Banner

Camaraderie is the Connection

Richard Paige — The goal behind WABASH Day was never self-serving. Sure, there would be meaningful service – 16 projects that dotted Crawfordsville and Central Indiana as well as six others spread nationally from Washington, DC, to Denver to Dallas – but the goal was always something bigger.

“From the beginning, WABASH Day also aimed to strengthen the bonds among alumni, faculty, staff, and students and to welcome our family members, too,” said Jon Pactor ’71, the man behind the idea. “It would also provide leadership opportunities for individuals and would strengthen regional associations. After 14 years, it has proven to be a grand success.”

Yes, after 14 years, WABASH Day (Wabash Alumni Benefiting And Serving Humanity) continues to meet the challenge of improving communities and fostering camaraderie.

George Vinihakis ’15, of Orland Park, IL, captained the Wabash Club of Chicago’s efforts to clean up a Chicago-area beach. Working through the adopt a beach program, Wabash alumni gathered at the 12th Street Beach and collected nearly 50 pounds of trash from the lakeshore.

The alumni group in Dallas, Texas.

Camaraderie is the lasting effect.

“While it was great in helping maintain one of the more renowned Chicago beaches, the overriding benefit was the camaraderie,” said Vinihakis. “What makes these events so enjoyable is sharing the moment and accomplishment with other Wabash guys. New connections were made and fostered because of this project, which is paramount to our efforts as an alumni group.”

Jared Lange ’08, of Dallas, TX, coordinated a day of fence painting at Dallas Heritage Village. Located in historic Old City Park, the museum uses its collections of historic buildings (1840-1910) and furnishings to sponsor research and to present educational programs and special events for diverse
audiences.

Lange feels a strong byproduct of the endeavor is to get to know his fellow Wabash grads a bit better.

“The greatest benefit, aside from providing assistance, is meeting other Wabash associated individuals in the area,” he said. “We extend the invite to non-grads, family members, and

Classmates Patrick Bryant ’16 (left) and Grant Benefiel ’16 volunteer at The Villages.

board members. In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, people are constantly moving into the community, so it’s nice to learn more about each other’s backgrounds and interests.”

There is value, too, in the assistance, as can be seen in the work that Kevin Benefiel ’81 and his family have championed at The Villages, a provider of foster care, adoption, child care, and early childhood development services in Indianapolis.

This was the 14th consecutive year Benefiel and his family — wife Julie, and sons Ty ’08 and Grant ’16 – have completed projects at The Villages, ranging from painting interior walls to spreading mulch throughout the playground to painting and staining the playground equipment.

In that span, WABASH Day efforts have helped The Villages save thousands of dollars. Pactor, a regular contributor at The Villages, remembered that one year a staff member said they spread so much mulch that it saved the agency enough money to fuel their bus for an entire year.

Benefiel felt a similar impact, as well. “The improvements we’ve made both inside and out at The Villages has had a positive impact on the appearance,” he said. “However, the financial impact we’ve had in terms of saving The Villages over $25,000 dollars has been beneficial to them and rewarding for us.”

The win-win proposition of WABASH Day also resonates with group leaders like Lange.

“I enjoy to participating in WABASH Day because it’s a great opportunity to assist our community and grow the bonds between our alumni,” said Lange. “It’s an honor to aid an organization with other individuals who share the same passion to help.”


“He Gave Me Courage”

Richard Paige — It was originally intended to be more dramatic. A change of direction just a week before curtain left the Gentlemen Callers back at square one. At least they had a title.

“Check Your F*#!ing Email!”

What came to life in a mere four days was something far more humorous. A smart, self-aware, and hilarious comedy about the unintended consequences of technology loosely based on collegiate experiences was the result for IndyFringe festival audiences.

“It was tons of fun,” said director Patrick Kvachkoff ’15. “I loved working with the guys. My job was to get them to create stuff and that was easy. They love creating.”

