Tradition-Rich and Cutting-Edge

Jim Amidon — I was thinking a lot about Wabash College history over the weekend.

When President Pat White welcomed about 400 high school seniors and their families in the Chapel on Friday, the 118th Honor Scholarship Weekend was underway.

While we can’t prove it definitively, we believe that Wabash boasts the nation’s oldest merit-based scholarship competition. Since the 1890s, the College has invested in the promise of smart, motivated young men and their potential to change the world.

After welcoming the Honor Scholars, 24 hours later the President threw out the first pitch at the new Wabash Ballpark — home of the Wabash baseball team. With that ceremonial pitch, a new chapter was written in Wabash athletics history — a history that dates to 1866 when Wabash won the very first game of intercollegiate baseball played in Indiana.

Wabash is a place steeped in tradition. The College grew its sports identity just three decades after its founding in 1832 with that first baseball game against Asbury College. Before the turn of that century, Wabash would win the first intercollegiate football (1884) and basketball (1896) games played in our state.

Part of what makes Wabash appealing to young men is its history — and the College’s love of its history.

When high school men come to campus for visit weekends like Honor Scholarship Weekend, they listen intently when their tour guides explain that Forest Hall was constructed in 1833 and that Center Hall is over 150 years old.

Those same high school guys seem to delight when they hear Center Hall’s wooden stairs creak beneath their feet and as they glide their hands over the well-worn handrails.

There is pride in the fact that Wabash won all those early sports championships and the College’s players and coaches were pioneers of the games we love today.

I think parents, too, rejoice in Wabash’s history of producing local, state, and national leaders in education, law, medicine, and business. There’s something reassuring in Wabash’s history — its track record — as a liberal arts college that has never wavered from its mission.

When a college has granted academic scholarships for 118 years, you know that it’s serious in its commitment to the young men who enroll at Wabash. Parents realize this.

But there’s an interesting paradox, too. Those same high school students who love the creaky steps and worn wood of Center Hall might not consider Wabash if its science labs weren’t state-of-the-art and its athletic facilities top-notch.

Strange, huh?

The history and traditions “feel” good and help young men and their families see themselves as a part of a bigger whole.

The new Wabash Ballpark, the Field Turf in the football stadium, and the incredible biochemistry labs demonstrate the College’s commitment to the best possible educational experience for its students.

It’s a great combination — tradition-rich and cutting-edge.

Wabash boasts one of the strongest alumni networks of any college in the country. Our teaching faculty is second to none. The two centers — the Center of Inquiry and the Wabash Center — are leading international conversations on teaching and learning and the liberal arts.

President White has issued a challenge of excellence to everyone affiliated with Wabash — which both honors our past and celebrates our future.

The Honor Scholarships earned by the men of the Class of 2015 and the new outdoor athletics facilities are indeed forward-looking. But they are both rooted in a proud and rich history.

Wabash Men: Your Time Is Now

Jim Amidon —Tracy Sugarman was having lunch with a small group of Wabash College students last Thursday and discussing his book, We Had Sneakers, They Had Guns: The Kids Who Fought for Civil Rights in Mississippi, when one student asked him why he wrote the book 45 years after the Freedom Summer of 1964.

Charles McLaurin and Tracy Sugarman

Sugarman was not measured in his response.

“Because we do a lousy job of teaching history in America,” he said emphatically. “We’ve allowed that period of our history to slip.”

I was slightly taken aback by the firmness of his answer. He looked into the eyes of the young Wabash men and said, “You didn’t know anything about Charles McLaurin, Fannie Lou Hamer, or me before we came to campus this week.

“The great legacy of Charles McLaurin and the civil rights movement is the history, written in the blood of young people who dared to stand up and demand change. That movement created a climate for change everywhere around the world; people everywhere learned to organize for change.”

Then he laid it out in no uncertain words: “A lot of this is like mythology now.”

The 89-year-old author and internationally recognized artist and illustrator has lived through his fair share of American history — from storming the beaches at Normandy, fighting for justice for black citizens of Mississippi, to chronicling in words and drawings the horrors of 9/11.

Tracy Sugarman and Warren Rosenberg

But he’s determined to make sure that his grandchildren — the young people of America today — know the sacrifices their parents and grandparents made in the violent, turbulent summer of 1964.

Sugarman and his dear friend McLaurin were invited to Wabash to help celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but also to kick off a series of events to mark the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Malcolm X Institute at Wabash.

McLaurin’s history is no less rich or fascinating. He was 19 when he signed on with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and 20 when he was named director of the summer project in Sunflower County, Mississippi.

It was in Ruleville where McLaurin managed to fill an entire church with African Americans as a first step in organizing them to register to vote and to attend Freedom Schools. That evening, the young McLaurin had a face-to-face confrontation with an armed “bully” police officer, who refused to leave the church. McLaurin stood his ground amid chants of “Go, Go, Go,” and eventually other police officers escorted the bully from the church.

