Spring 1998

Notes From Center Hall
by Andrew T. Ford

Several years ago in an observation on the herd-like nature of children, comedienne Lily Tomlin pointed out that if little boys and girls could make their wishes come true, the only two job options available for adults would be firemen and ballerinas.

It's a fascinating notion, all of us being just one thing or another. It is also frightening to think of being programmed into one line of work, with no options and no opportunity for individuality.

It's the mix that makes life interesting, as the Wabash men featured in this issue of the magazine demonstrate very clearly. Their stories round out over a year's worth of accounts in this magazine about the careers Wabash men pursue. You have read about your fellow alumni in sports, the outdoors, the international scene, and business and finance. These stories are last because they are about the men whose work is more unconventional than that done by most of us. In terms of describing how Wabash alumni work and move in the world, the men in these stories seem to be the proverbial icing on the cake, something special, indeed. They have taken the boundary out a little farther; they have shaken up the norm somewhat; they have traveled in unexpected directions. One of them, Dan DeGryse, even fulfills every little boy's aspiration of being a firefighter.

In 1962 Herb Gardner's A Thousand Clowns opened on Broadway, introducing the character Murray Burns into American letters. In a witty and moving soliloquy, Murray explains why he wants to keep his young, well-loved nephew with him. The reasons bear repeating, especially before these stories of men who took a dare: "I want to be sure he'll know when he's chickening out on himself. I want him to get to know exactly the special thing he is or else he won't notice it when it starts to go. I want him to know how to holler and put up an argument, I want a little guts to show before I can let him go. I want to be sure he sees all the wild possibilities. And I want him to know the subtle, sneaky, important reason why he was born a human being and not a chair."

I know you will enjoy the following stories of your fellow alumni who were most certainly born human beings and not chairs. Some do uncommon things. Others have added a new dimension to ordinary occurances. All of them do things uncommonly well.

Their willingness and ability to walk the road less taken render them good guides for the rest of us. They are living proof of the value of a rigorous education which simultaneously requires a clear-eyed look at the facts and encourages dreaming about what might be.

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