Running the Path Home

Steve Charles—Last June, Professor Greg Redding ’88 ran a race of 100 miles up and down the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. He told me a little bit about it in the Allen Center locker room after he’d finished a “short” training run of 10 miles or so. 

I didn’t realize people even dared such things. It sounded more like the kind of running the Tarahumara people of Mexico would do in the canyons of the Sierra Madre, not the avocation of a Wabash German professor.

"Very few people have any idea what it’s like to run 100 miles,” I told Greg, and asked him to write about it. I’ve seen a draft, and we’ll have his story in the Winter 2010 issue of Wabash Magazine. It’s a piece you’ll not want to miss.

One of my favorite scenes has Greg running at night under a canopy of more stars than he’s ever seen, the bobbing headlamps of a few fellow runners flashing like fireflies in the valley below him. Every time I talk with Greg he recalls another intriguing detail.

The only problem I’ve had with the piece is figuring how to illustrate it. The one shot Greg’s running partner tried to take of him on the trail didn’t turn out, and I was hoping for something dramatic to accompany a story about a 30-plus hour 100 mile run through some of the most beautiful country in America.

Then I found out that Greg trains for these runs in Shades State Park. It’s not the Bighorn Mountains, but Shades has a quiet, deep beauty of its own. Ancient hemlock groves and hiding places even the Ice Age glaciers couldn’t find. Standing with Mike Bachner ’70 on the banks of Sugar Creek several years ago, the western naturalist and writer Terry Tempest Williams declared, “Wildness resides in the heartland of America.”

Greg has logged far more than 100 miles on the trails of this wildness, so with the fall colors fading I drove down Wednesday and photographed his training run up Trail 8 through Shawnee Canyon.

Here’s an album of photos from the day.

Splashing through the rain-swollen springs trying to photograph Greg, I learned a bit more about training for trail running. It’s less about speed than foot placement. If you’re going to be running over rocky terrain in the midnight darkness at 10,000 feet, you’d better learn how to pick your way through in all kinds of weather.

And the canyons at Shades with their running water, slippery rocks, and leaf-covered paths force you to focus on exactly where to put your feet, how to recover when you slip, when to slow down, how to resist that temptation to leap to a rock hiding a slippery edge that can knock you on your butt, or shoulder, or head. You build up the muscle strength in ankles and feet that you’ll need when you’re at high altitude, haven’t slept for 30 hours, and treading difficult terrain at speed has to become second nature.

“This is my home park,” Greg told me, recalling many two hour runs through Shades during late fall, winter, and early spring when he’s been the only one there. I recalled his interest, ever since he returned to Indiana in 2002 from Pennsylvania, in the German-Americans who settled in Indiana, how he’s taken students across the state to get them acquainted with these places, how he helped bring Indiana poet laureate Norbert Kropf to campus last year. The goal of these long training runs in Shades may be racing in the mountains of the west, but they also bring an Indiana boy back to the state of his birth, and perhaps back to the reason he began running in the first place, now decades and many Wabash cross country races and many marathons ago.

Greg calls trail running “getting back to my cross country roots,” and the smile on his face as he rock hops and picks his way up Shawnee Canyon made me think of the fun I found as a boy running up desert canyons in Arizona and hopping the rocks in Oak Creek. The sheer joy of leaping and running like a kid through beautiful country.

Even walking through Shades, a place I, too, spent many hours hiking and weeks camping when my kids were younger, I was able to re-collect myself, slow down and breathe deeply enough to take in the beauty of the rocks, streams, the last leaves falling from canopy trees, the paw paws in the understory stubbornly hanging onto theirs.

Walking through Greg’s “home park” made it my own for a few hours. But just as I can only imagine what it’s like for Greg to run 100 miles, I can only imagine what it’s like for him to have been born in this state, to have run these hills and canyons as a young man then left for almost a decade, only to return to them now.

During my early morning reading the next day I encountered this quote from the writer Peter Matthiesson on the frontispiece of Scott Russell Sanders’ book The Force of Spirit. Maybe it fits here, maybe not. But they’re good words to end on.