It was the first time anyone in that town had ever seen a black man confront a police officer, and it was a major milestone in the fight for freedom. The events are chronicled in great detail in Sugarman’s gripping book.

McLaurin would later serve as a campaign manager for Hamer, who was the first African American woman to run for U.S. Congress. Both were among the first African Americans from Mississippi to be seated at the Democratic National Convention.

And there was McLaurin — sitting in Wabash classrooms, sharing his stories with Wabash students, most of whom were born after 1990. To them, the civil rights movement is ancient history or, to use Sugarman’s word, “mythology.”

Yet McLaurin, “a foot soldier for freedom,” and Sugarman, “a messenger of the civil rights movement,” did not dwell on the past or on the violence, beatings, and intimidation.

They laughed as they shared fond memories of relationships between white college students from the north and the black citizens of the Mississippi. They laugh and live in grace today because they have learned to forgive.

But the strongest messages they directed at the Wabash students focused on change. They said the single biggest lesson to take from the summer of 1964 is that young people, when motivated and focused on a common goal, can accomplish anything.

They said the goal doesn’t matter — rights for people of color, gays, women, the environment; what matters, they said, is commitment.

“Change is important and it doesn’t happen if young people don’t demand it,” Sugarman said. “People pay dues and are willing to invest their lives in things they believe in. It isn’t a matter of ideology; it’s a matter of commitment.

“I can assure you that there are people all over the country dying to be turned on. I can assure you that there’s a lot of unfinished business in America.”

The three-day visit to Wabash by McLaurin and Sugarman was unforgettable. This community got to learn history by men who made it. This community was inspired to take from that history the great lesson of possibility; the possibility for committed people to change the world.

Then, in closing, Sugarman said farewell: “It’s time for my generation to shut up and get the hell out of the way. Your time has come.”

Saying Goodbye to Our Unsung Heroes

Jim Amidon — Last Thursday, Wabash College paid tribute to retiring faculty and staff who collectively have served the College for nearly 350 years. And most folks around here have little appreciation or understanding of their myriad contributions to the success of the College.

Kathy Day

Sure, Bill Doemel’s 40 years as biology professor, computer center director, and leader of Trippet Hall and the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts are, perhaps, well known. But most of the people recognized last week are unsung heroes. They do the difficult, time-consuming work that makes a school like Wabash run like butter.

Kathy Day’s desk in the Business Office isn’t even visible when you walk in the door. But without her attention to detail, the College’s financial books would have holes all through them. Kathy worked as “payment coordinator,” which means she was largely responsible for making sure our partners and vendors got paid for their work.

John Culley

John Culley, a 1969 Wabash graduate, has been the College’s comptroller for two decades. I have no idea exactly what a comptroller does, but I know that each year Wabash’s financial records are carefully scrutinized and audited, and every year John is congratulated for his immaculate bookkeeping. Beyond that, John is a living Wabash history museum/dictionary/fact finder. Got a financial question about Wabash? John could always be counted on to answer it.

Marcia Caldwell and Debbie Bourff have been mainstays in our print shop and mailroom for well over 20 years. Marcia and Debbie have processed (literally) millions of dollars in postage and run tens of millions of copies, always with a smile and helpful suggestion. Debbie also managed reservations for scores of campus rooms and buildings, and is singularly responsible for helping hundreds of people get married in the College Chapel.

Over the years, when I have needed data for public records, I go to the registrar’s office, usually with a poorly worded description of what I need. It never mattered to Linda Wilson, who as administrative assistant to the registrar, was responsible for the safe keeping of our most precious data — the academic records of the College. I’ll miss her helpfulness, accuracy, and efficiency!

Kathy Tymoczko

When there have been requests for information stored in our very complicated database system, Datatel, it’s been Kathy Tymoczko who has been able find it. She not only knows the system inside and out, she’s been a national leader and teacher in helping people across the country learn to manage their data effectively.

When our pre-med freshmen show up for their biology labs, everything is carefully laid out the way it should be — from beakers to tweezers to the objects of dissection (not to mention tens of millions of fruit flies). For a student, the work of organizing and preparing labs seems to happen by magic — presto! But for more than 25 years, that work has been carefully orchestrated by Cindy Munford, probably the least-know, most valuable player in our biology department.

Carolyn Harshbarger and Guyanna Spurway combined for well over 60 years of service to Wabash’s Advancement Office. Together they processed millions of dollars in Annual Fund gifts, wrote more thank you notes than you can imagine, and were the behind-the-scenes forces that kept a rapidly changing Advancement Office together for more than three decades.

Carolyn Goff served two presidents as the smiling face and chief organizer of the president’s office. Her careful attention to detail with our Trustees; her ability to manage at least 30 projects simultaneously; and her compassion made her a one-of-a-kind person.

