Full Circle

A few days ago, I sat in the audience at the 19th Annual Celebration of Student Research, Scholarship, and Creative Work as a Wabash student condensed a semester’s worth of literature research into a fifteen-minute presentation. Samuel Stephenson ’20 didn’t know it, but as he stood at the lectern and talked about the theme of exile and societal nonconformity in a short story by famed Irish writer James Joyce, I was in the audience feeling a wave of déjà vu.

In five other rooms throughout the building, something similar was happening: students presented, audiences asked questions, and the larger Wabash community got a glimpse inside the scholarly workings of the College.

For me, though, this particular presentation was special: I’d been here before. Exactly here.

Five years ago, I had donned my only suit, watched a YouTube tutorial on how to tie my tie, and walked across campus to the same room, where I had stood at the same lectern, shuffled my notes, and given a presentation on the exile of the artist in James Joyce’s Ireland, all the while trying not to sweat through my suit jacket.

5 years ago, biking in Ireland as a student

Of course, the chance to present my work was an incredible opportunity: it opened a window of international travel for me, as the course had come with an immersive learning portion in Ireland; I did serious academic work where the writing had to speak for itself; but I was then also asked to take that heady work and turn it into something more easily understood by audiences outside of my field of study.

Later that same year, I walked across campus to attend the esteemed LaFollette Lecture, where my faculty sponsor—English Professor Agata Szczeszak-Brewer, the same faculty sponsor for Samuel Stephenson at this year’s Celebration—gave a rousing lecture about what James Joyce’s voluntary exile from Ireland could tell us about teaching the humanities, particularly at Wabash. The lecture left me emotional beyond my ability to put into words; in the aftermath, when I went to give my congratulations to Prof. Szczeszak-Brewer, I kept bumbling around for a word to describe how I felt. Once I found the word, I kept repeating it, hoping she would understand what I was failing to put eloquently: I felt affirmed, affirmed, affirmed.

I now know what I was trying (and failing) to say that day: I had just realized that Wabash was letting me in on what one of its former presidents had called “the grand conversation”—and I felt grateful that I had been given the tools and the opportunity to speak my piece in that conversation.

The year I presented my research, James Joyce’s Dubliners turned 100 years old. The book isn’t getting any younger; the scholarly research, however, is always changing, and Wabash students like Stephenson are tasked with carving out space for their ideas, and then inviting others in too.

Just as she did five years ago, last Friday Prof. Szczeszak-Brewer sat in the audience, having overseen a semester’s worth of progress, and asked still further questions, leading with inquiry. Community members turned the ideas over in their heads, genuinely curious about how these varied areas of study could benefit their own understanding of the world.

And I sat in the back of the room, affirmed, watching another Wabash mind get ushered into the grand conversation the same way that I had five years earlier.

An Immersion Trip Q&A: Marlon Lewis ’20

Over Thanksgiving Break, art major Marlon Lewis ’20 went on his first immersion trip to Prague, Czech Republic to hand carve puppets with his Theater 303 class. In January, he will be leaving for South Africa for a semester-long study abroad program.

We sat down with Lewis to hear about his immersion experience and learn more about the Chicago-native’s desire to travel.


Marlon Lewis '20, far right, and the Theater 303 class in Prague

Marlon Lewis ’20, far right, and the Theater 303 class in Prague

Q: For starters, why puppets? And why Prague? What’s the connection there?

A: Our Theater 303 class spent the entire semester learning about Czech puppetry – it’s super connected to their culture. Puppetry has been around for a really long time. When the Czech Republic was under Habsburg rule, German was considered the official language of state, and Czech language and culture was suppressed. The traveling puppeteers continued to perform in Czech and helped the language survive through puppet shows. Over time, puppets have become a symbol to the country.

We went there specifically to make our own puppets with professional puppeteers. Over the semester, we designed our puppets, sent them out to the workshop, and got feedback from the puppet masters.


Q: Before your trip to Prague, had you ever been out of the country before?