“The search may begin with a restless feeling, as if one were being watched. One turns in all directions and sees nothing. Yet one senses there is a source for this deep restlessness, and the path that leads there is not a path to a strange place, but the path home.”

Greg’s article will appear in the Winter 2010 issue of Wabash Magazine, which mails in March.


Taking Fall Photos Never Gets Old

Howard W. Hewitt – One of the great things working on a college campus is how the place re-invents itself every year. Seniors graduate and 18-year-old freshmen arrive on campus.

But there is a routine to many of the events. Tuesday night is Moot Court. I’ve covered Moot Court for the College website every year since I arrived. It is a really great event. I’ll cover it again tomorrow night. But some of the others do become a bit more routine.

Something that never gets old is the fall and winter practice of taking seasonal photos. Most of us in Public Affairs enjoy photography as much as any part of our jobs. The leaves are going to be gone before long so I left the office after lunch with camera in hand and shot a photo album and a half of fall photos! Enjoy!

Photo Album No. 1 and No. 2.

By the way, the photo here is the view from outside my office window. Not a bad place to work for lots of reasons – not the least of which is the view this week!

Kicking the Leaves with Jud Scott ’80

Steve Charles—I spent a gorgeous autumn afternoon this week with Jud Scott ’80, one of only two registered consulting arborists in Indiana and founder and CEO of Vine and Branch, Inc. in Indianapolis.
I’ve wanted to interview Jud ever since a press release about one of several awards Vine and Branch has won alerted me to his vocation several years ago. But I wanted the story to be accompanied by photos taken in the fall, when the trees Jud takes care of in Indiana (several of the most historic trees in the state) are at their most beautiful, and it seems like every fall something would come up and we’d be into the winter before Jud and I could get together.
Not this year.
Jud was kind enough to take time on short notice to show me one of his favorite trees, the 150-year-old oak in front of the President Benjamin Harrison House in Indianapolis (in photo). Also drove up to Crown Hill Cemetery to see two species I’ve never seen before—an ironwood tree (the largest in the state) and a cucumber tree.
We also took a look at the city from the hill that gives the cemetery its name, and Jud noted that “Indianapolis really is a green city; that’s something people often miss. But you can look 360 degrees here and see trees spreading out in every direction.”
As I’m writing this, I realize I missed that photo. But it’s a gorgeous view I recommend it if you haven’t taken it in. And Jud’s right—an impressive amount of green space in that city. Changes the way I think of Indy, and I lived there for 15 years.
Jud’s path from Wabash history major to professional arborist is a true Wabash story, and we’ll have it for you this spring. For now, here are some photos from that afternoon.
Will also throw in a few from Wabash on a late Friday afternoon, about dinnertime, wind tossing rain-soaked leaves onto the ground.
Remember these kinds of days?

No Small Thing

Steve Charles—For the past four years of W.A.B.A.S.H. Days, I’ve scoured the list of projects and tried to find a “big one” to photograph and chronicle: The Evansville guys building a playground set at a family crisis shelter under the leadership of Thom Liffick ’73;  Herm Haffner ’77 and two shifts of Wabash students working on a house for Habitat for Humanity just up the road in Linden. Indianapolis alumni handing out food for Gleaner for those in need and cleaning up vehicles for the Second Helpings kitchen; Tim Craft ’00 and more than a dozen alums organizing, running, and referring the flag football weekend at Damar Services, restarting a tradition for Special Olympians across the state; Charlie Lopez ’05 in Greenfield starting a new project with the Hancock Hope House Homeless Shelter.
I love this day for many reasons. I get to see Wabash alumni in a new light. One of my favorite photos of the late Dr. Tom Topper I took while he was standing not in an operating room, but on top of the gym set he’d just helped complete. There’s that photo of Herm Haffner covered with sweat and grime, yanking roofing nails from the house he’s rehabbing, another of John Bridge ’72 handing out food to the homeless at St. Richard’s school

And it’s encouraging, in the middle of a busy semester, to see how much good can be done by a few caring people in just a few hours.

This year with a magazine deadline and Wabash Day activities converging, I had only a few hours to get away on Saturday and Sunday, so I thought I’d try a different angle—to see a couple of the “smaller” projects, and those led by younger alumni.