The Gentlemen Callers (l to r): Austin Yeomans ’20, Luke Wallace ’21, Ahmaud Hill ’21, Austin Ridley ’20, Quinn Cavin ’19, Chris Diaz ’19, Ra’Shawn Jones ’20, Louis Sinn ’19, and director Patrick Kvachkoff ’15.

The creativity might best have been referenced in a skit featuring wrestler Chris Diaz ’19 that centered around Vanessa Carlton’s bouncy 2002 hit “A Thousand Miles.”

The skit depended upon a carefree tune, and Diaz originally picked a song that he knew the lyrics to, but the group decided that audiences wouldn’t understand the song or the reference. So he picked one that everyone knew…”a friendly song,” says Diaz.

“The funny thing was I didn’t know the lyrics,” Diaz chuckled. “I knew the melody, so I kept humming it and soon it was, like, ‘hey, I’m singing.’”

For Kvachkoff, an actor carving out his niche in Chicago, such creative focus was the most rewarding part of assisting with the project.

“We cycled through different ideas for the show and seeing somebody realize they had a good and funny idea – that moment where they come into their own – in putting the show up is pretty cool.”

Through the Callers’ run at IndyFringe, Diaz admitted to nerves, especially in the first few shows, but credits Kvachkoff with helping him work through that.

He helped me to be more social with the audience and who I’m interacting with,” Diaz said. “He gave me courage.”

A member of the first Wabash Gentlemen Callers troupe that first performed at IndyFringe in 2014, Kvachkoff said his job in this incarnation was simply facilitation…to make sure it happened. It was about editing and helping them put on the best and most stageable show they could.

And it made the commute from Chicago worthwhile.

“To be able to meet a fun group who really came together – they love hanging out with each other makes it easy for me,” he said. “I like doing this, I like acting, whatever the specific show needs of me, I’m there.”


Out of the Page and onto the Stage

Richard Paige — The text came out of nowhere on a random January day.

“Let’s see if we can get this show on its legs.”

The show in question was “I, Nephi: A Gay Mormon’s Survival Guide,” a one-man play that tells the true story of a man reconciling the world of his family with the culture of his sexuality.

Originally conceived and written by Joe Mount ’15 for his senior capstone project, I, Nephi, had only seen the light of day as a staged reading in the Spring of 2015. And if Mount had his way, that’s where things would have stayed…until that message was received nearly two years later.

Joe Mount ’15 during his IndyFringe staging of “I, Nephi.”

“After the staged reading, I was terrified,” Mount says. “Rory asked if we could put it on, if he could produce it. Since that moment, it has been incredibly rewarding, slightly terrifying, an incredibly positive experience.”

Rory Willats ’17 was just the guy to make it happen. He and Joe had been friends largely from the time Rory arrived on campus and collaborated on a number of Wabash productions and developed a deep well of trust with each other.

“The only expectation I had was to do whatever Joe needed to help get this show on its feet,” Rory says. “It was just about telling Joe’s story and not getting in the way of it. I was a brain for Joe to bounce staging ideas off.”

Joe claims that level of trust was vital to bringing his thoughts to life. He says Rory knew well of the backstory, of Joe’s struggles with his family, and his hesitancy to take the play further.

“Rory was key in getting me to think about how the show would look and supporting what I was trying to say with what I was doing,” Joe says. “The collaboration really took off and we were able to bring this play out of the page and onto the stage.”

Such descriptors don’t surprise Wabash Theater Department Chair Jim Cherry. Trust is foundational to good theater.

“When you go out on stage, you have to trust the person across from you is prepared, trained, rehearsed, focused, fearless, and completely engaged in the work at hand,” he says. “That’s an expectation we have as a Department, and it’s reflected in the work of graduates like Joe and Rory.”

Even in the middle of a successful six-night run at the Phoenix Theater during the 2017 IndyFringe Festival, Joe still felt those pangs of terror in that the show was staged at the festival and not the more familiar confines of the Wabash Theater.

