"Wabash is a College whose good work transcends any differences people who love it might have over the means to the end. As The Campaign for Leadership is proving; as history has proved over these many years; Wabash is a College extraordinarily important to its alumni and friends."
NOTES FROM Center Hall
Enclosed with this issue of Wabash Magazine is a supple-ment that includes coverage of the events that kicked off The Campaign for Leadership and Homecoming '98. That special weekend will long be remembered. Those of us privileged to be here witnessed one of the College's finest moments when the entire community-students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends-came together in a celebration that honored the past and charted the future.
Weekend highlights included an academic convocation featuring a remarkable speech on the liberal arts by former Dartmouth President James Freedman (joined at the podium by former Dartmouth Dean and former Wabash President Thad Seymour '78H) and the awarding of an Honorary Degree to Dr. Paul Mielke '42; Bob '57 and Betty Allen's extraordinary gift making possible the groundbreaking for the new Allen Athletics and Recreation Center; dedication of the new Chapel Carillon donated by Jean and Gordon Peters '52; the rededication of the football stadium to the Byron (Barney) P. Hollett Little Giant Stadium; and the football team's 45-0 drubbing of the College of Mt. St. Joseph. These events, to say nothing of the fireworks shot off behind the Chapel at the close of the kickoff dinner Friday night that prompted well over one-hundred calls to "911," will indeed be long remembered.
Enjoying that weekend, I felt the cumulative impact of the generosity of the Allens, the labors of Tom Hays '55, the passion of Barney Hollett '36, and the commitment of hundreds of other alumni and their families who contribute in so many ways to this College. I was again reminded of the extraordinary impact this College has had on generations of Wabash men. No other College has anything like it.
What breeds such undying loyalty? Why does David Orr '57 fly from coast to coast supporting the capital campaign? Why does David Pancost '69 always respond to inquiries so promptly and fully? What causes Bob Knowling '77 to jet in to Crawfordsville for a few hours, say a few words, and then return to an extraordinarily hectic schedule?
Clearly, some Wabash men have been so deeply affected by Wabash faculty and staff that they feel a need to give something back. Whenever I travel, faculty and staff are the people alumni ask for . . . and those are the people that generated spontaneous applause when they appeared in the Campaign video on Friday night. Other alumni have an acute sense of place, a feel for the campus and its environs. Still others remember fellow students with whom they spent a great deal of time and with whom they continue to stay in touch after many years.
These strands of recollection and memory ultimately come together, and are held together, in a set of deeply shared values. These values begin with respect and appreciation for a rigorous liberal arts education. Stories abound about phys-chem. (Today's equivalent may be Bio 1.) Rigor is valued for its own sake at times, but more often it is valued because it caused young men to stretch in new ways and prepared them for a lifetime of stretching. Also present is the recognition of the joys that a liberal arts education brings. Our alumni read . . . and they consistently read outside their fields. Their ability and their desire to do so stems from that liberal arts education; it has given, and continues to give, them a richer life.
Independence is another value that, ironically, ties Wabash together. Wabash men take as much pride in their own independent thinking as they do in the College's remaining independent, avoiding entanglements with church and government. This independence enhances the liberal arts education and enables the College to focus on its central value-but one that, curiously enough, rarely gets spoken-the centrality of the student.Wabash people assume the student comes first. We do not spend time discussing, for example, whether the student should take precedence over faculty and staff research or consulting. Everyone knows the answer. They know it so well the question never gets asked. And you need to have been elsewhere to know how unusual this value is. It ties all our values together and ultimately makes Wabash what it is.
Together these values generate great passion and support for the College. Such passion cuts two ways: it can be life-giving or destructive. The legendary Ben Rogge '53H alluded to this potential while affirming the values described above in his "How to be a Good Alumnus" speech at the President's Breakfast for Seniors on June 8, 1963. "Change is inevitable," he said, "and do not ask of your college that it defy all the rules which govern human institutions and remain as you imagine it was in its Golden Years when you were on campus." Among his other admonitions that day was one that, as alumni, the graduates demand that the Wabash faculty "contain real diversity of point of view on the great issues of human affairs." Ben Rogge knew that the passion Wabash inspires can be fiery. The risk of unleashing either facet of it is compounded in this new world of electronic mail, faxes, and copying machines. The speed of these technologies makes it easier than ever to make statements in haste or anger and then have to live with the consequences.
Seeing this risk first-hand, I remain committed nevertheless to bringing alumni closer to the campus, literally and figuratively. We have taken, and will continue to take, steps to involve alumni more and to keep them better informed. We have occasionally disagreed even with the men featured prominently during the kickoff and vigorously debated matters close to the College. We have learned more about each other and about the College from these exchanges, and emerged more strongly committed than ever to our shared core values, even though we occasionally agree to disagree about the details of implementing them. I expect that welcoming alumni and friends to a deeper relationship with the College will cause difficulties from time to time, but any difficulties pale beside the significance of Wabash.
As Dean Rogge described it that spring day in 1963: "This is a College which seems to be able to influence the lives of those young men who attend it-to provide them with an experience strong in its impact on what they are, what they think and say and do, and how they think and say and do it. It is a College which commands affection and loyalty and, at its best, is a lifelong inspiration to its graduates to seek to become something better than they are."
We are blessed in the confidence that that statement is as true today as it was when Ben Rogge said it 35 years ago and as it will be 35 years from now. Wabash is a College whose good work transcends any differences people who love it might have over the means to the end. As The Campaign for Leadership is proving; as history has proved over these many years; Wabash is a College extraordinarily important to its alumni and friends. Secure in that support, Wabash College is extraordinarily important to higher education and to society.