Yeah, A Lot Goes On Here During The Summer

Jim Amidon — My colleague Steve Charles and I were talking last week and we both remarked how frequently we get asked, “So, do you guys at Wabash have summers off?”

Easy answer: “No!”

Talking about that got us both mumbling and grumbling. But Steve did what he always does — he creatively imagined a special section in Wabash Magazine devoted to what happens across campus during the summer months.

It’s true. There are scores of people in our community — and a good many Wabash alumni — who think the place pretty much closes down once reunion weekend is over.

No, we don’t offer summer classes for credit, but there are plenty of staff, students, and faculty hard at work.

Here’s a sample:

The folks in the Advancement Office are working their tails off to reach the Annual Fund goal. Our fiscal year ends today and it appears for certain we will surpass our goal of $2.85 million in gifts to the College designated for the Annual Fund.

That’s meant hundreds of phone calls, emails, and personal visits on the part of the staff. We did a couple of direct mail campaigns and reworked stories on the website every day down the stretch.

Meanwhile the team in the Business Office is pulling double duty. They’re trying to get the budget in place for the new fiscal year, which starts tomorrow, and simultaneously closing out the books on this year. What is their reward for completing both tasks in the span of a few weeks? Just a month-long visit from the auditing firm, that’s all.

Perhaps you read last week that there were a couple hundred wrestlers on campus for a camp that included two Olympic champions as teacher/coaches. There were also tennis and basketball camps last week, along with a soccer camp earlier in the summer. The Opportunities to Learn About Business summer program, which brings 60 high school seniors to campus, begins in two weeks.

The Campus Services group never slows down. They take time in the summer when they have access to classrooms to fix and upgrade the facilities and put fresh coats of paint on about every vertical surface at the College. And thanks to the late-spring wind and storms, we’re removing several tons of damaged trees.

My colleagues in Public Affairs are upgrading the website, wrapping up one large issue of Wabash Magazine and another smaller, commemorative version, preparing four publications used during the academic year, and we shot a recruitment video early last week (picture above right). Not much going on, really.

While we were out shooting the video across campus, I had the opportunity to see how many students are working here this summer. There are students working with science professors in Hays Hall on important research. Other students are working with Director Tim Lake on historical research conducted through the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies that traces the early history of African Americans in the state of Indiana.

Another 13 students are completing their Present Indiana projects that range from the history of Crispus Attucks High School to the Rails to Trails system across the state. And another dozen students are wrapping up an intense eight-week Business Immersion Program.

Still other students are interning in the Schroeder Center for Career Development, the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts, Lilly Library, and the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.

So, yes, there is a lot that goes on at Wabash during the summer. But the pace is different. The energy level is off slightly simply because the students aren’t here in their regular routines.

And hard as it is for me to believe, the students will return to prepare for the fall semester in a little over a month. That’s about when I’ll not only be ready for vacation, I’ll really, really need one!


Steve Charles—The best thing about living at 615 S. Water Street here in Crawfordsville is the neighbors.

It’s a great house—Professor Ted Bedrick’s old place, and Terri Fyffe’s grandmother’s before that. High ceilings, wood floors, open spaces, and plenty of windows to let in the light. It’s the first place I’ve lived as an adult that really feels like home.

But our neighbors make it better.

Tony and Nancy Kashon welcomed us the day we moved in.

I already knew Nancy; she was assistant to the Dean of the College. Her feigned motherly scolding, no-nonsense approach to most things academic, and dry sense of humor were one of the best reasons for hanging out in that office. A lot of students did that, too. I remember Commencement ceremonies when students grabbed Nancy to have her picture taken with them. Already the mother of four sons, Nancy picked up a bunch more during her years at Wabash. The year of her retirement, faculty, staff, students, and family all sang to her in the west lobby of Center Hall. And even after her retirement, international students still got together in her backyard for a picnic.

I first got to know Tony when he offered his help as we unloaded the moving van, the beginning of a litany of assistance and advice given and tools offered (one of those tools still lies somewhere beneath my deck). We share trips in his Dodge Dakota to pick up the family extension ladder, beers on hot days, celebratory shots of Crown Royal on holidays.

