Notes from Our Readers

  March 30, 2004

Living history

Reading the latest issue of WM brought back fond memories, particularly the story about College Archivist Johanna Herring. I worked with Johanna during the summer of 1986, and I have never had more fun in a job. She was just getting started in her new "digs," and her incredible sense of humor combined with her love for the archives to make this a job I will never forget.

Johanna was kind enough to broaden my horizons outside the campus and took me to my first ever Civil War re-enactment.

My best memories in this country stem from my days at Wabash 18 years ago. Every time I read WM, I see others whose lives have been shaped in similar ways by this jewel of an institution.

Thanks to all for the ride . . .

Arun Muralidhar '88
Managing Director of Investment Research
FX Concepts

Davis captured "Wabash spirit"

Reading Professor Peter Frederick's piece on Professor George Davis reminded me of a story I have told countless times:

I was staying on campus one Thanksgiving-the only person in the Phi Psi house over the break. One morning, as I was half awake in the upstairs dorm, I heard one of the doors slam, followed by the sound of footsteps. I went downstairs to find George Davis walking the halls looking for me. I was a history major and we knew each other, but I'd never enjoyed an especially close relationship with him-until that day. Professor Davis had heard that I'd stayed behind and did not want me to go without Thanksgiving dinner. He and Mrs. Davis invited me over for a delicious dinner that evening.

That one incident, more than anything else that ever happened to me at Wabash, perfectly captures the Wabash spirit and what makes this College unique.

Lt. Col. Timothy Guiden '82, USAF
Washington, D.C.

"Deja Lew" Redux

A friend of mine sent me a copy of the Spring/Summer 2004 WM. I was particularly interested in one article, "Deja Lew," written by Justin Lyon. I did find one error. Mr. Lyon wrote, "After his graduation in 1840, Lew Wallace became the College's best known alumnus of the 19th century . . . ." In fact, as Wallace himself freely admitted in his autobiography, he never attended Wabash College, just the affiliated preparatory school, and he dropped out after two months.

This educational experience occurred in 1836, when Wallace was nine years old. Later in life, Wallace reflected on his patchy formal education and wrote the following: "There are people who think me a graduate with a diploma to fatten my pride. In fact, I was a 'prep' of Wabash College less than two months. Further it is not mine to boast. The faculty did not expel me. Most likely they were glad when I took myself off. Discipline had to be maintained."

Douglas Clanin
Indiana Historical Society

The status of Lew Wallace as an alumnus is an ongoing question. College catalogs list him as a student for the fall term of 1834 and the summer term of 1835, as well as for 1836, presumably in the College's preparatory school. Perhaps more telling is a handwritten account ledger that shows Lew's fees were paid for both terms in 1834-35.

Wabash President Joseph Tuttle wrote of hearing Wallace's uncle describe Lew's riding to Wabash on horseback at the age of seven to join his brother, much as Lew describes in his autobiography.

Like many colleges, Wabash granted alumni status to all students who completed a semester. In the early days, class year for non-grads was projected based on two years of preparatory work and four years of college, so that Lew Wallace was designated "Class of 1840." Presumably, no one noted that he would have been only 13 at the time!

Remembering Dr. Paul McKinney '52

Dr. McKinney, quantum theoretician, polymath, humanities adept, was very much a role model for me, and, in gentle ways, a surrogate father . . . .

Bill Catus '77
Columbus, Ohio

If ever there was a model for the liberal arts scientist, Paul McKinney was it.

Greg Thomas '00
West Lafayette, Ind.

He taught me Boolean algebra and made it enjoyable even for one who hated math.
But I remember slipping into the Chapel some evenings to listen to him play the piano. His playing was very accomplished and heartfelt . . . to the point where I wondered why he was teaching math and science instead of pursuing a career in music.

That was before I realized that "amateur," in its best sense, describes one who does something not for pay, but out of love.

John Holt '65
Carbondale, Ill.

Professor McKinney opened our chemistry class first semester by mixing "Mother Earth" and "Father Sky" with a mortar and pestle to shoot purple fire into the air. "Fire is the fundamental agent of change," he said. I remember conversations after class and at faculty dinners about The Crying of Lot 49, Heisenberg, entropy, and the philosophical ramifications of a quantum versus Newtonian universe.

Last week visiting home in Montana, I was sitting in the living room overlooking the Yellowstone Valley. I could see four mountain ranges, 200 miles of blue sky, snow pluming off the top of 13,000-foot peaks in the distance. I was reading Don Quixote and War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning and thinking about the root of the term "quixotic" and the ties between the state's manipulation of language and its ability to control dissent in times of conflict.

It's days like these that make you think you might do something really interesting with your life. You can feel information falling into place behind your eyes, drawing relationships between previously discrete ideas and facts. Paul McKinney was one of precious few exceptional people who taught me to think like this.

John Deschner '97
Bethesda, Maryland