Quality of Life Grant Extends Into/Beyond Classroom

Howard W. Hewitt – The Indiana Quality of Life Grant from Lilly Endowment has provided internships for Wabash students, trips around the state to learn more about Hoosier history and culture, and brought speakers to campus.

It’s fascinating then to see different parts of the program come together to enhance the classroom experience for Wabash men. That’s exactly what’s happening this weekend.

Matt Vest ’08, who studied German religious immigration into Indiana as part of the Present Indiana program this past summer, presented his video Friday to Steve Webb’s religion class, History of Christianity to the Reformation.

Using money from the same grant, Webb will lead his class Saturday to St. Meinrad, Indiana, to visit the monks and learn first hand about their life at the Archabbey.

We’ll put a full story up at the first of the week about the synergy which brought this trip alive for Wabash students.

Axtel Talks About Obsession with Sports

American Society’s obsession with sports, or specifically Professor of Mathmatics Mike Axtel’s obsession, was the focus of Thursday’s Chapel Talk. Hear the full Podcast of Axtel’s talk here.

Axtel, mixing readings with his own dry wit, talked about the importance many people put on sports and what it might say about them. He talked about his dislikes and likes in the sports world then broke down three values he sees in sports: glory, team identification, and self identification.

He equated glory to ego and noted people often use sports to achieve those attributes. He talked about his own involvement in sports. “ESPN is perhaps the only network my television is tuned to,” he joked. But also noted he teaches as an individual, does research as an individual, and with no children or wife, doesn’t belong to a lot of groups.

Axtel noted how team sports give people a sense of belonging and how individual accomplishment is “embarrassing” in a loss but simply a part of a team win.

He contrasted different motivations for the self identification in sports. While some seek out ‘the zone’ to be heroes other find a loss of self-awareness focusing on the sport that is comforting.

Next week’s Chapel Talk will be delivered Tuesday at 11:10 instead of Thursday. President Patrick White will give the fourth of four talks on the College’s 175th Anniversary.

Got Weekend Plans?

Jim Amidon — Now that Black Friday and the post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy have passed, the turkey and noodles and turkey potpie are gone, what’s next before the holidays? Thinking about a trip to Indy to see the world’s largest Christmas tree? What about a movie or an afternoon at the Indianapolis Museum of Art to check out the Roman exhibition?

I know what I’m doing this weekend.

I’m jumping in the car early Saturday morning, heading west, then turning north to watch the Wabash College football team square off against the Warhawks of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Mapquest tells me the trip is 305 miles and it says it’ll take me four hours and 56 minutes, door to door.

It’ll be worth the drive, even if it was twice as far. After all, Wabash will be playing football in December and that’s a very cool thing.

The Little Giants, by virtue of Saturday’s 38-25 win at Case Western last Saturday, have advanced to the Elite Eight of NCAA Division III football. To advance to the semifinals, Wabash will have to get past the Warhawks, who have lost to Mount Union in the last two national championship games.

Talk about a David and Goliath match-up.

Aside from championship football teams, there’s really not much the two schools have in common.

UW-Whitewater is a massive, state-supported university within the Wisconsin state university system. Founded in 1868, Whitewater has about 12 times as many students as tiny Wabash — 10,700. In fact, Whitewater enrolls about the same number of students each year as Wabash has total living alumni.

Wabash’s campus is nestled on under 60 total acres in Crawfordsville. The Whitewater campus is a sprawling 404 acres. Annual tuition at Whitewater is under $6,000. At Wabash, tuition is about $26,000 per year.

We’re talking apples and oranges.

But like most of the Wisconsin state universities, Whitewater plays NCAA Division III, non-scholarship football.

The second ranked Warhawks bang heads every week against large, state schools like themselves, so a look at the statistics sheet, while gaudy, doesn’t give you an accurate picture of just how good the 11-1 Warhawks are. Not since Wabash played Mount Union in the National Quarterfinals in 2002 has it played such a tough opponent. The Warhawks have beaten four top-20 teams this year alone.

