The "Orr Connection"
He didnt know
exactly when wed arrive in San Cristobal, so I didnt expect
to see Wabash College trustee David Orr 57 waiting for us at Na
Bolom, the museum/lodge where our students were scheduled to stay. But
there he was, greeting each Wabash student with a handshake and giving
each a folder containing all theyd need to know about San Cristobal
and the experts theyd be meeting.
Later, Nancy Orrs walking tour showed everyone the lay of the land
and enough landmarks so we could make our way around.
The Orrs warmth transformed Na Bolom into a home away from home,
and their connectedness to the community made San Cristobal a college
away from campus.
When you go to gatherings at most Americans homes, you meet
other Americans, Chiapas Photography Project Director Carlota Duarte
says. When you go to the Orrs, you meet Mexicans. Theyre
genuinely interested and concerned about the people, and thats known
and welcomed here.
That welcome translated into learning opportunities for Wabash students.
Practically every encounter students had in Chiapas was orchestrated by
the Orrsfrom the rehearsal at the Indigenous Theater and lectures
from anthropologists and economists to our exhilarating descent into the
tomb of Pacal the Great. David even drove us to the Colleges first
South of the Border admissions visit.
A retired vice-president of Ameritech, Orr eschewed the beach and golf
course retirement route, instead following his interest in Mexico and
his wifes passion for the culture and welfare of Mexicos indigenous.
The couple moved to Chiapas in 1992living there through the Zapatista
uprisingand renovated and now operate San Felipe Flores bed and
breakfast. The Colleges C&T faculty was the first large Wabash
contingent to bask in the Orrs hospitality in San Cristobal. a town
that is becoming a sort of Wabash extension campus and retreat.
At a farewell reception at San Felipe Flores, after mariachis and the
rest of us finished a rousing if not melodious rendition of Guadalajara,
Juan Carlo Hernandez 04 handed the Orrs a thank you gift.
On behalf of all of us, thank you for all youve done for us,
he said, his words echoed by the students standing around.
Let me just say that the feeling is mutual, Orr responded.
Nothing beyond my family has been more important in my life than
Wabash College. I have a birthday coming next week, and I cant think
of a better gift than having you guys here.
We left San Cristobal much the way we cameonly with the help of
David Orr. When our bus for Tuxtla Guttierrez Airport didnt show,
Orr quickly called a van, packed the rest of us in his blue Chevy Suburban
and drove us down the mountain to our flight. He didnt
drive away until we were all safely in the terminal.
This course plugged into the Wabash community in ways that havent
happened before, Professor Dan Rogers says. Ive never
planned a course before in conjunction with an alumnus; Ive never
planned a course in conjunction with a member of the board of trustees.
But to have a trustee be such an important advisor to the course was an
incredibly positive experience.
And maybe just as importantDavid and Nancy model the lifestyle
and attitude about learning and about interacting with different cultures
and participating effectively in those kinds of situations that we need
our students to see, adds Rogers. Heres an alumnus who
could live wherever he wants to live and chooses to live in Chiapas, chooses
to be engaged in the culture, and whats more, chooses to devote
a substantial amount of time and energy into helping two professors and
his alma mater put something like this together.
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