Reflecting on the Wabash Spirit

by Jim Amidon

May 10, 2004

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I was asked to give a talk in the weekly Chapel convocation series sponsored by the Wabash College Sphinx Club two weeks ago. It’s the second or third time the Club has asked me to give a "year in review" speech, to reflect broadly on the school year.

Given that we were less than 24 hours removed from the on-campus memorial service for Tony Lobdell, I didn’t have a clue what I would say or how I would say it. I only knew that the Club was counting on me.

After the memorial service, I came back to my office and started to reflect on the words the students used to describe Tony: "Adventurous." "Courageous." "Innovative." "Quirky." They said he was fun to be around, that he was the life of the party, and that he always squeezed as much out of an experience as possible. So that’s what I talked about in my Chapel speech.

Using Tony as the context of my speech, I reeled off a list of the students who seem to have the same "Wabash spirit" as our junior, who was forever lost in the mountains of Argentina.

Freshman Joshua Dirig has that spirit. The young man has been confined to a wheelchair since childhood, but never lets an opportunity pass him by. He’s a national-caliber wheelchair basketball player; he pledged a fraternity; he wheels himself around campus faster than most of our students can run. And while I have no idea what kind of student he is, he’s eating Wabash alive and seems never to miss an opportunity..

Jacob Pactor has the spirit, too. A graduating senior, Pactor took over weekly student newspaper, The Bachelor, as a sophomore and helped it win more than 50 Indiana Collegiate Press Association awards. At one time or another, he handled every single aspect of running the newspaper over the next three years, while simultaneously using the opinion page to call on his fellow students to live and learn at a higher standard.

Michael Bricker will graduate next weekend, too. He leaves here headed for graduate school in architecture at the University of Texas, but he just as easily could have gone to grad school in art or theater or design. This brilliantly creative Jack-of-all-trades artist has a bright future, indeed, whose name, I imagine, we’ll someday see associated with a Broadway play or Hollywood motion picture.

Senior Nick Dawson turned the term "dumb jock" on its ear. Dawson was a four-year letterman at tight end on the football team, and he stands about 6-5 and weighs 240 pounds. Yet when you get to know him, you realize he has a very personal, almost sensitive side. And he’s very bright, too, earning All-Academic honors several times. He’s also traveled the globe on the College’s Immersion Learning trips.

Talk about a smart jock: Dustin DeNeal was a back-up quarterback on the football team, but he backs up nobody in the classroom. The senior will probably be the valedictorian of the Class of 2004 when the final grades are tallied, and he leaves here as one of the most decorated students of the era. He’ll also join Bricker as the class Commencement speakers.

Jeremy Robinson joins his Wabash brothers, Josh and Ben, as summa cum laude high honors graduates of Wabash. And Robinson rebuilt a proud humanities publication as two-time editor of Callimachus, which won for him the Robert S. Harvey Outstanding Editor Award.

There are dozens of students with equal amounts of "Wabash spirit," who attempt to tap Wabash for every last opportunity. And there are those who give back, too, like John Meyer, who heads up the College’s service honorary, Alpha Phi Omega. Meyer and John Morgan were the driving force behind Wabash’s commitment to Habitat for Humanity, which not only led to a $20,000 student donation, but mobilized students to help build the house in record time.

When it came time for me to deliver my Chapel speech, Tony Lobdell was certainly fresh in my mind. Perhaps it was my closeness to his story—and the stories about him—that caused me to take notice of the many other students who share the "Wabash spirit." That reflection, though, served as a powerful reminder of just what a special place Wabash is, and what a truly special year it was.

 


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