More Teachable Moments (unedited)

by Wabash faculty and staff

October 21, 2005

We asked Wabash faculty and staff members to recall some memorable moments from their time here over the past 10 years.

"We suffer together, we rejoice together"
The most moving moment of my six years here came as Jeff Espino '03 jogged on to the basketball court. He had returned to Wabash and the team after successfully battling a brain tumor, inspired and encouraged, he said by the Wabash community. The noise from the crowd was deafening.

We learn together, we suffer together, we rejoice together. And Jeff surely demonstrated for us all that "Wabash Always Fights."
Assistant Professor of History Rick Warner

More moments from Professor Warner:
Our approach to comps in History reflects changes in the field over the past generation: dates are less important than themes, connections and human experience. Whose history is more important, Louis XIV or the peasant Martin Guerre? Should students know about US Grant and not about Sojourner Truth? Because of this, direct content questions and facts, while they are asked in orals and expected in writtens, are not the primary focus of either oral or written comps. We want to see to what extent our students have mastered the tools of an historian. We are also interested in seeing them make connections beyond a couple of regions (say, the US and Europe). So we tend to ask questions in both written and oral comps that measure the theoretical, practical and international historical abilities of the student.

In orals, I usually know within several minutes if the student has a chance at distinction. If this is the case, I move away from the historical content questions and push very hard on historiography and theory, as hard as I would with a master's student. They have to earn it! I remember well the oral exam of John O'Neill. David Phillips was there as third chair, and a temporary guy in English. John was never known for short answers, but he rose to the occasion and fired back quick synopses of every historical thinker I could come up with. He was equally impressive in English, and ended up with double distinction the two majors. He went on to grad school at University of Cincinnati and I believe is trying to get into Harvard to study Celtic History.

You asked for other stories. One that I tell fairly often is about my initial job interview here. I was decked out in my black suit, a bit nervous but bemused by the people I was meeting. One student came up to me and thrust a two page paper at me that he had written. He wanted me to comment on it!

I thought, my God what do they teach their students here?

That professors are available 24/7? (Obvious answer: yes.)

Dutifully, I read the piece and gave him my frank appraisal. Now that I've been here a few years, the story is not at all surprising... unless I'm telling it to someone from another college.

 

"My best C&T section ever"
Three moments come to mind:

1. My best C & T section ever:
Sometimes it just all comes together. I'd had a brilliant C&T section in the Fall of 1995 that I thought no other section could ever top. In the Spring of 2002 I got lucky and got the group that topped them, if only just.

It was the dream C&T section. It had a superstar at the top in the brilliant but modest Nick Dawson, matched insight-for-insight by Caleb Brown. But the depth and quality of the supporting cast is what distinguishes the best C&T sections, and everyone in this section contributed. No matter how hard the material (and we did some doozies for C&T that semester, including Nietzche, Schliermacher, and Wagner in addition to classics such as Malcolm X and MLK), someone--Matt Arroyo, Erik Kroger, Ethan Kuhn, Brandon Peacock--would have an original take on the material, others would take it up, and fifty minutes always seemed too short: the discussion took off, sparkled, and let me sit back and be one of the co-learners.

In fact, the discussions that semester were so consistently good that it's hard picking out a single moment from them, and in fact the defining moment came at the end of the semester. It wasn't when my co-grader and I exchanged grades on our sections and this group was five to seven points better, across the board in both our scores, than his. I almost expected that. It was while I was grading my finals, and Joe Day called. He was wondering if any of my guys had answered a particular "paired ID", because none of his guys were doing very well with it and he was having trouble imagining what a good answer would look like. I read him one of mine (OK, I cheated, it was Nick's, but he'd taught the other guys). I hadn't even finished before Joe said, "My best student couldn't even understand that answer, never mind have written it!"

I can't claim credit: like I said, I got lucky. For the record, here's the complete honor roll. If you read this, guys, let's pick a text and have a reunion discussion, shall we?

To Matt Arroyo, Sean Baylor, Caleb Brown, Nick Dawson, Dean Fox, Erik Kroger, Ethan Kuhn, Dan Matusik, Sean McNulty, Alan Patton, Brandon Peacock, Jon Scott and Paul Stephens. Thanks.

