I Found My Place at Wabash
by Deon Terrell Miles '97
I started out my Wabash experience in the beautiful building behind me-the Chapel. This is where my mother and I sat through a hot and muggy ringing-in ceremony during Freshman Orientation. I did not understand the significance of President Ford ringing some old bell for the freshmen that day. However, over time, I came to understand what the big deal was. Tradition, history, ceremony-it all starts and ends here at the Chapel. This building has symbolized the Alpha and Omega of every Wabash man's stay here.
The building directly to my left, the grand OLD Goodrich Hall, is another place that I found at Wabash. Because of my great love for organic chemistry and differential equations, I spent the majority of my waking hours trapped in the bowels of this grand OLD building. Besides the heating problems, the water problems, the interesting smells, the old desks, the peeling paint on the walls, the underlit rooms, and the outdated lab spaces, this building has been very good to me. Did I mention the smell? I hope that this grand OLD building stays here for a long time. Maybe one or two years should be long enough. By then, I think it will be time to build a new facility so that chemistry and mathematics will continue to be strong majors at Wabash.
Even though I was a chemistry major, my academic career started in the depths of Waugh Hall with the biology department. I came to Wabash with visions of majoring in biology. The introductory biology class had an enrollment of over 100 my freshman year. Now, there are less than 20 biology majors graduating in this class. These biology majors found their place throughout Waugh Hall. Does this mean that those students who decided not to major in biology, including myself, are failures? I would answer that question with an emphatic "no." We, those who did not become biology majors, defected to the enduring rooms of Goodrich, to the fresh architecture of Detchon, to the legendary halls of Center, to the musical theater of the Fine Arts Center, or to the unchanging corridors of Baxter. Even though we decided to change our majors, and perhaps even our career goals, we eventually found our place at Wabash.
The athletic complex at the southwest end of campus was another place that I found at Wabash. I discovered quickly that sports, whether they were intercollegiate or intramural, were very important to the makeup of our campus. The competitive nature of the Wabash man is unique because of his will to excel on the playing field as well as in the classroom. I did not compete on the varsity level here, but I did find my place on the Wabash basketball team as a manager. "Water boy," "towel boy," "athletic supporter," whatever derogatory title that could be given to the job is what I did during my time here, and I am proud of it. I had the opportunity to experience Wabash sports from behind the scenes. I witnessed countless hours of preparation by students, both physically and mentally, which made Wabash sports what they are--a great experience for the entire student body and larger community. I will remember the times that I shared with the basketball team that won seven games my freshman year just as much as the one that won 24 games this year. Alright, maybe I will remember this year's team just a little bit more. I will remember this team maybe more for beating DePauw twice this year than for advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Regardless of how I remember this team, I was proud to be a part of the "Wonder 13" as Jim Amidon called us this year. It is an accomplishment that I hope my entire class will never forget.
The third floor of Martindale Hall, on the southeast end of campus, has been the place I have called my home these last four years. I know that my fellow graduates remember a few stories about the floor from our freshman year. It got to the point where the Associate Dean spent a few nights with us. Twenty-eight young, naive freshmen and one sophomore RA would live on that floor my first year here. I would become a part of 28 philosophies, 28 attitudes, 28 lifestyles, and 28 personalities. These 28 philosophies, attitudes, lifestyles, and personalities would help shape me into the person I would be at Wabash. I have the honor of being the only person to remain on that third floor all four years from the initial group of 28 freshmen. Those guys went on to find their own place to call home, whether it was here at Wabash or at another institution, or if it was a late pledgeship at a fraternity or a move to an off-campus location. It was our duty as young men to find our place at this institution. Not only were we to find our place to live, but we were to find our place academically, socially, and philosophically. I encourage the graduating class at this point to reflect back to their first year at Wabash. Think about the attitudes and tendencies that you had as freshmen. Now, along with this reflection into the past, think about how you have changed since that time. The people you have met, the habits you picked up (not just the bad ones, but also the good ones), the activities you were involved in-all of these things helped us in our transition from boys to Wabash men.
At the north end of campus is a small white house that you can see when leaving out of the College's entrance. This house, the Malcolm X Institute, was yet another one of the places that I found at Wabash College. Established 26 years ago, the MXI has been a great vehicle for Black students to voice their opinion on campus and to have a social outlet after a stressful week of study and class work that many of us can relate to. Mistaken for a Black fraternity for years, the MXI has accomplished goals that the fraternities on campus have done as well. It has brought people together and made lifelong friendships. It has given a common bond to a group of men, Wabash men, from different generations. It has helped those men of MXI deal with and get through one important experience. This experience is not racism. It is not prejudice or discrimination. This experience is Wabash. Without the MXI, this experience would have been harder on me as well as on those whom I would consider my fellow brothers. I am thankful for its establishment and its existence on this campus.
As we bring our undergraduate careers to a close at Wabash, I want the graduates to know one thing. You have all found your place at Wabash. Whether you were in a fraternity or in a dormitory, or you were in the Glee Club or Pep Band, or a member of 'shOUT or a writer for the Commentary, you found your place at this fine institution. Now that we are done here, I will issue a challenge to my graduating class. Wherever you are headed--medical school, graduate school, the work force--find your place in your new community. Do the little things that can help your community be a great place. Help organize a community clean-up campaign, referee a basketball game for 12-year olds, join a Meals-on-Wheels program. Please excuse me if I have sounded like a lobbyist throughout my speech, but I do encourage you to find your niche wherever you go. And above all, please, wherever you go, please tell someone about Wabash. I am sure the Admissions staff will be beaming now that I have said that. They will probably try to shove a stack of referral cards in your pocket as your leave today. But take them because you will need them. Tell someone about dear old Wabash. Tell them about your experience at this College. Tell a parent why their 18-year old son should seriously consider attending a small liberal arts college in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Tell someone about how you found your place at Wabash. I know I will.