Creating a Virtual Memphis

Richard Paige — Much of this semester has been about adjustments, and through those adjustments the virtual becomes real.

Like a handful of other classes, Michele Pittard’s EDU330 Urban Education class was supposed to include an immersion component. In May, the group had Memphis, Tennessee, as a destination to bring a semester’s worth of lessons to life.

Instead, Pittard altered the syllabus on the fly and has scheduled virtual meetings with nearly as many people as the students were supposed to meet on their trip. She now refers to this section of the class as “Virtual Memphis.”

If the class can’t go to Memphis, Pittard is bringing Memphis to the class.

The first guest was Daniel Connolly, an award-winning reporter for the Commercial Appeal, Memphis’ daily newspaper. Connolly spent five years chronicling the story of Isaias Ramos, a high-achieving Memphis teenager and an undocumented immigrant, in a book he wrote entitled, “The Book of Isaias: A Child of Hispanic Immigrants Seeks His Own America.

The text was a key part of recent discussions and served as a bridge to where the class was headed.

“Daniel kicked it off in a very nice way,” Pittard said. “To be able to bring people to the students in this way is huge.”

Pittard and Connolly led the students on a discussion that touched on immigration and education policies, student resources, socioeconomics, and the benefits of building strong relationships with students.

“It’s important for future teachers to understand that dynamic and to understand, too, that they can play a real role in guiding students from different backgrounds to a good educational outcome,” Connolly said. “It’s very important to have that relationship with kids.”

With the book fresh in their minds, there was plenty of back-and-forth between professor, reporter, and the nine students about the subject matter, including talk of identity and barriers.

“Identity can fuel a desire for success, especially the kids in the book who go to college,” wrote Nikko Morris ’21 in the class chat. “To be able to say they are college-educated Mexican immigrants in the U.S. for some people can be a powerful statement to make.”

While this class is essential to the understanding of the complexities facing urban schools, the impact of a missed immersion trip looms large. “It takes out the guts of the class, which is disappointing,” said Pittard, “but to bring people like Daniel in helps put the meat back on the bones of the class. I’m just delighted that we could start this.”

The Full Circle

Richard Paige — There were flashes during the opening reception for “Noli Me Tangere: Lamentations,” where artist Kelvin Burzon ’12 sought moments of quick reflection. In between questions or comments from patrons, or well wishes from friends, I could see him contemplating something deeper.

The Eric Dean Gallery is a place he loves dearly. Kelvin says he spent hundreds of hours in it as an undergraduate. Now, his art is featured on its walls through April 10.

“I never thought I’d be back this soon,” he begins. “It’s a big thing. I don’t think I’ve processed the full circle that it has become.”

He was introduced to photography – his chosen medium – while a freshman at Wabash. Seeking an art class as a balance to a planned major in biology or chemistry, his cousin had signed up for a photography class taught by Professor Kristen Wilkens, so Kelvin did too.

Kelvin Burzon ’12.

That 8 a.m. course changed his entire perspective.

“I ended up loving the romance of the darkroom,” he says. “It brought out darker themes and the immediacy of what photography does. I’d never been exposed to what photography was and what it could do.”

There are multiple layers to his art. There is the photography, but Kelvin also constructs the intricate wood frames and altars that display his art. The process isn’t complete until it can live on its own on gallery walls.

“You don’t know until you see it on a wall,” he says. “It not a file; it’s no longer a Photoshop document; it’s no longer a thought. The wood comes together with the photograph and it’s lit up on a wall by itself with room to breathe. That’s when I know (it’s ready).” With the art presented telling much of his life’s story over the past eight years, I asked Kelvin if he was ready to let it go. He smiles broadly and says, “Yeah, your artwork is your baby. The easy part is that it’s in a place where I know it will be respected and looked at thoughtfully – somewhere I’m familiar and feels like home.”

Not Just Good Enough

Richard Paige — December 4 was a big day for the students in Professor Shamira Gelbman’s 2020 Census course. Final exams didn’t begin for five more days, but these projects had a bigger purpose.

The students were producing posters, brochures, infographics and a video, all of which can be downloaded from a website and disseminated to help educate the Montgomery County community and encourage participation in the 2020 Census.

December 4 was the day those materials were presented to the public in a discussion and Q&A session at Fusion 54. Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton ’00 was one of the community partners in attendance, as well as representatives from the U.S. Census Bureau, Montgomery County Health Department, League of Women Voters, Pam’s Promise, the Montgomery County Public Library, and the Carnegie Museum.

