Remembering Fran Hollett

Jim Amidon ’87 — I was in the middle of a rehearsal for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Vanity Theater Wednesday evening when my phone rang. The voice on the other end gave me the sad news that Fran Hollett had passed away earlier in the evening.

The thrill of directing actors in an exciting play practice quickly left me and I found myself overcome with emotions and memories of one of the “Grand Dames of Wabash.”

Many people in this community never knew Fran Hollett. That’s too bad.

But for a couple of generations of Wabash students, faculty, staff, and alumni, Fran held legendary status — and not just because she was married to long-time trustee Barney Hollett (for whom the football stadium is named).

For a College so steeped in tradition, so staunchly independent, and so fiercely single sex, Fran blazed trails. She more then held her own at alumni cocktail parties, post-game rallies, and she was quick to chastise wayward students for missing out on the incredible opportunities Wabash offers young men.

She was the first woman ever named an honorary alumna of Wabash. Think about that.

Founded in 1832, no woman was ever admitted to the College, but in 1985, the National Association of Wabash Men decided that had she attended Wabash, Fran Hollett would have made a helluva Wabash man, er, woman. And so on Homecoming that year, Fran received her honorary diploma and was made “one of the guys.”

I knew Fran for almost all of my adult life. I don’t recall exactly when I met her, but I do remember that it was my friend, Rem Johnston, who introduced me to Fran and Barney at a Wabash football game. Even then, they had an aura about them.

If you can use the word famous to describe an attorney, that would be Barney. He was a partner at Baker and Daniels and was Eli Lilly’s personal attorney. He chaired the Wabash Board of Trustees for a decade. And, together with Fran, Barney rooted on the Little Giants in good times and bad.

When I was a Wabash senior and did the play-by-play for the telecast of the Monon Bell Game, I received a note of congratulations from Fran and Barney — hand-written, old school, and meaningful.

Fran was a gracious hostess, whether welcoming people to events here at Wabash, at College functions in Indianapolis, or in her home.

I’ll never forget receiving a call from Fran when she invited us to attend the Indianapolis 500 with a group of Wabash people. Barney had had the same seats (16 of them) since the 1940s, seven rows up at the end of the main straight, just into the first turn. The cars rumbled straight at us so close we had to wipe bits of rubber tire from our faces and eyeglasses.

Fran brought to the race boxed fried chicken lunches for all of us, and had cut up that day’s Indy Star so that we could all chip in a dollar and pull a driver from the hat — Fran’s little Indy 500 pool.

After the race, we went back to Fran and Barney’s house. I have no idea how she did it: getting all of the things together for the race and still getting home in time to have food in the oven, drinks ready at the bar, and gas in the pontoon boat for rides around the lake. She made it all seem so effortless.

A grand lady, indeed.

Lest I paint an incomplete portrait of her, it’s important to note that Fran’s graciousness was matched with an equally inspired spirit. She had a raspy voice and when she raised it, she got your attention. Quickly.

Barney was a member of Sigma Chi, and Fran took special care of the student members of the fraternity. No, she wasn’t a house mother, but she helped decorate the new chapter house on West Wabash. And when she visited, if the place wasn’t spotless, the students certainly heard about it. Loudly.

She expected Wabash students to behave as gentlemen, just as her husband had throughout his life. When students strayed from that ideal, Fran was not one bit afraid to call them on the carpet and correct their behavior.

Too many people today will simply look the other way; not Fran. She, better than most, knew that the Wabash formula for success works only when all members of the community buy into the high ideals and expectations, and when accountability has real meaning.

After I had made the announcement of her passing, emails flooded my in-box — memories of Fran and of Barney. Through all of the emails was a common theme: an era had ended, a legend was lost, and there would never, ever be anyone like Fran Hollett to grace us with her presence.

Fran Hollett — Some Little Giant.