Then there’s the banter across the alley with Nancy about the College, flowers, and grandkids, or with Tony about the lawn, his hobby of clowning (and my fear of clowns), or the squirrels he’s trapped in his backyard and released across town (we disagree about the likelihood of their finding their way back).

On days when my wife, CJ, suddenly disappears from the house, I know I can usually find her in the alley, talking with Nancy or Tony across their split rail fence.

Living alongside one another is like taking a long journey together. You learn what matters most to the other folks. You see the comings and going of longtime friends, parents, grandkids. You watch them take care of their parents. You watch them be there for their kids. You watch them play with their grandkids. The house is full for birthdays and holidays.†

You hear advice—like how much fun those grandkids can be, but how important it is to attend to your own relationship. When you hear that from a man and woman who have been married for 46 years, you pay attention.

You see that building a deck, or a garden, or a garage, is really about creating a space for those you love. For all those rituals and celebrations of being family.

If you’re lucky enough to live next to wise and loving neighbors like Nancy and Tony, you can learn something.

In the past few months they have taught us how love perseveres in the face of adversity. Nancy was diagnosed with cancer last year, barely into retirement. I was moved when they took time to tell us about this in person so that we “wouldn’t have to hear it from others.”
Another lesson in being neighbors.

In the months since then we’ve learned how a woman faces a terrible disease with courage, hope, and faith. We‘ve learned how a man cares for and stands firm for what’s best for the one he loves.

Nancy died Wednesday morning. Knowing time might be short, the whole family had gathered last weekend. A picture of everyone together was taken.

The last time I saw Nancy was on Tuesday. She was being carried to the ambulance through their backyard, the place where her children and grandchildren played, under the tree her grandsons climb, through the gardens she and Tony tended, the lawn Tony always mows several days before I get to mine. That space they had created for those they love. She was sitting up, looking forward, the sun on her face.

In the cold of winter this year after one of her chemotherapy sessions, she’d admitted how tired she was of the cold, how she couldn’t wait for spring and summer and those warm breezes.

“And I want to see that grandson of yours running around your backyard,” she said. I was touched that he meant something to her, that she was looking forward to a milestone in his life. I kept that in mind this spring as I churned and chopped up the soil and planted bags of seed to get grass to grow in our previously mostly barren yard.

She couldn’t see him, but as the paramedics wheeled Nancy to the ambulance, our grandson Myca was sitting on a blanket, his first time really playing on that new grass. From where I stood on the deck I could see both Nancy and Myca. It’s an image I am holding in my memory by writing this, an image I’ll recall when I watch Myca play, certainly on the day he first runs there. A reminder to tell him that the best thing about the house he lives in is the neighbors.

Note: Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday, June 23 at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church. Friends may call from 6-8:00 p.m. Sunday evening and from 10-11 a.m. Monday morning. Online condolences can be sent to

Bashful Tales from Big Bash Weekend

Jim Amidon — I spent big chunks of last week sitting in my office at Wabash College editing digital videotape. I got most of the way through nine tapes — over 10 hours — of footage that was shot weekend before last during the College’s Fifth Annual Big Bash Reunion Weekend.

This year for Big Bash we set up a video production room in Lilly Library. My colleagues on the Wabash staff — Beth Swift, Steve Charles, Marilyn Smith, Jeana Rogers, and Brandon Hirsch (pictured), along with alumnus Josh Owens — proceeded to interview 35 alumni over the course of two days and captured hundreds of stories on digital video.

They got the idea from National Public Radio’s “Story Corps” project. In Story Corps, NPR sets up an audio recording booth for people to enter by themselves and tell the most interesting stories of their lives.

With more than 300 alumni — ages 27 to 87 — returning to the College, we figured we had the perfect opportunity to capture some great stories about their lives at Wabash. We called the project “Scarlet Yarns.”

And boy did we get some good stories, some of which date all the way back to the fall semester of 1939.

Most of the stories are about relationships with faculty, the rigor of the classroom experience, and the friendships that were formed while the guys were students.

Click here to see a short sample clip — Phil Krause ’58 talking about Professor Willis Johnson.

Pete Prengaman of the Class of 1998 talked about the profound influence Swim Coach Gail Pebworth has had on his life. Gail’s mantra, the constant pursuit of excellence — didn’t mean much to Pete when he was a swimmer in the 90s, but now he thinks about pursuing excellence in his daily life as a husband, neighbor, and editor/reporter for the Associated Press.

