From Gray To Green

Brent Harris – Nearly half of the final base layer is in place on the football field. We should see the field change from gray stone to a mix of brown sand and stone, then to green FieldTurf toward the end of this week or the early portion of next week. View the latest photos from the project here. Tom Runge shot a few photos this morning as well, click here.

We will have more photos when the first pieces of turf are ready to be put into place.

The track and field areas surrounding the field have also had finishing touches put in place. Drainage grates in the long jump and triple jump pits are ready to catch the sand after the first Little Giant athlete to makes his mark. Concrete for the pole vault runways have settled and await Wabash outdoor record-holder Matt Knox ’13 to clear the bar.

The upgrades are not limited to the field. The steel support for the new scoreboard is in place. The modules will be added over the next two weeks. New 25-second clocks will also be installed this week.

Just west of the football, behind the Knowling Fieldhouse, work on the baseball stadium continues. The final storm drains have been placed in trenches. The crew is ready to strip the topsoil off the old practice field. Once that is completed, concrete molds for the walls and dugouts will be put in place. It’s hard to believe that in eight months the 2011 Little Giant baseball team will take the field against Wilmington College for the opening game at the new ballpark.

Last Step Before Turf

Kyle Bender ’12 – The construction crew continues to spread gravel across the entire length of the field at Hollett Little Giant Stadium. It is the final step before turf installation begins next week.
For an updated photo album, click here.
Media Services Specialist Adam Bowen recently installed a time-lapse camera in the press box. The camera will take a photo of the field every two minutes for the next few weeks of the turf installation process. Once the project is completed, Adam will compile the pictures into a time-lapse video to be posted on website.
On a personal note, it is a bittersweet time for me in terms of the construction progress. I have reported on the project the entire summer, all the way back to the first piece of ground removed on May 19th.  
As the long-anticipated turf installation moment approaches, I will miss the most exciting part of the project as I will be out of the office all next week. I am headed to Phoenix, Arizona for a national fraternity conference with several Wabash students, alums, along with Spanish professor Dan Rogers.
Brent Harris and Howard Hewitt will provide coverage next week. While I’ve reported and taken pictures mostly of mounds of dirt all summer, they will get to have the fun of watching the new carpet unrolled.  
I have much time invested in the project so I will faithfully follow the FYI Blog updates along with the rest of the Wabash community next week!

Goalposts Added to Field

Kyle Bender ’12 – The long jump and pole vault areas are near completion, a base layer of gravel is being spread, and Wabash College is almost ready for FieldTurf to be installed!

To see the construction progress, along with the newly installed goalposts, click here.
On Friday, workers continued installing the long jump runway and pit. The crew reported that Wabash will have one of the largest landing pits they have ever installed – over 32 feet in length. 
Turf is scheduled to arrive anytime between July 19 and 21 and will be installed immediately. The crew will work through the weekend to finish the base layer of gravel needed prior to the turf installation. The scoreboard is also expected to be delivered July 21.
In the photo album, there are also several pictures providing an update at the baseball field. The site has been completely cleared of all trees and a storm sewer and drainage system is currently being installed. Sod is scheduled to be delivered September 1. 
While countless truck loads of dirt have been removed from the football field, the construction crew recently made an exciting, yet unique discovery. They found an 1899 dime lying in the dirt at the 50 yard line.   Check out the Archives in the fall to see the dime!

My Morning in Northport with Phil Mikesell

Howard W. Hewitt, Northport, MI. – Some people ask retired Political Science Professor Phil Mikesell why he retired to a tiny village like Northport, Michigan.

Sure he can talk about the beautiful Grand Traverse Bay just down the street from his home or Lake Michigan just a few miles the opposite direction. But it’s the sense of community he really likes.
The village is about 600 residents with 40 percent of the population there just during the warm boating months. Northport is on the northern end of Leelanau County. And yes,  it does snow – about 140 inches two years ago. But last winter was far less severe.
The area draws retirees, authors, artists, and even Food Network star chef Mario Batali.
Mikesell and his wife, Vina, have been working on their retirement home for several years. They were introduced to the area by longtime Leelanau resident the late Dick Ristine, who lived in Leland.
The couple gutted the two-story house and had a wrap-around porch added on the front side. The main floor is an open floor plan connecting living space and a modern kitchen. The beautifully landscaped backyard keeps them both busy with flowers and vegetables.
But the fun part of my morning with Phil was riding around town and listening to his enthusiasm for this unique spot. We went up to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, where Phil serves as a member of the board promoting education and preservation of the landmark.
We drove across town to a trail in a naturally wooded area that Phil and a handful of other town men are creating. We passed the local fire station where Phil goes for morning coffee and chat. “Sort of like the Scarlett Inn,” he suggested.
As the Mikesells and I chatted on their front porch two different women stopped by to check in on details about community activities.
Phil talked about all of the arts and cultural activities just a half hour down in Traverse City.
Steve Charles will have a story in an upcoming issue of Wabash Magazine about Mikesell’s transition from college professor to active retiree. I simply visited to shoot some photos.
By the time I returned Phil to his home, I was convinced he should work for the local chamber of commerce or I should buy a Northport retirement home.
It sure seems he and Vina found the right place for an active community life, good neighbors, intellectual pursuits, and even some occasional hard work.