Nancy Doemel

Two of my oldest and dearest friends at the College are Nancy Doemel and Steve House, who are both retiring this month.

Nancy ran the Wabash overseas study program at Aberdeen, Scotland for as long as I can remember, and any alumnus who studied there has very fond memories of Nancy.

I’ve known her best as a colleague in Advancement and, particularly, as an incredibly effective grant writer. Alone, she is responsible for helping Wabash secure more than $30 million in grant funding. No matter what her role — fund-raiser, volunteer coordinator, or grant writer — Nancy was great at her work because of her love of Wabash and her knowledge of its history.

Steve House

Steve House spent more than 20 years as an assistant football coach. During my time as sports information director, few people were more kind to me than Steve. I thought of him as a father figure, and soon realized that dozens and dozens of Wabash football players thought of him in the same way. I can’t begin to estimate the number of meals Steve and Judy served to football running backs or defensive linemen, but it’s probably several hundred. And keep in mind, those guys eat a LOT of lasagna.

Wabash has thrived for 177 years because of the devotion of a small group of dedicated people. While I’m sure the beat will go on starting in January, in some ways we will be a lesser place after the retirement of these good colleagues, devoted friends, and care-takers of the College.

For Which We Are Thankful

Jim AmidonWhile it is not likely to be erased from our memories any time soon, the 117th Monon Bell Classic is behind us and the Wabash College football team’s 47-0 victory over arch rival DePauw put a nice stamp on the fall season at the College.

And what a remarkable fall it was.

Folks who care deeply about Wabash have plenty to be thankful for as the campus falls quiet for Thanksgiving break. Here are but a handful of reasons why we give thanks this week.

In late August, President Pat White rang in 253 new students to Wabash. The freshmen come from across the country and around the world, and have enriched every aspect of our community.

We are thankful that in this difficult economy, Dean of Admissions Steve Klein and his dedicated staff — and all who help us recruit students — brought in such a large and wonderful class.

About that same time, Wabash was featured in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2011 College Guide, the Princeton Review’s Best 373 Colleges book, and Forbes magazine’s Best Colleges guide.

In early September, the College’s glorious new football field was dedicated as Sewell Field at Byron P. Hollett Little Giant Stadium. While many Wabash purists first balked at the idea of a synthetic playing surface, the Field Turf Pro gridiron matches the excellence of Wabash’s entire athletics program.

We’re thankful for the many fond and spirited memories we have of games played in that stadium and the men who compete as Little Giants, and for the benefactors who make that competition possible.

By month’s end, it was time for Homecoming. It’s hard to put an accurate number on it, but I suspect that about 6,000 people returned to alma mater to reminisce, remember, and celebrate Wabash’s thrilling 31-14 win over the University of Chicago.

At the Homecoming Alumni Chapel, two special friends were among those honored by the National Association of Wabash Men. The College’s alumni director and Crawfordsville native, Tom Runge, received the Alumni Award of Merit, and long-time swimming and diving coach, Gail Pebworth, was named an honorary alumna in the Class of 1991.

We’re thankful to both for their service to and love of Wabash College.

In late October, the Wabash community gathered again to celebrate the College’s tradition of philanthropy. At an exciting event on the last Friday of the month, alumni, faculty, staff, students, and friends gathered to announce the five-year, $60 million Challenge of Excellence capital campaign.

We are thankful to those people — especially the College’s Trustees — who already have given or pledged nearly $36 million toward that goal.

A week later, a record number of high school seniors and their family members descended on Wabash for the Top Ten Scholarship Visit Day. Well over 180 young men who rank in the top ten percent of their high school graduating classes made their way to campus to learn more about Wabash and to meet with alumni, faculty, and students.

We are thankful that Wabash’s reputation is strong, that high school students aspire to become Wabash men, and that our accomplished alumni are living proof of the value of a liberal arts education.

On the eve of the Monon Bell Classic, scores of alumni and family members came back to Wabash for the Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony. A remarkable class of nine men representing eight different varsity sports were inducted (with another soon to follow).

We’re thankful for Wabash’s rich tradition of intercollegiate athletics and that the College honors its sports heroes.

Throughout the fall, students and visiting artists entertained us with their musical and theatrical performances on stage.

We are thankful for the diversity of talents in this small community, and for the College’s commitment to the education of the whole person.

And that brings us to Saturday, November 13.

No other colleges in the country can boast of a rivalry as old, as fierce, and as storied as the Monon Bell rivalry between Wabash and DePauw. We may take it for granted that a single, small college football game means so much to so many people, near and far. In reality, there really isn’t anything like it in all of college sports.

We are thankful to have such a worthy, respected rival in DePauw and we are thankful for the traditions we share. (And, of course, we’re thankful that the bell has been ringing pretty much non-stop for the last two weeks.)