2. Spring 2001: A Mighty Championship
I've been managing the Faculty Staff IM Softball team, under the guise of my softball alter ego "Ozzie" Morillo, for the last ten years (except when I'm on sabbatical). The name I've given the squad, the Mighty Faculty Staff Softball Team (MFSST, or Mighties for short) is often tinged with irony, and among the staff the team is probably better known for the email updates I send out during the season than for our exploits on the field. It's always fun-a great way for faculty and staff to get to know each other and have fun with students. And in fact, we've usually been pretty good, but are usually prevented from going farther in the playoffs by schedule conflicts or a really good fraternity team.

But in 2001, we had a deep squad who all showed up all the time, and we pounded the students. I mean pounded. This team never trailed after any half inning the entire season, outscored the opposition by a combined 106-38, and won the only Faculty Staff IM softball championship in living memory.

My moment came at the end of the championship game. I'd organized and "managed" the team through the season, but I was a bit player on the field‚Äö?Ñ?Æas I said in the final report, "My smartest move was limiting my own playing time!" Still, the whole team presented me with a softball marked "8-0" and signed by the whole team. I damn near cried.

For the record, the Championship Day Mighty Lineup:
CF Haas; SS: Warren; RF: Howell; DH: Timmons; SF: Hoffman; 2B: MacDougall; 1B: Bost; LF: Heinhold; 3B: Harris; C: Weaver/Morillo/Lynch; P: Day

3. Spring 2002: Inflammatory Cartoons
OK, this one I'll claim some credit for. On February 21, 2002, The Bachelor printed a cartoon of mine. An African American student posted it on his door. Someone burned it off his door. Two weeks later (after Spring Break), The Bachelor printed my follow up. It too got burned off an African American student's door, and as a result "sparked" (ha ha) a major campus discussion about race relations, culminating in an all-campus Chapel on the topic. The power of cartooning, and a moment I'm proud of.
Professor of History Stephen Morillo


"Like the Voice of God"
In the early 1950's Professor Vic Powell recorded Dean George Valentine Kendall reading Shakespeare's Sonnets in a sound booth in Center Hall. In 2003, I took the tape to Purdue to have it migrated to a CD.

As soon as I got to my car, I popped in the CD. Kendall's voice was like the voice of God, rich and deep and wise. Just right for the man Byron Trippet described as the most civilized man he ever knew.
Elizabeth Swift, Archivist

 

"A little crazy"
It has been a remarkable time for the business office, with more building projects and more purchasing than any time in the College's history. In one short period we had the second phase of the science building, Trippet Hall, the Malcolm X Institute, and Sigma Chi all going on at the same time.

It gets a little crazy when you have all those projects going on at once, but it's nice to see it all come to fruition-faculty happily teaching in the buildings, and the students learning there.
Director of Purchasing Tom Keedy '77

 

Four moments come to mind:
Jeremy Robinson '04 telling me he'd turned down various job offers to teach in an inner-city school in Chicago; Nick Myers '05 saying he'd postponed taking his scholarship to Yale so that he could teach English in Honduras for a year.

Professor Joy Castro, in Chapel, reminding our students of the rules of civility in conversation and getting a standing ovation from them.

The Delts, quietly walking to the Senior Bench one night and writing messages on it to their lost brother, Tony Lobdell '05.
Professor of Philosophy and Religion Bill Placher '70

 

The faculty-student connection
Recently, the various strands of my experience at Wabash came together as I read a report on the Wabash curriculum by Wabash President Louis Hopkins, published in 1931. President Hopkins describes the centrality of the teacher-student relationship to Wabash's academic program. The tremendous advantages of these close personal relationships, he notes, far exceed the disadvantages of remaining small.

There is so much that takes place at this "small" College that it can make ones head spin. I greatly appreciated the reminder that the close and personal faculty-student relationship is at the core.
Associate Professor of Speech David Timmerman

 

"A Signal Moment"
I was inordinately proud of Professor of Theater Jim Fisher and his brilliant and courageous production of Angels in America. There was considerable opposition to this from some sides, but Jim and his cast forged on and brought a significant and elegant production to the College.

That was a signal moment for me in the College's ability to deal with a controversial play and indicated to me a major moment of intellectual maturity on the part of our community.
Professor of Classics Emeritus John Fischer H'70

 

"The Catch"
I can't think of Wabash without thinking about athletic director and coach] Max Servies '58 and the stories and Wabash history I've learned from him.

And speaking of great sports stories: The Catch [Jake Knott to Ryan Short to Kurt Casper] to win the 2001 Monon Bell Game has to be one of the best. It brought the Bell back home after a five-year vacation and really allowed the alumni to embrace Coach Chris Creighton.
Associate Director of Alumni Affairs Mike Warren '93

 

Never cease learning from our students
I was the impetus behind the classroom-based research project in the senior teacher education curriculum in 2003, so I was especially nervous about how students would handle this demanding project during student teaching, which itself is very demanding.