“When Rory asked me to do it, I sat with the idea for a little bit and eventually saw no reason not to,” Joe says. “I knew this was someone I could trust. Someone who wasn’t going to violate the story of the experience. I only needed to trust him to keep me calm throughout the process.”

What Joe needed was someone to help him work through the emotional moments, the parts of the story he still struggles with, to objectively move the play forward.

Rory Willats ’17 in the Phoenix Theater control booth.

“I needed somebody slightly separated, not as invested, that could say, ‘Well this is what you are feeling and this is what you want to get across, so this is the way to do it,’ or, ‘What you’re doing right now is not going to be as effective,’” he says.

From that initial text, the two started piecing things together in June. Three weeks of rehearsals led into opening night.

“To do work at IndyFringe is to catapult the work outside of this safe space,” Cherry says. “Audiences of total strangers, limited budgets and technical capabilities, unconventional spaces, limited time and support. This is the theater that performers make when they leave college. It’s a great part of their education to mount work at IndyFringe.”

Rory reflected on how the theater connects people in ways where heartfelt stories are the result.

“Theater is built upon what happens when you put two people in a room,” Rory says. “Our rehearsal process – sharing the story and stretching that a little bit – was flexing our muscle. It goes back to the heart of theater, storytelling and creating a relationship with a room full of people. I don’t know if I could have done this if I didn’t have my Wabash experience, and my Wabash experience with Joe.”

Joe thought living and writing the story were enough. Thanks to his friend and collaborator, he got much more in return.

“Rory is the only reason it became active,” he says. “It always helped to have Rory to be there to say, ‘This is good, but this is not what you’re trying to do.’ It was an incredibly powerful experience.”


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.”


On Friendship and These Fleeting Years

Richard Paige — Fraternity brothers, cast mates, friends. But this isn’t your average Wabash story.

Jared Cottingham ’18 and Nathan Muha ’18 first met on the tee ball fields of Lowell, Indiana, 17 years ago. Nathan’s father was the coach. They’ve been friends ever since.

At the conclusion of Commencement on Sunday, the two will take separate paths — Nathan to Chicago to gain a foothold in the theater business and Jared to medical school in Kentucky.

“I don’t think it’s going to be all that strange,” Jared says. “The ties are continuing to deepen. It’s not going to matter where we are on the map. That’s life. The same thing happens with family, and he’s family.”

Nathan Muha.

Family might be selling this connection short. Think of the conversations in the hallway or lunchroom at school, the rehearsals, or your first college roommate. Every meaningful moment in your young adult life shared with the same friend.

“So much of the joy of knowing someone for so long is that all of these formative experiences happen along with them,” Nathan says.

While, obviously, very close, the chance to spend these college years together was simply a happy accident, according to Jared. Both sort of assumed that they would be going to other schools and didn’t talk much about college choices. During one of those off-hand winter break conversations, they discovered both had applied to Wabash.

As Nathan says, “Wabash was the best opportunity for both of us.”

Jared Cottingham.

Strolling to the Senior Bench for this conversation, each looking the part of a college graduate complete with coffee in hand, the talk turned to friendship, to the ones made here. Nathan boiled friendship down to the essentials. It’s a lesson many learn over time, but not usually at 22.

“It would be unfair to expect out of a friend the things I’ve gotten from Jared because of time and experience,” he says. “That’s not something you replicate. We’ve both made really incredible and fantastic friends here – ones we’ll cherish for the rest of our lives – yet that doesn’t compare to a lifetime with another person.”

For Cottingham, there is comfort in togetherness.

“It’s interesting because friendship provides you with a rock to reflect on the experience, but also to make the experience that much more special because there is an enduring theme of simply being together,” he says. “A lot of our friendship has revolved around the academic year and we’ll go on hiatus for the summer and not see each other for months. That experience of not seeing each other once in a while has never diminished our friendship. We always pick up where we left off.”


Wowed by the Art of the Film

Richard Paige — What’s it like to sit down in a theater and see your story on the silver screen?

