Jim Amidon — August 15, 2011

By the time you read this, 200 Wabash College students will have arrived on campus signaling the start of another school year.

Coach Erik Raeburn welcomed over 140 football players to training camp, which began Sunday and continues through this week. Soccer Coach Roberto Giannini has a senior-laden team working out at the new Mud Hollow Stadium. Cross country runners will get their physicals today, international students are starting orientation, and the men who will lead freshman orientation will be in training this week, as well.

The 2011-12 school year at Wabash College is officially underway.

By this time next week, all of the freshmen will be on campus getting registered for classes and learning their way around the Wabash community. Next Monday afternoon, all of the freshmen — and it’s a whopper class pushing 300 new students — will be spread out in Montgomery County doing service projects.

Classes begin a week from Thursday.

This is always an exciting time of the year. Upperclassmen are anxious to get back to campus — tired of summer jobs, internships, and living at home. Sophomores are glad they are no longer freshmen. And the new guys are anxious in a different way — nervous about whether they’ll like it here, if they’ll fit in, make the varsity, pledge the fraternity, and succeed in classes.

One group of Wabash freshmen has a head start on all the others. Professors David Hadley and Doug Calisch are taking 15 men west to Montana for a before-the-year-begins Immersion Learning trip as part of a Freshman Tutorial. Professor Hadley did this a few years ago — taking freshmen to Yellowstone and surrounding parts — and it was a smashing success.

The course is called “Fly Fishing: the Liberal Art.”

(Go ahead and wipe the snicker off your face and dismiss the notion that nothing could be farther removed from liberal arts than fishing.)

The students will have read Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It, and while in Montana will study biology, ecology, and even politics. The last time Professor Hadley offered the course, students bonded before they ever started classes, and already had learned to read critically and communicate effectively

Perhaps the happiest person on campus is soccer coach Roberto Giannini. Now in his sixth year, Coach Giannini has a large senior class, a brand new field (Mud Hollow Stadium), and 14 home matches.

The transformation of old Mud Hollow to the new facility is simply stunning. There are stadium seats for nearly 200 fans, restrooms, and a FieldTurf Pro playing surface. Just opposite the soccer field is a newly sodded field for intramural and recreational sports.

The football players sweating through difficult practices this week hope to build on last year’s 8-2 season, which ended in a thrilling 47-0 win in the Monon Bell Classic. If everyone shows — including more than 60 freshman players — the squad could be pushing 150 athletes.

The Little Giant football team opens on the road September 10 at Wooster, a team that will already have played a game. Wabash’s home opener against Ohio Wesleyan is Community Day the following weekend.

Finally, Wabash will welcome a bumper group of international students in the freshman class. This is a tough week for those young men, many who come to Crawfordsville from China and Vietnam. These are guys from cities with millions of citizens and public mass transit, who will arrive in a county with fewer residents than their neighborhoods.

Most international students come to love this town, largely because of the Community Friends host family program. They like our slightly slower pace of life and they can walk almost anywhere

David Clapp and his volunteers do an excellent job of helping our international students adjust to life at Wabash, and you’ll probably see them walking about downtown, opening bank accounts, and stocking up at Walmart. When you do, reach out to them, say hello, and welcome them to our city.

It seems like just yesterday when President White rang out the Class of 2011 and now we prepare to welcome the men of 2015. It’s a big class filled with men from all over the country and around the world, who will be changed forever next Saturday when they are rung in as Wabash Men.

Here we go…