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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.”


Gunther’s Research Not So Black-and-White

Associate Professor of and Chair of Psychology Karen Gunther wanted to be an artist when she grew up.

In junior high, she decided she was better suited for science or math, but she never let her creative side wane. After knitting and sewing with both of her grandmothers almost her entire life, Gunther picked up quilting while studying biopsychology at Oberlin College.

Associate Professor of Psychology Karen Gunther

“I wanted to somehow combine quilting with science,” Gunther said, “so I ended up studying color vision.”

Gunther says it’s fun “immersing” herself in color, and her passion for her work even extends to her personal life.

The wedding rings for her and her husband, who is also a vision scientist, were designed based on their field of study. Coral, chrysoprase, and lapis stones were used to symbolize the three cones found in the retina – red, green, and blue, respectively. Onyx lines are on the sides of their rings, which are similar to the stimuli the couple uses in their research.

After recently receiving a grant worth more than $200,000 from the National Science Foundation, Gunther’s research is about to expand.

“Vision scientists have recently determined that the retina routes the cone signals into three ‘cardinal color’ pathways: red vs. green, bluish vs. yellowish and black vs. white,” Gunter explained. “But how do people perceive colors beyond the six cardinal colors – the ‘non-cardinal’ colors?”

The grant will fund three years of research, as well as summer interns for Gunther, but it was a long process to get to this point.

Gunther applied for the grant in August 2017. In early December, she received an email from the NSF that she had not uploaded a title slide for her grant.

The couple's wedding rings

The couple’s wedding rings

“This meant they were going to discuss my grant and put the slide up during the discussion,” Gunther said. “This was great news because my last NSF submission was rejected before discussion and they liked my grant enough to let me still submit the title slide!”

And though the waiting period was long, Gunther said she never stressed.

“Because the primary expectation of Wabash faculty is to teach, with secondary emphasis on research, my job wasn’t relying on the grant as it would have been at more research-intensive schools. Some researchers at other schools are on “soft” money, which means they need to get grants to get their salaries. I wanted the grant, it would be satisfying, it would fund more summer interns, but I wouldn’t lose my job without it.”

 

 

 


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.


“I’ll Push You”—The Other Side of Friendship

Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray

Steve Charles—When I heard that the movie “I’ll Push You” was about two best friends—one in a wheelchair—on a 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage across Spain, I assumed the hero would be the pusher. Patrick Gray, who so loves his friend that he’ll do anything to help him.

And that’s not wrong. But it’s only half the story.

That’s only half of what friendship is, not to mention what love is. Because the real hero of the story is the guy in the wheelchair.

And this is how our hero introduced himself Sunday night after a screening of the movie in Salter Hall—the first words he uttered as he wheeled onstage:

“I’m sorry you had to see my butt crack up there.”

So this is a hero of a different sort.

The disease that put Justin Skeesuck in the chair is called Multifocal Acquired Motor Axonopathy. Ironically, MAMA, for short. MAMA’s vicious. She makes your immune system attack your nerves, tearing them down bit by bit. Justin first noticed symptoms when he was 16, six months after he’d been in a car accident. The onset was slow.  He was able to pursue a career as a designer, get married, have kids. But he says he could feel the disease ravaging its way through his body nerve by nerve.

“I would get twitching and cramps in whatever muscle was going to go next.”

“We spent years trying to make him better and he’s just getting worse and worse,” his doctor says in the film. “And the hardest thing is telling him what’s going to happen.”

Justin and Patrick have been friends since grade school. They were born a day apart in the same small town in Oregon. They practically passed each other at the hospital doors. Justin’s dad says “the boys have never really gotten into trouble, but let’s just say they’ve created a little havoc.”

There are pictures of them at one each other’s graduations, with their girlfriends who become their wives who become the mothers of their kids. All smiles and goofy looks.

Then there’s this picture of Patrick carrying Justin on his back on the beach some time after the diagnosis. The friendship deepens. Patrick tears up when he describes watching Justin struggle. He says he wishes it was him instead, and he says it in such a way that you realize it might be easier for him.

One day Justin is watching a Rick Steve’s Europe episode on PBS about the Camino de Santiago and wonders out loud if he could do that—if he and Patrick could do it. And Patrick, being the friend you can always count on, says, “Sure. I’ll push you.”

But the pastoral images Justin saw on the travel program don’t show the 4,000 feet they’ll have to climb the first day, the creeks they’ll have to ford, the two days of “something a lot like Kansas” they’ll have to cross in the heat, or the treacherous descents. It all seems like a moderately difficult walk on film—unless you have wheels and about 200 extra pounds to push up those hills, those rocks, through that mud. And part of the wheelchair breaks early on.

