‘Where To Find What You Need To Know’

Wabash men at Apparatus: Chris Rozzi, Aman Brar, founder and CEO Kelly Pfledderer, Michael Carper, Ben Frame, Michael Tucker, Brad Vest, Greg Huebner, Eric Borgert, Matt Vest, and Sam Spoerle.
Photo by Kim Johnson

Steve Charles—Ten Wabash men with eight different majors work at one of Indiana’s fastest growing and most innovative companies. That says a lot for the agility of a liberal arts education in today’s high-tech world.

So does the company’s Web site: “We’re endlessly curious about the future of technology and the connections it can make for people and businesses. We create engaging technology solutions that pull from the human experience. Our love of art, music, and design may sit behind the scenes, but it is present in all we do.”

And that’s what I thought I’d write about after returning from a photo shoot at Apparatus in Indianapolis, the aforementioned company. Wabash Director of Communications and Marketing and lead photographer Kim Johnson and I had a great time getting the photo of the company’s founder and CEO Kelly Pfledderer ’96 (German major), Ben Frame ’03 (music), Chris Rozzi ’90 (art), Aman Brar ’99 (economics major, religion minor), Michael Carper ’13 (classics), Brad Vest ’11 (physics), Matt Vest ’08 (psychology), Eric Borgert ’97 (English), Michael Tucker ’93 (English), and Sam Spoerle ’13 (psychology). Joining them was Apparatus artist-in-residence and Wabash Professor of Art Emeritus Greg Huebner H’77, whose paintings grace the company’s headquarters, the ingeniously renovated former WFYI TV studios at 1401 N. Meridian. Pfledderer said more than once: “It’s the paintings that make it.”

The whole building seemed a metaphor for technology informed and driven by the connections a liberal arts education reveals, those criss-crossing synapses Wabash students develop.

All this is featured in a story by Evan West ’99 for the Fall 2013 issue of Wabash Magazine in production right now and mailing in December.

Jim Kirchhoffer ’55

But I returned to campus just in time to catch the last minutes of a talk by Jim Kirchhoffer ’55 in the College’s “Callings” series. Now a Franciscan monk, Jim has had four or five careers, depending on how you count them: as an Episcopal priest, an insurance agent and investment broker, a school bus driver, a psychotherapist, and a writer. 80 years lived wholeheartedly and vulnerably. A conversation with the man is a gift in itself.

Jim recalled words that the late Professor Jack Charles H’52 gave him during his senior year at Wabash almost 60 years ago: “If all you’ve learned here is where you need to go to find out what you need to know, these four years will be worth it.” That “endless curiosity” and pursuit of understanding has been liberal arts education’s gift to Jim throughout his life, just as it’s been for those 10 men at Apparatus.

Wabash alums are fond of saying, “at Wabash, I learned how to think.” But I believe it goes deeper. There’s a confidence that no skill is unlearnable, no problem is insurmountable; there’s self-awareness and empathy for others and their cultures, a joy in learning and a way of seeing that has opened the world to these men and so many other Wabash alumni I’ve interviewed over the years. We honored a bunch of them at Alumni Chapel on Saturday.

But to see that gift in action Friday in the course of a few hours in the lives of young men and in the lifetime of a wise octogenarian was great joy.

A Snapshot of Lives Transformed

Wabash Magazine Summer 2013 cover photo: Keaton Becher ’13 savors the moment as he receives his diploma from President Pat White during last spring’s Commencement ceremony.

Steve Charles—I hate typos.

In someone else’s stuff, maybe it’s just annoying, sometimes even funny (this one, for example). But when I make them in a Wabash publication?

It’s not like a Web site, where you’ll see a typo one minute, can go online, correct it, and it’s suddenly healed.

In print it bleeds there like an open wound until the paper disintegrates.

Like in the Summer 2013 issue of Wabash Magazine in which we cover Commencement and the Big Bash Reunion.