Thanks to Gagliardi Finalist Justin Beaver, the Warhawks average more than 235 yards rushing per game with 25 rushing touchdowns. Beaver is the real deal in the backfield. He’s rushed for 1,881 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 171 yards per game, making him the most talented offensive player the Little Giants have faced all year.

Defenses really struggle to slow him down, but Wabash — with Gagliardi Finalist Adi Pynenberg (pictured left) leading the way — has steadily improved through the playoffs and held Case Western to minus-29 yards last week.

Whitewater’s size on the offensive and defensive lines could cause Wabash problems. The Little Giants dominated both sides of the line in Saturday’s win over Case Western, but they’ll face a huge challenge this week.

This whole season has been filled with challenges for Wabash, so I don’t expect the Little Giants will see themselves as the big underdogs most folks think they are. From a bevy of pre-season injuries to the loss of All-American quarterback Dustin Huff in the first game, Wabash has proven it can regroup and rise up behind its talented senior leaders.

The seniors stepped up last week at Case. Senior receivers Bart Banach, Mike Russell, Gabe Guerrero, and Ray Green combined for 18 catches for 207 yards and three touchdowns. Lineman Brian Hilts (pictured right) kept quarterback Matt Hudson safe and helped Wabash rush for 156 yards.

On the other side, Pynenberg, who now holds almost every single season and career defensive record at Wabash, has been rock solid as a leader and big-play performer. He and his fellow senior defensive starters will need to keep Wabash focused on the game at hand, not on Whitewater’s impressive size and statistics.

It’s fun to have Coach Creighton’s Little Giants playing among the most elite college football programs in the country. The pundits will say Wabash doesn’t have a chance — too small, too slow, didn’t play good enough competition along the way.

That’s okay with me.

I know the Little Giants will take a “Wabash Always Fights” attitude on the road to Whitewater, Wisconsin this Saturday. I’ll be part of the caravan cheering them on and reminding them what a special group of young men they are and how proud all of us are of them.

Soul Mates

Steve Charles—Proofing the upcoming issue of Wabash Magazine, I was re-reading a story I wrote a couple months ago about Steve Hunt ’76 and his daughter, Leslie.

The article begins with Leslie’s appearance as a finalist on Fox TV’s American Idol, but the piece is also about the musical gifts Leslie inherited from her dad, who is one of the most gifted musicians (and certainly the most talented percussionist) ever to attend Wabash.

During one of my trips to Chicago to hear Steve play free jazz with his band at Hotti Biscotti (one of the few places you can still hear music in a smoke-filled room!), Steve talked about his friendship with fellow Class of 76 musician Eric Johnson. Hunt, Johnson, Kyle Jones ’78, and Andy Murduck ’78 were the core of a group that played together on campus during Hunt’s Wabash days. Besides their many gigs on campus and around town, Steve has fond memories “of playing music late into the night in the basement of the Chapel.”

“We were like soul mates,” Hunt said of his friendship with Johnson, a friendship which continues to this day. Johnson chose music as a profession and lives in New York, while Hunt has a day job as vice-president of the Architectural Division of Northfield Block. The third band member, Kyle Jones, went on to law school, served as a legislator in Maine, and was instrumental in shutting down a nuclear reactor there. The trio was reunited in 1997 when they recorded their CD “Breakdown,” under the name EKS Crew—E for Eric, K for Kyle, and S for Steve, playing their style of jazz better than ever, 30 years after Wabash.

In the Wabash archives I found a photo of Hunt and Johnson from their Wabash days. Steve Hunt is looking up, watching Johnson, just as I watched him do three decades later in Chicago with his fellow musicians at Hotti Biscotti.

Playing music solo has its rewards, but there’s a reverie playing in an ensemble that is beyond anything a soloist will ever know. See if you can’t find it in Steve Hunt’s eyes in this shot I took of him playing at Hotti Biscottti. Then that look, with a more youthful intensity, in the photo from his Wabash days playing with Eric Johnson.

