Oakes ’86 Sworn in as Judge

Jim Amidon — Wabash alumnus Tim Oakes ’86 has dreamed of becoming a judge for as long as I can remember — and I’ve known him for more than 25 years.

His dream became reality — officially — on Monday when Oakes was sworn in as Marion County Superior Court Judge at a ceremony held in the Indiana Supreme Court Courtroom attended by hundreds of Tim’s family members, colleagues, and friends.

It was standing-room-only in the courtroom, while others stood in the doorway as Oakes was sworn in.

Why such a big deal?

Because Oakes so badly wanted a post like this and worked so hard to achieve it. Mostly, though, it was hard work and perseverance that led Oakes to the bench.

To understand why I felt so much pride for Oakes on Monday, you have to understand the person and just how far he’s come. If ever there was a “classic Wabash success story,” put a gold star by this one. But it didn’t come easy.

Oakes was a long-shot for career success as a teenager attending Arsenal Tech High School on Indianapolis’ near eastside. His family didn’t have any money and there were few if any intellectual role models for him.

Even when he graduated third in his class of over 600 students, Oakes had trouble finding a job. Eventually a friend gave him a chance — to wash dishes — and he learned about work ethic. And thanks to the kindness of teachers, friends, and family, he would matriculate to Wabash College and even study at Oxford University (helped in large measure by “Dean Moore loans”).

Tim has attracted people who believe in him throughout his life, and unlike most people I know, he has always made the most of every opportunity.

After graduating from Wabash, he became a Governor’s Fellow for then-Indiana Governor Robert Orr, who found something special in the tall, gangly Wabash political science major. After the yearlong internship, Oakes was hired by Governor Orr to serve as his scheduler, a position that put Oakes into contact with Indiana’s most important and influential people.

Oakes attended law school — at night — and earned his law degree in 1991. For eight years, he practiced in the areas of criminal defense, family law, government affairs, and probate. He was also a part-time public defender with Marion and Shelby counties.

Not only did he serve on Governor Orr’s staff, he also worked with Indianapolis Mayors Bill Hudnut and Steve Goldsmith (Wabash ’68).

He also worked with the Indiana House of Representatives and the Republican Caucus as contract legal counsel from 2001-2004. It was then that he left private practice to become vice president and general counsel for the Indiana Cable Telecommunications Association.

The son of working class parents had little trouble moving in any circles, from Indiana’s elite politicians to the most troubled of the state’s citizens. That’s why I think he’ll make a terrific judge.

So Oakes didn’t want the Investiture Ceremony to be about him; it was to be for all the people who helped him realize his dreams.

“I am proud and privileged to serve, but this is really your day… Today is all about my teachers,” Oakes said as he introduced two of his IPS grade school teachers who were on hand, as well as his friends and professional colleagues.

“Today is for my grade school and high school friends… I know where you came from and I am proud of you.”

He also singled out the late Bill Placher, Wabash’s LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities who died November 30.

“Today is about Bill Placher, my college professor and religious advisor,” Oakes said with tears in his eyes. “He welcomed so many young men to college. He brought them through and turned them out as good men. Today is his day.”

It really was a ceremony all about Oakes’ friends and family — those who believed in a young man from a rough neighborhood, but with a sharp mind, quick wit, and strong work ethic.

Mark Massa, who serves as general counsel for Governor Mitch Daniels, was master of ceremonies as Oakes took the oath of office. Oakes’ long-time friend, Devin Anderson, also gave remarks. Both men referenced their pride in Oakes’ path to get to the bench, and the promise he holds as a judge.

The Honorable Cale J. Bradford, Indiana Court of Appeals Judge, gave Oakes the oath of office, but first offered a few comments about his friend.

“Serving the bench requires patience, kindness, and common sense, and Tim has all of those qualities,” said Judge Bradford.

“He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.”

As I left the courtroom after the ceremony, Judge Bradford’s comments echoed in my mind. He got it right when he referred to Oakes as patient, kind, smart, and full of common sense. But I’d also add that he’s one of the hardest-working friends I’ll ever have.

Congratulations, Judge Oakes.


Photos: Top — Oakes thanks his family and friends who were on hand for his Investiture Ceremony. Bottom — Oakes is congratulated by Wabash senior Brent Kent.

Spirit of Giving

Jim Amidon — As I sat down to write this last Friday, I did so with a smile on my face. I had just finished writing a few brief stories about some of the good works Wabash students had done as the semester wound to a close. Before long, I was beaming with pride.

