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God’s Gentleman

Steve Charles—When Jim Czarniecki ’71 was editor of The Wabash yearbook his senior year, he did away with many of the cliches of the genre—what he called the "old gray coat-and-tie-and-stand-in-a line" photos.

He hoped to "capture something that is actually YOU," he told his classmates. "If not your face, at least something you can relate to, because that’s what Wabash is—you."

Not content with having his classmates’ images all uniform and squeezed into a box like the fraternity composites we use today, Jim used senior photos that are fascinating environmental shots that tell you something different about each person. They must be fun for members of the Class of 71 to look at today (and to try to explain!).

The living unit photos are informal group shots atop fire engines, bridges, trees, boxcars—photos that, no doubt, have their own stories.

As yearbook advisor, I often hold up Jim’s book as an example of what an editor with a vision can do.

And Jim’s desire to capture the essence of others’ experience, to envision what they could be and how the arts could nurture that, grew even stronger. The same man whose vision shaped a college yearbook went on to shape the arts in Minneapolis (as director of the Museum of American Art, among other venues) and change for the better the lives of high school students battling addictions in that city (as the co-founder of Sobriety High School).

That vision dimmed July 9 when Jim died at home after a long battle with cancer.

Jim’s courage, wisdom, and vision during that battle was equally inspiring, and with its own vision. I began to read about it in a journal that he kept at the Caring Bridge website. Some of those entries carry a wisdom and unforgettable images I hope I will always carry with me. Envelopes of light that will come in handy in a dark time.

After his death, scores of Jim’s friends and those who had met him through the journal posted their condolences to his family and their own words of praise for the man. "God’s gentleman," one reader called Jim. Can there be higher praise for a Wabash man?

They’re having a celebration of Jim’s life this Saturday in Minneapolis from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. It should be beautiful. You can read Jim’s obituary in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Of course, we’ll have a remembrance in Wabash Magazine.

Here’s a photo of the back page of the Wabash yearbook Jim edited. It was dedicated to his friend, Pat Brannigan ’71, who had died the previous summer. I think Jim’s words and his decision to so dedicate the book reveal the man he was becoming. God’s gentleman.


Karibuni!

Steve Charles—Drivers on CR 700 East must wonder why a  sign inscribed with the Swahili word for "Welcome" adorns the entry to Bob and Lea Ann Einterz’ home in Zionsville, Indiana.

I found out exactly why last weekend when I accompanied photographer Chris Minnick for an afternoon photo shoot. We were there to illustrate an upcoming Wabash Magazine article about the innovative medical partnership that the Class of 77 Wabash grad co-founded between Kenya and Indiana University.

Bob had told me earlier that his goal for the IU-Kenya Partnership transcends medicine—that it’s ultimately about "dignifying relationships." He wasn’t too eager to be photographed, but when I joked that it was too bad we couldn’t bring together the IU and Kenyan students he’s worked with in the program and photograph those relationships, Bob was suddenly more enthusiastic.

"Great idea!" he said, "We’ll have a get-together."

Two weeks later, there we were—Bob and his family and about 20 of his friends,†colleagues, and students from Kenya and the U.S., all hanging out at Bob’s house. Most of the folks gathered there has at least one thing in common—they’d all lived at the Einterz home for days, weeks, months or years, either recuperating from an illness or surgery or just because they needed a place to stay. For these friends, the sign over the front door is no decoration. They feel at home here. Even as we waited for two hours for the weather to clear so Chris could shoot our cover photograph, Bob and Lea Ann’s gift of hospitality kept everyone feeling welcome, like family.

"Welcoming" seems the†theme for the past two weeks as I’ve taken photographs of the Wabash community.

During a Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Religion and Theology workshop, I was allowed to photograph intense discussions between teachers of theology as they confronted some of the issues—theological, social, and emotional—that divide them. Associate Director Paul Myhre led this particular workshop, and I was amazed at the honesty, candor, compassion, and, ultimately, the understanding that transpired there.

I found myself yearning for such a safe and trustworthy environment for Wabash faculty members to discuss the differences that sometimes divide us.

One week later I photographed a joyful session during another Center workshop’s Saturday night karaoke session (a first for the Center, I believe). I’ve never had more fun behind the camera. Earlier in the day, these same people had been earnestly discussing issues during lunch; now here they were, cutting loose. It’s not everyday you get to photograph professors and religious scholars belting out "YMCA", complete with hand motions. There were even a couple of more solemn, moving†moments—the sort of fun and emotional risk-taking that occurs when people feel welcome and safe. Like family.