Tyler Ramsey ’21.

Gelbman noted the class forced the students into a different way of thinking.

“For materials going out to the public, you really have to get it right, not just good enough,” she said.  “That’s an interesting aspect of this class. It’s been exciting to have a class produce things that will be used in a real way.”

After presenting his materials, Tyler Ramsey ’21 noted how the census itself presented a steep learning curve. Students had to quickly understand government functions and how the census affects them.

“It was a cool idea and concept for us to contribute,” he said. “We got hands on in creating these materials and were able to apply what we’ve learned. It’s nice to know we could make an impact on our community.”

As the students and Gelbman addressed questions about access and implementation from attendees, it was apparent that the semester-long process had impacted the students as well.

Zach Titus ’21.

“When I was analyzing things, I wouldn’t think in my point of view, I would think in others’ points of view, what the community might think of this,” said Zach Titus ’21. “I thought we were going to learn census history and what might happen in the future. I didn’t think we would be engaged in the community. It was surprising and rewarding at the same time.”

“We All Benefit From It”

Richard Paige — The Ides of August, the vehicle for Wabash professors to share their creative and research efforts with colleagues across disciplines, brings out the best in our classroom leaders.

Witness two biology professors – Bradley Carlson and Heidi Walsh – who found different, and wildly successful, ways to engage students.

Entertaining the idea to search online museum databases to check the demographics of wildlife populations, Carlson thought of a project that might suit his Advanced Ecology students. Usually, his research centers on turtles, so he is attuned to sex ratios, how those differ among climates, and whether the ratios change over time.

Bradley Carlson.

“Why would I focus on one species when there are hundreds?” he realized. “I can’t do that. I don’t have the time.”

What he did have was students in his BIO 313 class who wanted to engage in real research, collect data, and use analytical tools. Work like this would allow the students to see the results, good or bad, play out in real time, unlike simply watching a presentation or reading a paper.

“They don’t see how we don’t know what is going to come of this at all,” Carlson said. “A lot of work has to go into what looks like a simple result. There are some simple figures there, but each of the students knows that they had to put in hours in curating this data. They got to see the whole process.”

Each of the students contributed something to the finished product, and three of them – Christian Gosser ’20, William Robinson ’19, and Charles Mettler ’18 – wanted to pursue it further. The resulting paper, “Reptile Sex Ratios in Museum Collections are Associated With Climate Change and Phylogeny,” was presented by Carlson and colleagues from Yale and Berkeley at the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists this summer.

“It was a fun project to do and we all benefit from it,” Carlson said.

For Walsh, it would require an almost superhuman effort for her Organismal Physiology students to teach concepts to middle schoolers. Well, maybe superhero is more like it.

Heidi Walsh.

Walsh and her students used superhero attributes – imagine flying like Superman, having the strength of Thor, or the lightning-quick reflexes of Wonder Woman – to force her students to think about the concepts differently. About a month of lab work is dedicated to the project where students build lesson plans that explain concepts, set up experiments, and collect and graph data all through the prism of superheroes.

“It was really cool to see them work through showing concepts in a hands-on way to kids of this age group,” Walsh said. “They had a lot of fun with it, so it was rewarding. The best part is that they are amazingly creative with how they illustrate these things.”

Imagine using different sized tubes to represent blood flow or using a Nerf gun to facilitate an experiment in reaction time. According to Walsh, one memorable teaching aid required creating Thor’s Hammer with a five-gallon bucket, some quick-dry cement, and a squeeze ball attached to the handle to measure how much force was applied when the kids tried to lift it.

“Our students just light up, not just when designing activities, but in interacting with the kids,” she said. “They are really, really good. They’ve never done this before, and they don’t know how good they could be until they do it.”

A Legacy and Expectations

Richard Paige — Confirmed to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Damon R. Leichty ’94 endured quite a wait in his elevation to the bench.

Leichty was nominated for the position by President Donald Trump in July 2018. His senate confirmation – by an 85-10 vote – came nearly a year later. Such appointments are often the result of stellar accomplishments as a lawyer.

“Damon is a very good lawyer,” said Bob Grand ’78, a Partner with Barnes & Thornburg LLP. “He is always prepared and well spoken. This is an extraordinary honor and one bestowed on very few Americans.”

Damon R. Leichty ’94.

A lawyer at Barnes & Thornburg since 2000, Leichty specializes in commercial and product litigation. Most recently, he served as the managing partner at B&T’s South Bend, Indiana, office and also was an adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School.