I learned a lot about Wabash students and their work ethic during that year. I believe that good teachers never cease learning from our students, and working with that group of seniors (Class of 2004 seniors Jacob Pactor, Matt Storm, Bubba Stultz, Mike Roark, Chris Anderson, and Robbie Boles) exemplified this tenfold for me.

Presenting our work with Jacob, Matt and Bubba at a national conference was the highlight-I was completely blown away by the students' insight and their ability to discuss their learning in sophisticated ways.
Visiting Assistant Professor Michele Pittard

 

"Great Joy"
At the Campaign for Leadership kick-off in September 1998, the end of my first month on campus, I was struck with the love of the College expressed by two gentlemen I was seated with-graduates from the mid-1930s.

Four years later, I felt great joy for Johnny Warren and Todd Bertrand-both four-year advisees of mine and members of my first freshman tutorial-as they gave the 2003 Commencement Addresses. In that tutorial group, we learned and grew together. It was a special group of students.

More from Professor McDorman
--We were in the second week of classes in my first semester at Wabash--fall 1998--when a Public Speaking student (Randy Widener) came into my office before our 9:00 a.m. class. He was a freshman and a little nervous about adjusting to Wabash. He entered my office rather wild eyed and with black paint all over his hands. In a kinetic, almost wired, fashion he related to me how he and his pledge brothers had painted the bench the night before and then stood on guard until 7:00 a.m. He asked me some questions about the class, told me a bit about himself, and apologized for "bothering me." I told him he should come in to see me any time, whether it was about class or just to talk. He seemed surprised by this and told me how different it was from high school. Before leaving my office he turned to me, with a wide grin and his painted hands in front of him, and said "this college thing is going to be great." He was right, it has been.

--I remember getting a sense of the history, tradition, and magnetism of Wabash at the Campaign for Leadership kickoff in September 1998--the end of my first month on campus. Of course there was the big tent, the festivities, and a moving pictorial that chronicled the people of the college, but I was most struck with the love of the college expressed by two gentlemen that I was seated with--graduates from the mid-1930s. They had more than 60 years of lived history with the college and it was clearly dear to them. One wrote to me the next week and sent me a speech that had been delivered on campus about Edmund Burke.

--As the College prepares for significant changes, I can't help but think that I was fortunate to arrive at the college at a time of great leaders and teachers. President Ford and Dean Ditzler, who arrived in my second year, have cultivated the college as well as her students and faculty. And I feel like I was fortunate to learn from the likes of Paul McKinney, Peter Frederick, David Phillips and many others about what it means to be part of the Wabash culture, what it means to be a professor here, and about the history of the place.

--In some important respects the faculty C&T trip to Mexico in January 2001 was a defining moment for me. Not only did I learn a great deal and see wonderful sites--the Cathedral, Gaude Lupe, Teotiuhican (and definitely Temple of the Sun), Temple Mayor, Chamula--but I learned so much about my colleagues as 18 of us went on the trip. Talking to Peter Frederick, walking with David Blix, learning with Brenda Bankart, it was a quite an experience and one that in some strange way made me feel like a true part of the faculty. For me, the enduring moment of the trip is the Church in Chamula that we visited. It was a day of worship and it was a scene unlike any I had ever experienced. The pine needles and leaves covering the floor, the smoke from and smell of the incense, the candles, the children, dogs, and chickens, the coca-cola and tequila concoction along with empty cola cans and tequila bottles, the chanting, the offering of gifts, and the surreal mixing of symbols that were so far from anything I had ever experienced and yet, with the Santa Clauses, lights, and Hallmark like chime playing assorted Christmas songs, there were familiar aspects too.

--The joy I felt for Johnny Warren and Todd Bertrand--both four-year advisees and members of my first freshman tutorial--as they gave the 2003 commencement addresses. That tutorial group from 1999 (class of 2003)--Johnny, Todd, Chris Miltenberger, Jake Knott, Ryan Short and so many others--it felt like we learned and grew together. It was a special group of students

--The excitement of students when I've told them that essays we co-authored were accepted for publication.

--Having great support from David Timmerman and great departmental colleagues in Jennifer Abbott and Thom Vaughn.

--Watching Jake Knott throw four first-half touchdowns to Ryan Short during the first-half of the 2002 Monon Bell game.