In a season of Thanksgiving, we at Wabash are blessed. We are blessed with a caring, dedicated faculty and staff, eager students, loyal alumni, and a community that embraces this liberal arts college for men.

For all of these reasons and more, we are thankful.

Seniors Ring the Bell

Spencer Whitehead and Josh Miracle

Jim Amidon — Barely six minutes of football had been played in Saturday’s 117th Monon Bell Classic when Wabash Coach Erik Raeburn trotted his senior kicker, Spencer Whitehead, out to the field to attempt a 43-yard-field goal in a drizzling, windy rainstorm at Byron P. Hollett Little Giant Stadium.

Wabash and DePauw had traded punches on the first three drives of the game, but on their second series, the Little Giants had reached the edge of Whitehead’s field goal range. In games earlier in the season, Coach Raeburn might have elected to go for it on fourth down and four, but in the Monon Bell Game — even in rotten weather conditions — Raeburn elected to try to get the game’s first points on the scoreboard.

Senior Kyle Grand made a perfect snap to senior holder Josh Miracle. Whitehead strode into the kick and booted the football through the west goal posts and Wabash had taken a 3-0 lead against the undefeated, 9-0 Tigers.

At the time — with 54 minutes of football remaining and weather conditions deteriorating — the three points seemed trivial at best. DePauw’s high-powered offense averaged 33 points per game through the season.

It seemed simply unfathomable that Whitehead’s kick would be the only points the Little Giants would need to knock off the Tigers, retain the Monon Bell for the second straight year, and finish the injury-plagued season 8-2.

Dan Ryan Wood and J.D. McClintic

And yet, those three points were all the Little Giant defenders needed. They blitzed, chased, and rattled DePauw’s talented senior quarterback, Michael Engle, who was forced to throw off his back foot time and time again.

Senior linemen Nick Ramsey, J.D. McClintic, Zach Brock, and Jake Kolisek, along with senior linebackers Dan Ryan Wood, C.J. Gum, and Deonte Singfield, eliminated DePauw’s running game — entirely. By early in the third quarter, every Wabash senior had made it clear that the only piece of unfinished business was the final score.

Wabash 47, DePauw 0.

There are myriad clichés about the Monon Bell Classic — throw out the records, anything can happen, unsung heroes rise up. But few in the record-sized crowd of over 11,500 hearty fans could have predicted a blowout of such large proportions. Wabash dominated in every phase of the game, including coaching, en route to the third largest scoring margin in the 117-year history of the rivalry.

Derrick Yoder

Few would have predicted that senior running back Derrick Yoder would save the best game of his Wabash career for the Bell Game. Yoder had been knocked around for being too small and not durable enough, but nobody in the stadium played any bigger than he did — lowering his shoulder time and again for extra yards. Yoder’s 164 yards rushing were nearly twice the total offense generated by the entire DePauw team.

There wasn’t a soul in the stadium who would have bet that DePauw’s All-American receiver, Alex Koors, would go without a catch in the first half and be a non-factor in the game.

DePauw never advanced the ball inside Wabash’s 20 yard-line.

Nobody would have guessed that Raeburn’s decision to go with the alternating quarterback combo of Chase Belton and Tyler Burke would do anything but blow up in his face. Instead, both Burke and Belton shined brilliantly in a game when the sun never did.

Burke galloped 14 yards up the middle and dove into the end zone late in the first quarter for the game’s first touchdown. Shortly before halftime, Belton found senior Geoff Wright wide open for a 23-yard touchdown strike. That made it 19-0 at the half and it had become obvious that Wabash was not letting go of the Monon Bell.

The quarterbacks combined to throw for over 200 yards and four touchdowns, and seemed to have DePauw’s defense completely off balance.

When Coach Raeburn selected to go for it on fourth-and-14 early in the third quarter, Burke arced a bomb to Brady Young — for the first down and a 36-yard touchdown. DePauw’s hopes for a second-half comeback were dashed when Young walked into the end zone.

Josh Miracle

Josh Miracle, Wabash’s gritty, four-year backup quarterback, engineered the offense for most of the fourth quarter. He and fellow senior Tommy Mambourg each rushed for 39 yards in the game’s final minutes, allowing them a satisfying end to their careers.

It has been decades since either Wabash or DePauw enjoyed such a one-sided victory, which is even more unusual since both teams appeared so evenly matched on paper.

The credit goes to Wabash’s seniors and coaches, who were denied the Bell in 2007 and 2008. The senior captains said in Chapel on Thursday that the Bell would stay in Crawfordsville, and on Saturday they made good on that promise by turning in the most dominating performance in modern Monon Bell history.

Skatepark a Triumph for Westphal, Crawfordsville

Jim Amidon — Saturday’s dedication of the Milligan Skatepark was a triumph on every level.

