The right place, the right time

Steve Charles — JP Morgan Chase investment banker Bill Kennedy ’83 had the rapt attention of students at his table when host Lu Hamilton ’76 interrupted the conversation to make some necessary announcements at Monday night’s alumni-student gathering.

I don’t know what Bill had been discussing, but as soon as Lu finished his announcements, Kennedy turned back to the students and said, "Okay, I’d like to finish what we were talking about." The students leaned forward to listen, and one added an affirming, "Yeah." Looking around the room, I saw similar scenes at the five other tables.

It was the sort of engagement our students crave as they strive to discern their calling—connections with those who know how to leverage the advantages of a Wabash liberal arts education in the working world and have found a vocation that brings purpose to their lives. That’s what these Industry Focus Nights provide. Monday night it was healthcare, law, and investment. There’ll be other nights for other vocational paths. I told Lu that I wished we could provide an evening like this for every calling our students are interested in.

Later that evening I was transcribing my interview with our new Career Services Director, Scott Crawford: "People who find their calling are lucky, but they create their own luck," Scott said. "They position themselves to be in the right place for when that right time occurs. The key for our students is to be active, to get a variety of experiences, and, as their partners in this search, we want to provide as many of those experiences as possible.

"At a school like this, and with the alumni support we have, so much learning is possible," Scott said. "But you have to pay attention and be ready to†go to that right place at the right time."

For 30-plus students with that initiative, the right time was last night, and the right place was Detchon Hall.

Thanks to Lu Hamilton, Terry Hamilton ’89, Diane Iseminger, Dave Herzog ’77, Matt Price ’90, Joel Tragesser ’94, Jason Cantrell ’93, Lee Hargitt ’88, and Bill Kennedy ’83 for making it happen.

Wabash Football & Fun

Howard Hewitt — For anyone who has never gone on the road with the Little Giant football team, you’ve missed out. Add it to your fall list of things to do!

Approximately 400 Wabash College fans filed into Ohio Wesleyan University’s Selby Stadium Saturday afternoon. Even two pledge classes joined the fun. The crowd looked a little lost in the huge, old stadium but they were quite vocal in supporting the Little Giants.

OWU is located at Delaware, Ohio, – perhaps best known as birthplace of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president – or about a half hour north of Columbus. The OWU campus has an elongated layout in the beautiful small town. A mall runs down the middle of campus giving it a feeling of community even though it sits right downtown.

A big part of any Wabash road trip experience is the tailgate parties before the game. Just look for the red Wabash flags in a nearby parking lot for good food and friends.

We got to Delaware a bit later than planned Saturday so I wasn’t able to explore campus as I would have liked. We’ll be going to Wooster and Allegheny yet this fall on overnight trips. That will allow me to include a few photos of campus to give fans a feel for these schools we often talk about but few will ever see.

When you travel with the Little Giants you eat well, enjoy great company and meet new people. As Brent Harris and I found out on our way to the Wabash tailgate area we found a group of Ohio-based Wabash fans. Bill Catus ’77†and friends had set up grills and fun near the stadium. Catus leads the Columbus Association of Wabash men.

Topping†off the day was Wabash’s dominating performance and a big 29-7 win.†The football team travels to Wooster Oct. 15 and the longest trip of the year, Oct. 29, to Allegheny, Pa. Oh, then there is that short trip down the road Nov. 12 to reclaim the Bell!

Master of the universes

Steve Charles More than a month before his novel Olympos made the New York Times extended bestseller list, Dan Simmons ’70 presented the first public reading from the book to a Wabash audience packed into a Baxter Hall classroom during last summer’s Big Bash.

Now is featuring on its web site an interview with Simmons titled "Master of the Universes." Here’s the introduction:

"Changing genres as easily as others change clothes, Dan Simmons has won major awards with his novels, including the World Fantasy Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the Hugo Award. Ilium, the first book in the science fiction diptych completed by Olympos, was the top science fiction pick of 2003. He’s written horror, mystery, historical fiction, thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction.