“He said he was only taking notes and he put actual things I said in there!” Patti McCrory Harbaugh laughs. “I didn’t want anybody to know I’d really said those things.”

The he in question is writer/director Russell Harbaugh ’06. Those notes led to Love After Love, a movie that looks at how a family deals with the loss of its patriarch, an experience Harbaugh knows well. The story is loosely based on the passing of Russell’s father, Glenn, and how his mother, Patti, learned to carry on.

It’s a story Russell has been tinkering with for 12 years, a span that covers the time since graduating from Wabash. And now that the film has been released to critical acclaim, there are questions being answered for Patti as well.

Russell Harbaugh ’06 holds his script for “Love After Love,” complete with his notes scribbled in the margins.

“He spent literally 12 years dealing with it,” Patti says. “At first I couldn’t imagine why. I was slow to catch on, but that’s the way he was getting on with his life and mourning.”

Patti talks of her own struggles with moving on, feelings of betrayal, and making connections. She also found comfort in her son’s ability to take a nugget of their conversation and turn it into a scene in the movie. Not a direct link, but certainly an emotional one.

“The story really does veer from our family, but there were times when I felt like I didn’t fit one place, and I didn’t fit another,” she says. “I couldn’t understand when Russell and I would talk about it, how he could connect that activity in the film with our conversation. I understood things better seeing it as a story.”

Patti, a longtime costume designer and member of the theater faculty at the University of Evansville, is proud that her son embraced the power of art, and remembers fondly when that power might have been unleashed.

“It all started at Wabash when someone put a camera in his hand and said, ‘you gotta document this trip,’” she says. “Suddenly he had a reason for looking. We do that as artists. We try to process what we are experiencing.”

Love After Love opens nationally Friday. After a dozen years of conversation, of tinkering, of finding just the right voice, it’s now a story to share broadly. Patti sees her son at ease with the attention the film has brought. She sees it as a gift.

He’s brilliant,” she laughs, “I’m his mother, so I can say he’s brilliant, right? I’m wowed by the art of the film.

“There was something really visceral about it, but I wasn’t caught off guard because he took me along in the process,” Patti says. “That’s a gift, too. He could have gone off and just done it, but it’s felt like we’ve been connected the whole time.”


Philosophy, Ethics, and Emerging Scholarship

Richard Paige — It sounds like a pretty big deal.

Philosophy professor Adriel Trott is among a six-person team charged with developing a code of ethics for publishing in the field of philosophy through a $75,000 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant awarded to colleagues at Fairfield University and other locales.

Adriel Trott.

In addition to encouraging better and more concrete guidelines for citation practices (Wabash Always Cites!), such a code could lead to the field improving efforts of inclusion and who gets tenure.

“One goal is to make publishing for people outside of research institutions more accessible,” Trott said. “My involvement shows the extent to which Wabash is involved in efforts to improve the scholarly environment in ways that ultimately serve our students.”

While the field actively seeks the work of more women and scholars of color, Trott feels this effort is about how philosophy accepts and shares important new work. This group’s charge will be to think about how scholarly journals direct and make judgments about emerging scholarship and how that literature is actively referenced.

Led by principal investigator Kris Sealey, Trott and her colleagues hope for a change of thinking, where scholars cite based on relevance and broad attention to an issue leads to more inclusive citation practices.

Why does this matter? The numbers of citations a work receives can influence the tenure process. This effort hopes to better identify which scholarly works are influential and driving the discipline forward. Trott says a goal is to encourage scholars to take these questions more seriously as well.

“The long-term hope is that such an effort encourages more students from marginalized groups to pursue philosophy majors, when they see themselves better reflected in the scholarship that is taught,” Trott says.


13 Billion Years? Yeah, That’s Big History

Richard Paige — Big ideas seem to thrive at Wabash, so it wasn’t surprising that the Big History symposium generated an enthusiastic response on campus.

