs game.

Simkus also got a chance to run with the bulls, but not in Pamplona — where the most famous bull run is held — because he promised his mom he wouldn’t run from bulls there. He walked and biked in the mountains with two friends, where they covered 200 kilometers in six days. He ran on the original track for the Olympics in Delphi, Greece.

But most importantly, his seven months away from the United States opened up his eyes and educated him about other cultures — something reading stories in a book can’t necessarily explain.

So as we were standing there ready to part , I admitted to Simkus that my college didn’t have the same moneys set aside for students to take trips, like Wabash. I’d gladly have gone somewhere, but didn’t have the funds to send myself. I still don’t.

Simkus looked down — he’s about eight inches taller than I am — and said, “That’s why I came to Wabash.”

Raters Urges Careful Word Choice

Howard W. Hewitt – Assistant Dean of Students Michael Raters ’85 talks to students in Thursday’s Chapel about the importance of word choice and action.

Raters, who gave a Chapel talk four years ago when he began at Wabash, noted he particularly identified with this year’s senior class since he has seen them grow and learn.

He urged the Chapel attendance to grow and lean in word choice and the way they think about things not only at Wabash but outside as well.

“Refrain from lumping everyone into a group because of the actions of one,” he said. Raters noted “The” is often the misused word. “The Administration, The fraternities, The Faculty, The Independents,” and so on are often unfairly lumped into groups when diverse members of those groups may not always hold the same opinion.

“You can push away supporters with one stroke of your brush,” he warned.

Hear Raters complete Chapel Speech in this Podcast.

“What’s The Point?”

Jim Amidon — We were about 30 minutes this side of Decatur, Illinois Saturday morning following the Wabash football team to its game at Millikin University when my daughter announced from the back seat, “I’m not sure I see the point in coming so far for a football game.”

She’s a big fan of the Little Giants, but not so much of sitting in the back seat of my car for a couple of hours on a gorgeous fall Saturday.

I explained to her that Saturday’s game was important; that it was, perhaps, a turning point in a season that has barely started.

I told her about Dustin Huff, the fifth year senior star quarterback, who broke his fibula and tore ligaments in a season opening win over Franklin. I told Sammie that before breaking his leg, Dustin had broken a couple of Wabash school records, and how hard it was for everyone at the College to imagine playing this season without him.

I explained the reason we were going to central Illinois was to show our spirit and support for Dustin, sure, but also for the other 115 Little Giants who would be suiting up for an early-season test of emotion and determination.

I had heard from Josh Gangloff earlier in the week that the team chose the word “exposed” to think about during the week leading up to the Millikin game. Josh said the word came from senior Richard Roomes, and that it described how the team felt without its star quarterback.

There was a lot of pressure on sophomore quarterback Kyle Augustinovicz (left) when he stepped under center for his first Wabash football game Saturday. He was taking the reins of a high-powered offensive machine capable of putting huge numbers on the board and in the stat book.

But the pressure was lessened because Coach Chris Creighton and his staff had told each and every player on the team to step it up a notch this week — the week when they felt exposed physically and emotionally.

I feel safe saying that everyone did step it up. The scoreboard wasn’t eye-popping, but “Augie” endured his first test as a starter and came through with more than passing numbers (pun intended): 22-of-30 passing for 270 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for a score and managed the game effectively and did not turn the ball over.

The defensive players took the game on their shoulders and delivered five turnovers. They recorded eight sacks, blocked an extra point, and Matt Kraft’s interception return for a touchdown iced the victory.

It is, after all, a team sport. And the Little Giants perhaps never looked so much like a team as they did at Millikin on Saturday.

I give credit to the coaches, sure, but also the senior members of the team who set the tone for the season. Adi Pynenberg played like an All-American, leading the team vocally and physically at every important moment of the game.

Jared “Bubba” Lange looked like a player who was hungry, really hungry. After an all-conference season as a sophomore, Lange broke his leg last year and missed the season. His performance against Millikin — 3. 5 quarterback sacks and a pass knock-down — was not only impressive, it was passionate.

Then there was Daryl Kennon (right), who stood out Saturday not because of his statistics, but because of his always-churning motor. There wasn’t an offensive lineman who could block the talented defensive end, so they resorted to double-teaming him, holding him, and running away from him. Kennon, like Lange, had the hunger of having missed two seasons for personal reasons. His game Saturday looked to me like a statement game: “I’m back!”

When a defensive back would get burned on a pass play, a linebacker was there to pick him up or pat him on the back. When the offense sputtered, senior punter Chad Finley made sure Millikin couldn’t gain an edge in field position.