As hundreds gathered to watch a small committee of dedicated citizens cut a ceremonial red ribbon to open the park, the sun rose above a large bank of trees on the southern edge of Milligan Park. The entire 8,000-foot concrete skatepark was bathed in late-morning sunshine.

It seemed like a very, very long time ago when a city ordinance drove skateboarders out of downtown, off the sidewalks, and away from parking lots.

It seemed like a very, very long time ago when Karen Cushman, Sheridan and David Hadley, and a handful of people organized and sent out a mailer asking the community to support a park that would be dedicated to skateboarders, inline skaters, and BMX bikers.

Those good people chose not to turn their backs on the kids with funny t-shirts and baggy jeans, and instead decided to work with them to imagine a place where they could fit in, where they could have fun, where they could be themselves.

And still, only a few people thought it would be possible to raise nearly one-quarter of a million dollars to plan and build the park… without using public money at any level.

Meanwhile, the kids who used to skate down near the courthouse grew older, moved away, tossed out their Vans board shoes. A few hung on to the dream and worked with the committee to design, refine, and create the plans they hoped might someday become reality.

Chad Westphal

A young Wabash math professor — in his first year at the College — joined the committee. Turns out that Chad Westphal was one of those same kids with the funny shoes and baggy jeans. Turns out Chad Westphal — even after completing his Ph.D. in mathematics — still is one of those same kids who gets thrills out of gliding over smooth concrete, up embankments, and sometimes crashing in spectacular fashion.

The skatepark became Westphal’s passion. Suddenly the committee had an adult member with skateboarding on the brain — and a vision for a park that was attainable.

Money began to come in — slowly — from private donors, Kiwanis, Youth Services Bureau, and the Montgomery County Community Foundation, among many others. By last summer, it became clear that a skatepark would finally be built in Milligan Park.

So, at a little after 11 a.m. on Saturday morning, Mike Scime stood on a concrete embankment wearing a jet black t-shirt that read, “I helped build the Crawfordsville Skatepark.” As at least 100 kids with skateboards, bikes, rollerblades, and even razor scooters watched, Scime thanked the volunteers, donors, and foundations who saw the project through, start to finish.

Then he looked down at the kids and thanked them for their patience and inspiration.

Moments later, Scime, Sheridan Hadley, Cheryl Keim, Westphal, and Karen Cushman stood behind the red ribbon. They handed the scissors to a skater named Trevor Metcalf to have the honor of officially dedicating the park.

It was the committee’s desire to have one of the kids who inspired the work open the park to the public. And for Metcalf, the moment was especially sweet. He and his family moved to Michigan not long ago, but they woke at 3 a.m. on Saturday to make the drive so that he could be in Crawfordsville when the Milligan Skatepark was finally opened.

You could say that Trevor was “head over heels” with excitement. After Westphal declared the park officially open, the bowls, tubes, stairs, flat-tops, and rails were flooded with kids from probably five years old to 25 (plus Westphal).

Trevor MetcalfMetcalf strapped on his inline roller blades and took off. Starting at the north end of the park, he got up a head of speed, and took off toward the “Westphal Tube.” As he gained full speed, a wide smile crept across his face. He started up the steep embankment on the south edge of the tube, shot up like a rocket, tucked his legs under his body, and completed a full revolution before landing with a thud and a thump hard on the concrete edge.

It was a hard fall; the kind of fall that made this 45-year-old reach for his cell phone to call 911. But Metcalf was fine. In fact, he was laughing as he spread across the freezing concrete. He had gotten through the full revolution in the air and he had landed on both blades, slamming hard on his rear end.

With his friends and fellow skaters surrounding him, he jumped to his feet (blades) and shouted, “I’ve got this” as he headed back to the other side to try the trick one more time.

Gentlemen of Note

Last Saturday morning at about 10:30, an EMS truck came screaming down Wabash Avenue. At that time, several hundred people were participating in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, including a large number of cancer survivors.

The sirens and flashing lights brought great fear and anxiety to the walk’s organizers. Then, when the medics parked in the drive between two fraternity houses at Wabash College, fears of a different kind came to mind.

But instead of the medics arriving on the scene at a fraternity house to save a life, they came only to transport a very sick young man to the hospital; a young man whose life was saved by the smart, swift actions of his fraternity brothers.

No, this situation had nothing at all to do with alcohol consumption.

Wabash junior Mark DePrez

Mark DePrez is a Wabash College junior. He is a member of Beta Theta Pi. He is also a type 1, insulin-dependent diabetic who has lived his entire life with the disease. He is also a very private person when it comes to his disease. Unless you somehow found out, you would not in any way realize that he’s been attached to an insulin pump that regulates his blood sugar since he was 11 years old.

