Jovanovich ’84 Assists Philippines Relief

Jovanovich sent this photo of the devastation in Leyte Province soon after arriving in the Philippines almost 10 days ago.

Steve Charles—When Typhoon Yolanda [Haiyan] devastated the Philippines two weeks ago, the thoughts of many here at Wabash turned to Ray Jovanovich ’84. Ray’s wife, Belinda, is from the Philippines, and Ray spent many years working in Leyte with the Manila Fund. Leyte province and its capital, Tacloban City, took a direct hit.

So a few days after the storm, Ray and Belinda flew to the archipelago to check on family and friends and to volunteer for relief and recovery efforts.

And while Belinda’s family is safe—they live in southeastern Luzon, the northern edge of the storm’s intensity—what Ray saw at “Ground Zero,” the string of towns just south of Tacloben City, was horrendous.

“The sheer magnitude of the devastation was staggering,” Ray wrote by email over the weekend. “The tidal surge reached as high as 25 feet in the small towns of Tanauan and Teloso. Both were flattened; everything wiped out and the debris field stretching for miles on end.”

Ray and several friends were able to purchase or procure nearly half a ton of relief goods—family-sized mosquito nets, sleeping mats, heavy tarpulins for temporary shelters, hi energy biscuits/granola bars, graham crackers, small medical kits & isoprpyl alcohol—and distributed them in  Tacloban City and nearby towns in Leyte Province.

“The people were upbeat and extremely pleased to see/meet/greet us, huge smiles everywhere; nearly unimagineable given the catastrophic events of just two weeks ago,” Ray writes. “The spirits and fortitude of these people who lost everything was high. They shared their stories and tears, plus fears for the future.

“I kept telling the folks and children we met along the way…’People around the world care about you, you will not be forgotten…tomorrow will bring a better day.’ My refrain elicited the same big smile response with thank yous resonating at every step of our path Their resilience is inspiring.

“It pressed us into further action.”

Ray and his friends are creating ‘The Yolanda Project Foundation—Leyte/Samar Initiative, ”a private non-profit effort to assist in the permanent relief, recovery and rebuilding.

When Ray took early retirement in 2011 from his work as an expert in international investment, he spoke to Wabash Magazine about his decision. Retirement was a move his father had encouraged.

“Dad stressed to me that the greatest measure of a man is his legacy: What have you improved in life for others? What have you done for those other than yourself?” Ray told us then. “I just want to reorganize my priorities, to make a contribution in a different way.”

Ray is returning to Leyte this weekend to “begin the next stage of our project.”

Ray’s dad, Robert, died in 2007, but his words were on his son’s mind like never before this past week. As Ray writes, “My father knew, before me, that there existed a higher purpose for my life. And being in this devastation, I find myself talking to him for strength.”



That Rings True

Richard Paige — I almost felt sorry this morning for the lucky Phi Kappa Psi member bundled up in a winter coat and hunched over the Monon Bell, ringing it constantly from the front porch.

Here at Wabash tradition defeats almost everything, including early winter’s chill.

Sometimes in sports the significance of the game is lost on fans, while the significance of the result escapes the players.

Not here.  It was reassuring to hear a pair of Little Giant seniors speak knowingly about the big-picture impact of Saturday’s 38-21 win.

It wasn’t about the senior class finishing 4-0 or extending the win streak over DePauw to five.  It was about everyone else who holds this place dear.

“It’s so much bigger than Wabash,” said offensive lineman Spencer Burk.  “Just the fact that there is this old 300-pound bell that symbolizes so much for so many different people.  We’ve got traditions all over the place, but nothing like the Bell.  It brings us together.”

Burk then relayed a story about the aftermath of the 2010’s 47-0 win, where over the Christmas Break, he was back home in Greenfield, Ind., walking through the mall wearing a Wabash t-shirt. An alum approached him, asked if he played football and shook his hand in congratulations.

“He was talking to me like I was the starting quarterback,” Burk said.  “He didn’t care what position I played or what year I was, the only thing that mattered was that I was affiliated with Wabash and he had nothing but pride for us and keeping the Bell.  To me, that was the image that it was bigger than me or the uniform.  It was so much bigger than I could have expected.”

Jon Laird’s 64-yard touchdown reception is pictured here. It was the second-longest catch of his career. Photo by Howard Hewitt.

Similar feelings were expressed by wide receiver Jon Laird, whose 64-yard catch and run for a score broke things open in the first quarter.  He had received messages of support all week leading up to his stellar performance.

“This game means so much to the alumni and the fans,” Laird said.  “I’ve received calls and texts the whole week from alumni this week saying ‘go get ‘em.’”  The environment here was great.  There is no better way to end the regular season than to retain the Bell.

“It was so special,” he concluded.

That certainly rings true.  Especially to the Phi Psis this morning.

Morrison ’14 Lives the Possibilities in One Week

Scott Morrison ’14 – At Wabash we pride ourselves on how dedicated our alumni are. We boast on how they give back to campus, how they often return sharing insights and stories, and how they try to help students along as they venture into the “real world.”

Saying that stuff to prospective students or people who know nothing about Wabash is all well and good, but I recently had a week that shows the alumni connections we have and the Wabash experience you can get here better than anything else. Now, I will preface this by saying that I never expected to have these opportunities in one week’s time, nor are they the norm. But, they are possible.