(See a photo album here.)

And I learned that there are no small projects when Little Giants are involved, even when just two or three come together.

First stop was Lafayette, where I met Matt McFarland, Lou Fenoglio ’81, and Michael Pugh ’00 as they collected food at the eastside Payless grocery store. The job: Hand out a flyer to customers as they enter the store, tell them about the Food Finders foodbank, and invite them to drop off an item of two in the Wabash Day/Food Finders cart. Simple enough, except that not every customer likes being jumped the minute they enter the store. Most are polite, some even enthusiastic. But others think you’ve got a coupon, and those folks can get cranky when they find out you’re asking for something from them instead; others act like your asking for money or serving a summons and run from you like you’ve got the H1N1. 
McFarland, a friend of Lafayette Wabash Day organizer Joe Trebley ’01, learned to read customers’ body language well enough to at least get a flyer in almost everyone’s hands. It was fun to watch him work, even better when someone he’d approached returned a few minutes later with a can or box of food.
And Matt’s not even an alumnus! An Ohio Northern grad, he was joining us because of his friendship with Joe and, as he says, there aren’t a lot of Ohio Northern gatherings in Lafayette.

Next was the West Lafayette payless, where Joe and Mary Trebley placed their Wabash rug and banners in the middle Purdue’s Homecoming celebration with customers flowing into store so frequently that the couple could barely greet each one and hand out the flyers. They were positioned at the front of the store in such a way that few could get past them, though, and their warm welcome drew in those who might have otherwise turned the other way.

Mary is a pharmacist at the CVS across the street and seemed to know half the customers who walked in, often ending the conversations with a hug. In less than two hours they had collected almost three full carts of groceries for the food bank, and more were pouring in as I left.

“You’ll notice that a lot of parents will have their kids drop off the bags,” Mary told me, seconds before a little girl approached with her own gift of food items. Parents seemed to use the occasion to teach their children about giving, caring about others. And Mary’s warm “thank you” to each of the kids let them know they were really helping out. For those kids and their parents, it’s an interesting introduction to Wabash College!

Sunday I drove to Bloomington and the Middle Way House, whose mission is ‘to end violence, both structural and interpersonal, in the lives of women and children.” There I met Parker Collins ’05, who had driven from Indy to lead the project, along with his dad, Bloomington county attorney Dave Schilling ’82.

"Anyone else here?” I asked as I took my camera out of the case.
"If you join us, that makes three," Dave said, though soon Todd Rowland ’85 and his son,  Price, rode up on their tandem bike and lent a hand.

After I took my photos, I joined the crew, making this the first year I actually get to work on one of these things.

Middle House hasn’t asked for much—just some hedge trimming, weeding, and yard cleanup. Fairly mindless tasks that allow for some enjoyable conversation with Todd and Dave, and give me time to think about the place where we’re working.

Middle House offers help, housing, and hope to victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse. Lifesaving, heartbreaking, and heartening work is done in this old house off downtown Bloomington, and we’re just five guys cleaning up the yard. Maybe it sends some kind of message, five guys in Wabash sweatshirts crawling on our hands and knees, pulling up weeds around a house where women who have been raped and kids who have been beaten up, usually by men, come for shelter and healing, but doing yard work feels like a drop in the bucket. Maybe outside the bucket.

Yet three times women coming in or out of the house stop to thank me. The first time I respond “you’re welcome” but pass it off for polite small talk, the second time I take it a little deeper, regardless of how small I feel, and the third time I thank the women for their work, then realize I have no idea if I’m talking to administrators, counselors, or victims, if I’m thanking them for the work of running this place, comforting others, or healing.

It’s a small thing, I know, but listening to the Colts wrap-up show on the radio on the drive back to Bloomington Sunday afternoon, I’m grateful for the chance to finally do something on Wabash Day besides taking pictures. I’m grateful for Jon Pactor envisioning this day years ago, and for the now hundreds of Wabash men, families, and friends who participate. I look forward to getting back to the office and reading about all the good things that have been done on this day, “spreading the fame,” living the mission of this place.

