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Bender ’12 Gains Real Appreciation for Big Bash

Kyle Bender ’12 – When interviewing for the Public Affairs and Marketing intern position, I was told there was only one weekend of the summer that I would be required to work – the Big Bash reunion weekend.  As I’d long looked for an excuse to attend the event, I jumped at the opportunity. 

Reflecting now upon the weekend, I can honestly say that it was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in my time at Wabash.  While the Public Affairs staff put in long, grueling hours throughout the three day event to make sure the website was always kept up-to-date with almost real-time coverage, it really didn’t feel like work.  Rather, I found myself losing track of time, amazed with the number of alumni who had returned to reunite with long lost classmates and see how much their college has changed. 

The wide range of assignments that I was given allowed me to attend many events, from a variety of perspectives.

For example, my first task was to photograph the Wally Wabash golf outing at Rocky Ridge Golf Club.   This combined my love for the game of golf with a skill that I had no grasp of – photography.  However, I soon realized that it really isn’t too hard to take pictures of Wabash men at the golf course on a beautiful summer day.  Everyone was in a jovial mood. 

As part of my Public Affairs office rite-of-passage, the staff thought it would be great for me to spend Saturday morning as Wally Wabash during the Alumni Chapel Sing competition.  Originally slated to be held on the chapel steps, on a hot June day I would have only lasted ten minutes in the heavy costume before needing fresh air.  Fortunately for me, but unfortunate for the event, Saturday’s weather did not cooperate and the sing was held in Chadwick Court, site of much cooler temperatures. 

Playing Wally allowed me to move within the classes as they competed for the coveted Chapel Sing trophy. The level of determination of some of these men was incredible and I would have hated to be the judge of the competition.  It was also fun to pose with many alumni and their wives, although I never quite got over the phenomenon of not needing the perfect smile for every picture with the huge Wally head on.

However, it was the people I met that truly made my weekend unforgettable.  Al Wright ’50 drove all the way from New Jersey to be at the Big Bash.  I met him at the golf outing, where he was meticulously cleaning the very same golf clubs that he uses as he walks his local country club every morning.  He was so interested in hearing about my career plans and what was going on at the College that he almost missed the shot gun start.

Or Tom Freeman ’70.  Both natives of Delphi, Indiana, as well as brothers of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, Tom has been a man that I have long admired but never met.  I was fortunate to spend several moments with he and his wife as his class celebrated their 40th reunion. 

But perhaps the highlight of the weekend for me, from a professional standpoint, was the opportunity to interview Dean Reynolds ’70, longtime ABC and CBS news correspondent.  Reynolds gave a colloquium Saturday afternoon to a packed audience, giving his thoughts on the health of today’s news.  Simply talking with someone who has covered some of the biggest stories in our generation was an unbelievable experience, but it was even more special because it was a fellow Wabash man. 
For a Wabash College student, it was inspiring to spend time with these great alumni because it made me realize just how closely I am connected to them.  They once sat in the very same classrooms in Baxter and Center halls that I study in today.  We share some of the same professors and traditional experiences.  We are Wabash brothers.

As I admire all the accomplishments they have achieved after graduation, I cannot help but think of the members of my own class and know that there are many within destined for greatness.  Although it may seem galaxies away, someday there will be successful doctors, lawyers, and businessmen from the class of 2012. 

Most of us are at Wabash today because of an alum, usually someone we’d always admired in the community but never known where they attended college, took the time to recommend that we visit the campus.  The contributions and support they give largely funds our college, which allow competitive financial packages to be awarded to the best and brightest students that rival almost any school in the nation.  These men carry on the tradition and excellence that Wabash maintained for over 175 years. 

I pray that my classmates and I can show the same type of commitment and love for our alma mater that many of these graduates express on a daily basis.  They are what makes this place great.