A: No! I hadn’t even been on a plane for longer than two hours! When I came to Wabash from Chicago, I didn’t even think of leaving the country. I never thought I’d be in Prague, making a puppet. That was so surreal, yet I didn’t feel out of place. I could tell I was somewhere new, but it felt normal. I jumped right in and did my thing.


Q: Were you nervous?

A: I was nervous about getting lost. Not being able to talk to anybody. I didn’t know enough Czech to get by at all. I could wake up and say, “Good morning.” I could say, “Good day.” And I could say, “Thank you.” But I was also really looking forward to experiencing something that wasn’t American. I wanted to see a different perspective.


Lewis in the puppetry workshop in Prague

Lewis in the puppetry workshop in Prague

Q: What was the shop like where all of you worked?

A: People spend their entire life in puppetry and never get the chance to be in the shop where we worked. That shop has a waiting list!

When I heard that, I was like, “Dang!” We really felt special. And all I could think about was thanking Wabash for using my tuition in a way that I never would have thought of.


Q: How much of the trip did you spend working, and how often did you get to explore?

A: We went over there to do a job. We worked about 40 hours in the shop that week, so it felt like we were workers—not tourists. After our second day, I was wishing that we had the morning to go out and do stuff. To see things in the light. But then I realized that everyone else in the city is doing their job or going to school, so I wasn’t in broad daylight embarrassing myself, trying to figure out where to go!


Q: How different did it feel making a puppet in a workshop in Prague compared to something you create in one of your art classes?

A: It wasn’t a classroom. They were instructing you, but you were on your own. Even though we got a grade on what we made, it wasn’t a studio class where I felt like I was making it for the grade. I really felt like I was making it for me. The puppeteer we were working with is probably in the top five of all time. He brought in a top-10 master carver, who brought in another. To learn under them, to see their abilities, even though it was just for a few days, it was invaluable. Especially since I make art all the time. They taught me thought patterns that I’ll hold onto forever.


Lewis shows off his hand-carved creation in Lilly Library

Lewis shows off his hand-carved creation in Lilly Library

Q: How did you decide what type of puppet to make?

A: My puppet is a skeleton. At the beginning of class, we had to choose a Czech person to model our puppet after, and the guy I chose was from the 1800s. He was commissioned by a church to store and organize the bones. So it was like, “What could I do with you?” I’m kind of into the macabre thing. The beauty of it – making it beautiful. I can find positives in almost anything, so I thought I could make something really nice out of this.

So my skeleton is the protector of the ossuary (a room in which the bones of dead people are placed). My original idea was just a huge head. Arms and legs hanging out of the head – I didn’t want a torso or anything. But when I sent that out, the master carver said it would be too difficult for my first puppet.

(laughs) Now my puppet is in a black lining with gold lining and a gold chain.


Q: When you did get to explore, what was Prague like?

A: Prague, at least the parts we were in, wasn’t modern at all. They still have cobblestone roads. Most of what we walked on was cobblestone. Anthony (Williams ’20) and I found maybe two or three roads that were paved.

It’s such an old city compared to Chicago. The structure of the buildings felt similar with the ground level of the buildings being a shop and then people living on top – I see that all the time back home. But there’s really no space between the buildings. We barely have space between our houses back home. People in Indy are always like, “Why are the houses in Chicago so close?” In Prague, you couldn’t even walk between most of the buildings!


Q: Speaking of homes, we heard you all were able to meet with three alums who live in Prague!

A: Oh yeah, I was like, “What the heck?” I didn’t even know where Prague was before this class, and there were three! One alum has been out there going on eight years, and he left the day after his graduation. He initially was working with a church program, and now he works with a monastery. He’s also a football coach for the national Czech football team. Another is an English teacher, and he’s been out there for 3 years. They each gave us their own tour of the city, so that was nice.

It’s always fun to meet Wabash guys. We just all connect so easily. It was crazy to learn that there are people who know what we go through and people who have had similar experiences and are now living in Prague. If I ever want to come back, I know people here!