"How does he do it? With pleasure…"

You can find the interview at

Dan is best known for his fiction, but I always enjoy and learn from his essays. He has written twice for Wabash Magazine (one of the most rewarding interviews I’ve ever done was for our feature about Dan in the Spring 1998 edition of WM), and you can read less formal but equally fascinating messages at his web site:

The site also includes a revealing look by Dan’s longtime agent, Richard Curtis, about the sea changes occurring in book publishing.

You’ll also read that both Ilium and Olympos have been optioned by Digital Doman and Barnet Bain Films (producers of the Robin Williams/Cuba Gooding Jr. film What Dreams May Come). Dan is writing the screenplay.

But as Dan cautions every time his fans get excited about one of his books hitting the big screen, there are many obstacles to overcome. "I won’t believe it’s real until I’m sitting in the theater eating popcorn and watching it on the screen," Dan says.

At breakfast in Crawfordsville in June, Dan told me about his new book, The Terror, which he calls "a tale of arctic survival and psychological terror based on actual historical accounts."

As Dan enthusiastically recounted details from his research for the book, I couldn’t help but think of the conversation Dan had earlier that weekend with Wabash student Aaron Nicely, who was on campus writing fiction of his own thanks to an internship Dan funds. Dan talked with Aaron about the importance of research in fiction, and his words took root; when I caught up with Aaron a couple weeks ago, he said that doing the research for the novella he’d completed may have been the most enjoyable part of the process.

You can read about Aaron’s work at

A journalist living humanely

Steve Charles—TIME magazine Miami Bureau Chief Tim Padgett ’84 travels to New York next month to receive the Cabot Prize from Columbia University for his outstanding reporting on Latin America.

But I’ve learned much and been moved by his recent coverage of the devastation caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast.

Some of his best work is found at TIME Online. His "Flying with a New Orleans Rescue Crew" snatches you up for a ride on a CH-53 helicopter called "Voodoo Child" as it takes to a sky "frenetically dotted with all types and sizes of choppers, bobbing and weaving like bumblebees in a barely controlled chaos amidst the smoke of fires burning along the Mississippi River below."

Padgett’s reporting illuminates challenges I’d never heard about in other coverage, such as the difficulty of providing air traffic control during the "saturation rescue scene" over New Orleans, and then takes you face to face with physically and mentally disabled survivors the crew plucks from the floodwaters. The final paragraph is as carefully observed as the best fiction, but this is reality at its most desperate. Padgett’s words burn these images on the brain and inspires compassion better than any photograph or video coverage I’ve seen.

You can read the article at:,8599,1101340,00.html

And Padgett’s article, "The Complicated Mayor of New Orleans" asks if Ray Nagin is the right man to rebuild the Crescent City. That one’s at:,8599,1109261,00.html

“We can get better!”

Jim Amidon — As the home game photographer for Wabash’s athletic teams, I like to shoot more than just game action. Some of the best shots I get come after a game, when the Little Giants are taking off their uniforms and preparing for their coach’s post-game comments.

So, after games, I tend to stick close to the players. After Saturday’s 50-2 win over Earlham, most members of the Wabash football team were in great spirits —†high fives and hugs were exchanged by all. Coach Creighton gathered the team together and one of the very first things he said was, "We can get better."

Coach Creighton is successful — and makes his men successful in sports and in later life — because, like faculty, he always challenges his student-athletes to improve. And he knows that being overly congratulatory after a 50-2 win would go straight to the heads of his players. Instead, he focused on the penalties the team made and a few things on which the team needs to improve this week at practice.

Having spent a good bit of time in the classroom this month, I know faculty have precisely the same approach: "We can always get better."

“Gorgeous, disturbing, and grippingly alive”

Jim Amidon — I read Joy Castro’s powerful memoir The Truth Book quite some time ago, before it was in print. I knew instantly that it had the grace and muscle to attract a large reading audience. Just before its release, The Truth Book was named a "Notable Book" by Booksense.