Wabash Center Director Lucinda Huffaker, her colleagues, and the Center staff have made Wabash an extraordinarily welcoming and safe place for teachers from across North America to be challenged, inspired and renewed in their vocations. Lucinda is moving on at the end of the year, but someone needs to sit her down and find out how they’ve been able to create such a place. We need to find out how Wabash College can benefit—emotionally and intellectually, individually and as a community—from the gifts and wisdom of the Wabash Center.

For those scholars attending Center workshops, that first glimpse of the Wabash Chapel is a lot like that sign over Bob and Lea Ann Einterz’ door: Karibuni. Welcome, friends. You can feel at home here.

Photo at right: Dr. Bob Einterz ’77 and his daughter, Abigail.
Photo by Chris Minnick


The wise use of summer lawns

Steve Charles—Was out walking around campus yesterday trying out our new 85mm lens when I noticed two boys playing football on the lawn in front of the Wabash Chapel.

Turned out to be Justin and Joel Raters, sons of Associate Dean of Students Mike Raters ’85. The brothers were playing their own football game, complete with tackling and first downs, each brother his own team.

My older brother and I used to play the same way. But that in our version, we were allowed to pass to ourselves! ("Charles is passing the ball…he’s going long…he leaps into the air and… he’s got it! Touchdown! And the†crowd is going wild!")

Four years older than me, my brother actually slaughtered me every game, tossing passes to himself just out of my reach.

Why I remember such moments so warmly, I’m not sure. But watching Justin and Joel play, Justin evading his little brother, made me smile. That sense of exhilaration when school let out, the frenzied freedom of summer days, the feeling of wet grass on your legs, the scent of the soil as your face smacked the ground after you successfully tackled your big brother just short of the imaginary goal line. Could there be any better use for a summer lawn?

Justin and Joel were kind enough to let me photograph their game—fine sons of a guy who is doing a remarkable job as associate dean.

I’ve attached a photo album, too. All you little brothers out there, click here. See if it doesn’t take you back.


Face to face with the Sparks legacy

Steve CharlesEven with all of our photographs and stories from practically every spot on campus during the Big Bash Reunion Weekend, we still missed many important moments.

One such moment occurred in the College’s Archives, which is open during reunions. Many alums make their way down the library stairs and through the golden doors to peruse old yearbooks or editions of The Bachelor from their time at the College. But with our activist archivist Beth Swift around, more surprising connections are often made.

At this year’s Big Bash, descendants of the College’s ninth president, Frank Sparks, came face to face with their heritage. Beth describes the moment here:

There were two women with two young men who were about the age of our students. The older of the two women introduced the group by saying that she was Frank Hugh Sparks’ granddaughter, the other woman was his great granddaughter and the two young men were his great-great grandsons.

What a delight they were!

I was so tickled to meet them and to share a bit of the Wabash history surrounding Sparks and the numerous ways he nurtured this small college. In our reading room we have a handsome Sparks portrait, a bronze bust, and an Arvin radio that President Sparks gave a former student as a wedding present.

They seemed thrilled to see these tangible traces of their ancestor. One of the young men posed beside the portrait for a picture.

We spoke of the granddaughter’s visits to Caleb Mills House during her childhood to stay with her grandfather. I mentioned the episode of television’s “This is Your Life” with Ralph Edwards which featured President Sparks. She answered that she was, in fact, one of the small children on that stage. I asked if it was intimidating being on that stage, on television. She said it was, a little, but it was reassuring that her family was there, especially her grandfather. She spoke about feeling unsure and climbing on his lap; as she said it there was deep warmth in her tone. She laughed and said that although she had always understood that he was an important person, to her Frank Hugh Sparks was simply her granddad.

She gave me a box of items for the Archives, and the first item I saw was a reprint from the Reader’s Digest of April 1947. The article was, “The Man with the Big Idea.” It talked about Frank Hugh Sparks’ rise from humble beginnings to big business success to the presidency of Wabash. The “Big Idea” was about education and how it would “help to sustain self-determination of free citizens.”

As I opened the box, I was standing not two feet from a set of beautiful sketches by Klaus Wolff ’50, donated by Gene McCormick ’49 but with their own connection to Frank Sparks.

The story of Klaus Wolff is an amazing Wabash tale. Wolff was a soldier in the German army and was held as a POW in North Africa during WWII. Following the war, he was headed to the American zone in Germany to find work when his mother handed him a magazine to read on the train. It was that same issue of Reader’s Digest—April 1947—that featured Frank Sparks. Wolff read the article and was so inspired that he wrote to Sparks. In a typical Sparks move, Wolff was offered free tuition to Wabash. The other expenses of his education were covered by friends of the college. Everything was paid except the day to day pocket money a student needed in that era. For this money Wolff produced sketches which he sold to fellow students. Dr. McCormick paid $2.50 for these lovely sketches. Wolff studied economics under Ben Rogge, married a girl from DePauw, and went on to graduate school. He obtained his PhD and taught economics for many years at Middlebury College in Vermont.

