David Clapp: 'A Home Here'

by Steve Charles

May 6, 2015

Duncan Dam ’09 recalls the moment that David Clapp became part of his “American family.” So do most of the nearly 200 international students who came to study at Wabash during Clapp’s tenure as Director of Off-Campus Studies & International Students.

Senior Charles Wu spoke of it Tuesday during a reception honoring Clapp, who retires this year after 13 years at Wabash.

“I still remember four years ago when I arrived at the Indy airport, and Mr. Clapp was there waiting to greet me,” Wu told faculty,  students, and staff gathered in Detchon International Hall. “It was at that precise moment that I realized I actually have a home here, even though I just landed in a country where people were speaking a language I barely understood.”

“There have been many changes in the international programs office since David arrived at Wabash 2002,” said Dean of the College Scott Feller. “A constant has been the caring attitude that David brings to every student who interacts with his office.”

That’s a lot of caring. Feller said 177 international students  representing 26 different countries had attended Wabash since 2002. 

"An even greater number of Wabash students participated in study abroad under David’s leadership,” Feller said. “639 in more than 50 different countries.

“It is hard to imagine a program on this campus that has had a more life-changing impact on such a large number of students.”

David Gunderman ’15 spoke for those students, recalling Clapp’s flexibility, patience, and assistance when Gunderman wanted to study abroad in his senior year.

“Study abroad in the senior year is very unusual, but Mr. Clapp was very understanding, helped me work through the obstacles and details,” Gunderman said.

Director of Athletics Joe Haklin ’73 noted that during lunch, a time when many faculty and staff take a break, Clapp’s office was still buzzing with activity.

“He was still interacting with students and helping to solve problems over there,” Haklin said. “His service says a lot about him, and a lot about Wabash."

Roberto Uruchima ’17 from Chicago was one of Clapp’s office assistants this year.

 “I’m not an international student, but Mr. Clapp has been a great friend and mentor to me,” Uruchima said. “Any time I had a problem and I would come in to work, he’d ask me how I was doing, he’d tell me a joke, he’d help get me through the day.

The role Clapp has played in the work of Wabash and the life of so many students was summed up in an email from Duncan Dam, a native of Hanoi, Vietnam. Feller read part of that email to reception guests:

“During my four years at Wabash, Mr. Clapp was my mentor, my boss, my friend, and, especially, an important member of my American family. I learned a great deal of my professional knowledge at Wabash, but I learned most of my people skills from him. He played an important role in my being who I am today, and he has done that for many at Wabash.”


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