Kim Johnson – One of my favorite things about what I do is getting to meet Wabash alumni. Our “39 Under 39” project has given me several opportunities to do just that. This month I’ve enjoyed two very different road trips where I met two similar but very different alumni.

Both men I met were from the Class of ’98, both were psychology majors, and both grew up in small towns. They were both easy to talk to and very welcoming. Both see that their time at Wabash taught them how to learn and prepared them to take on diverse challenges.

As similar as they appear on the surface, it’s interesting how divergent their paths have become since they walked across the commencement stage ten years ago.

Ah… the beauty of a Wabash eduation.

A couple weeks ago I met Kevin Gearheart ’98 – a former letterman on the basketball team and member of the Sons of Wabash. Kevin is now the COO for Dr. Tavel Family Eye Care where he oversees the operations of the 19 Dr. Tavel locations across the state of Indiana. He got his start in business technology and telecommunications when he and a couple classmates moved to Colorado after graduating to participate in a management development program started by Wabash alum Bob Knowling ’77.

I met up with Kevin at the new Dr. Tavel location at the Greenwood Park Mall. The office is located in the beautifully renovated “Lifestyle Center” of the mall that includes new restaurants and upscale shopping. We sat down and visited in the plush entrance area to the main mall.

Kevin likes to win, or better yet, hates to lose. He is driven by the desire to make Dr. Tavel the name in family eye care in Indiana as a result of their high-quality care and outstanding service. He is very involved in the technology “revolution” that is transforming the way healthcare is delivered. Even during our visit he was working with the technology intern on setting up a new computer system in the Greenwood office.

On the flip side, my latest adventure took me through the rolling hills and winding roads of southern Indiana to just outside the small town of Vevay. Here I met Adam Cole ’98, photographer and owner of Three Spot Images. We (my mom accompanied me on this particular trip) pulled up to his log home and office/studio in the country to find him with his wife and youngest daughter on the wrap-around porch enjoying the summer afternoon anticipating our arrival.

While I talked with Adam and followed him through a senior portrait session, his wife Amanda and my mom sat on the porch chatting about their times at Purdue and experiences of Wabash through loved ones. Mom later commented how the conversation was easy and Amanda treated her like they had been friends for life.

Adam, known as “Spot” around the Theta Delta Chi house, was a member of the Sphinx Club and Interfraternity Council. He has returned to his small town roots (just miles from where he and his wife grew up) to build his business.

He stumbled onto photography because he “had to take a class in fine arts” as part of his degree requirements at Wabash. He and a fraternity brother decided to take a photography class together. He has embraced technology and digital photography for creating, editing, and building an amazing portfolio of work, but he readily admits that it was the “science-like” discovery in the dark room that originally stirred his interest in photography.

What have I learned from these two and the other alumni I have met throughout the past eight months? The sky is the limit with a Wabash liberal arts education. Music majors go to dental school, psychology majors own photography studios, art majors are lettermen on the football team, everybody works hard, and you can’t ever judge a book by its cover.

To read more about these and other young alumni, visit the 39 Under 39 homepage. It will be updated periodically throughout the next several months.