After graduating summa cum laude from Wabash College with a B.A. in English, Leichty earned his J.D., cum laude, from Indiana University Maurer School of Law, where he won the school’s Sherman Minton Moot Court competition and served as a law journal editor. He also earned a master’s degree studying literature and law at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Leichty’s path from Wabash to the U.S. District Court also gave a recent graduate a sense of the possibilities that lie ahead.

“Soon-to-be Judge Leichty’s appointment reinforces the fact that Wabash College produces incredibly successful and prominent lawyers and judges year in and year out,” said Erich Lange ’19. “The success of those alumni who have entered the legal field speaks for itself, and showcases to young men considering a profession in the law that they should seriously consider Wabash.”

The confirmation also gave Lange, winner of the College’s 2019 Junior Pack Medal which is given annually to a student who exhibits special promise in the law, something to shoot for when he begins postgraduate studies at Georgetown University Law School this fall.

“I understand and appreciate the legacy my fellow alumni have worked so hard to build,” he said. “I will strive to live up to those expectations.”

Busy Is His Normal

Richard Paige — Erich Lange ’19, like most of us at some point in our childhoods, grew up riding in the car between band concerts, baseball games, and other activities, changing uniforms in the backseat. Most of us outgrow the need to stay so busy—we pick one thing and search for excellence there.

Busy is still his normal, and he’s handling it all very well.

The North Coast Athletic Conference recently named Lange as the 2019 winner of the Don Hunsinger Award. He is the first Wabash student-athlete to claim it. He credits a childhood where he was constantly moving from one thing to the next – hence the need to change uniforms en route – as the foundation for what would become earning a league honor that spotlights academic achievement, athletics excellence, service, and leadership.

A political science and German double major, Lange graduated Summa Cum Laude with distinction on his senior comprehensive exams, and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He is a Mackintosh Fellow, a Rosenberg Writing Scholar, and winner of the Peck Medal.

He was a Moot Court finalist in 2018, interned with the Legal Aid Society of Louisville, volunteered four years at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Montgomery County, and was a member of

Erich Lange ’19.

the Wabash Pre-Law Society, the Sons of Wabash, and served for two years as a freshman orientation mentor.

As a catcher for the Little Giant baseball team, Lange batted .393 as a senior, tied for the team lead with five home runs, and drove in 39. He was an all-NCAC pick and a second team Academic All-America selection.

It’s not easy to make such a resume look seamless, but Lange accomplished the feat.

“I’ve always been able to take on a lot of things at once, and I’ve admired people who have a seemingly perfect balance in every aspect of their life,” he says. “Being busy with extracurriculars and balancing that with school has been my normal. When I got to Wabash, I knew I had the opportunity to not only play baseball and work hard in the classroom, but to be involved on campus as well.”

Lange leads by example, hoping to encourage others through action. Those actions may most often come into play when it comes to service.

“Sometimes I get busy or would rather do other things, and it’s hard to find the motivation,” he says. “Being the change you want to see in the world requires that you get off the couch and do it. To me, a vital part of character is acting on your beliefs. I believe in helping others, so I ought to do just that.”

The Hunsinger Award capped a spring that saw Lange bestowed with a number of accolades, including the IAWM Scholar-Athlete award, King Prize in German and the Lipsky Award in political science.

I asked Lange, who heads to Georgetown University Law School in Washington, D.C., this fall, how he was able to do it all. He gave me an answer right out of the front seat of his childhood.

“I have to credit that to my mom,” he says. “She always wanted me to be well rounded.”

The Sweetest Mem’ries of Thee

Richard Paige — I was combing through the photo archives recently when I stumbled across the gallery I posted of Freshman Saturday in August of 2015. So I stopped to look at them again.

These were the first moments that the Class of 2019 were all together on campus. It’s always interesting to be roaming the campus during times like this where a multitude of emotions seem to bubble up with each beat of the heart.

Lingering on these photos reminds me that the Class of 2019 is filled with some really good guys. We say that every year, but these pictures affected me a little differently. Maybe it was

Christian Wirtz ’19 in a photo taken on Freshman Saturday in August 2015.

because at the time I clicked that button on the camera, I had finally been at Wabash long enough to both capture and appreciate what these guys were going through and where the journey was heading.

I reached out to two of the students featured in the gallery, Brandon Arbuckle ’19, a political science major from Bloomington, and Christian Wirtz ’19, a rhetoric major from South Bend, and asked them two questions that came to mind as I pondered those pictures:

What thought enters your head upon seeing that photo?
Wirtz: I look at that picture and I see a kid in over his head who has no idea who he is nor who he wants to be. Blissfully ignorant of how much he’ll rely on other people to get him

through college, from my parents, my professors, and the friends I’ve made along the way. I see a boy who is not even sure he’s ended up at the right college and has no idea how much this place will mean to him in four short years.