Q: Now that you’re back, you’re preparing to leave again. How are you feeling as you get ready to study in South Africa for a semester?

A: I honestly can’t wait. I’m so excited for it. That’s really why I was so glad to be part of this class. I was about to be gone for half a year, and I hadn’t even been out of the country for a day! I had no idea what that was going to be like. This trip helped me understand the mindset I’ll have to have as I travel and gave me an idea of some of the challenges I’ll face.

My goal after college is to travel, meet people, and help them better understand each other. Help people become more connected. Whenever anyone asks what I want to do, I always say, “Save the world.” But I have to explore it first.

Camaraderie is the Connection

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

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

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

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

The alumni group in Dallas, Texas.

Camaraderie is the lasting effect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He Gave Me Courage”

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

“Check Your F*#!ing Email!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it made the commute from Chicago worthwhile.

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

Welcoming More | Wabash Men

Welcoming new international students to campus.

Brady Gossett ’19 — Director of International Programs Amy Weir welcomed a new group of international students to campus Monday, tending to all the little details to ensure their transitions was smooth.

Any travel is draining enough, but many of these students are coming off long flights across several time zones.

“Maybe they don’t want to sleep right away,” said Weir, but just in case, she has beds ready made by the time they arrive. “Your first night on a new campus really determines what your overall experience in college is like.”

Weir’s focus then becomes getting the students acclimated to life in the US and life at Wabash. Along with the time difference, there are a lot of other cultural differences that affect new international students.

Weir works tirelessly orienting students to Wabash prior to the beginning of classes. Activities include meeting with various faculty and staff, campus scavenger hunts, discussing immigration rules, and lots of icebreakers.

In one particular ice breaker, Never Have I Ever, students shared experiences with each other in a race to find an open chair.

“Never have I ever had a pet cat.”

“Never have I ever owned a gaming console.”

Lots of laughing, joking around, and jockeying for seats. I finished up taking photos and joined the game. After the first couple “Never Have I Ever’s”, I think they noticed I hadn’t moved from my seat.

“Never have I ever been a US Citizen.”

More laughter as the student mentors and I scrambled to grab a seat. That was a good one, I thought.

They’ll fit in just fine here at Wabash.

Out of the Page and onto the Stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rory Willats ’17 in the Phoenix Theater control booth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WLAIP Gives Everyone Time to Reflect, Including Professors

Former Visiting Assistant Professor of English Andrew Klein – This year’s Wabash Liberal Arts Immersion Program has come to a close, and I’m humbled by the dedication and enthusiasm with which these 23 young men have met the challenges of the past month.

The program left a particularly strong impression on me this year as it was both the first time I’ve worked with students in the program and the last time I will teach here at Wabash.

Former Visiting Assistant Professor of English Andrew Klein

Former Visiting Assistant Professor of English Andrew Klein

I’m told students tend to approach this program with trepidation and, in some cases, outright resistance to the idea of losing their last summer at home with friends and family. So, it was gratifying to hear so many them write of the reversal of those sentiments over the course of the month upon discovering deep friendships, confident mentors, and a wellspring of intellect and academic potential within themselves. I was proud to hear my students, who only a month earlier had been dancing at their high school prom, embracing the critical self-awareness needed for them to seize their college education and to get the most out of the next four years.

Dr. Crystal Benedicks and I were responsible for the English 101 course. From July 1 to July 26, we guided our students through spirited discussion and an intensive reading and writing schedule. We asked our students to assess honestly their prior relationship with reading and writing, to examine critically the educational models they had known since kindergarten, and to explore their own personal credo or guiding question as they moved forward into a new semester and a new life.

This process of meditating on their past, present, and future gave these students what so many of us need but fail to find before committing to our next Big Thing: time to reflect.

