I asked Wabash Cross Country Coach Roger Busch, whose training camps are known for their cross training (how many cross country training camps include a canoe race?) what he was hoping to accomplish when he gathered the team together at Camp Talitha this year.
I’ve been on two of those trips and seen the changes. I’ve read accounts of them from dozens of students over the years, and I’ve published in Wabash Magazine professors’ reflections on how and why this defining pedagogical approach of early 21st century Wabash is so effective.
When I think of experiences I wish I’d had as a college student, the immersion trip is what comes first to mind.
In his final Chapel speech, still recovering from treatments for the cancer that would eventually take his life, he spoke speak passionately on "Love and Language," drawing equally from the Bible, Plato, Galileo, Li Po, Nietzche, Heisenberg, and Max Planck, and wrapping it all up in 20 minutes and receiving a standing ovation from his colleagues, students and professors alike.
“I try to use the metaphor of the fire to start my class. I try to talk about creativity, and it doesn’t have to be in the sciences, it’s sort of a human drive. I think what one tries to do is to work with students so that you’re an advocate for the best that they can give.”
“May the fire always be with you,” he said at the end of that final Chapel talk.
The daughter of Steve Hunt ’76 had been a semifinalist on the 2007 edition of Fox TV’s “American Idol,” and I traveled to Chicago a couple times that summer to interview both Leslie and her dad and attend the CD release party for Steve’s own band, all for a story about both of them that we called “American Idyll.”
Photos of Steve and Leslie Hunt by Mark Lind
You see evidence of that even if you’re just visiting Lost Marsh Golf Course, the program’s home, for a few hours to take photos, as I did in late July.
And, in many ways, it’s also a primer on the Gentleman’s rule.
Lost Marsh is a place of transformation, but for all its growth and impressive new facilities, The First Tee is the most important thing happening there.
Tyler was named the group’s executive director in Hammond late last year, and he’s grown the program from 50 to almost 500 kids in fewer than 12 months. More than 40 showed up in the two hours that I was there.
But The First Tee is a non-profit in a small office apart from that multi-million dollar clubhouse and is in need of funding. It nearly went broke before Tyler took the helm, and he’s seeking myriad ways to keep the program alive.
That’s where the Wabash community can help. And all you have to do is vote. First Tee is being considered for a Nike “Back Your Block” grant of $2,500. The program with the most votes wins the grant, and First Tee is currently in second place.
You can read more about the program and its positive impact on kids’ lives (and cast your vote) here. I know that Barry would appreciate your considering it. I also met a bunch of kids who’d be cheering you on!
Click here for a photo album from my visit to Lost Marsh and First Tee.
In photo: Barry Tyler teaches a boy from the local YWCA how to hit the ball out of a sand trap.
In photos: Class Agent Mark Shreve ’04 (not pictured) interviewed classmates Patrick Barrett, Todd Vogel, Cody Lawson, Jim Davis Hull, Jacob Pactor, and (not pictured) Roger Neal and showed us all how much fun swapping stories on camera for the Scarlet Yarns Video Project can be. Lower left: Atwood Smith’s mere presence at the Big Bash gave his Class of 1934 50-percent attendance, but his adding a Scarlet Yarns session also brought us a rarely heard first person account from the era of Wabash President Louis Hopkins.
“I guess you could say I have an adventurous spirit,” John told me.
You could say that. He had never heard of Wabash, decided to attend after one visit (he encountered Professor of English Walt Fertig, who gave he and his father a tour after finishing his own task of collecting horse chestnuts in the arboretum!). He was a Spanish major here, but spent his junior year (1968) in Colombia. He married his childhood sweetheart, worked special ops in Panama in the pre-Noriego days (learned to fly while he was there), played a key role in the nation-building efforts in Bosnia, helped establish a university, eventually returned to his hometown of Orangeville, IL and bought one landmark building to live in, established a community dinner theater to save another, and now produces, acts, and directs plays there. And he just learned to play the tuba to add to the many other instruments he plays…
No point in giving away the whole story, which we’ll carry in the Winter issue of WM, but John might actually be understated the facts when he says he has an “adventurous spirit.”
Here’s the excerpt, which we’d titled: “The Dark and Bloody Ground Under Our Feet"
"Mike Bachner ’70 discovered Sugar Creek as a high school senior on a visit to the College. For the next 40 years Sugar Creek was his preferred habitat, the place that sustained him. It’s that kind of connection to a place, to a habitat, that we’re in danger of losing.
"I think we need to shift our focus to think about here. And “here” is getting paved over at the rate of 12 acres an hour in Indiana. Twelve football fields every hour of every day, 365 days a year. “Here” is the natural habitat where we really live. This is the habitat that actually sustains each of us.
"Every acre that NICHES Land Trust protects in Central Indiana filters the water we eventually drink, and it gives us one more place to feel the actual earth, what Aldo Leopold called “the dark and bloody ground” under our feet.
"Every protection the Friends of Sugar Creek ensures that the creek will continues to do for all of us what it did for Mike Bachner.