Arbuckle: It was hot. My parents and I, mom looking at the camera in this photo, carried all my boxes up the stairs of the pre-renovated Martindale Hall (a lot of it stayed in those boxes for the entirety of the year). I remember meeting my Bangladeshi roommate, Hasan Irtija, shortly after this was taken. When I was admitted to Wabash and figuring out housing, I typed “international student preferred” for roommate preference. Hasan helped me move in, and we roomed together until he graduated last year. I’m so glad I did; he and I meshed so well. It was a lot of fun living with him. I think we peeled the room number placard off our wall when we moved out of Martindale 412 for renovations. I imagine I still have it somewhere.

I also remember crying in the room with my parents when they said goodbye and headed home. It was the only time they’d ever sent a kid off to college, and was my first time living anywhere but home. After they left I settled in quickly.

Looking back on the last four years, what does such a memory mean to you?
Arbuckle: Looking back, the uncertainty of what four years at this school would mean for my life was daunting. It felt like graduation was an

Brandon Arbuckle ’19 in a photo taken on Freshman Saturday in August 2015.

eternity away. Now that it’s just around the corner, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on not only the experiences that helped mold me into the person I am today, but also the people who helped get me there. From my family and friends, to peers and professors, the growth fostered by the people at this institution is remarkable. I’ll miss the camaraderie. There were a lot of challenges and hard points, but they all helped me in the end. I’m excited to take these memories and experiences out after graduation, and look forward to coming back to Wabash, my home away from home, in future years.

Wirtz: Seeing this picture, I’m also reminded of the ringing in ceremony and how overwhelmed I felt–I didn’t think I was smart enough to make it through and that everyone involved in my deciding I was Wabash material had made a mistake. I remember moving in and my mother crying. But of course, this also reminds me of freshman orientation week and walking

Arbuckle (left) and Wirtz circa 2019.

nervously into Hovey Cottage for the first time–I had interrupted a staff meeting as I was running late for the library tour. This was, of course, when I met Brent Harris [eventually becoming a student assistant in the sports information office] and the rest, as they say, is history.

I referenced the photo just two days after I took it, when Christian, indeed, interrupted one of our staff meetings while looking for work, saying “I took your picture Saturday,” as a way of breaking the ice. It was amongst the first of 123 photos I took that day.

Long in our hearts we’ll bear the sweetest mem’ries of thee. Congratulations to the Class of 2019.

Of Poems Shared and Inspiration

Richard Paige — Sometimes you wonder where inspiration comes from. Other times, it’s obvious.

Jordan Ogle ’19 is a writer. The English literature major with a philosophy minor loves poetry. “This is my dream to study poetry and to share that with anyone who is willing to listen,” he told me recently.

I asked how he got hooked on poetry. Turns out, it was his grandmother, Carrie Phillips.

She was a factory worker in Clinton, Indiana, for the majority of her life. High school educated, Carrie never went to college, but she has long written poetry and shares that with Jordan. He remembers those poems, stuffed in her Bible, and her reading them with him as far back as elementary school.

“She kept those in her Bible and she would read them to me,” he says. “It was a way for her to express

Jordan Ogle ’19.

herself and the frustration of living as a working-class woman and a single mom, but also a way for her to express the kind of beauty she saw in the world.”

Now all these years later, poetry has become the centerpiece of Jordan’s academic interests. They still share poetry today, and I’d bet such an exchange brings a smile to her face.

“Even though she didn’t go to college and study poetry in a scholarly sense, she understands, and what I have to say about poetry resonates with her,” he explains. “What I’m doing now makes her happy, probably because it’s what she wishes she had the opportunity to do.”

Recently, Ogle earned a Fulbright U.K. Partner fellowship and will study at the University of Exeter in England next year. Further, he has been accepted into a Ph.D. program at the University of Iowa and will begin studies when his master’s work at Exeter is completed.

Jordan was named a Julia Rosenberg Writing Scholar last fall, earned distinction on his comprehensive exams, and was an honoree at Awards Chapel multiple times, including the Walter L. Fertig Prize in English.

But it wasn’t always easy for Ogle. He’s battled mental health issues while here and showed remarkable resilience in becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college and the first to travel abroad.