About 3/4 of the way, after a place they call the iron cross, Patrick cramps up—his legs become twitching, painful muscle. He’s lying on the road face down and some people who have been helping are trying to massage the cramps out. A family that has joined the two friends for a couple of days now has to stay longer, as the two friends are about to face one of the toughest stretches of the trail to get to the town of O Cebreiro.

Patrick is  struggling with his soul as much as his body—he regrets taking a job that has taken so much time that he doesn’t see his kids as much as he used to, that he isn’t there for his wife, who earlier in the film calls Patrick “my best friend.” Everyone else in the film has called Patrick “the kindest man I’ve ever met” and “generous to a fault,” but when Patrick is first thinking about helping Justin do the pilgrimage, his wife says, “Why not?” As  if the next line could be, “You’re not here anyway.” Patrick remembers times he’s been dismissive with his kids. His need to control things, putting others at a distance. Insisting he can do things by himself. And it’s weighing on him more heavily than the 10 or 12 times a day he has to lift his friend out of his wheelchair.

That’s when more friends show up. Friends along the way. People who have heard about Justin and Patrick, know the difficulty of this particular section, want to help them make it.

It’s a tough moment for Justin. He’s used to letting Patrick help, but now all these strangers?

“But I’ve learned that if you don’t let people help, you rob them of the joy they find in that,” he says. “The joy we find in helping one another.” And the next scene shows Patrick walking in the lead unfettered by the chair, all those friends doing the pushing.

“It’s the first time since we got here that I haven’t been connected to the chair in some way,” Patrick says. He seems disoriented.

But the scene at the top of the hill is joyous—all those friends taking turns pushing, encouraging, hugging, laughing. The very heart of the film. And only because Patrick can’t do it all by himself and Justin’s true humility allows others to step in.

When the friends reunite with their families at Santiago de Compostela, Patrick embraces his wife and says something to her, but we don’t hear it. It’s all tears and smiles.

And there’s this line from a guy who was with Patrick and Justin their first week on the Camino, an EMT:

“In my work I see people on the worse day of their lives; they call me when they don’t know who else to call. I’ve watched people die. What really matters at the end of the day, in that moment when your life suddenly changes, is the people around you, and the relationships you’ve built throughout your entire life. Taking the time to stop and be there for a friend, in whatever capacity they need. We can all do more of that in our lives. We can all take that time.”

 

After the film screening in Salter Hall Sunday night—after Justin’s opening crack about his crack—Patrick told us what he said to his wife at the end of that journey: “I am so sorry for all the times I’ve broken your heart.”

His wife’s response: “If you never broke my heart, how would I be able to love you more?”

He has since left the job that took him away from his family, and he and Justin now tour with this film and write full-time. Patrick’s marriage, and family, rejuvenated.

The half hour Q and A following the film was the most honest—at times funniest—public conversation I’ve heard in 22 years here. And it continued at the book signing, lots of words of encouragement, lots of laughter.

The philosopher Jean Vanier writes: “We human beings are all fundamentally the same. We all belong to a common, broken humanity. We all have wounded, vulnerable hearts. Each one of us needs to feel appreciated and understood; we all need help.”

Vanier also believes that people like Justin—who are living something we’ll all go through in our own way one day—help us to see that deepest truth.

Justin says in the film: “It’s a hard pill to swallow, and it’s something that I continually work through in situations where I have to rely on others to move me forward. I can’t do anything. I feel helpless. I kind of feel like a burden in some ways. And that’s a natural way of thinking.

“I have to continually let it go. I have to continually trust and love and let them find their joy in it.

“Because they love it.”

 

A group of students who walked the Camino last spring with Professors Dan Rogers and Gilberto Gomez as part of a Wabash class had a long lunch with Justin and Patrick on Sunday. Dan says they mostly swapped stories about the people they met there.

“The Camino is never just about you,” one of the friends in the film says.

There were about 160 people at the screening on Sunday evening, a good number of them students, and many of those students stuck around after the Q and A to talk.

You wonder how this film, meeting these guys, will fit into their liberal arts education, their understanding of what it means to be a man.

 

This event was funded by alumnus Larry Landis and other donors to the President’s Distinguished Speakers’ Series, as well as the Lecture and Film Committee.


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.”


My Summer as a Painted Turtle

by Aaron Webb ’20

California for a 20-year-old from Indiana is mystical—a dream world filled with granite ridges dotted with green and brown pines; miles of beaches sprinkled with blues, reds, and pinks deposited from the seemingly infinite ocean; and endless streams of sunlight that warm the skin and spirit.

