Fall 2006: From the Editor

December 11, 2006

"I NEED YOU TO COME TO THE HOSPITAL WITH ME," Director of Public Affairs Jim Amidon ’87 called out, already halfway down the Kane House stairs. "We’ve lost a student."

Speeding down US 231 to the St. Clare emergency room, Jim told me it was junior Han Jiang. Natural athlete, mathematician, musician. A brilliant mind behind a little-boy smile. One of his Teke fraternity brothers said he’d lived so gracefully that "we’d never even seen him trip." I’d taken Han’s picture two years earlier beaming alongside his father, a Chinese diplomat who warmly invited Wabash students to visit his country. Two of Han’s friends had survived the one-car accident on rain-slicked Grant Avenue with minor injuries. They didn’t yet know that Han had died.

MXI Director Horace Turner learned about the accident first, made the necessary contacts, and went to find any Tekes still on campus. But it was spring break. The president, dean of students, and associate dean were out of town.That left the dean of admissions, who had enjoyed a dinner with Han and his friends only days earlier; his assistant; the secretary to the dean of students; the assistant director of financial aid; and the head of computer services. But job titles meant nothing at the hospital that night.

All I have are flashes of memory. Laura Frye listening to the chaplain and working the phones. Linda Weaver comforting one of the injured students. Steve Klein thinking through tears how best to tell the injured students about Han—a break in his voice when he insisted they have friends near when he told them. Jim Amidon’s radio baritone hushed but still strong as he informed the arriving Tekes that Han had died. The looks on those faces.

When a student needed to see Han’s body before he could even begin to deal with his grief, Sherry Ross went with him. When we returned to campus that night, she was among several who made sure the injured students would not be left alone in their darkness.

It was the worst day I’ve been part of in 11 years at Wabash; there was no silver lining. But there was some comfort in seeing the gifts of these men and women I work alongside every day, and in seeing that these young men were not only students to them, but sons. In an edition titled "Essential," they seemed the best place to start.

THAT THEME—how in an often-dehumanizing world, what matters most are those face-to-face, eye-to-eye moments in which we open mind and heart to one another—runs through most of the stories here. Those moments made for life-changing experiences for members of the football team who traveled to Panama and worked with farming families there. Dr. Bob Einterz says such moments "dignify relationships," and that’s the deeper goal of his Indiana University- Kenya medical partnership. Psychologist Stephen Judah says these relationships can be enhanced to redeem our greatest flaws, even a betrayal. Students tell the dean of students that one-on-one relationships with faculty are the heart of their Wabash education, and chemistry professor Scott Feller says, "The best way to train students in the sciences is to work one on one with them on a problem with no known solution."

THE STRENGTH OF THIS THREAD and our limited space led us to abandon one feature we’d really looked forward to.We’d planned to ask alumni, faculty, students, and staff: What matters most to you? What is essential to your life, your work, your academic discipline? Is there a moment or work that captures that essence for you? I’d love to hear from you. Just send me an email at charless@wabash.edu.

Thank you for reading.

Steve Charles | Editor
charless@wabash.edu

 


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