And since Wabash seemed to get its fair share of bad press this fall, it occurred to me that it was high time to focus a shining light on some of the lesser-known good deeds I discovered.

Perhaps you saw the picture in last Friday’s paper of the four Sphinx Club members presenting a check to Andy Ford at the Montgomery County Family Crisis Shelter. I drove over with Sphinx Club President Kyle Hayes and members Elliott Allen, Kevin Long, and Denver Wade when the students handed over checks for about $1,200.

The money came from the Sphinx Club’s annual fund-raiser, Co-Motion, the proceeds from which go the Family Crisis Shelter here in Crawfordsville and the Julian Center in Indianapolis.

Co-Motion is a joint fund-raising competition between Wabash and DePauw; the two schools spend the month of November raising money for local domestic violence shelters — and raising awareness of the horrors of domestic violence.

When I got back to campus after taking the picture of this year’s check presentation, I asked my friend Terri Fyffe to look up some numbers. I was shocked — and thrilled — to learn from Terri that Wabash’s Co-Motion donations to the Family Crisis Shelter have totaled more than $9,800 in just the last three years.

Earlier in the week, I learned that the Wabash Student Senate voted to donate $1,000 to insulate a Habitat for Humanity house near campus, a house on which a number of Wabash students have worked throughout the fall.

The same night the students voted to pay for the Habitat house’s insulation, they also voted to adopt more children in this year’s REINdear program.

The Wabash chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a national service fraternity, had been collecting REINdear money from students all across campus. The Student Senate added another $1,000, and by the time the finals week ended, Wabash students had purchased toys and clothes for 50 REINdear children in our community to provide for them a merrier Christmas.

Thanks, as well, to the faculty and staff at Wabash for their efforts to provide REINdear gifts for 43 more children in our community.

Philanthropy seems to be in the air, which is a good thing when so many families are facing such hardships.

Speaking of philanthropy, did you know that the folks who own the two new coffee shops in town, Good to Go Xpresso, are making donations to our local schools?

Swing by and ask for a punch card for Wabash. Each time you purchase an espresso, coffee, or smoothie, get your card punched. You’ll not only save a buck on a future drink, you’ll be helping out the College.

Last Thursday, I went with my colleague Joe Emmick to meet Sharon and Kurt Conklin, the coffee shops’ owners (left). They presented Joe with a check from the first few months of the Wabash punch card program. The donations will be pooled over time, and will provide a scholarship for a Montgomery County student who attends Wabash.

What a cool business model, I thought as I left the coffee shop on 231 south.

On the way home, it occurred to me that we have a lot of local businesses that do similar good deeds. You see it when Johnny Provolone’s turns over its restaurant to the Sugar Creek Players or a youth group. You see it when kids are bagging groceries at County Market, and when Applebee’s has special nights when proceeds go back into our community.

As 2008 comes to a close, many in our community face uncertain futures. Many among us will lose their jobs, while others will see their hours and their pay reduced.

While that causes us to fear that 2009 will enter with fury, it is heartening to know that this is a community that reaches out to extend a helping hand to those in need.

It is my hope that all of us can ride out this storm by realizing that there is enormous strength in our numbers.

Haidari Returns to Wabash, Rebuilds Home Country

Jim Amidon — Ashraf Haidari returned home on Tuesday. No, he did not return to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he lived as a child. He returned to Crawfordsville, where his American host family lives and to Wabash, which he credits for helping him bring about change on a truly global scale.

He frequently writes editorials and position papers urging America and other countries to continue their support of the development of Afghanistan. The task is daunting.

Now, in his role as Counselor for Political, Security, and Developmental Affairs for the Embassy, he travels all over America giving speeches, talking with journalists, and — most interesting — spending time with American troops before their deployment to Afghanistan.

On Tuesday he met with Jay Heater, editor of the Journal Review, who wrote a fine story on Haidari.

He swung by my office Tuesday morning after having flown in the night before. He’s in Indiana to speak with an Indiana National Guard Agricultural Development Team as it prepares to deploy to work on developing the agricultural economy of Afghanistan. Another daunting task.

“I will brief them on the current situation in Afghanistan,” he told me. “Then I will thank them — and thank their families — for their sacrifices and contributions that are changing the lives of the people of Afghanistan.”

He was in Utah last week, Texas the week before.

“Developing the agricultural economy is a national priority of our government right now,” he said. “Sixty to 70 percent of our population lives in rural areas where there is no infrastructure.”

He said that so far the “fixes” in the rural infrastructure have been “random, disjointed, and ad hoc.”