--"The Catch" from the 2001 Monon Bell game.

--Being greeted at the door by President Ford at the 2003 Holiday party and then being caught off guard when he congratulated me on receiving tenure. It created an instant feeling of jubilation, relief, and numbness.Assistant Professor of Rhetoric Todd McDorman

 

Double Dutch
In the summer of 2003, 15 scholars from theological graduate schools across the country gathered outside my office in Hovey Cottage to see if they still "had it in them" to jump rope! The bricks of the Alumni Terrace were singing with the clip-clap of the two ropes as the women-and a few men!-sported their skill at "double dutch." I gave it a try but couldn't get past the first couple of hops without missing!

These professors were participants in the Workshop on Teaching for Pre-Tenure African American Faculty, one of the annual summer programs put on by the Wabash Center. Their ability to enjoy this traditional activity was testimony to me of the hospitable space Wabash College has become for hundreds of religion faculty since the Wabash Center was founded in 1996, and of the rejuvenating effect it has had on their careers and sense of vocation.
Lucinda Huffaker, Director, Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion

 

"Keeps me coming back"
My best moment comes once a year, each spring, on opening night of the senior art majors exhibition when four years of effort-hard teaching and hard learning-comes to a pinnacle and is presented to an anticipating public. The pride that is apparent on each student's face is the reward that keeps me coming back for more.
Professor of Art Doug Calisch


"So much I would miss"
In December 2004, I gave the final Cultures and Traditions lecture of the semester, and a few days later I received a Christmas card signed by the Phi Psi sophomores thanking me and saying how much they enjoyed it. Although by itself this may seem a minor event, over 46 years many such moments have made a deep impact on me.

I retired officially a few years ago, but I hate to give up all connections with students, because there is so much like this that I would miss.
Professor of Religion Emeritus Hall Peebles H'63


Outpouring of gratitude
I've reached the late middle-aged point in my Wabash career when one may start to wonder what it all means. Witnessing and experiencing the recent retirements of my friends and mentors Bert Stern and Peter Frederick helped me see how two wonderful professional lives were lived and then evolved into new stages. Both have moved on to fulfilling new teaching experiences, Bert's in Boston, and Peter's at a college on tribal lands in Washington state.

Yet seeing the outpouring of love and gratitude from former students and colleagues when they retired, and hearing Bert and Peter's eloquent and moving reflections on their academic lives, helped me see what a life spent teaching at Wabash could mean.

Their passion for ideas, for art, for justice, and for people not only kept them young-even after 40 years of teaching-but made everyone around them feel vital. And while I miss their daily presence, their effect is still strongly felt.
Professor of English Warren Rosenberg

 

A deeper feeling for Wabash
A single moment that for me captures a deeper feeling for Wabash and its people came after my only son, Jeff, died. Sometime in the spring of 2001, Professor John (Akare) Aden came by my office as part of his transition from student/alum to colleague in the history department. After acknowledging how hard it must be to lose a son, Akare said, "You have many sons."

I cry every time I recall it.
Professor of History Emeritus Peter Frederick

 

 

 

Celebrating Scholarships
The first "Celebrating Scholarships Luncheon" took place in Spring 2004. As I mailed and emailed invitations to more than 700 students, living benefactors, and parents, I realized how many lives the scholarships touch and benefit in just one year.
Coordinator of Donor Relations Marilyn Smith

 

Transformed the way we teach
From the immersion learning trip to Italy with John Fischer's Roman Art and Archaeology course:

Jim: Hey John, what is that over there?

John: Child, those are the Gates of Rome. It's a good thing we got you out of Pig Nipple, Indiana, as soon as we did.

Immersion learning trips have transformed the way we teach and the way our students learn in a way more powerful than any building or program I can imagine.
Director of Public Affairs Jim Amidon '87

 

Chapel Sing
As I look back on my first year back at the College, I recall most clearly the Chapel Sing controversy in the fall [when the Sphinx Club determined that "Old Wabash" would be sung, not yelled.] I was impressed with the passion of our students regarding this "tradition" and was intrigued by the various definitions of that term. I can remember being pulled aside by one of my former professors one day in the midst of the "change" fallout. He told me: "If we do something here once, it's an event; twice, it's a tradition; and more than four years, it has happened here 'forever.'"

I learned that a student's perspective of history is based on his four years here, and I've had to remind myself of that as we've discussed other issues throughout the year.
Associate Dean of Students Mike Raters '85

 

 

 


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