I’ve never been someone who believes that a team can actually be better when a superstar gets hurt. But I believe that such things can galvanize a team; they can focus a team; they can make a team stronger because every player must be accountable for his performance. There’s less margin for error.

So there they were, an exposed group of young men who were hurting badly after losing their all-star player. Yet they demonstrated more than the “Wabash Always Fights!” motto. For three hours on a glorious Saturday afternoon, they turned exposure into passion; they played not so much like a team, but like a family.

For my daughter who began the day saying she didn’t see the point in traveling so far to watch a game, there was a good life lesson to be taught on the drive home.

We’ve Made Some Homepage Changes!

Howard W. Hewitt – Why change a web page?

Putting a new face on the Wabash College website is not something we do without a lot of thought. This is not a redesign as much as a facelift. The changes we’ve implemented are mainly to drive web visitors to content they might miss.

The biggest change visitors will immediately notice is the right column. We started telling the stories of our students in a profile format more than two years ago. Those profiles consistently draw lots of visitors. We wanted to make those features more prominent and really highlight the outstanding young men attending Wabash College.

We will be adding more student features during the coming weeks.

Wabash college coaches, faculty, and primarily students jumped into the blogosphere in a big way more than a year ago. We now have more than 25 active blogs on our website and many more on the Blog landing page

Last year we had three freshmen write about their first-year experience. We know statistically that nearly each blog received about 300 visits a day. This year we have the three freshmen in the photo here writing about their first year as Wallies. Jake Ezell, Michael Richmond, and Adrian Perez are posting 2-3 times a week.

Often times we read compelling stories about student life or the inside story on our sports teams and wonder if all our future students and alumni are getting to these great anecdote-laden pieces. So the “Read Wally Blogs” feature will direct you each day or so to a different blog within the website.

We also take a lot of pictures  at Wabash College. Those of us in Public Affairs often tell freshmen to “get used to having your picture taken” you’re at Wabash College.

The “See Wabash in Pictures” link will allow us to get more faces than ever in front of our web visitors. And in the next few weeks we’ll debut a new Week at Wabash feature on our photo album landing page.

The “Attend Wabash Events” link on the lower right allows us to promote important speakers and events on campus.

Finally, we’ve changed the center news hole on the page to make it more visually appealing and add photos.

A big thanks for our “web committee” of Jim Amidon, Brent Harris, Chip Timmons, Brad Weaver and Mark Siegel. And, as always, a real tip of the hat to Weaver and Siegel for all their technical expertise. Jeana Rogers, media center, was a huge help in photo preparation.

There is no doubt we will undergo a complete website redesign some day in the near future. We are one of few colleges in the nation which takes a content-driven approach to our site. The College website is designed to tell the stories of Wabash College students, alumni, faculty and staff. That means we need to change our approach from time to time to do it in the most up-to-date manner.

For example, we’re using podcasts, soundslide programs, and eventually more video to tell these stories. And, we’ll probably make a few changes to the site as we implement those new tools.

Our site may not have the pizzazz of  other sites, but ours is content heavy with the most important thing about Wabash College – our people.

If you have comments, please don’t hesitate to drop me an e-mail: Howard W. Hewitt, Director of New Media.

Harris Honored for Work as SID

Jim Amidon — For about a decade, I represented the face of the Wabash College Athletics Department. As the sports information director, I worked with then-athletic director Max Servies to promote Wabash’s student-athletes to our competitive peers, the media, and the public at large.

It was a thrilling run. I wrote about football championships, Monon Bell wins, top-10 swimming teams, and some of the best cross country seasons Wabash has ever had.

When I moved into my present position, I heard lots of chatter about how big my shoes would be to fill; how important it would be to find a replacement sports information director with my level of unbridled enthusiasm and passion for all things Wabash — specifically Wabash athletics.

As it turns out, Brent Harris has more than filled those shoes. He’s taken the position to new levels of professionalism and passion.

Many of you know Brent; he’s lived in this community all his life, save a short stint working at a newspaper in Southern Indiana. Even then, he commuted back to Crawfordsville to volunteer as public address announcer for basketball games and statistician for football games.

I vividly remember when he came to campus to interview for the position maybe eight years ago. He seemed sure of his abilities, but perhaps unsure about the nature of the job.

Now, many years later, Brent has become the public face of the Athletics Department. But it’s funny because he’s not as public as I was; he puts our coaches and student-athletes out in front and tells their stories admirably.

Brent works in close collaboration with Athletic Director Vernon Mummert, and together they have lifted our intercollegiate athletics program to new heights, within our conference and nationally.

Brent has put an emphasis on hospitality and professionalism for our visiting teams, officials, and media. Vernon has emphasized sportsmanship, class, and fair play.

