Seniors Floyd, Grant See Connections

Steve Charles—Last week about this time afternoon classes were cancelled and students were presenting their work at the 13th Annual Celebration of Student Research, Scholarship, and Creative Work. It was our largest ever, with more than 90 presentations. But here’s one that didn’t make the show.

It’s about to show up in your mailbox, and much of it is the work of two Wabash students.

Senior Ian Grant spent last summer interviewing alumni at the Big Bash Reunion, covering events, and reviewing, scanning, and organizing thousands of historic photos (some not seen for decades) from the old News Bureau Archives. As our first intern for Wabash Magazine, he also served as an editorial assistant for an edition comprising some of those archival photos. And as the internship was a partnership between WM and the Wabash English Department, Ian also meet with Professors Eric Freeze and Marc Hudson and spent at least one hour a day writing his own work, separate from the magazine.

It was following one of those hour-long writing sessions in the Scarlett Inn—after two or three spontaneous conversations with alumni, faculty, and staff on the way out—that Ian turned to me and said, “I never realized how connected people are here.”

The moment he said that, I knew we had chosen not only the right student to be our first intern, but a poet/writer who would become practically a co-editor of this issue of the magazine. His way of seeing connections drove not only his own section of the edition, but our creative approach to presenting these photos and inviting alumni, faculty, students and staff to share their own stories.

Senior Riley Floyd already had a sense of the depth of these connections. He had walked into my office last year after studying at Oxford University and noticed two large oars hanging on my wall. As I finished a phone call he studied the oars, and after I hung up he said, “I didn’t realize you had studied at Oxford.”

I hadn’t. The oars had belonged to Wabash President Byron Trippet ’28; he’d brought them home from Oxford in 1934, a gift of his fellow rowers on the Jesus College team. They were hanging in my office because no one else had wanted them.

Riley stood there with his mouth open. He didn’t know much about President Trippet, or that he had studied at Oxford and rowed on the same River Isis that Riley had rowed on during his own time there.  It didn’t take long to persuade Riley to check out the archives and Trippet’s experience and to write about his own, and Riley connected it with yet another: Wabash Professor of History Steve Morillo had rowed during his time at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in the 1980s.

“It’s one boat rowing, and I’m just a part of it,” Riley writes in a personal, thoughtful, reflective piece that makes a fitting conclusion to this issue of the magazine.

I wish I’d figured out a way to include both Ian’s and Riley’s Wabash Magazine work in last week’s Celebration of Student Research, but I couldn’t even attend. I was in Midland, Michigan doing a press check on the very issue that includes their remarkable efforts, watching it flash by my eyes at the rate of 50,000 impressions per hour as the web press made fast work of months of thought, collection, writing, photography, art direction, layout, and proofing.

But I’m proud of this issue of Wabash Magazine because of the way of seeing that these two Wabash seniors bring to us. The connections they made. It’s a very inward-looking edition, asking for stories from alumni, faculty and staff from their own histories and recent pasts. Yet others may wonder at the connections between people here.

Researcher and nationally known speaker Brene Brown says that what ultimately gives meaning to our lives is that very sense of being connected. The Wabash community is a petri dish of connections—a place that reveals and inspires them practically every waking moment. That may be our greatest strength, the hidden secret behind so much of what we do well, the sense of being cared about that our students talk about.

Brown defines connection as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued.”

When I think of it that way, watching Ian’s sudden realization last summer of this place he’s a part of, and hearing him say, “I never realized how connected people are here,” was one of the most rewarding and reaffirming moments of my 17 years at Wabash.

I hope his way of seeing—and Riley’s—comes through in the edition of Wabash Magazine about to arrive in your mailbox. It’s something to celebrate.