Steve Kain ’63 told a story about how his son, then a junior at Wabash, got mono and had to miss three weeks at the end of the semester. The elder Kain was worried that his son would be off pace to graduate, so he picked up the phone — at 10 p.m. — and called Dean Norman Moore at his home. Dean Moore looked into the issue and called Steve back the next morning, and with a reassuring tone, said, “Everything will be just fine. He’ll graduate on time.”

Those stories — and literally hundreds like them — were captured in the span of less than 24 hours when the alumni returned to campus for Big Bash.

Eugene King of the Class of 1978 admitted that he was not a ground-breaker as an African American student at Wabash in the fall of 1974. He said much of the heavy lifting in terms of integration had already been done before he arrived.

Several alumni from the Class of 1973 — who entered in 1969 — talked about the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, and the College’s fierce interest in serving African American students. The Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies was founded during that time.

Glenn Pride from the Class of 1963 said one of the big issues on campus during his time at Wabash was a movement to allow Wabash’s black students to get haircuts in town; previously they had not been permitted to enter local barbershops.

Many of the stories were funny, too, and some even a little embarrassing. In the section of video clips I’m tentatively calling “Bashful Tales,” I’m squirreling away about an hour’s worth of stories that have rarely — if ever — been told. Like this one:

Carl Kelley of the Class of 1943 recalled the first day of his comparative anatomy class in the fall of ’39. Remembering in detail what his professor said to the all-male class, Kelley said in professorial tone, “Guys, this is a course that will teach you the differences between animals and humans. And I know what you’re thinking, but this is not a class about sex.”

There were Bashful Tales about incidents at DePauw, run-ins with Dean Moore, water balloon fights, and celebrating victories in the Monon Bell Game.

My colleagues were really on to something when they conjured up the idea to interview our alumni. And the alumni were really thrilled to have the opportunity to tell their Wabash stories.

What I’ve discovered in watching the video and editing down the various clips is the richness of the Wabash experience and the influence the College has on the lives of the men who live and learn here. Now comes the hard part: taking so much rich and wonderful material and editing it into a DVD that is as equally compelling as the stories themselves.

Two Under 21 Assist with 39 Under 39

Howard W. Hewitt – I wrote after last year’s Big Bash how much fun it is to have a couple of students here helping us out in Public Affairs for the big reunion weekend.

It was so much fun, in fact, that we did it again this year. Juniors Patrick McAlister and Gary James were here to interview 10 young alums under the age of 39 for our 39 UNDER 39 project. And as usual, they did a great job.

But I felt like there was even more to the story this year. We were also able to arrange one of those unique Wabash mentoring situations for the two young men. Patrick and Gary each have a strong interest in journalism and perhaps an even stronger affinity for politics. 

So after his Saturday afternoon colloquium presentation, former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith spent about a half hour with the guys talking politics, public service and public policy.

What a great moment for these two young men to be able to pick the brain of a self-described “policy wonk” and certainly one of the best. Goldsmith lectures at Harvard in the Kennedy School of Government and is Chairman of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Goldsmith was enthusiastic about spending time with the guys when asked.

A great Wabash moment! I asked each of the guys to reflect on that private time.

Patrick McAlister ’10 – I have consistently been under the impression that after one leaves pubic office one’s life of public service could be over. Sure there might be some foundation or philanthropic organization one might be a part of but actual substantive service would most likely be over; you would be retired.

After having the opportunity to talk with Mayor Goldsmith, my perceptions have changed.

Ever since his tenure as mayor of Indiana’s largest city has been over, he seems to have found many ways to put in time to best work. Aside from teaching young leaders at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard he is Chair of the Corporation for National and Community Service and sits on the board of America’s Promise. Each of these ventures ensures both a busy schedule and a life of substantial public service involvement.

In his talk, I was refreshed at how measured and reasoned his thoughts on major issues were. So often we see candidates whittling down major pieces of public policy to mere sound bites. Goldsmith seems to be a ‘policy wonk’; someone searching for solutions to major problems, leaving blind partisanship and ideological extremism out in favor of pragmatism.