The story of Klaus Wolff is about a gift from Frank Sparks to a student, but as I told it that morning, the story became a gift from Wabash to the Sparks family. It was a lovely moment and, for that brief time, Frank Hugh Sparks was real and present, here in the Archives.—Beth Swift

In photo: Frank Sparks, ninth president of Wabash.


“The resurrections rain accomplishes”

In one of my favorites of Marc Hudson’s early poems, the Wabash English professor writes:

"You will discover your vocation:
You will write the history of rain…
You will record the resurrections rain accomplishes…"

I’ll confess that I attended Marc’s reading last Thursday—his first of any length since the death of his son, Ian, on December 30, 2002—hoping for resurrections. Marc’s art had been a lodestar to me for such hope before. But Ian’s death, at age 19, was such a blunt instrument, I feared the poet’s vision dimmed, his voice muted. Though nothing comparable to the loss of a child, I’ve had my own losses lately, and so has the campus. Marc’s is a voice we’ve needed.

And it was strong and clear on Thursday night.

"I wanted to read some poems about places," Marc began, "and about coming home to them."

First there was Washington State and "The History of Rain." Then Iceland, where he and his wife, Helen, spent 1980-81, and where Marc worked on a farm while translating Beowulf in a place where the "north wind was robbing the farmer blind," but where there also was "gold in the wind," and where Marc first thought about being a father.

Then back to Washington, where Ian was injured at birth and afflicted with cerebral palsy:

"In Omak,
these were festival days.
Boys raced their ponies
down a cutbank, then across
the Okanogan. Now I understood
their ritual leap to mend
a broken life. I had been a curator of bones:
now I was the father of a small church made of them."

Then to Crawfordsville, where he bathed Ian for what he didn’t realize was the last time in his life:

"…you, cracking up at my antics
mocking my aged tastes
with your sidelong squint…"

And where he and Helen bathed him after his death:

"Under your long lashes,
Ian,
your eyes appear half open,
most carefully,
they seem to be considering a difficult equation.

Has your breath contrived,
somehow,
to continue without its body,
the way a boat does
when its oars are shipped
and it lifts into the further wave?

We put down our towels to listen;
No sound from those lips.
Quiet sailor,
what sea do you cross?"

He read a work written for a vigil protesting the beginning of the War in Iraq in March 2003:

"We laid him down,
We let him go,
His mother, his sister, and I
into the wooden hole of his coffin…
…our son, like one of those gone for a soldier to the Gulf…
…Operation Shock and Awe
Hot metal will rain on Baghdad
a human dust will rise and mingle
with the red Tigris wind…"

And anger rose in his voice as he considered those willing to send the children of others to die:

"Friends, fellow citizens,
War is the worst inhuman thing,
and burying your child,
even in peace,
is like placing into a boat
every little possession you held dear
and pushing it into the breakers."

He introduced his current project, a book-length poem entitled "Swimming the Acheron" after the mythical River of Sorrow that encircles Hades. This work-in-progress is a homecoming to the epic form he’s translated and written in previously; there’s also anger at the doctor who delivered Ian, anger at himself, and guilt.

"I must follow my son down into the darkness…"

"The next part of the poem, I hope, will have more light," Marc practically apologized. "In it, I talk to my father. And I hope, finally, to talk to my son in this poem, and then make my way back home."

Not wanting to leave us in a darkness he’s known for too long, the poet concluded with the recent "Late Summer Stanzas," and its world where "August was gold out my window."

"One of my great pleasures is gardening; I love sunflowers," Marc said, introducing the piece."And if you have sunflowers, you will have goldfinches. One of the great joys of gardening is watching the goldfinches feeding as they balance on the backs of the sunflowers."

It was a cheerful image, but walking home I couldn’t help but recall the poet’s "Swimming the Acheron." The title is no mere literary reference. Marc is a good recreational swimmer. And in the poem "July 29," he writes:

"My boy also
is a swimmer, for whom desire
annihilates distance.
He is my dolphin, my little Odysseus.
Death could not steal
from his eyes the dawn
of his homecoming."

As I walked home, I thought of Marc and his daily swims at lunch hour at the Allen Center and how they might have inspired his "Swimming the Acheron"—what he might see there, who he might speak with, and what he’ll come back to tell us. I wondered if some of us who have known loss may be following in his wake.

