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Humanizing Prison

Richard Paige — We weren’t 50 feet inside the dual fencing that surrounds the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility when the catcalls came from two inmates shooting baskets at outdoor hoops.

This had the makings of a very uncomfortable immersion experience.

The maximum-security facility in Carlisle, IN, was the destination for Assistant Professor of History Sabrina Thomas’ History of Mass Incarceration class. It was an opportunity for 18 students to step inside those 14-foot electrified fences topped by razor wire.

It was supposed to be a reality check.

“We are studying prisons, we are studying systems, theories and ideas,” Thomas said. “We’re looking at the prison objectively as academics, and we sometimes forget that this is a real thing with real people involved.”

From the maximum-security Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU), where inmates are escorted to and from cells by pairs of guards with handcuffs and leads, to the minimum-security J-House, where the dormitory style housing provided more smiles than anticipated, the students saw those inmates on their turf.

The tour included a visit to the PLUS unit (Purposeful Living Units Serve), a faith-based outreach program that provides hand-made quilts and clothing to the surrounding community, as well as a stop at the Educational Department, where one student got an impromptu lesson.

History of Mass Incarceration students view the maximum-security Restricted Housing Unit from inside a security pod.

“I was surprised by our close contact with the inmates,” said P.J. Mays ’19. “Often times they would say something just to make contact. In the educational facility, one guy said to me, ‘this is not what’s up,’ and his message was obvious.”

The RHU might have provided the most eye-opening experience. From their vantage point inside a security pod, the students could see four hallways of maximum-security cells, watch inmates transferred to and from, and get a peek inside those cells from the bank of video monitors on the guard’s desk.

It was an immediate lesson to the real impacts of prison, especially since the RHU was the first building on the tour, and just moments after those initial catcalls.

“It was powerful to see in real life,” said Evan Frank ’19. “It’s like caging people. They are able to obtain some access to the outside world if they are really fortunate, but they are completely isolated. They can’t do anything.”

Multiple times during the tour, we heard that prison is its own city. It’s no different than any other community. At times, admittedly, it felt like we were the center of attention on this tour. At times, it felt like prison tourism.

“Everything we’re talking about in class has real-life effects,” said Thomas. “There are human consequences. (The tour) definitely humanized the idea of incarceration. “It may have humanized it a bit too much.”


Leadership, With a Side of Bacon

Nearly 220 Central Indiana Wabash men packed the Ivy Tech Culinary Center banquet room Thursday morning as the Indianapolis Association of Wabash Men’s Leadership Breakfast honored Kelly Pfledderer ’96 as its Man of the Year.

Now in its second year, the event included a panel discussion with Connie Lawson, Indiana Secretary of State; Marc Nichols ’92, Legal Counsel & Director of Compliance, Rolls-Royce North America; and Jake Gilbert ’98, head football coach at Westfield High School.

Brandon Clifton ’06, the Deputy Secretary of State, introduced Canvas Founder and CEO Aman Brar ’99, who moderated the discussion that addressed civic and political engagement, mentors, and risk taking.

The IAWM Leadership Breakfast panelists included (from left) and Jake Gilbert ’98, Connie Lawson, and Marc Nichols ’92.

Lawson spoke early about the need to get involved in your community. She mentioned that even though many think of politics more broadly, a great deal of impact can be felt close to home.

“Participation starts young,” she said. “Not just at the national and state level, but locally as well. That’s where much of the political work happens.”

Gilbert, whose Shamrocks captured the Indiana Class 5A state football championship in November, was asked about how he deals with adversity, and how he shares those lessons with his students.

“Adversity is an opportunity,” he said. “It’s part of the process. You weather the storm and control what you can. Knowing that (adversity) won’t last forever, it’s about your long-term growth.”

When asked of career paths, Nichols told the gathering that simply having a plan was essential to his success.

“I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be General Counsel at a major corporation,” he explained. “I asked myself what do I need over the course of a career and all of those things become building blocks. I always have a five-year plan. Knowing what I am going to do next keeps me from fearing the unknown.”

He also spoke of the importance of mentors. Not simply on the impact they have on you, but on the impact you could have in another’s life.