The biggest problem, of course, is the Taliban and its need for cash generated by opium poppy production. Afghanistan remains the world’s principal producer of the drug.

“The farmers need assistance and support to move away from the illicit crops toward marketable, high-value cash crops,” Haidari told me. “There is little in the way of technical assistance, there are few roads to move crops, and there isn’t enough security in place to make the transition.”

When security forces move away from the farms, the Taliban move back in.

“What we need to do — and what America is helping us do — is to develop a sustainable balance between security and development in post-conflict Afghanistan.”

His job in Washington and the role he’s playing on an international stage seems like a long way from Crawfordsville.

The 2001 Wabash graduate was late starting his Wabash career in the fall of 1997 — the war-torn Afghani government couldn’t square away his visa. Getting here two weeks late did nothing more than focus him on making the most of his hard-earned American college education.

During his time at Wabash, he had impressive internships with the United Nations. He had good faculty advisors in David Blix and Melissa Butler. He became passionate about bringing change to his home country.

He left here to pursue a graduate degree at Georgetown, then went to work as First Secretary and Director of Government and Media Relations for the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington.

Wabash talks a lot about producing graduates who have significant impact on their communities, men who change the world.

Ashraf Haidari is doing exactly that. And at just 33 years old, it’s clear that he’ll continue to have an important role in the rebirth and redevelopment of his home country, Afghanistan.

“I give all credit to Wabash for investing in me, for educating me, and for teaching me that I can have a global impact.”

‘Twas the Night before Finals

Jim Amidon — December 15, 2008

‘Twas the night before Finals, when all through the land,
The students were cramming, not playing Rock Band.
Their papers and notes all ordered with care,
In hopes that Winter Break soon would be there.

The professors were nestled all snug in their beds,
While dreams of straight-A students danced in their heads;
The Dean and the President, wise in their words,
Hoping the men would ace finals… like nerds.

When out on the Mall there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

Away to my computer I flew like a flash,
Opened my Google and searched Wabash.
The glare on my screen prevented my view,
Of thousands of entries, most of them new!

Oh, how my fingers worked quickly to find,
Website postings of every possible kind.
A sharp young hacker, mind nimble and quick,
Had crashed the system with a couple of clicks.

More rapid than broadband the postings they came,
Pleading for extensions to professors by name;
Please Butler! Now Rogers! Now Hudson and Howland!
On Phillips! On Polley! On Herzog and Helman!

To the top of old Baxter, to the top of Hays Hall!
The hacker sent emails to one and to all!

As dry leaves were crunched tiny and small,
Campus Services had cleaned every inch of the Mall.
So over to campus I ran without pause,
A finals week crisis without any cause!

In Center Hall, I saw a flickering light,
Twas a professor in office, preparing all night.
I walked down the hall on a curious quest,
Peered in an office, saw a man at his desk.

He was dressed all in plaid, his khakis bore wrinkles,
His suspenders criss-crossed, his eyes all a twinkle.
A bundle of papers stacked high in a pile,
Red ink trashed them all… and done with a smile.

His eyes — how they focused! His pen with such might!
His beard was like pepper, all black and all white!

His glasses all smeared, he barely could see,
The papers he marked with emotional glee!
He had a broad face and good-sized belly,
That shook when he graded like a bowlful of jelly.

A good Wabash man and wise old prof,
An earnest worn face, in spite of his coif!
He listened to Mozart and stayed to his work,
And graded those papers from every young turk!

Soon Santa Blix put his red pen away,
For finals week starts on this very day.
The hacker’s email flurry for A’s and for B’s
Is more likely to result in more C’s and some D’s.

Begging and brown-nosing does nothing but shame,
A student who slacks is clearly to blame!
For at Old Wabash, a student must sweat,
Mastering Plato and physics his only bet!

Blix strode to his car while scratching his head,
He wondered how quickly he might be to bed.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove to his den,
“Good luck on Finals, ye good Wabash men!”

With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.

Link Wabash Stories to Your Choice of Sites

Howard W. Hewitt – It’s tough keeping pace in the ever-changing world of social networking and internet news sites. The Wabash website has had an “e-mail to a friend” link for years.

Just recently we added something new. If you look at the upper right of any news story you will see that old link is now gone replaced by one that says “share.”

The link will allow you to send that particular story to your particular page on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, and many others. As a matter of fact, you have about 40 choices if you click on the more button that opens when you click this icon.

Bookmark and Sharevar addthis_pub = “wabco”; 

We’re talking about lots of new things and new ways to communicate on campus, with alumni, and in recruiting new students. We’ll add any small step along the way that facilitates better communication.