Hearing the students encapsulate this reflective process in their final audio essays taught me the value of encouraging students to locate themselves within their studies. They described how this experience had taught them that their success going forward would hinge not on departure from their past – a past often painted with the vivid colors of their home and family life – but on embracing and uniting their new ventures with their old traditions.

Listening to these students’ final words, recorded just a day before the program ended, I was struck by how quickly their morphed into certainty. That, here at Wabash, they will take control of their lives and achieve their dreams. One student spoke of his eagerness to develop freely his ideas in dialogue with caring teachers. Another wrote of how he could pursue his education without the shame he’d felt initially about expressing himself and his ideas. All of the students found some reason to be hopeful and confident where before they had been skeptical and unsure.

If we are able to move students to feel this way before their first semester has even begun, then I consider what we’ve all accomplished this summer a job well done.

And I do mean “all” — the WLAIP works well not only thanks to the enthusiasm of its professors and students to work together but also to the guidance of others. Dr. Robert Horton, Dr. Zachery Koppelman, and other faculty were a constant, supportive presence, and together we created a productive environment that was intense for the students but not overwhelming. However, it was the student mentors and writing tutors who were exceptionally vital to this course. I saw not only our new students improve and grow, but I saw more senior students rise to the occasion and readily adopt roles of leadership and mentorship.

I left the course changed myself —invigorated by what I had learned from these students and how we as instructors can offer guidance, newly aware of how important a student’s background can be to how we approach our courses, and, what’s more, looking forward to how I might take this experience and pay it forward at my next position at a liberal arts college in Canada.

2018 WLAIP participants

2018 WLAIP participants

WLAIP is a powerful reminder of the effectiveness of the intensive, student-centered education for which Wabash is best known. And those who come through it ought to be particularly proud of their achievement.

So congratulations to Cristian, Luis, Jorge, Clarke, Emiliano, Jayden, Davionne, Ali, Johnny, Sammy, Jose, Marco, Gianni, Jonathan, Eddie, Gerald, Chris, Mike, Jesus, Walter, Leo, Elijah, and Eli. You have much to be proud of this summer, and Wabash gains so much by having you here. Congrats as well to Anthony, Leon, Ra’Shawn, Corey, John, and Kike — mentors and tutors whom Wabash is also lucky to have.

Here’s to next year’s WLAIP!

OLAB: A Herzog Family Tradition

Matchmaking and marriages. Children and grandchildren.

Tobey Herzog has seen it all during his time with OLAB, the Opportunities to Learn About Business summer program, and that’s just from his own family!

OLAB is a one-week hands-on introduction to business and the market economy for young women and men entering their senior year in high school. Now in its 46th consecutive year at Wabash, the program’s success is known nationwide.

Professor of English Emeritus Tobey Herzog

Professor of English Emeritus Tobey Herzog

In 1978, Tobey began his time as an OLAB instructor teaching about writing job applications. He later taught advertising and marketing and worked with OLAB until 2010.

“I really enjoyed interacting with the high school students in that environment because they were highly motivated,” Tobey said. “I liked watching the students take the material I taught them and put together their own ads and campaigns. Plus, it was a nice change of pace.”

OLAB marketing campaigns featuring children often included Tobey’s then young sons, Rob and Joe.

And when they were both old enough, Rob and Joe went from the instructor’s kids to participants to OLAB counselors.

Joe’s wife, Marci, also went through OLAB.

Then there’s Rob’s wife, Beth. She didn’t attend OLAB as a high school student, but her connection to the program makes this family’s story even more interesting.

Rob was living in Washington D.C. and studying at Georgetown, when he came home one weekend for a wedding.

That evening, he had plans to reconnect with his former OLAB counselor Greg Shaheen, who has now worked with OLAB in various capacities for more than 30 years.

“When he showed up at my house,” Greg recalled, “we started talking about the wedding, and he said he had hit it off with one of the bridesmaids (Beth). He said something along the lines of, ‘If I lived in Indiana, she would likely be the one.’

“I looked at him and said, ‘Then why are you here with me??’”