I came to a reading looking for resurrections. What I found was a poet come home with hope. As his colleague, Tom Campbell, noted during his introduction, Marc’s is "a voice we’ve needed during these difficult times."

The generous applause following Marc’s reading lent Tom’s words a hearty "amen," and the poet seemed to genuinely enjoy this homecoming.

As Marc said earlier that evening, "It takes a bit more time to find the poetry of Indiana than it does the poetry of the Cascades, or Puget Sound, or Iceland. A more subtle beauty, it requires a more rooted heart. Perhaps the muse is a little thinner, but the vein grows deep."

—Steve Charles


“Ease and confidence”

Steve Charles—In November of last year, Indiana Solicitor General Tom Fisher ’91 flew in from Indianapolis to watch mentor and “big brother” Greg Castanias ’87 present oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court.

On March 20, 2006, it was Fisher’s turn before the Justices, representing his state in Hammon v. Indiana, a decision that will have major implications for the prosecution of domestic violence cases in the U.S.

And Greg was there to support him.

Tom was marvelous in a very difficult argument,” Greg said after watching his friend’s moment on the legal world’s biggest stage. “He took on some rather aggressive questioning from Justice [Antonin] Scalia and completely held his own, debating with Justice Scalia (and other Justices) fine points of constitutional and pre-constitutional history, such as the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh."

Fisher had presented the facts of the case earlier in the year to Wabash students, when he was a member of a panel on government and religion. But on Monday his audience was a bit more daunting—at least to most of us.

From watching the six advocates in the two cases argued today, no one would have known that this was Tom’s first argument before the Court, because he seemed like he had done this a hundred times," Greg said proudly. “Tom possesses an ease and confidence on his feet that I can only hope I have on my best day.”

Photo: Tom Fisher enjoyed his visit with Wabash students and faculty.


Blog about a blog?

Steve CharlesI was doing some research on a story for an upcoming issue of Wabash Magazine when I came across the website of Indianapolis attorney Mark Rutherford ’82—actually, the site he keeps as chairman of the Indiana Libertarian Party. Mark, it’s been noted elsewhere, is the longest serving chair of a political party in the state of Indiana.

But what caught my eye was his entry about fellow Wabash alum Frank Hagaman ’72 (pictured at far right) and his work as president of the Partners in Housing Development Corporation. The Corporation’s mission is the "create or cause to be created" affordable housing for people with special needs.

We published an article about Partners in Housing in the Summer 1998 issue of the magazine, but Frank has just been named the 2006 Wabash Man of the Year by the Indianapolis Association of Wabash Men. So now we have a second chance to note and celebrate this important work.

Here’s some of what Mark Rutherford has to say about it:

"I’ve been intrigued by Partners in Housing because one of their recent projects, Linwood Manor, was done with private equity and without government grants and their restrictions. Dan and I met with Partners founder and chief executive officer Frank Hagaman and their Development Director Lee Ann Harper. One of the purposes of the meeting was to learn more about Partners and their success with Linwood Manor. Another purpose was to learn how the Libertarian Party of Indiana can help spread the word about Partners and the Linwood Manor project.

"We learned how Partners received many benefits by doing this completely privately (fewer government restrictions, requirements, and less reporting to government officials were highlighted, among many advantages). This helped drive down the costs from the typical project, which allowed them to do more and serve more disadvantaged people."

You can read more at Mark’s website, at the Partners in Housing page, or in the Summer 1998 issue of Wabash Magazine Online.

Photo: Bob Rhodehamel ’72 and Frank Hagaman as pictured on the cover of the Summer 1998 Wabash Magazine.


Life finds a way

Have any species named after you?

Jim Childress ’64 has four.

The Hoosier native and marine physiologist has been studying the animals that surround hydrothermal vents since 1979. He has made 65 dives in Alvin and other deep-sea submersibles—expeditions the rest of us just watch on National Geographic specials—collecting and studying the organisms that thrive in those hydrothermal vent communities.

Jim has found and literally dredged up life where many believed there was none. Four of those creatures are named after him. The photo here is†of one of the†most striking, Vampyrocrossota childressi, a new genus and species of the deep sea black medusa that lives almost a mile beneath the ocean’s surface.

We finally caught up with Jim after we read about his being awarded the prestigious Cody Prize (a gold medal plus $10,000 worth of prestigious!) by Scripps Oceanographic Institute for his "outstanding scientific achievement in oceanography, marine biology and Earth science." He’d also recently completed a stint as an advisor (with some onscreen time) for Terminator and Titanic director James Cameron’s IMAX film Aliens of the Deep.