And the word is spreading.

In Sunday’s Boston Globe, Caroline Leavitt wrote about Castro’s book in her regular Sunday column, "A Reading Life." This week’s column was titled "Rewriting damaged lives with eloquence and truth," and featured Castro’s book along side Floyd Skloot’s A World of Light.

Leavitt called the English professor’s book "an exquisitely powerful and beautifully written memoir."


"Castro, like Skloot, moves effortlessly back and forth through memory, as she tries to ”feel my way into what it all means." Glimpses of her future spark and glint amid the rubble of her past, and she even imagines a richly evocative monologue from her heartbroken birth mother. Castro not only saves herself from her brutal childhood, she saves her brother. And when she has a son, she gives him the childhood she and her brother never had a chance for. Her son is doted on, never struck or scolded. ”Sweetheart, this is what you deserve," she tells him.

"Gorgeous, disturbing, and grippingly alive, Castro’s book offers the kind of hope her background never supplied."

Just a quick reminder that the Wabash Bookstore has plenty of copies, and that Joy will read from The Truth Book on October 27 at 8:00 p.m. in Salter Concert Hall.

Floats that don’t float

Jim Amidon — Many colleges and universities have Homecoming parades complete with bands and floats. I gather that many years ago that was the case here at Wabash. Today, though, the freshman floats don’t float. In fact, we call them "decorations." But simply because they don’t roll down the street behind a John Deere doesn’t mean our kids don’t work just as hard as anyone else. Just take a look at the tired eyes of the freshmen from eight fraternities and and the independents who built Homecoming decorations — I’m sure some pulled the first of what will become many Wabash all-nighters.

Kudos to Rick Warner, Patrick Myers, and Sherry Ross, who rolled out of bed early on a damp Saturday morning to walk the entire length of campus to serve the Sphinx Club as judges for this year’s competition.

The Delts put on a boxing match for their "KO the Quakers" theme; the independents, who built decorations over 20 feet tall at Crawford Hall, attempted to bribe the judges with juice and fruit; and the Phi Psi’s decorations stretched 60-70 feet across the lawn. Interestingly, the Fiji decorations feature a burning pot, complete with dry, old wood around the base —guess that will make it easier to set fire to it (anybody else remember the huge blaze there a few years ago?).

But the moment of the morning came after I had taken pictures on the west end of campus and was headed south to Lambda Chi. There I saw the Delt queen having his, er, her nails painted. I was so confused.

Ah, Homecoming!

Jim Amidon — Okay, I can side with some members of the faculty who say Homecoming is a giant sleep-depriving waste of time and leads to an unproductive week in the classroom.

But it is a lot of fun — for the freshmen and for those of us who wish we were 18 again.

Chapel Sing, in its new format, worked well, I thought. None of the kids were really screaming the song (well, maybe Sigma Chi and Phi Delt), and the Sphinx Club did a good job of evaluating those freshmen who really knew the words. Independents were a part of the fun again this year. The students I talked to after it was all over said it was "a blast," the "most fun I’ve had at Wabash so far," and a tremendous "bonding experience." And best of all, the guys I talked to Thursday afternoon still had their voices!

Friday morning as Howard Hewitt and I were planning out coverage of the weekend, we noticed a Beta freshman crashed on top of his house’s Homecoming decoration. Not exactly sure why they feel the need to guard them all night, or why the guy was nestled so deeply in a sleeping bag — it was, after all, hot and humid. But it made for a great picture.

I love Homecoming. Leaves are beginning to change; the bright red banners line the streets; the stadium will be packed on Saturday; and sure, for one week this fall, the Rhynies are exhausted… but having the time of their lives.

Robinson to Visit Campus, talk about Teach For America

Jeremy Robinson ’04 is working at an inner-city high school in Chicago with Teach For America. Jeremy, who is from Indianapolis, was a Lilly Scholar while at Wabash and a Summa Cum Laude graduate.

