Part of the Family

There I was, sitting in the grass on the Mall, surrounded by a sea of black gowns, trying not to let my red pants be a distraction from the Commencement ceremony.

With Garrard McClendon '88

With Garrard McClendon ’88 in Chicago

My job is to let everyone see what I see – through stories, photos, and social media – but I always tell people to pretend I’m not there. (Red pants probably don’t help with that.)

In one of the moments that day when I lowered my camera from my eyes, I caught Sam Gellen ’18 wave at me as he got in line to get his diploma. I smiled and gave him a thumbs up, and, in that moment, I realized how much I’m rooting for these guys.

My first Wabash Commencement was last year after I had worked at the College for about six months. I had met several students, but I didn’t really know them. This year was different.

Every week this past school year, I had the opportunity to write about a different student. Even though our interviews lasted at most 45 minutes, I consistently walked away feeling like I had seen a different side of each student than I was prepared for.

When we got past what they thought I wanted to hear from a marketing perspective, they really opened up. Some of them shared funny stories, others shared heartbreak. Some of them talked about their achievements, and others talked about learning from their failures.

They made me laugh. They made me cry. And more than once, they made my day.

  • When Henry WebberHunt ’18, who loves fish, learned about my deep hatred of sea creatures, he told me I needed therapy.
  • Ra’Shawn Jones ’20 got so excited talking with me about his baby niece that he showed me several photos of her on his phone.
  • One night when I was taking pictures and completely focused, Byshup Rhodes ’19 came up behind me to say hi and made me almost drop my camera.
  • Jayvis Gonsalves ’18 congratulated me on my marriage when he saw an email come from the same Christina who had been emailing him before but now had a different last name.
  • Jake ’18 and Nick Budler ’19 competed with me in a GIF competition on Twitter.
  • Brock Heffron ’19 ran over on the football sidelines to give me a high five one day when I was taking photos at football practice.
  • And, more than once, members of the Sphinx Club have been more than willing to make fools of themselves to help me with social media.

I think I’ve watched more sporting events at Wabash in a year and a half than I did during my four years at my alma mater.

I attended my first Oaken Bucket game last year, and I was quite unimpressed by the size of the prize. I mean, come on. We have a 300-pound bell.

When my husband wanted to do a chemical reaction instead of a unity candle for a wedding ceremony, it was Wabash Professor Laura Wysocki who helped make it happen.

That same day, when our best man brought our car around for us to leave, Post-It notes of all colors covered the entire vehicle. Everyone there thought it was the bridal party. I knew better. What I was looking at was the prank the rest of the Wabash Communications and Marketing team had been planning since they received their invitations.

At the 2016 Monon Bell game

At the 2016 Monon Bell game

And it was Garrard McClendon ’88 who helped me plan my anniversary trip to his city of Chicago exactly one year later.

Sitting there in the grass on Commencement Day, I began to think about the Wabash community – the Wabash family.

I had written about it.

I had photographed it.

I had tweeted about it.

But it took me until that moment to realize…I’m a part of it.

A Lasting Influence

Richard Paige — Some professors cast long shadows.

For author, noted prosecutor, and former Mayor of Indianapolis Stephen Goldsmith ’68, this influence is 50 years and counting.

“It was just amazing,” he says, speaking of a constitutional law class taught by Professor Philip Wilder, one Goldsmith says was his favorite.

“What I remember about constitutional law is there were two sides to every issue,” Stephen says. “There was a majority opinion and a minority opinion and both were very well reasoned. If you read one and you didn’t read the other, you would think that was inevitably correct. The way Phil Wilder taught that was amazing.”

Stephen Goldsmith ’68.

Looking back a half century, Goldsmith remembers thinking of political philosophy and the questions that arose: what are we all about? What are we trying to do as a country? What did (John) Locke intend for us?

He then mentions a textbook that another professor, George Lipsky, used. It’s one Goldsmith still has on his bookshelf today.

“I underlined every other line in a different color,” Goldsmith explains. “Lipsky taught me how to think about threads of philosophy over time and their meanings. What does that mean with the great American experiment and what does it mean in today’s life?

“The combination of political theory with Lipsky and constitutional law with Wilder taught me how to think broadly and how to analyze.”

For a man set on public service when he arrived on campus, that was a welcome byproduct on the way to a degree.

“What Wabash did was taught me how to think and to apply that critical analysis to public policy,” Stephen says. “I didn’t learn politics at Wabash, I learned how to think about the policy.”