Rhetoric Seniors an Accomplished Bunch

Jim Amidon — Rhetoric Professor Todd McDorman asked me to swing by the Caleb Mills House on Tuesday night to take a few pictures of the senior rhetoric majors at a banquet that both honored the seniors and welcomed the Brigance Forum Lecturers Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites.

See the pictures here.

I sat quietly in the corner waiting for dinner to conclude, but listening to the lively conversations the students were having with their invited guests, as well as familiar faces like Joe and Bev O’Rourke, Vic and Marion Powell, and Jack Oest, William Norwood Brigance’s grandson.

When dinner concluded, Professor David Timmerman welcomed everyone to the living room and, alternating with Professor McDorman, talked about the accomplishments of the six seniors who majored in rhetoric.

What a remarkable group.

Three of them — Josh Gangloff, Pat Long, and Dan Masterson — were members of the Wabash football team which set an all-time record for most wins (40) and won three straight North Coast Athletic Conference titles.

Gangloff, a fierce nose tackle on the football team, is a soft-spoken leader whose Christian outreach has extended as far as Botswana and as close as the young people at Pleasant View Baptist Church here in Crawfordsville. Gangloff will pursue a master’s degree in divinity upon graduation, while working in his family’s business.

Masterson, while not the stars of the team like Long and Gangloff, minored in theater. He appeared in two main stage productions and in the Studio One-Acts. I’ll most remember Dan for his gripping performance as a dirty cop in the spring ’09 production of The Pillowman.

In addition to an amazing senior project for his rhetoric major, Derek Hickerson also spent last summer working on a “Know Indiana” research project with Professor Timmerman. Hickerson’s original research focused on James Matthew Townsend, Indiana’s third elected African American legislator. Hickerson researched the legislation Townsend authored to repeal Indiana’s “Black Laws.” And though Townsend’s bill was voted down, a year later a similar bill passed through the Indiana legislature.

From his research, Derek wrote an article for Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, the award-winning journal of the Indiana Historical Society. That issue hit the newsstands in the Winter 2009 edition.

Matt Dodaro, star baseball player, also is a rhetoric major. I’ve taken a couple hundred photographs of Matt diving for ground balls from his position at shortstop and crossing the plate after smashing a home run onto Jennison Street. I never knew he was a rhetoric major until last night, nor did I realize that he’s started every single baseball game during his four-year Wabash career.

Finally, the professors paid tribute to Grant Gussman, whom I did know was a rhetoric major. I knew that he won the famed Baldwin Oratorical Contest. I knew he had won both state and national titles in forensics. But I didn’t know Grant was, perhaps, the most decorated forensics student in recent history.

I also learned that Grant finished his course work in December and has been coaching a speech and debate team back home. Beginning this summer, Grant will begin training for the Teach for America program and he’ll spend the next two years working at a high school in New Orleans. Teaching science!

The evening concluded when the professors presented Gussman with the Joseph O’Rourke Prize, which honors the outstanding senior rhetoric major. It was a touching occasion to see the expressions of pride and joy on the faces of Joe and Bev O’Rourke, seated closely to their dear friends — Jack Oest and the Powells.

And it was clear from his expression that Gussman, too, was honored to receive the prize named in honor of a legendary speech and rhetoric professor.

I did end up snapping the photo of the six senior majors on the front porch of the Caleb Mills House. But I left with a terrific feeling about the accomplishments of the seniors and the potential for greatness they have — as teachers, lawyers, ministers, and representatives of Wabash College.