To the uninitiated, Big History is multidisciplinary approach to the telling of history covering a span of 13.8 billion years – from the Big Bang to the present.

“It’s as big of a context as you could possibly imagine,” said Rick Warner, Associate Professor of History and the driving force behind the symposium. “It’s humbling because if you did the math, you’d only be talking about the human experience for the last five seconds of the last class in the semester and recognizing that all of this is a part of our history in some sense.”

(from left) Anne Bost, Wally Novak, Dennis Krause, Rick Warner.

Multiple disciplines were on display Friday, as a physicist, chemist, biologist, and theologian took turns equating their areas of expertise to the continuum that is Big History.

Professor of Physics Dennis Krause explained that the way we interact with light is a direct interaction with history based on the time it takes light to travel that distance. For example, a reflection in a mirror is you two nanoseconds ago, while the sight of the sun in the sky is actually from eight minutes ago.

“We have equations that allow us to look back toward the Big Bang, or we can attempt to look ahead,” Krause said. “We’re here now, so we can look in either direction. It’s like taking a test. We have the final answer; we simply need to figure out how we got there.”

Associate Professor of Chemistry Wally Novak described how chemistry fits in, emphasizing the formation of stars and chemical elements.

“The first galaxy, including the Milky Way, was formed one billion years after the Big Bang,” Novak said. “What happened next? Chemistry. Nearly 4.6 billion years ago our solar system was formed and chemistry continued.”

That chemistry allowed for the formation of elements and the reactions eventually leading to life on Earth.

That was 3.8 billion years ago. According to Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology Anne Bost, biologists don’t understand how the first cell came to be, but they are interested in what happened next.

“The conditions on this planet were just right for life,” Bost explained. “As a species, we can recognize a problem, and we can make purposeful change. We are capable of wondering what’s next.”

(from left) Sam Surgalski ’18, Craig Benjamin, Derek Nelson, Ted Peters.

For Warner that wonder is what makes Big History worthwhile.

“This is a liberal arts experience par excellence because we get to think in many different ways,” he said. “I can learn from different disciplines and my students can too. It’s a quintessential experience because our students have interests across the board. There are lots of different ways to think about what matters.”

Keynote speaker Craig Benjamin, Professor of History at Grand Valley State University, talks of Big History and what was on display in Baxter Hall as a way to share information, to engage, and collaborate.

“Something like this is so beneficial, so exciting, to see professors like these coming out to share what they are doing with everybody,” he said. “In the last four hours we’ve seen how physics, bio, chemistry, and religion are all connected. History is always changing. The challenge for Big History teachers is to keep up.”

Benjamin went on to say that one of the unique aspects of Big History is that everything relates to the same starting point – the Big Bang – a point driven home by Novak, who used a Joni Mitchell lyric from “Woodstock” to illustrate.

“We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion-year-old carbon.”


All About the Brand

The topic at hand on a recent Thursday was high fashion. Professor Christie Byun quickly took her freshman tutorial students through 150 years of fashion history and its impact on society.

Luxury got its start through local craftspeople. Now, it’s global conglomerates and big financiers – a billion-dollar industry.

Byun used legendary examples of Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, and Louis Vuitton to open the discussion and quickly touched on fashion’s impacts on a post-World War II economy post-war, and quickly moved into the elaborate world of high fashion. A then-and-now comparison of the labels above and their landing pages today introduced the concept of accessible entry points – how to get people into fashion. Let’s just say that Louis Vuitton has come a long way from its trunk-making roots of the 1850s.

“Fashion, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship: How to Dress Like a Gentleman in the 21st Century” is Byun’s brainchild, and she, somewhat jokingly, explained after the discussion that the class had the “potential to be highly engaging or bomb miserably. So far, it’s been very, very good.”

Associate Professor of Economics Christie Byun (left) interacts with freshman tutorial students in class.