Not a bad way for any one to retire!

Managing a Winery Just Another Liberal Art for Lentych ’89

 Howard W. Hewitt, Omena, MI. – Tony Lentcyh ’89 is always stretching his liberal arts education. “I always tell people ‘when you get asked if you can do particular job, always tell them sure,’ ” he laughed. “That’s the liberal arts.”

Tony has a charm and easy-going demeanor which probably would convince most people even when he’s bluffing – if you can tell.
Lentych spent six years in Wabash admissions before working in Indianapolis and then Lansing, MI., in the public sector. His career was focused around public housing. But just a few years ago he was ready for a new direction.
“I was ready for a break and I was tired of politics,” he said. So when a friend was looking for a general manager to run the family Leelanau Cellars winery Tony said “sure.”
He hasn’t regretted it for a moment. He runs the business operation of Michigan’s largest wine producer and has seen business more than double since he joined the company.
Tony is a great illustration of how a liberal arts education can take any young man wherever they want to go and perhaps a few places they never imagined. You’ll see more on Tony’s career path from Classics major to manager of Michigan’s biggest producing winery soon on the Wabash website.
During a drive and walk-around tour Wednesday afternoon at Leelanau Cellars Tony mixed Wabash stories into a vineyard visit, quick tour of a production facility, and then a little time to taste some wine.
Known on campus as a gregarious and fun-loving guy during his four years in school and six more in admissions, he’s the kind of man who has never met a stranger. During the tour he visited vineyard workers, his winemaker, who holds the distinction of being the first female head winemaker in Michigan, and had fun with tasting room employees.
He’s improved business practices and hired local people with strong connections to the Leelanau area into the winery.
Like many of these visits the last 30-45 minutes was consumed with talk about Wabash. He’s convinced the diversity of his Wabash education is one of his biggest assets in dealing with the variety of people and challenges he faces each day.
Managing a winery, Tony said, is really managing a farm but instead of a fruit stand “we have a tasting room.”
He goes about his management style with a smile. Perhaps it’s because when he looks out the winery each day he sees Grand Traverse Bay, sailboats and people enjoying the area’s incredible beauty.
‘Sure,’ who wouldn’t want a job like that?

A Close Encounter with Tim Talbott’s Alpacas

Howard W. Hewitt, Grand Rapids, MI. – I am one with the Alpaca. 

Is this really in my job description? Should I renegotiate terms?
Did I willingly kiss an Alpaca? (It was really more of a nose rub!)
Yes, I did and it was awesome. No spitting, no humming – just an affectionate nose rub between friends. The Alpaca was well behaved too!
Dr. Tim Talbott ‘60 and his wife Jane are the proud owners of the Grand Alpaca Company, just outside Grand Rapids.
They’re proud of their 25 years of accomplishment and recognition as real pioneers in this country’s Alpaca history.
But walking the Alpaca ranch or farm, (Tim says either works) you get the feeling they’re just as proud and fond of their big-eyed “babies” as they are the business success.
Talbott is a retired colon-rectal surgeon who started looking for a retirement business back in 1985. Now Jane and Tim have 150 of the curious, somewhat timid, and furry animals.
I was in Grand Rapids to tell the story of how Tim has transitioned as successful and respected surgeon to trusted and respected Alpaca expert. Look for his story later this year in Wabash Magazine.
Tim and Jane raise the animals as breeding stock and sheer all their babies each spring for the highly-sought after soft fiber.
The details come later but the affection the couple show for their animals, calling each by name, is genuine and contagious. We moved from pen to pen trying to convince their ‘babies’ the stranger wasn’t a threat and just wanted to take their picture.
A few were just as curious about me as I was about the 150-pound animals. The one smooching me at top got to following me around and would have followed me out the gate had Tim not cut off his pursuit.
Of course, I have an effect on people that way but just didn’t expect it to translate to these little softies!

In photos: Top right, someone separate those two! Center left, Jane and Tim in front of the home they’ve shared through four children and hundreds of Alpacas. Lower right, Tim gets the "babes" to come out of the barn for photo time by using a handful of food.

Happy 80th, Professor Bert Stern

“People often reduce identity to biography. If they have a story, then that’s who they believe they are. But in fact your identity is infinitely more complex, nuanced, and mysterious than your biography, or anything that could unfold in your biography.