And I’m glad my first one was a “small” project. I come from a "small&q
uot; school where each member of the community and each teachable moment matters; where we call ourselves Little Giants. Which may be a good way to describe each of these projects.

In photos: Joe and Mary Trebley and two of the shopping carts they filled with donations for Food Finders in West Lafayette; Matt McFarland, Mike Pugh, and Lou Fenoglio chat while manning the Food Finders station in Lafayette; Dave Schilling trims up Middle House; Todd Rowland and son, Price, join the cleanup in Bloomington.

Philanthropy is Alive and Well

Jim Amidon — I was working with the folks in the Wabash Annual Fund office last week to implement fund-raising strategies when I got to thinking about philanthropy.
In poring over some data from last year’s Annual Fund, I noticed there were over 4,200 donors to the College, and that a pretty small group of people had the greatest impact on the Annual Fund. What I discovered was that just 13 percent of the donors to Wabash last year (543 families) contributed 83 percent of the record $3.125 million Annual Fund.
Both numbers — the 4,200 donors and the 543 families who contributed $1000 or more — are significant.
Who could argue that the last 12 months have been the most turbulent financial times in our lives?
Yet Wabash received more than 4,200 gifts from alumni and friends. And a small group of those people recognized the financial hardships of the College and stepped up to new heights. They had less to give, but somehow stepped up and gave more.
What an astonishing acknowledgment of their belief in Wabash College and the potential of its students. The students, 883 of them, are the beneficiaries of such extraordinary generosity.
Outside of Wabash — where private gifts sustain the institution — we don’t talk a lot about philanthropy in this community. I’m not sure why, especially since ours is a community of caring, giving individuals. Here, it seems to me, philanthropy just happens.
So how cool was it to read the story in Friday’s paper about the Montgomery County Community Foundation helping 22 important agencies with grants of more than $230,000? Oh, the group picture on the front page was nice and the dollar amount going to the various organizations was impressive.
But don’t just scratch the surface — dig a little to discover the deeper meaning of philanthropy.
How many people will make smart choices because of the funding for the AHEAD Coalition? How many children will receive vaccines or prescriptions because of the MCCF gift to Christian Nursing Service? How many kids will benefit from the new play areas at the Family Crisis Shelter, or take part in after school programs at the Boys and Girls Club?
We’re fortunate to have such a vibrant Community Foundation and its board leadership, which annually makes wise and difficult decisions about how to spread the resources around so that they have the greatest impact — particularly on our community’s youth.
Another event took place on the same day the MCCF grants were announced. I was making dinner when my doorbell rang Thursday night. (Well, actually, my barking dogs are currently subbing for my broken doorbell.)
Standing on my porch were two young Wabash students, both pledges at Phi Delta Theta fraternity. They were taking collections for the residential portion of the MUFFY drive. The students were only casually aware of MUFFY’s impact across Montgomery County, yet on a cold, wet, rainy night, there they were — knocking on doors and asking people to make a donation, even in tough times.
I wrote them a check, thanked them for coming, and offered them an umbrella as the rain began to fall a little harder. “That’s okay,” they said as they walked down the street.
I later found out that the Wabash students raised about $3,400 by the time they finished up, and even more is expected to come in. That’s a small slice of MUFFY’s overall goal, but it’s a start — and it’s more than was collected last year!
Most of those kids who knocked on doors don’t come from Montgomery County and hardly any will settle here after graduation. Unfortunately, they also won’t see the impact MUFFY has on the lives of the people of this community and the agencies MUFFY supports — like the Child Abuse Prevention Council, Red Cross, and Salvation Army.
Philanthropy is all around us. Last Saturday alone, MUFFY had its fund-raising “Extravaganza;” there were two different cancer fund-raisers; and the community continues to rally for young J.D. Taylor.
Lots of people define philanthropy differently. The word’s roots are Greek and it implies “loving one another.” But when writing checks or volunteering for an agency, how many people really think of what they’re doing as loving one another? Probably not that many.
But that’s what it is. Philanthropy is about love; about giving of our selves to others. And it’s safe to say that there’s never been greater need for such selfless generosity.
And it’s also safe to say that philanthropy — in all its forms — is alive and well at Wabash and in Montgomery County.