Lewis Writes About What Guys Read

We frequently use this blog to share the success and achievement of Wabash alums and students. But nothing speaks louder than a Wabash man. Wyatt Lewis is joining fellow student Reed Hepburn and professors Warren Rosenberg and Eric Freeze at a weekend national conference on mens’ studies. The topic is “Guys Read.” The Wabash men hope to dispel some stereotypes. Here is Wyatt’s take on what he hopes to accomplish.
Wyatt Lewis ’13 – Well we’re working together with students and faculty from Hampton-Sidney, one of the other all-male colleges in the nation. So both Wabash and Hampton-Sidney are bringing two professors and two students each, and our presentation is divided into two talks. The first talk will be given by the four professors on Saturday morning, and the students will speak on Sunday morning.

Wyatt Lewis '13

The conference is really open-ended. Basically, we’re responding to the website “Guys Read,” which is concerned with the growing male illiteracy rate. The website lists several titles and ideas to get guys engaged in reading, but it does this by suggesting very stereotypically male texts. The website seems to be targeting adolescents, but it’s sort of symptomatic of a larger cultural perception of how to teach men and what books men should be reading/enjoying. So, our talks have been titled “Guys Read: The Collegiate Edition.” Basically, we’re using the website as a framework for our discussion.
So while the professors (Eric Freeze and Rosenberg are the two going from Wabash) talk about their pedagogical experiences, Reed Hepburn, the two students from Hampton-Sidney, and I will talk about our experiences as readers and students. As I mentioned earlier, the talk should be very open-ended, and hopefully more of a discussion than a presentation. So each of us should be talking about our perception of whether or not there is a male literacy crisis on our campuses, the texts which we have responded well to and those we haven’t, and how our masculinity factors into our reading experiences—and also particularly how our conception of masculinity has changed.
So while I can’t speak for the others, I hope to focus my talk on ways in which readers “resist” texts that they are uncomfortable with and my experiences in the classroom. One of the statements that Guys Read makes is that students should avoid texts that explore emotions; in other words, men to read “manly” texts. But in my experience and from what I’ve witnessed in class, thinking about gender (and by gender I don’t mean biological sex) as a construct proves to be really liberating for students, especially if they can discuss their masculinity in what they feel is a “safe” environment.  Many students (and I was one of these students), walk on to campus for the first time with lots of preconceived notions about feminism—that feminists are somehow only concerned with guilt-tripping men for past patriarchal oppression. So of course, this perception poses a few problems—the most notable being that “patriarchal oppression,” though perhaps less severe, is by no means gone.
In the Gender Criticism seminar last semester, we read a passage from Rita Felski’s book Literature after Feminism, which I really resonated with; it was something to the effect that even though collectively men  have held the power throughout history, individually men don’t feel like they have some more power, and this explains male antagonism to feminism. I think Felski’s insight explains a lot about male resistance to feminist texts—men feel attacked by feminists and feminist literature, but if they can find ways of embracing it and applying the same ideas and concepts to their own masculinity, then they can find some degree of “ownership.”
This feeling of “ownership,” or realizing that gender studies is just as much about masculinity as femininity (and that men have their own distinct experience that’s worth talking about and studying) usually excites and engages men, and that’s what I hope to talk about at the conference. Reading experiences that explore emotions, gender, and sexuality may be uncomfortable for men at first, but in the end, rather than causing divisions, they create a unifying experience as students gradually realize that all of us, both male and female, are to some degree “trapped” by our gender. And in particular, that being male carries its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

NY Festival Next for Harbaugh’s Film

Russ Harbaugh ’06 is taking his master’s degree thesis project, Rolling on the Floor Laughing, from the Sundance Film Festival to the New Directors/New Films Festival in New York City.

The festival is a joint project between New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Lincoln Center. Harbaugh’s film will be shown Saturday, Mar. 31, at the Museum, and April 1 at the Lincoln Center.

This prestigious festival follows Harbaugh’s film showing as one of 32 American shorts at the Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 19-29, in Park City, Utah.