Soul mates.

Read about Steve and Leslie Hunt in “American Idyll,” the cover feature of the Fall 2007 Wabash Magazine, in the mail in time for the holidays.

Why I Am Thankful

Jim Amidon — The students, faculty, and staff of Wabash College have an enormous reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving week.

This week we are thankful that a handful of visionary leaders — Dartmouth-educated ministers — had the courage to leave the east coast 175 years ago to establish Wabash College on what was then the frontier.

Those men knew the wild west would need teachers and preachers, and on November 21, 1832 founded Wabash College in order to provide the education necessary to prepare men for lives of service.

To me it’s uncanny that the calendar lines up the way it does. When the Wabash founders gathered on a cold November evening exactly 175 years ago this week, they put together the necessary documents, gave thanks, and went to bed.

They woke the next morning, ventured out into the snow, and knelt in prayer. They prayed that their courageous vision would be successful. They gave thanks for the progress they had made to get to that point. They prayed for the tenacity to overcome great obstacles.

The anniversary of that event is this Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.

The founders faced untold obstacles — lots of them. There were funding problems, building problems, and fires that destroyed buildings. Over the course of Wabash’s great 175-year history, the obstacles have continued, many of which have been financial.

But true to the spirit of the founding fathers so long ago, Wabash has persevered and continued its long tradition of excellence and independence.

Wabash is an independent college. It does not receive state or federal money to conduct its academic program and never has. It relies on its alumni and friends to support it, and since 1832 there have been those who have believed in its mission, including this very community.

Early in the College’s history, the Crawfordsville community gave Wabash a large parcel of land on the western edge of town. College administrators almost immediately divided it up and sold half of it in order to have the funds necessary to continue operations.

When Wabash lost to fire one of its earliest academic buildings, the citizens of the community came forward with a donation of $2,000 to keep the institution solvent; to keep it going when finances were tight.

During World War II, Wabash President Frank Sparks kept the College alive by bringing to Crawfordsville the Navy’s V-12 officer training program. At one point, there were only 12 “regular” students enrolled at Wabash, but Sparks’ visionary — resourceful — thinking allowed the College to stay the course.

Over the years private foundations, too, have seen in Wabash something worthwhile and worth supporting. The Ford Foundation invested in Wabash at a critical point in its history, and Lilly Endowment Inc. has funded a range of scholarships, programs, and centers on this campus.

And perhaps the greatest tradition of all at Wabash is the tradition of alumni giving back for for the education they received when they were students. When they do so, they’re actually “paying it forward” and providing resources for future generations of students who want a rigorous liberal arts education to prepare them for life.

We have much to be thankful for this holiday season. I’d simply ask as you sit with friends and family on Thanksgiving Day, that you pause momentarily to remember the brave men and women who established Wabash College 175 years ago and have continued its work to this day.

Just imagine how thankful they felt on the morning of November 22, 1832 — cold, uncertain, and probably scared, but thankful.

A Well-Centered Tone

Steve Charles—I knew Mary Lou Mielke mostly for her gentle hospitality the several times I visited the Mielke’s home to work with her husband, Professsor Emeritus Paul Mielke, on photo spreads for Wabash Magazine. The walls were covered with photographs of landscapes and friends, but as you made your way upstairs, the pictures were of children and grandchildren. Her health was declining and moving around the house was difficult, yet she never lost patience with me as I asked about the pictures, and she lit up when we got to those of the children and grandchildren, the legacy of love that survives her.

But I also knew her from Wabash archive photos that show her performing music at Wabash (most famously at a rally for 1968 presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy) where she played in various ensembles and taught students from 1957 to 1985. She leaves a legacy there, too, through the Mary Louise Denney Scholarship.