No one celebrates those events like Wabash, and this year, with two sunny weekends and near record numbers of students and alumni and their families on campus, our photographers captured those celebrations better than ever. Add to that photos from numerous events paying tribute to former President Pat and Chris White’s seven years with us, and I was really looking forward to getting this one in our readers’ hands. Even considered entering it in a national contest, if only to show the connections and emotions that make Wabash THE liberal arts College for men.

And it was looking great when I got my early copies. I checked the photos first to make sure the color matched our proofs, then started reading back to front, the way we do the last proof, just to make sure nothing snuck through.  Then I opened the inside back cover and saw it:

Our form of education only makes sense if we’re transorming lives.


Can’t be. So I looked again.


And the voice in my head takes off: It’s transforming, you moron. How could you have missed this. Five proofreaders, and six looks at this page yourself, including the last look, and you missed that!?

So now everything’s in question and I turn a few more pages and there’s another one in the captions: Weston Kirtley? Who the hell is Weston Kirtley? You’ve printed that name almost as many times as we’ve printed magazines during Wes Kitley’s four years at Wabash, and you get it wrong on his last issue on campus? NCAA Postgraduate Scholar Weston Kitley?

I informed my bosses, threw a copy of the magazine across the room. Then I ripped out the offending pages on one copy and trashed them and kept working on the Fall issue, trying not to think about the thousands of dollars I just squandered, or the frustration readers will feel when they see it, or how I let down Pat White by screwing up one of his best and truest lines in an issue that was supposed to pay tribute to his love for and service to this place.

And you can be sure I’m taking my time distributing this one on campus.

After a couple days I opened it again, by chance, to page 29 and read this quote from Jotipalo Bhikku ’88, (whose name we corrected on the proofs twice!):

“One sure way to suffer is to think about yourself. If you don’t want to suffer, think of others.”

So I took that advice for a second, as Jotipalo’s words have been helpful before (we covered his Mississippi River pilgrimage in the magazine), and I realized the selfishness of what I was doing. Yeah, I screwed up. It reflects badly on Wabash when I let a typo go through. But as I told my art director as I tried to soothe her anger, unfairly blaming herself for those typos (that’s not her job; it’s mine): This is why I’m not a brain surgeon. We’ll live to do better next time, adjust the process as best we can to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and get back to telling stories.

And my mistake is no reason not to celebrate the great times our community had during those weekends, the work of a staff of photographers who captured it so beautifully, and the extraordinary efforts of Marilyn Smith, videographer Austin Myers ’16, Scott Hastings ’15, Jimmy Blaich ’14 and all our student interviewers who gathered alumni stories for our Scarlet Yarns project, also celebrated in this issue.

So, as you receive this issue or see it on campus, don’t make the mistake I made. Don’t see those typos and overlook the faces, the new graduates and alumni, the teachers and the parents, the wives and the children.

Because the greatest irony of that typo is that Pat White is exactly right: Our form of education only makes sense if we’re transforming lives.

And in this issue—in those embraces between young men and their teachers, between men whose bond holds 50 years since they left this place, and in those arms still locked together for Chapel Sing five years after graduation—are lives transformed. That Summer issue is a photo album of lives transformed.


If you want to see how that quote was supposed to look you’ll be able to read it online on the Web site in a couple of days. But if you have the print version, you could do what I did: Grab a pen (red is an appropriate color) and add the “f” to that pulled quote (transform transorm!) so that anyone reading it will make no mistake: We’re not perfect, but we do transform lives here.



What Does Freshman Photographer do for an Encore?

Colin Thompson’s photo of Little Giant goalie freshman Dayton Jennings

Howard W. Hewitt – Alex Moseman ’11, who now works in admissions, was a pretty good photographer during his time as a student and Bachelor photo editor.

Late this summer Alex called me to report he met an incoming freshman who appeared to be a pretty good photographer. He told the young man to stop and visit me and get hooked up with the Bachelor and the Communications Office.