Harbaugh was a Wabash English major and All-American quarterback at Wabash. He then earned his master’s at Columbia University.

The film was premiered on the Wabash College campus on April 23, 2011.

“We shot the film in Indiana, in the home where I grew up, from a script that began merely as a conversation between a loving mother (mine) and her curious, needling son (me),” Harbaugh said prior to the Wabash screening. “It’s a project inspired by films with modern, revisionist instincts toward autobiography — films like Maurice Pialat’s We Will Not Grow Old Together — films that wrestle with reality while abiding the structures of fiction.”

Harbaugh gave a brief description of his film: “Rolling on the Floor Laughing is the story of a love-triangle between a middle-aged widow, a new lover in from out of town, and the woman’s grown sons with whom she shares a candid, sometimes unsettling intimacy. The story takes place over the course of a birthday weekend, the night before and the day of a party.”

Several Wabash College alums and friends of the College helped fund Rolling on the Floor Laughing.

The New Directors/New Films Festival features 29 films and 12 short films from 28 countries. It’s the 41st year for the festival.

When Worlds Collide

Ray Jovanovich ’84 presents an informal talk on the Chinese economy during his visit with students and faculty in February.

Steve Charles—One of the perks of editing what some folks call an “alumni magazine” (I prefer “college magazine”) is continuing education: For 17 years now I’ve carried on conversations with some of the brightest and most accomplished graduates of Wabash, learning not only what they know about their given fields and the path they’ve followed to their vocations, but also what good men they are.

One of the frustrations of editing an alumni magazine (and perhaps this is the source of my frustration with that term and my preference for “college magazine”) is that these conversations are often carried out by phone or email or in person but off campus, so that students (the very reason this place exists), not the most loyal readers of “alumni magazines,” don’t get to know these guys.

And even when students do read about them, either in print or online, my words don’t do justice to the men or begin to convey what students would learn if they could spend even an hour with them.

But in the past three weeks, three of those men with whom I’ve carried on these long conversations—Ray Jovanovich ’84, Arun Muralidhar ’88, Rick Gunderman ’83—have been on campus. Next week another—Dan Simmons ’70—returns.

As I watch these homecomings, all that frustration is washed away. You can see a few of those moments here.

Reunion—Arun Muralidhar was welcomed back to campus by several of the Community Friends who hosted him as a student.

I first interviewed Arun by phone about 16 years ago after his mentor, Professor Emeritus of Religion Raymond Williams H’68, told me about him. (Arun tells me that although he never took a religion class here, he feels as though he minored in religion thanks to the time he spent learning from Raymond.)

Arun had majored in economics, graduated from Wabash in three years, and quickly became a rising star at the World Bank. But by the time I talked with him in 1996, he’d had a change of heart. He wanted to make a difference in peoples’ lives on the ground, face to face, so he left his position managing a $5 billion pension fund to teach kindergarten in India.

When I caught up with him nine years later, he’d gone through another successful transition (read about that here), and he was a husband and dad. He has since co-authored a book on Social Security Reform with a Nobel Prize winner and started companies and earned an international reputation as a pension fund innovator. He spoke to students Monday about social security reform at a public lecture, spent time in classes, was welcomed back not only by faculty but by Crawfordsville folks who took him into their homes through the Community Friends program. He also did a short video for the Web site that’s up now, certainly one of the best of that series, and when I went to take him to that interview he was eating lunch with two econ students; they seemed to realize the value of that hour they had spent together.

Dr. Rick Gunderman talks with a student after his presentation on the true meaning of "male sexual enhancement."

I first met Dr. Rick Gunderman on campus relatively recently—2006—but it was one of those talks that changed the way I looked at the world. Two years later at the Big Bash Reunion here I watched him change the way my family doc, Dr. John Roberts, was looking at the world, and that change was at least part of the catalyst behind John’s work helping to establish the Montgomery County Free Clinic. It’s hard to find a better example of the value of a liberal arts education; he’s a man you want students to hear (a man I want my kids to hear!), and Monday night he was as thoughtful, insightful, candid, and provocative as ever. (Click here for a piece we reprinted from his book, We Make a Life by What We Give.)