“Mentors are incredibly important no matter how old you are,” Nichols said. “No one can figure out the path to life without mentorships. Be sure to return the favor because there are always people looking up to you.”

Pfledderer, the founder and former CEO of Apparatus, was humbled to receive the honor amongst a room of his peers and mentioned how Wabash aided in his success.

2017 IAWM Man of the Year Kelly Pfledderer ’96.

“This award is very meaningful to me because I realize how many people in this room are friends and colleagues of mine,” he said. “Wabash College built my confidence. I’ve always been a bit of a risk taker, but I’m a better risk taker because of the experience.”

Brar, a former co-worker at Apparatus, spoke highly of Pfledderer’s leadership qualities.

“His eye for talent, for great design, and for doing things the right way, combined with a willingness to empower people to accomplish great things shows that he has a lot of classic leadership strengths,” Brar said. “There is no one more deserving for his business accomplishments and for his commitment to the community, which is an even bigger statement about who Kelly is.”


Lasting Impacts

In this time of year when nets are cut and trophies won, sometimes the impact coaches and players have on each other is taken for granted. Not here.

Thirty-five years ago today, Coach Mac Petty guided the Little Giants to the last of 19 consecutive victories en route to the 1982 NCAA Division III national championship, the singular team accomplishment in Wabash athletics history.

In the end the game wasn’t close. The Little Giants shot 59 percent from the field, grabbed nine more rebounds than Potsdam State, and collected 24 assists on 29 buckets. Teddy Parker hit a jumper with 10:48 to go in the first half – his only field goal of the game – and gave Wabash a lead it did not relinquish. Pete Metzelaars netted 45 points (still a DIII championship game record) and the Little Giants cruised to the national championship with an 83-62 win.

Recently, I asked Coach Petty what it was like to lead a team to a moment that, when it mattered most, every one of his guys delivered.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” he said. “It was like a dream. It just happens.”

The 1976-77 Wabash College basketball team. Coach Mac Petty is in the back row (far right), while Bob Knowling is front row (third from the left/#12).

That dream was built with hard work, practice, and time spent together forging a bond, that when tested, would not be broken. Championships don’t happen by accident.

Coaches are measured by victories, or championships won, especially in March. Petty’s 541 wins and that national title secure his championship legacy. However, the impact on his players is measured differently.

Bob Knowling ’77 was a standout football and basketball player at Wabash, and was a rising senior when Petty was named the head coach in 1976. They spent one season together in 1976-77, and it turned out to be a memorable one for Knowling.

“I bought into you and your vision totally when you arrived in Crawfordsville and it was an easy decision for me to choose between football and basketball,” he wrote to Petty in an e-mail prior to the 1982 team’s 35-year reunion in January. “Even being a three-year starter on the football team, my love of basketball and the opportunity to play for you was exciting. While we won more games than any of my previous three years, the lessons I learned from you are what I remember most. Thank you for investing in me and for pushing me. It made a difference. Know that you influenced hundreds of young men to be great, including that championship team.”

Forty years later, Petty’s impact still resonates with Knowling.

“I played on numerous teams and played multiple sports,” he said, “yet when people ask me who I played for I only mention one name: Coach Petty.”


Embracing the Uncomfortable

Jacob Budler ’17, left, and Nicholas Budler ’19

Jacob Budler ’17 and his younger brother Nicholas Budler ’19 slept on the floor of their home the night before the big trip. Their family had sold most of their belongings in order for their parents to become missionaries in Cape Town, South Africa. But they, as Jake said, “were just along for the ride.”

“We were kids,” Nick added. “We had the typical questions like, ‘Are there lions?’ You don’t really know what to expect, and that’s probably the biggest part of it. I think that was tough – knowing that you’re flying into the unknown and it wasn’t just for a vacation, but I’m glad I was forced into being uncomfortable.”

The brothers from Aurora, Illinois agree that their time in South Africa was a good experience for them. They went to school, became friends, and lived amongst people from different cultures, places, and languages.

The two really didn’t have a choice when it came to moving to South Africa. But after realizing just how different and yet strongly connected people from around the planet can be, both Jake and Nick have a passion for learning about those very people.

“I don’t really subscribe to travel in such a soul-searching, find-yourself way, but more as a way to get other people’s perspectives,” Jake said. “The more you can understand where people are coming from, in the future, you can understand more people.”