Thompson ’17

Colin Thompson 17, Indianapolis, followed Moseman’s suggestion and stopped in during freshman orientation. He was a polite and pleasant young man who clearly knew a bit about photography.

But wow!

Colin’s very first photo for the Bachelor is one of the best soccer shots I’ve seen here in nine years. Certainly better than any I’ve ever taken.

People who’ve never worked in education often ask about the routine of school year – summer – school year – repeat! That redundancy is part of working at a College but its the students who make it so special. Each year 250 or more show up with skills, talents, and personalities which change the place each fall.

I’m excited as Bachelor Advisor of course, but more excited to see what’s to come from young Mr. Thompson!

Stowers ’14 Inspires Wabash on 9-11

The Wabash College Mall and Chapel – 9-11-13

The Mall flag, moments after Stowers had lowered it as he did a year ago.

Howard W. Hewitt – We have told the story of senior Josh Stowers, commuter, husband, father, and Wabash Man, on several occasions. He is a citizen-soldier who did three tours of duty in Iraq before enrolling at Wabash.

Stowers ’14

Last year he was on the mall for the 9-11 memorial program and emotionally shared his feelings on the difficult day.

This morning, 9-11,13, I walked to the mall to shoot the student memorial of American flags spelling out 9-11. As I turned to return to my end of campus, here comes Josh Stowers.

After a pleasant hello and how you doing, Josh said “they never think to lower the flag on this day.”

I looked down the mall to see the flag was lowered, looked at Josh and asked if he had lowered it. Indeed, he had – for the second year in a row.

If you haven’t read his story by now click on the links embedded in this post. He is one inspiring Wabash man.


Tutorial Trip: Muscle Make the Man?

Fifteen students in Professor Shamira Gelbman’s freshman tutorial traveled to Beach Grove High School last Saturday to attend the NPC Natural Circle City Championships, an annual bodybuilding competition run by the Scientific Exercise Training Team collective.

Professor Gelbman and freshman tutorial class.

Dr. Gelbman’s tutorial is called “Bodybuilding: Does the Muscle Make the Man?” and the students in it are examining the history of bodybuilding since its origins in late nineteenth-century strongman spectacles and grappling with several controversial issues related to the practice of bodybuilding and its role in contemporary society. The trip to the Circle City Championships helped kick off their studies by providing an opportunity for hands-on engagement with bodybuilders in a contest setting just one week into the semester.

As first-time bodybuilding show attendees, the students had a lot to take in. “At the beginning I had started to kind of feel weird watching it,” Conner Marshall reported, “but it became more understandable as it went on.” For Riley Lefever, the individual posing routines especially drove home the commitment bodybuilders bring to their sport: “You could tell through their passion all the work that went into preparing for just one competition.” Yan Wu, who was already a bodybuilding fan before coming to Wabash, had never before attended a live bodybuilding event. “I have watched many videos about bodybuilders,” he said, “This show gave me a more exciting experience.”

Class with competitor Darnell Griffin

Between the morning “Prejudging” and evening “Finals” events, the class headed to Downtown Indianapolis for lunch, a run up to the observation deck of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a quick trip to the Circle Center Mall, and a chance encounter with Jon Pactor ’71. They used this time to discuss and reflect on what they had seen at the morning show. Deryion Sturdivant, for example, remarked that he had “never realized how strenuous bodybuilders’ routines on stage are,” and Conner Marshall pointed out that “[while] some of the female divisions had the poses of bodybuilding, [it seemed] more like a pageant set-up for the females.” Many were impressed with the Masters age-class bodybuilders, especially the two “sixty and over” competitors, which they had not expected to see.

For most, the highlight of the trip came at the very end of the day, when Darnell Griffin, an Indianapolis-based bodybuilder who won the men’s overall championship title, agreed to pose for individual and group pictures with the class. Griffin caught not only the event judges’ eye, but the students’ as well. “The other competitors were defined and some were big to an extent,” Michael Rynkiewich said, “but none close to Darnell.”