Ray Jovanovich and I first met by phone in 1997, a few years after he’d been named “Fund Manager of the Year” for his work investing from his office in Hong Kong. Over the years I’d ask him for updates or he’d send me short perspective pieces from his front row seat in the most dynamic economic transition in history, then I’d post them on the Web site or in WM.

So many times I had wished he could take this knowledge directly to students and professors here, but when that moment finally happened and he returned to Wabash for a public talk on the Chinese economy, I walked right by him in Center Hall. Ray had shaved his beard, let his hair grow out to celebrate his retirement; he looked nothing like the photos we’d run of him in the magazine. And our 16 years of conversation had been by phone and email— he had no idea what I looked like. Professor David Blix began to introduce us when I figured it out—there was that moment of recognition you feel for an old friend, the names spoken aloud; we started to shake hands, then embraced.

And that’s the way it felt when students and current faculty finally had the chance to meet Ray—that they, that his alma mater, in fact, embraced each other. Learned from and were inspired by each other.

Watching Ray and students striking up spontaneous conversations as he walked around campus, or Arun meeting with two students for an hour long lunch, or the students gathered around the podium with Rick, talking, laughing, listening after his talk in Baxter 101, I thought of Professor Bill Placher’s words: “Sometimes the best way we show our love to the world is to love with a particular passion a little part of it.”

I know the place Bill loved, and the longer I’m here, the better I understand why.

Thinking Critically in a California Vineyard

GRATON, Ca. – Ted Klopp ’67 probably never thought of himself as a farmer when he attended Wabash College.

Klop had a successful career in higher education as an academic counselor at Marin College in Marin County, California, just north of San Francisco. But a series of events had him seeking a different lifestyle and led him to Sonoma County. He bought property with apples and pears growing and turned to production agriculture. Not long after making the move, he had others tell him he’d be “crazy” if he didn’t put in vineyards.

Klopp '67 also makes a little wine on his 25-acre home property

Today, Klopp farms four ranches in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley and grows Pinot Noir grapes for some of the area’s top producers. The former Sigma Chi and psychology major earned a master’s degree after Wabash but has found his hard work farming paying off in a different kind of satisfaction.

“The grapes set my schedule,” he said, sitting on his front porch with a scenic view of  nearby vineyards. He talked extensively about the hard work he puts in each day and the reward he gets working with some of the top producers in an area known for great Pinot Noir. He has several clients, but the best known are Kosta Browne, Inman Family Wines, and a real critic’s favorite, Merry Edwards.

Wabash is never far from his mind, especially in the winter months. A one-time Wabash roommate, Stephen Little ’68, spends his winters with Ted in a small trailer on the Klopp Ranch.

Klopp also talked about the advice he would give students about getting a rounded education like the liberal arts when he was counseling at Marin. He also credited his Wabash liberal arts  education for helping him tackle everyday problems in his vineyard.

Klopp has no plans to slow down any time soon. “Why should I? I’ll stop when they bury me by a vine in the vineyard.”

by  Howard Hewitt, vacationing in California wine country.

Event “Pulls Together” Students, Faculty, Africa

Sister Stella Santana addresses her guests during last Saturday's Harambee Initiative kick-off event.

Steve Charles—I returned from two weeks in Kenya with Wabash students last summer with what was, for me, a new understanding: The people of Africa that we met have much to offer us spiritually, we have much to offer them materially, and this rich exchange is at its best when it happens face-to-face, one relationship at a time.

I also realized that you don’t have to be wealthy to make a difference—for relatively little expense, one person can make a big difference in another person’s life and get much more back in the process.