When I was hired to work at The Painted Turtle, a camp at Lake Hughes, CA, for kids who have been diagnosed with serious medical conditions, I prepared myself to work in beautiful California. I prepared myself to travel around the state, taking in as much of its natural treasures as possible before my time was up. I prepared to bring back stories of spiritual journeys through the towering sequoias and whimsical follies on the beach.

I had not prepared to see the world’s unlimited, unlabeled, and unavoidable beauty as seen in the lives of Nando, Roy, and Nathan.

Nando embodied cool, maintained an “I’ve been here before” air about him.

Regardless of the unshakable California heat, Nando committed to a look featuring black high-top Vans with white accents streaking from heel to toe, black denim cuffed to reveal the socks covering his ankles, T-shirts that ranged from all white to black with “Thrasher” sprawled across his chest, and always topped off with a headband to maintain the center part in his swirling, dark hair.

Nando calculated when to show his personality but would always humor us counselors with a slight chuckle and sly grin whenever we would crack a bad joke or make fools of ourselves.

Nando knew camp, and you could tell.

Roy’s facial expressions provided the counselors with everything we needed to know about his thoughts and feelings. Roy was nonverbal—the few times he did speak his voice was faint, and he never spoke more than five words. He used a wheelchair to get around and braces to help support his legs. Roy’s fluorescent shirts and pants mirrored his personality.

Roy loved camp, and all you had to do was look into his eyes and his broad, beaming smile to see it.

Nathan loved theater. He knew by heart parts of his favorite musical, Hamilton: An American Musical. He would quietly perform the songs, accents and all, as we wandered from activity to activity.

Nathan quickly became a leader for the others in our cabin. He was always one to crack jokes and fuel the silliness camp promotes, but he was just as willing to be vulnerable, to provide eye-opening insights that forced us to think, to feel.

Nathan wanted others to feel the magic that camp had instilled in him, and he would do whatever it took to pass that gift along.

But Nando never danced with us, never felt compelled to participate in that, our favorite post-meal ritual. Which was fine. At camp we believe in challenge by choice. Everything is possible and encouraged, but nothing is forced.

Soft-spoken, Nando never embarked on long-winded responses or contributed to the pool of goofiness that amassed whenever the cabin had some downtime.

Nando preferred to observe.

That changed when our cabin paired with another, and the campers in my cabin got the chance to mentor younger campers. Being a mentor gave Nando a way to show everyone who he truly was. He began engaging more with his cabinmates. He allowed more of himself to show. He was a tremendously supportive mentor, and would do anything to encourage the others.

He became the heart of our cabin. A grin that defined camp’s power and magic.

And by week’s end, Nando could be seen dancing next to the camper he mentored, joy in his face and moves. Nando was always compassionate, loving, and intelligent. He was just never given the chance. Camp gave him that chance.

Roy rarely stopped smiling. From shooting arrows at the archery range to swimming in the pool, Roy’s smile came to be standard equipment.

Nothing ever got to Roy—until he encountered the high-ropes course.

The most emotionally and physically demanding activity at camp, the high ropes force campers to face their fears and doubts, to search for courage they may not know is within them. For a camper who relies on a wheelchair, the high-ropes course can seem impossible.

For Roy, the ropes course was the impossible.

Under a cloudless blue sky we harnessed up and prepared to take on the ropes course, Roy included.

He was nervous. The beaming smile faded to a frown. He had overcome so many challenges in his life, but you could tell that the ropes course was something else. Bigger. Still, Roy prepared to take on the challenge. We transferred him into the black mesh sling that would cradle him as he ascended to the top of the course, where he was placed into the wheelchair waiting for him.

I followed behind to lend a helping hand. A tension-filled exchange of commands flew from counselor to counselor to ensure that Roy was safely locked into the rigging. The stress showed on Roy’s face. He stared off into the distance. Then he reclined in his sling and was guided to the ledge of the 30-foot-high platform, and on a count of three he was released to a whiz of cable and rigging.

For a few brief moments Roy achieved a freedom that kids with his conditions rarely, if ever, feel. He was flying.

The smile that defined Roy returned as he descended. Kids who come to The Painted Turtle camp are given the chance to live without labels, and, as the camp’s founder Paul Newman put it, “raise a little hell.”

Roy told the world that anything is possible louder than any of us could shout it, and all through a smile.