Combined, the two Budler brothers have been to countless U.S. cities 15 countries – both because of and beyond Wabash College – including Botswana, Spain, Venezuela, and, next year, Nick will be studying abroad in South Korea.

“I think it’s important to put yourself in other people’s shoes,” Nick said, “to scrap all of the prejudices that you have and put yourself in another environment in order to educate yourself and be a better person and better the world around you. And I don’t think you can do that as well if you just stay in one place all the time.”

For the Budler brothers, travel is not just part of their college experience – it’s enhanced it. They both have made friends at Wabash with whom they decide to travel with. They’ve brought back stories that have helped them connect with others on campus. And they’ve taken what they’ve learned around the country and across the globe and applied it to their readings, their studies, and their classroom conversations.

“I think it should be a priority for everybody,” Nick said, “especially considering the number of opportunities that Wabash gives.”


Small school, big possibilities

Every student who steps onto this campus is looking at the legacies of previous Wabash men. The opportunities our students experience, the technology they work with, the dorms and fraternities in which they live, all of these are made possible by men who wanted to leave Wabash better than how they found it.

They believed in the possibilities of Wabash.

Bob Allen received a $600 scholarship, which helped him attend Wabash. Years later, he and his wife, Betty, donated $10 million back to campus.

At his Chapel Talk on Thursday, the president’s Chief of Staff and Director of Strategic Communications Jim Amidon ’87 explained it to current students this way: “A tiny liberal arts college in West Central Indiana once said, ‘We have a place and a voice in higher education.’ We transformed the campus. And we did it through philanthropy.”

Wabash College is currently halfway between that comprehensive capital campaign, which began in 1998, and its bicentennial in 2032. Conversations are beginning to take place regarding ways to improve the Wabash College experience for future students.

The conversations and donations of the previous campaign raised $136 million and improved the campus in almost every aspect from new buildings, state-of-the-art technology, the establishment of immersion programs, and millions of dollars in scholarships.

Though today’s talks are still in their early stages, improving professional development, fraternities, campus life experience, and philanthropy are the pillars of the conversations.

Immersion trips would not be possible without the generosity of our alumni.

“You won’t be surprised to know it’s going to take a lot of money to do that,” Amidon said. “It’s not just about participating in these big conversations…it’s about investing in those initiatives because you believe that tiny, little Wabash matters.”

Amidon explained there are several ways for a person to contribute to the future of Wabash. Financially, they can give on the campus’s upcoming Day of Giving. They can take part in conversations with prospective students who visit campus. They can tell their story – where they came from, what they’ve done, and where they plan on going.

The Princeton Review says we have the No. 1 alumni network in the nation, but that only continues if current students also transition to being active alumni.

“Is there really any question about the value of a Wabash education?” Amidon asked. “Don’t let our future be up to fate. My point here, gentlemen, is that you should take ownership of this place. After all, whose Wabash is it anyway?”


‘Three Time’ And So Much More

Nicknames and sports kind of go hand-in-hand, so it’s not surprising that someone on campus refers to Riley Lefever ’17 as “Three Time.” When you win three individual national championships, monikers like that are bound to follow.

It’s Riley’s response to sharing the story that sheds light on the person behind that championship veneer.

“I find it a little embarrassing,” he says. “I try to shy away from that stuff.”

Yes, Riley is a top-notch student-athlete, the leader of a nationally ranked wrestling team. He is also an English major who dabbles in poetry and has plans to teach following graduation, as well as the head resident assistant on campus, overseeing Rogge Hall, so his impact is far reaching.

Riley Lefever ’17 in Center Hall.

According to Associate Dean of Students Marc Welch, Riley relates well to a variety of people with the ability to lead through his words and actions. His attitude is contagious.

“As an R.A., Riley is naturally caring and concerned for others,” Welch says. “He is an encourager while at the same time holding them to a high standard.”

Fellow R.A. Brian Parks ’18 understands the commitment and integrity that goes into the job, and he witnessed some of those qualities at their first meeting.

“He automatically makes the room more relaxed,” says Parks. “Even though the job is stressful, he tries to put everybody at ease. He cracks jokes, but at the same time, he is a leader. He keeps us in order and makes sure we’re on task.”