But months later as I photographed last Saturday night’s kick-off event for the Harambee Initiative to raise funds for the education of girls and young women in Kenya and Uganda, something else came into focus. (Click here for photos from the event.) This rich exchange has been stirring at Wabash for many years, right in front of me, and among friends—it was just waiting for us to wake up and pay attention.

Jose Herrera ’12 talked about moments that had moved him during his immersion experience in Kenya last summer.

The event itself raised more than $2,300 for Shifting Ideas Through Education for African Women (SITEAW), the non-profit organization whose mission is to provide education to African girls and young women attempting to escape oppressive traditions in their tribes. The effort leading up to the event also garnered sponsors for five more Ugandan girls in danger of being forced to undergo a rite euphemistically referred to as female circumcision, but which the World Health Organization calls female genital mutilation (FGM).

Sister Stella Santana—the Ugandan nun who founded SITEAW in 2004 and has served Wabash eight years as costumer and dance instructor for the College’s world music ensemble and as director of its Children’s Ensemble—called the occasion “one of my greatest days in Crawfordsville.” You could see the gratitude and joy on her face throughout Saturday’s event.

In Swahili, “harambee” means “let’s pull together,” and in the photos from that evening here you can get a sense of the diversity of individuals and organizations who came together to provide for girls and young women in Uganda and Kenya something most of us take for granted—an education.

Two of the presenters—Jose Herrera ’12 and DeVan Taylor ’13—were students from the class I accompanied to Kenya last summer. They had listened to Kenyan women talk about FGM, they had seen firsthand the way education changes the lives of children there; their talks Saturday night were and support of the Harambee Initiative were one way to put their own educations into action. At least two fraternities have also taken action, donating funds to sponsor girls who have long been waiting for help from the SITEAW program.

Maesa Horton and James Novak perform during Saturday's kick-off event.

My favorite moment of the night isn’t captured very well by the photo I took of it, but I can still see it all in my head: Sister Stella and Naomi Horton directing the pre-schoolers, kindergartners, and elementary school kids of the Wamidan Children’s ensemble; people at the back of the packed Allen Center classroom standing up so they can see; ; and the kids themselves, beaming, awash in this attention and love and expectation and encouragement.

Among those kids were Maesa Horton, soon to be four years old, born in Awassa, Ethiopia and adopted there as a toddler by Naomi and Professor Bobby Horton; Kuba Szczeszak-Brewer, whose baptism (with Scripture read in both English and Polish) I had attended, now strong and healthy and clearly relishing this moment; Tomas Rocha brandishing a cape and yelling “Ole” when it came his turn to sing.

There were the parents from the Wabash and Crawfordsville communities, encouraging their kids and cheering each one when he or she finished singing. Then there were the students taking all of this in—the kids, the talks, the drumming, the dancing, the celebration.

And Sister Stella, whose own childhood was difficult and included none of these kinds of moments, reveling in the chance to provide them for these kids, redeeming her own childhood in song and dance.

Yet even in that joyful moment, the children of Uganda and Kenya weren’t far from her mind.

“The great work all the Harambee and SITEAW members put in to make this fund- raising day happen, those who donated auction items, the children who made everyone smile, the musical ensembles who made us feel it was a celebration, and those who turned out to support our efforts—they challenged me,” she told me after the event. “I will never give up on any one of these girls.”

So Saturday’s event was one-third food and celebration, one-third education, and one-third “Wabash Always Fights.”

And that fight continues. Many of us saw a different side of Sister Stella, whose smile and singing and joyful performances at Wamidan concerts spring from faith and a deep determination to help others. I was reminded that we are connected more deeply and in ways we sometimes miss. The masses following Twitter and Facebook suggest that, but there was nothing virtual about the relationships at last Saturday’s gathering. Like the best Wabash teaching, this was face-to-face. And like the College itself, it was based on the belief that we really can make a difference, one person at a time.

For more information about the event or the Harambee Initiative, contact Steve Charles—