I applaud them both; I’m proud of them and all the Little Giants.

When reporters come to campus to cover our games, they’re treated with the same respect as if they were covering the Colts’ home opener for Sports Illustrated. Trust me when I say this is rare, if not unique in Division III.

Saturday we kicked off our 121st season of intercollegiate football. I feel safe saying that anyone across the country who cares about Division III football knew about our game with Franklin. Brent does his job that well. In fact, it was one of the featured games nationally thanks to Brent’s promotional efforts. That kind of effort helped land three of our football players on pre-season All-America teams.

He applies the same level of passion and professionalism to all of our sports. He has computer-generated statistics printed and ready for coaches and media poolside, on the track, soccer pitch, and baseball diamond. He prints the programs, sets up the sound system, provides meals for media, and has even sung the National Anthem once or twice.

He’s also becoming recognized nationally as one of the best in the biz — something we’ve known for a while.

Last week he was honored for his feature writing. Brent wrote a piece for Wabash Magazine about long-time football clock operator Rob Tomey’s battle with cancer and how precious his last games at Wabash were to him.

In competition with his peers at every level in the NCAA, Brent received second place in the Fred S. Stabley Sr. National Writing Contest — for all of the stories submitted for judging by the College Sports Information Directors of America. The story was honored as the best general feature in the nation and also swept the district judging.

On the same day we found out about his writing awards, the CoSIDA Digest — the national magazine for sports information directors — had a two-page feature on Brent Harris, Wabash, and how well he does his job.

It’s a good thing CoSIDA wrote about Brent’s good work because you wouldn’t otherwise notice; he draws no attention to himself. But he’s always the first person to arrive at the stadium and the last one to leave, making sure stats are reported, media are satisfied, and the website is updated.

All of us at Wabash are proud of Brent’s work and the public recognition of it.

For the record, those shoes I had to fill almost a decade ago? They’ve gotten a good bit bigger with Brent in them.

Bambrey Talks About Rules, Gentleman’s Rule

The Gentleman’s Rule hasn’t been around for the full 175 years of Wabash College, Dean of Students Tom Bambrey said Thursday in his Chapel Talk.

Although the rule as we now know it is approaching 55 years, it has evolved from guidelines established in the 19th Century. The wording and rule has changed wording through the 1900s, and reached its final form in 1953.

But the rule – “The Student is expected to conduct himself at all times, both on and off the campus, as a gentleman and a responsible citizen.” – has had the same basic qualities throughout the college’s 175-year history.

Bambrey told the students the rule is a heavy burden to bear, “to try to live up to the rule. The expectation of being able to balance freedom and responsibility while asking and assessing what it means to behave as a gentleman is a difficult, precarious, almost impossible challenge.

“That challenge is for a student, through his four years here, to look at and assess first his own actions and second the actions of other students. The challenge is to hold out a gentlemanly standard and try one’s best to live up to that standard.”

Hear the full podcast of Bambrey’s Sept. 6 Chapel Talk by clicking here.

Next week Professor of Religion David Blix will give the first of a series of Chapel Talks noting the College’s 175th year.

Morris Residents Painted the Cow Art

Howard W. Hewitt – Moo — or Morris, if you will, solves the mystery of the bench! Five residents of Morris Hall painted the bench in the farm animal motif.

Alex Ingram ’10, Korey Pazour ’10, and Brandon Pierce ’11 were the primary artists according to an email from Alex. He noted John Edwards ’09, and Luke Moton ’11 assisted.

Morris residents apparently went with the cow theme early last year, according to Ingram, but it was covered up by a fraternity’s effort before sunrise.

Already one comment posted to this blog, anonymously therefore not published, goes on and on about it being a desecration.

“We wanted to represent our community as well,” Ingram said. What many people fail to recognize (or acknowledge), is simply that independents have campus communities and families in the same respect every fraternity does. We live, eat, and share our years here at Wabash in the same general fashion. We say it’s more about the family than the geography.”

Ingram said he and his dorm mates did it for their own pride. Still, he knows there could be those who’ll not be happy.

“Many people have said that we have broken rules,” he wrote. “We’ve heard that because some of us weren’t freshmen we had no business touching the bench, and of course we’ve heard chatter coming from fraternity members about what the independents should be “allowed” to do. To put it simply, we feel as though we’ve done nothing wrong.”

The Senior Bench is, of course, quite a campus tradition. Fraternities, various clubs and organizations paint the bench in their colors. It’s also a source of school pride.

Monday night the group painted the bench to look like cows – complete with M-O-O across the seating area. 

The limestone Thomson Memorial Bench was created by the same sculptor who created the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Indianapolis. It has been a part of the College since 1905.