Like any mom, Mary DePrez was nervous about sending her son to college; even more nervous about sending him three hours away, on his own, with a life-threatening disease. And when Mark decided to pledge a fraternity, Mrs. DePrez could only hope that she had raised her son to make responsible decisions.

A week ago Friday night, Mark DePrez started vomiting. He’d been to a local fast food restaurant and figured he must have eaten some bad mayo. Hours passed and his condition only deteriorated.

His fraternity brothers stayed close to him throughout the night, checking on him, communicating with his mother, and helping him with chips of ice.

By morning when he phoned his mom, Mark’s speech was slurred and he couldn’t lift his body from the couch. The five guys looking after him — Ben Burkett, Brady Hagerty, Marc Noll, John Jurkash, and John Pennington — called EMS, which ultimately saved his life.

Mark’s blood sugar had risen to 1176, a potentially fatal level and the highest the medics had ever seen. Complicating matters, his blood test meter failed and his usually reliable insulin pump had a kink in it. A stomach virus, bad meter, and faulty pump almost cost Mark DePrez his life.

Those same students stayed in constant contact with Mary DePrez while she was en route from Fort Wayne, and stayed by Mark’s side while he was in the local ER and later when he was transferred to Indianapolis. Two students even offered Mary access to their family’s homes while Mark was hospitalized in Indianapolis. The fraternity men also contacted Mark’s professors to let them know he would not be in class.

Mary DePrez wrote a long email to Wabash President Pat White and Dean of Students Mike Raters. She’s given us permission to share some of what she wrote.

“These young men reflect all that is good in the men at Wabash,” wrote Mary. “They think critically, they care about their brothers, and they react responsibly. They are polite, caring, and giving young men. They reflect well on their families and the college. I am proud to say my son goes to Wabash and is a member of Beta Theta Pi.

“Our son was saved by his fraternity brothers and we can never thank them enough.”

Unless you’ve been under a rock the last couple of years, you know that Wabash fraternities have gotten some bad press. It’s sad that major media fails to dial in on the great things that happen in fraternities at schools like Wabash — the lifelong relationships, the brotherhood, the trust, and the leadership development.

That same weekend when Mark DePrez’ life was in danger, members of three Wabash fraternities (Theta Delta Chi, Beta Theta Pi, and Lambda Chi Alpha) helped set up, execute, and tear down the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event.

Think about that for a second.

Fraternity guys from an all-male college, working on a cold, rainy Saturday morning to help local women raise $23,000 for breast cancer research, support, and advocacy.

Not the kind of stuff that makes headlines; just the quiet, good work done by some of the Gentlemen of Wabash.

Immigration Has a Face

Jim Amidon — I had just come out of a meeting Thursday morning and was frantically trying to respond to about two-dozen emails that arrived in the hour I was away from my desk. At about 9:35, Wabash English Professor Warren Rosenberg called me to tell me about a unique panel discussion that I wouldn’t want to miss.

Christie Byun

The topic: immigration.

The panelists: Six members of the Wabash faculty who have at some point in their lives been immigrants.

The time: Ten minutes from the moment I hung up with Professor Rosenberg!

I recalled a similar collaboration a few years ago that produced some wonderful stories, photos, and classroom experiences, so I grabbed a camera and notepad and took off for Detchon Hall.

Gilberto Gomez

When I got there I found three different classes all studying — in various ways — the topic of immigration. And what better time for Wabash students to be discussing the myriad issues surrounding immigration than now — when so much is being written about sealing our borders and tightening already difficult immigration standards.

Sitting in front of the roughly 45 students were professors Gilberto Gomez (Spanish), Peter Mikek (economics), Christie Byun (economics), Sam Rocha (teacher education), Agata Szczeszak-Brewer (English), and Jane Hardy (Spanish). After each professor talked about his or her experiences immigrating to (or from) the United States, the panelists took a range of questions from the students.

It was fascinating to listen to each person describe their feelings about immigration.

For Professor Szczeszak-Brewer, the decision to migrate from her native Poland was very difficult because of the closeness of her family. And if her American-born husband could have spoken better Polish, they probably would have ended up in her home country.

“In my case, I wondered if I could define myself outside my family and my community,” she said.

Sam Rocha

Professor Rocha was born in “the Valley” of South Texas in Brownsville. For generations, his family owned horse ranches near the border. When his parents moved to Mexico as missionaries, Rocha was, technically, an illegal immigrant, where he felt prejudice because he was too “Anglo.” When the family returned to Texas, the prejudice returned — this time because he was too Hispanic.

“When you live in the Valley, you speak Spanish,” Professor Rocha told the students. “But if my family was told to go ‘home,’ we would go north.”

Professor Hardy is a United States citizen married to Professor Mikek, who is Slovenian, and their two sons have dual citizenship. But for a short time, she lived and worked in Spain, and she later lived in Slovenia for five years.