His experiences at Harper High School will be detailed in the winter edition of Wabash Magazine. Jeremy is teaching at one of the city’s most under-performing high schools. He is in his second year and has faced many unique challenges during his experience.

Jeremy is going to be on campus Monday, October 10, to talk to any senior interested in the Teach for America program. He would like to pre-arrange interviews. Any senior interested can contact Scott Crawford at the Career Center or send an e-mail directly to Jeremy at:

– Howard Hewitt, 9-22-05

A Classroom Immersion

Jim Amidon — Spending a couple of days in the Wabash classroom with Details magazine reporter Jeff Gordinier was precisely what the doctor ordered to start the school year. Over two days, we made it to nine different classes taught by Wabash’s newest and most legendary professors. While the goal was to give Jeff a sense of what it’s like to attend a college for men, the experience charged my batteries in a meaningful way.

John Aden took his world history students outside to the Fuller Arboretum, where they broke into a pair of warring armies. Aden didn’t carefully choose the groups; he just split the class in half. He acknowledged that only a handful "had read the text" and knew what to do. For example, archers (who could move five steps when it was their turn) took high ground, naturally, but were too far away to strike. One side filled its ranks with catapults, the other had none. It was a crude display, but it was also quite clear that Aden was making his point about the strategies that went into medieval warfare. If I imagined really hard, I could almost see our guys dressed for a scene in Gladiator. Okay, not really, but it was a cool way to bring the material to life.

Before David Kubiak’s Intermediate Greek course, I asked the students what they thought of their professor. One said, "He terrifies me." Another: "The hardest teacher I’ve ever had." Then, in unison, three guys said, "Probably the best teacher I’ve ever had." When Kubiak came into the classroom, he briefly discussed the quizzes from the previous week. "Don’t you know by now I only give you these quizzes so that you’ll know the things that really irritate me." He then went over the various issues the students continue to get hung up on, that "irritate him." He was, in that 50 minutes, equally tough, challenging, and supportive.

Bill Placher’s Religion in Literature class provided a completely different look at classroom dynamic. I would later learn that the class includes freshmen through seniors, roughly 25 percent of each. And the conversation was amazing. They were discussing John Updike, and while I didn’t know the text, I felt as though I did by the high level of conversation and the way Placher eased it along. Bill’s been in the Wabash classroom a long time, and I doubt any student has ever felt embarrassed in his presence. His classroom is a safe one, where students can express themselves freely.

We dropped in on Greg Huebner’s figure drawing class in the art department on a day when the students were sketching a nude model. What shocked me most was the "all business" approach the students had. If anyone felt uncomfortable in the room, it was either Jeff or me — the outsiders. When the model disrobed, the students started sketching as though it was a disciplined exercise involving a bowl of fruit. This at a college for men!

I never had "Fast" Ed McLean for Constitutional Law, but I gather from most of my Wabash lawyer friends that it was their best training for their careers. Jeff and I sat it on an early morning version of the same class taught by one of McLean’s former students and a practicing lawyer, Scott Himsel ’85. At Wabash, we don’t go in much for adjunct professors, but Himsel was amazing. What he got out of the students at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday morning was spectacular; they were well prepared and discussed the day’s Supreme Court case with detail and clarity.

There were other classes, too, that were equally impressive: Steve Webb’s freshman tutorial class during which he had students read aloud their essays and critique one another; Joy Castro’s creative writing class that began with a 10-minute free writing exercise in which Jeff participated; Warren Rosenberg’s freshman tutorial on Men and Masculinity, during which the guys — in sometimes blunt terms — said that "Yes!" men can be friends; and Peter Bankart’s Human Sexuality course where guys, with some discomfort, discussed hormonal problems in women.

What an immersion for our reporter friend and for me. In fact, I think I’ll make such immersion experiences a regular beginning to every semester.

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