Nathan’s week at camp was nearly over, and the emotion-filled Bale Closing (we call each cabin a “bale,” the collective noun for a group of turtles) hit him with that realization all at once. Bale Closing was a time for reflection, and Nathan had a lot to think about. He had met and made friends with so many others dealing with the same condition as his own. As Bale Closing finished, the guys in our cabin began making our way to closing campfire, the official end to camp. Nathan walked alone, his head dipped and eyes closed.

I worked my way up to Nathan to check on him. We talked about some of the moments he had experienced with his fellow campers, and before rationality or pride could intervene, we were walking side by side, arms slung over each other’s shoulders, crying. Not tears of bitterness or regret, but tangible reminders of camp’s importance in a time when joy and love are hard to find. As we neared the campfire, Nathan mustered enough composure to mutter, while shaking his head, “Best week of my life.”

Aaron Webb ’20

Nando, Roy, and Nathan each have given me more than I ever deserve. They taught me how life should be lived, regardless of our circumstances. Nando’s love, Roy’s smile, and Nathan’s vulnerability each hold more meaning than any of those solitary moments on a trail or beach parties I had imagined for myself when I dreamed of California. They taught me to be true to myself and love completely and wholly, to live unlabeled and unlimited, to live unafraid, to be emotional in times when emotion and genuineness are needed more than ever.

They teach me to be a Painted Turtle, wherever I go.

 

Aaron Webb is a philosophy and pre-med major and received the Dr. Paul T. Hurt Award for All-Around Freshman Achievement at Awards Chapel last April. The Painted Turtle is a summer camp program in the Los Angeles area for children with cerebral palsy, hemophilia, kidney and liver disease, and a variety of other chronic and life-threatening medical conditions.


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.”


Understanding the Harmonies of the Wabash Glee Club

Being at Wabash not quite a year, I still find that I’m in the ‘I don’t know what I’m getting myself into’ stage quite often.

It’s how I felt before I took pictures in various classrooms last spring, knowing I probably wouldn’t have the slightest clue as to what the professors would be talking about.

It’s how I felt last week when I experienced Wabash Homecoming festivities for the first time. (As much as students tried, nothing could prepare me for being inside the ropes on the Mall the moment that Chapel Sing began.)

Yesterday, however, as I walked from Hovey Cottage to the Allen Center for the first evening of rehearsals for the Glee Club’s 125th Reunion, I thought I knew what I was getting into there.

Wabash Glee Club began rehearsals Thursday for their 125th Reunion on Saturday.

Wabash Glee Club began rehearsals Thursday for their 125th Reunion on Saturday.

Being a singer and a former member of a competitive choir, I understand spending long hours with the same group of people. I understand how well you can get to know someone on long trips. Therefore, I thought I understood the Glee Club.

But the more I watched alumni come down the stairs to Knowling Fieldhouse, oftentimes greeted with a huge embrace, I began to understand that these aren’t just former Glee Club members who are coming back. They’re not just old friends, either. For many, they’re best friends. For others, they’re brothers.

Leave it to Associate Professor of Music and former member David Blix ’70 to figure out what’s about the Glee Club makes their relationships seem so special.

“The music. When you sing together as a group, you have to learn to listen to the other guys,” he explains. “Not only the guys in your section but all the other sections going on. I’m wondering if just that basic activity of listening to how the parts come together and how the music works doesn’t somehow sharpen or deepen the human relationships. I think it does.”

Rob Shook '83 and Kaz Koehring '18

Rob Shook ’83 and Kaz Koehring ’18

One perfect example of the incredible bonds that can come out of the Wabash Glee Club would be NAWM President Rob Shook ’83 and Kaz Koehring ’18.

“We met in Glee Club when he came to visit the fall of my freshman year and we stayed in touch a little bit,” Koehring said. “But then we went on tour to Texas that spring. We’re Lambda Chi brothers and ended up riding together some place in the car. It was only 20-30 minutes, but I was able to share some of the things about my mom. I cried a little bit. We hugged each other. That was probably the moment that we became best friends.”

As president of the alumni association, Shook tries to connect with as many students as he possibly can. But he connected with Koehring at the very time that Koehring needed a constant in his life. And that’s what Shook became.

“We talk all the time,” Koehring said. “I can share anything I want with Rob. I was talking to him earlier about creating a family. And he is my family.”

As I sat on the risers Thursday and watched nearly 100 current and former Wabash Glee Club members rehearse together, a family was exactly what I saw.

It was evident each time a current Glee Club member helped a former member with a piece a music he already knew or when two friends couldn’t stifle their laughter anymore and simply lost it.

So to the Wabash Glee Club members, past and present, preparing for the big concert tomorrow, I say: Happy Family Reunion.



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