“After living outside the United States, when I came back I had this feeling like I didn’t fit in,” Professor Hardy said. “I was aware after being away that I had changed and my identity had shifted.”

Professor Gomez agreed. “Being an immigrant gives you the proverbial double vision… For those of us who move back and forth, we develop an ability to see things from multiple perspectives.”

Peter Mikek

Professor Mikek said he is easily frustrated by questions about his identity, but he also said the topic leads to good classroom discussions.

“I often ask my students, ‘What makes you American and what makes me different?’ It’s a shockingly difficult question,” Mikek said.

One student asked the professors why they chose to stay in America. Professor Gomez gave a brief history lesson and reminded the students that since the dawn of time humans have been nomadic. The concept of staying in one place — in one country — is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Agata Szczeszak-Brewer & Jane Hardy

Professor Szczeszak-Brewer, being the fine teacher she is, turned the question around and posed an interesting notion to the students.

“We do tend to be nomadic, to move, to seek new ways to define ourselves, yet we have a need to fit in,” she said. “These two sentiments are present at the same time. As college students, you want to seek and to explore — all so that you can determine who you are. And yet you join fraternities and clubs so that you feel as though you fit in.”

Professor Mikek wanted to drive home one key point: The Wabash professors are in the tiny minority of most immigrants in this country. “We were not forced to come here for financial reasons,” he said. “We are part of a brain drain from other countries… Look around at places like NASA and you’ll find people from all over the world working there.”

When Professor Szczeszak-Brewer introduced the panel, she said, “We teach immigration and exile in our classes… and we want to place human faces behind the history and the stories.”

By the end of the discussion, the students still had more questions than answers. But they also began to realize that behind the radio talk shows and screaming headlines, immigration is about real people. Immigration has a face.

They Don’t Make ’em Like Guyanna

Jim Amidon — My friend and colleague Guyanna Spurway retired on Friday. On Thursday afternoon, about 100 of us gathered in Caleb Mills House to give her a hug, wish her (and husband Jack) well in the coming years, and pay tribute to what she’s meant to Wabash College.

The reception was really quite nice and Guyanna joked about having written a half-dozen different speeches for the event, most she said were written between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.

Guyanna Spurway

Most people laughed when she said that. I smiled, but the longer I thought on it, the more I realized that Guyanna really did stay up in the middle of the night to make sure her last formal words at Wabash would be spot-on for the occasion.

Interesting, too, because Guyanna had few opportunities to speak in front of large groups of people during her 39 years as one of the most impressive administrative assistants the College has ever had.

Guyanna spent her entire career behind the scenes, and literally behind a large desk with a shelf on top of it so you could barely see her when you walked into the Advancement Office in Kane House. But she was always there and always doing the zillion little things it takes to make a big machine like Wabash hum right along.

For those who don’t know, the Advancement Office is in some ways the “machine’s” engine. The name of the office suggests that we who serve in it help advance the institution forward. More simply, we engage the alumni and foundations that make generous philanthropic gifts to sustain all that happens at Wabash.

None of us were quite sure how many deans of advancement or directors of development Guyanna assisted in her 39 years at the College. I think we settled on 10, but the late Dick Ristine ’41 served in a leadership role in the office on three different occasions, which probably puts the number at 12 or 13.

Guyanna has been the steadying force through at least three major capital campaigns that raised more than $200 million. She’s been the human file cabinet of institutional memory, donor relations, and alumni engagement. She’s been here longer than any of us.

She told us Thursday that when she left her own college, she simply walked into Don Dake’s office in Center Hall and said she wanted to work for Wabash. She started soon after, first with the deans and registrar and later moving to development, which later became advancement.

While the names of offices changed and titles of her supervisors morphed over time, Guyanna remained constant.

I admire her for her quintessential professionalism. They don’t make them like Guyanna anymore. Her attention to detail is unlike any person with whom I’ve worked. Her organizational skills — crafted and honed decades before excel spreadsheets and databases — are second to none.

I wish I knew how many times I walked into her office to ask for information on an alumnus, a trustee, an event, or even the President’s Christmas card from 25 years ago, and she would quickly snag a file and put it in my hands.

Again, her professionalism was an inspiration to me when I first started working with her in the spring of 1987.

But her love and compassion for her co-workers — people like Mr. Ristine, Bill Stout, and Susan Cantrell — is what set her apart. When any of us in the office were going through tough times, Guyanna would always be there with a card, a hug, or a few helpful words. When my daughter was born, it was as though Guyanna had a new grandchild. (And just ask her about her own grandchildren!)

Guyanna’s supervisor Joe Emmick saluted her on Thursday and thanked her for her service. He also thanked her and acknowledged her for her discretion. People like Guyanna are among the first to hear the really good news or the really bad news, and she was always discreet and professional, Joe said.