A memorial service is planned for December, but with so much time elapsing between now and then, it seems fitting to keep this wonderful woman in our memories, and her family in our thoughts and prayers. I asked Professor Emeritus of French Dick Strawn, who played music with Mary Lou for four decades (including as part of the “Flat Baroque Ensemble!) to write a brief recollection of his friend from the perspective of a fellow musician, just to tide us over until that service:

“The other day I listened to a tape of Mary Lou Mielke playing the flute. ‘Plangent’ came to mind. I had to look it up: ‘1. having a loud reverberating sound; 2. having an expressive and esp. plaintive quality.’ Number 2 was it, often; number 1 only when she joined some band or other, and she frequently answered appeals for help. Who else was so dependable, could read anything at a glance, and played like a charm? She claimed not too much like anything post-Beethoven, preferably post-Mozart, but she played with understanding anything put in front of her. For someone so short of breath for so many years, she sustained a tone and phrased musically like a professional. A well-centered tone, not piercing. Silvery. She passed that understanding to her students and to her oboe- and bassoon-playing children and was the pivot of many a chamber-music ensemble at Wabash and in town.”

Few have done more for Wabash in as many ways as Paul Mielke, and the abiding love he and Mary Lou shared seemed the foundation that allowed him that service. I look forward learning more about Mary Lou from those who knew and loved her best, and to celebrating her life at the memorial service. I’m told there may be music; perhaps a chance for us to hear that “well-centered tone” she passed along to her children and students.

Founders’ Week: Placher Looks Back to 1907

As a professor who’s spent 30-plus years on campus, a graduate and respected scholar, Bill Placher can look at Wabash now and its history and offer interesting perspectives.

Placher ‘70 delivered the third of four Chapel Talks as part of the College’s 175th Anniversary. Here full podcast of Placher’s Chapel talk here.

The Professor of Religion focused on 100 years ago, or 1907 – a time he called one of the greatest in Wabash’s 175-year history. 

He told the Thursday morning gathering it was a time of dissension among the faculty over curriculum change and a time of memorable coaches, teachers and students.

Placher talked about legendary football coach Francis Cayou. He noted Wabash’s win at Notre Dame in 1905, wins over Purdue in ’06 and ’07. He also recounted the great halftime speech he’s noted for in Little Giant lore as told by Jim Amidon ’87 in the second of the four speeches on the College’s beginnings and history.

But Placher added more to the story.  He told of how Cayou celebrated a little too much after the Little Giants – a moniker he is credited with beginning – won that famous game. He missed the train ride home with the team and was later released because of his conduct.

He then turned his attention to a short-term, but very famous professor – Ezra Pound. The acclaimed poet taught French and Spanish for a short period. Pound was somewhat flamboyant, for his time Placher suggested. He offered the story of Pound sharing his small boarding room with a young lady that led to his dismissal.

Pound took his remaining salary, Placher said, and headed off to Venice, Italy, “where he wrote some of the greatest poetry of the 20th Century.

Placher skillfully weaved in the story of Robert Winter who graduated in 1909 and then spent most all of his adult life in China. He came back to Pound and shared a brief passage of poetry Pound wrote while publicly imprisoned after his arrest by American soldiers in Italy at the end of World War II.

He suggested the love of Wabash College is about the teaching and learning which goes on in 2007, and which took place in 1907, and all the way back to the College’s beginnings in 1832.

A Way of Life

Steve Charles—Filmmaker Ted Steeg ’52 spent his first years after Wabash in Greenwich Village, sharing an apartment with screenwriter Dan Wakefield and immersing himself in the “alternative society” of the New York City of that day—the new journalism of the Village Voice, the writing of Kerouac, Salinger, Mailer, and Ginsberg, the music of Thelonius Monk and Mabel Mercer, and the efforts of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement.

“Being in New York in the 50s was like being in Paris in the 1920s and 30s,” Ted said. “It was where it was happening; all the new stuff was happening right here.”

Not the typical Wabash man’s life of the 50s, perhaps, but no film I’ve seen has captured the spirit of Wabash and a liberal arts education as well as Steeg’s documentary, “A Way of Life.”

The music of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” plays as it opens with scenes of the frontier Wabash would be carved out of, and it just gets better from there. It is beautifully filmed (there’s a vividness of color video just can’t capture), creatively shot, and it gives you a chance to see and hear the Wabash of the 70s and some of the men who made that community.

