Daughter's Art Honors White

by Steve Charles

May 5, 2015

He just couldn’t look out on a room full of Wabash men and women without hearing the song he grew to love as 15th President of the College. So part way through his remarks at the unveiling of his presidential portrait Monday, Patrick White H’10 asked for a favor.

“Do you think we could sing the song—sing ‘Old Wabash?’”

The students, faculty, staff, trustees, and friends crowding into the Lilly Library responded with voices raised—“From the hills of Maine to the Western plain… .” And standing next to current President Gregory Hess and flanked by students, faculty, staff, and friends gathered to welcome him and his family, Pat White was back home at Wabash.

“As a devoted Wabash Man, you should always feel that Wabash is your home,” said President Hess.

“You and I are members of one of the most select fraternities at Wabash,” Hess said with a smile. “As my pledge father, you and Chris should know how much Lora and I have benefited from your great work.”

Hess praised White’s guidance of the College through the Great Recession.

“Pat White provided steadying leadership for our great College during some of the most difficult times in its history — and through a financial crisis more devastating than any in our lifetimes.

“His thoughtful leadership, patience, love of the College, and keen sense of humor kept Wabash moving forward when so many colleges stepped backward. Faced with scores of difficult decisions, he kept his eyes on the prize — and never wavered in his commitment to provide the students of Wabash with an unparalleled liberal arts education.”

The former Wabash president— now president of Millikin University—seemed genuinely surprised by the turnout.

“I’m flabbergasted. I thought there might be only seven people and I’d get to take home a whole bunch of extra cake,” he said. “Honestly, you all have much to do, you have finals. I’m especially grateful to see—well, everyone!

“There are great colleges that forget about their past and just move relentlessly forward, and I’m sure there are great colleges that remain stuck in their past and just continue in their traditions. One of the best things about a truly great college, Wabash College, is that we honor and respect our past, and we look bravely and adventurously toward our future.

“I’m excited about what President Hess and you all have been doing these past couple of years. I have seen the tradition of excellence continue, and that’s been exciting to watch, even from a distance.”

As the time for the portrait unveiling approached, the focus turned from Wabash men to Wabash daughters. Pat and Chris White’s daughter, Molly—an art major who graduated from St. Mary’s College—painted the portrait of her father, and was on hand to celebrate the occasion.

Asked about the challenge of painting her father, Ms. White said most of their discussion centered around the expression she would depict.

“We talked about whether his mouth would be open or closed, that it should be a familiar expression,” the artist said. The many guests congratulating her on the work seemed to think she’d chosen the right one—a very familiar smile. The same expression showing up over and over on her father’s face at that very moment, as the Whites came home to Wabash.


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