One of Lefever’s character traits surprised Parks. Riley is a goof ball.

“He’s goofy. He seems to put a smile on your face every time you walk by,” Parks explains. “You can be yourself with him, and that translates very well to being an R.A.”

Chris Wilson ’19, who claims Riley as both a teammate and an R.A., says that Lefever earns respect on the mat and in Rogge Hall because of who he is, “You can look at him and tell that he’s athletic. I mean, he’s big and strong, but I don’t think everybody realizes how unique he is. He’s laid back. We respect him because he allows us to be ourselves.”

As Riley shoots for a fourth consecutive national championship and a B.A. degree this spring, one professor noted the attributes that help him stand out athletically and as a mentor, also aid him in the classroom.

“The excellent work ethic no doubt helps him in athletics, but it also defines him as a student,” says Agata Szczeszak-Brewer, Associate Professor of English. “He is a good listener, and his responses to texts or to other students’ comments are detailed and always respectful. I view Riley as a humble, down-to-earth guy who never brags about his achievements.”

Riley has impacted the Wabash community in a number of ways, but he is quick to point out the positive effects on him along the way, too.

“Being an R.A. has made me more approachable. I enjoy being able to impact young men’s lives,” “To be someone to talk to – to be a presence in their lives – has made me who I am. These experiences have shaped me as a person, a learner, an educator, and a leader.”


Scholarship Impacts Felt Around the World

Three Wabash students spent last semester abroad as part of the Gilman International Scholarship program. While each resided in vastly different locations, they returned to campus with a similar thought: the connections made through cultures, people, and experiences made for a rich experience.

“The education, trips, and, most importantly, the different cultures to which I was exposed made this experience very enlightening and eye-opening,” said Rodolfo Solis ’18, who was based in Valencia, Spain. “As a result, this led me to appreciate the Spanish language and literature much more.”

Much of that appreciation can be seen in the interactions with people, whether it be host families or strangers met while traveling.

Dominick Rivers at the Great Pyramids of Giza.

While on a trip to Cairo, Egypt, Dominick Rivers ’19 was on a run at the Great Pyramids of Giza, when he befriended a watchman named Nasar, who took him to parts of the site not available to the general public. From there, Rivers shared a dinner with his family, viewed Nasar’s artwork – a sculptor – and meditated.

“It was truly a fantastic experience that affirmed an already held belief,” said Rivers, who was based in Prague, Czech Republic. “As humans, we are in this together just to make life that much easier and enjoyable for one another.”

Solis was moved during a visit to Peñiscola, Spain. The town holds a noteworthy castle that dates back to the Crusades, and was recently featured prominently on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Such a journey was like a trip through time, according to Solis.

“I was able to do something that I never thought was possible, set foot in a historical monument previously used for an event that took place a little over 900 years ago,” he said.

Immanuel Mitchell-Sodipe ’18 spoke of shared experiences with his host family while in Guatemala. He remembered conversations with his host mother, Rubi, and connections made when discussing the issues that affect the poor and underrepresented.

Immanuel Mitchell-Sodipe  snaps a photo in Guatemala.discussing the issues that affect the poor and underrepresented.

“The world seems smaller, like people share my politics and experiences,” he said “People love, and they imagine a better world.”

Two of Wabash’s Gilman Scholarship recipients had traveled outside the United States previously. For Rivers, it was his first trip abroad, and he appreciated the familiarity he discovered.

“There might be a lot of land and sea that separates us, but deep down we are all looking for the same thing – to enjoy the time we have and to make it last,” he said.


Wabash College Arboretum: Plant a Tree for Earth Day

Tim Riley planting a tree in Arboretum

Tim Riley plants a tree in Arboretum

Tim Riley — Most people can dig a hole and cover up the roots. With a little water, the tree will grow into something to be proud of. Sounds easy? Well it’s not that simple. That maybe the most basic principles of tree planting, but there is a little more to it than that, that can save you money, years of headaches and disappointment.