Our writer, Colin Hodgkins, caught up with Jim in early December, just as the scientist who has explored the ocean’s depths was preparing for an adventure in a different direction—a hike into California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.

Colin’s article on Jim Childress and his work (along with his photographs of the alien world he’s explored) are scheduled for Wabash Magazine‘s "Against the Odds" issue in May 2006. But I figured you should know about this guy sooner rather than later. You can read more about his work at the University of California at Santa Barbara website.

Photo of Vampyrocrossota childressi by Steven Haddock.


From Baul to Rock Star

Steve Charles—Junior chemistry major Syud Momtaz Ahmed shouldn’t have been so surprised when a standing-room-only crowd showed up for his noon hour presentation on the music of his native Bangladesh. Taz, as he’s known to most of us on campus, has endeared himself to audiences with his sense of humor and masterful tabla playing at concerts by Wamidan, the College’s world music ensemble. I’ve watched him teach faculty and students alike about his scientific work during the Celebration of Student Research and Creative Work.

But his program "Culture from Baul to Rock star" was the first time I’d heard him speak before an audience about Bangladesh and the music that is so much a part of his life. And almost all of what he had to say about the Baul—the gypsy singers of Bengal, their philosophy of life, how their ideals are being preserved by the "rock stars" of Bangladesh— was new knowledge for most of us attending. I was reminded of the wonderful resource for learning our international students are for Wabash, and how we benefit when they take the time to share their home culture with us.

But what made Taz’s talk even better was knowing that he is actually one of those Bangladeshi "rock stars" keeping the Baul traditions alive.

For the past several years, Taz has returned at various times to Bangladesh to play tabla during recording sessions with his group AJOB (which means, literally, "weird,"—and Taz will be glad to explain how they came up with that one!). As I write this, I’m listening to "Adorer Manush," an intriguing and tuneful cut from the group’s self-titled first CD, which was released in October of this year.

It’s a good listen and an eye- and ear-opening entre into modern Bangladeshi culture. And for those of us who know Taz and heard his talk about the Baul, it’s great to learn more about his professional work and to hear the threads of tradition woven into this innovative new music.

You can learn more about the group at their Banglamusic website.

Above right: Taz performs on tabla at this fall’s Wamidan concert.

Right: Taz taught an original percussion piece to Jake Feller, son of chemistry professor Scott Feller. and performed the piece with him this fall.


A beautiful, familiar light

Steve Charles—We featured Jim Urbaska’s oil paintings of the region near his home in West Brattleboro, Vermont in the Summer 2004 issue of Wabash Magazine, so I arrived at the opening of his show in Indianapolis with plenty of respect for his work.

What I hadn’t realized was that Jim’s Indy show features his new paintings of Indiana. I walked into the Ruschman Gallery on a frigid early December night and was warmed not only by the gallery’s central heating, but by the beautiful and strangely familiar light emanating from Urbaska’s linen canvases.

These were paintings of places I know—the hayfields around the T.C. Steele Memorial, forests along Old State Road 37, pine-laden peninsulas jutting into Lake Monroe. My gaze went instantly to a scene of Yellowwood Lake, painted, it appeared, from the exact spot where my daughters and I kayaked for the first time almost 10 years ago. The light was perfect, the painting drawing me into beauty and memory.

“How do you capture the essence of these places so well?” I asked the artist after his mentor, Wabash art professor Greg Huebner H’77, introduced us. Jim explained that he’d spent about a week in Indiana last summer at the invitation of gallery owner Mark Ruschman, photographing and sketching the landscape as raw material for paintings for the show. Those slides, projected on the wall of his studio, are just a launching point for the artist’s imagination. said, poking fun at his skills as a photographer. But one can’t help wondering if the sense of scale provided by those projections is a catalyst for Urbaska’s ability to create these land- and skyscapes that seem to extend far beyond their frames. (See photo album)

That expansiveness is no coincidence coming from an artist raised in the Big Sky country of Montana. But when I asked Jim what it was like to return to Indiana to paint his old Hoosier stomping grounds, he said that the long, glowing Indiana sunsets actually reminded him of that Big Sky! The mountains and woods of New England rarely offer such unobscured views.

Viewing Jim’s paintings changed the way I look at this Indiana landscape we sometimes take for granted. I was reminded of another artist, J. Ottis Adams, Wabash Class of 1876, who with T.C. Steele and William Forsyth brought an impressionist’s interpretation to Hoosier hills, farms, and streams.

Urbaska’s exhibit—“Indiana Landscapes Revisited"—runs through January 7 at the Ruschman Gallery, 948 N. Alabama St., Indianapolis, IN

Along South Shore Drive, Lake Lemon, oil on linen, by James Urbaska