"Which is why one of your duties is to imagine yourself."
                      —John O’Donohue

Milligan Professor Emeritus of English Bert Stern turned 80 years old on May 24, 2010. This the same year in which Steerage, his collection of poems, was named a MassBook "Must-Read" Book of the Year by the 10th Annual Massachusetts Book Awards; a year in which his daughter, Anna, was married in Keene Valley, New York; and a year in which he prepared to help launch a new journal featuring the work of Vietnam vets working with Vietnamese poets, all the while continuing to teach probationers, edit for his Off the Grid Press, and spend much time with family.

The word emeritus is added to a professor’s name upon retirement. “Retired from assigned duties.” For many Wabash professors, retirement from assigned duties simply frees them to attend to the duties they assign themselves, and to take seriously that duty John O’Donohue refers to in the quote above—"to imagine themselves"—the complexity, nuance, and mystery that is so much more than biography.

The ways in which Bert has done this since his retirement have inspired many. He makes me look forward to growing older, even in the face of its pains and fears, with hope and imagination. He puts it so well: “As I’ve grown older, I realize not only the weight of time, but also the depth; the mystery deepens for us."

So I was glad to hear of Anna’s plans to celebrate his 80th birthday by inviting colleagues, former students, and friends to contribute notes and pieces to be collected and presented to Bert on that occasion. It seemed especially appropriate coming from her. I couldn’t help but recall Bert’s Wabash Magazine essay about his daughters, "Becoming Family."

And I felt honored just to contribute. Words come easily when evoked by gratitude, respect, even wonder. No doubt the dozens of others who sent their own messages felt the same way. Anna tells me that "about about 50 Wabash folks contributed, as well as an additional 70 or so people from other areas of his life."

She also sent some photos, and I’ve included one above. 

I recently heard from Bert, who is working his way with his own gratitude through responding to these many messages. In an email with the subject line "ripeness is all," he had this to say about the gift:

"The book itself moves me deeply. As usual, there’s the surprise and pleasure of experiencing bits of one’s past return from what might have been time’s oubliette.

"But much more important was the gift of faces, personalities, teacher-student exchanges, moments when students and I stood in some kind of intimacy of mind and feeling. I mean to write notes to many of the students who remember me, most of whom I remember. But that will take a while. Until then, maybe you could post this deep note of thanks to everyone who helped write this book, and especially to the students who have come back to me in this way. To me as a teacher and human being, no gift could mean more."

I thought I would post his words here for anyone reading this who also contributed to his birthday gift. And here’s Bert’s Web site, and email——for anyone else who would like to send their best wishes.

Reviewing Bert’s book Steerage, poet and University of Massachusetts Professor of English Taylor Stoerh wrote, "Like all true art, this book leaves us better prepared to look for ourselves out that wondrous window it opens for us."

You could say the same of Bert, and his “retirement from assigned duties.”

—Steve Charles

Students Relax at Summer Cookout

Kyle Bender ’12 – Dean of Students Mike Raters ’85 said that it is an annual tradition for his office to provide a cookout for the students working on campus.

“It’s about the midway point of the summer, when about half the group finishes their programs,” Raters said. “We do this annually to get everyone together one last time and thank them for their good use of the facility and responsible behaviors.”
More than 35 students attended the event Thursday evening, sponsored by the office of the Dean of Students. A late afternoon rainstorm provided for a hot and muggy setting, but good times and fellowship were still had by all. To see pictures of the event, click here.
Tyler Wade ’12, summer RA and intern with the Dean’s Office, helped coordinate the event. Wade said that more than 65 hamburgers and 30 hot dogs were served over the course of the evening. 
“The cookout was a lot of fun,” Wade said.  “We have scheduled some other events with the churches in town this summer with free food that have been sparsely attended, so it was nice to see a bunch of guys come out. It’s always great when students interact with each other, but when other people in the campus community get involved too, it makes for a uniquely memorable event.”
While the Business Immersion Program and several science internships finished Friday, students will continue to work and study at the College until the start of classes in August. 

Drains Almost Finished; Turf Arriving Soon

Kyle Bender ’12 – There were more than 25 workers at Hollett Little Giant Field Thursday morning as crews continued to work on the drainage system that will go underneath the new FieldTurf playing surface. 

For an updated photo album, click here

The concrete drain that runs along the perimeter of the track has been finished. Attention has now shifted to installing new storm sewers, which will be locate in the corners of the field.

Once the drainage system is completed, several layers of gravel will be poured and final preparations will be made for the FieldTurf. 

The carpet is expected to arrive July 19th and will take three to four weeks to install. The work on the football field will be completed no later than August 9th, just in time for the 2010 season. 

The project is part of a $6.2 million upgrade to the College’s outdoor athletic and intramural facilities. On Monday, workers plan to begin moving dirt at the site of the new baseball stadium, located on the southwest side of the Allen Center. A new soccer stadium and practice football fields are expected to be completed at a later date.