Let’s start from the beginning. We are USDA planting zone 5a. This represents cold hardiness to -20 to -15. Read your plant tag or do research to select plants that are zone 5 or lower. Do not think that every plant they have in our local stores are hardy for your area. They are not! In my experience, most of the trees sold locally are of planting zone 5 or lower, but I would say 20% of the shrubs and perennial sold are zone 6. It may be possible to grow plants only cold hardy to zone 6, but they are rare and it’s truly a gamble with your time and money.

Know your soil. Is it black, rich with organic material, and well drained? If it is, you have won the lottery of soils and you can probably grow almost everything with ease. The reality is that most of us in west central Indiana are dealing with high clay content (the blond colored soils). Clay soils lack in nutrients, can hold too much or too little water, and hard to roots to grow into. Amending the soil with organic material may be necessary, but always mix it with the existing soil. My rule of thumb is one shovel of organic material to two shovels of native soil, mixed well.   An example of trees that can’t tolerate heavy clay soils are Flowering Dogwood and Hemlocks.

A Redbud Tree in Wabash's Arboretum

A Redbud Tree in Wabash’s Arboretum

Is where and how my tree grown in important? Yes it is. Trees that are locally grown are always going to do better because they are acclimated to the environment and soil type. Your local, privately own garden centers, are about the only place to find plants locally grown. Big box stores usually get their plants from large growers in distant states, like Oregon and Tennessee. Buying these trees from box stores are usually fine, but you have to be careful because they often come in leafed out too early and freezing temperatures can really cause harm. Trees are sold as B&B or in root pruning bags or plastic container form. Tree that are grown in natural soil and then balled and burlap (B&B) are the best for planting, due to natural spread of roots. A down fall to B&B is that they are usually heavy to handle. Root pruning bags are better, but not common in the stores. The bags allow the root grow up to the edge of the bags, then pinch if off so the root doesn’t turn causing girdling roots. Plastic container grown trees are common in box stores, and are at the highest risk of developing root problems in the future. The roots hit the side of the container, then turn and grow around the edge of the pot. This girdling of roots will choke a tree to death in a few years. Shrubs are usually not as big of an issue in plastic pots. You should always cut any girdling roots before planting tree or shrubs.

And finally, Plant your tree at the right depth. Planting too deep is such a common problem, and is likely to cause certain death. Most all trees have “root flares”. This the area right at the ground where the truck starts to angle out or flare out as it goes into the soil. Never plant the trees root flares below ground level. Tree Bark planted below ground will only rot and die if kept wet from soil or mulch. Sometimes you have to remove soil from the top to find the root flames, but I’ll be glad you did.

In conclusion, if you pick a tree that fits your locations light requirement, maturity size and follow the 4 steps above, you should be successful. Don’t forget to keep your tree watered the first two years after planting. Thank you for make the world a greener place.


Wabash College Arboretum: Our Stately Trees

Tim Riley

Tim Riley

Tim Riley — On a warm spring day in 2016 during Earth Week, Tim Riley hosted an arboretum walk with a small group of interested faculty and students. The agenda was to discuss the past, present and the future of Indiana’s trees and the part Wabash College Arboretum plays in that future.

An early activity on the tour had the group holding a rope in a circle fifty seven feet in circumference, roughly eighteen feet in diameter which is the size of most above ground pools. This represented the trunk size of the largest tree ever recorded in Indiana, an American Sycamore (Plantanus occidentalis), located near Kokomo. However, at the time of this discovery, the grand old tree had fallen to the ravages of nature and a gnarled and ancient stump greeted the lands new inhabitants and explorers. It is considered the world’s largest Sycamore stump measuring twelve feet high and eighteen feet in diameter. In 1916, the stump was relocated to the Kokomo City Park for preservation. It is still there today along with other attractions like the world’s largest steer exhibit, if that is your type of thing. Trees are the silent sentinels who endure generations and are at the very heart of what gives Wabash College and the state of Indiana some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.

Earth Week Arboretum walk and demonstration

Wabash College Arboretum has a diverse and near complete collection of Indiana native tree species. There are a few that are not represented on campus but most are unable to grow in our climate and do not reflect the state’s general population of trees. We also have many other species that are not native to Indiana but still very valuable assets to the campus. The Arboretum consists of close to ten acres of slightly rolling terrain, covered with shade and proud strong trees bordering the East and Northeast side of campus. Oak, Maple, Beech, Tulip and Ash are the most abundant species of trees. The book, “50 trees of Indiana” written by T.E. Shaw, has been the long time standard for the planting of the Wabash Arboretum. Of the 50 trees selected by Shaw, we have over 80% represented on campus. We are always striving to have representatives of every tree species that is native to our state and plant around twenty new trees each year.