Senior Scott Morrison

So two weeks ago, Jeremy Bird ’00 came to campus to participate in two full days of talks, meetings, and discussions with students on campus. He had around 12 events in two days. If that is not dedication I do not know what is. On his second day on campus, I had a very special opportunity to have dinner at the Elston Homestead with Jeremy, President Hess, Mrs. Hess, and a few others.

Now that is Wabash. Sitting around a simple dining room table with the College’s president and the National Field Director for President Obama’s second campaign who helped found 270 Strategies, a private company built to organize grassroots campaigns for successful presidential campaigns. Wow.

From talking about the Colbert Report to lacrosse to my future career aspirations, it was a great evening. To see the interest that Jeremy and President Hess took in me and the advice and help they offered were honestly thrilling. That might make me sound like a bit of a nerd, but it is true. It was not my average Wednesday evening.

While that was happening, Ryan Smith ’03, field producer for CBS’s 48 Hours, was arriving in Indianapolis and Bachelor advisor Howard Hewitt and President Hess’ Chief of Staff, Jim Amidon, were plotting how to get me in contact with Ryan. Both of them know that I am hoping to enter a career in journalism and the media, and they saw this as another great opportunity for me. Not to mention, Ryan has been really interested in meeting Wabash guys and helping them in any way he can. So fast forward four days, and I am having dinner on Sunday evening with Ryan in Indianapolis.

Obviously being a producer for a hit show on a national network is a job that keeps Ryan very busy, but he took time on his day off to meet with me and share stories and advice for four hours. I was in awe and couldn’t express how grateful I was that he was taking the time to get to know me.

I think, and I hope, that in meeting Jeremy and Ryan, that I have formed a bond as a Wabash man hoping to have an impact on the world. Of course, I hope these guys may be able to help me as I make my way into the professional world, but if nothing else, I know that I have the privilege of having these guys as Wabash brothers and friends. Both Wabash men insisted that I reach out to them and stay in touch moving forward.

Thank you Jeremy and Ryan, and every Wabash alumnus who makes the effort to give back to current and future students, in whatever form that may be. That is what really makes this College special.

Morrison is a member of Sigma Chi, Sphinx Club, member of the golf team, and is Editor of The Bachelor.

Freeze Tests Out Town’s Open Mic

Wabash English Professor Eric Freeze will be reading from his work tonight at The Bowery, a Crawfordsville coffee shop now hosting open mic nights on Fridays. Welcoming writers for Story Matters and musicians on other open mic nights, it could be a great venue for Wabash students, faculty, and staff, a vision Wabash Administrative Assistant Violet Mayberry conveys in this piece about the event she wrote for the Crawfordsville Journal-Review:

Last week I sat inside The Bowery, my first visit to the downtown coffee shop. The combination of wood, chrome and glass was refreshing, modern and yet welcoming at the same time.

I was here to chat with Maria Weir, the emcee for The Bowery’s Story Matters series. I’d met her through Eric Freeze, the professor in charge of the creative writing track at Wabash, where I work as an administrative assistant. I wanted to speak with her about The Bowery and the November 8th event.  Eric will read from his book “Dominant Traits”, the debut collection of short stories the Boston Review calls “A well written collection of literary short fiction…I doubt we’ll see a better short-story collection this year.” (A Motley Vision)

“I’d like Story Matters be a place where clumps of young and old, story lovers and poetry fiends, meet up and share. It may start and stay cozy, which is great, but I’d like the room full of writing tramps, high schoolers, college students, natives and newbies to make tracks through the space. If we have variety, no one will want to miss a reading.”

As Maria spoke of her vision for Story Matters, my eyes wandered over the tiny coffee shop. In the corner, I pictured a Wabash freshman sitting on one of the chrome stools. His fingers push his slippery glasses up the bridge of his nose. Dr. Freeze walks away to applause.  The student takes a deep breath and steps off the stool to walk to the microphone.

To my left I could feel the shadow of a teenage girl, her dark hair pulled back into a messy pony tail and her basketball jersey peeking through the opening of her jacket collar. She’s come straight from practice. There is a single sheet of paper folded and refolded, pushed between her palm and her knee. Maybe next month she will sit a little closer to the microphone, she is gravitating toward the center of this universe.

Maria says “Writers are often loners, working in quiet, happy to put pen or key to the white blank page, but reading aloud can be exhilarating for feedback… I hope to give writers the confidence to enjoy the experience, rather than feel it is nerve-wracking. Stories captivate.”

As I glance over her shoulder I imagine The Bowery windows frosted with the chill of the first snow. In my mind, the door is pushed open by a woman in a bright red coat. Her short dark hair is laced with silver strands. Her hands carry composition books, a purse, keys, and an enormous cellphone. She does not want to interrupt anything or distract anyone. Her head down, she slides past the crowd to sit in the very back. She is as far as she can get from the microphone where the Wabash student stands unbalanced. The room is silent. Absorbing,

Maria has a vision that Story Matters will bring a sense of community back to Crawfordsville. “We’ve lost our narrative,” she says. It is up to each of us, writers, listeners, students, workers, poets and paupers, to narrate our story. To make the story matter. There is a process of learning and growing that takes courage to begin. In the shadows of The Bowery I see Maria’s vision coming to life. A college professor, a college student, a high school student, a student of life, all belong in this space together. The Bowery is asking us to begin the adventure to reclaim our narrative. Please join us Friday, November 8 at 7pm as we continue the journey.

—guest column in the Journal Review by Violet Mayberry