Works in Progress: Kip Chase

By Jim Amidon '87

“My Best with Every Opportunity”

Kip Chase strode across the Commencement stage in May confident, poised, and seasoned by the work ethic he displayed during four years at Wabash. He’s already begun his professional career in pharmaceutical sales for Eli Lilly, his top choice of the four promising job offers he had received by November of his senior year.

But like so many Wabash men over the decades, Chase almost didn’t attend Wabash. Once on campus, he almost didn’t stay. Through it all, though, he developed perseverance, a keen sense of right and wrong, and an optimism that gives his personality refreshing buoyancy.

Recruited to Wabash by former football coach Paul Van Wie and basketball coach Mac Petty, Chase showed great promise in both sports at Bedford North Lawrence High School. But a week after graduation from high school, he got sobering news from his parents.

“They told me that it looked like they wouldn’t be able to send me to Wabash,” Chase shyly admits. “So, I moved to Indianapolis to live with my aunt and uncle and work construction to save as much money as possible.”

Chase became a Wabash freshman that fall, but his work schedule left no time for football or basketball.

“The hard part was telling Coach Van Wie and Coach Petty that I wouldn’t be able to play sports,” Chase says. “I had to work. I felt as though I had to grow up and take care of things financially and academically.”

But Chase limited his on- and off-campus work to weekends so that he wouldn’t miss the excitement of Wabash life. He also stayed plugged into the events of the world around him, voraciously reading newspapers and magazines. And he’s had plenty of events during his college career in which to do that: the contested presidential election of 2000, the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and the war in Iraq to name only a few.

Tops on Chase’s list, though, is the historic comeback of his best friend, Jeff Espino ’03, who overcame brain cancer to return to campus in less than a year. “Jeff is the most courageous person I’ve ever known,” says Chase, who as a history major with a 3.7 grade point average seems to want to place every event in historical context.

In the course of a brief conversation he mentions what he’d like written on his tombstone—“A Good Wabash Man”—and the script for his ideal Wabash education he was unable to write four years ago—“I could never have imagined the wonderful things that have happened to me at Wabash.”

If there were turning points in Chase’s history at Wabash, they all seemed to come in shocking proximity. Within two years his parents divorced, his best friend got cancer, he received a scholarship from Wabash based on his academic performance, and he decided—finally—to join the basketball team as a junior.

“I thought I had the best parents in the world, but when that bond was broken, it taught me that they were human. And it taught me that every decision we make in life affects others. I told myself then that I was going to get the very most of my Wabash experience, and looking back on it, I think I did.”

Chase proceeded to take Wabash by storm, assuming leadership positions traditionally filled by fraternity men. He served as president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, vice president of the Student Senate, worked two summer internships in the Indiana State Treasurer’s office, and made the Dean’s List in every single semester.

He organized the College’s all-campus Community Service Day that involved over 200 participants. He also spent a good bit of time coaching a sixth grade basketball team at the local middle school.

But the time he spent as head resident assistant—especially his role counseling freshmen—seems to mean as much to him as anything he’s done.

“The freshmen come to you to learn about Wabash, to learn the traditions and the way we do things,” Chase says. “Those are moments that will stay with me for a lifetime.”

He worked the alumni network, too, building tight relationships with Bob Grand and Rade Kljajic, among others. “Those guys showed me what it’s like to be a responsible Wabash man; doing good work and giving back to others. They constantly strive to help others who are walking the same path, and that showed me the definition of loyalty.

“I think Wabash men learn best by example,” Chase says, and this year’s winner of the Frank Sparks Award for All-Around Student Achievement has learned well. Now it’s his example that others will follow. They’ll be wise to embrace the attitude that’s made possible Kip Chase’s achievements at Wabash: “I just tried to do the very best I could with every opportunity I had while I was here.”