The future of Wabash’s arboretum is exciting and worrisome. Since 2010 there has been several years of weather extremes. Not always damaging storms take out our gentle giants, but excessive periods of heat, drought, and rainfall have brought an end to many of our most historic trees. These environmental extremes add stress that has led to secondary pressures of pest and disease. Many of the older trees are suffering or have succumbed to these secondary pressures. The Emerald Ash Bore is now widespread in Montgomery County. Preventive treatments are ongoing, with hopes to save a small population for future study. Unfortunately, Ash trees ( Fraxinus) will be the next great tree species to be all but eliminated in our State and on our campus. But cases like that of the Ash tree spur on new hybrids and species tolerant to its predecessors killers. Trees like the American Chestnut and American Elm once were plentiful but now are few in number throughout the state. But we now have new hybrid species being introduced with a strong resistance to the pests and disease that once took them out. Each year brings a new set of challenges, but we are committed to preserving our campus trees and doing all we can to ensure Wabash will Always be a place where trees Flourish and shade the next generations of Wabash Men.


Your Sense of Place in the World

Richard Paige — I felt like Bob Royalty’s REL 290 immersion trip to Israel needed closure, and the podcast and this blog were deemed necessary to finally and properly wrap my arms around all that an immersion experience could be.

I waited 10 days after we returned from Israel to schedule a podcast recording to give those shared experiences a chance to marinate a bit in their mind. The best part is that even 10 days later, the guys were just as engaged and thoughtful as they had been when we were in country.

We were midway through the podcast recording itself when the question hit me, so I scribbled it at the bottom of my notes to make sure that I remembered to ask it: what did trip do for your sense of place in the world?

Your sense of place in the world. Their words are better than mine.

(From left) REL 290 students Jimmy Suess, Aaron Becker, Anthony Douglas, Tim Riley, and Cameron Glaze during the podcast recording.

Anthony Douglas ’17: After this trip, the world for me became a little smaller. I realized that many of the problems we face in our own country aren’t just confined to what happens in America. The things that are happening here are happening everywhere. I saw a lot of the issues that the people of Palestine are facing in my own struggle as an African American. After this trip, I realized that people inherently are not much different from each other. This being my first time out of the country, I expected to meet people that were completely different from me, people who we had not much in common – almost aliens, you know – but I realized that the world is much smaller than we think.

Aaron Becker: ’17: It gave me a perspective of myself as being a very small piece of a much bigger puzzle. Though our time here at Wabash is valuable, though our experiences are fantastic and it is meaningful, in the grand scheme of things, the world’s a lot bigger than all of us. Though we are a very small part of it, we can make a difference. We can still listen to people on both sides. We can still have those conversations and, hopefully, it will help inspire people to make a difference in the lives of others.

Tim Riley ’18: For me it kind of made the world seem a little bit bigger. I’m coming from the same boat that this is my first international trip and I saw a lot more narratives that we need to hear out and a lot more adventures that we need to go on so that we have a broader understanding of everybody’s different backgrounds and stories and how that all comes together to produce the society that we live in today.

Jimmy Suess ’17: (What) I really took away most from this was not to take my freedom for granted. In this, I realize the responsibility that I have to do as much work that I can to promote the most good that I can in my life because there are people who don’t have the same fortune out there to be able to do what they want and help others.

Cameron Glaze ’17: I’d like to compare it to if you are wearing your fraternity letters and you go out and do something bad, you are going to have a negative light shined on you and who you represent. Going to Palestine and hearing what they had to say about our election and our government really made me think that while we are very lucky to be in the country that we are, we still have things to improve upon and before we can help other people, we need to help ourselves first.

In hindsight, it’s kind of disappointing that I didn’t think of the question sooner, as these answers address the essence of what makes immersion trips valuable. They are unique. They are intimate. They are insightful. It took less than four minutes for these five guys to generate these thoughtful responses, but they speak volumes to the sort of impact these trips have.