We see Wabash legends like Eric Dean, Fred Enenbach, and Eliot Williams. We sit on the College mall as President Thad Seymour reads awful poetry with a straight face on the infamous Elmore Day, then we watch him welcome with sincerity the new class on Freshman Saturday.

It’s almost like seeing your family’s best lost home movies; that is, if Steven Spielberg was the one in your family who liked to play with the camera.

I got to know Ted Steeg during his service on the Wabash Magazine Editorial Board a few years ago. He always had creative, workable ideas, several of which still drive the way the magazine is put together. But seeing this film, I understand even better how fortunate we were to have him on that board, and how fortunate the College is to have his documentaries in our archives.

Archivist Beth Swift will be showing “A Way of Life” tomorrow at 7:30 in Salter Hall as part of her presentation “Wabash in Pictures and Film”, itself a part of this week’s Founder’s Day celebration marking the 175th anniversary of the College’s founding.

If you want to see some of those legendary names from the College’s history and get a better sense of where we came from, you ought to be there. And given all the talk of tradition on this campus, it’s fascinating to look back at the 70s and see what tradition was then—what has gone away, and what is very much alive today.

Watching Ted’s movie, I couldn’t help notice how often he used the word “independence.” He calls Wabash “a way of life, of character, independence, and excellence.” It emphasizes the fact the College has no government or church support. The College’s goal is to educate men to be “independent, free-thinking individuals.”

Independence. That’s Ted Steeg. That’s what he went to New York to find, that’s what he brought back with him to make this film. As his friend Dan Wakefield said of their venturing to the City: “We had decided to take risks, and we had come to New York to become the best we could be.”

Photo: Ted Steeg during the ceremony marking his donation of his films to the College archives. Ted’s most recent appearance in film was in front of the camera, as he and Dan Wakefield were interviewed for the 2004 film New York in the 50s.

A Classic Bell-Ringer

Jim Amidon — The Monon Bell rings in Greencastle this morning, the result of the DePauw Tigers’ stirring 24-21, last-second victory over the Wabash Little Giants in Saturday’s 114th Monon Bell Classic.

For many of the 8,000 fans on hand, the moment at the end of the game was eerily similar to the 2001 game when Wabash broke a tie with a Hail Mary pass with 2.7 seconds left to win the Monon Bell.

Exactly six years to the day later, DePauw returned the favor with a 47-yard field goal with 2.4 seconds left to capture the victory.

While my heart aches for the Little Giants, particularly the amazing seniors, games like Saturday’s contest are the stuff of legend; they are the reason the Monon Bell rivalry is without question the finest rivalry game in the land.

The win closed the gap in the overall series to 53 wins for Wabash, 52 for DePauw, and nine ties. It can’t get much closer. And the rivalry certainly can’t get much more intense.

It truly was a classic game — a terrific college football game on a warm and golden Saturday in November. If there are football gods, they were smiling on the Monon Bell Classic Saturday.

The stars on both teams shined brightly, even brilliantly from start to finish. Wabash’s sophomore quarterback Matt Hudson, playing in his first bell-ringer, was fantastic in throwing for 322 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for another score.

Senior receiver Mike Russell, who has provided so many memorable plays in his career, caught eight passes for more than 150 yards and two of his long receptions set up Wabash touchdowns.

Wabash’s All-American linebacker Adi Pynenberg (pictured right with Coach Creighton), who provided what would have been the play of the game had Wabash won, was nothing short of spectacular. The Little Giants’ all-time leading tackler posted a game-high 19 tackles, two behind the line, and played the entire second half with a stinging sore shoulder.

The shoulder injury? The result of a bruising blow he delivered in the final seconds of the first half when he stopped fullback Brett Claxton short of the goal line on what appeared to be an easy DePauw touchdown. The Tigers did not score, failing on fourth down while Pynenberg’s aching shoulder was being examined.