Some of that engagement was evident as the talk turned from haute couture to wearable fashion. “Is this fashion?” Byun asked. “Why, when it’s not wearable?” came the first reply, ushering in a discussion on creativity and art, ideas of pushing fashion forward, edits, plays against proportion, and even a Kardashian reference.

One student quipped, “She’s wearing a tablecloth,” thus signaling the transition to a new topic.

Talk continued of how high fashion moved from haute couture and the high-end elite to the aspirational middle market, or consumers who want to be connected to high-end brands. Such desire often leads to counterfeit goods, which is no surprise since the retail markup is roughly 10 to 12 times the production costs. Such a market is created when even the low-end bags retail for $1,000-5,000.

“This is kind of insane,” said a student who managed to summarize what most were thinking by the head nods. “It’s literally all about the brand,” came an immediate follow as the conversation steered toward intellectual property, copyright, and functionality.

Byun pressed the students to think about the differences between inspiration and a blatant copy by allowing the class to inspect a number of watches and handbags, some real and some not. Are they real or fake, she asked, can you tell by the materials, how it smells, what do you look for?

Students inspect a potentially counterfeit watch.

The answers came with robust certainty at first before wrong answers devolved into blind guesses.

Byun capped class by attempting to draw a consensus on where inspiration ends and counterfeit begins. “You guys are telling me that this is ok, but a knockoff bag is illegal,” she said pointing to an example on screen before deftly swinging it back to the students’ experiences. “How do we apply this to our own work? As in writing, it’s good to be inspired, but you have to make it your own.”


Creativity Leaps Off the Page

Every yearbook publishes senior photos. It’s a rite of passage.

In the 1970’s, The Wabash took the practice to new heights, publishing photos taken in different campus locations often with a prop or two, including significant others, babies, and even pets. If you remember the ’70’s, it looks completely normal.

When it came time for Class of 1977 members Bob Kniskern, Bob Snodgrass, and Mark Van Buskirk to submit theirs, the gentlemen were hoping for something out of the ordinary. Inspired by equal parts Butch Cassidy and Salvador Dali, the guys, and photographer Ben Thomas ’75 came up with the photo below, shot on location in Waynetown near a mobile home Kniskern and Van Buskirk lived in as seniors.

Class of ’77 members (from left) Bob Kniskern, Bob Snodgrass, and Mark Van Buskirk channel Salvador Dali and Butch Sundance in this senior pic taken by Ben Thomas ’75.

And the photo remains memorable to that group 40 years later.

“We ran together toward the road from the farm field across the road from our trailer and jumped into the air together over the ditch to get some good air underneath us,” Kniskern explained via e-mail. “It took a lot of takes before our photographer buddy Ben was satisfied he got one that would be cool.”

Thomas was inspired by “Dali Atomicus,” the 1948 Philippe Halsman portrait of Salvador Dali that appeared in Life magazine. It’s the one where Dali, three cats, an easel, a chair, a painting, Dali, and some water are all suspended in the frame.

“’Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ was not far from memory at the time, and they happy attitude of the gang’s successful migration is well reflected in our charging brothers’ faces,” Thomas recalled.

The nearly full-frame print was done in Thomas’ darkroom in the wiring closet on the second floor of the Phi Psi house on H&W Control film. He used a Leitz Tiltall tripod and a 300mm f5.6 Canon FD lens on his F1 camera. He was at least a hundred feet away from his subjects to get them

Philippe Halsman’s “Dali Atomicus.”

framed that way.

“In retrospect, it would have been better on a more contrasty film, even if it would have been grainy,” Thomas said. “If I ever see the negative again – I have no idea where it is, but I may still have it – I may have a go at it. That film I used, while very, very fine-grained, was notoriously lacking in contrast.

“It’s still one of my favorite photos, regardless.”

While the whereabouts of the negatives are in question, the final print still survives. “I have the only print from the original negative for that photo,” Van Buskirk said.

“It was fun and we wanted to be different,” Kniskern said, “and I think we succeeded.”



1 2 3 6