But then, at the close of his remarks, Dean Emmick talked about how it was his personal friendship with her that stood out most in his mind; how much Guyanna has enjoyed watching Joe and Sara’s son grow up, just as Joe and Sara have delighted in Guy’s grandchildren.

I really mean it when I say they don’t make ‘em like Guy Spurway anymore. Her humane goodness and love and compassion for others made her a friendly face and joyful colleague. Her ability to hold together a large, unwieldy organization over four decades while serving a dozen bosses with discretion and the utmost professionalism is awe-inspiring.

We at Wabash have said farewell to a goodly number of long-serving colleagues in the last year or two, with still more early retirements on the near horizon. In Guyanna Spurway’s case, she will be gone from Kane House, but remembered by all of us who had the privilege of calling her friend and colleague.

Turf Gives Wabash Fresh Face

Jim Amidon — I walked across the Wabash College campus Friday morning so I could check up on the progress at Hollett Little Giant Stadium. Various crews have been working to install a new synthetic playing surface, scoreboard, and give the 44-year-old stadium a facelift.

All those soaking thunderstorms in June slowed the progress of what was already a pretty tight timeline. As of mid-day Friday, there was still a huge pile of white sand and several large containers of granulated rubber still to be applied to the Field Turf surface.

Wes Chamblee scores on a long run in Saturday's scrimmage.

Somehow, though, the crews got finished enough so the Little Giant football team could take the state-of-the-art surface for a test drive Saturday afternoon in a little offense vs. defense scrimmage.

After all these years hanging around Wabash’s football program (28 this year), very little surprises me any more. But the transformation of Hollett Little Giant Stadium ranks up near the top.

I have always been proud of Wabash’s facilities. Hays Hall is a state-of-the-art science building; Trippet Hall is a beacon at the north end of campus; the Fine Arts Center is one of the finest of its kind for a school our size; and renovations of Goodrich and Baxter halls create ideal teaching and learning conditions.

The Allen Athletics and Recreation Center, dedicated less than 10 years ago, provides 170,000 square feet of space for intramurals, recreation, and the varsity sports of basketball, swimming, wrestling, and indoor track. It’s a stunning building for a college of any size.

Over time, though, the College’s outdoor athletic facilities didn’t match up with all the other improvements to campus.

You can still see the overflowing dumpster in the corner of the stadium. Crews were still working just a couple of hours before the Red vs. White Scrimmage.

For over 50 years, Mud Hollow has been the all-purpose green grass area of campus, home to the baseball team in the spring and the soccer team in the fall. The football team practiced there for decades. In comparison with many schools against which Wabash competes (for students and in sports), the baseball and soccer facilities were, in a word, shabby.

That’s not meant to knock the hard work coaches and groundskeepers have put into the baseball and soccer fields. They’ve done remarkable work, especially considering that Mud Hollow is by a large measure the lowest part of campus, which makes for mucky conditions in the spring.

All of that is changing.

It’s my job to hype up all things Wabash. The new football field needs no hype. One look says it all.

The Field Turf is a deep, lustrous green with bright red Wabash lettering and a bold W in the center of the field. It will never need to be watered or painted or fertilized. It will reduce injuries to players. It will be gorgeous year-round.

And I can’t wait to see what it looks like in November when HDNet broadcasts the Monon Bell Game in high definition!

The transformation of Hollett Stadium is just the beginning.

The baseball stadium construction is well underway on the southwest side of campus. When I drove by last week, I saw the massive piles of dirt being spread to level that part of campus for the baseball field. There’s a tall post stuck in the ground near the corner at Jennison Street; that’s where home plate will be. I decided to get out of the car and check it out. It was a pretty cool feeling to stand at home plate and imagine what the new stadium will look like when it opens in March.

Baseball Coach Cory Stevens works as hard as any recruiter at Wabash, and he’ll soon have a showpiece stadium to match his efforts.

Finally, as soon as the soccer season ends, workers will begin the long process of leveling Mud Hollow Field, which slopes to the south by about four or six feet from one end to the other. Once they get it level (talk about moving a lot of dirt), the crew from Field Turf will return to put down a synthetic soccer field, which will be the first step in the construction of a new soccer stadium on the western edge of Mud Hollow.

The rest of Mud Hollow will be a combination of synthetic and natural grass practice and intramural fields.

By this time next year, all of the construction on new outdoor athletic facilities will be complete.

A little over 40 percent of all Wabash students participate in intercollegiate sports; over 80 percent play intramurals. A year from now, all will enjoy outdoor facilities that match the high quality of the classrooms, laboratories, art galleries, and concert halls.

I hope you’ll plan now to share our pride in Wabash and attend the Community Day football game against Wooster on September 11. Admission is free and believe me, there is no finer place to watch a football game any where.