Still, the next step to Exeter is a big one.

“She will miss me,” he starts, “but she is excited for me. All of the work I’ve put in at Wabash, to taking care of my mental health, to taking care of my family back home, has all been worth it in the end, and I think she feels that, too. I think about how lucky I am to even be here today.”

Something Special We Share

Richard Paige — Leave it to a father and son to bring a little emotion into the 2019 IAWM Leadership Breakfast.

After spirited presentations from Derrin Slack ’10, Tom Hiatt ’70, Wabash President Greg Hess, and Andrea Pactor, the audience of more than 220 turned its attention to the final piece of the program: the Indianapolis Association of Wabash Men’s presentation of its Man-of-the-Year award to Dr. Don Shelbourne ’72.

Long an innovator when it comes to knee reconstructions, Don began his orthopaedic sports medicine career in 1982. A standout football player and wrestler for the Little Giants, he became interested in sports medicine after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament while in college. Because of that injury, his practice, the Shelbourne Knee Center, focuses on the treatment, rehabilitation, and research of ACL injuries.

Dr. Don Shelbourne ’72 (left) looks on as his son, Brian ’12, introduces him as the IAWM Man of the Year.

In the nearly four decades since, Don has seen a research department and database for evaluating outcomes grow after more than 6,500 surgeries. Such follow-up has allowed him to identify problems with treatment and the factors associated with optimum long-term outcomes. His efforts have advanced ACL rehabilitation to the point where results – returning patients to athletic activities quickly – are predictable and successful.

When Don stepped to the podium on March 21, the introduction was anything but usual. His son Brian ’12, himself a standout Wabash basketball player, delivered a heartfelt description of a father, friend, mentor, and surgeon that ran the gamut from funny to emotional.

“Unbelievable,” was how Don described it after the fact, “I’m going to get emotional again, if I keep thinking about it.”

Together on that stage, the Shelbournes leaned on each other as Brian spoke. A well-timed joke to head off tears, a knowing glance, a needed squeeze of the shoulders. All of it shared and needed in the description of a worthy recipient.

The impact of the moment wasn’t lost on Brian.

Shelbourne receives the award from his son, Brian (right).

“It was weighing on me, for sure,” he said. “You think about doing this and you want to do it right. It’s a special opportunity.”

During the speech, Brian mentioned that his father was passionate about several things…his family, his work, and Wabash College chief among them.

“Being able to go through the Wabash experience,” he started though a smile moments after leaving the stage, “and always to have that is something special we share.”

Those in attendance were pleased to have shared in the moment, too.

Relevant Again

Richard Paige — Tobey Herzog is back in the classroom and he calls it “one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”

He retired in 2014, but old habits are hard to break. The Emeritus Professor of English can be found instructing yet another edition of Wabash men in Business and Technical Writing, a class he started on campus and taught for more than 30 years.

Tobey Herzog H’11 with his Business and Technical Writing students.

That experience makes him comfortable with the subject matter, but he had concerns about the students. Had they changed?

“I started this class and I feel comfortable doing it,” Herzog says. “I thought, ‘gee, four and a half years, the students may have changed.’ They haven’t changed at all. That’s one of the positive things about Wabash.”

For him, it was different. With only one class to teach, time became an ally. It opened up ways for him to think about the class in different and deeper ways.

“I discovered that if I had just taught one class per semester I would have been the greatest teacher in the world,” he laughs. “Having time to really think about each class, to prepare for it, and do some things that in the past I didn’t have enough time to get ready for has made it much better.”

The students are noticing, too. On this day, the discussion initially centered on what was learned from previous assignments and how to move forward. With a feasibility study and product development launch ahead, the lesson was clear: from this point forward, it’s time to apply what you’ve learned.

Herzog awaits the start of class.

“What is so interesting with Dr. Herzog is that it’s very practical information and he makes it very relatable,” says Simran Sandhu ’20. “It’s a good way for all of us to connect. It’s not just research and write. It’s very cool to get that sense of writing in various situations.”

As a business minor, this class is one of Sandhu’s requirements, but he had other goals in mind as well.

“Written communication is something I haven’t been able to articulate well over the years,” he says. “After a few classes with Dr. Herzog, I was confident I made the right choice.”

Like many retirees, Herzog’s concerns also addressed his own relevance.

“Once you retire the difficulty is still feeling relevant,” he says. “But then this opportunity to be somewhat relevant again – to walk on campus and have students who are in your class say hello and chat – I think it’s great.”

The shared experience seems like a win-win for everyone in that classroom.