In an environment as politically charged as Washington, coming to a ‘pragmatic’ solution may prove to be impossible. Goldsmith discussed how, as President Bush’s leader of the Office of Faith Based Initiatives he attempted to push for a pragmatic solution to an issue. After weighing the options he arrived at what seemed to be the logical solution to the
problem; after wrangling with congressmen on both sides over the issue he could not figure out why none of them could see it the way he saw it. After a time he realized that congressmen would rather haggle over the issue than arrive at a sensible solution.

Pragmatism, I think, is a gift Wabash provides for each graduate – the ability to analyze a problem, consider all of the ‘sides’ and come up with the most logical solution. Not all graduates employ this gift, but it is refreshing to see one that does. Attempting to bring about pragmatic changes in an environment like DC where bickering takes center stage can
seem impossible.

Here’s to hoping Wabash men employ this gift in public service.

Gary James ’10 – When I was growing up , I would occasionally hear adults fret seriously about the prospects for my generation. We grew up in an age of instant gratification, the digital age, and, at least in their opinion, without having to struggle the way previous generations did.

Of course, I never believed the criticism. And I was pleased to find Former Indianapolis Mayor and Professor of Government at Harvard University Stephen Goldsmith ’68 did not either. In his colloquium and in our conversation afterward, he spoke of the drive to serve that has consumed many young Americans, especially after September 11. They have signed up for Teach for America, Americorp, Peace Corp, and other service opportunities at all levels, both in and out of government.

Mr. Goldsmith seemed to understand my generation’s desire and ability to serve different causes in a way the adults from my childhood did not. Not only are we willing to seek out volunteer opportunities, but we are able to create our own, in what Mr. Goldsmith accurately described as “2.0 technologies,” such as facebook widgets.

Knowing his record in politics and academia, it should not surprise me that Mr. Goldsmith has an acute sense of a world changing and a new generation stepping up the plate of history. He spoke with confidence and authority about the ability to raise money and create causes and groups on social networking sights that can literally span the country in a matter of hours – a reality that has interesting implications for politics.

Mr. Goldsmith said Illinois Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign has really channeled both young people’s drive for service and their ability of the internet to a vehicle to gain support. He said whatever one’s political leanings, more people involved in service and government is a positive sign about the future. And I couldn’t agree more.

Davis ’00 Crossing Country in Name of Sustainability

Gary James ’10 – Around noontime Thursday, Wabash College became an official stop on Andy Davis ’00 and Melissa Henige’s 2500 miles sustainability tour from Bloomington to San Francisco. With their bikes and nearly 200 pounds of equipment on the trailers they were pulling behind them, the couple from Bloomington decided to stop at Lilly Library at Andy’s alma mater. 

Andy, a religion major from Bloomington who graduated in 2000, and his fiancée Melissa, originally from Chesaning, Michigan, are on a 100-day journey to make a film about efforts to create a culture of sustainability across the country.

In addition to some necessities, Melissa and Andy are also carrying video equipment to document their travels and the sustainable living choices made by businesses, organizations, communities, and individuals they meet along the way. They will create regular episodes about their travels, which will be posted on their website – – and they also plan to create a documentary about the experience. Their bike route encompasses Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, Yellowstone Park, Boise, and Portland.

The journey began Tuesday, but Andy and Melissa have been delayed for past few days by threatening weather. They’ve visited DePauw in Greencastle to have sustainability conversations with school organizers there. They have also interviewed the Moody family of Moody Farms in Waveland. Andy and Melissa said they were excited by Moody Farms’ leadership as an example of sustainable growth that is good for the environment as well as the local economy.

“I want to motivate and inspire myself and others at looking at sustainable practices,” Melissa said. “We have a long way to go as a society, cities, businesses, and organizations. We really need to push the envelope here. We’re trying to see what is going on and how to address all sort of economic, environmental, and ecological questions in our communities. We want to take what we’ve learned, and do something in Bloomington, or wherever we end up, to take action.”

Andy was also very concerned about the application side of their efforts.

 In the weeks before their journey, Andy and Melissa sold their cars and quit their jobs covering city government for Community Access Television Services (CATS), where they first met. And until Mid-August, they will be relying on the generosity and hospitality of their fellow Americans and Mother Nature. They have already slept on a porch and have been fed by strangers. The ecologically-conscious couple plans to camp through the Mid- and Mountain West all the way to the Pacific Coast, where they will most likely return by train.