Small school, big possibilities

Every student who steps onto this campus is looking at the legacies of previous Wabash men. The opportunities our students experience, the technology they work with, the dorms and fraternities in which they live, all of these are made possible by men who wanted to leave Wabash better than how they found it.

They believed in the possibilities of Wabash.

Bob Allen received a $600 scholarship, which helped him attend Wabash. Years later, he and his wife, Betty, donated $10 million back to campus.

At his Chapel Talk on Thursday, the president’s Chief of Staff and Director of Strategic Communications Jim Amidon ’87 explained it to current students this way: “A tiny liberal arts college in West Central Indiana once said, ‘We have a place and a voice in higher education.’ We transformed the campus. And we did it through philanthropy.”

Wabash College is currently halfway between that comprehensive capital campaign, which began in 1998, and its bicentennial in 2032. Conversations are beginning to take place regarding ways to improve the Wabash College experience for future students.

The conversations and donations of the previous campaign raised $136 million and improved the campus in almost every aspect from new buildings, state-of-the-art technology, the establishment of immersion programs, and millions of dollars in scholarships.

Though today’s talks are still in their early stages, improving professional development, fraternities, campus life experience, and philanthropy are the pillars of the conversations.

Immersion trips would not be possible without the generosity of our alumni.

“You won’t be surprised to know it’s going to take a lot of money to do that,” Amidon said. “It’s not just about participating in these big conversations…it’s about investing in those initiatives because you believe that tiny, little Wabash matters.”

Amidon explained there are several ways for a person to contribute to the future of Wabash. Financially, they can give on the campus’s upcoming Day of Giving. They can take part in conversations with prospective students who visit campus. They can tell their story – where they came from, what they’ve done, and where they plan on going.

The Princeton Review says we have the No. 1 alumni network in the nation, but that only continues if current students also transition to being active alumni.

“Is there really any question about the value of a Wabash education?” Amidon asked. “Don’t let our future be up to fate. My point here, gentlemen, is that you should take ownership of this place. After all, whose Wabash is it anyway?”

‘Three Time’ And So Much More

Nicknames and sports kind of go hand-in-hand, so it’s not surprising that someone on campus refers to Riley Lefever ’17 as “Three Time.” When you win three individual national championships, monikers like that are bound to follow.

It’s Riley’s response to sharing the story that sheds light on the person behind that championship veneer.

“I find it a little embarrassing,” he says. “I try to shy away from that stuff.”

Yes, Riley is a top-notch student-athlete, the leader of a nationally ranked wrestling team. He is also an English major who dabbles in poetry and has plans to teach following graduation, as well as the head resident assistant on campus, overseeing Rogge Hall, so his impact is far reaching.

Riley Lefever ’17 in Center Hall.

According to Associate Dean of Students Marc Welch, Riley relates well to a variety of people with the ability to lead through his words and actions. His attitude is contagious.

“As an R.A., Riley is naturally caring and concerned for others,” Welch says. “He is an encourager while at the same time holding them to a high standard.”

Fellow R.A. Brian Parks ’18 understands the commitment and integrity that goes into the job, and he witnessed some of those qualities at their first meeting.

“He automatically makes the room more relaxed,” says Parks. “Even though the job is stressful, he tries to put everybody at ease. He cracks jokes, but at the same time, he is a leader. He keeps us in order and makes sure we’re on task.”

One of Lefever’s character traits surprised Parks. Riley is a goof ball.

“He’s goofy. He seems to put a smile on your face every time you walk by,” Parks explains. “You can be yourself with him, and that translates very well to being an R.A.”

Chris Wilson ’19, who claims Riley as both a teammate and an R.A., says that Lefever earns respect on the mat and in Rogge Hall because of who he is, “You can look at him and tell that he’s athletic. I mean, he’s big and strong, but I don’t think everybody realizes how unique he is. He’s laid back. We respect him because he allows us to be ourselves.”

As Riley shoots for a fourth consecutive national championship and a B.A. degree this spring, one professor noted the attributes that help him stand out athletically and as a mentor, also aid him in the classroom.

“The excellent work ethic no doubt helps him in athletics, but it also defines him as a student,” says Agata Szczeszak-Brewer, Associate Professor of English. “He is a good listener, and his responses to texts or to other students’ comments are detailed and always respectful. I view Riley as a humble, down-to-earth guy who never brags about his achievements.”

Riley has impacted the Wabash community in a number of ways, but he is quick to point out the positive effects on him along the way, too.

“Being an R.A. has made me more approachable. I enjoy being able to impact young men’s lives,” “To be someone to talk to – to be a presence in their lives – has made me who I am. These experiences have shaped me as a person, a learner, an educator, and a leader.”

Scholarship Impacts Felt Around the World

Three Wabash students spent last semester abroad as part of the Gilman International Scholarship program. While each resided in vastly different locations, they returned to campus with a similar thought: the connections made through cultures, people, and experiences made for a rich experience.

“The education, trips, and, most importantly, the different cultures to which I was exposed made this experience very enlightening and eye-opening,” said Rodolfo Solis ’18, who was based in Valencia, Spain. “As a result, this led me to appreciate the Spanish language and literature much more.”

Much of that appreciation can be seen in the interactions with people, whether it be host families or strangers met while traveling.

Dominick Rivers at the Great Pyramids of Giza.

While on a trip to Cairo, Egypt, Dominick Rivers ’19 was on a run at the Great Pyramids of Giza, when he befriended a watchman named Nasar, who took him to parts of the site not available to the general public. From there, Rivers shared a dinner with his family, viewed Nasar’s artwork – a sculptor – and meditated.

“It was truly a fantastic experience that affirmed an already held belief,” said Rivers, who was based in Prague, Czech Republic. “As humans, we are in this together just to make life that much easier and enjoyable for one another.”

Solis was moved during a visit to Peñiscola, Spain. The town holds a noteworthy castle that dates back to the Crusades, and was recently featured prominently on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Such a journey was like a trip through time, according to Solis.

“I was able to do something that I never thought was possible, set foot in a historical monument previously used for an event that took place a little over 900 years ago,” he said.

Immanuel Mitchell-Sodipe ’18 spoke of shared experiences with his host family while in Guatemala. He remembered conversations with his host mother, Rubi, and connections made when discussing the issues that affect the poor and underrepresented.

Immanuel Mitchell-Sodipe  snaps a photo in Guatemala.discussing the issues that affect the poor and underrepresented.

“The world seems smaller, like people share my politics and experiences,” he said “People love, and they imagine a better world.”

Two of Wabash’s Gilman Scholarship recipients had traveled outside the United States previously. For Rivers, it was his first trip abroad, and he appreciated the familiarity he discovered.

“There might be a lot of land and sea that separates us, but deep down we are all looking for the same thing – to enjoy the time we have and to make it last,” he said.