At that, Greg made Rob change their original plans and drove him up to Culver, Indiana, where Beth was working at her relatives’ root beer stand.

OLAB was two weeks away, and the program was short a female counselor that year.

“So I hired Beth on the spot,” Greg said.

“Beth had no idea what the program was even about,” Tobey laughed. “Greg was doing this for Rob and Beth. That was his motivation.”

Mia Herzog

Mia Herzog, bottom right

Tobey had no idea he was working with his future daughter-in-law that week, but he said that week allowed him to see how great she is.

Rob and Beth later married, and – of course – Greg was in their wedding. Now their oldest daughter, Mia, is participating in OLAB this week.

“It’s become somewhat of a family tradition: Herzog-related people go to OLAB,” Tobey said. “It’s a rite of passage in the family, and I’m really excited that Mia’s here.”

“And they owe it all to me,” Greg laughed.

“But sincerely, it is really cool to see how everything has come full circle.”

Part of the Family

There I was, sitting in the grass on the Mall, surrounded by a sea of black gowns, trying not to let my red pants be a distraction from the Commencement ceremony.

With Garrard McClendon '88

With Garrard McClendon ’88 in Chicago

My job is to let everyone see what I see – through stories, photos, and social media – but I always tell people to pretend I’m not there. (Red pants probably don’t help with that.)

In one of the moments that day when I lowered my camera from my eyes, I caught Sam Gellen ’18 wave at me as he got in line to get his diploma. I smiled and gave him a thumbs up, and, in that moment, I realized how much I’m rooting for these guys.

My first Wabash Commencement was last year after I had worked at the College for about six months. I had met several students, but I didn’t really know them. This year was different.

Every week this past school year, I had the opportunity to write about a different student. Even though our interviews lasted at most 45 minutes, I consistently walked away feeling like I had seen a different side of each student than I was prepared for.

When we got past what they thought I wanted to hear from a marketing perspective, they really opened up. Some of them shared funny stories, others shared heartbreak. Some of them talked about their achievements, and others talked about learning from their failures.

They made me laugh. They made me cry. And more than once, they made my day.

  • When Henry WebberHunt ’18, who loves fish, learned about my deep hatred of sea creatures, he told me I needed therapy.
  • Ra’Shawn Jones ’20 got so excited talking with me about his baby niece that he showed me several photos of her on his phone.
  • One night when I was taking pictures and completely focused, Byshup Rhodes ’19 came up behind me to say hi and made me almost drop my camera.
  • Jayvis Gonsalves ’18 congratulated me on my marriage when he saw an email come from the same Christina who had been emailing him before but now had a different last name.
  • Jake ’18 and Nick Budler ’19 competed with me in a GIF competition on Twitter.
  • Brock Heffron ’19 ran over on the football sidelines to give me a high five one day when I was taking photos at football practice.
  • And, more than once, members of the Sphinx Club have been more than willing to make fools of themselves to help me with social media.

I think I’ve watched more sporting events at Wabash in a year and a half than I did during my four years at my alma mater.

I attended my first Oaken Bucket game last year, and I was quite unimpressed by the size of the prize. I mean, come on. We have a 300-pound bell.

When my husband wanted to do a chemical reaction instead of a unity candle for a wedding ceremony, it was Wabash Professor Laura Wysocki who helped make it happen.

That same day, when our best man brought our car around for us to leave, Post-It notes of all colors covered the entire vehicle. Everyone there thought it was the bridal party. I knew better. What I was looking at was the prank the rest of the Wabash Communications and Marketing team had been planning since they received their invitations.

At the 2016 Monon Bell game

At the 2016 Monon Bell game

And it was Garrard McClendon ’88 who helped me plan my anniversary trip to his city of Chicago exactly one year later.

Sitting there in the grass on Commencement Day, I began to think about the Wabash community – the Wabash family.

I had written about it.

I had photographed it.

I had tweeted about it.

But it took me until that moment to realize…I’m a part of it.

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.”