Hewitt is Wabash College Director of New Media

The Maturation Process of Freshmen

Howard W. Hewitt — Those of us in the Public Affairs Office occasionally write about our infrequent visits into Wabash College classrooms. We talk about the interaction of professors and students, and remarkable dialogue that takes place across campus each day during the school year.

It’s a great experience that we don’t get to witness often enough. See a photo album from the Thursday class here.

Every freshman at Wabash College is required to take a ‘Freshman Tutorial.’ The topics cover the faculty’s every imaginable interest. From political cartoons, to historical figures, energy and resources, color, game playing, the Supreme Court, and many others.

The idea is to give freshmen a class where they learn to read critically, to write, study, and interact in a Wabash classroom.

I’d never visited a tutorial before this week. Professor Scott Himsel is leading a group of freshmen through “Founding Brothers and Revolutionary Characters.” The attached photo album offers a little bit more on some of the topics.

On Thursday four of the freshmen made presentations to the class on their research topics. They’ll write a paper — which is the final — based on their research.

But even more interesting were Himsel’s comments after the class about the progress you get to see in a Freshman Tutorial that you never see in other classes. The freshman year and especially the first semester is where the young men struggle in the initial weeks with the workload and expectations. Then over the course of the semester you come to see them start to grasp the academic challenge.

Then in the final days the young men emerge as engaged students, active classroom participants, and adding thoughts to each conversation that perhaps even the professor had not pondered.

It’s a remarkable process that goes on in the fall of each year. Sometimes I think it’s just a shame more people don’t get to see it.

Bird’s Work for Obama “Incredibly Fulfilling”

Howard W. Hewitt – Jeremy Bird called his work in the Barack Obama campaign ‘incredibly fulfilling.”

Bird, a field organizer and key leader in campaign work, spent Tuesday on campus. His evening speech drew approximately 40 students, staff and faculty members.

Looking around the Korb Classroom there had to be staff and faculty members who share a feeling of fulfillment.

Bird talked about growing up near St. Louis and listening in the laundry room as his parents talked politics – really about economics. He talked about his path to Wabash and then following Professor Bill Placher’s advice and going to Harvard Divinity School.

Bird’s interests shifted to politics and he got involved in community organizing. He shared his first organizing experiences with inner-city school kids fighting for better schools in Boston. He worked for Howard Dean, John Kerry and Democratic National Committee.

He outlined, in some detail, the work he did in the South Carolina primary earlier this year propelling Obama to front-runner status. He talked about chairing the general election campaign’s effort in Ohio, and the work he is leading now to categorize best campaign practices, and trying to figure out how to best use the enormous staff and volunteer base that helped elect the Illinois Senator president.

He talked to a class for Professor David Hadley and joined a lunch meeting with Bachelor staffers. He shared the skills he’s picked up along the way which include managing a multi-million dollar budget in Ohio with a paid staff of more than 500.

Bird reflected on how Wabash helped him every step of the way. He laughed in several of those presentations when noting he never had a single political science class at Wabash. He was a religion major.

But he talked passionately about the freedom at Wabash to “do things.” Bird wrote columns for the Bachelor, started the school’s lacrosse team, and engaged himself abroad and across campus.

He talked about the thinking skills he learned while here and the ability to write – all skills which transfer no matter what you do in life.

He talked about Bill Placher and classes with Warren Rosenberg, who was in the audience.

But while he shared his accomplishments, many listening had to marvel at the maturation and success of this young man. And that we get to watch this miracle happen time and time again.

I got to know Bird when he was a student. He wrote for the Crawfordsville Journal Review while I was editor.

I went to Philadelphia in April and spent three days with him to see his campaign work first hand. That story is in the newest issue of Wabash Magazine and now online.

Jeremy is 30 years old and a 2000 graduate. He’s learned and experienced so much in such a short period of time. Certainly Rosenberg and Melissa Butler, who was at Bird’s presentation but never had him in class, must feel a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment when listening to a story like Bird’s. Those veteran professors must feel that fulfillment often.

The students had to see a young man from very humble beginnings who wasn’t afraid to grasp the changes in his life and capitalize on opportunities.

My personal reflection is one of progression. He was a talented, if not smart-mouthed kid in 2000. He now is one of the top political operatives in the country. He’ll most likely end up working in the Obama administration or for the Democratic National Committee.

Jeremy Bird has a heck of a story. It’s his story, and others like it, that get us out of bed to come to work each morning.

It’s “incredibly fulfilling.”

Photos by Alex Moseman ’11