On the other side of the field was Crawfordsville native Matt Walker earning his first Monon Bell victory as a coach, a prideful moment for the whole Walker family. His star runner, Jeremiah Marks, could not have been better running or catching passes from quarterback Spud Dick.

Even though I am a true Little Giant fan, Marks’ performance was one of the best I’ve seen in my 25 Monon Bell games. That performance, overshadowed somewhat by the game-ending field goal, will vault Marks’ name into Monon history with the likes of Huntsman, Harvey, Parker, Broecker, Bevelhimer, Kaiser, Kogan, Knott, and Short (all Wabash players, of course, but like I said, I’m biased).

Nothing would have been sweeter than to have heard the Monon Bell echoing throughout Crawfordsville Saturday night. But no team ever seems to dominate this particular rivalry and Wabash had been 5-1 in Bell games under brilliant head coach Chris Creighton.

And to be honest, it was just a great college football game with big plays, a sold-out stadium, the star players stepping up time and time again, and fantastic drama until the very end.

Congratulations to the Tigers on a great victory.

Congratulations to the Little Giants, who played like the champions they are. And those same Little Giants will have at least one more opportunity to play for their rabid fans when they host a first round playoff game this Saturday for the third time in six years.

As they have all year, they’ll take it one game at a time with a goal of going 1-0 this weekend.

The Bell may not be ringing here this morning, but Wabash is still in the running for the national championship. And that’s got a nice ring to it.

Chapel Talk Fires Up Community for Bell Game

Little Giant football Coach Chris Creighton had a big Chapel Talk crowd on its feet Thursday morning ready to storm down 231 to keep possession of the Monon Bell.

In what has become an annual tradition, Creighton delivered a fiery Chapel Talk in preparation for Saturday’s 114th Monon Bell Classic. The entire Wabash Community filed out of the Chapel for a community photo following the talks.

Creighton, in his seventh year, talked about his team’s “passion” theme throughout his remarks. Four seniors preceded Creighton to the podium to reflect on the rivalry.

But it was Creighton’s closing remarks which had the Little Giants ready for battle. He talked about how people always want to talk about matchups in a big game. Then he read comments from each football senior on what the word passion meant to them.

One by one each senior stood as Creighton read their words. “I’ll those guys against anyone, any where, anytime,” he told the crowd. The attendees then gave the seniors a prolonged standing ovation.

Creighton then asked anyone in the Chapel who loved Wabash to please stand. He then brought the crowd to a roar declaring, “If you want to talk about matchups, it’s all of us against all of them.”

Senior All-American linebacker, who opened the Chapel remarks, took it a step further than his coach.  He called Wabash football and being a Wabash student a “lifestyle.”

“How bad to they want it on Feb. 13 at 6 a.m. when we’re trudging across campus to go to weight lifting,” Pynenberg asked. “As a football player, a football team, and the Wabash community, I say to DePauw: Come take this Bell from us. I dare you!”

Andy Deig followed Pynenberg with similar themes. “Being a part of the Wabash community is hard,” he said. “Once you come here you have to stay tough.”

He got the day’s biggest laugh when he talked about the football team’s fashion statement. “Does half of their campus have a Mohawk right now?”

Many, but not all, of the football team members shaved their heads into Mohawks this week.

Mike Russell talked about the team’s 1-0 approach to the season. The team simply seeks to be 1-0 each week, “no matter what happens the week before.”

“Saturday is our chance to show what Wabash College is all about.”

Richard Roomes talked about the team’s desire to suffocate opponents. He recalled a game last season against Allegheny which the Little Giants led 35-7 in the third quarter. The Gators stormed back to within a touchdown before Wabash recorded the win.

“Suffocate also translates into our (all Wabash men) pursuit of excellence,” Roomes said. “We’re a different breed. We are men who wish not to wallow in mediocrity.”

A full Podcast of Thursday’s Chapel Talk will be online Monday.

In photos: Top to bottom: Creighton, Pynenberg, Deig, Russell, Roomes.